Mussolini | Ezra Pound | Spivy's Roof | Hitomi Kanehara

R  A  L  P  H
 The Review of Arts, Literature, Philosophy and the Humanities 

Volume Twenty-Three

Early Summer 2005

Snakes and Earrings
Hitomi Kanehara
David Karashima,

Lui wants to get a fat stud in her mouth. No, no --- not that kind of stud. Rather, a metal one, that you jam into and through the tip of your tongue. Ultimately, she wants to get it split, presumably so she can speak with forkéd tongue.

Her hunky honey Ami has a dragon tattooed down his back, and is into the split tongue routine too. He had "stretched his tongue hole to 00g [that's a whopper --- Ed.] so he only had to cut about 5mm with the scalpel, but it still bled a surprising amount." Notice the crypto-scientific detail.

Lui wants one of those bleeding tongues, too, and a big eyeless dragon down her back to boot. No eyes, so it can't fly off (she tells us it's old Japanese lore that blind dragons will not leave you behind).

So they go to see Mr. Tattoo Man, Shiba-san, and guess what? Lui gets hot because he looks so deliciously cruel, what with his studs and whips and belts and other diverting instruments of puncture and torture. Lui also finds herself rather smitten with the idea of being half-strangled to death in the bed of love, the ultimate coitus interruptus.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, some other stud --- not of the metallic variety --- makes a play for her on the street. Ami gets snippy, and quite casually beats the shit out of the pick-up guy, ends up beating him to death. Our couple escape into the alley as the police sirens wail.

One day, as Ami is off working --- working! --- Lui takes up with the tattoo-master, who wears "a faceful of piercings that gave him an intimidating look." Shiba-san tells her that he has the hand of God. "But what should I do if I find myself suddenly overcome with the desire to kill you?" he wonders aloud.

Never one to fret, Lui murmurs: "Then that would be that, I guess."

§     §     §

We are told that Hitomi Kanchara, author of this nonsense, is only twenty years old. Further, that Snakes and Earrings won the Akutagawa Prize for encompassing some of the most senseless, bloody violence, abuse, and self-abuse in modern-day Japan. Oops, I mean it is "the top Japanese literary award for new writers" which must mean there's a serious dearth of talent around Tokyo these days. "There was nothing for me to believe and nothing for me to feel," says Lui.

    In fact the only feeling with the power to kick me back to life was the feeling of acute pain.

We've seen (and heard) this one before: so many times, so many places. These young writers, filled with piss-and-vinegar, tromping the lilies, elevating vulgarity to new heights ... of vulgarity. And , in this case, being cited by The New York Times --- shades of Abe Rosenthal, tumbling about in his tomb --- "A powerful portrait of the post-bubble generation ... it is a world of 'freeters' ... of unsentimental sex and a profound inability to communicate verbally."

When whips, spurs and casual murder pale, we are given some post-modernist juvenile delinquent philosophy:

    "If you were God, what kind of human would you create," I asked.

    "I wouldn't change how they look. But I would make them as dumb as chickens. So dumb they'd never even imagine the existence of a God."

When dorky, lurid, vacuous, retarded, senseless, neurasthenic juvenile literature starts getting praised to the skies, remember --- as we chickens often say --- that the sky may be falling.

--- Lolita Lark

In the Shadow of Fame
A Memoir by the Daughter
of Erik H. Erikson

Sue Erikson Bloland
This Erik Erikson was a study. According to his daughter, he was a bastard, and not only in the old-fashioned sense.

He grew up in Denmark in a profoundly religious household. His adoptive father was icy, super-critical ... especially when Erikson decided to become an artist. Later, he described himself a typical rootless "adolescent neurotic."

All that changed when he arrived in Vienna, fell in with the Freuds, was analyzed by Anna ... Anna Freud herself. (That's not unlike learning musical theory from Stravinsky, studying 'cello with Casals, or having Bob Dylan 1963 invite you to come by and practice some riffs and have a toke or two with him and his pal Joan Baez, there in his pad on the fifth floor of the Harvard Square walk-up.)

Erikson hit the jackpot in the '50s with his book Childhood and Society. As we have noted before (see Erikson was not only a spare and intelligent writer, his book came along at just the right time. Psychotherapy was drifting away from the chains of a too-exact, absurd theory --- Freudian dogma. In addition, in Post-WWII America, everyone wanted to know about the actions and thoughts of their children, why they did what they did --- especially when it turned out to be self-destructive. It was yet another form of familial control.

Erikson came to be one of the primary inspirations for what was later to be called "Family Therapy," which arrived under the ægis of Salvador Minuchin, Jay Haley, Milton Erickson, and Maria Selva Palazzoli.

In an astute passage in Childhood and Society, Erikson saw the poison that could be found in the blood of apparently "normal" "happy" families --- where the reality of deceit turns child against parent, child against child:

    in truly significant matters people, and especially children, have a devastatingly clear if mostly unconscious perception of what other people really mean, and sooner or later royally reward real love or take well-aimed revenge for implicit hate...

    Families in which each member is separated from the others by asbestos walls of verbal propriety, overt sweetness, cheap frankness, and rectitude tell one another off and talk back to each other with minute and unconscious displays of affect --- not to mention physical complaints and bodily ailments --- with which they worry, accuse, undermine, and murder one another.

Bloland doesn't seem too impressed by her impressive father. Indeed, she dwells inordinately on the distance, the outbursts of temper, his apparent favoritism towards her older brothers. The god of the newest 1950s theories of family dynamics was, she is telling us, a lousy family man.

Big deal. As my friend Tommy Connors used to say, here we have another person with a monkey on her back. Bloland's gloomy style and her passion for repeating herself does nothing to set the reader on fire. How many times do we have to hear of Erikson's fixation on the fact that his missing father might have been of the Danish nobility?

It all turns into a bummer, especially for those of us who don't give a toot about the eccentricies of artists. Do you and I care that Norman Mailer beat up on his lovers, Gauguin died of syphilis, Hart Crane liked taking on sailors (and getting beat up by them),, that Edna St. Vincent Millay was named after a hospital? The only perfect saint died 2500 years ago, and civilization isn't in any hurry to reproduce another. (I'm of course here speaking of the Buddha.)

There are a few mildly interesting interpolations here: that Erik Erikson named himself --- his real name was Salomonsen --- which, she tells us, "suggested that he had, in effect, invented himself." Although she's a shrink, Bloland somehow never realized that we all invent ourselves. Or maybe she's never heard the expression, "I made up my mind."

Erikson was a brilliant, gentle, supremely intelligent therapist who --- in his desire, in one case, to understand the agony of one of his young patients --- arranged to move in with a patient's family for a month or so. Just so he could see what was cooking on the home front. Unencumbered by mere words.

The cover photograph of In the Shadow of Fame shows a rather pouty baby girl in the arms of her rather nice-looking dad. Evidently that pouty girl hasn't learned, over all these years, how to surrender her snippishness to reality.

--- María Olvidados

Hard Line
Life and Death on
The U.S. - Mexico Border

Ken Ellingwood
The newest Mexican-American war began in 1994 and is still going on. It's not an official war between the United States of Mexico and the United States of America. Rather, it's a war being between several dozen United States Congressmen and the poorest of poor Mexican laborers. Or more specifically, Congressmen Hunter, Rohrabacher, Tancredo, and Deal vs. hapless Mexican men, women, and children trying to make it over the border without dying.

The official death tally in this unending war is around one a day --- 4,000 dead in ten years. The unofficial tally is probably closer to 25,000. Or as one coroner, working out of Yuma, stated in Hard Line --- if the Mexicans who had died in the desert trying to cross all rose up today, "their numbers would beat the population of New York City."

Each year, hundreds from Mexico City, Sinaloa, Oaxaca, Vera Cruz and Chiapas expire in the border states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. Before this newest guerra, mothers, fathers, and children went easily back and forth through San Diego, Yuma, Ciudad Juárez, Brownsville. But since the declaration of war --- called, with a certain bitter irony, "Operation Gatekeeper" --- Mexicans have been driven to take to the mountains and deserts of eastern California and Arizona.

There they die, not like flies, but like beasts of burden: freezing to death in the mountains at night, in the snow and the cold; sometimes drowning in the deep irrigation canals of Southeaster California. Or, literally, cooked to death in the summer Sonoran desert, temperatures raging above 120°.

What do these soldiers of poverty look like after they have succumbed? According to Hard Line,

    Their skin had been burned to a furious, stop-sign red by the sun. The extreme loss of body moisture had peeled back their lips, giving them a sickly grin, and left darkened pits where they eyes should have been. All Dave Phagan [an INS agent] could think of was documentary films about the survivors of the Holocaust. These men had the same sunken look, "like skin draped over a skeleton."

Theae warriors are not armed with guns or bayonets. They usually weat only black clothes (to prevent being seen at night), and carry a package of tortillas and a gallon or two of water ... which is never enough.

The American soldiers, are slowly, and ironically, being turned into the saviors. As Claudia Smith of the Rural Legal Assistance Foundation stated, "The terrible irony that underlies this is first putting migrants in mortal danger and then asking for credit when you rescue them." Thus INS agents, in their Ford Broncos, tracking across the wasteland, end up as uneasy angels, saving lives of those they are supposed to be pursuing.

One chapter of Hard Line tells of the Yuma disaster, where, in the early summer of 2001, thirty Mexicans died of heat prostration. The unveiling of the disaster brought pious protestations from those who had created this war; the bodies of the Mexicans --- mostly unidentified --- lie today in a Potter's Field just outside of Yuma.

Hard Line is not perfect. The author spends too much time with the American armed forces in their four-wheel drives and not enough time with the victims. He would have benefited by crossing over the mountains and deserts with the men, women and children --- suffering their agonies, sharing in their hardships. But by the very nature of this grisly war --- fomented by jingoistic congressmen to destroy the destitute and the needy --- is dramatic enough to carry the story line.

--- Carlos Amantea

Head of a
White Woman

She has one good bumblebee
which she leads about town
on a leash of clover.
It's as big as a Saint Bernard
but also extremely fragile.
People want to pet its long, shaggy coat.
These would be mostly whirling dervishes
out shopping for accessories.
When Lily winks they understand everything,
right down to the particle
of a butterfly's wing lodged
in her last good eye,
so the situation is avoided,
the potential for a cataclysm
is narrowly averted,
and the bumblebee lugs
its little bundle of shaved nerves
forward, on a mission
from some sick, young godhead.
---©1994, James Tate

The Man-Eaters of Tsavo
Lt. Colonel J. H. Patterson, D.S.O.
(Lyons Press)

Patterson was sent off from England to Uganda in 1898 to build a railway from Mombassa to Nairobi. He was given materials and 3,000 workers, most Muslims from India. By training, he was an engineer, so he set the course of the railroad, built the bridges, and designed the stations.

While he wasn't belaboring his "coolies" to get on with it, he went out with his faithful .303 to bag hartebeests, wart-hogs, waterbucks, Grantis, impala, snakes, ostriches, marabouts, crocodiles, rhinoceros, elephants, and --- our faves --- greater and lesser bustards. And lions; or rather, "man-eaters."

Besides the wastage implied in this --- killing beasts that in this day and time would be protected, shipped off to the local wild animal park --- there was a fairly compelling reason to dispatch the lions. They were having nightly picnics on Patterson's manpower or, as they used to say in ancient Rome, "the lions were eating up all the prophets."

    A man-eating lion had taken up his quarters at a little roadside station called Kimaa, and had developed an extraordinary taste for the members of the railway staff. He was a most daring brute, quite indifferent as to whether he carried off the station master, the signalman, or the pointsman; and one night, in his efforts to obtain a meal, he actually climbed up on to the roof of the station building and tried to tear off the corrugated-iron sheets.

At one point, the lions were carrying off so many of the Queen's sturdy workers that they were abandoning the project in droves, returning to India. Something had to be done.

<>      <>      <>

Through the writings of the liberal historians and the biographies of those who fought the good fight against it --- Gandhi of India, Nelson Mandela and Patrice Lumumba of Africa --- you and I have been taught to despise colonialism. Much of this literature describes the bitter last throes of colonialism as Great Britain, France, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Japan, Spain and the United States were dispossessed of their conquered territories.

The Man-Eaters of Tsavo ostensibly about lion-hunting is, more exactly, a chronicle of the Good Old Days of Colonialism, when England was at the height of its powers, when it could send in a single ambitious officer to design and build a railroad and keep an army of workers and "natives" under control.

Outside of the simple tale two short years spent denuding Uganda of as much wildlife of as possible, The Man-Eaters of Tsavo is a fascinating document on colonial power --- a power that struck both ways.

Plain Tales from the Raj which we reviewed several years ago --- at ---- revealed that fully seventy-five percent of the front line soldiers sent over from England were to die in India. Likewise, Patterson had to deal not only with lions, hippos, crocodiles and bustards, but malaria, dysentery, yellow fever, typhoid, leprosy, sleeping sickness and, in one case, the plague:

    I gave the natives and Indians who inhabited it [Nairobi] an hour's notice to clear out, and on my own responsibility promptly burned the whole place to the ground. For this somewhat arbitrary proceeding I was mildly called over the coals, as I expected, but all the same it effectually stamped out the plague, which did not reappear during the time I was in the country.

"Mildly called over the coals." Ah, shades of Kipling.

There are not a few facts to be gleaned from Man-Eaters. Lions not only roar, but they purr; when they eat the coolies, or the linesman, or the occasional Englishman, they start at the toes and work their way up to the head. Which they usually don't eat. Why? Perhaps people-brain is too much, filled as it is with all that colonial nonsense. How would you react to a half-a-ton of beast, with his claws on your groin, starting in, munching on your toes?

Patterson comes across as a bit of a bumbler in his pith helmet --- endlessly getting lost in the veldt, missing a lion as it is charging him, forgetting to cock his borrowed 12-bore shotgun, packing a gun shell only to have it blow up in his face. Then there is the picture of Patterson hiding in a tree, shooting directly down at a rhino charging about like a locomotive below.

There is some wild comedy here; indeed, at times it is like the Charlie Chaplin comedy, The Circus our hero, by mistake, locked in the lion cage as the beast is waking, yawning, flicking its tail.

<>      <>      <>

Thus Man Eaters is not unlike an extended fisherman's tale --- but at the same time, it is good writing, not-so-subtly making our leading character out to be a superhero. Patterson takes the time to learn Swahili. He speaks with real affection of his workers, especially a Pathan named Roshan Khan, who "had been my 'boy' for some time and was much attached to me" --- leading one to suspect that Patterson's two years away from England were not without a touch of love.

There are almost 100 grainy old photographs taken by Patterson included in the book. They are a delight. Above all, Man-Killers is hell of a story of the adventure of the "bwana" astride a mass of "natives," acting the hero who inspired such affection that when he departed, the workers worked up a poem about him (included here as an Appendix).

This book --- if published now --- would get the author and his family mauled if not murdered by the animal rights people as well as the politically sensitive. But we suspect Lyons Press knows that since it was written over a century ago, they can well get away with being enormously and proudly incorrect politically, socially, and animally.

Patterson may be a lousy shot but he is a fine story teller, and you and I can well imagine being in the African highlands with him, around the campfire, eating grouse and grousing about the coolies and the dollar-a-week we were forced to pay them.

--- Josh Wakefield


Q: How many drafts of a story do you do?

A: Thirty-seven. I once tried doing thirty-three, but something was lacking, a certain --- how shall I say? --- je ne sais quoi. On another occasion, I tried forty-two versions, but the final effect was too lapidary --- you know what I mean, Jack? What the hell are you trying to extort --- my trade secrets?

Q: ...merely to get some clue to the way you work.

A: With the grocer sitting on my shoulder. The only thing that matters is the end product, which must have brio --- or, as you Italians put it, vivacity.

Q: Perhaps you would talk about the incongruity that turns up so often in your use of language.

A: And then perhaps I would not. Writers who pontificate about their own use of language drive me right up the wall. I've discovered that this is an occupational disease of those ladies with three-barreled names one meets at the Authors' League, the PEN Club, and so forth. In what spare time I have, I read the expert opinions of V. S. Pritchett and Edmund Wilson, who are to my mind the best-qualified authorities on the written English language. Vaporizing about one's own stylistic intricacies strikes me as being visceral, and, to be blunt, inexcusable.

Q: In your own writing, when you're at work, thinking hard, and a particularly felicitous expression or phrase comes to mind, do you laugh?

A: When I was young I used to literally roll over and over on the floor with delight, marveling at the intricacy of the mind that had wrought such gems. I've become much less supple in late middle age.

Q: It's often said --- or taught, anyway --- that what seems at first blush funny is usually not. Would that be a good maxim in writing humor?

A: In writing anything, sweetie. The old apothegm that easy writing makes hard reading is as succinct as ever. I used to know several eminent writers who were given to boasting of the speed with which they created. It's not a lovable attribute, to put it mildly, and I'm afraid our acquaintanceship has languished...

Q: I'd like to ask about the frequent use of Yiddish references and expressions throughout your writing. Words like "nudnick" and "schlep" and "tzimmes" come in frequently enough.

A: Your pronunciation of "nudnick," by the way, is appalling. It's "nudnick," not "noodnick." As to why I occasionally use the words you indicate, I like them for their invective content. There are nineteen words in Yiddish that convey gradations of disparagement, from a mild, fluttery helplessness to a state of downright, irreconcilable brutishness. All of them can be usefully employed to pinpoint the kind of individuals I write about.

--- From an interview with
S. J. Perelman
© 1963, William Cole
George Plimpton

Must Waiters Wait?
(Hee hee)

James Joyce
Bald Pat who is bothered mitred the napkins. Pat is a waiter hard of his hearing. Pat is a waiter who waits while you wait. Hee hee hee hee. He waits while you wait. Hee hee.

A waiter is he. Hee hee hee hee. He waits while you wait. While you wait if you wait he will wait while you wait. Hee hee hee hee. Hoh. Wait while you wait.

--- From Ulysses

Isaac Bashevis Singer and
The Lower East Side

Bruce Davidson,

(Mead Art Museum/
University of Wisconsin)
Late in life, Bendit Pupko got rich. To paraphrase Blossom Dearie's My Attorney Bernie, "Someone told him to buy, he bought; they told him to sell, he sold."

He was a writer, and his stories, our narrator informs us, "lacked any sense of organization, but on every page I found some lines to surprise me." Such as? "The day was cloudy and the sky loyal."

One day, Pupko told another writer --- the writer persona for this story --- that he, too, would one day praise him. The writer replies, "There isn't enough money in the world to make me write about you."

    "Not even for ten thousand dollars?"

    "Not even for ten million."

Pupko goes into decline. His wife, who has a beard (Pupko likes beards on women, refuses to let her shave it) comes to the narrator's apartment. She lights a cigar.

    "When you told him you would never write about him, he took it very badly ... You won't believe it but from that day on he was never the same. Sick as he was, he was always full of joy. He used to make plans years in advance. But since that day he never lifted a pen."

When our author decides to give in, it is too late. However, just before Pupko dies, he reads the hard-won praise in proof-sheets. "Didn't I tell you?" he scrawls in the margin.

Later, our author runs into Mrs. Pupko at the Automat. "She still had her beard and wore a man's hat and shoes. She immediately limped over to my table and sat down as if she had an appointment with me."

    I wanted to ask Mrs. Pupko why, since her husband is no longer alive, she had kept her beard, but I remembered her words, "Nu, one musn't know everything."
And thus it ends, a brief, lovely masterwork, complete with a touch of fictional pointillism. In less than 5,000 words Singer has caught a whole culture (New York Jewish writers), eccentrics (a woman with beard and cigar), tests of money vs. honor ("Not even for ten thousand dollars"), the madness of grief ("You've killed my husband") --- all with such economy --- not excluding surprising throw-away details. Of, for example, writers in acts of random kindnesses:

    I had a Negro woman who cleaned for me once a week but I had forbidden her to touch my papers. Besides, she was old and half paralyzed. Often when she came I paid her for the day and sent her home because I saw that she had no strength to work. I worried that she might collapse while working in my apartment.

In this volume, included with this story by Singer are over fifty black-and-white photographs, mostly taken by Bruce Davidson in the 50s and 60s in and around The Garden Cafeteria at 165 East Broadway.

Like Singer's work, they are funny, strange, stark. Unfortunately the editors decided to pad things out with several spurious add-ons: an essay about the pleasure and pain of photographing Singer; an interview with Bruce Davidson; a piece about the Lower East Side of New York of yore.

Thus, we are given 15,000 words to support a piece of fiction that needs no support, photographs that need no explaining. The commentary is of the nature of, "The unnamed elderly woman ... defines the setting and epitomizes the forbearance and resilience of the denizens inside." This proves little except that when they start handing out those two-bit words ("forbearance," "denizens"), it's time to head for the hills. Or the potty.

By cutting verbiage and adding twenty more of Davidson's photographs and ten more Singer stories, the editors would have offered a finer homage to the master, one who deserves to be classed right up there with Anton Chekov, Stephen Crane, Guy de Maupassant and Ernest Hemingway.

--- Ignacio Schwartz

Spiegel: The Man
Behind the Pictures

Andrew Sinclair
(Little, Brown)
He was certainly no one you wanted to be loaning money to, or taking home to meet your sister. He came to America in the 1920s, and left a trail of bad checks and lies: he fabricated the place of his birth, his family history, and his education. If he loved you, he could be kind but, at the same time, smothering. If he hated you, he was merciless.

Speaking at the Cannes Film Festival in 1954, he went on and on about "On the Waterfront" and "The African Queen," ignoring the earlier failed film on Dame Nellie Melba. Tiring of this, a Hollywood agent Kurt Frings shouted to a waiter, "Bring me some burnt toast! Melba!"

"The Bridge on the River Kwai" was shot in Ceylon because the real River Kwai was but a trickle. When reproached for building a railway bridge for $250,000 only to destroy it in half a minute, Spiegel said:

    the bridge acquires meaning only when it is destroyed. So you build the bridge to illustrate your point. The question of a quarter of a million dollars is only a number on your cost sheet.

His rages were the stuff of legend. He told Peter O'Toole that he would never be allowed to work for him, ever again, because during a screen test, O'Toole turned to face the camera and ad libbed, "It's all right, Mrs. Spiegel, your son will never play the violin again." (The producer could forgive when he had no choice: O'Toole ended up starring in the immensely successful "Lawrence of Arabia.")

"To be spiegeled" could mean many things, good or bad. Often it meant getting stuck with the check. When he was buying up the rights to Lawrence of Arabia,

    His opponents had been spiegeled, but not impoverished. As one of the paid biographers said to Spiegel, "I am glad that my hands are clean, but not empty."

Those who hung around him had to also hang around a great number of lovely young ladies who would work the casting couch each afternoon. One of these was Marilyn Monroe. (John Houston's wife met her and described her as "one more little blonde with the preferred size tits and a funny walk.")

Someone once asked O'Toole how Spiegel would perish. He said, "Spiegel will die in two inches of bathwater." He wasn't far from wrong --- the mogul collapsed in 1985, on New Year's Eve, from a heart attack, falling into the bath in his hotel room. Sinclair reports that

    Peter Ustinov was present while a young American doctor tried to revive the dead Spiegel by pummeling his great chest. "Give him the kiss of life," the doctor urged Ustinov, who demurred from doing the useless act. "Alive or dead," Ustinov said, "I would not kiss Sam Spiegel."

Critics have praised Spiegel but none of them have rightly proclaimed the breathtaking, garishly funny writing style of Andrew Sinclair (who has also written biographies of John Ford and Jack London.)

Endangered Species
Malcolm Penny
(Facts on File)

Sometimes we think if they don't stop bitching about Endangered Species, we might become one ourselves. I mean, we might be able to work up a bit of passion for a couple of snail darters, or --- at the very least --- the least tern. But ungulate Black Rhinoceroses! My foot!

"Rhinoceros" comes from the Greek word rhinokeros. It means "nose-horn." Could you truly love a giant nose-horn --- much less weep over its demise? Be honest, now.

Your average black rhino weighs in at 8,000 pounds, belches and farts almost constantly, marks its territory by spreading its dung hither and yon, sprays its urine behind it like Black Flag insect repellent, and spends a full hour a day --- for two or three weeks --- in congress. And we ain't talkin' House of Representatives (with its own peculiar brand of very non-endangered rhinos).

The only one of the five rhino species we could get even a bit excited over would have to be the Sumatran Rhino. A little thing, cuter than a bug's ear, it weighs in at no more than 2,200 pounds. It has fur, little shaggy jowls, and a mouth good enough to kiss, if you are into bussing rhinos.

Still, as Pogo says --- we've been able to keep our passion for rhinos (black, white, Sumatran, one-horned, and Javan) well under control.

--- R. R. Doister


Ode to My 1977 Toyota
Engine like a Singer sewing machine, where have you
     not carried me --- to dance class, grocery shopping,
into the heart of darkness and back again? 0 the fruit
     you've transported --- cherries, peaches, blueberries,
watermelons, thousands of Fuji apples --- books,
     and all my dark thoughts, the giddy ones, too,
like bottles of champagne popped at the wedding of two people
     who will pass each other on the street as strangers
in twenty years, Ronald Reagan was president
     when I walked into Big Chief Motors and saw you glimmering
on the lot like a slice of broiled mahi mahi or sushi
     without its topknot of tuna. Remember the months
I drove you to work singing "Some Enchanted Evening"?
      Those were scary times. All I thought about
was getting on I - 10 with you and not stopping. Would you
     have made it to New Orleans? What would our life
have been like there? I'd forgotten about poetry. Thank God,
     I remembered her. She saved us both. We were young
together. Now we're not. College boys stop us at traffic lights
     and tell me how cool you are. Like an ice cube, I say,
though you've never had air conditioning. Who needed it?
     I would have missed so many smells without you ---
confederate jasmine, magnolia blossoms, the briny sigh
     of the Gulf of Mexico, rotting 'possums scattered
along 319 between Sopchoppy and Panacea. How many holes
     are there in the ballet shoes in your back seat?
How did that pair of men's white loafers end up in your trunk?
     Why do I have so many questions, and why
are the answers like the animals that dart in front of your headlights
      as we drive home from the coast, the Milky Way
strung across the black velvet bowl like of the sky like the tiara
     of some impossibly fat empress who rules the universe
but doesn't know if tomorrow is December or Tuesday or June first.

--- From Babel
© 2004 Barbara Hamby
(University of Pittsburgh Press)

Enrico Pea
Ezra Pound,

There were three sons before the lovely peasant girl Cleofe had came down from the hills to work for the Pellegrina family. She ended up in granddad's bed.

Buck can't remember the name of the older son, so he calls him Grumpy. Don Lorenzo, the second, is an abbé, always walks around with his hands in his soutane. The last is the randy grandfather.

When the old goat finally dies, Signora Pellegrina tells the boys to "divide what's left." Then she says: "The clothes I have on are my own. Don't grumble if I wear silk."

Cleofe's appearance in the house changes everything. She was from Terrina. "The women of Terrina go to bed as God made 'em, naked."

    Our house had no curtains, and the rooms are not dark at night. Don Lorenzo saw her naked, white, white, with her legs long. My grandfather seemed like a monster crouched over her, clamped to her belly, looking into her eyes.

    The abbé stood there til the dead came to life, ill augured witness of my mother's procreation."

White, white, with her legs long. This is Pound speaking, no? The poet tells us that Enrico Pea reminds him of "Tom" Hardy. You recall Tom Hardy. Strange people from the midlands, with their strange disheveled ways. With Pea, the brothers are locked up in this cold house, and the maid Cleofe is with child, and the abbé Don Lorenzo thinks of her as the Madonna, "with the child at breast as Mary in the desert of Egypt, followed by Herod. Eyes the colour of Macaboy snuff."

And Buck, telling of his grandfather,

    Middle high, live glance, biblical beard like my own, thick hair shining like filed iron. Face bright and rosy, thick mulatto's lips like a suckling infant's, he talked of life and death, of Dante, love, early grain crops, manures; half shutting and wide opening his eyes as if fixing an image when he got het up over poetry and things of that sort.

And we wonder, is Pound talking of Buck's "grandpop?" Or is he talking about Ezra Pound? Pound always did have some quarrel with individuation, between his writings and his world. And himself.

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At the start of Moscardino, we have some thoughts on Ezra Pound and Enrico Pea by Pound's daughter, Mary de Rachewiltz. She speaks of "the war years," presumably World War II. There is a quote on the back cover of this volume from one of Pound's 1941 "radio speeches," where he speaks with affection on Enrico Pea.

Rachewiltz then writes about "Pound's detention at Saint Elizabeth's." She lists Italian writers who came to his defense and wonders why those writers should "care more about the poet's fate than his compatriots."

Well, mercy me. Have we forgotten so soon? Pound was stuffed away in St. Elizabeth's so he wouldn't have to be hung. His radio talks were made from Rome during the early 1940s on behalf of Benito Mussolini, against Franklin D. Roosevelt, the United States, and the Jews.

These radio speeches were, to put it mildly, a disgrace: emotionally, patriotically, and racially.

Mussolini, after all, had a profound influence on Adolf Hitler, was the inspiration for Nazism. Mussolini was, after Stalin, one of the earliest (and craftiest) crafters of the totalitarian state. The Italians didn't hang him upside down, on the streets of Milan, in 1945, because he needed a drying-out. Mussolini was a thug, with thuggish ways. He made the Italian railroads run on time, and killed several hundred thousand Italians, Abyssinians, and Austrians, in the process. This was Pound's hero.

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Be that as it may, Moscardino is a lovely book, printed and bound with grace by Archilapego. And Pound here proves, as he did so long ago in his renderings of Riyuku, that he was a far better translator than poet. He takes Enrico Pea's dark Italian and changes it into lusty Pound-English so that at the funeral of Buck's grandmother, we get to see --- potent vision --- "Don Lorenzo's shoes were laced crooked with twine with mud on the ends of the low knot, and caked round the edge of his soutane, black stockings and silver buckles. He felt the water dripping down his sides from his hair, his face wet with rain and tears."

    The hole swallowed back the loose earth. It looks as if yeast were swelling it up; puffing it over the edges of a garden flowered with paper, cotton, and wire.

--- Susan Franklin, PhD





My name is Mrs. Jennifer Wilson I am a dying woman who have decided to donate what I have to you/church. I am 59 years old and I was diagnosed forcancer for about 2 years ago, immediately after the death of my husband, who has left me everything he worked for. I have been touched by God to donate from what I have inherited from my late husband to the you for the good work of God,rather than allow my relatives to use my husband hard earned funds ungodly.Please pray,that the good Lord forgive me my sins.I have asked God to forgive me and i beleive he has because He is a merciful God. I will be going in for an operation in less than one hour. I decided to WILL/donate the sum of $1,500,000 (One million five hundred thousand dollars) to you for the good work of the lord, and also to help the motherless and less privilege and also for the assistance of the widows. At the moment I cannot take any telephone calls right now due to the fact that my relatives are around me and my health status.I have adjusted my WILL and my lawyer is aware I have changed my will you and he will arrange the transfer of the funds from my account to you.I wish you all the best and may the good Lord bless you abundantly, and please use the funds well and always extend the good work to others. Contact my lawyer with this specified email:

and tell him that I have WILLED ($1,500,000.00) to you by quoting my personal reference number


and I have also notified him that I am WILLING that amount to you for a specific and good work.I know I dont know you but I have been directed to do this.Thanks and God bless. NB: I will appreciate your utmost confidentiality in this matter until the task is accomplished as I don't want anything that will Jeopardize my last wish. And Also I will be contacting with you by email as I don't want my relation or anybody to know because they are always around me.

--- Regards,
Mrs Jennifer Wilson

The Bearded Lady
On Mme. Spivy's Roof
In the old days, Holden Caulfield types like me who were imprisoned in snooty schools and colleges in the Northeast would gravitate to New York City on weekends to get drunk, seek sin and get laid. Usually the latter two experiences were only to be found not in New York but in Wolkenkuckucksheim.

We would go to Times Square and the jazz clubs on 47th Street where they served rotgut liquor in tiny shot glasses that were, as I best recall, mostly all glass and little shot. Sometimes, we'd find our way to one of tiny, dark bars with a single fixture --- a man or a woman who would sing "party songs," music that was defined at the time as "naughty but nice." There was Charlie Drew, and Dwight Fiske, and a little further up the scale, Mme. Spivy, of Spivy's Roof, at 139 E. 57th.

We'd wait an hour or so, drinking expensive shots of Old Crow or Seven-and-Sevens, a bright spotlight would go on and Spivy would appear to sit down in front of her black piano, clear her throat, and start singing.

She was a plump lady (one writer said that she was "squat like a bulldog.") She wore her hair in a tight pompadour with a white streak down the middle. She would place a tall glass of what was probably chilled gin on the piano before her. During her time on stage, she would drain a couple, but her singing --- her low, throaty voice --- would always be perfect and predictable, especially for those of us who bought her records and memorized the words of her repertoire, songs that she had written and recorded under the "Spivy" label.

"I Brought Culture to Buffalo in the 90s," was a favorite. "The Tropical Fish" ("How would you like to sleep in the water you drank?") Two always in demand were "Doing the Tarantella (in a suit of real bright yellow):" She would fall into splits 'til the folks lost their wits.

The one I remember best of all is "The Cat." I cannot for the life of me remember more than a couple of lines of Hamlet that I was taught in that Prussian military school. I still have trouble remembering which novels were written by the Brontë sisters and the ones that came from the pen of Jane Austen. But to this day I can recite most of the words of "The Cat," along with the intonations, the riffs (and the pauses for laughs) exactly as it has been tricked away in my memory-bag for the last fifty years. As I sit here, it comes out just so:

    On the 14th floor of a walkup flat,
    I used to keep an alley cat.
    Each night I'd take him down the stair,
    And waited while he took the air.
    He grew up fast and developed a yen
    No sooner was he in than he was out again.
    I hated to spoil his fun.
    But I knew what must be done.

    So I took him to the vet and had his profile bobbed
    And when he sat down he said, 'Hell, I've been robbed.'
    He went out that night but came right home to bed,
    And the look on his face was a scream as he said,
    'Well, you've done it,
    Now the operation's over
    No longer will I take chances with the maids...
    Now I pass them by
    And hear them cry
    There goes that pansy cat.'

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This all came up while I was researching another New York regular of those years, Isaac Bashevis Singer. His story, "The Beard" [SEE ABOVE] just happened to bring to mind another of Spivy's songs. Both concerned themselves with a lady with a beard. Singer's was a lady of some solemnity, a lady whose husband would never let her shave, a woman who took to wearing a fedora and smoking a cigar.

Spivy's was more accepting: "She was only a bearded lady/In love with a surrealist." When they went about town, "She wore a rose in her beard/And he a lamb-chop in his boutonniere."

Like so many Googles that wander off into the varied, colorful bits of our pasts and history, this one gave me not a few surprises. Mme. Spivy, as she called herself, was, I find out, a lesbian. She never hid it which was, in those days, took some courage. She also took up acting in her later days, was friends with some of the surrealists of the day.

I was sixteen when I first came into Spivy's Roof. In those supposedly less enlightened times in New York City, they figured that if you were old enough to get through the door alone you were old enough to drink, even to listen to "blue" songs --- not very provocative now; quite on the edge back then.

I was probably much too innocent to think of Spivy's sexuality ... outside of her racy songs, as if that had any thing to do with it. I was certainly not thinking of what we now so correctly --- if not a little scientifically --- call "orientation." The concept of women loving women just didn't exist in the groupthink of that era, any more than the thought of our loving those we were so casually rooming with in our loco parentis schools. As, for instance, that pink-cheeked, blonde-haired James Downey who lived just down the echoing hall from me, with the perfect teeth and a devastating smile, who unknowingly won my heart entire. Although I never told him. Or myself.

I probably just thought of it as a "friendship," as in "we were good friends." Although I suspect his nigh-about-perfect thighs and hairless, well-muscled chest entered into far too many of my dreams, especially during the near-incessant self-caresses that went on, so quietly, in my bed, some time after lights out.

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The second Spivy surprise was a result of her immense success in Manhattan --- probably due to a small, free weekly listing in the "About the Town" section of The New Yorker. Her club was always filled and was so prosperous that she tried to start other Spivy Clubs in England and France and Italy in the 1950s. She failed. Her humor was pure New York. It didn't travel.

But Spivy didn't just fade away. She later appeared in the movies The Manchurian Candidate and Requiem for a Heavyweight. She starred in several episodes of Hitchcock Presents. And, eventually, she died, of cirrhosis, in Woodland Hills, California, in January of 1971.

For me she didn't belong west of the Hudson. It was too far, I think, from that sophisticated, very sly, caged-in world of post-WWII New York ... where she brought culture to Buffalo, told of the adventures of "that pansy cat," and sang of the mysterious lady who

    Dressed up like a fellow,
    In a suit of real bright yellow
    And in her hat, she wore a quill.
    She would fall into splits
    'Til folks lost their wits
    And cried "Again, another refrain."

    Her footwork is delicious
    Though they say she shocked the bishop
    But the bishop said, "Oh, no."
    We will ... not ... leave ... this ... place ... until,
    Three ... times ... more ...
    at ... least ... she ... will,
    Do the tarantella
    In her suit of real bright yellow
    And in her hat
    That goddamn quill.

--- Ignacio Schwartz

Dzogchen Essentials
Marcia Binder Schmidt, Editor
(Rangjung Yeshe)
At the little farm I rent in the winter down there on the border, there are beesties aplenty. I try to grow mangoes, oranges, satsumas, but I am not so successful because of the bichos. Indeed, one of my friends calls the farm El Paraíso de Zancudos, because the only thing that prospers are the mosquitoes. We grow them big and mean.

Other things grow there, too. There are little stinky ants that bite the shit out of you if you step on their nest, as I often do. You learn why they called them "pismires" in the Dark Ages.

When I get up in the morning, it is to inhale the fresh air, look out at the sun kissing the hills of dawn, and to search out the plants that have been brutalized overnight by the leaf-cutters. According to Cap't. Wimbey's Tropical Ant Atlas, leaf-cutters live in huge subterranean chambers in which they distill all my begonias, flowering-plum and fig leaves into a simple brew which keeps them drunk and falling down for weeks.

I do have a few friends in BugWorld, though. In that fecund place we might call my office, pale pink skinks hang out around my desk and snap up any of the stink bugs that pass through attracted to the light. I am trying to work up a review of the latest edition of August Kotzebue's Die beiden Klingsberge and in comes a dung beetle bang into the wall and in a moment the skink has him, as Pete Seeger once sang, "wriggling and tiggling and jiggling all over."

And then there are the comijones, your common Central American termite. Those guys are invincible. And disgusting. I wake up in the morning and not only are my zinnias defoliated by the leaf-cutters, but, inside, there are a half-dozen little tracks breaking out of the light-sockets, worm-tracks crawling up the wall, hunting lunch. One army of comijones got in behind my bed and before I discovered them reduced the wooden bed-frame to dust in two weeks.

The reason I tell you all this while I am supposed to be telling you about the thirty-two essays on Dzogchen --- The Path that Clarifies Confusion --- is that the little buggers sprouted out of an electric socket hidden behind my bookcase and in a matter of days had eaten most of one of my Nabokov first editions (Pale Fire), gutted my signed copy of Winesburg, Ohio, eviscerated my friendly old Etymological Dictionary by W. W. Skeat, and were well through Dzogchen Essentials before I caught up with them. They are welcome to the freshest volumes from Franz Wright or Richard Wilbur or Louis Auchincloss. But when they start chowing down on my first editions or my Buddha-books, they've got a fight on their hands.

Perhaps Jamgön Kongtrül and Padmasambhava will forgive them their taste in Eastern Philosophy, eating up much of "Sowing the Seeds" and "Awareness-Display Empowerment." But the hardest hit was poor old Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. One of the pages of "Capturing the Life Force of all Deities" now reads:

    For example, if you want to touch space with your finger, no need to move your finger in order to touch space? Doesn't moment you first stretch your finger out? In the same way, recognize, you come in contact with the completion stage --- cognizant nature of mind. It is recognized immediately. the nature or mind, you can carry on chanting the mantra.

Rinpoche concludes, in true oriental mystic fashion,

    If you don't look in the mirror, the face is not

    the deity means the mind mirror is allowed to think, "I"

    It is all right to remind yourself that you are the deity

    aggregates and five elements from the very beginning are the


I suspect that Rinpoche or Padmasambhava would not be so put out by the little creatures searching voraciously for the food of the divine. And if I really try, I can see that If you don't look in the mirror, the face is not may indeed have a few lessons for me.

--- Carlos Amantea


Subject: im in gang

i would like to chat with reymundo im in a gang and im tryinig to get out ever since i read his books i realized wut mistake i waz doing please write back !!!!!

--- maricela rodriguez

The review that imspired this letter can be found at

The Street Law Handbook
Surviving Sex, Drugs and Petty Crime
Neeraja Viswanathan
The title suggests that it is a primer on laws concerning sex and drugs and petty crime but that, of course, is impossible. For the thousands of legal jurisdictions that regulate us (city, county, state, federal) there are thousands of different rules of law: usage, felonies vs. misdemeanors, varied or even capricious enforcement, jail time and fines.

It's all crazy, Kafkaesque, a madhouse of conflicting laws and directives all set to trip you up, knowing that you and I will never master the petty details, knowing that if those who run the show want to grab you they have 10,000 or so petty offenses set up to grab you in the legal net, the substructure of the Home of the Brave and the Land of the Free.

Thus, somewhere in the past, probably under the influence of a ruinous drug called Puritanism, it was decided to punish, and punish harshly, anyone enjoying any but the two legal and most addictive drugs --- one called nicotine, the other alcohol. Our bodies and its pleasure centers thus became the playing field for the dour types eager to infantalize the country at large.

Eighty years ago, the founders of the New Deal saw that suppression of the use and trade of liquor, beer and wine was counterproductive, that "Prohibition" robbed us of necessary freedoms: freedoms from violence and government silliness. That in the process, it was creating a base erosion of our liberties. Thus, in 1934, the ratification of the twenty-first amendment to the Constitution.

No such sageness is to be found in present-day America. The preachers, the officers of the law, and the professional puritans in Congress and the state legislatures band together with the drug trade (usually physicians and the drug-lord types) to outlaw even the most innocent pleasures. According to Surviving Sex et al, marijuana and psilocybin are "Common Schedule 1 Drugs," right up there with heroin. Opium --- smoked regularly by the little old ladies of China, Laos, Viet-Nam, Burma and India for their bodily aches and pains --- is listed as a Schedule II drug, cheek-by-jowel with crack and Ritalin (the latter being force-fed, legally, by school authorities and ignorant parents, to the very young).

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Thus the "drug question" has driven our entire democratic system of jurisprudence quite mad. At a cost of between $35 - $100 a day, 2% of our dispossed minority populations have to be fed, clothed and tended in our latest, 21st Century housing projects, known as jail (or more scientifically, "the pen.")

There's a rich payoff in the whole system for those who build these Graybar Hotels and those who staff them. The latter are men and women paid by handsomely by the state to "do time" alongside the jailees, staying well out of the way of the true authority figures, those who actually run the penitentiaries: the cons themselves. In like fashion, a wise state representative will never go against the wishes of the contractors who specialize in constructing further rooming houses for the poor and the minority, nor the guards' unions. State budgets for salaries, maintenance, clothing and food in this newest of service industries are, in some areas, running 25% of the annual discretionary budget.

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Street Law Handbook is full of facts and figures, telling us, for example, the difference between Grand Theft and petty theft, between "breaking and entering" and "trespass," "Conspiracy" vs. "Overt Act," "Assault" vs. "Battery:"

    Contrary to popular belief, assault isn't when you beat someone up. Simple assault occurs even when you threaten someone enough to make him believe that you're going to harm him. If there is an injury, then it's minor. Battery is "offensive touching," which can be as small as that of a hangnail. Usually you'll be charged with assault and battery if you're in a fight.

As you can see the language in Street Law is direct and simple, and there are, for some of us, enough surprises of the I-didn't-know-that variety. I always thought that my Miranda rights began the moment I started being questioned by a policeman --- Miranda being those warnings "connected to your right against self-incrimination, and your right to have legal counsel before a custodial interrogation."

Not so. The rights are read to us only after we are in custody.

Custody is defined as when you, "as a reasonable person, do not feel free to leave the situation. You are either being physically restrained (cuffs, etc.) or told by an authority that you are not free to leave."

The worst failing of Street Law is that there is no index. When they start pounding on the door, and you want to know what to do, you'd have to damn near go through all 230 pages to figure out where you're at, or where you're going to be.

--- Richard Saturday


Subject: Trust God

Before its too late make peace with GOD, and make sure the ones you love do also.

Its the greatest pleasure you can ever have and it lasts foever.

Accept him.


Get baptized.

See you in heaven.

In marionette we can compellable as always inappeasable slurry theirfore puddly is irishmen and combatant.

--- Branden Willard

Notes on "My Dearest Dust"
By Lady Catherine Dyer

One of our readers in England, Victor Perry, has been in corresponce with us over the last months about Lady Catherine Dyer's poem from the 17th Century, "My Dearest Dust" which RALPH had reproduced several years ago. The poem is inscribed on a tomb in the church at Colmworth, England. He wrote,

    Today we have been over to Colmworth. Our son took photos of the Dyer monument. Here are copies of the epitaph at the back above the lying down statues of Sir William and Lady Katherine Dyer.

    The colour of the images is false. The first verse on the left is not printed in the books we have seen, so, if you publish it, you may well be a first.

    I shall write again with transcriptions.

Shortly after, he wrote us again:

    It is in a poor state, and the parishioners can't afford the cost of conservation. I hope to write a letter to the Times Literary Supplement, where I shall make this point!

    I am no computer expert, so, if the photo is no good, let me know, and I'll get our son, who is, to put things right.

Mr. Perry offered us his transcription with this caveat:

    I am not an English scholar, and there is one thing I am uncertain of. When I read an edition of a C16 book, the editor sometimes makes a remark about the punctuation.

    Apparently 400+ years ago they did things differently. Add to that the state of the inscription and the punctuation becomes more uncertain, though the words themselves are legible:

If a large heart, joined with a noble mind
Showing true worth unto all good inclined
If faith in friendship, justice unto all,
Leave such a memory as we may call
Happy, thine is; then pious marble keep
His just fame waking, though his loved dust sleep.
And though death can devour all that hath breath,
And monuments themselves have had a death,
Nature shan't suffer this, to ruinate,
Nor time demolish it, nor an envious fate,
Raised by a just hand, not vain glorious pride,
Who'd be concealed, were it modesty to hide
Such an affection did so long survive
The object of it, yet loved it as alive.
And this great blessing to his name does give
To make it by his tomb, and issue live.

My dearest dust, could not thy hasty day
Afford thy drowsy patience leave to stay
One hour longer: so that we might either
     Sit up, or gone to bed together?
But since thy finished labour hath possessed
     Thy weary limbs with early rest,
Enjoy it sweetly; and thy widow bride
Shall soon repose her by thy slumbering side;
Whose business, now, is only to prepare
     My nightly dress, and call to prayer:
Mine eyes wax heavy and the day grows old,
     The dew falls thick, my blood grows cold.
Draw, draw the closed curtains: and make room:
My dear, my dearest dust; I come, I come.

Confessions of
A PR Man
Robert J. Wood
We once had this vision of the PR man hired on in 1938 to explain to the denizens of the city of Auschwitz why they were going to have all this ugly construction work going on in their neighborhood.

"Don't worry," he says, speaking before the regular monthly luncheon meeting of the Auschwitz Chamber of Commerce, "We're going to bring in over six million marks worth of local construction --- carpentry, cement, wiring, fencing, housing, and towers. If you add the 1,000 new guards, officers, and clerical help on the permanent labor force, we're talkin' jobs that will be doubling the local economy." And the members of the Auschwitz Better Business Bureau look around and nod their heads and vote to give their personal backing and thanks to the national government for this newest project as they think of the Deutschmarks rolling in.

Now, we'd be the last to make any parallels between this and the various works of Robert J. Wood with his Byoir PR firm over the last thirty years --- but he does lay some unlikely strutting on us in this roman à thèse. Northeast Utilities wants to build a nuclear plant, and the neighbors don't dig it. Turn it over to Woods. He proves to those nervous nellies that radiation is no worse than slutswool under the bed; soon enough everyone wants their own nuclear plant there next to the backyard barbecue.

An "atomic radiation center" scheduled for construction by CIT Corp in Ohio? No prob, babe. Woods has these heavy-weight friends on the AEC, they'll pull some strings --- the radiation center gets built, and the citizens just love it. That bastard Jesse Jackson giving you a fit at the A & P, with his Operation Breadbasket? Not to worry: a few meetings with some friendly newspaper folks, a couple of arrests (complaints signed by a front man, not the Atlantic & Pacific), executives never at home when the opposition comes calling --- and A & P is out of the woods.

Finally, there's that Hyatt Regency in Kansas City. You remember? --- the one owned by Hallmark Cards, the one where the suspended walkway collapses, killing a hundred people, injuring two hundred more. Bad press for Hallmark?

Hey --- don't fret. Woods is on the job. When the carping critics start in on the sin of cheap construction and corporate profits, we lead with a right:

    I assigned a Byoir staffer to work in Kansas City full time, dealing with the daily PR problems that kept cropping up as a result of the investigations, the lawsuits, and related matters. These were mostly minor matters. Mostly minor.

Got a problem with death, dismemberment, crippled-for-life, personal trauma, physical ruination. No prob. Just call on Woods, the PR man's PR man. He'll take care of anything and everything. For no more than a little blood money.

--- Lolita Lark


The Seven Dials Mystery was one of Agatha Christie's earliest. It's the story of a houseparty at "Chimney's," an old but respectable pile owned by Lord Caterham. Over the weekend, one of the male guests is poisoned, another is shot.
When they are not being murdered, the young people are --- for the most part --- a pretty silly bunch, given to sleeping late, gossiping, and drinking cocktails early in the day.
The exception is "Bundle," the Lord's daughter. She is wily, resourceful and --- of course --- solves the mystery single-handedly.

The book was first published in 1929, but we heard it by way of five casettes from Audio Editions "Mystery Masters." The reader is Emilia Fox. Her voice and accents are impeccable, except in the rare case where she is called upon to give an American accent. This comes out raspy and nerve-wracking but, hell, maybe this is the way all Americans sound to the English.
The Seven Dials Mystery is most fun when Bundle and her dad are exchanging misunderstandings, such as this one that occurs early on:

Lord Caterham was happily reading a catalogue of a forthcoming sale of rare editions and was immeasurably astonished to see Bundle.

"Even you," he said, "can't have been to London and back in this time."

"I haven't been to London," said Bundle. "I ran over a man.


"Only I didn't really. He was shot."

"How could he have been?"

"I don't know how he could have been, but he was."

"But why did you shoot him?"

"I didn't shoot him."

"You shouldn't shoot people," said Lord Caterham in a tone of mild remonstrance. "You shouldn't really. I daresay some of them richly deserve it --- but all the same it will lead to trouble."

"I tell you I didn't shoot him."

"Well, who did?"

"Nobody knows," said Bundle.

"Nonsense," said Lord Caterham. "A man can't be shot and run over without anyone having done it."

"He wasn't run over," said Bundle.

"I thought you said he was."

"I said I thought I had."

"A tyre burst, I suppose," said Lord Caterham. "That does sound like a shot. It says so in detective stories."

"You really are perfectly impossible, Father. You don't seem to have the brains of a rabbit."

"Not at all," said Lord Caterham. "You come in with a wildly impossible tale about men being run over and shot and I don't know what, and then you expect me to know all about it by magic."

� Audio Editions

Jung Stripped Bare
By His Biographers,

Sonu Shamdasani
(Karnac Books)
  • Gustav Jung was responsible for only a small portion of what most think of as his autobiography. Memories, Dreams and Reflections was written --- for the most part --- by Aniela Jaffé, secretary to the Jung Institute and one of his analysands;

  • At one point, when Jung was visiting with Freud in 1909, there was a "loud noise" which Jung believed to be parapsychological --- "a catalytic exteriorisation phenonemena" is how he termed it in his pedantic Swiss-German phraseology. These guys literally blew each other away;

  • When Jung split with the Freudians, they accused him of being mad --- a "deviant," suffering from "grandiose delusions;"

  • Jung was subject to visions. One, a bloody one he had in 1914 was, he felt, a presentiment of the upcoming war. His most famous vision, which he produced at age eleven, showed God perched on a golden throne, high above the cathedral at Basel, letting loose a giant turd;

  • The author of the present volume doesn't give a tinker's dam for any of the biographies of Jung --- except for an earlier one by Barbara Hannah --- Jung: His Life and Work (1976);

  • Like most therapists --- at least non-Freudian therapists --- Jung reveled in ambivalence. He was considerably exercised by the fact that his translator Richard Hull was too precise with his words which, he felt, would later affect students' understanding of Jung's thinking --- especially in such works as Synchronicity and Psychology and Alchemy.

§     §     §

Jung Stripped Bare by His Biographers, Even may be a clever title for a book that sets out to pan all those who presume to write his biography, but it has little to do with Marcel Duchamp's very funny 1923 glass-work La Mariée Mise a nu Par Ses Célibataires, même which looks, at least to these hoary eyes, to be a take-off on the mechanization of sex. Since Shamdasani claims, rather fervently, if not repetitively, that Jung was nothing if not a loyal and devoted husband and father, the title might be stretching it to make a dadaesque artistic injoke.

Even more to the point: if we are to accept the author's tale of how Jung worked so hard to get his approved biography written and published while he was still in this world; then, again and again, backed away from those writers and historians he appointed to carry out the project --- we might agree with the Freudians that he was a bit dotty, that indeed, using formal psychological terminology, there might have been a few bats in the belfry.

In all, however, you and I know that it makes no difference if Jung was potty, a ding-ey mystic, and only partly responsible for Memories, Dreams, and Reflections. This book --- not Jung Stripped Bare by His Biographers, Even, but Memories, Dreams, Reflections --- is a hell of a good piece of writing. Take it as pure fiction if you wish, it's truly gripping, funny, original. It certainly had a powerful effect on us psychology students when it was published some forty-five years ago.

I was, perhaps, more partial to the theories of Jung back then when I first read it. I had my first psychotic head-on collision at that time, and ended up in the office of a respected Jungian, Dr. Francis Clark.

In our year-and-a-half together, the good doctor helped me to piece me and my brain back together; taught me the value of dreams (for artistic, as well as personal, insight); gave me the chance to experience a kindly, disinterested, insightful listener; and taught me respect for the more zany aspects of the mind --- mysticism, cosmic force, out-of-body experiences --- as well as more basic, sometimes comic, Jungian lore (the mind seeing its various parts as a house, complete with basement, living-room, bathroom, bedroom, attic; the role of mythic heroes in our lives; the psychiatrist as a hair-dresser --- common in the dreams of many who are in therapy; and most wonderfully, the ambivalence, imprecision, and duality of everything. Everything.

--- Ignacio Schwartz


In the U. S., the fatality risk with mifepristone [RU-486] is slightly less than 1 per 100,000 cases, compared with 0.1 per 100,000 for surgical abortion at eight weeks or less.
Pregnancy itself carries a fatality rate of 11.8 per 100,000.

--- Consumer Reports
February 2005

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