Bill Weir

Showing uncharacteristic good sense, the other forty-seven states managed to avoid admitting Arizona to the Union until 1912. This leads us to wonder why in God's sweet name anyone with bat brains would want to travel there, much less admit it as Number Forty-Eight.

   It's a state filled with rattlesnakes, coyotes, saguaros, urban glop, sand storms, and nitwits. Their politics have always been slightly to the right of Pol Pot, and the recent shenanigans with the governor go to prove that the state is second only to Texas in electing lunchheads to public office (Meacham, the previous head-of-state, got impeached not because of highway robbery and insensitivity --- that's the norm for Arizona; he lost out because he was honest enough to revel in his shenanigans).

  If you must go there, this is your guide. Over 400 pages, almost thirty maps, a complete introduction to flora and fauna, transport, events, and history.

   Arizona was the home of the Poston Japanese-American internship camp during WWII --- which made this area just south of Parker the third largest city in the state. (Showing characteristic callousness, the state has refused to erect a monument to commemorate this travesty.)

    There are a few failings in this otherwise memorable guide. There's no mention of the fact that the city of Phoenix has the same atmosphere, charm, and deportment as Dallas TX, Riverside CA, Silver Spring MD, or Teaneck NJ: smog and traffic can lock you up for hours. The advice given on visiting San Luis Rio Colorado (south of Yuma) is faulty. Permits for vehicles going on into Mexico are no longer issued at the border.

   Outside of that, the Arizona Traveler's Handbook is filled with fine pictures of tree choIlas, horned lizards, and indigenous human native stock. They all look roughly alike. Outside of the natives --- it's everything you could ask.

The Stranger
Albert Camus
(Matthew Ward, translator)

It makes no difference.

Full of Life
John Fante
(Black Sparrow)

John Fante (1909-1983) was one of a group of writers who suffered from the most paralyzing blacklist in the history of American letters: because he was from the west --- more exactly, from Los Angeles --- the New York literary establishment assumed that his works and his writings meant nothing. They were wrong. He was droll, wry --- with a style as spare and as lovely as the streamlined moderne architecture of his day. Full of Life is an especially rich evocation of the young writer, with wife (she heavy with child) --- with crabby father-in-law and a knuckle-sandwich priest. The whole business is wrought with a deftness that can make the eyes damp:

    We ate while Mama talked and walked around the kitchen, filling the room with thought fragments. An electric fan purred on the icebox, turning left and right and back again. It seemed to be following Mama around the room, like a face staring in blank astonishment. Mama said: The weather had been cold and wet. Stella's children were beautiful. There were moths in the clothes closet. She had dreamed of her dead sister Katie.

    The price of chicken feed was too high. My brother Jim ate dirt as a baby. Sometimes she had shooting pains in her legs. It was bad luck to wash diapers in the moonlight. When you lose something, pray to St. Anthony.

And on and on. It's the war between generations, between husband and wife, between God and man --- told in such a winsome fashion that it evokes other writers of the same school: Steinbeck and Saroyan and John Sanford...but somehow, betters them. It encompasses the great joys (motherhood, fatherhood, pain) and the little miseries (termites, delivery room nurses, good --- or bad --- coffee):

    Papa's formula was to scoop up fistfuls of ground coffee, dump them into a pot, and let them cook. Into this brew he tossed the eggshells and let it boil some more, producing a kind of coffee soup. It was ferocious coffee, eating up fresh cream with scarcely any change in color. When you stirred it up, your spoon stumbled over gravel and suspicious minutæ came to the top and sank again. Cooked egg white floated before your eyes, and you kept spitting out chips of eggshell. It was, in short, a hell of a mess.

Fante's work doesn't concentrate on tragedy --- any more than all our lives are wrestling matches with tragedy. He sketches his characters, their involvements, their resolutions with such a sure hand that one is left goggle-eyed. The denouement? The birth of son. The description --- pure Fante:

    Ten minutes later, I saw the boy. He lay naked in the arms of the masked nurse. I couldn't touch him because they were behind a plate glass window. He was pinched and ugly like a gnome dipped in egg yolk. With a moustache, he would have looked just like his grandfather. He shrieked as the nurse exhibited him. I counted ten fingers, ten toes, and one penis. Certainly a father could ask for no more.

James Wines

Wines has no compunction about putting a picture of the doorway to Chartres Cathedral next to a photograph of Nathan's Hot Dog stand on Coney Island --- or a sequential setting of the Piazza San Marco, Venice, jam-packed against a shot of a Rolling Stones concert; or a photo of an atomic bomb explosion against the National Opera House, Paris.

    What do they all have to do with each other? The thesis is that one must subtract the institutional definition of architecture in order to redefine it and expand its horizons. With almost two hundred pages --- including three hundred photographs and drawings --- Wines carries us from the theories of Vitruvius (First Century, B.C.) to Isamu Noguchi's "Pyramical Memorial to Be Visible from Mars."

   This is not an easy work, for Wines does not institute the expected (and well-deserved) attack on the International Movement which has eviscerated, murdered and rendered sterile America's core cities: one of his favored monuments remains Le Corbusier's Villa Savoie in Poissy-sur-Seine, France, or the Plan Voisin proposal for Paris (dozens of high-rise, cross-shaped buildings looking exactly like Lefrak City in Queens).

   There's not just architecture here, but poetry, painting, sculpture, and graffiti (he calls the latter "a link between art and danger"). He sees a moral imperative in all art, and thus he tends to see architecture in religious terms:

    Like Gothic religious architecture, Gaudí's work expressed a sense of the precarious balance between good and evil and the conflicts inherent in human choice. But Gaudí's most original expression of this was in his treatment of structural tensions, rather than in illustrative iconography. In his Güell Colony Chapel...every element of the building appears to be ready to collapse, or in his tilted columns for the Güell Park viaduct, which seem completely incapable of bearing the weight of the land mass above.

Wines has a warm spot for the purely silly. For example, he devotes a full page to Siah Armajani's "Bridge over a Nice Triangular Tree" --- which is just that --- a bridge going nowhere, or rather over a nice fir tree; or Marcel Duchamp's upside down urinal ("Fountain, 1917"). He holds as the ideal for our architectural tomorrow his own dreadfully named Highrise of Homes where individual idiosyncratically designed elements would be combined in a single, multilayered edifice:

    This multilevel structure exemplifies the concept of de-architecture. It is a viable response to an imperfect world --- a world of too many people trying to occupy too little land surface and takes into consideration the important human need for identity and communication...Like clothing, the home is a reflection of oneself to others. The standard architect-designed high-rise block of today thwarts this self-expression by encouraging inhabitants to indulge in their greatest collective defect --- the submission to conformity.

De-Architecture is a seminal work. The author has given focus to a key issue of our environment: the role of the Architect (as Artist) to entertain, delight, amuse, and evoke emotion --- as well as to hurt us by serving up mere function. The tome has one failing --- hyperbolic miniaturization. Most of the photographs are little more than two inches square, which should inspire those of us with diplopia into open revolt.

With Anorexics

Hilde Bruch

Guess what anorexics talk about? Right --- food:

    I wanted the heights, the excitement. And I didn't find them, not in sex, not in life, not in anything --- except l found them in food. Food makes me high, gives me glamour and gives me excitement, all the things I thought I wanted. When I am eating, I don't think about becoming heavy. I am completely absorbed in the glamour or the excitement of food. I only eat in restaurants that are very glamorous, chic, or very ethnic. It has to have some kind of exotic quality or must be gourmet, the best, the very best of this particular kind of food.

Salvadore Minuchin said that anorexics do what they do in order to take control of their own bodies. They are exerting power over the only thing remaining to them --- their mouths. Their parents have arrogated everything else: all choice, all decisions, all freedom --- probably the child's soul, too. Anorexics tend to be dutiful children, thinking their lives, and the lives of their families, are perfectly normal, healthy, sound. But it's a discordant trumpet in the family symphony.

   Ms. Bruch is a somewhat discordant trumpet herself. She published Eating Disorders twenty-five years ago, thereby becoming a National Expert on anorexia. However, reading her case studies here paints the picture of a ratchet-jaw shrink who might have done better to go into real estate, or term-life sales:

    I took up the implications of her remarks. "That's another way or avoiding issues: blaming it on others. You avoid dealing with your own role and responsibilities. Another problem is your tendency to make glib generalizations. This "Oh, I did it in order to avoid disapproval" again avoids the real issue. We are here to examine whether you can benefit from psychotherapy, and for this the way you participate needs to change.

What could be more tedious than to have your shrink taking up the whole fifty minutes with such endless yackety-yak disguised as analysis. We wonder if many of her patients improved just so they could get the hell out of her nonstop word-a-mania office. Of the dozen or so cases she offers up to us, our favorite is Toni. After an upbeat description of how wonderfully she is handling the case, she then concludes:

    Although slow but important progress was made, her despair took over. About two years later she committed suicide.

One of the lessons of Freud, Jung, Perls, Adler, et al is that it's worse than useless for a therapist to sit there and hand out a stack of psychological diagnosis. Toni had a message, but Ms. Blab wasn't ready to listen --- she went on, giving analysis lecture #335. Despite being such a butter-fingers, evidently Bruch accumulated enough prestige to become rich and famous and die happy --- leaving behind a whole passel of misery in her wake.
--- R. R. Doister

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