Sunday, January 28, 2018

Inevitable Silence

So much of life involves explaining why you love the music, the stories, the films, the plays, the essays, the poems, the art that you love, and receiving only silence in reply. Perhaps the cure would be to never write about your love, but then you, too, would add to the silence.

Silence leads to forgetting. Forgetting leads to loss.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Twisting and Turning

Still the most troubling final passage I've read from any book by Lewis Thomas.

"The man on television, Sunday midday, middle-aged and solid, nice-looking chap, all the facts at his fingertips, more dependable looking than most high-school principals, is talking about civilian defense, his responsibility in Washington. It can make an enormous difference, he is saying. Instead of the outright death of eighty million American citizens in twenty minutes, he says, we can, by careful planning and practice, get that number down to only forty million, maybe even twenty. The thing to do, he says, is to evacuate the cities quickly and have everyone get under shelter in the countryside. That way we can recover, and meanwhile we will have retaliated, incinerating all of Soviet society, he says. What about radioactive fallout? he is asked. Well, he says. Anyway, he says, if the Russians know they can only destroy forty million of us instead of eighty million, this will deter them. Of course, he adds, they have the capacity to kill all two hundred and twenty million of us if they try real hard, but they know we can do the same to them. If the figure is only forty million this will deter them, not worth the trouble, not worth the risk. Eighty million would be another matter, we should guard ourselves against losing that many all at once, he says.

"If I were sixteen or seventeen years old and had to listen to that, or read things like that, I would want to give up listening and reading. I would begin thinking up new kinds of sounds, different from any music heard before, and I would be twisting and turning to rid myself of human language."

From Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony, by Lewis Thomas. Bantam Books, 1984.

Friday, December 22, 2017


I could
Write like
This too but in the end

I would
Feel as
If I had wasted your time

I should
Assume that I know it all

But I
Know that
Some forms appeal to me while some lie dead on the page

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Hence The Night

Shakespeare, Webster, Thomas Browne
(And even Ford of less renown)
Pursued their wordlets through the town
And onto hillsides, where the crown

Of risen sun beamed majesty
And high delight on Tragedy,
On sighs of productivity;
For love of language, torridly
Enticed, was their proclivity.

But I was never one whose running,
Chasing, scribbling, ink-blot sunning,
Typing, pecking, fretting, punning
Efforts of a low-grade cunning

Turned the faces of the bright
Nouns and verbs within my sight
To notice me, to shine their light
Of warm approval.

Hence the night.

[Wednesday, December 20, 2017]

Monday, December 11, 2017

Gorged Upon Books and Glad to be Full

The one drawback of reading self-critically is that I've now trained myself to read everyone else with the same forensic stare; as a result, I rarely find the same pleasure in stories, essays, poems, and plays that I once did. The issue is not always competence; there are times when a writer is not bad at all, but not for me. At other times, a writer does apparently fail to revise with full attention, and I stumble over the speed-bump clauses.

When I do find work that resonates with me, that offers passion and skill that I can appreciate, then I feel as if I were nine years old again, gorged upon books and glad to be full. For all of the critical comments I've posted here, I hope that I've also offered a sense of my joy in reading, because the joy is real, and it keeps me alive.