Thursday, August 28, 2008


I can’t remember what car Williams drove, and it doesn’t make an appearance in Paterson (his preference in that poem is for “WALKING—”, the dash his unmistakable old stick). What would Williams drive? There are both the cars the enable literature and cars within literature. As to the former, I can only seem to think of Kesey’s International Harvester, if that counts, of the latter, maybe in Updike: “He crosses around in front of the car, the ’55 Ford that old man Springer with his little sandy Hitler mustache sold him for an even thousand in 1957 because the scared bastard was ashamed, cars being his business he was ashamed of his daughter marrying somebody who had nothing but a ’36 Buick he bought for $125 in the Army in Texas in 1953.” This Ford was Rabbit’s first vehicle of escape (however thwarted); Lolita’s Packard got a little further (was it a Packard?), but not Furthur (it’s still martinis and school plays, not psychedelics and happenings for Humbert.) By book four of Updike’s Rabbit series, they’re all driving Toyotas (Springer’s new franchise), and that success is a mixed blessing, since it signals an admission of defeat—the decline of the dominance of American manufacture echoing the personal emasculation of aging. I don’t remember if DeLillo’s family in White Noise escapes the “Airborne Toxic Event” in a similarly symbolically-fraught Toyota, but there is that great passage when the protagonist hears his daughter murmuring “Toyota Celica” in her sleep:
A long moment passed before I realized this was the name of an automobile. The truth only amazed me more. The utterance was beautiful and mysterious, gold-shot with looming wonder. It was like the name of an ancient power in the sky, tablet-carved in cuneiform. It made me feel that something hovered. But how could this be? A simple brand name, an ordinary car. How could these near-nonsense words, murmured in a child’s restless sleep, make me sense a meaning, a presence? . . . Whatever its source, the utterance struck me with the impact of a moment of splendid transcendence.
The Gudding poem spoke of in the last entry made me go back to Butor’s Mobile, which I just happened to have bookmarked at the chapter on New Jersey. There is no mention of Paterson therein, which is odd given that Butor seems very much influenced by the way Williams deals with American history. Although Butor is somewhere closer to Kenneth Goldsmith than to Williams, and further (Furthur!?) from familial structures of identification (as in Gudding, Updike, Nabokov, DeLillo) that would encode even these types of predecessor relations into the work (note the flatness of the reference to an engagement ring below). I am tempted to type in this whole passage from Butor about the Sears “‘Automobile Repair Manual,’ 120 pages, ‘covers 1,967 models, from 1952 to 1959; 2,850 explanatory illustrations to make things ultra-simple; 225,000 repair problems, with 219 rapid reference tables, covering more than 30, 000 essential specifications and dimensions. . . . All pointers on maintenance, repair and emergency service for these 24 makes:

>>>>>HANOVER, scarlet carnation state.>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>Indians of an unknown period and civilization constructed
>>>>>large mounds in the shape of eagles, quadrupeds or serpents
the greatest of the latter measures 411 yards, has a spiral
tail, twists its body into seven deep curves and holds a kind
>>>>>of huge egg in its open mouth.>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>The Maumee River that flows into Lake Erie,--Polson Creek
>>>>>that flows into the Ohio,--or an engagement ring, page 440
>>>>>in the catalogue, “eleven sparkling diamonds, totaling almost
>>>>>a carat, in the new ‘Glo’ setting described above. Four
>>>>>chatoyants around them. Adjustable wedding band with six
>>>>>large brilliants. Standard quality.”>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>>>HANOVER, York County, PENNSYLVANIA,
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>--the Cornplanter Indian Reserva-
>>>>>>>>>>>“. . . He finds it is imagined by Numbers, that
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>the Inhabitants of North America are rich, ca-
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>pable of rewarding, and dispos'd to reward, all
sorts of Ingenuity; that they are at the same time
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>ignorant of all the Sciences, and, consequently,
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>that Strangers, possessing Talents in the Belles-
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Lettres, fine arts, &c., must be highly esteemed,
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>and so well paid, as to become easily rich them-
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>selves; that there are also abundance of profit-
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>able Offices to be disposed of, which the Natives
>>>>> >>>>>>> >are not qualified to fill . . .”>>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>>> >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Benjamin Franklin
>>>>>>>>> >“ . . . and when the Great God brings me among
>>>>>>>>>>>>>you, I intend to order all things in such manner
>>>>>>>>>>>>>that we may live in Love and Peace one with
>>>>>>>>>>>>>another, which I hope the Great God will incline
>>>>>>>>>>>>>both me and you to do. . . .”>>>
>>>>>>>>>>>>>Treaty of William Penn with the Delaware
>>>>>>>>>>>>A chocolate Frazer driven by an old Negro (50
>>>>>>>>>>>>miles),--the Beaver and Allegheny Rivers that
>>>>>>>>>>>>flow into the Ohio.>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>HANOVER, NEW JERSEY, smallest
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>state after Rhode Island,>>
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Delaware, Connecticut, and Hawaii.>>
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>The sea,>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>>> >>> >>shorts,>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>>>> >>>>Bluebirds,>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>> >>>>>>>Carolina kinglets,>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>swallow-tailed flycatchers,
>>>>>>>>>>>>rose-breasted grosbeaks,>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> >wood peewees.>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>A chocolate Kaiser driven by a young
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Negro (50 miles),--the Musconetcong
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>and Assunpink Rivers, tributaries of
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>the Delaware,--telephone ringing.” (73-5)
“Typing, not writing?” Here’s Nabokov writing, not driving:

[reader know that "typing" is no mean feat: the tabbing in Mobile is crucial enough that I spent all morning nitpicking html to get these stanzas to line up as close to the original as possible. Blogger otherwise throws them in pell-mell.]

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,


Blogger Stan said...

I appreciate your story.
I've been wondering what WWWD means?

Stan Jones - "Wedding Invitations Diy"

11:11 PM, April 13, 2011  
Blogger Joe Milutis said...

what would williams do!

11:24 AM, July 29, 2011  

Post a Comment

<< Home