Monday, August 21, 2017

Sun Stories

There was a solar eclipse today and although in NYC you couldn’t experience the “totality,” it was still something special to see.

We know so much about the science and the whys and hows of what happens during an eclipse, but even with all of that knowledge, one can’t deny the mystery, the spectacular, and the vastness of such an occurrence.

The feeling that things possess an archetypal magic is something that feels magnified in these rare events. It also feels like a respite, a pause and a welcome distraction/re-alignment.

Below are some myths about the sun from various cultures and times long ago. There are peculiar and shared manifestations in many of these and it makes you wonder how universal things are and the depth of our human desire and need to comprehend external forces in internal scales.

Enjoy and I hope you had a chance to see the eclipse and had a few moments to imagine how big and small the universe is.

Raven and the Sun, Tribe: Tsimshian 

Once the sky had no day. When the sky was clear there was some light from the stars but when it was cloudy it was very dark. Raven had put fish in the rivers and fruit trees in the land but he was saddened by the darkness. The Sun at that time was kept in a box by a chief in the sky. The Raven came to a hole in the sky and went through. He came to a spring where the chief's daughter would fetch water. He changed himself into a cedar seed and floated on the water. When the girl drank from spring she swallowed the seed without noticing and became pregnant. A boy child was born which was really Raven. As a toddler he begged to play with the yellow ball that grandfather kept in a box. He was allowed to play with the Sun and when the chief looked away he turned back into Raven and flew back through the hole in the sky.

Three Legged Rabbit, Tribe: Western Rocky 

A three-legged rabbit made himself a fourth leg from wood. The rabbit thought the Sun was too hot for comfort so he went to see what could be done. He went east at night to the place where the Sun would rise. When the Sun was half way up the Rabbit shot it with an arrow. As the Sun lay wounded on the ground the Rabbit took the white of the Suns eyes and made the clouds. He made the black part of the eyes into the sky, the kidneys into stars, and the liver into the Moon, and the heart into the night. "There!" said the Rabbit, "You will never be too hot again."

Mesopotamia, Epic of Galgamesh, c. 2000 BC.

In this ancient Sumerian story, Gilgamesh, king of Uruk, sets out on a quest for immortality to the Garden of the Sun, the land of everlasting life. To reach it, Gilgamesh must pass through the Sun's gate in the mountain of the horizon. The setting Sun disappears there and emerges from it at sunrise. A pair of terrifying scorpion-people stationed at the gate of heaven guard the Sun's path. But eventually Gilgamesh gains entrance to the next level.

E. C. Krupp postulates: "Around the 17th century BC., Mesopotamian boundary stones began to carry astronomical symbols, including that of the terrifying scorpion-man... Some scholars identify this creature as the Mesopotamian antecedent of Sagittarius, the Archer. Although no one is sure that the boundary stone scorpion-man is also meant to be the Sun's bodyguard at the gate of heaven, the constellation could have evolved from the earlier imagery through its association with the Milky Way.

Joshua 10:12-13

"On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel: "O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon." So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day." 

This account of Yahweh, the Judaic & later Christian god, stopping the movement of the Sun was the basis for the Catholic Church's refusal to acknowledge Galileo's proofs that the Earth went around the Sun. The Inquisition panel argued that the Sun could not have been stopped if, indeed, it didn't travel around the Earth.

Re, Egypt

Re was known as the sun god and the creator in ancient Egypt. He took on many forms, each depending on where he was. Usually Re was portrayed with a hawk head, wearing a fiery disk like the Sun on his head. In the Underworld, the god took the form of a ram-head.

Re was the creator of our world. In the beginning of time, an egg rose from the water. Once out of his shell, Re had two children who became the atmosphere and clouds. They in turn had more children, Geb and Nut, who became the Earth and the stars. They in turn had two sons, Seth and Osiris, the father of Horus.

Re cried one day, and humans were made from his tears. He also created the four seasons for the Nile, a very important river in Egypt. Re combines with Horus to form Re-Harakhte, god of the Sun and the heavens. 

Liza, West Africa

Liza was the Sun god to the Fon people of West Africa. His sister was the Moon god Mawu. The two were twins, but were also lovers. Together, they created the Universe with the help of the cosmic serpent, Da.

It is said that Liza used his son, Gu to shape the world. Gu was the divine tool in the shape of an iron sword. He taught the people many different crafts, including ironworking.

Liza was also the god of heat, work and strength. Mawu was the goddess of night and motherhood. 

Malina, Inuit – Greenland

Malina is the Sun goddess of the Inuit people who live in Greenland.

Malina and her brother, the Moon god Anningan, lived together. They got into a terrible fight and Malina spread dirty, black grease all over her brother's face. In fear, she ran as far as she could into the sky and became the Sun. Anningan chased after her and became the Moon.

Anningan often forgets to eat, so he gets thinner as the days go by. Every month, the Moon disappears for three days while Anningan eats. He then returns to chase his sister once again.

This eternal chase makes the Sun alternate in the sky with the Moon. 

Amaterasu, Japan

Amaterasu was the Sun goddess of the oldest Japanese religion Shinto. When her brother Susanowo treated her badly, she hid in the cave of heaven and closed the entrance with an enormous stone. This made the world dark, and evil spirits came out of their hiding places.

In despair, a conference of the gods decided to trick Amaterasu into coming out by having a party near the cave. They put a big mirror in front of the cave and beautiful jewels on a tree. Uzume, the goddess of laughter, began a dance accompanied by loud music.

Hearing the music and laughter, Amaterasu was so curious that she took a look outside to find out what was going on. She was so fascinated by her own brilliant reflection in the mirror that she came out of the cave. Finally, the light covered and colored the world.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Why in the F@#!? Do I Even Blog Anymore?

Three hundred and forty. That is the number of blog posts I have done since I started this thing in 2011. You know the drill, every Monday I sit at a computer and I slam on the keys (or copy paste when very sad or hung over) until something somewhat presentable can be posted online.

Well, I really don’t know why I do it anymore. I know I have threatened to stop many times before (and that’s not what I am necessarily doing now), but I have been thinking about this whole process and trying to understand just WHY I keep it up.

This post is already way too meta but hey, my blog, my world.

I have been thinking about this because this past weekend someone told me that someone they know (that I don’t) has read my blog for some time and ‘knows’ me through it. Hearing this literally/actually made me cringe and I felt a hot flash of embarrassment.

Why would I be embarrassed when this is all a self-inflicted pursuit?! Well because I don’t think that anyone ACTUALLY reads it. I mean I know some people do but I don’t use stat counter or track any of this (purposefully so) and for those that do sometimes read it, I assume they already know me/I know them, so it doesn’t matter all that much because it’s just an extension of my zany personality, oversized ego, and weird brain waves they already know IRL.

As soon as I hear someone that I don’t know, or know only very vaguely, actually reads this thing I am faced with a reality that I truly don’t think should or does exist. Silly I know, but that’s the strange truth of it.

This got me to thinking about how we project ourselves in these strange online/mediated ways. There is this need/want to do so but it is also reflectively repulsing (at least to me). Most of what I present online are slivers of my true self and they are very controlled (or as much as the platform/medium allows).

But then I’ve been thinking, are those slivers the wholes in some way? It isn’t, I mean, nothing is ever the whole of self, but the slivers are not the wholes by any means. But what if, especially today, the slivers are all that we have to know each other? Like, what if only through these small exposed, presented parts of ourselves becomes defacto agency of the self?!

Very basic/generic philosophic thoughts I know but SERIOUSLY everyone, isn’t that a crap cake we are all serving each other?!

I know most people know this and make effort to act and project their lives in certain ways to fit or flounder these perceptions but it all feels a bit distraught, doesn’t it?

I guess getting back to the question of why the fuck do I even blog anymore, what I guess I’m getting at is that it feels so strange that I don’t grasp the reality/perception of something that I know is public, I know is read, I purposefully continue, I purposefully share, etc. etc. and how that might affect how people perceive me. It makes me feel very very weirded out to think that others are getting a sense of who “I” am through this. It is all a gaf, this is all just a small mental exercise I do so that my brain doesn’t bust open sometimes. It is so little of me it’s like nothing, but ya, I can see why it is/can be seen otherwise. (fuck)

Originally I started this blog thing to write about ‘Art’ in a serious-ish type of way. As readers know, it has devolved and has become some weird journal-esq, into the void hot mess sometimes. But that’s the nature of this beast and me and although I am do not regret it, I still can’t understand why anyone would care to keep reading it.

I guess the point of this bizzaro post is that if you have read my blog (even if I know you) please don’t tell me. It makes my face turn red and it makes me think I should stop all this nonsense and to edit myself incase some of this might actually matter.

Not that I don’t appreciate it. God, it’s cool if you waste some of your precious time with my dopey thoughts every Monday but please, please, please, don’t tell me you do. I like the bubbles and the slivers that I live in and I don’t want them to be popped or shown more than my own constructed reality can handle.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Someone Told Me, I Told Someone

My brain and body are fried. Like an egg on black pavement. So readers you will get this weird thing wherein I will write what I remember of things said to people or they said to me in the past week or so.

Someone told me that I reminded them of a thumb tack.

I told someone that I would tear them to pieces.

Someone told me that they think I’m solipsistic. I forgot what that word meant for a bit but then remember and thought, probably not.

I told someone that they should stop working as an art handler by the age of 28.

Someone told me that they had sex at my gallery.

Someone told me that they are finally ready to go on dates again.

Someone told me that they might be ready to settle down and have a husband(s).

I told someone that they looked like a character in an old timey movie.

Someone told me this girl starts fights all the time.

I told someone that they were a shooting star.

Someone told me that their family is white trash but I think with affection.

I told someone that it didn’t even seem like they even cared about astrology.

Someone told me that I was intimidating and I told them, I know.

Someone told me that their boss was a liar seeking attention.

Someone told me that their cat runs across their new railroad apartment.

I told someone that I dumped two guys within a half hour of each other.

I told someone that I knew about an author but then I realized I didn’t but just went along with it.

Someone told me they had sex in the gym this morning.

I told someone that I loved it, even though I didn’t.

Someone told me that they needed a place to crash and I told them of course.

I told someone to never contact me again and that they were a disease.

Someone told me that I am only happy when I am arguing or being loud.

Someone told me that they wish they stayed with all the rich girlfriends they used to have.

Someone told me that they think gallerists who do a lot of coke is not a good look.

Someone told me that I looked like a movie star.

I told someone that it’s terrible to be a commodity all one’s life.

Someone told me that they have been reading Capital for over a year.

Someone told me that living in New York has been their dream since they were in first grade.

I told someone that I had a kidney stone, but I don’t.

Someone told me that all they want to do is make art as much as possible.

I told someone that they should make a different type of art.

I told someone that they didn’t need invisalign because they were already psychically perfect.

I told someone I looked bad but they said they looked bad too.

Someone told me that it was the best experience they had in their life and I believed them.

I told someone to fuck-off after they said, ni hao ma.

Someone told me to date twenty three year olds.

Someone told me that their sex life is dull but they will probably get married to them anyways.

I told someone that I’m incredibly lonely but that it seems fine.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Pollock-Krasner House and Studio

This past weekend a friend rented a car and a bunch of us went up to the Hamptons. It was to see an art show but we made a day of it. After driving for hours, passing Trump’s motorcade on the LIE (Long Island Expressway) (gasp I know), we made it to this hamlet of wealth with some time to spare. With this time we went to the beach but first we went to the Pollock-Krasner House and Studio in Springs, just at the edge of East Hampton.

A friend of mine has relatives who live around the corner from this house but it was my first time going inside of it. It is a small home, a barn/studio, and a lawn that faces a small lake. It is very discreet and it only had a few visitors when we arrived.

There is a pleasant women sitting at a desk when you enter (via the back door), and it turns out she is the director of the space. It costs $5 for the tour (what a bargain) and you can get an audio guide. I got it but then I gave it back because I remembered I hated those things.

The house was where Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock lived and worked. It was their home and it still feels like a home. There is an inhabited feeling that makes poking through others’ possessions exciting yet tinged with revere. There are two floors in the house. On the first there was a show of sorts, photographs of the clique of that day, de Kooning, Castelli, the whole New York School Expressionist gang. That makes sense to have on display, I mean isn’t the whole point of this place to remind you of the history it was a part of?

Upstairs there are rooms, bedrooms, bathroom and what was once Krasner’s studio. They are charmingly staged but not too overhanded like they did over at Donald Judd’s place in Soho. There is a distinct feeling of “Lee” permeating throughout the house. The curtains, the soap by the sink, the peacock feathers in a vase. They reveal an aesthetic of living that feels tender and actual.

Then there is the barn where Pollock became the fame he is now recognized as. You have to wear booties and there is ‘the floor’ the one with the splatters that reveal the vastness of the universe/his genius. On the walls there are photos and text showing the timeline of his career as well as his coterie. It is a small studio in a way but it is of course massive in Pollock’s storyline.

The studio is probably why most people make it out to Springs and why they have made it a historical site but I want to get back to the house.

Krasner is of course significant as an artist but the truth is, she will always be the moon to Pollock’s sun. Even in the cemetery, not too far away where they are both buried, she is a smaller boulder in front of Pollock’s much larger one. This is the way things were, are and will remain but this house really makes you understand the complexity of the roles Krasner and Pollock played.

The home, the domestic, is Krasner’s while the studio, the creative center, is Pollock’s. But the thing is, the house is far more interesting and creative. There is a real energy to the rooms and a presence felt. The era they lived together in that house was different. The roles of wife/husband, man/woman were much more striated but we luckily have the pleasure of hindsight. Even though the ‘legacies’ of both are preserved in this skewed way, with our contemporary eyes we can see through the lines of this tale.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Pollock, although I totally agree and understand why he is in the pantheon of great American artists. I’m also not that into Krasner’s work, I know that is shunned to say but I really don’t think people should overcompensate her work because she was overshadowed and so ill treated by Pollock/history.

We think about these artists, these histories, in abstract and personified ways but we forget that they were just people. They lived, they woke up, they made coffee, walked barefoot in the grass and had friends over for drinks and conversation. This house serves multiple functions but for me it was so nice to be reminded that the act of living has such value. They lived, they made art, and lucky for them, they will be remembered more then most of us.

I encourage people to visit this place and also to go to Green River Cemetery where they, along with many of their friends, are buried. I also suggest purchasing a cutting of Lee’s own spider plant. It doubly reminds you that things keep living, quietly and constantly.

Monday, July 24, 2017

The True Glamour of Clarice Lispector

I started reading Clarice Lispector’s, The Passion According to G.H. but then I put it down because I had to read something else. This past weekend I picked it up again and it is brilliant.
It is the type of writing that does things to your brain, it makes muscles work there that you forgot how to use or didn’t know where there.
I haven’t finished it so I can’t do a true review but I know enough that I want others to know about her (if you don’t already).
Below is an article on her from The New Yorker. Read it if you have time. I don’t have any today, thus this copy and paste, but even better, get one of her books and untangle yourself in her world.

The True Glamour of Clarice Lispector
By Benjamin Moser
July 10, 2015

Catholic communicants are asked at Easter, “Do you renounce the glamour of evil, and refuse to be mastered by sin?” The question preserves a conflation, now rare, of glamour and sorcery: glamour was a quality that confounds, shifts shapes, invests a thing with a mysterious aura; it was, as Sir Walter Scott wrote, “the magic power of imposing on the eyesight of spectators, so that the appearance of an object shall be totally different from the reality.”

The legendarily beautiful Clarice Lispector, tall and blonde, clad in the outspoken sunglasses and chunky jewelry of a grande dame of midcentury Rio de Janeiro, met our current definition of glamour. She spent years as a fashion journalist and knew how to look the part. But it is as much in the older sense of the word that Clarice Lispector is glamorous: as a caster of spells, literally enchanting, her nervous ghost haunting every branch of the Brazilian arts.

Her spell has grown unceasingly since her death. Then, in 1977, it would have seemed exaggerated to say she was her country’s preëminent modern writer. Today, when it no longer does, questions of artistic importance are, to a certain extent, irrelevant. What matters is the magnetic love she inspires in those susceptible to her. For them, reading Clarice Lispector is one of the great emotional experiences of their lives. But her glamour is dangerous. “Be careful with Clarice,” a friend told a reader decades ago, using the single name by which she is universally known. “It’s not literature. It’s witchcraft.”

The connection between literature and witchcraft has long been an important part of the Clarice mythology. That mythology, with a powerful boost from the Internet, which magically transforms rumors into facts, has developed ramifications so baroque that it might today be called a minor branch of Brazilian literature. Circulating unstoppably online is an entire shadow oeuvre, generally trying, and failing, to sound profound, and breathing of passion. Online, too, Clarice has acquired a posthumous shadow body, as pictures of actresses portraying her are constantly reproduced in lieu of the original.

If the technology has changed its forms, the mythologizing itself is nothing new. Clarice Lispector became famous when, at the end of 1943, she published “Near to the Wild Heart.” She was a student, barely twenty-three, from a poor immigrant background. Her first novel had such a tremendous impact that, one journalist wrote, “we have no memory of a more sensational debut, which lifted to such prominence a name that, until shortly before, had been completely unknown.” But only a few weeks after that name was becoming known she left Rio with her husband, a diplomat. They would live abroad for almost two decades.

Though she made regular visits home, she would not return definitively until 1959. In that interval, legends flourished. Her odd foreign name became a subject of speculation—one critic suggested it might be a pseudonym—and others wondered whether she was, in fact, a man. Taken together, the legends reflect an uneasiness, a feeling that she was something other than she seemed.

In the eighty-five stories that she wrote, Clarice Lispector conjures, first of all, the writer herself. From her earliest story, published when she was nineteen, to the last, found in scratchy fragments after her death, we follow a lifetime of artistic experimentation through a vast range of styles and experiences. This literature is not for everyone: even certain highly literate Brazilians have been baffled by the cult-like fervor she inspires. But for those who instinctively understand her, the love for the person of Clarice Lispector is immediate and inexplicable. Hers is an art that makes us want to know the woman; she is a woman who makes us want to know her art. Through her stories we can trace her artistic life, from adolescent promise through assured maturity to the implosion as she nears—and summons—death.

But something more surprising appears when these stories are at last seen in their entirety, an accomplishment whose significance the author herself cannot have been aware of, for it could only appear retrospectively. This accomplishment lies in the second woman she conjures. Clarice Lispector was a great artist; she was also a middle-class wife and mother. If the portrait of the extraordinary artist is fascinating, so is the portrait of the ordinary housewife, whose life is the subject of her stories. As the artist matures, the housewife, too, grows older. When Lispector is a defiant adolescent filled with a sense of her own potential—artistic, intellectual, sexual—so are the girls in her stories. When, in her own life, marriage and motherhood take the place of precocious childhood, her characters grow up, too. When her marriage fails, when her children leave, these departures appear in her stories. When the author, once so gloriously beautiful, sees her body blemished by wrinkles and fat, her characters see the same decline in theirs; and when she confronts the final unravelling of age and sickness and death, they appear in her fiction as well.

This is a record of woman’s entire life, written over the course of a woman’s entire life. As such, it seems to be the first such total record written in fiction, in any language. This sweeping claim requires qualifications. A wife and a mother; a bourgeois, Western, heterosexual woman’s life. A woman who was not interrupted: a woman who did not start writing late, or stop for marriage or children, or succumb to drugs or suicide. A woman who, like so many male writers, began in her teens and carried on to the end. A woman who, in demographic respects, was exactly like most of her readers.

Their story had only been written in part. Before Clarice, a woman who wrote throughout her life about that life was so rare as to be previously unheard of. The claim seems extravagant, but I have not identified any predecessors.

The qualifications are important, but even when they are dropped it is astonishing to realize how few women were able to create such full bodies of work. And the women who did were precisely those exempted from the obstacles that kept most women from writing. These are the barriers Tillie Olsen adumbrated in her famous 1962 essay, “Silences in Literature,” the barriers that led to women constituting, in Olsen’s calculation, “one out of twelve” writers in the twentieth century. “In our century as in the last,” Olsen wrote, “almost all distinguished achievement has come from childless women.” Edith Wharton was far from middle-class; Colette hardly lived, or wrote about, a conventional bourgeois life. Others—Gabriela Mistral, Gertrude Stein—had, like many male writers, wives of their own.

Clarice Lispector, as her stories make clear, was intimately acquainted with these barriers. Her characters struggle against ideological notions about a woman’s proper role; face practical entanglements with husbands and children; worry about money; confront the private despair that leads to drinking, madness, or suicide. Like so many women writers everywhere, she was ignored by publishers, agonizingly, for years; she was consistently placed in a separate (lower) category by reviewers and scholars. (She persisted anyway, once remarking that she did not enjoy being compared to Virginia Woolf because Woolf had given up: “The terrible duty is to go to the end.”)
But her sympathy for silent and silenced women haunts these stories. The earliest ones, written when Clarice was in her teens and early twenties, often feature a restless girl in conflict with a man, as in “Jimmy and I”:

Mama, before she got married, according to Aunt Emília, was a firecracker, a tempestuous redhead, with thoughts of her own about liberty and equality for women. But then along came Papa, very serious and tall, with thoughts of his own too, about … liberty and equality for women. The trouble was in the coinciding subject matter.

If these women are sometimes crushed by imposing, fascinating men, they become more assertive as the author grows older. But it is a different kind of assertion. The strident feminism of Clarice’s student years gives way to something less explicit, the characters stop flaunting thoughts about “liberty and equality for women.” They simply live their lives with as much dignity as they can muster. In art as in life, that is not always very much.

Many are silent. The grandmother in “Happy Birthday” surveys the petty mediocrities she has spawned with wordless revulsion. The Congolese pygmy in “The Smallest Woman in the World” has no words to express her love. The hen in “A Chicken” has no words to say that she is about to give birth—and thus cannot be killed. In “The Burned Sinner and the Harmonious Angels,” an adulteress utters not a single word, and in the end she is burned as a witch. At the execution, her husband admonishes the crowd, “Beware a woman who dreams.”

Clarice was nine when Virginia Woolf asked a question she later quoted: “Who shall measure the heat and violence of the poet’s heart when caught and tangled in a woman’s body?” The question, Woolf believed, applied as much to women of her own day as it did to women of Shakespeare’s. How did Clarice Lispector—of all people—succeed at a time when so many other women were silenced?
She was born on December 10, 1920, to a Jewish family in western Ukraine. It was a time of chaos, famine, and racial war. Her grandfather was murdered; her mother was raped; her father was exiled, penniless, to the other side of the world. The family’s tattered remnants washed up in northeastern Brazil, in 1922. There, her brilliant father, reduced to peddling rags, barely managed to keep his family fed; there, when Clarice was not quite nine, her mother died of her wartime injuries.

Her sister Elisa wrote that their liberal father, whose own desire to study had been thwarted by anti-Semitism, “was determined for the world to see what kind of daughters he had.” With his encouragement, Clarice pursued her education far beyond the level allowed even girls far more economically advantaged. Only a couple of years after reaching the capital, Clarice entered one of the redoubts of the élite, the National Law Faculty of the University of Brazil. At the law school, Jews (zero) were even more rare than women (three).

Her law studies left little mark. She was already pursuing her vocation into the newsrooms of the capital, where her beauty and brilliance made a dazzling impression. She was, her boss wrote, “a smart girl, an excellent reporter, and, in contrast to almost all women, actually knows how to write.” On May 25, 1940, she published her earliest known story, “The Triumph.” Three months later, at age fifty-five, her father died. Before her twentieth birthday, Clarice was an orphan. In 1943, she married a Catholic man—unheard of at the time for a Jewish girl in Brazil. At the end of that year, shortly after she published her first novel, the couple left Rio. In short order, she had left not only her family, her ethnic community, and her country, but also her profession, journalism, in which she had a burgeoning reputation.

She found exile intolerable, and during her fifteen years abroad her tendency toward depression grew sharper. But, despite its disadvantages, perhaps exile—this series of exiles—explains how she managed to write. Her immigrant background left her less susceptible to the received ideas of Brazilian society. And in purely financial terms her marriage was a step up. She was never rich, but as long as she was married she did not have to work on anything but writing. She had two children, but she also had full-time help. This meant free hours every day: a room of her own.

Traditionally “female” subjects—marriage and motherhood, kids and clothes—had, of course, been written about before. But had any writer ever described a seventy-seven-year-old lady dreaming of coitus with a pop star, or an eighty-one-year-old woman masturbating? Half a century or more after they were written, many of Clarice’s stories, read in an entirely different age, have lost none of their novelty.

New subjects require new language. Part of Clarice’s odd grammar can be traced to the powerful influence of the Jewish mysticism that her father introduced her to. But another part of its strangeness can be attributed to her need to invent a tradition. As anyone who reads her stories from beginning to end will see, they are shot through by a ceaseless linguistic searching, a grammatical instability, that prevents them from being read too quickly.

The reader—not to mention the translator—is often tripped up by their nearly Cubist patterns. In certain late stories, the difficulties are obvious. But many of Clarice’s reorderings are subtle, easy to miss. In “Love,” for example, we read: “They were growing up, taking their baths, demanding for themselves, misbehaved, ever more complete moments.” The sentence, like so many of Clarice’s, makes sense if read in a quick glance—and then, examined again, slowly, begins to dissolve. In “Happy Birthday,” amidst an awkward celebration, a child verbalizes an awkward pause: “Their mother, comma!”

In “Why This World,” my biography of Clarice, I examined her roots in Jewish mysticism and the essentially spiritual impulse that animated her work. As the Kabbalists found divinity by rearranging letters, repeating nonsensical words, parsing verses, and seeking a logic other than the rational, so did she. With some exceptions, this mystic quality, which can make her prose nearly abstract, is less visible in her stories than in novels such as “The Passion According to G.H.” or “The Apple in the Dark.” But to see Clarice’s writing as a whole is to understand the close connection between her interest in language and her interest in what—for lack of a better word—she called God.

In her stories, the divine erupts beneath carefully tended everyday lives. “She had pacified life so well,” she writes in one story, “taken such care for it not to explode.” When the inevitable explosions come, shifts in grammar announce them long before they appear in the plot. Laura, the bored, childless housewife in “The Imitation of the Rose,” has a “painstaking taste for method”—until, as she is thinking about how to explain herself to her friend Carlota, her grammar starts to slide.

Carlota would be stunned to learn that they too had a private life and things they never told, but she wouldn’t tell, what a shame not to be able to tell, Carlota definitely thought she was just tidy and mundane and a little annoying, and if she had to be careful not to burden other people with details, with Armando she’d sometimes relax and get pretty annoying, which didn’t matter because he’d pretend to be listening without really listening to everything she was telling him, which didn’t ever bother her, she understood perfectly well that her chattering tired people out a bit, but it was nice to be able to explain how she hadn’t found any meat even if Armando shook his head and wasn’t listening, she and the maid chatted a lot, actually she talked more than the maid, and she was also careful not to pester the maid who sometimes held back her impatience and could get a little rude, it was her own fault because she didn’t always command respect.

These signals can be much more concise, as in “The Passion According to G.H.,” when another housewife recounts the mystical shock she underwent the day before. Remembering herself as she then was, G.H. says, “I finally got up from the breakfast table, that woman.” The transformation described in the novel—then to now, yesterday to today, her to me, first person to third—is resumed in a breezy anacoluthon, the break in grammar perfectly symbolizing the break in this woman’s life. Like so many of Clarice’s best phrases, it is elegant precisely because it disregards the mannered conventions that are the elegance of belles lettres.

“In painting as in music and literature,” she wrote, “what is called abstract so often seems to me the figurative of a more delicate and difficult reality, less visible to the naked eye.” As abstract painters sought to portray mental and emotional states without direct representation, and modern composers expanded traditional laws of harmony, Clarice undid reflexive patterns in grammar. She often had to remind readers that her “foreign” speech was not the result of her European birth or an ignorance of Portuguese.

Nor, needless to say, of the proper ways women presented themselves. As a professional fashion writer, she reveled in her characters’ appearances. And then she dishevelled their dresses, smudged their mascara, deranged their hair, enchanting well-composed faces with the creepier glamour Sir Walter Scott described. With overturned words, she conjured an entire unknown world—conjuring, too, the unforgettable Clarice Lispector: a female Chekhov on the beaches of Guanabara.

Monday, July 17, 2017

My Boring/Busy/Beautiful Life This Past Week, Part II

It’s mid-July. The concept of thinking about art is just about the furthest thing from my mind so instead I’m going to do another one of these things because it’s easy and I’m lazy and it’s mid-July.

Monday 10

Go to work. It's the first day for this summer program I am overseeing and I want to make sure everything goes smoothly. Everything seems fine. Listen in on the lecture class and impressed by the instructor. He is smart and doing a good job. Take a walk to the park mid afternoon. See a squirrel eating a peanut. Seems comical. Go to Prospect Park for a date. Walk in park. Talk to a guy who makes his own kites and is flying one really high in the air.  We talk about how I tried to make my own kite but it was structurally flawed. He gives me tips but I sort of stop paying attention because I can’t focus when people verbally tell me instructions. Lay in grass and watch sunset. Walk to get Mexican food. Scare myself and laugh like a dork about seeing shoes hidden behind a mattress. Get drink at a bar. Make out a little. Take car ride home and go to sleep.

Tuesday 11

Go to work. Feel tired but okay. Go to therapist and talk about nihilism more and my recent clip of depression. Go to the gym. Bad at going to the gym but feels like a beneficial thing to do. Go home and make myself a light dinner. Go to Greenpoint for friend’s birthday drinks. Get a quarter carafe of white wine and drink too quickly. Hit knee hard on the bench. Feel like I am talking too much but somehow can’t stop. Attractive guy is there that has a tattoo from a past relationship with a girl I know but didn’t know they dated. Seems fitting. We all go to another bar because the outside is closing. Bar is okay, empty. Drink more drinks. Talk more and then walk to the subway. Go home and shower. While in shower realize my IUD is not properly in. It’s my second IUD to fall out. ‘My fucking body wants me to be fucking impregnated,’ I think to myself. Feel pissed at the patriarchy.

Wednesday 12

Go to work. Actually pretty hung over. Surprise! Go to the OBGYN and feel physically not right, annoyed at life and my body. Doc says all seems okay but gives me some tests just to be sure. Go home early and contemplate my life choices. Clean apartment. Watch TV on the internet. Take multiple pictures of my cats throughout the evening and think, ‘my cats are my only friends,’ feel bleak but apathetic. Fall asleep at like 11pm.

Thursday 13

Wake up feeling physically better since slept like 10 hours. Go to work. Watch kids play chamber music in the park and a cute baby is dancing to it. Feel like life can be a-ok sometimes. Go to copy editing class. Not sure why I’m taking this class but somehow I find it interesting even if pointless in the big scheme of things. Meet date at Union Square. Go to a comedy show. Eat waffle fries and drinks beers while waiting for show to start. Watch comedy. Host is funny. Some comedians funnier that others. They all talk about their biographies in these very direct ways but I guess that makes sense. The last comic is very funny. He is gay and that’s a part of his shtick but in an interesting/different way. Take subway to my apartment. Hang out and sleep.

Friday 14

Off from work. Take cat to the vet. Cat cries the whole time there and back in the car. New vet, seems okay but little unhygienic vibes. They do blood work and also pop a cyst on his neck. The vet shows me the puss for some reason. Still is giving me the heebie-jeebies. Cat has a patch of hair missing on his neck from it. He is okay though. Go back home and eat some lunch and go to the food coop. Get groceries for dinner party. Take car back. Get in fight with driver because he started to drive away with my groceries but not me in the car. Literally chasing the car down the street. Pissed for like two minuets but then don’t care. Make another lunch cause I’m boss at life. Watch a few movies online. Supposed to get drinks with a friend but they haven’t messaged me about it and I’m sort chill with not doing anything that night so I don’t message them either. Finish reading Jean Rhys.

Saturday 15

Go to Essex Street Market and buy $70 worth of bronzino. Question my life choices. Go home and make breadcrumbs, and pasta with broccoli rabe. Guy I’m seeing comes over for lunch. Eat, hang out and then he leaves and I have to cook. Cook for 3 or so hours. Friend comes over to help set up table and chairs. Other dinner guests come. Twelve in total. Not sure why I’m throwing a dinner party. Make the fish, it’s a bit messy but seems good. Drink and talk. I definitely drink too much and when I throw dinner parties I can’t really eat so extra drunk and loud. At one point I think was giving some diatribe about leaders and followers. Reflecting back on it makes me cringe a bit. Not sure why I act like a Napoleon asshole sometimes. Go to friend’s roof/porch party next door. Everyone is very young. I drink and talk and I decide to leave after I drop my second drink while literally just standing and holding it. Know I will regret my life choices the next day.

Sunday 16

Incredibly hung over. Supposed to get brunch/lunch with friend but prey that he forgets. He doesn’t message so I’m like ‘thank god’ and I just lay in bed for 12 hours trying to recover. What I eat and drink to survive the day: Dorritos, Sprite, a peach, Indian snack mix, fake chicken nugget sandwich, pink lemonade, gallons of water, salami, cheese and crackers, dark chocolate. Have insomnia because by the time it’s bedtime I’m no longer hung over. Lay for a few hours in the dark contemplating my life choices.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Flattening of Things

The other night I went to a party. I wasn’t invited directly but I was with someone who was and I knew most of the people there so it didn’t feel awkward. It was a loft party somewhere in Brooklyn. I already had a few drinks and we took a car so I really have no idea where it was but nonetheless it fit the Brooklyn loft vibe to a T.

There was chatter, drinks, and smoking on the fire escape but the main event was karaoke that was being projected on a large wall. People were singing and happy and doing their thing. I drank more and talked more and sang a song or two. It was basically all art people and it was a young crowd and everyone was very pleasant. All this should make one feel fine, but it didn’t.

Perhaps it was the one (three) drinks too many. Perhaps it is the general state of melancholy that I admit I am currently in, but I think it reflects something more than those things because there seems to be a pervasiveness of a certain type of feeling.

As I sat looking around me, at all those lovely faces and fun times, I felt a creeping emptiness. Not in a personal way, just in the scale of how things just sort of are way. It’s as if everything just flattened out and this room, the people, everything about it, just became a flat surface. It felt like some form of disembodiment, hovering above all this activity below but it just felt so blank.

I left without many goodbyes and over the next few days this feeling/sensation, has begun to overcome me.

Do you believe in coincidences? I’m not sure what that really means but the idea that things seem to line up in certain ways that seem to be giving you hints, clues, revelations of some truth or another. This has been happening since the night at the party and heightening the feeling that everything is just flat.

For example: there is a profile in the current issue of The New Yorker about a young tennis player, Nick Kyrgios, who could be one of the best the games has ever seen but he just doesn’t want to be. The article implies a type of mental lethargy for a sport that he doesn’t even seem to care all too much about, even though he obviously does. This article made me think about the concept of potential, how we are told and trained to optimize oneself, that this is the goal, but is it really? Kyrgios seems to be infected with some sort of antecedent bug and his act of deflecting his potential made me feel a similar feeling I had at the party.

Another example: I am mildly reading Peter Sloterdijk; Critique of Cynical Reason, wherein he tracts and opines about how the cynic, and thus cynicism has been become de facto and compounded.

Psychologically, present-day cynics can be understood as borderline meloncholics, who can keep their symptoms of depression under control and can remain more or less able to work. Indeed, this is the essential point in modern cynicism: the ability of its bearers to work – in spite of anything that might happen, and especially after anything that might happen.

Well if that isn’t me/us, I’m not sure what is. This idea of continuing, laboring, knowinglyeven without desire or pleasureis essentially what most of us are doing the bulk of our lives.

There are many more examples that I can give. Like the novel, Quartet by Jean Rhys that I somehow felt compelled to re-read this week because these characters embody a flat anxiety and nihilism that makes my skin crawl with familiarity. Or even today when I was observing a lecture on Aesthetics to high schoolers and Walter Benjamin was introduced and those ye old concepts of reproduction and the repetition means more then just technological processes but also the articulation of reduction in self and perception.

This is all a bit gloomy I know but this seems to be what is floating in the ozone at the moment. It’s like this haze of bored, apathetic misanthropy that has out served its uses and all we have is a bag of blah-blah cliché. Even critique and judgment has lost its fun.

Is anyone else feeling this way too? Perhaps it's the absurdity of politics, or perhaps it's the final veils being brushed aside. I’m not sure why or where or how long this feeling will persist but doesn’t it just feel like everything is too flat and revealed? The illusion is what we all agreed to. But what do we have left when even that is stripped?

This feeling probably has a lot to do with my personal chemical levels but I don't think entirely. I feel like a lot of people are feeling this weird thing. I know art sure seems to have been infected with it. There is something around the corner, I can feel it. I just hope it’s not a boring ass abyss.

Pazazz, Pazazz, that’s what we need.

Monday, July 3, 2017

We Hold These Truths To Be Self-Evident

Tomorrow is the 4th of July. It is the day most of us go to barbecues, hang out with family or friends, and go to the beach or a park, to grill, drink cold drinks and relax into summer.

It is also the day America declared its independence against British rule. That herein named treaties signed in 1776 is a fundamental foundation of what this country was, is, and can become.

Of course this document is flawed. In two hundred and forty years much has changed and the beginnings of this nation were deeply fraught, unjust and complex but even though it is not a perfect document, it still deeply matters and it is eerily prescient for our current times.

If you have not read this text ever, or for some time, I ask you read it now—between picnics, fireworks, or your next beer. Read it with criticality but also with appreciation. This country has always been at crossroads and now we find ourselves there again. Perhaps this text can be not only a historic document but also a guide to remind us what this nation was founded on and the possibilities that it can become.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton
John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery
Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott
New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris
New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark
Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross
Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean
Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton
North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn
South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton
Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton