. . . Christmas

. . .

Things that scare me: the wanton collapsing of inconsistent belief systems. E.g., from "Here Comes Santa Claus": "Santa knows that we're God's children; that makes everything right.... So let's give thanks to the Lord above that Santa Claus is coming tonight."

. . .

Hi Mass: Hello; my name is the Body of Christ; I'll be your host tonight.

. . .

La vache qui rit Someday soon we'll all be dressed in leather
If the fates allow,
So have yourself a merry little Christmas cow.

+ + +

Movie Comment: Meet Me in St. Louis
  1. Probably the only example of Technicolor that's both classically MGM and unironically beautiful. Much more than the chintzy Americana of the script or the schematic performances, it's the impossible combination of impossibly rich and impossibly restrained color that fuels the movie's nostalgia. Vincent Minnelli's crew must've worked like mad to coordinate sets, costumes, lighting, and lab work to such an extent.

  2. I've seen Judy Garland's rendition of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" described as an "attempt to comfort her sister." On the contrary, it's very clear that Garland's character is intent on making her sister hysterical with grief, and not at all adverse to getting a little weepy herself. It's a sadomasochistic impulse I remember as pretty common in childhood (telling horror stories that scare the teller, making emotional threats that threaten to isolate the threatener...), but it's not usually depicted with so little editorializing.

    Of course, Minnelli was in no position to criticize. While Garland's fictional character struggled on screen to induce childish hysteria and adult melancholy, he was sweating bullets on the reality of the set toward the same ends.

    Aside from artists of the sentimental, the need for this kind of boundary testing mercifully tapers off in adulthood, only springing out in romantic crises (e.g., "I don't like you -- but I love you"). Which brings me, as I'm brought so often, to thoughts of that master of mature collaborative pain, Frank Borzage... and there is something Christmasy about that ridiculous sublime last shot in Man's Castle....

. . .

Heehaw, dreaming in trash and white
[transient link]
A L L    D R E S S E D    I N    W H I T E    L I N E N
A Christmas Memory

The next night, Bruno is taken by his cousin Sylvie to her favorite Chillecothe bar, a hangout for divorced crackers. The air is murky and peppered with fragmentary singalongs to "Were You Born an Asshole?"

A pair of admirers treat Bruno's cousin Sylvie to a beer and resume a dispute around her.

(Charmingly self-deprecating) "Hell, I ain't no pool player."

(Appealing for arbitration) "I let 'im win, you know that."

(Mock heroic) "I got the other half of the thousand dollars."

The thinner, grayer, more damaged man keeps interrupting himself with the shout "Shut up, Mr. Sand!" but Bruno doesn't think his name is Mr. Sand.

The other man ("49 and holding. 21 and getting younger.") looks as if he's been embalmed with a twinkle in his eye. He redirects his attention to Bruno's cousin Sylvie: "You married yet?" (Tugging at her hand.) "Your hair's gettin' long." (Tugging at her neck.) "'Djou give a kiss for winning this game?" (Suddenly reflective) "This is my favorite song." And back to pool, quartering the table. "I think they're sharks, y'gotta be careful, I ain't seen 'em here.... It's an education." And back to Bruno's cousin: "I saw that trophy your son got."

Something Bruno misses, some trickle of blood scent, triggers open hostility. The twinkler starts nudging the damaged man, closing in. The damaged man retaliates: "What about when you got caught in the coal shed, Jack? What were you doin' in the smoke shed?"

"Shit -- excuse me -- I weren't doin' nothin', I was six years old, what'd I be doin'? I didn't start that early."

"Jack was in first grade but I was in eighth -- shut up, Jack!"

"You shut up, why don't you."

"She were sweet, weren't she, Jack? What you doin' there?"

"Gettin' coal, what ya think?"

"What was you doin' with the corn cobs, Jack?"

"Corn cob? Now you're improvin' the story, that ain't so."

"Rapin' her with the corn cob -- shut up, Mr. Sand!"

"Goddamn good idea."

And back to Bruno's cousin: "Your mom and dad are good people. Good people. We go back a long ways, you know. Didn't mean t' look like I was ignoring you."

Later, Sylvie takes Bruno to Chillecothe's rock club, where high schoolers shuffle and two-step to a "rap" version of "Wild Thing."

. . .

I could not love reindeer so much, loved I not Donner more.
I don't remember just how I picked up this recipe from NYC's own Santa Claus, Samuel R. Delany, but now you're picking it up from me....

Delany family eggnog

Quart of bourbon + one cup of sugar, left overnight.
Beat 18 eggs till smooth but not foamy and dribble into bourbon.
Whip a quart of heavy cream and fold it in.

Treat Yourself

. . .

In the nick of time, tireless indexer Juliet Clark sends the following:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Alternate Season Episode Guide, 2000-2001
Out of My Mind (aired October 17, 2000)

Riley and I are getting to be good friends. We're tracking a pair of lowlifes who have been terrorizing the UC Sunnydale campus with a series of dimly-lit illegal boxing matches and offscreen murders. We discover that the hoodlums are headquartered at an abandoned gas station on the outskirts of town. We follow them there and proceed to beat them up. Suddenly somebody asks, "Where's Buffy?" Cut to the set of a Coppertone commercial, where Buffy and another blonde model are lying on beach towels. Nothing happens. Then we return to the action at the gas station, where Riley and I have tied the bad guys to an abandoned car and are taunting them with witty but not overly cruel remarks.

Into the Woods (aired Dec. 19, 2000)

Buffy is gazing out her bedroom window at night. She has a sweeping view of Santa Barbara; the neon lights on the Mission are glowing in the distance, and the houses on the hillside twinkle cheerily. Actually they are Christmas lights attached to a piece of plywood painted black, but the effect is still charming and romantic. Buffy looks pensive, knitting her eyebrows slightly as she continues to stare out the window. One of the little white lights goes out. "Riley?" Buffy seems to be sniffing the air, searching for something. "Riley?"

Intervention (aired April 24, 2001)

Spike has succeeded in luring Buffy back to his home, a trailer in the middle of People's Park in Berkeley. He claims to have found Buffy's lost purse under a bush, although obviously he stole it himself the last time they went to the movies; anyway, he invites her to his house to pick it up. In the trailer, Spike once again declares his love for Buffy. Buffy decides maybe she would like to sleep with him after all. The next morning, Spike shows Buffy all the things he's bought for the trailer, anticipating domestic bliss with his beloved. He's got a complete set of wooden spoons and several pounds of butter. Buffy is confused, then incensed. "Vampires don't eat butter! Anyway, I just wanted to get you out of my system." She exits. "You were almost as good as that robot," Spike mutters to the swinging cardboard door of the trailer.

Fall Season Preview (aired May 22, 2001)

Of course, Buffy is not really dead. She's been adopted by a family of vampires. This is legal because the vampires are not quite dead either. Angel turns out to be Buffy's step-brother. Hilarity ensues.

Fall Season Preview, Part 2 (aired July 15, 2001)

The ultra-secret Sunnydale Villains' Convention is underway, and by coincidence, the Scooby Gang is also holding a meeting at the conference hotel. They begin to suspect that something is wrong when they pass by the ballroom and see crowds of people dressed entirely in black leather. What they don't know yet is that the newest member of the Gang (a blonde who looks like an even smaller Sarah Michelle Gellar) is actually a spy for the villains' union! But soon she reveals her allegiance: she springs up in the middle of the Scooby meeting and swings her chair around her head, sending off sparks that threaten to zap the principal cast members' brains. This was why the new girl brought her own chair to the meeting, instead of sitting in the plush pink hotel furniture. Buffy tries to disarm the demon, but her magic chair seems to be indestructible. Luckily, Spike happens to have dropped in on the meeting; together, through a monumental effort, he and Buffy reduce the chair to tiny chunks of pressboard. When the chair is finally defeated, Spike breaks a remnant of leg into two tiny pieces. He puts one in his mouth and offers the other to Buffy. Gazing into each other's eyes, they eat the chair together, like bread.

Pre-Season Summer Movie Tie-In: Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (aired August 24, 2001)

A couple of idiots hear there's a Buffy fan convention coming up. They go to the mall in their Chicago suburb to buy costumes with sequins and special beaded glasses. They don't have any money, so they have to forge a check. But they can't decide what name to sign. They know the last name is Rodriguez, but the first name might be Matt, or Scott, or Jeff. While the clerk looks on, they practice various signatures in the margins of the check. After a while the exasperated clerk says, "Chinese proverb: even the woman with only one leg still has stinky feet. Also, those who have just hanged themselves are usually crazy." The clerk is not Chinese.

The First Annual Buffy Awards Ceremony (aired August 30, 2001)

Everyone's invited, even me. I discover that in fact I'm a member of the cast: I play the Irrelevant Older Friend. Because I'm just a recurring character and not a regular, I don't get a prize, but all the major players walk away with awards. All except Sarah Michelle Gellar, who is enraged. She complains to a security guard at the airport on the way home: "I even know the guy who put on this show! The last time I saw him he was all patting me on the nose and stuff, like we're supposed to be friends!" Later I'm sitting on the floor with some of the other cast members, discussing the upcoming season. Although I am only the Irrelevant Older Friend and not a professional, the other actors seem to value my opinion. I express my concerns: "There was something foreboding about the way Giles handed Buffy that bottle of detergent a couple of shows ago. I don't know, but somehow I felt that the show as we knew it ended with that gesture." The others nod thoughtfully.

. . .

A Message for Our Readers

117 KB WAV (via).

. . .

Ed's Redemptions

Dan Leone is an undeterminable variable as a restaurant reviewer and a terrible influence as a social diarist (nary a Bay area columnist now but must refer to their dining companions by cutesy pseudonyms), but as a pundit he's just fine:

At this point, instead of saying Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas and Top O' Ramadan and Whatever Whatever to you all, I would like to say something about holiness in general; but before I do, let me point out, in the interest of offending everyone equally, that I despise all religions and every notion of sacredness, and if I had a big enough stick I'd knock down God and Allah and any other piñata full of Smarties® anyone wants to hold up over our heads. Higher powers suck. They inspire nothing in us mere mortals more consistently than the desire to exercise other mere mortals' mortality. But, bad as the killing is, what really gets my goats is when they start fucking with what's-for-dinner. Go ahead and knock off your neighbor, but whatever you do, you must not eat that sacred chicken or goat or cow or pig.

Back when I was a kid in no-meat-on-Friday school there was a lot of talk about putting Christ back in Christmas. I say we get him the hell out of there entirely. I mean it: happy holidays, everyone! Here's hoping that your happiness has nothing to do with holiness and everything to do with general human givingness and, most important, what's-for-dinner.

- close of review of Your Black Muslim Bakery, Oakland

Of course, he was best as a rock star, but what can you do..?
There are dogs & cats & owls & pets
& people & cows & elk & moles.
Here's what I think: I'm placin' a bet
that chickens are the only ones with souls.

Good ones go to heaven, bad ones to hell;
People & dogs & cats just die.
You didn't want to hear it but you may as well.
You didn't want to know. Well, neither did I.

- Another Song in Celebration of Chickens

. . .

  Peace on Earth, Mistrust towards Man
Photos by Juliet Clark
The Elves of Teegeeack 3

Scariest sight during last month's visit to Los Angeles was the line of normality-starved families waiting to visit The L. Ron Hubbard Winter Wonderland ("Santa's Home in Hollywood").

Department store Santas are disturbing enough; can you imagine the MEST-scarring trauma of a Scientology Santa? "Well, Jimmy, your free personality test indicates that Santa will bring you EVERYTHING YOU WANT FOR THE REST OF ETERNITY if you'll just stuff these copies of Dianetics in your parents' stockings...."

In Hubbard's holiday homily, note his characteristic replacement of wishy-washy "love" with manly paranoid "trust." That was the true meaning of Christmas 2001, all right: No telepathic mind control, no peace!

The nicest sights were at the Getty Museum's Devices of Wonder exhibition. Gadgets through the ages isn't that novel a curatorial idea, but not many curators get to plunge fist-first into Getty-sized pockets: a Chardin, for example, is casually thrown on as illustrative spice....

As usual in high-concept historical surveys, the contemporary work included seems an ill-advised afterthought. I'm not even sure what they were afterthinking: our investment-oriented rhetoric-privileging high art world pointedly shares neither intent nor craft with infotainment manufacturers. Better to just borrow a corner of the Exploratorium, or fill a plastic tub with boing-boing-ed swag.

On the other hand, the Joseph Cornell boxes fit right in, especially the knock-down twist-around pick-me-up gorgeous "Beehive (Thimble Forest)" -- with silver bells/boughs sadly frozen, though, by the conflict typical of such exhibitions: the fine art museum relies on preservation whereas the artifact relies on manipulation, and they compromise in mere display. Perhaps deep pockets somewhere sometime might be persuaded to provide replicas in the gift shop...?

Beehive (Thimble Forest)

. . .

"Political Arithmetick"

Daniel Defoe, Giving Alms No Charity:
"All the Labour of a Person who was Idle before, is so much clear Gain to the General Stock."
Lawrence Braddon:
"Every poor Briton, which shall be born alive, will be... more worth, to Great Britain, than Twenty Pounds in broad Gold...."
John Bellers:
"Supposing that there are Seven Millions of People in the Nation, and that one in Fourteen, either will not work, or that wants it; that is, Five Hundred Thousand Men, Women, and Children. And reckoning that they might Earn, one with another, Six-pence a Day, a Head, it comes to Twelve Thousand Five Hundred Pounds a Day; which is Seventy Five Thousand Pounds a Week. That makes Three Millions, Nine Hundred Thousand Pounds a Year, which the Nation loseth.

"To which add but Twelve-pence a Head, a Week, the Nation may be at Parish Rates, and other Gifts to the Poor, and it comes to One Million, Three Hundred Thousand Pounds a Year: Which Account in the whole, makes the Loss and Charge to the Nation to be FIVE MILLIONS, TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND POUNDS A YEAR."

"Substance of a Proposal for the Employment of the Poor":
"60,000 children are maintained by rates in idleness.... If the labour of these children can upon an average be made to produce 3d. per day, reckoning 300 working days to the year, the annual savings in the poors rates only will amount to 225,000l. besides that 60,000 hands will be always at work in such low manufactures as foreigners are now paid for carrying on...."
Sir Henry Pollexfen:
"... the working people of England to be but four millions and that the labor of each person be valued at but 6d. per day, their work for one day amounts to one hundred thousand pounds: which for twenty-four days that they keep in a year more than the twenty-nine days observed by the Church of England amounts to two millions and four hundred thousand pounds sterling per annum which of itself is sufficient to... enrich the nation.

"Whether the many holidays now kept may not be a great load upon the nation may be considered; for if but 2 million of working people at 6d. a day comes to 500,000l. which upon due inquiry whence our riches must arise, will apear to be so much lost to the nation by every holiday that is kept."

Bernard Mandeville:
"In a free Nation where Slaves are not allow'd of, the surest Wealth consists in a Multitude of laborious Poor."
Time enough to kill is time enough to be convicted of possession with intent to deliver

The Anxieties of Idleness: Idleness in Eighteenth-Century British Literature and Culture by Sarah Jordan

Sarah Jordan takes an apparently straightforward concept, notes the contradictions that it encased and obscured, and traces that obscurity's use in justifying the hypocrisy of oppressive systems and the pain of personal confusions. With one well-struck chisel-blow to one deep-winding fault, she enlightens.

In short, the old sweet song of 1970s feminist theory and Er-Wot.

Well, I'm still fond as ever of those three-chords-with-a-good-beat, and Jordan writes back to the garage in the good old sweet way: No proof by appeal to Francophone scripture. No self-swallowing-and-regurgitating prose. Just clear efficient deployment of primary sources, analytic intelligence, and bemused empathy.

Her conceptual reagent is "idleness"; the systems are those of English 18th-century class, gender, race, and colonialism; the personal confusions are those of Samuel Johnson and William Cowper.

And although it's a manageably thin (if unmanageably expensive) book, nothing I'm tempted to add would fall within its stated bounds.

But that would be now.

. . .

Seasoning's Greetings
Bill's Page 2 Writing.....3 So it is Christmas time and we think about the meaning of Christmas and how it is about the joy and hope that only the birth of a baby can bring, which I must say is a tremendous thing. But there is also the question of Jesus and his life, and the question of what would Jesus do if he was in your shoes and could not perform miracles and start a church and stuff, but simply lived your life. And I think about meeting this man from Kashmir.... And I know it might not seem kosher to say this about a Muslim man living in a community of Hindus, but to me this man's life is what Christmas is all about.
Clear Cut Press? Small Beer Press? Weblogs?

Yeah, those do mighty fine work. But they all cost something, unless you're reading them at the library.

Cheapskates in the know know the year's best bargain in personal publishing is the Penzeys Spices catalog, which under Bill "Third-Generation" Penzey's guidance has evolved from a simple price-sheet into a serialized glossy Midwestern Bouvard & Pécuchet Cookbook. It's free! Plus the spices are good.

(On the other hand, Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet's chocolate subscription probably makes a better last-minute gift.)

. . .

A B. S. Johnson Christmas

From Nicholas Nagsheaded:

What I think of st Nikelass

I think that st. Nik is very santely and nice but. He should not call us notty he is a notty fat git himself and needs a triming bad, his head is like a sheering contest and a old rabbi fomf. St Nikel ass has very shinie red beak from boozing. All the cloath are like a cirkus tent and red like he thinx he is Elvis. He starts laffing like a big ho nancy when he put the littlest boys on his lap because he pervs and is morbid obees. He is the fattest sante in the church and wiggle like jelly if we take the micke out of you that is all about you NOTTY FAT OLD PERV NIT.

Also I want a swichblade and led pipe and swade boots size 7 but NOT RED.


Also I want a swichblade to, brand new or if it is cleand may b.

. . .

Christmas Trimming

Between the ravages of the Bush administration, the wraths of the Universal Monotheism Smackdown finalists, and Miranda July Grossinger, 2005 has gone by without me once mentioning the Coppola family. This will not stand. By me. Up withwards. What's the point of an idée fixe if you drop it for the first general cultural collapse that comes along?

This one goes out to the old gang at the Hotsy Totsy Club:

"Hammett . For years I’ve been hoping to see the original Wim Wenders cut of the feature that I consider his most underrated, even after producer Francis Ford Coppola substantially revised it. Sam Fuller, who acted in both versions and contributed a few ideas to them (such as the shot from under the typewriter keys), told me more than once that the original was incomparably better. So I was crestfallen to learn from Wenders when he visited Chicago last spring that he recently approached Coppola’s company about bringing out a DVD with both versions, only to be informed that the director’s cut no longer exists. A video that was once made of Wenders’ version, taped off a Steenbeck, may still exist somewhere, but the film itself was junked. ... it’s an incalculable loss, and one that reminds us that things aren’t so different now from the way they were when studios were slicing up works by Stroheim and Welles."
- Jonathan Rosenbaum

Remember, kids: When a Coppola offers you a gift? It's gonna end up all about the Coppolas. You think anyone will ever hear again from the kindly old Napa vintner they got stuffed in the trunk of that cherry Tucker?


Kip Manley sighs:

All this about the Coppolas and yet not one word on Sofia's latest?


Maintaining the Peanuts groove, my one word is "AAUGH!"

. . .


Everywhere the special must be reduced to the personal and the personal to the substantial. The transformation of the species into a principle of identity and classification is the original sin of our culture, its most implacable apparatus [dispositivo]. Something is personalized is referred to as an identity at the cost of sacrificing its specialness. A being a face, a gesture, an event is special when, without resembling any other, it resembles all the others. Special being is delightful, because it offers itself eminently to common use, but it cannot be an object of personal property. But neither use nor enjoyment is possible with the personal; there can only be appropriation and jealousy.

The jealous confuse the special with the personal; the brutal confuse the personal with the special. The jeune fille is jealous of herself. The model wife brutalizes herself.

- Giorgio Agamben, "Special Being", Profanations

I kept that bit of Profanations because it fit some recent concerns of my own, but it's a fair sample. Agamben thinks in generalities, a long choo-choo of astractions loosely coupled. The closest he gets to cases is his feminine taxonomy, which I find not immediately graspable. (Maybe I'm not cool enough to have met that jeune fille.)

Otherwise, so long as he stays depressing, I can stretch to deposit concrete sense into his language. I can't be certain that the sense matches his or stays consistent on its own terms, but at least my reading doesn't quite collapse into "Words entail words only to encounter words." As with The Coming Community, I'm not thrown off until the puffabilly turns towards hope.

Agamben writes that our culture has replaced use value and labor value by exhibition value, has degraded everything sacred-or-secular to the bargain-basement level of throwaway-for-next-season's toys, and has made even profanation an empty gesture of nostalgia. But then, just when I expect him to join our House of Representatives in its War against the War on Christmas, he meta-emptily meta-nostalgically suggests as a next step that we find some way to start profaning again. Isn't that building castles in the sulfur dioxide?


By the "special," Agamben quite possibly means the literary, and that only makes us miss its presence, confronted with his offensive Hegelian versions of feminine suffering.

I belong to the Special People Club!

The profane is freed of sulfuric taint in the refining process.

Josh Lukin explains:

The passage makes a lot of sense if you've studied the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, and even more if you haven't read anything since that year.

. . .

2009, The Year in Review: A Tag Cloud

Renfrew Q. Hobblewort, the nation's leading question of Anselm Dovetonsils, has left a fragrant surprise beneath our Jaysus Tree:

I received this emanation from a mysterious source, though it bears the hallmarks of the greatest unwashed poet of our time, with the interesting claim that it was found within a tag cloud of Facebook status updates for the calendar year. I have, of course, added in the (implied) punctuation, and deleted proper names in the interests of the protection of the innocent and guilty alike. I am thusly dutifully passing it along for further inscrutiny by the more familiar scholars of his work (and very familiar you are).

Of course you have.


2009 forgot time. seized band, added officially looking plastic boys, morning watching adoption, thursday family ocean, bill, california wild storm night, turkeys school home. please! tonight! christmas moon using sleeping -- listening dinner season ahead, halloween forgotten. Managed doing days - sunday section, date pittsburgh, minutes yard finalization. Little kids! Enjoy. Patrol.

. . .

Bumper Sticker


My fortune is assured.


re: the new picture: what's the dog reading?

It's obviously focused on the same item as the guy next to it, although the dog isn't moving its lips which makes sense since, according to the ever-reliable de.wikipedia +, a related painting is clear reference to the reader Evolution in the 19th Century Germany made. Maybe a pirated translation of "The Black Cat"? I side-note that a possible descendent of the artist as a mordant used dog feces replaced.

. . .

I like Christmas music because it's sincere.

Love songs get made without love, food songs without hunger, dance-craze songs with all title and no trousers. But a Christmas song's topic and execution coincide: pro forma obligation, hapless opportunism, special occasion and old habit, fizzled pomposity, tipsy savoir-ne-sais-quoi, the hopes and fears of disproportionate reward a shared desperation which keeps isolated-by-a-blizzard songs and need-a-date-for-New-Year's-Eve songs securely within the genre.

To spark that holiday glow Leiber-&-Stoller style, here are Ron Holden & The Thunderbirds.

. . .

The critic as necrophile

I performed legal services for the Institute for Social Research. At first I was a lawyer and wrote stories. Only afterwards did I concern myself with film. Horkheimer and Adorno did not take me seriously as an author. They said, "He is a first-rate lawyer, we like him and are friendly with him, but he just should not make films, and in no event should he write any stories." After Marcel Proust, one can no longer write stories any more. That was Adorno's opinion. He sent me to Fritz Lang in order to protect me from something worse, so that I wouldn't get the idea to write any books. If I were turned away, then I would ultimately do something more valuable, which was to continue to be legal counsel to the Institute for Social Research.... I handled their reparations claims, among other matters....

For his mother nothing was enough for him, and she protected him from his father's cheapness. Adorno became a very sensitive man who knew music but couldn't ride alone on a streetcar. He led the impractical life of a very protected child.... When he was waiting for a streetcar, he changed into Franz Kafka and believed that it would never come. His wife always had to drive him around. It was, among other things, because he had to travel, first in England and then later in the United States, that he got married.

... he had no knowledge of the production sphere. He did not deal with it. He was interested in what Marcel Proust did, with what music did. He never really saw a factory, and that is why he sees society as a factory. That is why I never believed Adorno's theories of film. He only knew Hollywood films. He went with Fritz Lang, Brecht, and Eisler together as friends to Hollywood. They offered scripts nobody wanted. Fritz Lang made Hangmen Also Die. He did not need Adorno for such a film.

- "On New German Cinema, Art, Enlightenment, and the Public Sphere:
An Interview with Alexander Kluge
by Stuart Liebman, October 46 (1988) (via Mubi)

There are two sides stretching from the frozen moment, two fears guttering our desire for the immobile:

The fear of loss, the hoarder's fear that the beloved will be wrested from us before we're done. And by choice we only desire what we can never be done with; anything less would be, what should we call it, a waste of time.

And the horror of process, that the Queen of Brobdingnag eats and Celia shits, that sausages are made even if one isn't completely sure how, that toys don't spring ex nihilo from Mother Christmas's hands.

(I suppose his injunction against new poetry is more quoted than his injunction against new fiction because fewer people want to read new poetry.)


George Clinton kindly writes from 1978:

Lunchmeataphobia: The fear of being eaten by a sandwich.

Josh Lukin kindly writes more recently:

Incidentally, I long associated noticing and critiquing the Horror of Process with radical arguments (Marxist, feminist, Tory, Raydavisian); but now the Oxford Internet Institute has set me straight.

Yorick Wilks, ladies & gents, and who sez they don't make Tories like they used to?

. . .

The War on Seasonal Affective Disorder

Paul Kerschen forwards a greeting card for the fireplace:

by Anselm Dovetonsils

Christmas is-coming
Christmas is-coming
Christmas is-coming

In other holiday news, at the top of last night's Google search for "what to do after burglary" was this page from "":

Having sufficient home insurance can relieve the burden of a tricky circumstance but what steps should you hold out if a burglary takes place? Here is a fast guide.

1. Call the criminal be sure you make connection with the criminal as quickly as possible and do not key in a property if you actually suspect a burglar is even now inside.

2. Don\'t contact Don\'t contact anything at all in your home right up before the criminal have showed up as forensic proof may be needed.

3. Itemise your property Go by implies of every room phase by phase and itemise what has been stolen so you can pass these details on to both the insurer and as well police. be sure you notify the criminal of any notable signifies or security numbers on any of the property.

4. Let your bank know be sure you have any credit history bank cards or debit bank cards that might probably have been stolen inactivated as quickly as possible.

5. Get a crime survey number The criminal should provide a original reference number which you may be necessary to pass on to an insurer.

. . .

Saturnine by Rayner Heppenstall

Although the paper stock's pure 1943, page five warns us the text won't keep to AUTHORIZED ECONOMY STANDARDS:


Fragments of this narrative have appeared in Harper's Bazaar, Kingdom Come, The New English Weekly and Partisan Review. It is fiction. Outside pp. 130-134, all the characters are imaginary, and no further reference is made to a living or recently deceased person except Messrs. L. N. Fowler of Ludgate Circus, Dr. Pearson of the Middlesex Hospital, the Grand Duke Cyril of Russia, Lifar, de Basil, Balanchine, Nijinsky, Legat and Diaghilev of the Russian ballet, Lawrence of Arabia and D. H. Lawrence, Duke Ellington, the late Canon H. R. L. Sheppard, Jessie Matthews and Sonnie Hale, Isobel Baillie and Anna Wickham, Lady Astor, Henry Moore and Ben Nicholson, Gabo, Miró and Georges Bernanos, Gordon Craig, Heifetz and Rudolf Steiner, a number of all-in wrestlers and Joe E. Brown, Clark Gable and the Chinese naval attaché, Marshal Pétain, M. Stalin and Mr. Winston Churchill, the late Mr. Neville Chamberlain, the Hangman and the reigning house of this realm.

A slip is tipped in:

SATURNINE by Rayner Heppenstall
This First Edition is limited to 1,650 copies,
of which 1,600 copies are for sale in the
United Kingdom.
Erratum: p. 5, line 3, for "pp. 130-134" read
"pp. 124-128."

And yes, while the narrator observes perspectival and temporal bounds, his text otherwise strays. Phlegmy strands of narrative dissolve and re-emerge in a fashion difficult to capture in a short excerpt, but this paragraph incorporates a number of characteristic concerns:

At the age of fifteen, Caroline was physically mature and obstinately shy. This was the fault of her mother who still kept her in very brief, childish frocks, so that she had something of the perverse and rather horrible attraction of the principal boy in a pantomime. She was a large, handsome child, with clustering, fair hair and big, golden legs. Her face had the suggestively Jewish nose and short upper lip of a virgin sheep newly dipped. She was presumably born under Aries. I found her disturbing and was rather ashamed of the fact. Margaret said that I had no need to be, for the child was obviously of an age to be desired or she wouldn't be that shape.

(Margaret is the narrator's wife.)

Later experts reached to the nouveau roman for a parallel; myself, I was reminded more of Italo Svevo and Burroughs's Queer and Baron Corvo's certainty that all his vagaries were projected from heaven in letters of fiery gold Saturnine's most startling literary reference comes when the narrator considers naming his newborn daughter after the boy-toy-gondolier in The Desire and Pursuit of the Whole. (And in a startling biographical coincidence, Heppenstall's wife was also named "Margaret", and she also bore a daughter in 1940, and an unadvisably cumbersome name also seems to have been considered.)

All these comparisons are afterthoughts at best; the reading itself is an "inexplicable tumble." About two-thirds through, Heppenstall belatedly defends his technique in reviewer-friendly terms:

It seems as if I were telling four or five stories at once, but that is how it was. I can imagine this story divided up between four or five distinct novels. There would be the novel dealing with a business man who crashed and upon whom a hitherto suppressed romanticism thereafter took its revenge, causing him to suffer from delusions and eventually to lose his memory. There would be a novel dealing with the London of before the war and during the Sitzkrieg, its decadent intellectualism, its circles of vice, the disintegration of personality later to be remedied by a national risorgimento. There would be novels of simpler theme, the downfall of an erotophile, the errant husband and wife brought together by the birth of a child. More interesting perhaps than any of these, there would be a highly atmospheric novel dealing with experiences in a half-world of death and rebirth. But in actuality these and other potential themes were inextricable, and I cannot truthfully say what effect attached to what cause or indeed which was cause and which effect. Any attempt at all-embracing consistency would be dishonest (and I believe that it is always so in life and that all novel-writing is dishonest in its degree). I can but play upon the surface and hint at underlying depths wherever I am aware of them.

Nevertheless, I am certain that all things do cohere within a pattern, that anarchy and chaos are conditions not to be found in nature and that, if one were possessed of the necessary technique, the whole of a man and a man's life could be read clearly from a single hair of his head, as some claim to read it in the palm of his hand.

The reviewers of 1943 did not return his friendliness. But when we step back a bit, Saturnine's architectural scheme (if not its pattern) appears clear enough: four parts, chronologically arranged, each climbing a bluff of crumbling consciousness and ending on a cliffhanger. The first part might be a bit more obsessed with class hatred, the second with mysticism, and the third with sex I haven't run the stats; vague impressions seem truer to the material and the fourth detaches from an increasingly mobilized world.

In that fourth part we reach pp. 124-128 (not to be confused with pp. 130-134), a long and apparently essential (albeit fruitless) visit with unimaginary Oskar Kokoschka and his young lover, "Mom"; a Google Books snippet tells us that "Kokoschka and Croft also seemed to have had a major argument about Saturnine.... Kokoschka, who features in the book, had tried to persuade Heppenstall, a friend of his, to work Croft 'into the story.' Although in the end no reference was made to Croft in the book, Croft considered Saturnine 'in the very worst of taste.'"

That, at least, is undeniable. The Daily Express particularly didn't care to consider the stink of excrement and putrefaction which rises from the Queen of England and the little princesses "if you stick your nose in the appropriate place," and then there's the company of sailors and the lady sawn in half and the pro wrestling, the new recruit's micropenis and the more fabulous penis of Paradies, the narrator's worm and the Siamese kittens' worms, revulsion towards Christmas and sympathy for "the German cry against encirclement," and this maternity-ward farewell:

‘I expect they’ll start by shaving you,’ I said.

‘Darling,’ said Margaret. ‘They've shaved me already. Kiss me again, darling.’

The nurse went out.

Margaret said:

‘Darling, do you love me?’

‘Yes,’ I said. ‘At least, I think so.’

All accurate enough, we suppose, but in the very worst of taste. While we would never, ever presume the book was autobiographical ("it is fiction"), we do have to wonder just what his friends and lovers see in the narrator, no Adonis, and a self-iconoclast that destroys his own virtues underneath your eyes. It's small wonder that only 1650 copies of Saturnine were ever printed; the tasteful can thank infinite copyright extension for keeping it (and every other of Heppenstall's books) out of print. May the Guardian of the Threshold preserve us from pirates!


Too late!

. . .

"I Told You You Were Sick"

Peter Novick wrote three big books. The first historicized France's attempt to rub Vichy out into national unity, and impressed the French. The second historicized pretensions to historical objectivity, and impressed historians (and the odd free-range scholar). The third historicized the Holocaust's centrality in American Jewish identity, and impressed our paper of record, whose obituary gives That Noble Dream one mopping-up paragraph, mentions The Resistance Versus Vichy not at all, and devotes its remaining fifteen paragraphs of career survey to The Holocaust in American Life.

Peter Novick, Wrote Controversial Book on Holocaust, Dies at 77

. . .

On this holiday season, I'm grateful that I don't have to figure out what to give an army of tiny killer robots.


miniature cans of wd-40

Next holiday season, I'll be grateful that I know what to give an army of tiny killer robots.


Copyright to contributed work and quoted correspondence remains with the original authors.
Public domain work remains in the public domain.
All other material: Copyright 2015 Ray Davis.