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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...

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Art songs vs. Orchestral works

Since my goal is to finish the chapter on vernacular styles in January, I have been trying to get a leg up on the previous chapter, on classical versions, in December. Anyway, I have created a little dichotomy in my head. Heavier, works, with more instrumentation, vs. art songs with only piano and voice. These shorter art songs tend to focus on Lorca's childlike sensibility, with a predilection for certain types of poems (the songs for children). Longer orchestral works are more weighty and tend to emphasize death rather than childhood. 

I've discovered who the main expert on Ohana is, and on Nono. This makes it obvious that I could never match the insight of a specialist on these composers. My role is to bring everything together, ranging over wide areas.   

Dream of Brazil

 I had a night of very intense and vivid dreams. At one point I was in Brazil.  Since I have never been there, my vision of it was from my own brain, and not at all consistent with itself. The colors were very saturated. I knew it was a dream, but I wasn't sure where I was sleeping, perhaps in Spain (the dream before?). I suddenly got in a taxi and asked to go to the airport. 

In the dream before, I had been in Spain. There was a phonograph record playing of José Ángel Valente talking about his book on Lorca. I was excited and embarrassed, because I didn't know of the existence of this book, and I should have dealt with it in my previous book on Lorca. On the record he began to recite a poem about Lorca:  "Fotos familiares. Las tías solteras..." [family photos. The maiden aunts...]


 Maurice Ohana was a Sephardic Jew born in Morocco, but considered a French composer. Influenced by cante jondo and writing works based on Lorca and La Celestina, among many other things. He was quite prolific. At one point he was going to be a minor footnote, but he is just too interesting. I've discovered that he wrote an oratorio on Llanto por Ignacio Sánchez Mejías in 1950s. I don't know that it is a transcendent work of music, but its very existence moves me greatly. It also makes a good contrast / comparison with Luigi Nono and George Crumb. Also, helps me with my mine thesis that the approach to Lorca most often found is defamiliarization. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Shostakovich 14

 The first movement of Shostakovich 14 stands out for me, along with Revueltas's Homenaje, and maybe the second Epitaffo of Nono. The Lorca cantabile book could start out with the poem "De Profundis," since Lorca wrote it early on.  

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Lorca Cantabile

 Here's my most recent brilliant idea. (or maybe not, just a pipe-dream] A book-length translation, not of a book of Lorca's, but of the words of *all* the Lorca songs I refer to in the book. It could be a companion book, a translation to accompany all the musical analyses. I would include the 13 canciones populares not by Lorca that are always done in conjunction with him, and which don't have good translations into English. And I would translate them in cantabile style, in other words, so that they could be set to music themselves. 


Copious dreams the last two nights, but not ones amenable to narrative treatment.  Someone asks me what I work on and I say "Lorca." He seems to think Lorca is a Russian author... I don't correct him; he seems very glib. Marjorie Perloff is giving a talk, and stops half-way through. She doesn't recognize me and I am too shy to approach. Shifting scenery and narrative content.  

Wednesday, December 23, 2020


 I was auditioning to be the student of a famous voice teacher. There was another couple who were in a zoom call with us on our phones, and somehow involved in this situation, and the hour was getting late. I was going to do an aria from some classic Italian opera like Tosca, but when the time approached I couldn't remember it, so I decided to sing "Tres morillas de Jaén," one of the Lorca folksongs. {This is a song I actually do sing in waking life, unlike the aria.) When I finally connected with the teacher, she asked, "what drops are you going to to drop in for me?" I didn't have any throat drops so she suggested water. But my throat was too dry to sing. I was worried about the right pitch and I couldn't remember whether it started on G or A, and played a G on my keyboard. I was also somewhat worried about getting the words right, and hitting the ornament where the words say "tan garridas."  

It was about 11:30 p.m. I was somewhere else now. A woman was explaining how she kept warm at night despite sleeping on a roof with minimal possessions. Then we were in a swimming pool, where the water was warm. 

Monday, December 21, 2020

El Pais Strikes again...

 "Como casi todos los madrileños, Trapiello no nació en Madrid, sino en León."

What the sentence is meant to say is that many people who live in Madrid were born elsewhere in Spain. What it says on the literal level is that almost all people living in Madrid were born in León. 

If almost everyone in Madrid was born somewhere else, that must mean that almost all the babies born in Madrid go somewhere else to live, which I seriously doubt.  

Book Proposal

I sent off the book proposal this morning. I am going in for cataract surgery (eye #2) in about 30 minutes. Then I will have a period in which I cannot read very well.   

Dream of Father Still Alive

 In this variation of the dream that my father is still alive, I see him in academic robe on campus. He says that he will see me at home. Somehow the idea is that my dreams of him being alive still, over the course of 20 years, is evidence that he really has been alive this whole time. So I am thinking "I knew it all the time." I wake up and it is still true, so it isn't just a dream. But when I finally wake up for real, I force myself to acknowledge he is actually dead. It takes a few seconds to realize I have been fooled. 

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Things that are not obvious

 I'm looking at art songs now. As it turns out, that is only one part of the Lorca / Music book: for another poet it could be the whole book. My idea is that the favorite work for classical composers who work with the standard piano + voice format is Canciones.  This seems predictable, but it is not, since that is the only more or less straightforward correspondence I have found. 


 I found this book by César Vallejo, Contra el secreto profesional. It has been translated into English too.  It is essays and aphorisms. It has interesting things about his poetics. There was a book of aphorisms that came out in English translation a few years back, and these are mostly (if not all) from this book. I'm thinking of using some things from it in the intro to lit class next semester. There is one about hats that is hilarious, and could be presented to students as a prose poem. 

Saturday, December 19, 2020


 There is precise subject category, name of author, musical settings, like "García Lorca, Federico, 1898-1936 Musical settings." For Lorca the number of items in WorldCat is more than 800, for William Blake, 1475, for Shakespeare, 5,000, etc... Dickinson, 1,600, Whitman, 1700.  Baudelaire, 500. This is imprecise, but it gives a rough idea. There will be duplications, and this counts both scores and recordings in libraries across the world, with inevitable duplication of results, with the same thing being counted more than once. I can't believe there are only 2 for Rilke! Celan has 200 or so.  Just for a ballpark, the category "Song Cycles" has almost 25,000 entries, and songs with piano 300,000. 

What this means: any treatment of the subject can only deal with a small percentage of the material. A catalogue alone would be a 500 page book, so a 300 word book about the subject matter can only deal with so much. 

Thursday, December 17, 2020


To DEI they have added a fourth term: Belonging. So now it is Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging. Or perhaps it's Inclusion and Belonging, without a comma between them. It's here where the Oxford comma would be clarifying. Is belonging a different thing from inclusion?  

I helped our ABD grad students yesterday parse some job ads. The university with an actual population of minority students, in Texas, advertised itself as "Hispanic serving." The New England liberal arts school wanted someone with secondary interest in "Latinx." The school in Texas is asking for an actual commitment to diversity, while the school in Vermont asks for openness to different perspectives, but in a less emphatic way. Nobody thinks of themselves as closed-minded or inflexible in recognizing perspectives of other people. 

Periodical Room

These memories sometimes come to me in a flash.

The periodical room was a discovery for me. The look and smell of an old time university library periodical room. There were rows of metal shelves with issues of periodicals laying flat in piles on them. I didn't even know the word periodical before that. I must have gone there to look at poetry magazines, like The Paris Review, but I found out that there was a whole scholarly journal devoted to the work of William Blake. I'm pretty sure this was before college, and I started college at 17, so I could have been 15 or 16 when I made this discovery. 

My father was the editor of The American Sociologist. I had some idea, then, of the existence of scholarly journals. My mom helped him to correct proofs, and at least once I helped them. I would read aloud very fast from the original document, while one of them was following along in the proofs. It was all in this hideous social science jargon, full of abstract nouns and clunky syntax. But the Blake journal seemed a marvelous thing to me, its mere existence, that is, of existence of specialized knowledge like this. 

Un poeta en Nueva York

 So far I've looked at two graphic narratives about Lorca. One I have in print is by Carles Esquembre, Lorca: un poeta en Nueva York. As might be expected, the approach is biographical. I have another one on Kindle, La huella de Lorca, that I can't read very well because of my eyesight. Every medium in which adaptations of Lorca occur has a particular slant to it. With graphic novels / narratives, it tends to be biographical, whereas poems about Lorca tend to be elegiac, etc... [not a solid generalization in this case, but simple the first tendency to come to mind], art songs tend to present a childlike or folkloric Lorca, but are not biographical, not songs about Lorca.  

These are interesting slants or biases that we find. We say sesgo in Spanish. It tend to have a negative connotation, but all interpretation is slanted in one direction or another. Think of a flat coffee table with a marble on it. You put the marble in the center and it doesn't roll to one side or the other. The reception of a writer is never like that. The table is never flat, and two tables never have the exact contour. 

Esquembre's book is marvelous in some ways, especially bringing out the surrealism. Lorca has weird nightmares and visions. A realist style of drawing is needed for a surreal vision. There is definitely a lot of research and thinking that went into it, and it all adds up to a particular vision. The novelistic, or invented parts of it blend seamlessly with the biographical facts.   

Stained Glass

 In this dream we were outside at some picnic tables. Around us were strange multi-colored living creatures of various sizes, such as birds that looked like flowers, or flowers that looked like fish. The surfaces looked translucent. I remarked that they looked like stained glass, but that was apparently bad luck to say in this particular culture. I had apparently made this same faux-pas earlier, but hadn't remembered. I was rebuked again for this mistake. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Discography Fridays

 I've decided to have Discography Fridays. I will work on the Discography every Friday until it is done. Then I can see that as a different issue than finishing the book. 

I found out once that Discography started with jazz record collectors. This makes sense, because recording was the primary mode of existence of jazz, and early jazz fans developed discography to document their passion.  


There will be change, so change is not optional. You can prefer to stay the same way you are, but that just means that change will be erosion, or letting things get worse. Once I realize this, then I can be free to direct the changes in ways I choose. 

I realized too, that struggle is not an option. The struggle is a necessary part of the process, and thus part of the positive change.  

Two Dreams

 I was acting in a movie with DeNiro. I was in a bar and he walked in and I said "Hi DeNiro." I wasn't sure if we were supposed to be in character or not.  There was another actor there too. DeNiro ordered food from us at the bar and then bought a cookie and handed it to me. The he took back half the cookie, which was actually three cookies stuck together. He started putting salt on the cookie, an excessive amount, in a jocular way. A woman said "we have to clean up the salt," which was creating almost a mist in the air. 

I woke up, realized it was a dream, and fell asleep again. Now I was floating down a canal, up to my neck in water, that paralleled part of the highway. It was supposed to be a pleasant way of commuting, since the water was warm. A woman was hanging on to my shoulders. Other women near by were speaking to her in perfect Japanese, although they were all white women. I thought of asking one of them why they were speaking Japanese. Now we were in a taxi, about four of us, going to a restaurant on the other side of town in an unidentified city. We kept stopping for gas, in an hour-long ride, and I had to sit next to new people each time. When we got to the restaurant, we got out. I realized I had left my coat in the car and flagged down the driver. He through my coat out the window. Then I could not find the people I was with in the restaurant, or outside at other tables. I tried to find my phone to see if I had contact info on them. I found two identical knives in my pocket, and realized I didn't know who the people were exactly. Then I woke up.  

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

You heard it here

 The DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) has now expanded to Diverstiy, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging.  There is no comma after Inclusion, so I'm not sure how to parse it. 


I suddenly had this flashback of a memory. I had a Peanuts cartoon book in French, maybe when I was 13 or 14. Charlie Brown was flying his kite, which inevitably the tree would eat up.  I learned words in French from it, like cerf-volant.  

Maybe somewahat later, I had a book of poems by Paul Valéry.  I was thinking of the young park as a young park, not a young Parque.   


Anyway, I also have a book proposal done. I'm uncertain of it: this is the hardest genre, the  book proposal, the grant proposal. It doesn't seem to represent the richness of the work itself, but I'm not always sure what I am leaving out. 

There are something like five books on Beckett and music. I guess you can call this a speciality within a speciality. It's odd because a non-canonical writer would never have this. If someone is not very canonical then there is no room for subspecialties, there would be one book about the author or 2 at most. The whole idea of "Ezra Pound and music," or "Lorca and the visual arts" implies the existence of critical industries that can be divided into subcategories.  The process is almost humorous, in that there would be no topic too trivial if the writer is canonical enough: "Proust and insects." 


 Today, I started on the discography. It is somewhat intimidating to me, but this is an illusion based on my inexperience. After a few minutes I started grasping the syntax of the entries. I'm using Chicago style in the hope that that's what the publisher will want. I will publish my book with Toronto, although they do not know it yet.  

Monday, December 14, 2020


 I posted some  tunes to my soundcloud account.  5 years ago I thought of being a composer, but I'm not sure what this even means for me. It seems unbearably pretentious of me to call myself that.  Even a songwriter would be too much. 


 Since classes ended I finished two chapters in more or less submittable form.  My project for January-March will be to do this with Chapter 4. Chapter 3, a lengthy chapter on classical Lorca, will be the last, after the epilogue. What I tend to put off is bibliographical references. It is not intellectually challenging or interesting, but it gives a sense of finality, as though the scholarship were in the final stages of preparation, making sure everything adds up.  

Saturday, December 12, 2020


 I thought I hadn't published about Olvido García Valdés, but then I remembered something in an article a long way back:  https://www.amazon.com/Principios-Modernos-Creatividad-Expresiva-Contemporanea/dp/9042026332 Page 337 of this book.  


Taruskin thinks he is against something called "aesthetic autonomy," but really he sees any kind of link between music and almost any kind of ideology as a taint. So he defends the cancellation of an opera in the wake of 9/11, on the grounds that the libretto might be offensive (too sympathetic to Palestinian terrorists). He is against the use of the principle of autonomy to defend the opera, but his own objection is to the libretto, not the music. The same goes for his discussions of works by Bach and Stravinsky with anti-semitic texts. He thinks it is fine to change the words to save the music. But why is the music worth saving, but for the principle of autonomy? The value that the music has as music?  He is perfectly right in denouncing the defense of the text itself under the principle of "autonomy," since the autonomy of the music does not save the text from its anti-semitism.   

He is really opposed to the use of music in the cold war for propagandistic reasons, on both sides. He is an expert on Russian music and spent time the USSR. So what he really prefers is music that is not propaganda, in other words, aesthetic autonomy. His work as a sociologist of music is devoted to denouncing bad faith uses of the principle of autonomy, but his heart as a musician is with Roger Sessions admiration for "the medium itself." He waxes eloquent every time he quotes this passage from Sessions. 

Friday, December 11, 2020


I made a plan to finish the book in 2021, but I had a whole month laid out for a chapter that is practically done. This morning I just started in on what was missing, which is mostly bibliographical citations. I did about half of those this morning. If I can do the same for the intro in December, then I can modify my plan enormously. I can read with both eyes, but at different distances, which makes it a bit awkward. I can see the computer with right (operated) eye, and read up close with left (as yet unoperated eye). Yet this is not seeming to slow me down. 

The octave is universal

 A rise in an octave means a doubling of the number of vibrations per second. So something vibrating at 440, will be the same note as 880 The note we call A is an A no matter what octave an A it is. Faster vibrations are higher notes. A group of men and women singing together in unison will sing an octave apart without having to be told to do so. The octave is universal,, in that this perception of the sameness of the note is not based on cultural differences. Monkeys can hear octaves too.  

The idea "8" has to do with particular scales or modes having 7 notes and then beginning again on note 8. But even scales with 5 notes begin again on the "octave," or the pitch twice, or half, the original pitch. 

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Plan of classical chapter








Mompou [other art songs]

McClary on Madonna

 is even more ridiculous than you might have suspected. She makes certain keys in a Madonna song allegorical for different subject positions, then creates a whole narrative around those attributions, like return to the tonic is masculine closure. I don't think that anyone listens to Madonna like that, not even Susan M. The narrative is the product of an analysis, but this analysis, though I'm sure it is correct in naming the chords of the song, would never suggest this exact narrative to another analyst looking at the same chords, and even less to an actual listener uninformed by these abstruse music theory codings. This, I suspect, is what is meant by low hermeneutics. She attribute agency to Madonna, and makes it perfectly clear that she thinks this is what singer is doing with a quite deliberate effort, and this narrative is audible in the music itself.  

I don't even know if she believes it herself, or simply thinks that this is a convenient way to put music analysis to a noble purpose. There's probably a good reason for sociological discussion of music NOT to put too much emphasis on the technical analysis of music. Music's social effects do not depend on things that only musicologists, if even they, can perceive. I like Taruskin's formula: not 'what music means' but 'what music has meant.'  


 Taruskin really hates Adorno, and especially objects to the way popular music studies use Adorno, despite Adorno's own quite explicit condemnation of popular music. They they explain that away, and continue to use Adorno. Taruskin can be quite hilarious on how musicologists trained on the classics behave when analyzing popular genres. They fall in fandom or condescension or slumming of various kinds. Jazz musicologists trained in jazz don't do this; it seems particular to people who began in classical music and then try to approach popular genres. 

Taruskin vs. Rosen / goring the Ox

 So Rosen says that Taruskin writes about 20th century music with a decided lack of sympathy. He never explains why anyone would like it. Taruskin responds that he is an objective historian, not an advocate. But... is such an overt lack of sympathy objective? 

Rosen:  "What he is unable to do, however, is to give us any idea of why anybody would want to write, or listen to, most of the music he treats at such length."

Taruskin:  "Advocacy is not the historian's task, and a historian who indulges in it has become a propagandist. As one who regard's Rosen literary output--all of it-- as cold-war propaganda, I am heartened that he perceives the distinction between our objectives and our methods the same way I do."

But surely this negativity does not occur in the rest of the five volume of the Ox (Oxford History) that Taruskin wrote. It only comes up with certain kinds of music. I haven't read the ox yet, but other people's reviews, as well as Taruskin's other writing that I have seen, makes clear that negativity pervades the parts written about 20th century music. Clearly the new musicologists have no use for musical modernism of the Schoenberg tradition. Taruskin even say he shares in the admiration for Elliot Carter, "although the Oxford History was not the proper place for me to say so." So he might even like it himself, but he has to disguise this to be objective?  Or to fall into place with the proper anti-cold-war stance? If he mentions this in a book with "history' in the title he become a CIA stooge.   

Later, in postscript written after Rosen's death, he voices some appreciation for his late and states the position that almost everyone would agree with, that the during the Cold War the CIA promoted the idea that art in the Western world was excellent because of its freedom and diversity and lack of government control. Of course, the CIA was completely right about this. The only problem was that by supporting this view, it tainted the very thing it was promoting, by exploiting it as propaganda. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Literal Minded

 If you really thought "architecture is a verb," as the title of a book has it, or "music is a verb," then you would use it as a verb. You'd say I need to architecture this building little more, or Hey, let's music!  


 The Lucini book is much less scholarly than I expected.  Sigh. That leaves more room for me, I guess, though it would be more satisfying to have material of a higher level with which to engage. I view it as a primary source, a memoir of someone who listened to it and was DJ, etc...  

More Taruskin

 Taruskin objects to writing in which there are no human agents doing things. "This sort of writing gives everybody an alibi. All the active verbs are described in the passive voice. Nobody is seen as doing or deciding anything. Even the composers ... are not described in the act, but only as a passive vehicle of 'emergence.'"  

Yet this passage caught me up short, because I find RT to be really addicted to passive constructions himself, as well as to writing with subjects of the verbs other than human agents.  Here it is the "sort of writing" that gives alibi, and the next verbs are all passive. On the next page, he writes:  

"Reasons for the long and embattled dominance of internalist models for music history in the West, (reasons that account for Dahlhaus's otherwise inexplicable prestige), have more than two centuries behind them, and I shall try to illuminate them at appropriate points. But comment is required up front about their special reason for dominance in the recent history of the discipline, reasons having to do with the Cold War, when the general intellectual atmosphere was excessively polarized (hence binarized) around a pair of seemingly exhaustive and totalized alternatives. The only alternative, it then seemed, was a discourse that was totally corrupted by totalitarian co-option. Admit a social purview, it then seemed, and you were part of the totalitarian threat to the integrity (and freedom) of the creative individual."

There are only two agents here, one in a sign-post (I will illuminate) and the other in hypothetical you at the end.  Everything else is passive voice or abstractions backed up by other abstractions. While this paragraph is clunky prose, I think it is not realistic to conform to the idea of using only, or even mostly, human agents as subjects of sentences.  Taruskin only notices this kind of writing when other people do it, or when he disagrees with the writing for other reasons. The next paragraph, too, is mostly passive voice and copulative verbs, with only an active verb in the final sentence: "We acknowledge that out methods are ground in and guided by theory...."  With more passive voice. I'm sure I could find examples on every page of his book.  My point is not to condemn his use of passive (which is not my preferred voice in my own writing) or his hypocrisy, even. I think he is simply not self-aware about his own writing style, or the extreme effort it would require to write scholarly prose using mainly human agents as subjects of sentences in the active voice.  He writes clearly and grammatically, but is unaware of what his own style really is. He has an idea of something he dislikes when other people do it, but he doesn't realize what it would take to fulfill his own stated ideal.   

Crónica cantada

I  received Lucini's book in the mail today, from Abe books. It doesn't have much about Lorca in it, but he is working on a subsequent project that is only Lorca. Also, I guess, he is only interested in popular (vernacular) music, not in classical traditions. 

I like these little gifts I give myself. Ordering a book and then not knowing when there is a knock at the door. I had cataract surgery two days ago and I still can't read with my right eye, so these gifts are kind of hard to handle right now.   


 I'm reading Richard Taruskin, Cursed Questions: On Music and Its Social practices.  UC Press, 2020. He comes up with a critique of allegorical political analyses of harmonic movement very similar to what I came up with, and similar to Charles Rosen's critique of the "new musicology." Taruskin cites Carolyn Abbate, who had coined the turn "low hermeneutics" (or "soft hermeneutics") for this kind of reading. My term for this was the "melodramatic style."  Taruskin uses a passage from Susan McClary, the same musicologist that I used. I think I took this whole discussion out of my book, because it is a tangent, but that is what the blog is for. 

Taruskin and Rosen clashed frequently, with the former's infamous accusation that Rosen's entire literary output is "cold war propaganda." Taruskin rapidly dismisses the one modernist (12 tone) composer I treat in my book, Luigi Nono, saying that it is silly for Schoenberg's son-in-law to be a communist, because a communist regime would not like his music. So this is a bit like Taruskin's coldwar propaganda? Nono used "his father-in-law's advanced compositional techniques to promote a political program that, when successful, invariably resulted in the suppression, as socially parasitical, of audience alienating art like his own." But isn't that an interesting 3rd option? Between formalist 12 tone music in support of American democracy, and Soviet agit-prop music, you can have Eurocommunist 12-tone music as well.  You can call this silly, as RT does, but isn't it just as silly to see 12-tone music or abstract-expressionism as propaganda, just because the CIA promoted these things in an opportunistic way? 

Anyway, I had expected Taruskin to be more supportive of the new musicology, but he concludes that it "quickly took a wrong turn, away from the sociocultural into naive hermeneutics, which caused it to age with stunning rapidity" 436).  

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Graphic novels

 Apparently graphic novels featuring Lorca are a thing now. There is an article out that I haven't read yet. It supports my idea that Lorca is a favorite for adaptations of all kinds. 

Friday, December 4, 2020


Some courting plots.  The rich girl falls for the bad boy of humble origins. The rich man comes rescues a poor woman from poverty, like Pygmalion. Juanito Santa Cruz and Fortunata: In Galdós's novel Fortunata y Jacinta the wealthy man falls in with a group of shady characters (with Andalusian accents?) and they have all-night parties (juergas). One of the women he meets in the sordid environment is Fortunata. I don't remember if they are doing cante jondo or not, but the narrator notes "Las crudezas de estilo popular y aflamencado que Santa Cruz decía alguna vez..."  There is an article I haven't read about Galdós as an anti-flamenco guy, as many intellectuals have been. Of course, there is Merimée's Carmen

Class differences are sexualized in these plots. Burke mentions some D.H. Lawrence. There is Juan Marsé's Últimas tardes con Teresa, with the charnego seducing the bourgeoise university student.  

More Dante

 Dante assumes that poems will be set to music. Canzoni are poems that might be set to music, whether they are actually set to music or not. Earlier he defines poetry as verbal inventions obeying the rules of rhetoric and music. We cannot call it a song unless it has words:  

"Furthermore, we must now discuss whether the word canzone should be used to refer to a composition made up of words arranged with due regard to harmony, or simply to a piece of music. To which I answer that a piece of music as such is never given the name canzone, but is rather called 'sound', or 'tone', or 'note', or 'melody'. For no player of a wind or key- board or stringed instrument ever calls his melody a canzone, except when it is wedded to a real canzone; but those who harmonise words call their works canzoni, and even when we see such words written down on the page, in the absence of any performer, we  call them canzoni. And so it  seems clear that the canzone is nothing else than the self-contained action of one who writes harmonious words to be set to music; and so I shall assert that not only the canzoni we are discussing here, but also ballate and sonnets and all arrangements of words, of whatever kind, that are based on harmony, whether in the vernacular or in the regulated language, should be called canzoni." 



Dante is pretty rad:  

"But since it is required of any theoretical treatment that it not leave its basis implicit, but declare it openly, so that it may be clear with what its argument is concerned, I say, hastening to deal with the question, that I call 'vernacular language' that which infants acquire from those around them when they first begin to distinguish sounds; or, to put it more succinctly, I declare that vernacular language is that which we learn without any formal instruction, by imitating our nurses. There also exists another kind of language, at one remove from us, which the Romans called gramatica [grammar]. The Greeks and some - but not all - other peoples also have this secondary kind of language. Few, however, achieve complete fluency in it, since knowledge of its rules and theory can only be developed through dedication to a lengthy course of study. Of these two kinds of language, the more noble is the vernacular: first, because it was the language originally used by the human race; second, because the whole world employs it, though with different pronunciations and using different words; and third because it is natural to us, while the other is, in contrast, artificial. And this more noble kind of language is what I intend to discuss."

Translation in the liga de hiedra

 I noticed doing review for a tenure candidate at Harvard that translation is a big thing now. Book length projects that claim that translation is foundational / crucial to peninsular studies. Another tenure candidate at Yale last year had a similar book in the works. I also reviewed a book on this, and another book, pre-publication, on a similar topic. There's my 1st Lorca book which also involved translation heavily. Some people cite me in this regard. These projects can be vastly different from one another, but this is a trend of at least 10 years duration that has not peaked yet.  

Another trend is working on music. There are probably 5 or 6 books by well known literary scholars involving music in the peninsula. 

tl dr

 I was writing a guide to writing for undergraduate Spanish students. Things like don't use the passive voice, write only in the present tense when analyzing literary works. Anyway, as the document got longer, I realized that it could be very, very long, but that the shorter it is, the more useful it is. If it is very long, then the whole point of the assignment would be to follow the guide, and I would be constantly saying, see page 44, instead of page 1 or 2.  

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Blank book

 The blank book is terrifying... 

For the dreaming poet, though,

It offers more possibilities

Than all the books already filled in


 Rita Felski cites me in her recent book Hooked about art and attachment. It was in something I wrote that cited her, so it makes sense that she would agree with me.  I had downloaded a sample of the book on my kindle, and hadn't seen the citation, but a friend of mine pointed it out to me today.  

Tuesday, December 1, 2020


 I found in Burke's Rhetoric of Motives and idea about rhetorical courtship, the dynamic, for example, of the pastoral, with its idealized relation between rich and poor. This applies, I think, to the dynamic of patronage in flamenco practices. There is a complex dynamic of degradation and dignification involved. 

Burke's analysis of Kafka's Castle is really convincing, in relation to this. 


In the courtship relation, the vernacular musician wants cultural capital, the classical musician wants authenticity and popularity. What I am calling vernacular modernism Ross call "realism." He probably has his reason for this. I don't have to use the same language. What is important is recognizing this is a main feature of modernist music. 

Everyone probably thinks 12-tone is the modernist movement par excellence. It is probably the most disliked, and composers see it both as intellectually prestigious and a bit academic. I remember when my sister was a music major, there was a dept. without any performance at all!  The anti-conservatory. There were a few musicologists, but the dept. was dominated by 12 tone composers like "Dick Swift." That's a name that stuck with me somehow.  I don't think "atonal" is really the right term. There are still tones, and the avoidance of tonality can only be achieved by a very studious method of avoidance I composed a tone row and it had tonal relationships all over it.  Any three notes in a row are part of some hypothetical chord, even the most dissonant intervals. For example, the tritone is in diminished and dominant seven chords, the minor 2nd is in the major 7th chord (inverted). 

 I supposed I could have tried to make it more random sounding, but then it wouldn't be as musical sounding, so how can you win? 


Got rejected for in house humanities center fellowship. I tend to think I am one of the best scholars in the humanities in my university, and that my proposal is groundbreaking.  But it is kind of dumb to invest anything more than a minute of moping about a rejection. I put myself through a lot when I was turned down three times for DP.  What good did it do me?  I'm sure this will never happen now. 


 I took the phrase vernacular modernism, by which I mean all kinds of folkloric or nationalistic elements in classical music, and turned it around to find the phrase modernist vernaculars, by which I mean vernacular musical idioms that undergo a modernist or avant-garde phase, like modern jazz.  These two phenomena are in dialectical relationship. Well, avant-garde jazz might seem more similar to atonal music, or other forms of unvernacular classical music. In Alex Ross's book The Rest is Noise, Charlie Parker sees Stravinsky in a club where he is playing and quotes from The Rite of Spring in his solo.  

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Hard to Describe

 In a dream last night there was a series of social media bombs: very strong messages sent out to everyone with intent of discouraging all action or propagating extreme pessimism.  But there were others that had the opposite effect, in which I myself was involved. These are hard to describe but involved intense refutation of the pessimists. The dream was very specific but the language I use to describe it must be vague because none of the details have survived in my memory.  

Later, there was a role-playing exercise in an airport. We had to surrender passports to police. But I got suspicious and grabbed our passports back and made a run for it. I thought we might be in trouble but then thought the police officer must be a rogue and not have support of his other colleagues.    

Monday, November 23, 2020

Posted this to facebook...

 I was in a graduate course on the Theory of the Lyric at Stanford in the early 1980s. As each student gave the required presentation, the professor would simply take over and explain the reading himself at a certain point, usually about 5 minutes in, and not allow any student to finish. I decided this would not happen to me, so I prepared my presentation on Kenneth Burke's reading of Cleanth Brooks' reading of a Keats' Ode, in The Grammar of Motives, as a coherent talk, rather than doing whatever the other hapless students before me had done. I had read a lot of Burke before taking the course and so I had chosen to sign up for a reading that would play to my strengths. The professor, whom I won't name here, allowed me to finish, and I turned my awkwardness in differentiating between the similarly sounding names Burke and Brooks (I've never pronounced the r very well) to my own comic advantage. I'm not sure why this memory came back to me today as I was reading something else by Kenneth Burke. Grad school was filled with brilliant students, and I certainly felt out of my theoretical depth many times, often experiencing Stanford as what we would now call a "hostile environment," but the advantage I held was knowing who I was and what I had to say, and figuring out how to get where I want to go.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Rhythm Method

 My new rhythm is this.  500 words a day. This takes shortly more than an hour. I can do it in one sitting or two, on days that I teach.  I skipped yesterday because I did a zen retreat, but the idea is to have 6,000 words in 12 days. 

I think I will need another 12 days to put all the references in, to perfect style and organization. 

Needless to say, this only works if I already know the content of what I am writing. The amount of time I spent learning all the things I will be saying is incalculable. 

I very much appreciate Edwin Denby's idea about dance writing. It involves two separate abilities: to observe what is happening, and to write. It is similar to Thomas's idea that you first know something, and then write it. As I work I also discover things that I do not know, so I have to do some additional research to answer ancillary questions.  

Saturday, November 14, 2020


 There was a new variety of chipmunk, perhaps a hybrid with another species, that befriended people, wanted to be close to them when they were camping, as we were in this dream. 

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Take downs (more)

Another take down: Luis Fernández Cifuentes on Ian Gibson. Fernández Cifuentes also reviewed some other books on Lorca in savage ways. John Kronik on Patricia Hart's book on detective fiction. Another book on Goytisolo by Genaro Pérez, reviewed harshly by Kronik.  Andrew Anderson on Andrews Debicki's Poetry of Discovery is not a hatchet job, but a fair but rigorous review that ends up tending toward the negative. Before I knew either Andrews, I took heart in that review because everyone else was saying this mediocre book was great, when it clearly was not. 


I have a few that I have done. A particularly inept deconstruction of Francisco Brines. A book on Lorca I found absurdly and incoherently argued. I couldn't even tell what the points being made were. 

I will not do a negative book review again. I don't have any more in me. But I think the genre is a valuable one. It can be disheartening when ideas and approaches are never challenged at all, when everything is bland and uncontroversial. Kronik decided at one point not to do negative reviews any more, too, I understand completely, since I am in that position myself now. I also won't do mixed or negative promotion reviews. I will say no to them if I cannot support the person. I will still do negative prepublication reviews of articles, since I have to be honest in this process and can't tell before the reading how it will come out. I am going to try not to do negative prepublication reviews of books, if I have any way of telling before hand whether the book is going to be good again. 

Poetry contest

 I was judging a poetry contest and received 15 or 20 slender volumes, it seemed like mostly from Venezuela. I thought it would be a good idea to make the judging of the contest a group project in class, but my students pointed out that I couldn't physically distribute the books to them on zoom. 

Earlier, there has been various rooms of people, each presided over by a Nobel prize candidate. One of them was Marjorie Perloff. Each of the rooms had its own short story that we had to compare... 

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Classic takedowns

I subscribed to the NYRB the other day. I used to have a sub long ago.  So I got access to all the archives. I have been revisiting the classic takedowns. Crews on Freud and Freudians.  Renata Adler on Pauline Kael. Helen Vendler's savaging of Gilbert and Gubar. Many articles by Charles Rosen. 

It made me think to of Chomsky v. Skinner. Of Edward Pechter and Richard Levin in the PMLA attacking New Historicism and similar tendencies, in the 1990s. Derrida defending himself in Critical Inquiry against people who had misinterpreted him on Apartheid. Perloff putting Eshleman in his place.  

The feature I most enjoy is the attempts at rebuttals by the aggrieved parties and their surrogates, and the masterful responses of the attackers. The aggrieved parties almost always take the tone of apolectic outrage, but typically the original critic is able to remain calm. 

One's own position comes into play in judging the merits of the arguments, but even if I were a Freudian I don't think I would say that Crews loses the debate against Freud's defenders. He is a better arguer. At times, I have to give up my own positions because the arguments on the side I initially defended are just not good ones, or i don't want to be defending things I don't really believe in. 

Sunday, November 8, 2020


 Vice-presidents who have gone on to be president in my lifetime: Nixon, Johnson, Ford, Bush, and Biden. Vice-presidents who have run and lost: Humphrey, Mondale, Gore. So a vice-president is a good bet to be a candidate and win an election as president, or to succeed a president through death or resignation (Truman, Johnson, Ford). 

Dream of Scatting and Fappling

 I was scat singing, trying to get every note of Hawkins's "Body and Soul" or maybe "Moody's Mood for Love." I found someone else singing and tried to match that performance note for note, hoping that the other singer wouldn't be annoyed with me.  

Late, I was explaining my hobby of "fappling" to someone. It was a variant on the word "fabling," derived from "fable." It was a game involving the collaborative creation of fictional worlds, though the details were not clear. Perhaps fappling means dreaming.  

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Some Questions

 What did medieval people call their own epoch? Surely they didn't know they were "medieval" or "middle." Did renaissance people know they were in the renaissance? What did Mozart call his own style of music? It probably wasn't "classical." We know the "baroque" was the invention of the 19th century. The "counter-reformation" is also a label created well after the fact, I believe. I don't think Lope knew he was in the "siglo de oro" or, even less so, "early modern." I think rococo was used contemporaneously with the style it describes. I'll have to look that up. 

What was the first period that knew what it was called, that named itself? When was the periodization we now take for granted become established? Do any of these questions make any substantive difference, or are they simply taxonomical shorthand that we use for convenience? 


Taking a break from my Italianate fixation, I read Vicente Luis Mora's Centroeuropa.  A man arrives at a farm in Prussia with the corpse of his dead wife. He digs a hole to bury her and unearths the corpse of a frozen soldier... This takes place in the first decades of the 19th century.  

That is the first page or so. Everything else is the gradual revelation of everything else surrounding these events, in past, present, and future. So many novels leave no room for mystery: everything is on the surface. This one does the opposite, and revelations only lead to a deeper sense of mystery. 

I knew Vicente as a critic of poetry, whose book Singularidades is obligatory reading. I've met him in person, I seem to remember, and also am friends with him on face book.  

Friday, November 6, 2020


 We had a workshop on microaggressions yesterday in my department. It was done in a very reasonable way and I didn't feel myself resistant or skeptical at all. I guess people have been exaggerating how oppressive the PC stuff is.  A bit of the language was funny, like "target" and "agent." 

Saturday, October 31, 2020


 An opera singer, Carla Canales, has an album out, Duende. It is mostly the Canciones españolas antiguas (big surprise!) in her own arrangements, with some interludes. I see from my email that she was in touch with me in 2016 about it. I'm sure I was not much help, because I take a skeptical and complex attitude toward the duende, rather than the usual American romanticization of it. It look from my email trail that Christopher Maurer put her in touch with me.  

Anyway, I am of two minds here. It is kind of like reinventing the wheel: These songs come up so frequently. I am even singing them myself with my voice teacher. Her approach is original, for sure. 


 My daughter gave me a book in the form a waffle, unusually shaped. There was a certain order in which it needed to be eaten in order to get the plot in the right configuration. That's what I thought at first, at least. Then it became clear that the actual printed book was found in the middle of waffle in a plastic bag. There were two possible readings of the book, one in the form of a fixed rhythmic pattern like a drum beat. The other I can no longer specify now that I am awake. 

Friday, October 30, 2020


 I saw a book presentation today by Menchu Gutiérrez, on zoom. It made me think a bit. There are writers I have been following for many years, but about whom I have had no conversations with any else. I haven't written about them either, so my experience is rather private. I did meet Menchu at an homage for Ullán several years ago, and she was surprised that I had read all her books, but largely my experience of her has been almost entirely a private one. What is odd about this is that she is one of my favorite novelists and poets, and I suspect she is a favorite of others too, but this experience is less a private one for the others at the presentation, many of whom knew each other.  

Thursday, October 29, 2020


A night of lengthy and intense dreams. 

 I was teaching and I asked a question. One kid shrugged his shoulders, and I called him out: "Don't shrug your shoulders; make an observation about the text." The other students applauded me. We were on zoom but I could see all the students, as though they were in classroom.

Then we decided to go for lemonade in a bar across the street. A woman in the class, older than the rest of the students, collected dollars bills from each of us to pay for it. I thought there would be tax so I tried to give her an extra dollar to cover that; she refused. In the bar I was attempting to pour lemonade into a huge plastic baggy on  the floor. Of course, most of it got on the floor and not in the baggy. I wondered how may dollars worth of lemonade I had spilled. An employee come over with a mop to clean up my spill...  

In the department office, there was a table with papers and junk on it. I took it upon myself to clean it up. I felt very virtuous in doing so, because others were standing around unaware of this mess. It seemed as though I wanted their approval. 


Dreams do not represent us at our best or our worst, but simply how we actually are in our own self-constructions. I am not better when I am cleaning up a mess than when I am making one. I am not a better teacher when students are applauding me. I am not even a worse one. 


Not a dream: I downloaded a dream diary by Nabokov on kindle: really just a sample that I didn't have to pay for. Of course, the sample consisted of all the preliminary material but none of Nabokov's diary. This has happened to me a lot. This is not a "sample" of the book, but simply an arbitrary number of pages at the beginning. In one case the sample was a long table of contents with none of the poem in the book. 


The dreamer interprets the dream. Even selecting the details to list, and giving the telling a certain "slant," is interpretive. There is no intention in the dream, in the sense of a conscious desire to say something in particular. There can be intention in the retelling of it. I could want to impress you, or show you my weakness, or skew the interpretation in a particular direction. The dream is not particularly enigmatic; its themes are usually desire and anxiety in the usual combinations.   

Monday, October 26, 2020

La coscienzia de Zeno

 I'm about half way through the Svevo novel. The neurotic narrator is a bit insufferable. There is a long chapter on quitting (not quitting) smoking, another on the death of his father, another on his courtship and wedding; now I am on a chapter on his early married life. The Italian is easy enough, but I am just not a good fiction reader. I get impatient. The novel is supposed to be psychoanalytic: the narrator writes at the insistence of his therapist. For all that, there is not a great amount of self-knowledge, at least in the way I define self-knowledge. His malattia always seems arbitrary. 

Zeno is in love with Ada; she is the only member of the family who doesn't like him. He is a comic figure and she is serious. Finally, when he asks her to marry him, she says no. Then he proposes to the sister; she also says no. Then, the same night, he proposes to the third sister, Augusta, who is already in love with him. Another foppish man marries Ada.

Dream of campus visit

 I was on a campus visit and having a very pleasant experience. The people seemed very interested in me and all I had to do was be myself. Someone mentioned Stan Lombardo and I started bragging about how I knew Stan, that he and Judy ran the Zen Center here. My interlocutor had translated the Aeneid with Stan, he claimed, but it was clear I knew Stan much better. When he started explaining to me what the Aeneid was, I cut him off.  

I was getting progressively excited and was even planning on accepting the job, only wondering about how I would imagine the commute from Kansas to Kentucky. It was obvious that my partner would not move to Kentucky with me. I didn't have many details about the job I was applying to, and thought of asking whether it would be in the English department. 

We were getting in cars to go somewhere else. It wasn't clear what car I was supposed to get in, but someone eventually said to get in the middle back seat of one of them. In the front passenger seat was X, a woman from the Slavic dept. of KU. 


As I awoke I realized that I craved the intellectual stimulation of colleagues. I could have this here, where I am, as well, but I don't because I am only on zoom all the time. The elements that were attractive to me were things that are already here: Stan and Judy, other KU faculty... The initials of the school I was at, UK, are the reverse of KU.  (It must have been UK because I had flown into Lexington Airport.)  

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Two Dreams of My Book

 I was in a bookstore; I picked up a book that seemed to be mine and put it under my arm. Then it wasn't there anymore. I picked it up again, and it looked like it was in Italian, not by me, but had cited me in the index. 


I got my book in the mail. It had no cover, or a brown cover (dust jacket) without any words or images on it. I thought it would be ok since libraries would throw out the dust jacket anyway. But I was going through the hall in my department showing this non-cover to everyone. 

Friday, October 23, 2020


 Predictably enough, my colleague in Italian dept tells me that Ferrante is low brow and has me reading Svevo and other things from the higher echelons. I'm reading Zeno now.  I must say it is more difficult but more rewarding. The first chapter seems to be about quitting smoking. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020


I went back and finished The Lying Life of the Adults.  I don't think it is a good novel. A lot of it hinges on the circulation of a bracelet that was supposedly a gift from the narrator's aunt to her, but ends up being given to other people in a way that is difficult to follow. After a while, I got sick of the damned bracelet as a narrative device. Is there a word for this? Is it Maguffin?  

The narrator accompanies her friend to Milan to visit Roberto, the friend's fiancé. The friend now has the bracelet, but leaves it behind in Roberto's apartment. So the narrator gets back on the train to Milan to fetch it. She is in love with Roberto, so that is the real motive. Roberto offers to sleep with her, but she doesn't. Then, in order to lose her virginity, at age 16, she calls another male friend. There ensues some of the most awkward sex and sex writing conceivable, and then the novel ends. 

Unlike in My Brilliant Friend,, the narrator/protagonist belongs to the Italian-speaking educated part of Naples, so there isn't the idea of escaping the rione. We can see that Roberto is the equivalent of a figure that appears in other Ferrante novels: the young, brilliant, handsome intellectual. 

I will go and read the other novels of the Brilliant Friend tetralogy, but I need a break now while I read something else.   


  I blurbed Daniel Aguirre's book from Toronto this year, and another Daniel in Tennessee (Daniel Nappo), asked me blurb a forthcoming book on Joaquín Sabina; I read it and provided the blurb. I've blurbed books I don't even remember anymore, usually just because someone asks me. Once I even had a very lukewarm comment of praise in a reader's report and the publisher wanted to use it. That's fine. I'm rarely effusive, so when I am you have to know I mean it. The strangest one was an author who said I didn't need to read the whole book. 

Sunday, October 18, 2020


 I read a book of essays by Kay Ryan, in one day. She likes Larkin, Stevie Smith, Frost, Moore, Williams, Dickinson, Bronk, Pessoa, Borges. I couldn't imagine her being into Rilke. There is a commonality in what she likes, but you couldn't necessarily predict it if you didn't know her work. It isn't exactly a narrow taste, more like something well defined: things that are precise, unpretentious, surprising. Her observations are insightful and always perfectly phrased. 

If I'm reading her criticism, I sympathize with her point view, see the poets from her vantage point. Since I like some of what she likes for similar reasons, I can get caught up in it. Of course, there are other things I like that she might not appreciate, and I don't share the Larkin enthusiasm.  That is kind of what you want: sharing a nice 30% of someone's else preferences.  

Friday, October 16, 2020

L'amica geniale

 Things are eventful in My Brilliant Friend. Elena goes not to the next level of schooling, a school specializing in classical education, Latin and Greek. Lila stops studying; she matures and all the men are after her. She rejects Enzo, then Marcello gets very aggressive, showering her family with gifts, including a television, which is a novelty in this neighborhood. Elena goes with the teacher's cousin to summer vacation on Ischia, sees Nino, and is sexually approached by Nino's father Donato, who will take her virginity in the second volume. She goes back to Naples to escape Donato. Lila turns to Stefano, the proud owner of a new convertible, to avoid Marcello. Stefano gets interested in the shoe business of Lila's family. 

Generally, there is economic growth in this period, with small business owners getting relatively wealthy. The Solara family with their bar (Michele and Marcello), The Carracis with their salami (Stefano), and Lila's family can cash in this with their shoes with the help of Stefano. We see he wants both Lila and her family's shoe business. He is renting the space next to the cobbler's shop to expand, and hiring employees, something which Fernandro and Nunzia, Lil'as parents, have never had. 

I should have read this before the 2nd volume, because now I am understanding who these characters are. My attention and patience waxes and wanes.

A scene: the ragazzi and ragazze from the neighborhood go to another posher neighborhood. They insult a woman wearing a silly-looking dress. Her boyfriend gets mad, one of the ragazzi hits him. They leave, but then run into the boyfriend again with a larger group a little while later; these richer kids have sticks and begin to take their revenge; but then a car with the Solara brothers, Michele and Marcello, drives up: Michele and Marcello get out and beat the rich kids with a metal rod. The poorer kids of the neighborhood don't like the Solaras, but they all join forces against the people from another neighborhood. So there are the poor people in the neighborhood, the small business owner-camorrista people, and then the world beyond.  The relatively wealthy, mafioso type people, have dirty money, from the black market days. They don't hesitate to use violence. 

Robert Arlt can use a Buenos Aires variant of Spanish to write his novels, but Ferrante cannot use Neopolitan, because it is actually a different language entirely from Italian. We only call it a dialect because it is not an official government / school / literature language. When it is important to know, she will tell us whether someone says something in Italian or in dialetto, but the languages have very different functions in this world. 


I have taught Gil de Biedma's "Apología y petición" in graduate courses. Invariably, they will say that it is "repetitive." Well, yes, it is, because it is a sestina, something that few students have ever noticed. They usually don't even now what sestina is in the first place. If you don't read the poem through its form, so to speak, then you won't get it: the language of the poem is flat and prosaic, its message is a straightforward denunciation of a political situation. So why do this in a sestina? That is the question that you have to answer in order to read the poem at all. There are varying answers to this question, but it seems to be that if you don't ask the question in the first place you are reading the poem as though it were just a political statement in verse. The end-words for the sestina generate the poem, they are words that are heavily charged: España, demonios, gobierno, historia, pobreza, hombre.  This is formally clever, but also could be read as a parody of Marxist discourse. Remember that the Communist Party didn't let Gil de Biedma join because he was gay, and that he defined himself as a "compañero de viaje" and someone whose politics stem from bourgeois guilt or "mala conciencia."   

In a book I blurbed recently, and which arrived in the mail two days ago,  The Ghostly Poetry: History and Memory of Exiled Spanish Republican Poets, by Daniel Aguirre Oteiza of Harvard, I saw that Daniel cites my discussion of Gil de Biedma from my 1994 book The Poetics of Self-Consciousness. I did not even remember my discussion until I read Ghostly Poetry  in manuscript form for U of Toronto P a few years ago. Now I am reminded of it yet again. Daniel notes that the "straight" reading of the poem is still prevalent. One example he cites is from Almudena Grandes--one of my least favorite writers for reasons other than this. 

Anyway, it is odd to think that, while my book is 25 years old and I don't think about it very often, it contains insights that hold up well and are still as relevant now as they ever were. The content-mining approach to literature, if anything, is more prevalent than it was when I was first approaching GdBiedma in the early 90s. I could go out today and give this chapter as a talk and change nothing.  

This book of mine rode the metaliterary mode of the early 90s in Hispanism. In this sense it might seem dated. But really, this is still the best of way of reading Gil de Biedma, ¿no es cierto? As far as I know, nobody else has cited my reading of Gil de Biedma, either. It took a Harvard professor who has translated Ashbery and Stevens into Spanish to even see the value of what I have done. 

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Siglo XX

 I told my students that I am from a different place than they are from, the twentieth century. They are natives of the twenty-first century. Literally, some are from the final years of the 20th, but their formative years are mostly from the current century. I always like to contrast "The past is foreign country; they do things differently there" (Hartley) with: "The past is never dead. It's not even past." (Faulkner) 

I had an assignment to have the students interview their past or future selves. It didn't work because they all had their 17-year old self and their 20-years old self, and there wasn't enough separation to make it interesting.  


 There was an old woman a in prison cell. I wanted to help her so when she left I unplugged an old bathtub that was in there, that was clogged by a kind of tea bag. It sounds gross but in the dream I was matter of fact about it, with no feelings of repulsion. I didn't have cleaning supplies to clean the tub once the water had drained. 

She had a song that she sang in Yiddish, but with an Italian word: "soldi, soldi, you are nobody without soldi" [money]. I was studying the text of the song and trying to decipher its language, that seemed like English with Yiddish words added.   

There was a prison guard, and someone I was with began hectoring the guard about the maltreatment of this prisoner. The guard dismissed our concerns by saying that she was lucky to have a cell next to these other inmates, perhaps richer than her. It seemed as though this guard, a very handsome young man with dark hair, was a "double agent." Somehow, I thought that my companion should ease up on the guard a bit, given the guard's possible double loyalties. 

Monday, October 12, 2020

Dream of (not) skydiving

 There was an airplane flying. People, one by one, were being pushed out with no parachute. Falling down to the ground, each one was trying to think of a way out of the predicament. Some tried to clutch on to each other. My turn was coming up, but I thought that I would be able to avoid being pushed out. 

Sunday, October 11, 2020


It's perfectly fine to be a Laura Riding skeptic, or an Olson skeptic.  I am, for example.  (I also don't like Nina Simone or Abbey Lincoln. )There are certain doors that are closed to me. I think that's a little distinct from not liking any "difficult" art, music, or poetry at all, or having almost ALL the doors closed. Since others I respect are not skeptics of those figures, I have what I would call "second degree respect." I agree that you find some value there, even if I do not. I won't say you shouldn't like it. 

I tried to to find value in Zambrano, but ended up not getting very far. I even wrote an article about her. Even though I ended up a skeptic, after some initial excitement, I don't think of it as wasted effort at all. I just get put off by someone endlessly talking about poetic this, and poetic that, but in a way that never quite gets there. Yet I think that people who admire her are correct to do so.  


The relationship between Elena and Lila is dynamic. Since both are going through life development, in childhood and adolescence, and then in the early adult stage in the second volume, their relationship can never be static. Admiration, jealousy and rivalry, solidarity, intimacy and distance, are all variable factors. 

These observations aren't particularly insightful on my part. Probably *everybody* knows this about fiction. Yet Ferrante herself has written novels that don't have this dynamic quality. I don't think Almudena Grandes has this quality in the least, or is even interested in developing it. 

L'amica geniale

 There are some great scenes in this novel: when the two girls throw each other's dolls into some kind of gutter [?} and go down to try to retrieve them, then accuse don Achille of taking them...  When they skip school to try to find the ocean: they go through a tunnel into another neighborhood, a place which is menacing, but in exactly the same way their own neighborhood is menacing. They walk for hours, haven't planned for the need to eat or drink water. The sky darkens and it begins to rain copiously. Lila gives up, and they run back home. Elena gets a beating at home, but Lila's parents don't even notice that anything is amiss.  There's another scene in which the police come to arrest someone. This is supposed to be the most terrifying scene ever, but in this case it doesn't quite come off. Another weird description of Lila's state of mental alienation.  

What's great here is that Lila is not necessarily extraordinary in herself, but she is almost superhuman in the eyes of the narrator, but at the same time eerily vulnerable. The novel narrated from the point of view of Lila / Lina would not be as compelling, and Elena's account of her life is not quite as compelling either. It is not without interest, but we identity not with her per se, but we share her obsession with her genius friend. 

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Non committal

 Someone asked me about Gluck, in a gathering of mostly non-literary people. I said something non-committal, that she was ok for people who liked that kind of thing. It's a little hard to get worked up over the Nobel prize. If they happened to choose Gamoneda, of course, I would applaud, but other than that...

The prize belongs to a bygone era, when literature itself had a certain gravitas. Even when the prize went to a mediocrity, as happened many times, we felt that something had gone amiss. But really, now, we feel it just an arbitrary and inexplicable decision of an obscure committee.   

Friday, October 9, 2020

L'amica geniale

 I went back to start the Ferrante tetralogy from the start. The first volume is compelling in many ways, with the child's perspective on growing up in poverty and violence, seeing the school as a way out. By becoming academically brilliant, you can write a book, make money from this, and escape all of this squalor. This is what Elena manages to do eventually, but that is much more of a problem for Lina, who is academically brilliant [bravíssima] but also "cattiva." The two girls take an exam to get into the next level of schooling, I guess it would be middle school. Lina write a story, but the teacher is not too impressed, seemingly.  She is beginning to favor Elena over Lina, even though Lina is the more academically gifted of the two.   

Now, the two girls decide to skip school one day and go to try to find the ocean, which neither of them has ever seen...  

What to Listen For in Music

 I read a book with this title by Aaron Copland. Some of it is unexciting. I like the title, but often we don't get insight that is special in any way / different from what some other competent lecturer would provide. Maybe that would be expecting too much. The chapter one writing music for film gave me the most new information, and I will have to go back to the chapters on various musical forms and listen to the examples that he gives. He is very good on the fugue, and I will have to go back to that. I like how he divides modern music in to easy / hard / medium hard categories.    

What he is most interested in is the development of the capacity to follow longer musical structures, or "la grande ligne." I also liked the idea of "wheels within wheels," on other words, the structure of smaller parts following the same structural principals as larger parts, and of the work as a whole. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

The New Last Name (conclusion)

 I finished The New Last Name. Now the story makes sense: Elena and Lila are alter-egos: they are best friends who take opposite directions in life. Lila is smarter as a child, but drops out of school and marries Stefano. After leaving him, she has a life of urban working-class poverty while living with Enzo, with whom she isn't having sex. Elena studies hard, gets her high school degree and then studies in Pisa, meeting Pietro, a brilliant classicist to whom she gets engaged. She never feels good enough for Pietro or his family, but then writes a novel that they help her to publish. She realizes that a text that Lila had written when they were children is the narrative kernel of her own novel. She takes a bus to the sausage factory where Lila is working... There is little cliff-hanger to bring us to the third novel of the tetralogy.  

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Narrative Problems

Lila finally leaves Stefano, disappears and is living with Nino in cheap apartment in the worst neighborhood of the neighborhood. Everyone thinks she is in Pisa with Elena, though there is no evidence of this. An article in the newspaper signed by Nino is really the work of Lila, as Elena recognizes on reading it. 

Their co-habitation only lasts 23 days. Nino leaves Lila. Eventually, we learn he is studying in Milan. Enzo, a character I hadn't especially noticed before, finds her and accompanies him back to Stefano. She tells her husband that she is pregnant and the baby is not his, but he seems to think she is lying about it. Now she just stays home instead of working in the family sausage shop, and sees nobody except for her mother and mother-in-law. 

The narrator makes a perfunctory remark about how she knows details what has happened, since she is narrating everything in the 3rd person: things she cannot have possibly known first hand. She says she has pieced it together from Lila's notebooks and from what other people have told her. I think people who like this kind of novel don't care as much about this kind of lapse of narrative technique as I do: to me it feels arbitrary to switch back and forth between two different types of narration, but yet have the prose texture  remain so constant. 

Saturday, October 3, 2020


 Someone was asking a party yesterday who wrote the words and music for the wizard of Oz.  I knew that it was Yip Harburg and Harold Arlen, though it took me 90 seconds to come up with Arlen's name. Someone asked me how I knew this, and I had moment in which I was thinking, that of course I knew the songs of Rodgers and Hart, Cole Porter, Duke Ellington Gershwin, etc... from the Ella Fitzgerald songbooks and from jazz versions of these songs.

 It's not the everyone should know all of this. I am ignorant of a lot of classic rock that everyone else at the party probably knows much better than I do, since I am on the younger end of this group and am not a rock fan per se. I don't even dislike classic rock and country from that period; I am just not an ardent fanatic of it.   

Bilingualism in Ferrante

Elena is in Pisa now; her Italian is very literary and yet inflected by her Neopolitan dialect; people from other regions of Italy make fun of her. One girl from Rome mocks her accent, and then accuses here later of stealing money from her. Elena slaps her hard and spits out a rebuke in dialect. The Roman girl apologizes later. Generally, though, Elena tries to ingratiate herself with her classmates and professors.  She has a Communist or Troskyite boyfriend, or male friend maybe, and goes to Paris with him, but he fails his exams and disappears. It is about 1963 / 64 by now. 

The presence of dialetto is strong in this novel, but we get almost none of it, maybe a dozen words in the whole book. We are simply told that somebody says something in dialect, but the words we see are an Italian, or a paraphrase. This is because the book is written for a larger audience, nationally and internationally. In Italian the presence of dialect would be off-putting; in translation is would be lost anyway. As a consequence the novel reads rather blandly.  Of course, I don't know a word of the dialect myself, so this makes the novel far easier to read. One marker of dialect, though, is the variation in nicknames. Elena is Lenu, Lenuccia, or Elena. Lina is sometimes Lila. 

Now we get an account of Lina and Nino's love affair, that the narrator cannot really know in this level of detail: the first-person narration shifts inexplicably to third-person omniscient. Now Lina is pregnant with Nino's child, and planning to leave the abusive Stefano. 

Generally, we have good story, with great narrative potential, with the main tension being the contrast between the reduced world of the neighborhood and of Naples, and the larger world of more educated people. The dialect is the marker of the rione, and standard Italian / Tuscan is the marker of the larger world where people are interested in politics and literature. Lina  is stuck in this neighorhood world, and not even Nino can rescue her from it, since how he is not studying as much spending all his energy being a passionate and obsessive lover to Lina. Elena has escaped Naples, but really doesn't now who she is yet, or how to make her way through 

The weakness of the novel is a kind of stylistic blandness and a propensity to tell rather than show. Also, a lack of narrative economy. I like the Balzacian scope, but I think a Balzac novel moves along faster. 

Friday, October 2, 2020

The Story Continues

 Elena has sex with Nino's father on the beach, losing her virginity, while Nino and Lila spend the night together. Stefano finds out about Nino and Lila's affair, with the predictable results: Stefano beats her again. Everyone goes back to Naples. There's some stuff about the neighborhood gossip that I don't really care about too much. A lot if feels perfunctory, like it doesn't really matter for the main story, which is the friendship of Lila and Elena. What makes the novel work is that we don't really know what's in Lila's mind, so there's an element of mystery, of information withheld. 

 Elena starts studying harder than ever; she is a tutor for younger kids and earns 70 thousand lire, she graduates top of her class and they tell she can study for free at a University in Pisa. She goes there and feels humiliated at the entrance exam, which is far more difficult than the high school graduation exams were, but they still let her in. Now she is 19. 

Thursday, October 1, 2020


 I was talking with Julia yesterday. She is listening to late Beethoven string quartets, and Shostakovich, two of her favorite composers. There's something about having an "adult child," to use a familiar oxymoron, that is satisfying. I can have a conversation about classical music and see the development of her mind, as well as my own indirect influence. She realized that the string quartet repertoire is huge and that she doesn't have to listen just to symphonies and brass concertos.  

My father loved the late Beethoven quartets too, but he died when Julia was 5, long before she decided to be a musician. I was a jazz nut for years but then came gradually back to classical music, though I never really disliked it. My expertise is limited, since I know some music really well but have huge gaps in my knowledge as well. If I get obsessed with something, then I will listen over and over, but I don't need to be obsessed about everything either.  

The New Last Name (cont)

 I'm about half way through this novel by Ferrante. My reading Italian is getting halfway decent. Now the main characters are at a beach community outside of Naples, possibly an island. The doctor has recommended that Lina / Lila get sun and surf to help her get pregnant, and she takes the narrator Elena / Linu with her. Linu is in love with Nino, who is now a university student. Lina borrows the complete theater of Beckett from Elena, and talks to Nino about it. He is impressed, even though he is not into literature.  It turns out Nino is in love with Lina, from the elementary school days, and tries to kiss her one day on the beach. She resists at first but a few chapters later they are in love with each other, to Elena's dismay. They enlist Elena help to spend the night together in a neighboring village, deceiving Lina's mother, who is staying with them at the beach house.  

There is a conversation about getting pregnant. Lina says she will not get pregnant with Nino because he will use a 'preservative." What's that? A thing he puts on down there (a condom). The young women have never heard of this. Plus, Lina / Lila doesn't think she can get pregnant anyway.  

Nino's friend Bruno is in love with Elena, but she isn't attracted to him. He comes from a rich family, so he mother would be overjoyed if she were with Bruno. Stefano's pregnant sister is also in love with Bruno, and has returned to Naples in order to remain faithful to her husband.  

For me the pacing of the novel is very slow, and the plot a little soap-operish. It's a bildungsroman, with Elena trying to find her path in life. Her main relationship is with Lina, her closest female friend. Her literary and intellectual vocation is emerging through her reading. Lina is highly intelligent (the amica geniale of the first novel in this series) but only has an elementary education. Elena is beautiful but doesn't know, it. Nino's father, a poet, tells her this. She has nerdy glasses and is too poor to dress herself well.  

I can understand why this sort of thing is popular. I'm not a particularly patient reader of realist fiction, and I know this novelist appeals more to women.  (Women read much more than men anyway.) So if it holds my interest it must be pretty good. It evokes a particular moment in history, with earnest young people talking about the atomic bomb and the human condition, Beckett, etc... 

Saturday, September 26, 2020

The New Last Name

 I'm still reading Ferrante's story of the new last name. The middle part is sagging  a bit,  without as much narrative energy or forward momentum.  Lila [known before in the novel as Lina] gets pregnant and then has a miscarriage. Lenu, the narrator, is invited by her teacher for a party, and brings Lila with her. Lila feels humiliated because she is not the center of attention and is less educated than anyone else. In the car ride back home she tries to humiliate Lenu, who has had the best day of her life. Lenu's true love, Nino, was there, with his girlfriend, who is the daughter of the teacher. Lenu is now working in a bookstore, and thinks her real friends should the better-educated people associated with her teacher. There is some satire about the intellectual discourse about world peace and the threat of the atom bomb. Lila is smarter and richer, and more beautiful,  than Lenu [Elena], but Lila only has grammar school education and is married to an abusive man. 

There is a wedding, with some disturbing events, in the family of Stefano. There are a lot of characters to keep track of, without much characterization to make you care about them. The novel is pedestrian and brilliant by turns. My attention also waxes and wanes, as well as my comprehension of the Italian. I don't really care about who gets to run which salami or shoe store.   

Lila is supposed to design some new shoes, but is uninspired. She entrusts this task to her brother. If the shoes are a failure, she will take the blame. If the designs are brilliant, the brother will take credit. Apparently, she was a brilliant designer of shoe at the age of 12. 


In a letter to the editor of Inside Higher Education, someone protested an op-ed piece by saying that the author had no "standing" to write it. Instead of simply disagreeing with the points made in the original article, the letter of complaint argued that it shouldn't have been published at all. 

It is never a good idea to start an argument with a logical fallacy. This would appear to be an argument from authority, but in reverse:   

"What standing does Herman have to write on this topic? He appears to be a scholar of the Renaissance. I am confident that if Inside Higher Ed sought to weigh in on the controversy surrounding Jessica Krug’s decision to pass as Black, you could have found any number of scholars who specialize in ethnic studies or fields more closely related to contemporary race identification questions."

Friday, September 25, 2020

Surviving Lorca

 Christopher Maurer apparently has a book in progress with the title Surviving Lorca. I anticipate it will be superb, for several reasons. He knows as much Lorca as anyone else (along with two or three others who are about equal in this respect), he writes well and is thoughtful and judicious, a great human being as well. I don't feel as warmly positive about Noel Valis's book, but I am happy that there are going to be several books about Lorca's posthumous reception, or related topics. Then I get to be part of a trend, not just an isolated guy with my own weird obsessions (cada loco con su tema). 

Canción de autor

 I can't translate "canción de autor."  It seems like this means "singer-songwriter music," but it also refers to setting to music poetry NOT written by the singer / composer him or herself. Those three things go together: singing a folksong, writing a poem and then setting it to music / singing it // Taking someone else's poem, setting it to music and singing it. 

So a folk-singer: sings a folk song

A singer-song writer (who might also be a folksinger) writes his / her own songs and sings them.

A ???, who might also be a folksinger and / or a singer-songwriter, uses texts from the literary tradition as lyrics. 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

The most eloquent disguise

The most eloquent diguise

is to be yourself.  

Storia del nuovo cognome

 This novel by Ferrante, the story of the new surname, is getting good: Lenu is the narrator, best friends with Lina. Lina has married Stefano, the son of the neighborhood gangster-like future. On the wedding night Stefano hits Lina and then rapes her. Apparently their marriage is based on a business deal between their two families, who are in the business of manufacturing and selling scarpe ((shoes). 

When Lina returns to the neighborhood, she is in a convertible dressed like Jackie Kennedy, with a scarf and sunglasses to disguise the bruises. Lenu, who hasn't been going to school, decide to go back and apply herself. Lina offers her a spare room in her house with Stefano to study in the afternoons. The house is luxurious, and there is abundant food. The two women are still teenagers, but Lina, although very intelligent, has dropped out of school. Lenu takes a luxurious bath at Lina's house.   

The scholarly system is based on rote memorization of textbooks. Being "smart" (bravo) means answering questions orally in class. Studying is important for Lenu, but also wholly disconnected from everyday life. 

Lenu's boyfriend is Antonio, but she is really in love with another boy, Lino. Antonio wants to get out of military service, because he is afraid that if he goes away. Lenu will not wait for him. Lina and Lenu go to a bar run by friends of theirs, to buy pastries one Sunday. Lina is dressed to kill, in a way that is unusual for this neighborhood. Lina asks one of the owners of the bar, who used to be her boyfriend possibly (Marcello) if there is a way for Antonio to get out of military service, possibly by paying bribe to someone. Michele, Marcello's brother, asks Lina if they can used a blown-up photo of Lina in her wedding dress in another store that they own. Lina says they must ask Stefano about this. 

Lenu tells Antonio that they have inquired about getting him out of military service. He is humiliated, since he has had bad relationships with the Solara brothers, Marcello and Michele, who own the bar. He dumps Lenu. Stefano is also angry that his wife has gone to the bar dressed like that, and put him in a compromising situation concerning the wedding photo.   

What I like here is the complexity of the web of relationships. Since I haven't read all the first book in the tetralogy, it is a bit difficult to keep everything straight, but I think I know who everyone is.  I also like the creation of a fictional world, the rione. I'm thinking this word means something like neighborhood. 

Dream of Musical Scoring

 I was teaching A Midwinter's Day to my students.  I explained the concept to them: a book-length poem relating the events of a single day, written on that same day. I was trying to get them to see why that might be difficult, since logically the poet would have be sitting down all day and writing it, leaving no time for the actual experience of the day that she was writing about.  


Later that night, in a dream that seemed to last all night, I was scoring a film (or the days of my life), but having problems maintaining a consistent approach. Every new measure seemed to require a change in key signature or musical approach. It was labor intensive, exhausting, and perhaps the least restful way of sleeping imaginable.  

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The Fallacy of Tainted Origins

 I coined this phrase this morning.  The idea is that we shouldn't dismiss something because it is associated with something unsavory in the past.  

Since I like questioning myself, I thought that maybe it isn't a fallacy at all. We should read contextually, and see that some things are open to our judgment. When reading Utopia,  I should think that its author went on to burn people at the stake. I shouldn't not read it, but I should at least know that. 

I can't say, well, in those days, they didn't know it was wrong to burn people alive because of religious differences. 

Or let's say that Lutheranism is tainted because Luther was a rabid anti-semite. We could say that Lutheran should should cancel themselves. Without excusing Luther in the least, let's say that contemporary Lutherans don't need to cancel themselves, because most of them don't share this prejudice, I would hope. 

Since I don't tend to put people on the pedestal in the first place, it doesn't bother me to see flaws, even very severe ones, in people I admire for other things. The problem is that if you throw out all the flawed people, you won't have any left at all.  

How do I know?

 I started another Ferrante book today; I could tell from the first few pages that it was much better written. This made me think, though, that I have no right to make these judgments at all. I don't know Italian well enough.  But I do make these calls all the time. 

It could be that I am delusional, that I cannot really tell at all, but I think I must be responding to something in the text. Lila gives the narrator a box with 8 notebooks. The narrator begins to read and describes the contents of the notebooks. I am immediately drawn in, curious to know what it in there, who Lila is, what the relation between the two women is.  

You could say that I can tell the difference because I am a literature professor, and you wouldn't be wrong, but I think I could do this when I was 15 too.  Not in Italian of course, but in French or English for sure. You could say it's because this is what it means to be a reader in the first place: the ability to derive intense pleasure from great writing.  

Tuesday, September 22, 2020


 To practice Italian and also just to read more fiction I've read about half of a novel of Ferrante, La vita bugiarda...  After Almudena Grandes it was refreshing to read someone who narrates a bit more concisely. Nevertheless, I am already a bit bored by this one. 

A 13-year old girl, Giovanni, starts not doing as well as she should in school. Both her parents are teachers and her father is kind of local intellectual figure. She overhears her father say that she is just like Aunt Vittoria. This is wounding, because her parents hate Vittoria, her father's sister. So she goes and seeks out her Aunt. The Aunt has a totally different version: it is her parents who are the awful people, bookish snobs who look down on uneducated people. She meets the widow and the children of Enzo, the man who was the Aunt's lover, and gets immersed in a world where people aren't well educated and speak Neapolitan dialect instead of Italian. 

Then it turns out that her father is in love with another woman, who is also the mother of the narrator's two best friends, and her parents divorce. She wavers back and forth between her parents and her aunt. There is a long story about a bracelet, that belonged to the grandmother, than was passed on to Vittoria, should have been for the 13-year old narrator, but ends up in the hands of the father's lover, who then gives it back the narrator, who then gives it back to Vittoria, who then gives it back to the daughter of the widow, who is engaged to Roberto, a handsome man from Milan that the narrator (by now she is almost 15) is also in love with. I got sick of hearing about the damned bracelet over hundreds of pages. At one point someone points out that it is a symbol.  Well, duh. 

There is a lot of potentially interesting narrative material here. There is some amount of mystery and suspense, but mostly everything is out there on the surface. The prose style is mundane, as far as I can tell, since I don't know Italian to have a super fine discernment about this. We hear about the dialect but never get any of it, so the language is super homogenous and a bit bland. The characterization is so-so. Vittoria is a vivid figure, but many of the others are not well-drawn. The narrator herself is contradictory, so she is not a flat figure, but the different parts of her don't quite coalesce into a single character. The city of Naples comes alive in the book for someone who hasn't ever been there. 

There is some intelligence in the young girl. She reads the "Vangeli" as a way of trying to impress Roberto and wonders why Jesus's miracles are trivial ones, ones that don't help humanity as a whole.  

In short, it's the typical mediocre realist fiction.   


 Think of a Supreme Court decision that everyone agrees with now, like Griswold or Loving. Something that is (or should be!) beyond controversy.  Now think of how long it would have taken for every state legislature to change the relevant laws.  

Ideally, of course, the democratic process should take care of this on its own. I'm sure eventually Conn. would have made it legal to use contraception, and VA (and other Southern States) would have ended its miscegenation laws. When would this have happened? 1985? 1995? We don't know. 

Democracy is good, but it doesn't even guarantee rights for the majority. For example, the majority of people are women, but women's rights required court decisions as well. It would be very simple to have a democratic majority: 100% of the women, all the ethnic minorities, and 20% of white men could outvote the Republicans quite easily, in every congressional district in the nation. 

A poet I know was posting on facebook that the Supreme Court should represent the population. But this is not a representative institution. I wouldn't care if there were 9 white men on it, if I agreed with their decisions.