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[JULY 2009.]

The comparative literature conference back in March introduced me to Thomas Lehr, who hasn’t been translated; I’ve been reading his Frühling and need a capacious dictionary. The conceit—last thirty-odd seconds of a man’s life—a stream of prose that I suppose you’d call para-consciousness. Something like Beckett syntax, but it comes out differently in German. Worth doing. Such rhetorical splendor for any old dude keeling over on the sidewalk; modernism at its most generous.

Still there’s the question of what content to give that form, and as always the answer is memory. I think we’ve had too much of it. The moderns drew that map, Beckett burned the fat off and now it’s lost its power as an organizing principle. Rereading Kafka, I’ve been struck by how his people never remember anything: it’s not a permitted move.

The almost-genre of coma-as-framing-story -- an escape hatch? The Third Policeman probably best known, but I should make a list.

I’d like to see that list—but is The Third Policeman about a coma? I thought it was about hell.

do you think there might be a connection to broch's 'death of vergil'?

Lehr must have thought about it. But I thought Virgil’s consciousness was a major justification for the rhetoric in that book, on account of he’s Virgil? (I have to confess, J. disliked The Death of Vergil enough that I haven’t tried it.)


Mining conference in San Francisco: it can happen here. I am Sherlock Holmes and can tell by everyone’s watches that they’ve flown in from Mountain time. Someone reads the address on my nametag and asks, shocked: “Are you a conservative in Berkeley?” What a jolly laugh I have for him! But later I get tired of people giving me shit about Obama’s health plan.

Chairs set up in the ballroom under the modernist chandelier, which hangs as an inverted ziggurat of translucent plastic segments. Praise it. Look at my adult self: sport coat, wedding ring, subtle argyle weave in my black socks, fresh-printed business cards I’ve been tossing around like it’s Christmas. The air is filtered deliciously, sweet and dry—every sip of coffee seems to bring the shining ziggurat closer—I’m exhausted, finished with everything, rising to heaven.


The existence on rolling chairs, it lacks the human, so at dusk I run my carcass up the suburban hill. Face off against the dark. Antares and a plane. The plane goes on, Antares can’t, it’s stuck in the atmosphere quivering and changing color, if it could only hold still.

Großer Bär, komm herab zottige Nacht,
Wolkenpelztier mit den alten Augen,

Fürchtet euch oder fürchtet euch nicht!

And Scorpio up there means that the sun is passing into Leo and I’ll notch up another year soon. Look at the star, look at the star, look at the star, why can’t I ever go home.

so, is home Antares or Scorpio?

I mean, they’re the same by synecdoche. But clearly one way to preempt Henry Adams’s complaint of living in the wrong century is to complain of living in the wrong solar system.

ahhhhhhhhhh! I get it!


A clean job in the slag factory [...
...] the open curve, your sign [...

...] the unfinished map of maps
from eight hours till evening.
The axe hasn’t fallen, isn’t falling.
The policemen have no one to beat.


Well, we get tetchy a lot. It’s a “formal feature.”

If you want to get out of the musty corner, you can go to doubtfull.org, where I migrated the old Vox blog of book notes and where I’m posting some translations now.

Or recall the sun, should you live anywhere with decorous sun—


My shit list has gotten long enough to bite its own tail.


What, O bhikkus, are the hells of the wandering narrator? The hells of the wandering narrator are: sense of entitlement; self-importance; self-pity; pride as wound; wound as pride; solipsism; inconstancy; ungenerosity; Maker’s Mark; adjuncting. Truly, such are the hells of the wandering narrator.

Is there deliverance, O bhikkus? There is deliverance. Is there hope, O bhikkus? There is not hope.

drop the imaginary axis
get to where the facts is

The last dream I had about the bomb was sad more than scary; the cloud puffed up and I had a second to think, there it goes, I guess it had to, how could those things hang around unused forever. And who knows, maybe it would be like that. Disappointment is visceral as anything.


Marriage is very fine and I like being a husband, but now more than ever I wonder about all the narrative structures that were designed to stop here, given that it’s so clearly a beginning; and that confusion must itself be an old thing, the new bride picking up her copy of Twelfth Night and not knowing how to take it past the back cover.


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