Commentaries - September 2009

literary practice at the edge ( the snow)

Conference at Banff in February. Click on the image above for a better view.

Jean Shepherd, those debilitating dreams

My dear friend John Giannotti, the noted sculptor, reminded me yesterday that Jean Shepherd once called for a "Dream Collection Day." Here's what Jean said:
John writes: "Although meant to show the utter uselessness of the creative spirit, it had exactly the opposite effect on me -- which Shepherd probably knew anyway."

9/11 at KWH

"Finding the Words"

After 9/11 we at KWH organized a program called "Finding the Words." Believe it or not, readings and commentaries started with the WWII wartime/home-front experience of that seemingly nonpolitical poet, Marianne Moore. And yet the responsiveness to 9/11 was, for me, not oblique and completely interesting. LINKS: (1) earlier blog entry introducing the event; (2) link to podcast later made for the program.

Dominick Dunne

Friends and family today buried Dominick Dunne, and of course Joan Didion was there. Stephen Sondheim was a pallbearer.

Obsessed with details but oblivious (Heinrich Boll)

"Across the Bridge"

Our narrator is super-attentive to details but otherwise entirely oblivious. Yes, it’s Heinrich Boll, one of his post-Holocaust stories about German society: “Across the Bridge.” He works for a company whose business is suspect, but he doesn’t inquire. He carries parcels and messages but doesn’t know what they are. He relishes his routine trips, though, seeing in one house along the way the perfect rhythms of regularity: a woman keeps scrubbing windows, on schedule. The routine is an aesthetic, and it is associated with those first postwar months: he had crossed the bridge almost daily in those days, but then it was rickety and war-torn, and he remembers feeling that dread and emptiness. Would the train ever get across? Sometimes classic literary psychoanalytic readings work sufficiently. In this case, for sure. Let’s call it — with the Mitscherlichs, who wrote on it about postwar Germans years ago — “the inability to mourn.” By the way, I feel the same dread watching all those slow-moving Holocaust-related trains in Shoah and The Truce and elsewhere.