Monday, October 21, 2013

Huffs Some Perfunctory Warmth on His Stiffening Hands then Bends Again to His Goat's-Horn of Ink

  • That's Gwendolyn, who was joined by a sheep, a llama, two chickens, three rabbits, at North Campus Fall Petting Zoo yesterday.
  • Crusoe in England.
  • The car we've rented this trip has Sirius radio. When we got in it was already tuned to what Sirius calls SecondWave, a greatest hits of the New Wave 80s. U2, Police, Elvis Costello dominate, but the band that, after a dozen self-scourging hours of listening over three days, is played the most is Depeche Mode. A Depeche Mode song every hour. I neither like nor dislike Depeche Mode (compared to disliking Elvis Costello and hating U2 and despising Gordon Fucking Sumner), I'm just surprised that, in an admittedly small sample size, it's Depeche Mode every hour, I don't recall anyone I know owning or listening to Depeche Mode.
  • UPDATE! Mr Alarum tweets that he owns lots of Depeche Mode, so I know one person (whose musical taste I thoroughly value and trust). I'm not anti-Depeche Mode, just surprised it gets the most air-time. 
  • UPDATE! SeatSix, who I love like a brother, tells me he owns many Depeche Mode albums and that Depeche Mode was ubiquitous when he was in college and after.
  • Lachesism.
  • A late history.
  • Does anyone else get the pink banner of error on every single composition page on motherfucking blooger? Damn my free blogging platform. 
  • Carpe Demon.
  • Bleak House
  • An army of altruists.
  • { feuilleton }'s Weekly Links.
  • DC Day Two.
  • Muriel Spark, for those of you who do. 
  • Sasha recommends!
  • Flann O'Brien, for those of you who do.
  • Creature.
  • Elliott Smith, for those of you who do.
  • No, I'm not going to post any Depeche Mode.


Albert Goldbarth

Fire isn’t allowed, for the sake of the books.
The lean monk-copyist who scribes the books is slate-blue at his fingertips
this steely late-November day in the year 1000. Brother Ambrosio
huffs some perfunctory warmth on his stiffening hands,
then bends again to his goat’s-horn of ink. For every line,
he believes, he’s forgiven a sin. And now he’s at his heavy
uncial letters, and will be for nine hours more,
until a slab of bread and a beet relieve his transcriptual ardor.
What he copies?—psalter, missal, hagiography:
the predetermined and sanctioned community passions
of a religious culture. Nothing like the twentieth century’s
prevalent kneejerk “self-expression.” Nothing like the priest,

excuse me: former priest, and former nun, on daytime talk TV,
who live, she tells us, in a “trinity of love” with the former
creator-of-tourist-ashtrays-out-of-catfish-heads. This is,
she insists, the final and jubilant stage of a lifelong “quest
to feel belongingness” initiated thirty years before
by parents skittering cross-country with the military: they
were wholly rootless, and so she grew up “unable to commit.” The following day,
a man confesses to pedophilia because of a lesbian aunt.
A woman says she robbed the Sack-N-Save of $13.42
“because of what they’re dumping in the water supply, it makes me
go all freaky.” Steve was bounced out from The Chicken Shack
“because I’m Scandinavian.” The culture

of blame is so completely exterior in its search for cause,
some days I wake to think I’ll find most people laboring
under the weight of sci-fi-style mind parasites, like fleshy turbans
spewing in, and feeding off, their brain blood. This (by “this”
I mean of course a recognition of the magic of objective correlative
boppin’ about in the spotlight) is, to some length,
understandable: you can’t beat the miniscule carry-along
convenience of a silicon chip invisibly set in something,
BUT for sheer persuasive visual power, that can’t touch
a 1940s generating plant, its giant Alcatrazian shape
against the sky, and the enormous wrestling electrical crackles
snaking its rooftop pylon. In the scriptorium, even

—such an isolated unit of human endeavor, its limited range
of reactions surely is pure—when Brother Ambrosio
nods off, sleepy in his long day’s long eighth hour
of thickly nibbed and careful letters, he knows
it’s imps in league with Satan that keep pulling down his eyelids.
If in scratching his flea-measled thigh he spills
a hand’s-expanse of ink across the vellum page, the fleas
are tiny devils on a guerilla mission from Hell.
And once a devilkin took lodging in his belly, and there
created “rumbling noises like a toad, and which, for hours,
spoiled the concentration of all of the other Brothers.”
We find parchment scraps with appropriate exorcisms:

“Away! you flaming sow, you poisoned udder,
you arse of the arch-fiend, shit-fly, stinking he-goat,
out out out, away, back into thine infernal kitchen,
you bestial puke!” We also find
those charming marginal doodles (sprigs in flower,
unicorns, seemingly every songbird in Creation): such
diminutive external bodies given to the longings of these
cooped-up men. And when they came to drag my friend Jess
screaming to the ward, because he was beating his head
on the lawyer’s steps, it was clear to us all that the chemicals
in his mind had turned against him. It was clear to Jess
that he was being hunted like prey by hounds from the moon.


  1. Nope, currently I am being cursed with this:

    The connection was reset

    The connection to the server was reset while the page was loading.
    Where comment boxes and youtubers are supposed to appear. Seems to be a Firefox thing.

  2. You'll dance to anything.

    C'mon. How can you watch a TNG episode involving Troi's mum and not starting singing Gordon Sumner lyrics?

    "Lwaxana, you don't have to put out the red light..."

  3. Fashion Update?
    Fashion Dispatch?
    Fashion News?
    Dispatch Mode?

  4. one of my favorite gordon sumner videos:

    Love Is The Seventh Wave

    and while i'm naming favorite videos - here's another that comes to mind - more humorous than mr sumner's, but equally uplifting in terms of evoking what doris lessing called "the substance of we feeling"

    Michael Nesmith - Cruisin' (Lucy and Ramona and Sunset Sam)