Melbourne Road, Williamstown August 2016
Monthly Archives: August 2016
At a high school once, during the Q & A following a reading I gave, a discussion of autobiographical or not autobiographical, a student said: ‘If I thought you’d made up all the stuff in your poems, I’d be really mad at you.’ And I knew how he felt, and in his place I’d feel the same way. It had not crossed my mind really that anyone would make up a life, make up these stories – it seemed so obvious to me they were being told, sung, from some inner necessity that rose in an actual life. But at that point I couldn’t come out and say that, I think I had some idea I was protecting someone, I’m not sure who . . .”
As a writer, Sebald had invented an arcane aesthetic by cobbling together things imagined and things recalled; his essays and novels challenge the idea that facts hold a greater claim to truth than misremembered faces, overlooked details or overheard gossip. Aunt Egelhofer, who was real, was Sebald’s gateway to the world of the Wallersteins, who were also real. And yet their narrative hovers in a misty zone typical of Sebald, who was loyal to neither history nor fiction but rather to an unstable confluence of invention, memory, and imagination.
Photographs also play a key role in all of Sebald’s books, casting an aura of documentation and verisimilitude on the narrative, and yet they are also vague and unreliable. Blurry images and illegible handwritten notebooks emphasize the imminent extinction of objects, people, places, or buildings that are already, or perhaps always were, on their way out. Jews, for Sebald, personify the very essence of transience and extraterritoriality, residents of a might-have-been world that has known better days. Other lines are blurred in Sebald’s universe, too. As a narrator in “The Emigrants” writes, “I leafed through the album that afternoon, and since then I have returned to it time and again, because looking at the pictures in it, it truly seemed to me, and still does, as if the dead were coming back, or as if we were on the point of joining them.”
Andre Aciman, W.G Sebald and the Emigrants: How a friendship with two elderly Jewish refugees inspired the German novelist. The New Yorker August 25 2016
Charles Simic : . . . Back in the ’70s, a woman stopped me on Second Avenue, in the 50s, on a hot summer day and asked me with tearful eyes to look for a pearl that she lost. That’s where the poem starts.
Interviewer: I’m guessing you never found the pearl.
Charles Simic: I did not. Are you kidding me? But I’m still looking for it as I walk around the streets of New York.
Paris Review interview (from here)
Degas once said of Manet,”Everything he does he always hits off straight away, while I take endless pains and never get it right.”
John Williams reviews Sebastian Smee’s The Art of Rivalry
The uglier, older, meaner, iller, poorer I get, the more I wish to take my revenge by doing brilliant colour, well arranged, resplendent.
– Vincent van Gogh to his sister Willemien around September 14, 1888 (letter 678)
Live 2: Make Me Stop Smoking
I have been collecting worthless material for almost ten years now, taking good care arranging it, documenting it, indexing it, and preserving it from any possible damage… Today I possess what resembles an archive, or let’s say I possess a real archive that relates only to me: a kind of added memory that occupies different corners of my domestic space, despite the fact that I do not actually need it. It is an invented memory that is exhausting me, and which I cannot liberate myself from. For this reason, I will uncover some parts of my archive, hoping that by making it public I can get rid of its weight. This will be my attempt to destroy a memory that doesn’t know how to erase itself.
– Rabih Mroué (from here)
He has received “a highly coloured post-card .. with its snatches of information on Roman churches, race meetings in England and Ireland, or the train journey from Bergen to Christiania.”
She has received a poem about a glacier.
He asks to read the poem, which he sees as more intimate than a postcard.
‘It’s far too private,’ she told him. ‘I mean,’ she said, ‘you only show your poem to those you want to see it — unless, of course, you throw it wide open to the public.
Patrick White, The Twyborn Affair. (from here)
Perhaps I was five years old when I spoiled my sister’s rabbit. It was made of a sort of pink velvet. It had long ears which were quite pretty.
One evening I put the rabbit close up to my sister’s cup of cocoa with the ears dripping over the rim into the cocoa. The lovely pink ears came out a dirty brown. My father, who was presiding over the evening cocoa, looked perplexed about the rabbit and about my action. He tried holding he ears under the cold tap but the stains remained. The ears later became quite hard, perhaps it was the sugar . . . .
Elizabeth Jolley, Meanjin 2010, Who Talks of Victory