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.]

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Monday, August 25, 2008

“no focuses . . . no certainty”

They took the Buick today, the Le Sabre that in 6 years I put an extra 100k+ miles and which, in the end, introduced me the the actual streets of Paterson. Looking at my notebooks, trying to reconstruct that first visit, I must have been driving a lot. A long series of pages on Deleuze’s “plane of immanence” signified the stasis of home in South Carolina, and the relatively untrammeled concentration of summer. Then follows some poem-notes about Milwaukee—was it just restlessness that brought me there? Something particular?—mentions of a meeting in Chicago, trying to sell a stock in Cleveland, some notes on bromeliad (which would seem to bring me back to Florida, but notebooks dictate the chronology of memory more than the order of fact) . . . neither Spanish, nor moss . . . Smithson on enantiomorphic chambers and Hotel Palenque “no focuses . . . no certainty” (and here, there is a time stamp with a entrance sticker from the Whitney dated 7/27/05), and then some poem-notes on Paterson when I first visited, at dawn “before the city remembers the psychosis/a thousand silky automatons/have cocooned its brain in . . . the cataract of the falls/like a stereoscope slide/in a restaurant dumpster./The Krishnas who turn out to be/convicts in bring orange jumpers/ Enlightened!”, relatively blank pages=NYC, a page on Lacan and angels—which again may have signified a return to home (Lacan: “the signifier is stupid”), but some notes on daucus carota led me to believe that there was also a trip to Montauk in there somewhere as the Buick always had camping gear trunked for spontaneous trips— that fine weed of summer, aka Queen Anne’s lace, was all along the way, but it was the end of Long Island where I finally attained its natural history.
All this, I guess, is vicarious living, since I haven’t been able to have that kind of spontaneous summer for a while (this is the third summer consumed by moving), although the Buick did some good work getting me from the South to Rochester and back (with stops in Philadelphia and Baltimore and Asheville) and then all the way to Seattle before conking out for good. It completely died on the BQE last year while driving with L______ back to Providence, but, against all odds was resurrected at an Amoco in Queens. This particular 88 Buick was called a “poem” by N_____’s mother, and many a day it got me through the poem-streets of downtown Paterson, sometime festooned with lavalier mics—a make-shift and moving talk-show set. Because Leonard seemed to like it, I picked up Gabriel Gudding’s Rhode Island Notebook recently, and I could neither relate to the poet’s problems nor believe the veracity of his accounts of them, because he begins with an unfortunate travesty of Buick owners . . . and he has yet to own up to the model of his car. He only calls it “my efficient Toyota” (it’s obviously a Prius). No I prefer the Cortázars’ red Fafner from Autonauts of the Cosmoroute.

In the last few days, as I moved the limping Buick from parking place to parking place to prevent it from getting ticketed as an abandoned car, it would billow smoke from both ends; since this is Seattle, people would stop and look at me as if I were a baby-killer.

RiP also Nishiki 91, which was usually strapped onto the back of the Buick, and which, also, on that first morning in Paterson, glided me in a way more effortlessly than the Buick could between my random parking place, the Falls and the factories. The Buick was donated to Youth Radio, and hopefully it will be transmuted into at least a flash audio recorder; the Nishiki, by virtue of its being left there by mistake, will have many a Gothic intrigue in the VSW haunted mansion of art.

Last days in the Badlands:

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Sunday, August 03, 2008

Reprint Sutra

A couple years ago, when this blog was starting, I interviewed Lex Bhagat on Paterson and included some of his actualities in an earlier mix. What went unincluded was a performative reading he did, sutra-style, of Appendix B: A Note on the Text. The appendix details the problems of compiling a definitive addition, resistances against reprinting, and Williams' deteriorating health. It also points out how the book's "textual history . . . is a suitable parallel to the colorful past of the city that is its focus" (241), in some ways turning this scholarly supplement into a unplanned continuation of the poem. I found Lex's performance hidden away on a hard drive while reorganizing files, and decided to fool around with it a little bit. Don't "wait until Jim [Laughlin] gets back." Click now for Reprint Sutra.

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