Monthly Archives: December 2008

there’s something in my book

This was stuck in Nietzsche:


I bought the book in 1997 or ’98; so this would be the Clinton-bombing war in Iraq that December, not the current incarnation. I was in high school, and I had a friend who hung fliers protesting the economic sanctions all over the halls. She was in touch with some other people against sanctions, who then did not want a potential Iraq war to evolve into an actual one, and produced this sticker (it’s cut from a sheet of labels). I don’t remember discussing it much with her, mostly just being distantly supportive and accepting all invitations. This is how I ended up in Philadelphia paired up with a woman with lovely long gray hair who looked at me with her active listening face on as I equivocated about how I had no idea whether or not sanctions were effective and therefore, although I wan’t in favor of little children starving, didn’t feel qualified to have an opinion.

The same friend led to my buying the book. One of the first times I hung out with her outside of school, she told me she wanted to start a philosophy club. I told her I liked philosophy. By which I meant, “While I have never read any philosophy, I like books and ideas and any excuse to feel superior to others.” But we stopped at a bookstore and I bought what I judged to be one of the artier, more misanthropic options available, to prove my sincerity. The bookmark made it through thirty pages of prefaces before I put it back on the shelf. The last time I heard from the friend, she’d just started her philosophy doctorate.

I’ve now made it past the prefaces and some sections into the book proper. It’s slow-going. Nietzsche just scoffed at the idea that the chorus in Greek drama was the ideal spectator because the spectator didn’t see the play as real. I don’t think that’s what people saying that meant, you obtuse weirdo. I got the same voice-of-the-people-and-their-morality analysis when I was assigned Antigone in school. I may want to break between this and The Case of Wagner to read a comic book.


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book for the new year

Adrian wrote The Children’s Hospital, which tops the chart of my reading experiences for 2008. This is set in the Civil War, and includes a machine that reanimates the dead.

Bellow’s book is “an exuberant tale of success and failure,” a “classic story of the writer’s life in America.” The cover also has a guy with a bottle and someone doing a headstand on it. Would probably put Sufjan Stevens’ “Saul Bellow” in my head near-constantly.

Hartley writes about his experiences in Iraq, and teaches–not in this book, but in the three-dimensional world–room-clearing techniques to the people who rehearse in my living room.

The three pages of LeGuin I looked at do not cohere, but science fiction-y proper nouns are in evidence on 1.5 of them, and I’d anticipate a trip. (Recommended by a character in “The Jane Austen Book Club”!)

Namjoshi’s protagonist, who also seems to be called Suniti, talks to a cow and goes to a lesbian bar. Short book.


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Kant attack ad


The ominous strings are making it for me.

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survey says…

3 for Nietzsche; 2 for Vonnegut; Hammet, Piercy, and Swift cry themselves to sleep. I will get right on that. If you missed it in the comments, check out the Nietzsche Family Circus:

New poll to follow before I head out for Christmas family time. I’m thinking it will include nothing philosophical or in translation.


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Anne Carson is a classicist.

So Autobiography of Red’s interesting and lovely. But before I got into the poem proper, there was “proemium,” which Carson made me look up, and “Fragments of Stesichoros,” who wrote the poem she’s adapting, and three appendices, which are apparently not obligated by definition to come after the main text. (When I googled “proemium,” I found out that a band called “Nazgul” had written a song by that name. Freaking Nazgul!*) Reading these fragments, I started thinking that there was no earthly way they were faithful translations. And then had a little fight with myself about whether or not that was okay, which I could only resolve by rummaging through the internet for other versions. (I’m commencing dorking out, if that wasn’t already clear. Feel free to come back later.) Check out a reason for my skepticism:

Later well later they left the bar went back to the centaur’s
Place the centaur had a cup made out of a skull Holding three
Measures of wine Holding it he drank Come over here you can
Bring your drink if you’re afraid to come alone The centaur
Patted the sofa beside him Reddish yellow small alive animal
Not a bee moved up Geryon’s spine on the inside

So “later well later” Geryon hangs out with a centaur and his drink and has trepidation. The Reverend Robert Bland, in 1833 (in “a new edition” by the “late” Rev. Bland, so before 1833), has it:

HE said : then, raising to his mouth the cup
That held three gallons, mantling to the brim,
At one unflinching draught he toss’d it up :
Pholus the wine had mix’d, and pledg’d to him.

Apparently the centaur drank three somethings of wine. It must be hard to commit to a rhyme scheme like that when these fragments are pretty short, by all accounts. I’m just now noticing that Bland assumes it’s Hercules having this night out, and for Carson it’s Geryon. Pholus had a special relationship with Herakles: Point to Bland, but if he assumes Stesichoros is talking about Herakles he might insert the name of Herakles’ centaur buddy. Although, is it just everyone who runs around drinking with centaurs in Greek mythology? This is the first I remember hearing about it. Carson is all about Stesichoros’ unusual empathy with Geryon, so it’s clear how she’s going to break on this, at least in the absence of explicit proof to the contrary, and perhaps regardless.

Here’s her take on Geryon’s death scene:

Arrow means kill It parted Geryon’s skull like a comb Made
The boy neck lean At an odd slow angle sideways as when a
Poppy shames itself in a whip of Nude breeze

And David Mulroy’s in 1992:

…Still as a thief,
he took aim at the forehead.
As a god decreed, he parted
flesh and bones.
Straight from the top of Geryon’s skull
the shaft protruded.
Blood left its scarlet stain
on chest and reeking arms and legs.
Then Geryon’s neck slackened and fell,
like a fragile stalk that breaks
beneath the weight of a poppy’s blossom.
Soon the leaves wither.

And Andrew Miller’s in 1996:

the torments of the man-destroying
Hydra with its shifting necks; and in silence and with
cunning he thrust it into his brow;
and it split the flesh and bones by the dispensation
of divinity;
and the arrow held its course straight through
to the top of his head
and stained with crimson blood
his breastplate and his gory limbs.

Then Geryon’s neck drooped
to one side, like a poppy

which, disfiguring its tender beauty,
suddenly sheds its petals…

Considerably closer, right? Also, Mulroy’s version of the poppy image is proof that it’s not just Carson who gets fanciful–she’s just better at it. I’m assuming her mid-line capitalizations mark the line breaks in the original. If so, the three line up something like this**:


Carson’s not a fan of sneaky Herakles or Geryon’s bloody limbs, but otherwise she’s not so much more dissimilar to Mulroy or Miller than they are to each other. Like enough that Bland’s would be the odd one out among the four, if he wrote it (which he may have; but not that the internet will give me). “Arrow means kill” is perplexing, but I like it as a kind of god-ordained-ness. It also shows that her crazy (and awesome) enjambment is half of what made me have a seizure at the idea that an ancient Greek had written this. Of course, here she’s talking about arrows and poppies rather than sofas and a centaur’s “place”, but still. You don’t see this level of variation in translations of, say, Rilke (about which I also have strong feelings), but German is a living language and the record of those poems has yet to be decimated, so I think I’m okay with it.

Disclaimer: I do not read ancient Greek. I did not look at the original text. You have read the entirety of my “research”.

I’ll be done with Autobiography of Red shortly. “Pretty fucking great” is my understatement of choice for it. Looks like Nietzsche’s up next, which I’m ambivalent about.

*Those would be the hooded guys on horses in Lord of the Rings.
**Columns are one of the bazillion things I imagine would be easy to accomplish until I try. I contemplated turning the image sideways and imagined you all cocking your heads or rotating your monitors.

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mass market paperbacks: they fit in my inside jacket pocket


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triumph! at the disco

At long last I’m done with the Billy Tipton book. As I was finishing up with it, in the 1950s, I saw “White Christmas,” which matched up pretty eerily. Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney (who got a couple mentions in the book), and some other musicians save Christmas for an old general. It hit some similar stuff on the way: showpeople are a fabulous group apart, Crosby and Danny Kaye sing a song called “Sisters” in which they vow not to let men come between them (due to wacky hijinks!), and a bunch of men of their generation get together in uniform on Christmas Eve (presumably their honorable camaraderie is more powerful than their dislike of driving to Vermont with one day’s notice).

Results!:¬†Autobiography of Red wins with 4 votes, followed by Vampire D with 3, Memoirs of the Comtesse de Boigne and A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again with 1 apiece, and Iris Murdoch with nothing. If anyone has poll-closing powers, let me know.

Poetry-reading will commence during laundry time tomorrow, and the next poll will go up shortly after that.

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