Ancient Mexico and the Maya
"Don't leave gorgeous books like this on the coffee table.
Eviscerate them, hang the wonderful photographs on the refrigerator,
in the bathroom, on the telephone pole down the block ---
let the world in on these rich and tasty scenes."
Six Wars at a Time
"After reading this all-too-detailed life of
Yet Another Pained and Tedious Artist, we are suprised
that they didn't inscribe these words on his gravestone:
I'm not dead.
It's just a rumor.
Spread by my enemies.
So they can steal my ideas from me."
GREAT REVIEWERS OF THE PAST: H. L. MENCKEN
"The typical Oklahoman is as barbarous as an Albanian or a man of Inner Mongolia.
He lives and dies on a low plane, pursuing sordid and ridiculous objectives
and taking his reward in hoggish ways. His political behavior
is that of a barbarian and his religious notions are almost savage.
Of urbanity he has no more than a traffic cop."
The Sound and the Fury
"Now I can write. Now I can make myself
a vase like that which the old Roman kept at his bedside
and wore the rim slowly away with kissing it."
"They spoke no word.
The visitor, the host,
And the white chrysanthemum."
The Upper Valley, The Water Trade, Japan,
The Bakelite Fortune, and George Frazier
What Do You Do When Your PCA Steals From You
"I think you'd like Raul. He's neat and pleasant and well-spoken.
He's always on time, and doesn't shoot drugs.
He is as good a Personal Care Attendant you could ever ask for.
And he steals me blind."
"They shouldn't be here. Nothing living should. Methane's here.
Can't smell it. But it's here. You can see it bubble in the ponds.
Climbs up from the goddamn garbage. Inflammable.
Terrible for birds."
The Robbery of American Broadcasting
"When they say, We deregulated broadcasting back in the '80s...
I'm wondering if we are talking about the same broadcasting.
Perhaps he is talking about radio and television in Silesia,
A Home-Made Travelogue
"To show what degree of wanderlust the travelogue inspired,
not a single one of those who saw it on that occasion was available for a second showing.
They had all left town within forty-eight hours..."
Versailles and Cybernetics
"George Creel, a public relations man --- and I want you not to forget
that this man was a granddaddy of modern public relations ---
had an idea: the idea was that maybe the Germans would surrender
if we offered them soft armistice terms."
The Banana Pin Charm
"I stopped being the observer
and began to accept their supernatural world,
and my journey was never the same. In that single moment
I grew much closer to my experiences."
Sin, Remorse, Loneliness, and Religious Submission
"They looked at life as a chain of coincidences in which the only sure thing
was suffering. They threw the dice every morning to see whether
they should get up or stay in bed on their seaweed mattresses
and await the day's quota of pain."
"Among twenty snowy mountains
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird."
"Here lies the blackbird
Here he lies.
The Lying Bird!"
On the Meeting of García-Lorca and Hart Crane
"Let's not invent a dialogue of such eloquence
that even the ants in your own house won't forget it."
"A circle of muscular light
over the hills in a boarded-up sky,
like an opening to let the pain leak out."
On the Treaty of Versailles, and "Betty."
Presence in the Flesh: The Body in Medicine
As he touches her breast, the doctor asks, "How's your legal battles?"
As he touches her vulva, another question:
"Still riding your horse?"
And as he inserts his hand into her vagina,
"When were you in South Africa?"
Seeing Like a State
"His Hall of Fame of 'high modernist' figures are those
who are the universally accepted villains of ruination and statism including
Le Corbusier, Robert McNamara, Robert Moses, Vladimir I. Lenin,
David Lilienthal, Walter Rathenau, and Julius Nyerere."
The Lost Tomb
"With your permit, you have to take along an official,the often sleepy
Egyptian Government bureaucrat who will certify your operations;
you have handle testy, often ill-paid workers;you have to deal with
German and American tourists asking stupid questions..."
The Word on the Street
"Indeed, the irony today is that the Russians, the French
and other people in foreign countries possess Shakespeare
to a much greater extent than we do, for the simple reason that
unlike us, they get to enjoy Shakespeare in the language that they speak. "
The Antarctic and South Georgia Island,
Paul Bowles and North Africa, and
Lord Byron's Last Days in Greece.
More Brief Reviews
The American Civil War and Robert E. Lee,
Perfect Storms, American Poetry and Karl Shapiro, and
The Destruction of the American West.
Memoirs of a Man Who Lost His Memory
"The knot-holes in the walls of the house began to speak to me.
Captain Marvel flew out the window. An army of marching Chinese
came through the living room, shuffling through,
on their way out the door, into eternity
(for all I know, they are still there, shuffling through)."
Some Thoughts on Internet 'zines
"When our hits soar above 50,000 a month, the bill from our local
server goes up. The word is 'megabytes.' It puts one in mind of a very hungry duck.
When we achieve the success of a million hits a month,
we'll be literally nibbled to death by bytes."
The Return of the Duck
"T. S. Eliot said that we measure out our days
in coffee-spoons. Me? In the last few years
I've been measuring out my life in Fruti jars."
The Poet in India
"Kali had three eyes, she stood on Siva, who lies supine on the
thousand-petaled silver lotus.
He would write a poem about it. Kali was the saint's darling.
'If you compare that Mother with the Christian Mother of God,'
the poet said to his companion, 'you can see that the Indians have more imagination.'"
The Birth of a Poem
"Lost in thought, he taps his knee with his wandlike pencil,
and at the same instant a car (New York license plate)
passes along the road,
a child bangs the screen door of a neighboring porch,
an old man yawns in a misty Turkestan orchard, a granule of
cinder-gray sand is rolled by the wind on Venus..."
"First the bottle had to be
emptied, and then the three boys
had to empty themselves of all
they had so painfully taken in
and by means even more painful..."
"What did the five talk of the night before the execution
of prophetic dreams of an escapade in a brothel
of automobile parts of a sea voyage..."
"What emerges is a picture of a man with tremendous energy,
tremendous integrity, and a tremendous belief in
not only his own ability, but the truth
and rightness of American foreign policy."
"It's a riot of name-dropping and
literary and classical references thrown in everywhere
to let you know that the author has read everything,
and has a tendency to upchuck it, before us, before lunch,
like the puppy's breakfast."
"We, too, become experts on such unlikely subjects as
homing pigeons, the antlers of stags, animal scat, Prussian mythology,
the origin of the concept of phoric (to bear), St. Christopher, twins,
Abel and Cain, and, finally, Nazism
and the Hitler Youth."
The Lawless Roads
"What gives value to travel is fear...
At that moment we are feverish but also porous,
so that the slightest touch makes us quiver to the depths of our being.
We come across a cascade of light, and there is eternity.
This is why we should not say that we travel for pleasure..."
"Writing isn't a decision, it's a curse:
one that worms its wicked way into the weakened soul,
gobbling up everything in its path, and vomiting it up
in what they have the gall to call fiction."
Letter from the Southernmost Part of the Northern Hemisphere Hindoo Holiday Ben, Sam, Dan and Ned
archy and mehitabel
A Poem Leading Up To A Haiku The Flies Letters
"'Sometimes,' she said, looking at herself, not moving,
'Sometimes I want to take my fingernails and just claw my face to ribbons.'
Then she put on her blouse, unlocked the door, and went out to the living room.
'Damn,' I said. I had thought this was going to be our night."
"'If you drink a copita de orina every morning,' he says,
'You'll soon be walking. I am sure that Jesus did it.
Drank his own urine every day.
That's how he was able to walk on water.'"
"It was, somehow, very like Abdul himself, this room of his:
very like his mind, small, mean, tidy, uncomfortable, and full of rubbishy things.
There was a smell of mould.
Your tree looks dead, I said.
Yes, said Abdul, it is dead."
"My first English friends were four simple souls in my grammar ---
Ben, Dan, Sam and Ned.
There used to be a great deal of fuss about their identities and whereabouts ---
Who is Ben? He is Dan. Sam is in bed, and so on."
"mehitabel would sell her soul for/ a plate of fish any day i told her i thought
you were going to say you were/ the favorite wife of the emperor
valerian he was some cat nip eh/ mehitabel but she did not get me"
On the Results of a Secret Investigation
At the Vatican Concerning Alleged Violations...
"You land on my bread/my tostadas, my books/that await your arrival.
O, Miss Fly,/they tell me that you could/bring terrible harm
but I don't believe them,/and wherever I wander/I'll run into you/again..."
On Anorexia (yet again).
And a letter of love
from Tomsk State University
In response to a columnist's question in Booklist,
we hereby offer up a list of what we consider
to be the five most important books of the last fifty years.
Ben, Sam, Dan and Ned
archy and mehitabel
A Poem Leading Up To A Haiku
Spirit Flying (Without a License from the FAA);
Sam Walton, Christian Lawyers, Oil Tycoons;
and What To Do When All Your Hair Falls Out
A three-part review of a new (and fascinating)
tome on Pacifica Radio and the
early history of KPFA
Part I Part II Part III
"Strom Thurmond, never very big in the brain department,
succumbed to uncontrolled priapism fifteen years ago.
He --- or what's left of his brain ---wrote this biography:
it's his farewell address."
When I Was a German
"This one I picked up, started reading in the morning,
left it (reluctantly) to do some shopping, got back to it
in the late afternoon, and stayed with it until three in the morning ---
and you know I hate losing my beauty sleep."
Harry Truman's Upset, Holland at War,
Phèdre, the Great Dismal Swamp, and
the Booger Prize
Letter from France
To do this one has to present a photo of oneself, and I do not photograph.
Like a vampire or a sub-atomic particle, I produce only a sort of fuzzy track on the photographic emulsion.
It is only through this mysterious property that I have been able
to evade the police of three continents.
A letter from The Southernmost Part
Of the Northern Hemisphere
"It must be the sun that drives a sane man crazed, so crazed that
he suddenly rises up in a black fury in the Paraiso cantina, overturning
the cheap thin metal tables, smashing his glass of mescal
on the floor, grabbing at his machete,
slashing at everyone within reach."
A Train Ride With a Member of the SS
"I belonged to what is called an Einsatzkommando, an extermination squad
--- so I know. What do you say when I tell you that a little boy,
no older than my youngest brother, before such a killing,
stood there to attention and asked me Do I stand straight enough, Uncle?''
"She's full of fun. She never leaves a hotel
without doing something first in a wardrobe or drawer,
just to leave a little keepsake with the chambermaid
who will have to wipe it up."
archy and mehitabel
"the earth exists/ to grow toadstools for him/ to sit under
the sun to give him light/ by day and the moon/ and wheeling constellations
to make beautiful/ the night for the sake of/ warty bliggens"
Diary: Volume I
"I am the most important and probably
the only problem I have; the only one of all my protagonists
to whom I attach real importance."
Idiots, Wind, and, yet again,
Anorexia and Wasted.
The Jahid and Afghanistan,
Disability and Depression, and
Anti-communism in the 50s
The Practical Guide to Aging
"We can't go swimming in the ocean without fretting about the bacteria count,
and we can't go zipping around in the sand-dunes in our buggies
without stewing about the goddamn gophers or gnat-catchers.
We're living in a world of spoilers --- and they won't hush up."
Beer Cans in the Rio de la Plata
"This one is hard to put down,
especially if you are fond of picaresque tales in the style of
Tropic of Cancer, The Ginger Man, and Ham on Rye."
Art as Politics in the Third Reich
"For those interested in the beastly soul of the Third Reich,
this is a powerful and revealing tale. The author has a way of interlarding facts
of which artworks ended up in whose hands
with personal vignettes of these very peculiar men."
"It may be epistolary, but this ain't no Clarissa. Mud, gangrene, gas,
gasmasks, bubbling lungs, groins shot away, brains exploded, shellholes filled
with bloated humans (and bloated rats), hands and legs torn off, maggots that glow
luminously in bodies, blood-leaking mouths, and, of course,
front line soldier dirty talk."
Kew Gardens, Loves That Bind,
Arcanum, and the Caribbean as a Vulva
A Visit to the Sweet Witch of the Mountains
Getting out of a Warm Bed on a Cold Morning
"I would grit my teeth and spring in a single leap to the fireplace,
drench the logs with kerosene, and touch a match to them.
Then, when the oil had flared up, and I had succeeded in crossing back to my bed,
I would snuggle down again in its grateful warmth."
"New York's dawn has
four columns of ooze
and a hurricane of black pigeons
that splash about in the rotten waters."
I Finally Figured Out About Dying
(And I Wanted To Tell You Before It Was Too Late)
"Once we depart, we can scarcely believe our eyes
Since we no longer have eyes
(Nor nose, nor mouth, nor body, nor anything to speak of.)
We turn to a soaring fire (or flower) with all our non-senses intact."
When I Was a German and
Samuel Beckett's All That Spring
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