Sunday, June 16, 2019

As Good as Rocks

Done with Marlon James' Black Leopard Red Wolf, the first novel by an author I had never read I've read in probably two years. Sadogo is dead, the Minji are dead (but for Smoke Girl, maybe), Leopard is dead but can dig for resurrection (maybe, and *this* maybe may be bridge to second book of planned trilogy). I bet a pint the Aesi gets one of the two. But that is not the story

I don't do reviews (Ed does) beyond this, my format for positive reviews: if I like you and you ask nice I'll get you a copy.

First time I enjoyed reading a novel since the last until the next, first time I've wanted to read a next novel (as opposed to feeling obligated to always be in a novel) in forever....

I can't imagine rereading any novel and hereby suspend my (not religiously honored) rotation of rereads, so that copy of Vollmann's Fathers and Crows over on the piano bench which I picked up and read two pages last night, no. I won't do Whale Slaughtering again (ever, if I had to guess now no matter no one used the English language better anywhere, I can't do the whale slaughtering again). I'm giving Pynchon and Barth and Elkin and Melville and Ishiguro and Harington and Gass and Eliot and Vollmann and Dostoyevsky and Grossman and Murnane and Krasnahorkei and anyone else whose novels I've read at least a year off, ibid

Recommend something, anything, or not. I'm not taking Olive off:

  • The self-destructive trajectory of overly successful empires
  • Climate change: slow, slow, slow, BOOM!
  • Definition of *liberals*
  • Fuck the Popo Sports Satrydee.
  • I am constantly asked when I am introduced or need give my name at a service desk if I am related to Grgg. No. It's a common Serb surname.
  • Millions of us
  • { feuilleton }'s weekly links
  • Cabin
  • Oh, I did not read Black Leopard, Red Wolf as a fantasy novel though if it is a fantasy novel it's the first I've ever finished (in the same sense I don't think of Star Trek as science fiction though if it is science fiction it's the only science fiction I've ever watched)
  • Something? Anything?


Alice Notley

I don't see the point of
remembering you; you're too boring,
Iowa City, Iowa,
much duller topologically than
Needles, California. I'm here
in the Rebel Motel, with
my grape-colored sweater
and maté tea, whose smoky odor's
bound up with first rooms and foods here
sex and snow. I
write about Needles
Herman and rocks, the story's called
“As Good as Anything,” and in it
daft Herman—true local
of Needles—says
“Rocks is as good as anything.”
I figured that out summer after
first love affair in New York:
hung out, home, at a rock shop
inspecting geodes and thunder eggs
Arsenic samples and petrified
dinosaur dung.
What can I say about Iowa City
everyone's an academic poetry
groupie, I haven't yet written a poem,
there's a bar where for 25 cents a
meal of boiled egg and tiny beer.
Really I don't know what kind of poetry—
what's the name of the make they
use here—or what kinds of
poetry live people write in the world.
Is there a right and wrong poetry, one might
still ask as I patronize,
retrospectively, the Iowa style,
characterized, as I remember,
by the assumption of desperation
boredom behind two-story houses
divorce, incomes, fields, pigs,
getting into pants, well not really
in poems, well no “well”s and all
in the costive mode
of men who—and the suicidal women—
want to be culpable for something,
settle for being mean to their wives
and writing dour stanzas. God this is bitchy
I modeled for art classes
that's rather interesting
the hypocrisy: nobody needs
to paint nude women
they just like to. So here I am
naked for art, which is a lot of
dumb fucks I already know,
same with poetry.
Written and judged by. Those befoibled guys
who think—you know—
the poetic moment's a pocket in
pool; where can I publish it; what can
I do to my second or third wife now.
Nothing happens in Iowa, so
can I myself change here? Yes
I can start to become contemptuous
is that good or bad, probably bad.
In New York I'd developed a philosophy
of sympathy and spiritual equality:
out the window, easily, upon
my first meeting real assholes.
“A rock's as good as anything” 
there are no rocks in Iowa
shit-black soil, a tree or two,
no mountain or tall edifice,
University drabs, peeping Toms, anti-war
riots, visiting poets
treated like royalty, especially if
they fuck the locals or have a record 
of fighting colorfully with their wives.
You can go to the movies once a week,
like in Needles. You can fuck
a visiting poet;  you can be paraded before
a visiting poet as fuckable but not fuck.
You can write your first poems
thinking you might as well
since the most stupid people in the universe
are writing their five hundredth here.
I'm doing that now. What
difference does it make.
I like my poems. They're
as good as rocks.


  1. Ruuuuuudy!

    My sincere apologies for this episode of Memories Best Left Unremembered and Deeply Repressed. It would have tormented me for hours if I didn't let it out.

  2. 1)that's a good-looking cat

    2)speaking of something/anything particularly 'couldn't i just tell you' by todd rundgren

    2a)most pop songs aren't discussed in wikipedia entries, but this one is

    2b)another power-pop song i really like - with its own wikipedia entry - is

    2c)todd continues to record and tour, even into his eighth decade - a latter-day collaboration with donald fagen that i enjoyed the video of [although some are not impressed] is the anti-trump 'tin foil hat' -

    2d) todd has gone on fox news to ask trumpsters to avoid his shows

    3)speaking of descendants, and of surnames shared with others - my own surname - originating in the former principality of montbéliard (q.v.), in eastern france near the border of switzerland, was remarked upon in a correspondence i had this weekend with someone at the tatamagouche heritage center in nova scotia, to which i had sent a copy of james tate's 'i left my couch in tatamagouche' with my commentary

    this surname of mine consists of two syllables, each of which has three variant spellings - the variations are in the vowels, the consonants are the same - resulting in nine possible versions

    arranging these in alphabetical order and numbering them from one to nine, and then using google to assign an observed frequency to each, one finds

    1) 71,600
    2) 6,280
    3) 28,400
    4) 128,000
    5) 18,500
    6) 164,000
    7) 162,000
    8) 15,300
    9) 162,000

    3a) my canadian correspondent wrote to me, in part

    I don’t know if you are aware that Anna’s great grand nephew is with us in our museum and is very dedicated in the telling of Anna Swan. The name [variant 4, the one my father passed down to me] is quite common in this community although the spelling is slightly different. [Variant 8] is the usual spelling.

    3b)i didn't know that anna swan's g.g. nephew is associated with the museum, though i am not surprised by it - it pleases me to think that i have perhaps made him aware for the first time of tate's poem - although he may have heard of it before, of course

    3c) observed frequencies in google of the surname variants are not to be interpreted as representing counts of people with that name

    3d) the original spelling is variant 6, which has a small lead (no larger than the margin of error, perhaps) over two other variants - mine is in 4th place