Commonly grief a bird but I’ve found it more snake. I try to keep it at arm’s length. Almost invisible when still; perversely fascinating, horrifying when moves. Uncoils through my body, its motion dislodging, plucking, pulling skeins of adjunct selves, collapsing light webs of little concerns. Not quite stranger but not friend. Formidable. To look at is to react. Only manner of transportation is belly along the ground, is winding push, is soft scales practically silent among dead leaves but the starkest, most recognizable shape, a visceral memory, ancestral instinctual authentic. A force unadorned.

Things I learned from my mother:
– Grapefruits are good for headaches
– When you get grapefruit juice in your eye it’s good for your eye
– When you have a guest the first thing is to offer them tea
– When the tea bags cool you can put the tea bags over their eyes to relieve the soreness of tears.


“It’s mindblowing that something this good had to be self-published”

“It’s not really that long if you look at it from a certain perspective, provided of course that perspective is one from which things that are very lengthy nonetheless appear to be quite short either due to Lorentz contraction or some other as yet undiscovered phenomenon. I’m sure you know what I mean.”

From A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava, as seen in this review. I cannot wait.

No words… only an exclamatory effusion

In point of fact, the reductionist approach to literary criticism not only effectively eliminated the oppressively turgid, treatise-length critiques of the Restoration period and of Dr. Johnson’s immediate predecessors, but took matters to their logical conclusion by condensing even the most picayune paean or snippet-sized squib, the most miniscule encomium or pismire-proportioned drubbing, into an exuberant spritz of approving saliva or a disdainful expulsion of damning phlegm.

Diehard Phlegmatics considered Woolf’s expropriation a crass rebuke, and rejected her reforms out of hand. In response, they formed splinter groups. Vomiting had always been frowned upon—a member was banished for a year from a phlegmatic forum, another expelled from a reading club for this offense. But, with the fading of phlegmatism, the “Regurgitators” phased in, and still more radical offshoots of the Vomit School—the “Barfers” and the “Pukistes” stole their day in the sun. The only bodily secretion besides saliva that the Phlegmatics permitted was perspiration, which was tolerated because it connotes excitement, industry, and assiduous application to the task at hand (critical analysis). Tears, later to be so important in association with the Sentimental School, made a tentative appearance in a trial role among the Post-Phlegmatics, but had little lasting impact.

Gilbert Alter-Gilbert on 50 watts.

From my window

Infants and a rainbow

To the accompaniment of a truly terrible opera lesson.

Saussure would be proud

Scientific writing tends toward a purely formal and mathematical language based on an abstract logic indifferent to its content. Literary writing tends to construct a system of values in which every word, every sign, is a value for the sole reason that it has been chosen and fixed on the page. There could never be any meeting between the two languages, but (on account of their extreme disparity) there can be a challenge, a kind of wager between them. In certain situations it is literature that can work indirectly as a spring to propel the scientist along, providing an example of imaginative courage in taking a hypothesis to its ultimate consequences, and so on. Similarly, in other situations it can work the other way around. At the moment the language of mathematics, of formal logic, can save the writer from the disrepair that words and images have fallen into as a result of being misused. Even so, the writer should not think that he has found anything valid absolutely. Here, too, the example of science can be of use to him, and teach him the patient modesty of considering each and every result as being part of a possibly infinite series of approximations.

– Italo Calvino in The Uses of Literature

(Vision and) Revision

And yet, at some point, the mediation had to give way, not so much by breaking down as by building up to the point where it became a world of its own, in whose signs it was possible to apprehend the world itself, in its primal nakedness. This is something that happens in everyday life, after all. When we strike up a conversation, we are often trying to work out what our interlocutor is thinking. And it seems impossible to ascertain those thoughts except by a long series of inferences. What could be more closed off and mediated than someone else’s mental activity? And yet this activity is expressed in language, words resounding in the air, simply waiting to be heard. We come up against the words, and before we know it, we are already emerging on the other side, grappling with the thought of another mind. Mutatis mutandis, the same thing happens with a painter and the visible world. It was happening to Rugendas. What the world was saying was the world.

 César Aira, An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter





The Widener is one good reason to live in Cambridge, Mass. I have a motto: when you get really depressed, go to the stacks. You are surrounded by things that people have produced, not by people themselves. Almost always an improvement. Furthermore, I feel safe there.

I took the elevator to the fifth floor. Looking for the call number –– WID-LC B243.I2613.1986. I stopped. Turned down an aisle, tripped a motion-sensor, and a light clicked on. An old man – possibly in his 70s – was walking towards me from the other end of the aisle. The gap closed between us. I bent down to reach for a book – Iamblichus’s “Life of Pythagoras, or, Pythagoric Life (De vita pythagorica).” As he passed me, he said, “Be careful. Iamblichus is not to be trusted.”

Re-kindled joy in my fellows, in five parts.