pseudopodium
. . . Pinocchio

. . .

Although jarring in practice, schematically it makes perfect sense for the Blue Fairy to be the most realistically drawn human character in Pinocchio: to be "human" is something to aspire to, something that's supposed to be a higher state than that of mere animation.

. . .

Intermediate Hedonics

"You must learn to choose between right and wrong."
"Right and wrong? But how will I know?"
"'How will he know'! Your conscience will tell you."
"What are conscience?"
"'What are conscience?'! I'll tell ya! A conscience is that still small voice that people won't listen to."
- The Blue Fairy, Pinocchio, Jiminy Cricket
In practice it is seldom very hard to do one's duty when one knows what it is, but it is sometimes exceedingly difficult to find this out. The difficulty is, however, often reducible into that of knowing what gives one pleasure, and this, though difficult, is a safer guide and more easily distinguished.

Why I should have been at the pains to write such truisms I know not.

- Samuel Butler

Pleasure, like pain, is a signal to pay attention.

Attract the attention of a verbosely analytical person and you get verbal analysis. Pleasure is not the only thing in life. It's not even the most important thing. But for a critic it's the pertinent thing.

And so I've been puzzled by its absence in most academic criticism, perhaps because such euphemisms as "jouissance" and "cosmic laughter" make me queasy. As critic, it seems to me I have a singular code of ethic: To remain true to pleasure, no matter how embarrassing or inconvenient that may be. To betray that is to betray the entire enterprise. I can no more know what's going on in art if I ignore pleasure than I can know my own sexuality or my own diet.

I realize, of course, in an unhappy sort of way, that not everyone feels that way that for some people, sexuality is what it would be dangerous not to profess, and diet is what they've had all their lives in abundance, and what's artistically interesting is what's come out most recently, or what everyone in their social set is talking about, or what they need to advance their career, or what they've been assigned to review. And clearly I can't agree with Kant that the Beautiful is somehow more universally valid than the Pleasant, or follow the tenuous corollary that greater Universal Beauty is carried by art that is scrubbed of all but artiness. For someone in my unattractive $20 shoes, aesthetic relativism, like ethical relativism, isn't just another doctrine on special in the marketplace of ideas, but an obstinate fact that must somehow be lived with.

When it seems I assault the validity of your pleasure, I intend only to express my own pain. It genuinely saddens that Spielberg never fulfilled the promise of Sugarland Express and genuinely infuriates that Saving Private Ryan so gulled me. Conversely, what are we supposed to do when someone argues against the possibility of taking pleasure in Frank O'Hara? Need we sully our cause by championing it on the villein's own chosen battlefield? Or can we nod and smile and leave the laborer sweatily building their model-hell-kit in model-heaven-kit's despite? My own impulse is to point towards my pleasure and state (firmly but politely, toujours the lady): "Nevertheless, it moves."

Responses

Un regard oblique directs us to an appropriate bit of foreword by W. S. Merwin.

Jordan Davis writes:

There used to be a parlor game (back when we had parlors): assigning personality type according to the phrase that comes to mind when O'Hara's "Personism" manifesto is mentioned. You have your "Mineola Prep" and "they do may" types needing to be reminded when they do and do not control a situation, your "bully for them" and "only Whitman and Crane and Williams... are better than the movies" people suffering from excessive well-adjustment (probably not standard English), your "nostalgia *for* the infinite" and "life-giving vulgarity" people (probably the best poets of the bunch), and of course your "not Roi, by the way, a blond" and "Lucky Pierre" types, who went to Brown.

As for Aaron of Godofthemachine and his dubious "poetry scans" proposition, generally I find I'm better off not striking up a conversation with someone with fists raised to strike me.

Aaron himself protests he's no fighter, even if he's not always a lover. So far I follow him, having denied that dichotomy in the paragraph that linked him. He also protests that his attacks on (what seem to him) artlessness have nothing to do with pleasure, art being a discipline akin to civil engineering. My dissent is the topic (such of it is) of this (meandering and frankly disappointing) series: Art is unknowable except by pleasure; when previously held notions of "what's allowed" can't take into account one's pleasure in an artwork, it's a sign that the notions need to be rethought, not that the art is bad; the critic's noblest job is to undertake such rethinking, John Latta on O'Hara a convenient case in point.

. . .

Ba-lue Mun-deii Ba-lues-Are

Trifles light as air.
"Carve Dat Possum"
by Sam Lucas
(with an assist from "Go Down, Moses")
(as performed by
Harry C. Browne & Peerless Quartet,
1917)
The possum meat am good to eat.
Carve him to the heart.
You'll always find him good and sweet.
Carve him to the heart.
My dog did bark and I went to see
Carve him to the heart.
And there was a possum up that tree.
Carve him to the heart.

I reached up for to pull him in.
Carve him to the heart.
The possum he begun to grin.
Carve him to the heart.
I carried him home and dressed him off.
Carve him to the heart.
I hung him that night in the frost.
Carve him to the heart.

The way to cook the possum sound:
Carve him to the heart.
First parboil him, then bake him brown.
Carve him to the heart.
Lay sweet potatoes in the pan.
Carve him to the heart.
The sweetest meat in all the land
Carve him to the heart.

Carve that possum,
Carve that possum, children.
Carve that possum,
Carve him to the heart.
Oh, carve that possum,
Carve that possum, children.
Carve that possum,
Carve him to the heart.

As environments grow harsher, biodiversity becomes chaff. It's winnowing time again. A good time to know one's species.

Couple years back, the Fantagraphics web site posted a recording of a Nixon-era on-stage interview with stogie-chompin' obscenity-tossin' 100%-pure-bitter Walt Kelly.

I recollect one moment in particular, when, after repeated attempts to get him to admit to harboring some last splinter of child-like wonder and hope, Kelly roared, "So what you're saying is I'm a fairy."

Having worked on Pinocchio, Kelly knew from fairies, so I guess we can take his word he wasn't one.

Me either. I'm more a Jiminy Cricket type, 'ceptin I remain one of those folks Jiminy bets don't believe that.

Riddle me, riddle me, rot-tot-tote.... Squirrels have been suggested as an avatar, but I feel no bond to the greedy beggars.

I admire the white bear, but my wagging jaws lack tenacity.

And The Man's best friend, like poor poopy Hitchens, uplifted from brick-dodging junkyard dog to yapping Corgi, I pity you. You can't beat them, so you join them. Once you join them, they beat you more. Now they beat in sport instead of in earnest, but still it's more.

Also "a deer in the headlights of history" I'm not. I'm not so decorative, nor so herbivorous, nor so ignorant of trucks.

Nor am I a pedigreed, primped, and tenured gerbil, exercising my wits against a bell and mirror and sleeping on a bed of shredded Marcus.

A scavenger of garbage, a hisser, a sulker, urbanized but un-urbanable....

When nuance becomes an established technique of sabotage, us quibblers feed the revolution only in the most literal sense. We try to play possum and find we're playing Shmoo.

But I got nowhere else to go, so still I go Pogo. It's what's for dinner.

Berkeley, California – Wien, Osterreich.
For Phil Cubeta.

Responses

I think it would fly as a rap: "I'm the real Walt Kelly / I really rock 'em / I'll shoot you dead / An' ya won't play possum" etc. - RQH

An old friend anonymously inquires:

But what about Daffy Duck?

"When have I last looked on the round dot eyes and the long wavering bodies of the little black ducks of the moon?"

Josh Lukin triangulates:

First time I read Swamp Thing 32, I cried for five days straight. But I would not have objected if anyone'd thought my lachrymosity had a different orientation.

Phil declines.

 

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.