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I am posting this as a benchmark, not because I think I'm playing very well yet.  The idea would be post a video every month for a ye...

Friday, July 1, 2022

1Q84 pt 3

 I started part 3 of the Murakami novel. One thing I am not liking is more exposition in Part 3, when the reader learns (again!) information about the characters, simply because another character is learning the information.  At this point in a 1000-page novel we know the characters pretty damn well. Sometimes we learn a tiny bit more, but the level or redundancy is high.  For example, when Tengo explains his life to his comatose father.  When Ishigawa figures out things about Aomame.  

The novel is already structured around duplications. There are two moons in the sky in the alternate reality of 1Q84, the alternate year of 1984. Every character is doubled at least in some way, explicitly or implicitly.  For example, Aomame and Fukaeri. There are two religious sects, and they are mirrored by the Jehovah's witnesses. The novel is not without interest, and does repay close attention, but these redundant or reduplicative structures test my patience.  

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Tropic of Capricorn

 I read this novel by Henry Miller.  I had read it when I was 15 or 16, I guess. It does not age particularly well, to put it delicately.  I think just about anybody could write about sex better than Henry Miller.  It could only be published in the US in 1961 or so, and a decade later it was already being denounced by one of the first works of feminist literary criticism.  Well of course.  There's something in the rawness of it that I realize must have seemed appealing at one time, if you can ignore all the offensiveness of misogyny and antisemitism.  

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Graduate School

 There was a dank basement with several unfinished rooms where we were going to stay--me and two other young people, one male, one female.  (I was young in this dream, or starting school again, but with my entire experience intact, somehow). I tried going around the other way, but met my two companions in the same place I was before. This was, apparently, "graduate school." I explained to the other two individuals that graduate school was traumatic because of its very nature, not as an accidental by-product. It seemed hard that we would have to spend several years in this dungeon-like space.  

There were words written in the dust down there. They were misspelled words of insult, like aweful. These words were going to be used somehow in an action against trump. They were either the words he would use against us, or vice-versa, and this would come out in some hearing or experiment.    

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Outline of future article

 Here's an article I could write:

Apocryphal translation tends toward the parodic, whether intentionally or not.  Why?

(Definition: translations of "originals" that do not exist, or translations so distant from the original that they are almost unrecognizable.)  

Why? Because they are "unmoored" from any source, hence what steps in to the vacuum created by the absent original is going to be a cultural stereotype.  It will be "orientalist," whether it is Japan or Spain. In other words, a vision of an "other" that is non-Western, in some sense. 

In reality, the use of this device is variable, so must be judged case by case in individual contexts. In general terms, though, we should see this not as an exception within translation practices, but simply one extreme--where the other extreme would be translation that aims toward an ethics of scrupulousness. 

A narrative device that is available, with well-known precedents. Nobody reads Brownings Sonnets from the Portuguese as apocryphal Portuguese poetry. In this case the device is a pure pretext.  The pretense that Don Quijote is translated from the Arabic is somewhat different: it becomes a device of metafiction. We don't literally read the work as a translation from the Arabic, since the device is transparent.  

Examples: Spicer's Lorca (add Ron Padgett)

Rexroth's Marichiko. 

Landling's Love Poems from God

Conclusions: the parodic view means that intentionally bad, kitschy poems, will be indistinguishable from sincere attempts to channel the original.  In other words, parody cannot be as bad as the supposedly sincere attempt to do justice to the poetry of the "other." 

This reveals the status of poetry in our culture. It is on the level of inspirational quotes on facebook. Engagement with the cultural other ends up being an exercise in cultural narcissism.   

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Weinberger on Rexroth

I guess some people like the fake Japanese poet:

The Marichiko poems are particularly extraordinary. The text is chronological: in a series of short poems, the narrator longs for, sometimes meets, dreams of and loses her lover, and then grows old. Although Marichiko is identified as a “contemporary woman,” only two artifacts of the modern world (insecticide and pachinko games) appear in the poems; most of the imagery is pastoral and the undressed clothes are traditional. The narrator is defined only in relation to her lover, and of her lover we learn absolutely nothing, including gender. All that exists is passion:

Your tongue thrums and moves
Into me, and I become
Hollow and blaze with
Whirling light, like the inside
Of a vast expanding pearl.

It is America’s first Tantric poetry: through passion, the dissolution of the world (within the poem, the identities of the narrator and her lover, and all external circumstances; outside the poem, the identity of Marichiko herself) and the final dissolution of passion itself

I shouldn't elevate my own opinion to gospel. 


 Here is another one:


You ask me what I thought about
Before we were lovers.
The answer is easy.
Before I met you
I didn't have anything to think about.


Making Love with you
Is like drinking sea water.
The more I drink
The thirstier I become,
Until nothing can slake my thirst
But to drink the entire sea.


You wake me,
Part my thighs, and kiss me.
I give you the dew
Of the first morning of the world.

An American poet, Kenneth Rexroth, invented this Japanese woman poet, Marichiko, and published these apocryphal translations of her.  You could criticize this as cultural appropriation, as gender appropriation, or as bad poetry tout court.  Rexroth had translated much Chinese and Japanese poetry, he had paid his dues in a sense. And yet he still came up with this.   

According to Eliot Weinberger, "he gained critical recognition for having conveyed so authentically the feelings of someone of another gender and culture." But how would Weinberger know?  He is not a young Japanese woman getting some cunnilingus, so how could he tell the difference between authentic and inauthentic renderings of this experience?   

What if we saw apocryphal and / or appropriating translation as the norm, and an effort to not appropriate as the exception?  Just as my attempt to write bad poetry can never quite keep up with the actual bad poetry that people love so much.   

An ethics of prose

The particular ways that writing fails entail ethical issues. If the entire impulse is unethical, then the writing will be bad, as a way of trying to cover up that lack of integrity.  For example, an official apology that isn't really apologetic, but simply is covering the rhetorical bases.  An over-wrought obfuscatory style designed to make the writer into a paragon of virtue.  

The same is true of cultural appropriation.  Here is a poem purporting to be a translation of St. John of the Cross.  It is not. It is the crappy appropriation of the name by Daniel Landinsky, and American infamous for channeling poetry by Hafiz and publishing it as though it were by Hafiz.  In the kindle edition I have, the lines are centered on the page in a way typical of schlocky poetry.   


 I did not
have to ask my heart what it wanted,
because of all the desires I have ever known just one did I cling to
for it was the essence of
all desire: to hold beauty in
my soul’s

Various. Love Poems from God (Compass) (pp. 313-314). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Apparently, Hafiz writes in the exact same style as the Catholic saint:


did the rose 
ever open its heart 
and give to this world all of its beauty? 
It felt the encouragement of light against its being,

Various. Love Poems from God (Compass) (p. 161). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 


One regret that I am determined not to have
when I am lying upon my
death bed is that we did not kiss

Various. Love Poems from God (Compass) (p. 172). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

I kid you not.  I think we have an ethical obligation to hate this, and the aesthetic failing is what might tip us off to the ethical failure, the fact that he is attributing his own lousy poems to famous mystics of the past.  

I could accuse the Barcelona blues bands of not having "the right to sing the blues," because they have paid their dues, so to speak.  Or, in musical terms, I could just find the music not flavorful enough, lacking in musical substance.