Saturday, July 24, 2004


The thirst for lies is like the desire for change
Except despair not hope stands watch in the crow’s-nest.

    07 21 04

Listening to: Lene Lovich.

A fellow employee was grumbling about the Danielle Steel “limited editions” we had on sale for $50. I said, “What do you expect in a world where a first edition of Harry Potter is worth more than a first edition of Dickens?” He said, “This is WORSE.”

It is sometimes used as a charge against syllabic verse, that humans cannot perceive such counts; & therefore it is so completely arbitrary as to be meaningless. I disagree. You just have to think in terms of drumbeats. The Japanese building-block “five plus seven” is contained in such nursery rhymes as “Old Macdonald had a farm/ E-I-E-I-O”. and i was listening to a song by Shonen Knife the other day (“Buddha’s Face”) which starts with a run of eleven staccato chords, then two different, then eleven, then two: & it was perfectly intelligible. I would’ve been able to tell the second part was off if it’d been ten or twelve. (But i’ll have to ask someone who’s a real drummer about Marianne Moore’s “nineteen plus four”.)

Ah, the Golden Treasury of Knowledge--the encyclopedia of my childhood. I’ve never seen anything like it: the articles were mysteriously grouped, not alphabetized, giving me already a glimpse of heterodox gestalts; & illustrated lavishly in a melodramatic style derivative of Delacroix. (Anyone who grew up with these is already half a painter.) I was especially troubled by the sinister energy of the pictures of wild animals, prehistoric & primitive peoples. They had something i could not imagine myself ever achieving: joyous freedom.     Later, when i began prowling garage sales, i picked up a couple loose volumes for next to nothing. When i looked again at the pictures, i felt obscurely stirring so many inarticulate emotions i’d projected onto them, & made them perforce the only possible names of. Hauntingly familiar, yet unreadable today.     And it must have been the article on “Hieroglyphs” that started my fascination with the nuts & bolts of language.

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