Thursday, July 09, 2009

From the Notebooks

Since I'm not feeling a real post right now, I thought I'd try something different. In the past I've posted drawings, others' and my own poems, quotations, etc. More of those are coming. I've had Susan Sontag's notebooks in mind of late, both because I've wanted to read the volume of them that her son edited since it was first announced and because of Reggie H.'s note in an email about them (he's finished them), and then today as I was rifling through some of the boxes I sent back I came across some old notebooks, so I figured, why not post some of what's in them. I can't claim to have anything approaching the excitement of anything like Sontag's scribblings, but nevertheless, here goes: The first is a list I saw displayed at the Detroit Museum of African-American History. I and many others wrote these and a slew of other names down during the summer of 2001, when we were at the Cave Canem workshops at the Cranbrook Academy, outside Detroit. My original aim was to make a poem out of them, but that never happened (others did so, if I recall) but looking back the list is almost poetic by itself. Can you guess what they are? The answer's just below the list.

L'Amitie - Encomium - Mears - La Nanette - Dwight - Hutchinson - June - Lottery - Endeavor - Jack - Protection - Nova Amora - Judith - Higgins - Armstrong - African - Fame - Charming Betsey - Sappho - Quay - Ajax - Constance - Black Joke - Despatch - Mystic - Brownlow - Science - Angola - Thomas and John - Renown - Woodward - Beckey - Kilpatrick - La Bonne - Honnete - Revel - Revels - Marshall - Sally - Watts - Sukie - Winter - Defyance - 4th of July
Slave ships!

The next is a random list of observations I penned shortly after after 9/11, probably the first weekend after, when I took the PATH into the city (I was commuting weekly from Penn Station and the Port Authority, but I usually went straight from either venue to the Jersey-bound PATH to get home) just to walk around and see the aftermath of the horrific events. Like a number of people I posted my memories of that day and the next, and sent it around via email (one of the best I read was by Samuel R. Delany), but I wanted to take notes for a work of fiction. I did write one, but nothing of this rather obvious and paltry list made it into the final piece:

Makeshift memorial @ Wash. Sq.
votives - postcards - poems - charred sheets from the towers - drawings - flowers - photos
Smell of burnt wood
Missing posters
People on the streets - only a fraction
Almost no car traffic
Sky behind the arch + NYU is empty -
Lots of people wearing masks
Heaviness in your chest -
Memorial @ firehouse on W 10th and Greenwich
At W10th @ Bleecker Miami police - 3
Brilliant late autumn day
People walking in 6th Ave.
Down Hudson @ Christopher an ocher screen
Flags from some balconies and fire esc.
"Whitney Houston probably died..."
White plume merges into the clouds

Next is a list of books I apparently was considering for my Spring 2002 advanced fiction class (the students expressed a desire to be challenged, and so they were). I only used a few of these, and added others, such as Ben Katchor's Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer, and Mario Puig's An Eternal Curse on the Reader of These Pages. Oh, and The Atrocity Exhibition, q.v.

Jack the Modernist - Robert Glück
Wittgenstein's Mistress - David Markson
Bedouin Hornbook - Nathaniel Mackey
Oreo - Fran Ross
Travesty - John Hawkes
Ill Fated Peregrinations of Fray Servando - Reinaldo Arenas
Planetarium - Nathalie Sarraute
Les Guerrillières - Monique Wittig
... (something!) - Michelle Cliff
Age of Wire & String - Ben Marcus
The Hour of the Star - Clarice Lispector
The Woman in the Dunes - Kobe Abe
Bluest Eye - Toni Morrison
Count Julian - Juan Goytisolo
Palm-Wine Drinkard - Amos Tutuola
Living - Henry Green
Deep North - Fanny Howe
The Autobiography of Red - Anne Carson
My Summer in Baden-Baden - Leonid Tsypkin
... (something) - Justin Chin
Wigger - Lawrence Ytzhak Brathwaite
Cattle Killing - John Edgar Wideman
The Comforters - Muriel Spark
Textermination - Christine Brooke-Rose
Carnival - Wilson Harris
... (something) - Milan Kundera
--down to around 12 - Exercises - discussions
(I've still never taught some of these books, while others I've taught several or many times, even though a few, like Carnival, rank among the most difficult works of literature out. That one probably shouldn't be introduced to anyone below the graduate level--in a writing class, that is. They are all high among my personal favorites.

Also, I also once told Reggie H. that I wished I could find one of my books in every bookstore I entered, "like Wittig's Les Guerrillières." He kindly replied that he didn't think that book could be found everywhere, and I'm sure he was and is right, though I did always seem to come across it, which probably says more about the bookstores I was hanging out in that the book itself.)

And finally, a vocabulary list, of the sort I often keep when I read poetry and fiction, and especially works in another language. These are words from an array of authors, though among the words I'd interspersed quotes from a poems by Wallace Stevens (as well as Hazel Carby and George Moore!); from his poems alone you could fill many notebooks. How many of these words did you already know? (I think I've seen "ukase" countless times but always forget its meaning.)
fub (vi) - to put off, delay, cheat
girandole (n) - a showy composition; ornate candlestick
gibbet (n) - a lump, mass
schwärmerei (n) - wild devotion; sentimental enthusiasm
furbelow (n) - a flounce, ruffle; showy trimming
caparison (n) - an adornment, trapping
gloze (vt) - to make appear right or acceptable
pettifog (vi) - to engage in legal trickery, to quibble over insignificances
riband (n) - a ribbon
antinomian (n, adj) - one who rejects conventional morality
turophile (n) - a connoisseur of cheese
drabble (vt) - to draggle / (vi) - to grow wet and muddy
loricate (vt) - to coat with armor protectively
ukase (n) - edict
glacis (n) - a gentle, sloping bank
sarangousty (n) - waterproof stucco
pelisse (n) - a sleeveless cape lined with fur
scelestic (adj) - wicked; villainous
miniate (vt) - to decorate (manuscripts) with letters painted red, to decorate with red lead or vermillion
palpebral (adj) - pertaining to the eyelids
swyve (vi) - to copulate
That's it!

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