The Brothers Karamazov & Hal Hartley’s films.

I have the following text clip saved to an area on my phone, and I sometimes read it when I’m having a bad day.  It’s from Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.

“…I believe that you are sincere and good at heart. If you do not attain happiness, always remember that you are on the right road, and try not to leave it. Above all, avoid falsehood, every kind of falsehood, especially falseness to yourself. Watch over your own deceitfulness and look into it every hour, every minute. Avoid being scornful, both to others and to yourself. What seems to you bad within you will grow purer from the very fact of your observing it in yourself. Avoid fear, too, though fear is only the consequence of every sort of falsehood. Never be frightened at your own faint-heartedness in attaining love.”

Funny thing: I first heard (note: heard not read) the quote above in the film Surviving Desire by Hal Hartley. When I was in my early 20’s. Many people have a favorite filmmaker. I discovered Hartley in 1997 when I saw the film Henry Fool, then I tried to get my eyes on everything he had ever done. To this day Hartley is my favorite film maker.

I have a non-romantic fantasy about being able to somehow put Hal Hartley and Adam Phillips together in, and have them just hang out for a week, and see what happens.


Chances with Wolves: Wow!

I read the article Warp and Wolf by David Ramsey on The Paris Review, and I’m very happy I did for two reasons.

First: It’s a beautiful bit of writing about the difficult task of taking care of aging parents.  Here are just a few bits of the great writing… (I wanted to share more, but held back because I really want people to read the article.)

“My father has Parkinson’s and my mother has multiple sclerosis; my wife, Grace, and I had moved to Nashville to help out. There are good days and bad days, but the prognosis is uncompromising in its bleak narrative: over time, things will get worse. The arc of one’s own mortal universe bends toward decline.”

Ramsey’s parents were both historians, he says this about them.

“Both trained historians, my parents took an approach to their belongings over the years that preserved rather than purged the primary sources of their own lives. They had a lot of stuff… Copies of the New York Review of Books in the attic dating from the Carter administration, encrusted with roach droppings—right alongside a letter my mother wrote at eighteen, to her own mother, upon arriving at college. Antique chairs in the crawl space. Rat-eaten board games. A lifetime supply of disposable chopsticks. My father’s boyhood violin.”

Second: The article made me aware of Chances With Wolves, and it has taken over my headphones.  What is Chances With Wolves?  For Ramsey it was the soundtrack to the difficult task of cleaning out his parent’s house.

“The premise, more or less, is that a pair of DJs play strange old records and periodically mix in wolf-howl noises, sound clips, and echo effects. All of their two-hour episodes—now more than 350—are streamable…We filled box after box after box. In my headphones, a marimba cover of “Thriller” and Della Reese vamping through a B-Side. A French folk singer in 1972 spitting out the names of “les prisonniers politiques” and a 1960s Mexican ska band’s Spanish-language version of “Sound of Silence.” Chances with Wolves, episode 331. Sun Ra fades to the whisper of an unreleased Paul Simon song, to a creepy-crawly funk tune by Estonian singer Velly Joonas so exquisitely alien it made me blush, to a James Brown antidrug PSA.”

Ramsey goes on to say…

“We often think of the communal experience of listening to music—a beautiful thing, an experience that viscerally defines what we mean by community in the first place. But more often than not, I find that I listen to music alone. Not just alone, but typically with headphones that guarantee my solitude will not be interrupted. Over time I came to feel that Chances with Wolves was rhythmically aligned with this solitude.”

The takeaway here: (1) Listen to Chances With Wolves, and (2) read the Ramsey article.

Ashbery, Proust, and seeing the world differently due to reading. 

I just read an interview with John Ashbery done by The Paris Review in 1983.  Like most of the interviews TPR does I enjoyed reading this one a lot.  

One of my favorite bits was when Ashbery is talking about his past, and how he read Proust when he was a young man at university.  Ashbery says that he was “shocked by” the reading.  Here’s what is said next: 

Being a philistine who’s never read Proust (time is difficult for me to manage… and my attention often wanders), Ashbery’s reply makes me very curious about Proust’s work in a way that nothing before has.  Maybe someday… 

Excited for: The Hatred of Poetry

I just ordered the book The Hatred of Poetry (US) (CA) (UK) by Ben Lerner.


From the description of the book:

No art has been denounced as often as poetry. It’s even bemoaned by poets: “I, too, dislike it,” wrote Marianne Moore. “Many more people agree they hate poetry,” Ben Lerner writes, “than can agree what poetry is. I, too, dislike it and have largely organized my life around it and do not experience that as a contradiction because poetry and the hatred of poetry are inextricable in ways it is my purpose to explore.”

In this inventive and lucid essay, Lerner takes the hatred of poetry as the starting point of his defense of the art.

The book sounds incredibly interesting to me, and I really can’t wait to get it in the post.

I wish that I could say I was familiar withLerner’s work, but I’ve never read a word that he has written.  There is certainly a part of me that is excited, and hopeful, that discovering Lerner’s work for the first time will be a thrill.

I shall post things here after the book arrives and I’ve started to read it.

Mary Oliver on the radio

My last post was about the work of the American Poet Mary Oliver, who is one of my favorite poets.  Mary Oliver does not do many interviews, she never has.  Be that as it may there is one interview with Mary Oliver that was done by On Being (The really NPR great show done by Krista Tippett).  I figured it would be nice to post a link to the show for those who have not heard it.

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I highly recommend listening to the unedited (i.e. longer) version of the interview!

Dogfish — So much done with so little…

I’m sitting in my parked car, about to head to a meeting, and because I’m early I’ve decided to read some poetry by Mary Oliver on my phone. (I don’t know how Mary Oliver would feel about her poems being read on a phone screen…. part of me suspects she would not approve.)

I was reading the poem DOGFISH in the collection Dream Work (US) (CA) (UK).
I read the following, and then stopped. I laughed a bit as the lines sunk into my conscious mind.

Earlier in the same poem was this line. I liked it a ton, but it did. It make me laugh.

Both of these are great examples of how a good prom (good writing really) can do so much with so very little.