My very close friend Andrew Leland has started blogging for the Oakland Museum of California. He only has three posts up; he has been very shy about it. The link is here. I was with him when he saw that the most recent post had gone up, and he was like, “This reads like a college newspaper column. I hate myself.”
“Andrew,” I told him. “Don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s great.”
“Really?” He said. So self-obsessed, so delicate. “Thanks.”
The blog isn’t bad. He’s trying. He also told me he recently tried writing fiction, because a young lion who edits a young lionesian quarterly asked him to submit something. “Writing fiction is excruciating,” he reports. “I spent a week forcing myself to write 750 words a day. Then I went two months without thinking about it. I returned to the document I had created, and my wonderful girlfriend had to pry the screwdriver out of my hands before I plunged it into my eye sockets.” Writing nonfiction isn’t much easier, he added, but then when it’s done, he feels happy.
Last Saturday, Andrew and I were hanging out at his apartment in San Francisco. I had my tape recorder, and we thought it would be fun to record our conversation. Last night I couldn’t sleep, so I transcribed it.
ME: That’s not why dogs are neutered, Andrew. [Laughter]
ANDREW: Just kidding.
ME: I adore your shoes!!
AL: I love you. I wish I could smoke pot
just kidding, that’s not a real transcript. Tonight is the Oakland Standard’s launch party — officially selected by Good Jobbbbbbbbbbbb: The Online Journal of Success as the number-one Friday Night social calendar PICK for Friday, February 4. The Tammy-Rae MacArthur Genius Kutundu-Wajahat Mother Novella Carpenter’s Gothic part starts at 8, then Turf Fienz at I wanna say 9, then Chelsea Clinton’s Wedding DJ (seriously, literally) at whenever everything else is over. It’s free, it’ll go till 1, one is advised to “come through.” One block from Lake Merritt BART. Alcohol, bikes, leggings. At least three generations of Americans, dancing.
I began writing a comment on this post by Ed Park, where he politely disagreed with Jenny Davidson’s negative response to the style of Anthony Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time — but after two Stella Artois and some Ryvita crackers, I’ve decided to host my thoughts here, in my own air-conditioned corner of the web.
Tonight I’ll finish book nine, The Military Philosophers. I might not have made it this far into A Dance without the support of the Society I’m reading it with — or without Ed’s promise that once you get to about book three, things, as Levi notes on Jenny’s post, “will be layered with memory and meaning,” and become more enjoyable.
I couldn’t help but think of Jenny’s reaction to Powell tonight, when I read the passage in book nine where our narrator, Nick, hears Blake’s “Jerusalem” sung at a Victory Day Service at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London at the end of Word War II:
Blake was as impenetrable as Isiah; in his way, more so. It was not quite such wonderful stuff as the Prophet rendered into Elizabethan English, yet wonderful enough. At the same time, so I always felt, never quite for me. Blake was a genius, but not one for the classical taste. He was too cranky. No doubt that was being ungrateful for undoubted marvels offered and accepted. One often felt ungrateful in literary matters, as in so many others.
Powell reminds Jenny D., she says, of no one so much as Pope, with the trouble he takes “to develop an elaborate and fluent idiom that seems… overequipped given the relative banality and commonplace nature of the thoughts therein expressed!” It’s funny that immediately following the passage quoted above — one of the most self-consciously literary-critical in the series so far — the narrator invokes Pope himself, quoting “Imitations of Horace”:
Who now reads Cowley? If he pleases yet,
His moral pleases, not his pointed wit;
Forgot his epic, nay Pindaric art,
But still I love the language of his heart.
“But,” our narrator adds, “surely the pointed wit was just what did survive?” And who now reads Powell? A weirdly vocal and large group, it seems. The pleasure of Powell is in his humor, and his humor is entirely social. “Wit was just the quality he brought to bear with such remarkable effect.”
Before returning to his narrative of periphrastically noncommittal observations of his daily trials and triumphs, Nick ends this section of literary reverie in St. Paul’s Cathedral with a critical reading of the National Anthem:
Repetitive, jerky, subjective in feeling, not much ornamented by imagination nor subtlety of thought and phraseology, the words possessed at the same time a kind of depth, an unpretentious expression of sentiments suited somehow to the moment.
I’m overly inclined to think I’ve found an author’s ars poetica whenever a literary-critical episode appears within a piece of literature. But I wonder if this itchily intrigued section of the Military Philosophers can connect somehow with Professor Davidson’s response to Powell’s style.
UPDATE: I hate this blog post! I’m going to sleep
Live Remote from San Francisco Gallery 16’s “100 Records”
Friday, May 7th, 3pm – 6pm
on Put the Needle On the Record with Billy Jam
Musician/ artist/ curator Sonny Smith (of Sonny & The Sunsets who performed on WFMU during SXSW) currently has a unique exhibit at San Francisco’s Gallery 16. Entitled “100 Records” it features the cover art for one hundred seven inch records by 100 bands/artists that never existed. Actually the band names & song titles (200 in all for Side A & B) were all dreamt up by Smith who then commissioned a hundred artists to create corresponding cover art for these fictional bands’ singles. Smith then, with other musicians, set about making the music to go along with these imaginary 45s. He then built a jukebox (also on the display in the gallery) to playback these songs. This coming Friday WFMU will set up its remote broadcast unit smack in the middle of the “100 Records” exhibit when Smith will be among the many guests on the air. Also scheduled to stop by are Gallery 16’s Griff Williams, Live Human, DnZ, Z-Man, B-Cause, and more to be announced. Gallery 16 is located at the corner of Bryant & Third Streets in downtown San Francisco and is open to the public. This WFMU broadcast of “Put The Needle On The Record” with Billy Jam happens at local San Francisco time noon to 3pm, which is 3pm to 6pm Jersey City time, on Friday May 7th.
I’ve been stressed out at work and found a lo-fi all-girl indie band composed of three attractive 20-year-olds and felt super creepy looking at their photos and marginally less creepy listening to their music on this blog before. [link]
SORRY EVERYBODY!! It looks this happens about once a summer. Check this space soon for my fan fiction about the stubbled art-handling half-drunk square-jawed t-shirted (!?) guys I imagine them dating/singing about.