Sunday, December 17, 2006

End of an Interim

Hey. How's it goin'?

Q: ...

Me? I'm fine.

Q: ...

No, none of that.

Q: ...

Well, of course. I mean, there was the one.

Q: ...

I was in a swimming pool, because it was a pool party, and I was standing in a ring of people. We were all handed golf balls. We all were told we had to somehow hit the floating target in the center of the pool. Most people immediately put their golfballs in their mouths. I chose to throw mine. It struck the floating target, which was wearing a little crown of tortilla chips with a die cast metal car hood down in the center of it.

Q: ...

I don't know. It was important for some reason. I could tell you about all the other dreams arranged with this one, but I find that paratactical dream relationships, when they are narratized, become just funny instead of easier to access. The alternative route is to organize the telling paratactically. Like, "I was in a hallway. I was in a swimming pool. Golf balls were coming out of people's mouths. A woman looked like Birdo. My locker combination was a series of smells. Dried blood. Cloves. Peppermint jelly. Marinara. And all the way back around to Cloves."

Q: ...

Sure. I can tell the same dream in a way that makes it unrecognizable. Just a matter of shifting your focus. Just like you can tell two different people about your day.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Un-Blog! An exercise in meta-blogging, brought to you by E398!

Your Blogs
Behold, Rhetorgand!

Description: This blog is intended to fulfill the requirements of E398. As an added bonus, it constitutes yet another glistening electronic coil of the World Serpent that is my internet presence.


October 15, 2006
From Tadpole to Butterfly
It suddenly (NB It struck me after I read the prompt.) strikes me that I have no idea where my kids are emotionally. Cognitively, they are present and accounted for. I have a few that are extremely slow to grasp what is being asked of them in terms of production (and yes, we do actually require that they produce something, despite our emphasis on process) but exceptionally quick to grasp concepts in class, etc. Politically, they are all new-born babes. Most of them are realizing that they have no idea what they mean when they say, "I'm conservative," beyond, "I'm like my daddy." (Here's a fer instance: "I am conservative, and that means being compassionate. It is the responsibility of the government to take care of everyone who can't take care of themselves. Otherwise, you are just letting them die, and that's not very compassionate." Or, another gem, "I'm as liberal as the next guy, but the only people on welfare are junkies. Why should we pay junkies to get high?")

Emotionally, though, that's a puzzler.

I had a girl and a boy come in five minutes apart. Both crying. The girl put her head down and occasionally sighed extremely loudly, which would make the boy cringe. The girl eventually came to me and said that she needed to leave because she was sick (ten minutes into class). Then, I got a nasty email from her saying I wasn't at my office hours and I really should have been because, since she missed class, she was really behind and really needed my help. This was, of course, untrue--so untrue that four people from her section and three from the other two sections managed to find me right where I always am. So, what does any of that mean, emotionally?

I don't think it means anything.

At least, I think it means more rhetorically than it does emotionally.

It being all impossible an' all to tell what is going on in this person's head, I can only surmise what she is feeling based on her behavior. And her behavior is sulky--that is, designed to draw attention to her apparent emotional state and inflict pain on any that observe her. She cast a wide net--like a new space cadet laying about with a pain ray. Everyone was imposed upon. This is a rhetorical position that is provocative in its very provocativeness. "My personal issues are way more important than the progress of this discussion section," it says. "And you should all be aware of the intense amounts of soul-searing pain that I am in and share in it to the degree that you are able," it adds, after a thoughtful pause.

So, I don't know precisely what she's feeling, but I do know that a part of what she's feeling is rhetorically motivated/performed.

The email, though, was the best part. As if she could somehow make me feel guilty for being where I said I'd be when I said I'd be there and the very tool she could use to do this was the fact that she was not where she was supposed to be when she was supposed to be there in an incredibly melodramatic manner. Hoisted by my own petard!

Of course, all of this is a ritual. There is a certain charm to watching someone of that age sacrifice dignity on the altar of convenience in order to get one last gasp out of a stand-by tool from childhood: the tantrum.

2 Comments (Most Recent: October 15, 2006)


October 10, 2006
The Power of Metaphor for the Labor-Shunning Personality, Wherein certain references are made to the gnostic and cabalistic traditions via the names, ranks, and dominions of the principal thrones of..
... the host of heaven before the creation of those infernal regions first adequately described by so noble a mind as Miltonius' and preserved by so popular a mind as Mike Carey's, wherein the author's failure to import his writing practices to the classroom is elucidated, and wherein an inappropriate Lockean metaphor for the operation of the mind is put forth...

It begins: Calling something a "writing practice" implies that it is something one practices. That is to say, it is making it seem as though there was some kind of continuity between writing something at one moment and writing something else at another moment. This does not seem to be the case for me--if, indeed it is the case for anyone beyond the most superficial similarities of routine. There is an almost infinite slippage/breakage/separation between papers, between drafts of papers, and between modes of writing. I mean by "routine" all those things that are behaviors that surround writing that are not writing themselves. Some (I think the idea is most) professional creative writers write at the same time every day. Those who do not write for about the same amount of time every day. I understand this practice of reinforcement helps them. Similarly, when I write, I have a routine. I avoid writing. I find this very helpful. Nothing is written until it absolutely must be written or the entire free world will drown in a tide of fire--the clear consequence of my continued negligence. I stress about writing. Then, I don't do it with every fiber of my being. Eventually, I begin to talk. [NB: I have had recourse to speak to my fiancee about this process as it is as opaque to me as is the UI of the Writing Studio. The description in so far as it actually describes what an eyewitness reports of my writing practices is hers. The purple prose, of course, is mine.] I apparently talk ceaselessly about the central nexus of ideas that are forming the kernel of the paper that is yet to be written. [NB: Incidentally, one of the worst things about the Writing Studio is the irregular boundaries in text windows that make it impossible for one to view all of one's work at the same time, which leads the writer to avoid re-reading for grammar/spelling and organization because of the constant irritation of messing with scroll-bars.] Imagine, if you will, that I steal TS Eliot's infamous metaphor about poetic imagination. Imagine that I put it in here. Imagine, then, this bullshit session as me forming that platinum filament by sheer force of will. If I had to liken this part of the writing process to any one thing, it would be to the power demiourgos given by Yahweh to his son Michael. Of course, Lucifer's power is needed, too. The lightbringer, among the Sons of Man, has a very important role to play. Once the filament is formed, it must be heated in order to cast forth the light of reason! Poesis, is after all, a making and a raising of a lamp! No, but seriously. I talk it out first. Sometimes I write it out, if, say, I'm broody that day. Then I write for about ten hours. I then read what I have written and determine if it actually has a point. I spend an hour reconfiguring what is there around the absent or present point. Then I make my fiancee read it. She says something like, "Mongooses fighting over the corpse of a cobra make more sense with their gibbering clicks and high-pitched yips than you, sir, manage to make in twenty-five pages of so-called Academic English." Then, she gives me a few suggestions for organization. These usually include telling me to move the last paragraph to the front. Then I print it and turn it in. Last Spring, she, being a behaviorist by both training and inclination added positive reinforcement to the mix. For every ten pages of rough-draft or rewrite I produced I received a reward. Common decency requires me to refrain from spelling that out. Rest assured, the reward scheme reduced my writing time to an average of 6 hours a paper and improved the response received from my instructors. Now. How can I bring this into the classroom? I cannot. I cannot tell people to wait until the night before. I cannot explain to them the reward system that has brought me such paroxysms of bliss. I cannot tell them to write first and to think of a thesis last. Or, if I do, I go against the entire motto of process over product. For we explain process as a series of re-writes, but graduate school is without the possibility of rewriting. Or, to be more precise, grad school is about the constant deferral of re-writing to some future epoch where everything is time and wine flows like slightly less viscous wine. In conclusion, I can think of no metaphor that would adequately describe the process of writing. I can, however, think of one that describes what I have already described. My mind, when engaged with the threat of imminent deadlines, is a member of the species dionaea muscipula. Slowly, slowly, slowly the ideas begin to leave my lips with the delicacy of drosophilia pullipes or musca domestica alighting on my mind's sensory hairs. Mechano-sensory response is initiated by the stimulation of those hairs, and the mind begins to close around the spoken idea, slowly, at first, until hairs in both hemispheres sense the same increasingly benighted idea. Then, swift as the adult swift-footed crab, the mind slams shut and begins to digest the idea. Of course, it all breaks down because what is produced is not a chemical sludge that powers the mind, but printed wood pulp with my ideas smeared all over it.

1 Comment (October 10, 2006)


September 29, 2006
On the first day of classes, my teacher gave to me:
One lesson on the formal characteristics of haiku. This turns out not to be as ridiculous as it sounds. It took place after an in-class attempt to write about a moment that involved the exertion of power. The haiku served to narrow focus, alert them to what was essential about their moment, and think very carefully about word choice and sensory description. It was a wild success. The model haiku I wrote for them was about returning from a party--I showed it undergoing revision. Remember, kids! It's all about process:

Walking home after,

the sprinklers dampened my pants,

under the new moon.

This became:

Stumbling home after,

sprinklers wetted my pants, a

heavy autumn dew.

I explained to my kids the reasons for the changes, stronger verbs. Association with "wet" and "pants" to allude to another reason why my pants might have been wet despite the claim about sprinklers. Replace "the new moon" which is very specific, yet recurring, with the more formalistically appropriate, but heavy-handed "autumn." "Dew" allows another opportunity for humor, as in other areas of the country, there would be actual autumn dew, not water from sprinklers. Of course, heavy speaks to that as well as to the physical feel of denim soaked with water. Their mouths dropped open as they gradually realized that you had to choose each word for a reason. Then they got started. There were some gems, but not as many of them went for the comedy, and that was unfortunate. They have a tendency to think that "My mother takes my power" is an understandable seven syllable line when removed from all context.

The other two classes went great. There was 100% participation in all sections--even from the frat kid who said "I hate writing because it takes too much reading. I don't read. That's why I like math. Because you don't have to read. You just look at numbers and see what they tell you." When I said that that sounded an awful lot like reading to me, he actually blushed.

My first office hours were a little strange. I brought a Zola novel, all set to do some reading for fun, as everybody assured me that no one ever made use of the office hours. I had seven people show up, and this meant that I didn't really have time to get into any kind of detail with any of them.

One of my students had a really sophisticated moment for her paper draft--they were supposed to write about a significant moment in their lives that concerned communication. She picked a moment where an apparent crush had picked a song out of his playlist for her to listen to. She tried to navigate the differently mediated levels of what was being communicated by a) the selection of the song as a demonstration of taste, b) the lyrics in the song as they applied to her, and c) the implication of those lyrics beyond the communication of listening preferences. This seemed to me ambitious in a way that reminded me of 398. Asking people to perform rhetorically in a space that purports to be about the instruction of the instruction of rhetoric is like painting a self-portrait in which you are teaching a class on self-portraiture with several competing portraits occupying the frame.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Overheard on the way back from teaching...

"Yeah. I mean, as soon as I heard she was Catholic, I proposed to her. I was like, I mean, really Catholic, and she was all, yep."

Thursday, September 14, 2006

You ever get that crawly sensation on the back of your neck?

Your Band Name is:

The Pink Officers

I accidentally swatted a ladybug that was crawling on my neck. Reflex action. It was more of a brushing, really, and it seems that the victim will recover. It was touch and go there for a while, though.

Exotic Dancer Name Is...


Have you ever been having a conversation where both you and the other person seem to be completely convinced that you're talking about the same thing, but secretly you think that you are talking about something different, and you can't shake the idea that maybe the other person is also talking about something completely different? Perhaps speaking in code?

You Are the Very Gay Velma!

She might not even realize it...
But Velma is all about Daphne... not Fred!

I have become convinced that internet quizzes are the new I Ching.

You Are Royal Blue

People find you difficult to understand. In fact, you often find it hard to understand yourself.
You think so much that sometimes you get lost in your own thoughts!

Here's a joke: A woman from a noir detective film goes to a 1960s psychiatrist and says, "Doc, I think my husband's a refrigerator." The psychiatrist leans back in his leather chair--which squeaks a little--and asks, "What makes you think that?" The woman brushes her spit curl out of her eyes and says, "When he sleeps, his mouth hangs open." The psychiatrist closes his little spiral notebook with a flourish and says, "That's perfectly normal. I'm told that I sleep with my mouth open as well. Does that make me a refrigerator, too?" The woman says, "I don't know. Does the little light that comes on keep *your* wife up all night?"

You Are 52% Gross

You're more than a little gross, but probably no more gross than the average person.
Maybe it's time to drop some of those disgusting habits that could eventually embarrass you!

So far, the entries to the sweepstakes are few. The next person to enter has a 25% chance of winning.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Sometimes it's a piece of cheese, suspended in the air.

The photo is for Edward.

The title is an incredibly obscure reference to one of Edward Monkton's cartoons that I once saw--one that purported to explain the meaning of life with a little rhyme:

Sometimes it's a chicken,
Sometimes it's a chair,
Sometimes it's a piece of know the rest.

Today, for me, life is exactly like that piece of cheese. [Jonathan's editors have proposed a sweepstakes-style competition. Whoever finds the most apt justification for Jonathan's use of Monkton's wildly provocative simile will receive a shiny nickel in the mail. Seriously. Jonathan's editors have your addresses. Send entries via comment in the format: Life is exactly like that piece of cheese because...

Here are some helpful examples: (1) Life is exactly like that piece of cheese because it is slightly damp to the touch and swings back and forth with a subtle and difficult to master rhythm while managing a series of antithetical, almost- revolutions. (2) Life is exactly like that piece of cheese because it hangs from a string connected to something no one is sure of, over a drop of indeterminate length, the end result of which drop being uniform in its finality and various in the amount of mess made upon impact. (3) Life is exactly like that piece of cheese because you can always eat cheese, but, then, really, what's left to do after that--play with string? (4) Life is exactly like that piece of cheese because, even though you are relatively safe from some things, (i.e., being stepped on) you are incredibly vulnerable to others (i.e., bugs finding the string in their interminable wanderings along the ceiling and then, due to some unfathomable twist in the decision tree that begins with finding pieces of string hanging from the ceiling, crawling down it, finding the cheese at the end and making a sort of cheese house for themselves in which they will breed new generations of bugs, all living, rutting, and dying in the house that is their only food source, until all the cheese is gone and the last, cautiously curious scions of the House of Cheese crawl back up the now nearly slack string to reclaim the nomadic ideals of their forebearers...) (5) Life is exactly like that piece of cheese because if you put on a blindfold and slice at either (the life or the cheese) with a knife, and, somehow, make contact, then both the life and the cheese are going to undergo irreversible changes at the physical level. (6) Life is exactly like that piece of cheese because it is not suspended in a vaccuum. &c.]

I don't have much for you in the way of...let's see. Oh! I know. Here's a list of the screennames from that have recently flirted with me:


Which one do you think likes water polo?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

O lente currite equi noctis!

I had a nightmare the other night wherein everything I touched dried up and blew away...The dried husks of all things were crumbled bits of beetle carcasses blowing in a funeral wind. I was choking on my own blood. Then, right as I realized that the ground, too, was crumbling like baked filo dough, my hands twisted and the bones burst from within them, hot strips of flesh pelting my face and body as I reached out to keep myself from sinking into the desiccated Earth. A bird screeched the lyrics to pollywolly doodle, and I awoke.

My mouth was so dry it had cracked in three places. I was bleeding into the back of my throat. Somehow, my hands had both been folded almost against my wrists and were pressed against the bed under my belly--once they woke up again, the pain was crystalline. "Well, that explains the dryness and the pain in my hands, but what about..." I realized I had sneezed all over my pillow and face. It was a most loathsome morning.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Current thinking...

For various reasons, I vacillate daily on the topic of whether or not I want to be an academic for the rest of my life. I just sent an email to a contact of mine to try and get some info about how one goes about seeking literary representation. If any of you have a clue how to begin that process, please send it my way.

I am also thinking that parts of Project Zero Sum, my secret codename for my juvenile novel, Kanjangaroo, can be salvaged and repackaged as honest-to-gods sf. I am playing around with various hideous schemes to make it part of a novel cycle--the kind sf publishers love--and the best candidate so far is something incredibly high-concept. Those of you might remember my dangling just the very tippy tips of my toes in quantum theory-esque concepts in that piece, and my understanding has certainly gotten better. The multi-book arc would be called something preposterous like, "The Book of the Shattered Earth," that would get some publisher's little whiskers all a-twitch. Then, the first volume's name would become "Coherence." You see? Multi-level punning of the kind that built the book, playing off of John Lyly's inherent (teehee) lack of coherence, the masturbatory moon/Earth shattering thing--which, incidentally, has since become the premise of a sitcom/soap opera--and the reverse of what is, as far as I understand--and Dave can correct me if I am wrong--a concept called decoherence, which is, simplistically, the reason why extremely improbable things don't happen at the macrostate level, namely that the interaction of large numbers of particles at the microstate level makes the extremely improbable on a small scale almost infinitely improbable on a large scale. Said reversal being somewhat what drives the improbable powers that John Lyly develops, leading to the shattered Earth and all the Earths of the Palimpsest...I say somewhat, because I also liberally borrowed from the mystically powerful but theoretically kinda ridiculous many worlds idea. The second volume would be, then, "Decoherence," and it would chronicle Epiphany's attempts to save the oneironauts spread throughout the dreamtime when all of those probability waves begin to collapse--if "collapse" is even an appropriate word--and force all realities back into the one doomed by John Lyly's insane act of indifference. The final volume would need to be completely overblown and hopefully nihilistic--in keeping with the tone of the last part of the first volume--and it would therefore be the incredibly pretentious attempt at a really moving account of godlings faced with mortality, that is to say, the human condition. I dreamt last night of Nabokov's "Lolita," and I thought something stolen from him would be reeking with appropriateness. Isn't there a phrase toward the beginning of Part Two that goes something like "a violet paradise wherefrom death and truth are banished"? Let me look...Okay, I can't find it at the moment. But even if he didn't write that, I'm going to say that whatever title I come up with for the third Book of Shatterearth was taken from Nabokov. "Wherefrom Death and Truth are Banned, Volume Three of the Book of the Shattered Earth." That has a nice, hefty pomposity to it, don't you think?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

In Time of Emergency

I recently found this old Department of Defense handbook called "In Time of Emergency: A Citizen's Handbook on...Nuclear Attack...Natural Disasters." I have only a vague idea of how I happened upon this, but I do know that it is from March of 1968, and therefore a perfect countertext to the Revolution. For those of you who collect such things, this is Office of Civil Defense handbook H-14.

There is nothing specific about it that is hilarious in the way that one hopes such things are going to be. But the tone of the thing itself is amazing. Unbelievable. Every page has something designed to convice one that one can survive a nuclear attack if one is properly cautious. A random example from the text:

"The fire departments of some communities in the United States conduct free training courses for citizens interested in learning how to fight fires at home or in becoming auxiliary firemen. If such courses are available in your community, you can acquire firefighting skills which may save your life or your home either in peacetime or in a period of nuclear attack" (Emergency, 54).

Dum de dum dum dum...oooh, free courses? Why would I...let's see...oh, I could save me! Or house! I could save house! Let's look outside...kinda peacey. Peaceful, that's the word. Serene, even. I guess it's peacetime now. Huh. Period of Nuclear Attack. Wow. I guess I never considered that Nuclear Attack was going to keep coming for a whole, like, period. I guess I just thought that a nuclear fireball was going to annihilate me and leave a greasy shadow on the wall. But, now, I guess I know better. I guess I better be prepared to fight fires while mushroom clouds bloom and an ever-thickening veil of ash composed of human, animal, and plant remains mixed with the powdery particles of minerals shorn from their intricate chthonic matrices is drawn between me and the sun. Jeez, I wonder what kind of...I wonder how one puts out a nuclear fireball. Let's see...ah:

"Remember the 3 basic ways to put out a fire: Take away its fuel. Take away its air (smother it). Cool it with water or fire-extinguisher chemicals" (ibid.).

Well, that about sums it up. Seems easy enough. But this is a special type of...oh, how convenient. There's a whole table of special kinds of...hmmm...electrical...oil or grease...gas...That's odd. Nothing here about how to quench or smother the promethean fire that results when matter is converted into energy released at the speed of light. Well, maybe they covered...ah, here we go:

"These special fire," okay, special, here we go, "special fire precautions should be taken in time of nuclear emergency," I guess periods of nuclear attack sure would qualify as emergencies, yessiree bob, "especially if you plan to use a home shelter: (1) Keep the intense heat rays of nuclear explosions from entering your house by closing doors windows and venetian blinds" (53). Whillikers, who would have thought that the venetians would have been so clever. Making blinds that stop the intense heat rays of nuclear explosions. Imagine. I guess that's what comes of being in a semi-tropical environment. Weren't the venetians traders? Have to be pretty crafty to control the trade routes of the Mediterranean, I guess. Huh. Counter-intuitive, though. I always kinda like to throw the windows open when it's hot out. It gets so stuffy in here. Anyway, I don't have venetian...oh goody: "If windows are not fitted with venetian blinds, cover the inside or outside of the windows with aluminum foil, or coat the glass with whitewash, household cleaning powder, or even mud" (ibid.). Well, I'll be. I have some mud right out in the yard. Guess I got nothing to worry about.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The ten minute mile.

I bought new, anti-bacterial tank bombs for the toilets in a fit of rage that was started by a drain being clogged again. Now, the smell from the toilets is painfully fresh. It cuts into your eyes and makes your nose squint. It comes up out of the bowl with a kind of sideslant authority and walks up slowly with its arms up-raised, even though you can clearly see the gun on its hip, just so you understand who's in charge. I don't like it.

Minor sucess at the gym today as I completed just over six miles on the elliptical trainer in an hour. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come. My goal? 7 miles in an hour, and 1000 calories.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Did I mention...

...that I was walking down the street the other day and saw a flyer seeking a roommate for a woman who claimed her name was Poonam Contractor?

No? Well, now I have.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I keep the end out for the tie that binds...

So, there was karaoke (My Charona [passable to good], Addicted to Love [spotty], Round Here [what was I thinking?] I Walk the Line [perhaps my best yet, judging from crowd reaction]) a resurgence of honest-to-god tennis (with Jeff Clapp, who will be better than me very soon), a sweeping poker victory, and a trip to Florida since I noodled around on here last. Apart from that, I have been fretting over not doing work I should be doing for school and partly shirking my duties in the creation of certain super-secret databases. Those of you who know me well may have translated "fretting over not doing work I should be doing for school" as "re-reading the Wheel of Time series." If you are one of those, kudos. If not, see translation provided above.

Warning: The following may be too nerdful for some to abide. It also may or may not be part of a years long conversation with one Kendall Jackson and, as such, of varying interest for those of you who just don't give a damn. In fact, just skip the next paragraph.

By the way, K, reading book ten is not nearly so painful as I had imagined. Now, before you do that little chortle-scoff-laugh thing and say something you'll regret, just think of it as a really long prologue to "Knife of Dreams." Really long. And mostly worthless. But still, if you can do that...if you can't, well...really the stuff you needed to get out of 10 is there in 11 as exposition in guessed it!...prologue.

Do do doo. Oh! Hey. Sorry. Didn't mean to zone out there. What else? Right. I woke up with a Britney Spears best-of medley in my head. World Jellyfish populations are on the rise. Some of you might reflect that that would present a disturbing proof of industrial over fishing. Some of you might reflect that that would present disturbing portents of an event to come: The Stinging.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Songs for the Def

It has begun! I sent Pat the first attempt at a little rap ditty that will hopefully kick off my first MC collabo since 1999-2000's epic "Battle of Da Worldz." Big ups to my man Jay-C, the only person who would have consented to participate in that madness. Except Zack, who does a mean backwards version of the TOS theme song on the hidden track. Big ups, also, to my Honors Introduction to Theater teacher, who gave me an A+ for a rap album made from scratch (Get it? It's a pun. An intended pun. A play on "scratching," the hip-hop term referring to sometimes virtuosic, sometimes impromptu, but always awesome performances using turntables and vinyl records played at varying speeds to achieve musical or rhythmic effects and "from scratch" an idiomatic expression meaning "with no pre-made materials." Do you get it now? God, what do I have to do, spell it out?).

Also in the news today, I took shipment on the bookcases I ordered and put together the six-shelfer that I think constitutes the absolute limit load for this room of the house. I don't think we will be buying more storage for books any time soon, and, hopefully, this prophylactic measure will prevent actual book purchases. Yeah, right.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

A long time coming...

So. In addition to the many hours I have spent on Table Tennis, I have also spent too much time on young adult fiction (The first four books of the Keys to the Kingdom series, the first few from A Series of Unfortunate Events, the Thief, Queen of Attolia, King of Attolia, etc.), Elder Scrolls IV, and dreaming of writing projects I will probably never start, let alone finish. But that is not all.

In that time, I have also been to Santa Cruz, San Diego, and the moon. Except for the moon. I didn't really go there. It's just this desperate urge welling up from my heart that makes me say these things. I need to leave low earth orbit. I also and perhaps paradoxically need to create lists and start reading for my exams and pick up basic German grammar.

Those of you who are wondering where I have gone are now satisfied. Those of you craving souvenir moon pies are now thwarted.

I got a call from Edward. He made the announcement that he will be moving out to LA permanently in August. So, that will officially be a shit ton of people I went to highschool with heading for the coast. This can only mean one thing: the ground is about to open up and devour Oklahoma entire. Only those accustomed to the ULF vibrations produced by tornadoes moving across scorched wheat fields have been able to sense the rumble of the formation of a new tectonic plate which will subside and bathe Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Lousiana, Arkansas, and Missouri in a terrible tide of fire.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

360 Degrees of Ping Pong

So, I finally broke down and bought an Xbox 360 last night. Sterling came over, and we were chatting. I decided that playing Rockstar's Table Tennis was just about all I wanted out of a Saturday night, and I went and made an impulse purchase of an aggregious (egregious + aggressive = aggregious) kind. I was not disappointed. Table Tennis is awesome. I haven't been this excited for a sports game since I brought Virtua Tennis home with me for the first time. I haven't been this excited about a game, period since, well, since Skies of Arcadia came out for the GameCube. I kept getting sad about how McKenzie might enjoy this game.

Perfect Dark Zero was kinda fun, but hard. We played until we spent an hour on a single level because I was unable to find a bright orange fire alarm against a grey wall.

Today, I must set down my paddle (Look! Look! Wireless ping pong paddle!) and get to work on all the stuff that I have to do this week.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Followed up!

So, I had my follow up rheumatologist's appointment. She said that the MRI didn't show any erosive bone loss, which is a big plus. She also said that she still thought all my symptoms were suspicious, but that the risk of aggressive treatment far outweighed any possible benefits. She then said I should come back the next time something was swollen and told me to lose ten pounds and wear sensible shoes.

The basic summing up is that she thinks I've got it, but it's not bad, and probably won't be bad for a while. In the meantime, I'm too fat. Which is fair.

McKenzie is in Maryland, visiting her parents and her best friend. That should be good for her.

Meanwhile, the house is very quiet. The cats are moving through the shadows, and their tails occasionally intersect with my skin in strange ways. Tails on the back of the neck when I least expect it--that kind of thing. This morning, after I had dropped McKenzie at the airport and was back in bed, sleeping, Seker (alternate spelling "Sokar") licked my hand. I woke up just in time to see him tear-assing away in fear. Belial blinked at me about thirty times, as if to say, "What can you do? He's a walking cliche," before shutting his eyes with authority and beating me back into sleep by a good three seconds.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A New, Singular Sensation

Do you ever get the feeling that you want to drop out of school and become a mason? Or a cryptozoologist? Or a Zen calligrapher? I do.

On a whim, I went to see An Inconvenient Truth instead of eating dinner tonight. Perhaps it was my low blood-sugar level, but I was actually moved to tears by that big, monotonous mandroid and his moral commitment to his environmental stance. It made me wonder whether I have any moral stances worth speaking of. Any grand, sweeping moral gestures that could even be on the same scale as that of preserving the chunk of rock that is the determining and constitutive foundation (currently) of any possibility of such gestures or stances or postures. I guess it just hit me that when I toy with doubts in the form of playful rhetorical questions like the above (yes, yes, I know you all secretly want to be zombie disposal technicians, or orchid farmers, or bootleggers, or brewmasters, or vintners, or neuro-genetic bio-mechanicists--but, let's face it, we just can't let go of a certain deep connection to culture) those doubts do not serve the function of somehow reaffirming my choice of lifestyle. I guess I realized tonight that every time I think, "I could just go make serious money doing something, anything else...naaah," I am really underscoring a commitment that is certainly politically and, ultimately, morally important in a way that I, perhaps naively, never considered before. I don't want to be a teacher, but I do think that teaching is one of the most important functions that can be. Don't get me wrong. It is not that I am morally committed to teaching because I believe somehow that I will single-handedly transmit that last cultural puzzle piece that will change the world. No, it's rather that my commitment has a particularly cynical flavor. If I am not teaching, then someone else is. And, to be quite honest, I don't trust anyone that much.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Yes! Yes!

Do you know what it's like to try to tell people about a cartoon that you saw as a child and never ever have them know what you are talking about? Indeed, to have them look at you as if you are spouting barely comprehensible and almost completely content-devoid sentences of purely syntactical language? To look into their faces and read in them consternation at being able to find nothing grammatically wrong with sentences that ne'ertheless have somehow ceased to *mean*? Well, I don't know who LJ user OrmondSacker is in the not net-world, but I have my suspicions. In any case, he or she has unwittingly led me to the name of a cartoon long buried. I was first aroused by the comment about the revived corpse of Sherlock Holmes taken into the future in the DiC feature "Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century." I knew this was what I had been searching for for sooooo many years. Then, I saw that it aired in 1999, and I was crushed. How could the beloved memory I had of the revived corpse of Sherlock Holmes deducing that Moriarty had hidden the transceiver in plain sight--THE EIFFEL TOWER!?!--have anything to do with this Scottish latecomer? Well, it couldn't. However, over the course of the Wikipedia article, they, too, noted that this had been done before, but instead of the hyper-detailed reminiscences of Jonathan Tanner--said hyper-detailed reminiscences being stripped of any possible context in which to situate it such as air-dates, time of day, channel, cartoon studio, etc. (except perhaps for the insertion into the memory-nexus of a weirdly zomboid cowboy with bionic implants and a distinctive gun that I tried to describe to Szteve and Adam on at least two drunken occasions and a giant, brawling, horse companion)--instead of these, they had actual information! Lo! It has finally been revealed to me. Behold the face of BraveStarr!!! You have no idea how many different fragments of memory were finally made whole, here. No, it is more significant than any oblique reference to the reconstruction of potsherds could ever convey. It is like brushing away the intervening years with a fine-bristled brush and revealing the original sacred topography of the temple of memory intact beneath the overwhelming detritus of years.

Friday, May 12, 2006


First of all, let me say an emphatic "Yes" to this:


Second of all, I don't know anything about my MRI results, yet. I can say that doing the MRI was the most torturous experience of my life. I would have sworn up and down that there was nothing wrong with my shoulder joints going into that goddamned machine, but now I can tell you that that is absolutely not the case.

If you want details, I can probably provide them.

Let me say again. Yes!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Cystic Changes in My Bones

I went in for my rheumatology appointment today. She said that in 20% of cases, the rheumatoid factor is not present in the blood, even though the patient has rheumatoid arthritis. 7% of people with psoriasis have psoriatic rheumatoid arthritis. The good news is that it affects fewer joints than reg'lar. The bad news is that it is still arthritis. The doctor wants me to schedule an MRI and some more bloodwork. The MRI because there is no test to confirm the diagnosis, but an MRI will show whether there is any erosive bone loss. My right hand was described as "osteoporitic." The bloodwork will determine whether I am HIV+, and if I am not, the doctor would feel better about giving me immuno-suppressants. First, though, we must see if I need these last.

I hope not.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Coachella Sun in the Unforgiving Valley

Lo! I am returned among you.

Coachella was painful and amazing. In that order. Here is a breakdown.

Day 1.

I picked up Tom and Pat, and we got on the road around 1:30 on Friday. We arrived at this condo all of us had rented in Palm Desert at around 4. Pat and I commenced to drinking the emergency beer I brought with me in case there was no beer when I got there. Everyone else (except Mia) went grocery shopping. They took my car to somewhere in Mexico, because they were gone until like 7:45. When they got back, Sherwin made some pasta. We ate and began playing seven card stud. This went on until stupidly late in the morning. The good part is that I more than doubled my five dollar buy-in, finishing up seven dollars. I went to sleep on a little nest of couch cushions, thermarest, and a sleeping bag at 3:45. People that had dropped out of the game earlier in the evening began getting up at 7:30, which, because I was in the living room, meant that that was how and when I began

Day 2.

People ate breakfast and continuously talked about how we should totally, like, leave soon, from 8:15 until 11:30. My mission was to see The Like opening at the outdoor theater at 1:00. Traffic prevented this. I didn’t actually set foot in the festival until after 2:00. I caught The Walkmen at 2:30, which was a no-brainer as far as choices went, because the other people playing were absolutely not on my radar. It was a really good set. I got little shivers because the stage-presence of the lead singer (he played a stage show, looking into the sun, in the desert, in 96 degree heat, in a suit) led me to some insights into the way certain lyrics ought to be interpreted. They played the only Walkmen song I included on my mix, thus justifying its presence. That song = We’ve Been Had. Then, I stayed at the main stage and caught The Duke Spirit. That was pretty good. The sound quality was better than during The Walkmen’s set, and the lead singer was really interesting. Their bass player had sprained his strumming elbow on the tour and played the whole set in a sling. I stayed put and checked out Common and Kanye, and was more or less glad that I did, even though it meant skipping out on CYHSY. At this point, 6:35, I was completely exhausted and still had five and half hours of music to watch. I went to the last half of TV on the Radio’s set, but watched it sitting down. Which basically meant that I saw people’s asses for twenty minutes. The twenty minute break between that set and Ladytron was relaxing. The sun was down by the time they came on, and I was almost delirious the whole time they were performing. They were probably the best out-of-nowhere (for me) surprise after one act on Sunday. They were so high energy that I actually went against the grain of my heart and skipped Cat Power. Some of you might say me nay, others might say aye, but the fact is, Ladytron was such high energy and I was so tired that I didn’t want to stay and watch them since I still had to watch three hours of music after that, and it would have meant such an anti-climax. Plus, after the fabulous set by Ladytron [Begin digressive interpolation: While leaning on the soundbooth, fascinated by the great electronica being pounded out in minimalist monotone on stage, a couple who were visibly on E squeezed up next to me and began to make out. The woman began to rub her ass on me. I moved a couple of feet away. She extended her ass in an Inspector Gadget impersonation and commenced to rubbin’, y’all. This process was repeated twice before I managed to get out of reach of her ass and she turned her rubbing gesture into a wild, rave-tent maneuver that began a series of gyrations that did not stop for the next half-hour. End digressive interpolation.] I didn’t want to risk the very real possibility that Chan Marshall might deconstruct on stage and make me cry. So, I slid on over to see the Eagles of Death Metal. I pushed rapidly up to about the center of the crowd and eventually regretted it because Damien “Jr. Gong” Marley had gone over time and the ripple effect made EoDM more than a half-hour late getting to the stage, and I had no way of getting out to get back to Cat Power or of sitting down. I was forced to wait, shifting back and forth from foot to foot with my legs, knees, ankles, and lower back burning and aching. Then EoDM came out, and I did the same thing while dancing. It was a home-coming for them (Homme is from Palm Springs (Paaaaaalm Sprriiiiings!)) and the crowd was extremely enthusiastic. They played the only song of theirs that I put on my mix, but they mostly played stuff off of Death By Sexy, which I don’t have. Still, it was incredibly entertaining, and probably the fourth best act I caught. They had two drum kits going, and the female drummer’s kit had a fan hidden in it that continuously blew her hair straight out and back from her head like she was drumming in a wind tunnel. She was amazingly sexy. They switched kits, they threw and broke sticks, they stood up and drummed, they did everything you could want out of a drummer duo, really. I stayed to watch Atmosphere because, quite frankly, I don’t give a damn about Depeche Mode. Atmosphere’s whole set was great. High energy, entertaining. It started out amazing and then actually went a little down from that level when he brought his band out to play while he rapped. It was still good. At one point, he actually stopped all the music and brought some lights up because someone had collapsed in the crowd. [Begin digressive interpolation: There were eleven hospitalizations and fifteen arrests on Day 1 of the festival. End digressive interpolation.] I then stayed to watch She Wants Revenge—which was the plan—instead of trying to squeeze in to see Daft Punk or The Rakes. I thought their set was really uninspired, but I honestly don’t even know what I was expecting. Everybody met up at the tesla coil, and team Tan ‘n’ Black trekked through vast wildernesses where the blowing dust of the desert had coated everything and made the parking lots look like an elephant graveyard filled with strange ghosts inscribed with various benedictions drawn in their layers of grime by wanderers to and from the festival. A fog had moved in, making everything surreal. Or maybe that was exhaustion plus dehydration plus extreme joint pain. In any case, we got back to the condo pretty quickly and munched on some grindage while everybody wound down. We all got to bed at 3:45 or 4:00, with Team Black ‘n’ Tan agreeing that, since missing the only act I wanted to see for the first six hours of Sunday was unconscionable and because Sterling needed to be at the non-existent will-call window by eleven (I’ll let him tell that one), we would leave at 9:30 the next morning, which meant that everybody needed to be awake by 7:45. This is, more or less, what happened, bringing us up to

Day 3.

The combined effects on my digestive system of two days in a row with less than eight full hours of sleep—two whole days in which my total amount of sleep did not indeed exceed seven and a half hours—notwithstanding, team Black ‘n’ Tan was launched upon the venture at t-plus sixteen minutes. I was in time to catch The Octopus Project, which was a band I had looked up for the trip and listened around in. I actually liked their live performance quite a bit, and I was surprised because it just hadn’t sounded like something that could be reproduced live. I began Day 3 in serious pain and decided that there would be infinitely more sitting and sleeping than there had been the day before. This is why I watched Octopus Project from the bleachers. The bleachers are important. Sterling and I stuck around on the bleachers while Pat went closer in to see The Giant Drag. I slid over to make more room on the bench. When pat came back, twenty minutes later, as I slid back the other way. As I did this, I felt my shorts catch on the bench and an incredible stabbing pain shot through my leg. I realized I had just gotten a splinter. I said, “Ow. I think I just got a splinter.” I thought, well, I should get that out later. Then it started hurting really badly. I thought about the shape of where it hurt and thought, this is a rather large splinter. I reached into my pant legs and tried to grab at it with my fingers, but I couldn’t, as it was just at the juncture of my hamstring and right glut, stuck parallel to the muscle and under the skin. As my fingers fumbled around down there, the pain got more and more intense (ask Sterling if he has any memory of my verbal process as I did this, because I can’t remember) and I realized I needed to have this looked at right away. This is how I ended up limping an eighth of a mile to the first aid tent, how I ended up having to repeat that I had a splinter in the back of my thigh like sixteen times before shouting “There is a splinter in my ass!” at the idiot at the table at the front of the tent. To which she replied that I should have a seat. To which I replied “I can’t sit down because THERE IS A SPLINTER IN MY ASS!” She started to giggle and jumped up to get a med tech. I had to repeat myself a few times. He had me lean on a chair and bend over. I pulled up my shorts to show him the splinter. He whistled and ran and got another med tech. The two of them disinfected me and pulled the splinter out. They both laughed in amazement. The supervising director walked over and laughed out loud and said, “What a pain in the ass.” Then the medtechs stopped laughing as blood welled out of the puncture. They shoved some anti-biotics around it and told me how lucky I had been that it went in parallel to the muscle instead of into it. I filled out a medical form. They warned me of the really horrible things that could happen with this wound, and I hobbled back over to show Pat and Sterling the thing they pulled out of me. It was officially 2.5 centimeters long—that is to say a full inch—and between an eighth of an inch and a quarter of an inch at its widest. We walked over to see the Dears, and it was so mellow and good and relaxing that I fell asleep and didn’t wake up until James Blunt was starting. Halfway through that, Sterling and I walked over to see The Magic Numbers. They blew me away. They were the best thing I could have imagined at that moment. Then, I saw Minus the Bear. They were blah. They grew on me, but the sound was all screwed up compared to the Magic Numbers clean mixing on the main stage, and it was just a come-down. Anybody would have been, though, to be honest. I then went over and bought some advil and waited for Tom to see Sleater-Kinney. Very high energy. They had some technical difficulties with the drum kit, but they were really professional and kept things movin’ and groovin’. I had expected to like them, but not as much as I did. I opted for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs after them over the Digable Planets. This was partly because I had such good stage position already (not very many people were at Sleater-Kinney when they started, because they were up against Bloc Party in the outdoor theater and Paul Oakenfold in the dance tent) and partly because I didn’t want to get mellowed out after the energy Sleater-Kinney threw at me. I then just sat around for a half-hour before meeting Sterling and Tom for dinner [Begin digressive interpolation: Water in the desert was two dollars a bottle. Any kind of food was seven dollars a unit. On Saturday, I took one bite of a burrito that was so awful I immediately spiked into the ground like Steve’s Juevos Carnitas. I didn’t eat out of fear for the rest of that day. Sunday, I was basically eating and drinking Gatorade constantly because I had had so little sleep that I was converting food and electrolytes directly into the will-power I needed to stay alive and keep moving. End digressive interpolation.]. We all went to see the Go! Team. All ten people in our group. And for good reason. I said as we were leaving to see Tool that the Go! Team really showed me something eye-opening about what live performances could be. I told Sterling that if they had had a live horn section, I would have put them directly into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame on the Strength of one album and one performance. I then finished the thing out with Tool. They were amazing, but not as good as The Go! Team. The visuals were a little disappointing, too, though it was good to see all the old videos again. New AV stuff was mainly fractal masturbation and kaleidoscope stuff. It took an hour and half to get to the car and two hours to get back to the Condo. Sterling left for Studio City at four in the morning. I went to sleep in the sure knowledge that our car was leaving at seven thirty, which meant that I had to get up at 6:30 in order to shower and do my part of the cleaning. We got everybody up and on the rode by seven forty. Everyone in Team Black n Tan was home by the time Team Two was even eating breakfast. I ate cereal and waited for McKenzie to get back from subbing for Tom. Then, I slept for an hour. Then I went to class. Then, I got home and ate dinner. Then I went and did an hour of limits on about eleven hours of sleep since Friday morning at 9:30. I came home, ate a sandwich, drank some 16-year-old Lagavulin and went to sleep. I woke up eleven hours later without having dreamt at all.

The whole experience is essentially indescribable.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Coachella Valley And the Unforgiving Sun

If you have a vote for a band that you want me to see in your honor, or in your stead that is appearing at the Coachella Music Festival then you have approximately twelve hours to make that desire known in a post, here.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Part IV, Chapterlet 5

At the exact moment that Tino’s hammer’s claw pierced the crown of Ray Chang’s skull and buried itself in his brains, Ray Chang’s spirit crossed the barrier, and Kennedy finally got her head all the way around her idea.

Part IV, Chapterlet 4

When Tino chickens out and walks back to the car, he sees Kennedy’s skipped. He doesn’t really care. He mostly doesn’t care about much, actually, which is why its interesting that this kid’s got him all riled. He gets in the car and pulls the door shut, sitting in the dark and looking mostly at the apartment complex. The hammer, too. It’s a Vaughan no. 9. Not heavy. Says 10 oz on the side.
Tino’s unsure where he picked up the carrying around a hammer thing. He’s got a bunch of like hammers, now. It’s the kind of thing that mostly just gets carried too far, with everybody having like a signature item. It’s mostly like that, but it’s also like a hammer’s got a use. It’s not just flash. That kid that runs with Billy, Jay something, he uses knuckles. That’s just ignorant. Under the tape, the hammer’s wood is mostly white with the dark parts of the grain running up parallel and evenly spaced.
If the cops find a hammer in your car, it’s not like a big thing. Keep some vise grips and a couple screw drivers and a old ratchet set, too, makes it look like your ride’s a piece of shit and you need to like work on it. Which isn’t stretching it. On the opposite tip, they find knuckles in your car, your going in, just on probable. Suspicion.
His dad’s the one told him how to look for the direction of the grain. He wonders where the Chang kid gets the sheer balls. He remembers picking this one out of a drawer at the hardware store. There was a bunch of the same kind of hammers and he looked through until he found one he liked. And the rest, as they say, is mystery.
He misses Kennedy. She’s good for filling up space, making things less quiet. The radio’s broken or he’d turn that on, and he’s been listening to the same fucking CD for weeks, now, since probably Joey borrowed his cds from the floorboard without checking to see if maybe he wanted to change the CD.
The handles are always curvy in a way that makes him think about them like girls. Not think about them like he thinks about girls, but think about them as if they were girls. Not in a sexual way, he doesn’t think.
Because Chang doesn’t really run with anybody. There’re a couple cars there, now, but that’s like a unique party situation. Chang probably wants to set up a more kind of upscale, people come to him kind of place, instead of having people out on the street pushing. Which to Tino sounds mostly like waiting for cops to kick your door in.
He’s never named one or anything like that, but he mostly thinks of this particular hammer in terms of like how he thinks about a girl, and that freaks him out a little bit. But isn’t it like common to give your item a girl’s name. BB King’s got a guitar with a girl’s name. So it’s not perverted. Billy’s .45’s named Marta, which Tino personally thinks is a stupid name. It’s the lightest hammer he’s got. Maybe he’ll ask the philosopher.
He lights a cigarette, thinks about quitting. Unless, if you buy off the cops. Then it would be way more comfortable.
The thickest part of the hammer is the very end of the handle. Tino thinks of this as the butt. Then it gets a little bit narrower and goes back out in a bulge in the middle that’s not quite as thick as at the very end of the butt, and then it gets really skinny at the neck.
He’s calmer now, seeing the angle. Set up in a more upscale apartment type place in a good neighborhood and give the cops a piece. No more standing out in the cold. No more getting busted for like loitering by cops sure he’s holding as if anybody’s that stupid anymore. The Chang kid used to call him Tin Man in middle school. Like if I only had a.
The neck is so skinny it looks like fragile, like a pencil. On both sides of the tape there’s smut from where the glue of the stickers it came with gets dirt and crap stuck to it. Lighter fluid’d get that smut off. The head has a round sticker still on it that says Proud to Say Made in USA which Tino thinks isn’t very catchy on your scale of one to catchy. He picks at it with his non-smoking hand.
Tino can see the like couple of cars that were probably there to party with the Chang kid are filling with laughing people and about to bounce. He always smokes with the same hand. It was, he’s thinking now, probably not a good idea to yell at the old man.
The front of the handle—Tino knows the front part of the head that he calls the nose is for hitting nails and the back, vee-shaped part that he calls the claw is for pulling them out—the part that’s toward the nose has two places where the grain comes together and makes almost shapes like rings when you skip rocks.
He would’ve known which side of the hammer was forward even if his dad didn’t tell him. You can like feel it when you hold it with the weight all out front. But Tino mostly likes to swing the hammer so that it hits with the claw part. This is good for lots of carnage with little to no work. There’s Chang going back in to his place, alone. It could totally work, but not with two crews running the same game in South Tulsa—too many cops to buy, too many people would know. More people knowing means more people wanting in on the action, more people talking and the like. But more talk means more business.
The weight makes it awkward to hold with the claw forward though, so he always holds it with the nose forward and does like a little spin thing when he pulls back to throw down. No. Better to just have one crew running it. Simple is better. The old man’s mantra.
He looks down. Some ash has fallen on his pants while he’s been picking at the sticker.
Is the old man really out? He shouldn’t have yelled. That’s going to come back to bite his ass. His temper is like his worst enemy. It’s why he hasn’t tried to start his own crew before now. He knows that the temper makes a truly business-like crew difficult to work.
It’s irritating when the hammer slips. That’s why the tape. That and this is like Billy claims no-print tape, but Tino’s not sure he buys it. It’s on all the grips of like Billy’s boys’ guns, but, for real, if the tape worked, wouldn’t cops be out of a job? So it’s mostly for the slipping.
The worst is when the hammer half spins because of the slip, and it comes down sideways like a tee. It goes right up your elbow, and you can feel it in your teeth. Tino throws the cigarette out the window.
“Fuck it,” he says.
He opens the car door and closes it with a creak. His breath puffs out bright in the apartment complex light. He slides the hammer up the sleeve of his coat. The points of the claw poke into his palm, and one cuts him a little making him say fuck as he walks and tries to hold the hammer up his sleeve like he’s not holding anything. The weight makes it difficult.
Sometimes, when he’s pulling back to throw down, the weight makes it feel like the hammer wants to hit him, it comes back so smooth. He dreamed about it once, about the weight shifting in his hand until he lets go, and a little crab like thing with a claw and a cartoon nose jumps at his face, scuttling around on one leg that’s moving too fast to see, kicking little bits of bone into the air that rain down all around with a sound that sounded like hail as it came. He can remember waking up from that one yelling with like sweat all over, absolutely soaked, his head aching and the sheets just stuck to him, and when he looked in the mirror all he could see was that the whites of his eyes were mostly showing, so it looked like his eyes were just loosely hanging there in his head, about to fall out. He had thrown up, shaky and holding onto the toilet with both hands and his face in the bowl making it sound like the ocean.
He holds his coat closed with his smoking hand and adjusts the hammer. Sweat pours into the cut, and it stings like a bitch. He feels adrenaline hit his head so hard it makes his face flush, and that makes it burn and tighten in the cold. His scalp pulls back and he can hear that little tiny creak from his ears being pulled up with the scalp. If you asked him right then, standing there outside Raymond Chang’s apartment about to throw down on him, asked him what he would name the item right then, and said that you would blow his brains out if he didn’t, like if you held a gun to his head, he would probably say to fuck off. But, right then, with his personal blood making little drips on the concrete in front of the door, the name he was thinking was Veruca.

Part IV, Chapterlet 3

“See, it’s like this: I met Star through her uncle, Henry Lee. Henry Lee isn’t—I guess wasn’t really her uncle. He just happened to be a like business acquaintance of her own really real family in Japan. I know I’ll catch hell from my rep, but I figure a little goodwill goes a long way with the Finest. Usually…and so you’ll probably hear it all anyway…As in, like, the kind and level of business that is more like a multi-national corporation than like a bullshit cosa nostra like family kind of business…All I know is, she ran away from there, ended up here, and it wasn’t far enough because Henry Lee found and “adopted” her…No, she’s independent…What do you mean, Reason? We were—I mean we are...he’s my friend. My rep get here, yet?”

Part IV, Chapterlet 2

When they pull up outside of Ray’s apartment—‘the Chang kid’ has a first name that she knows and knows that Tino knows because they played foursquare together for Christ’s sake—when they pull up, Tino turns the car off and just sits there in the dark with the headlights off and Kennedy listens to the engine ticking and rattling in the cold. Her mom said once that that sound was made by a fan or something that was still spinning. Kennedy herself is superstitious about causes and avoids pinning things down with causes. This serves her lateral thinking well, the Sad Man says, but he always says it like there’s something funny about lateral thinking, and then he normally says that with a little focus, she could be a great strategist. Anyway, getting pinned down by causes is a good way to end up playing defense—which is something she pretty much despises in chess, especially the top-level, nationally ranked speed chess that she plays. She’s currently ranked number 12 nationally, in under 16s. It’s something of a riddle to her why speed chess players aren’t as good as regular players, or why the Sad Man can beat her at whatever kind of game easily, even tiddly winks she’s sure, but always takes as much time as he can—there’s never anything left on his clock at the end of the game. A riddle, sure, but the kind of riddle that pins you down, gets you thinking about causes instead of now, and now is definitely when Tino is reaching over her and opening the glove box and pulling out this claw hammer. The hammer is a regular hammer but it has weird, discolored tape on the handle. Tino’s holding it, looking over into the apartment complex. Kennedy thinks about saying something. Then something kind of clicks, and she realizes that her best bet is to let him go and do this completely stupid thing that he’s going to do and also that her best bet is to not be fucking there and witness/ be an accomplice to this incredibly ill-advised action, as Bones would no doubt say. But the idea is much bigger than that. She can’t quite get hold of it, but she can hear that clicking echoing around inside the idea and she doesn’t know what to think.

Part IV Motion Without Cease? Chapterlet I

IV. Motion without Cease

Ginger peach wild honey cedar flavor making her swallow, Kennedy presses her whole face into the darkness of Star’s pushed up skirt and gives a little shake as she hears a voice calling out Star’s other name in the nighttime behind her. This little shake was more to catch her breath, actually, and break the seal, but it seems to have done the trick because Star’s belly is jerking like ah, ooh, ah, and Star—Kennedy can tell without even having to look that Star is making her O face, the one she only makes for big ones, with those weird tapering but plump lips with their smeared lipstick like eating each other up and writhing against her face like snakes mating somewhere up overhead. Then Star’s pubis bumps Kennedy’s upper lip in a really satisfying way like she knows she’s going to have a fat lip from it, but even though it’s satisfying Kennedy’s not sure the gesture was automatic like the spasming belly was and can imagine that it was probably dismissive, like her cue to stop. She lets go of the thong she’s been holding to the side and watches it not quite slide back into place as she rocks back on her heels and then up, aching. Knees, neck, back, lips, fingers, lips. Aching.
Kennedy tries to kiss Star, but Star turns so she only gets her on the cheek and tries not to pout as Star wipes off her kiss. Sometimes she likes to be kissed on the mouth after, sometimes not. Anyway, it’s no skin off Kennedy’s dick as she roots around in the damp at the base of the creepy statue with the slack like O face that statues sometimes have, especially statues of women, or maybe that’s just Kennedy. She thinks of the ecstasy of St. Theresa. She finds her purse and brushes some dew off it before looking in her bag. She checks the time on her phone. No messages. Star’s not even making eye contact, looking over Kennedy’s head. Kennedy knows she’s thinking about Her, so she just leaves. She’s got to meet Henry and Tino anyway. And maybe later play Go with the Sad Man.
She always feels really weird and cramped and generally unpleasant when she thinks about Go and the whole Go situation after she’s just Xed Star, but then she thinks about how amazing Star is and gets all desperately clammy in her head and her thighs get all tense and thinks that there’s no way in hell she’ll give any of it up. She’ll die first. Anyway, she’s gotta get paid and complicating the whole Star, Sad Man, Henry, Tino situation would be bad news for everyone involved so she just shoves everything down and just boxes it and thinks about getting paid and moving product.
Downtown, she gets to Henry’s and takes the freight elevator up the fourth and gets out. She can hear Tino yelling before the elevator even stops. He’s yelling his usual bullshit about turf and expansion, and she can tell that Henry’s not even listening by hysterical Tino’s getting. Sure enough, she turns the corner into the office and the Sad Man’s sitting there, playing Go, and Henry’s kinda watching him play by himself with that sickly smile that makes his lips disappear even further into the burnt parts of the skin around his mouth. Tino’s forehead is bright purple, and if Kennedy couldn’t hear him yelling, she’d probably think that he was choking, she thinks, looking at how the color pushes all the way around the forehead and makes the tips of his ears wildly differently colored before disappearing down the neck of his shirt. Tino’s spitting, he’s so angry. Kennedy can tell this is pretty much it. But, right then, of course, The Sad Man notices her, making some crack about how Tino’s secretary is there and maybe could she take dictation because the Sad Man does not want to feel the sadness of these words being lost in the ceaseless flow of time. That’s pretty much how he always talks.
But then so Tino turns around and tells her to get her shit they’re leaving, and she says “I just got here,” but he doesn’t even slow down, he just grabs her arm and heads out into the hall. His grip hurts Kennedy’s arm, but she doesn’t complain. She has like a cartoon like image of her coming along behind Tino like a balloon on a string as he charges toward the stairs. The echoes in the room are wild with his almost running and her stumbling to not get pulled off her feet. She manages not to fall as he drags her down the stairs and through the parking lot and into the car.
He puts the keys in the ignition but doesn’t start the car. He rolls his window down and lights a cigarette. She can see he’s calmer now. He takes a long drag and talks out the smoke. “Henry’s retiring.”
Kennedy says, “That why you were so pissed?”
“No.” He takes another drag. “He won’t front me the cash to buy in with his supplier. Thinks the business should go to the Chang kid.”
“Well, ‘the Chang kid’ is in the family.” She knows that they went to school together and that calling him kid is just one of Tino’s ways of trying to assert control over a seemingly random universe, is Kennedy’s private take on the whole epithet.
“And I’m not?” He’s working himself back up again.
“Hell, no. You’re not even Chinese.” She shivers a little. It’s getting colder in the car because of the window being down.
“Neither is the philosopher.” The philosopher is what everybody calls the Sad Man. Kennedy only calls him the Sad Man when no one’s listening.
“The philosopher isn’t looking to buy into a Triad franchise while not being a Triad—let alone not being Chinese.” This is, looking back, probably what got Kennedy started thinking about how she could make her own move, really.
“I’m gonna go see that Chang kid.” Tino’s not even listening anymore. Kennedy thinks he probably stopped listening to anyone else a long time ago.
“Whatever,” she says, “drop me at my house.” Kennedy knows what going to see someone normally entails and decides that she’d rather be home reading Tess of the D’Urbervilles for her chapter quiz on Monday. Not to mention that she’s got the Trig/Stat/Functions test review to finish.
“No, you’re coming. You want to be a part of this or not?” He doesn’t even hear her say no, not really, she doesn’t really want to have anything to do with him or his “moves” or his “visits” and most of his not hearing could be put down to not caring, but probably some of it is caused by his diesel Mercedes’s engine waking up.

The Irvine Post Dispatch

I am going to slap up a couple chapterlets, here. Be warned that, since you have read them, some of the previous chapterlets have been changed in significant ways that mostly concern the timeline. These changes are not reflected in the currently available online materials.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Adventure Continues

New links over there to your right. These people are worth your time. I know this because I have evaluated your time.

No, seriously. I get this report, and it tells me how much time you spend looking at this.

Then I run it through a complex set of algorithms that I have loosely designed after a cat's skull, and, in the end, I know what your time is worth.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Some words that don't concern history or class consciousness...

I seem to have passed my MA exam. I am now tentatively Master of Arts. The next step is to get together a list committee and start creating lists which will be used to create my qualifying exam questions.

My advisor turned out to be a good man to have at the exam. He directed things very well. Which I thought was surprising considering that he's pretty--what's the word?--somnolent most of the time.

I translated another movie pitch today, or, rather, last night. I'll put the finishing touches on it tomorrow. I like doing these things. For one, because it gives me a sense how little of an idea it takes to actually get something read. For two, because it takes my mind off of why in the hell I ever thought reading Lukacs ever again would be a good idea.

Don't know if Evil Dave reads this, but, if he doesn't, somebody should tell him just how funny that Secret Wars Reenactment skit was.

I've started futzing around with the novel project from November again. If you guys want to, I can slap another couple chapterlets up. I'll leave it in your hands.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Good news: no lupus and negative for rheumatoid factor. Bad news: I have cysts on the bones of my right wrist and hand that are the apparent cause of my pain in that area. I am being referred to a rheumatologist.

They moved my MA review, again. This time only to Friday. More as it develops.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The formless fears that haunt my flesh

Sorry about the brevity of the last post. It seemed funny at the time; indeed, it still amuses me, but I can recognize how some of you might have found its effect to be the production of a certain amount of anxiety. For that last, I apologize. By way of a larger explanation of that cryptic bit of humor, let me say that I feel modern doctors are not content to treat every problem one has unless they may treat those problems as symptoms of something larger. My evidence is that the last three doctors I have consulted have all found it to be worthwhile to hunt for a far-fetched, single, systemic cause to my various life-long complaints. Because I have recurring apthous ulcers and a mild case of psoriasis (two conditions which I developed simultaneously during the summer before seventh grade), combined with chronic joint pain (that I remember as far back as the age of eleven, then chalked up to "growing pains"), my doctor suggested that these problems could all be caused by lupus which is a genetically inherited systemic auto-immune disease that manifests itself in joint pain and lesions of the skin--apthous ulcers and psoriasis are not major skin diseases, but apparently they are adequate as signs of trouble. Alternately, I could just have recurring apthous ulcers, psoriasis, and joint pain--the cause of which could be tendonitis. The not-so-funny, downer side to the story (from my admittedly unique point of view) is that the joint pain could be the result rheumatoid arthritis, a far more likely condition for me to develop as both types of the disease are present in my parents (Mom has osteo- and dad has rheumatoid). So, they took my blood, screening me for the rheumatoid factor, for lupus, for triglycerides (because of the pancreatitis alert that you might remember from last year), for h. pilori (because of the acid reflux I have been experiencing more often in the last two years), and for lymphoma of the stomach (for the same reason), as well as for gout and one other mysterious test so vague that the answers I received when I asked about the reasoning behind it made me suspect that the Doctor had some arcane reason to get the total number of vials of my blood taken up to the alchemically and cabalistically important total of 7.

The comedy recap is: I could have gout! Only effetely aristocratic males of the 19th century like De Quincey get gout! Oh, how the world would seem gay if I had the gout! What's that? Gout is a horrifyingly painful disease that sometimes results in bony protrusions from the joints that will make me resemble some of Marvel's grittier mutants? Freude! Nay, how glorious it would be to have gout and lymphoma of the stomach!

Christ. So, you can maybe sorta see why I decided to think that it was funnier to sleep uneasily because of the threat of lupus instead of just kind of sob silently while considering cancer.

My doctor's advice was to lose 15 (more) pounds. I have begun that process in earnest.

On an unrelated--except that it is also an update on a previous post--note, my MA review is scheduled for April 19th at 1:00 in the afternoon.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Updates in haiku form

So, my computer

died. Those dicks messed with my car.

I might have lupus.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Quarter's almost over...

One paper down, one more paper and one exam to go.

Master's review is in the administrative works for the 2nd week of the Spring quarter.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Important philosophical questions addressed by 5th-11th grade ESL students in my Junior Writing III class.

Q: In what ways do knowledge and power serve to constitute the post-post-modern conception of the body-qua-material object?

A: I agree with this "knowledge is power," stament because, when I was little my mom and dad said that knowledge is as powerful as your body. Knowledge also helps you think focus and everything you do relys on knowledge.

Q: It's interesting that you give knowledge power equal to that of the physical body. Is this power subject to death in the same way? That is to say, is your conception of knowledge drawn from a revival of neo-Platonism (i.e., is knowledge the true form of the mind, pure knowledge, of which mind is just the epiphenomenon and knowledge the immortal soul?), or does knowledge ultimately bring paralysis in the face of death before being annihilated by death? Are knowledge and the physical body linked through the ineluctable fact of all knowledge being knowledge of mortality, an idea that would naturally lead us into an existentialist vein?

A: In a TV show called Tom and Jerry. Tom is a cat who wants to eat Jerry for snack. Jerry uses his knowledge to survive and do tricks on Tom.

Q: So you see prostitution as one site of resistance to the hegemonic conception of the death/knowledge dichotomy?

A: Because that if you had all the money in the world but didn't have the knowledge to spend it what would the point of being all the money in the world? I mean what would you do if you had not gone to class but had money with knowledge you could do anything. If you had brains but others had money they would look up to you for the knowldge of guldance. Like in the book Freak the Mighty a boy who had brains teams up with a bulky guy. They are more powerful togetherbut the one with brains is not stronger that the other one is stronger. They are more powerful together.

Q: I'm not sure I see the connection between economics and physical strength. Unless this is a radical Marxian view of the body as commodified means of production. Even then, you would have to sidestep the mind-body dualism debate to even consider the body as the site of production of knowledge, which, as far as I can tell, modern philosophy is unwilling to do. Current philosophy is behind psychology in this respect. Certainly, the economics of brain power is something that every tenure jockey has to deal with sooner or later, but what does this have to do with power for the reader not surrounded by high ivory walls? How does it help us solve the problem of knowledge/death?

A: Knowledge has more power than anything else, especially strength.

Q: So, you are saying that this dichotomy is a false dichotomy? That knowledge can transcend death? Is this an epistemology that denies death altogether, or is it one that coopts the presence of death and uses it to re-inscribe knowledge in differently constituted mental states--such as the state of mourning?

A: Knowledge can let you win, stay alive and happy and succeed in your tasks if you use it. In one series of funny Chinese stories, a clever boy becomes a high judge because he is intelligent and very smart. He was requested to get a stolon fan and a rebel to the king. Through his adventure he uses poems and readings to help others while figuring out where the stolon and where the rebel fan was. Soon he realizes thatthe rebel was among his protectors for the journey. Alsohe has to hunt down and great and brutal crook. He soon realizes that the crook was impersonating a great judge through that discovery the clever boy found who the rebel was but still had to retrieve the sacred fan.

Q: In other words, you see a connection between the intellectual community as the keepers of knowledge and the revolutionary community as those who punish the abusers of different forms of oppressive authority. Why does the boy still have to retrieve the sacred fan? Is religious power another form of power that can be transgressed against through this childlike community? If so, how do you feel about the refutation that certain students of history could make by citing the atrocities committed by Pol Pot's use of revolutionary child armies? Is the violence that is inherent to a childlike manipulation of knowledge and forms of control an acceptable violence in the face of unknowing power?

A: In the movie, Winnie the Pooh, Owl is very wise and has a love of knowledge. Everyone comes to him for advice. He gives good advice and he makes most of the decisions.

Q: I guess I'm not following. You seem to be presenting the philosopher's position as an ironic re-formulation of power. Owl was not smart. That's the whole point.

A: This shows that "knowledge is power" is not true.

Q: I think, rather, that it shows that false claims to knowledge can create a basis for power that is maintained by the community that is not committed to reason and accountability over authority and useless links to traditions.

A: ...

Q: Should I rephrase that in the form of a question?

A: Knowledge is power. It has been said for a while, but why knowledge is power? How could knowledge by powerful?

Q: Okay, now you're just fucking with me.

A: I agreee with the satment. I had once accidentally started a fight with my brother. I don't know what I said to get him that angry. We started fighting.

Q: Goddammit. Do you believe that knowledge is power or not?

A: For many years, people have agreed and disagreed on weather or not knowledge is power.

Q: And what about you? Where do you stand?

A: Finding out wather or not it is or not.

Q: So, you're like the Fisher King of the knowledge v. power debate. Forever questing? Or are you suggesting that the point of investigation is bad? That it leads into aporia and doubt and errance forever and ever in all directions?



A: In The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster, Milo, the main character, gets stuck with the doldrums and cannot get out of the place.

Q: Allow me to show you the door. Good day, sir.

A: You should be able to understand why you don't need knowledge really for everything.

Q: Okay, you stay. I'm leaving.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006


So, the guy who called me an atheist basically deconstructed in a coffee break during class, today. I think. Victory for the forces of religious oppression.

Also, my adviser sent me a note asking me to meet him on Thursday to "schedule the M.A. session," which means that he approved the paper that you guys read. So, soon I shall be called Master of Arts.

And, last, my dad sent me a photo of me dancing in my pajamas. I would show it to you, but I hear it's super secret.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Rain today, and Satan's pride

I started reading Paradise Lost, but, more importantly, it is raining. But some of you might be asking, what has Satan done lately? Well, first he raised his head, then he looked around. Then he stood up and walked off a lake of liquid fire to stand on a shore of solid fire, and then he, well, he called a meeting is what he did.
In other news, Fabrice Giger emailed me today and asked me to do a translation of a treatment. So, that's pretty cool. I will be doing that this week.

I'm thinking of drawing more often. I also want to start playing tennis more than once a week. Is this selfish of me? I'm afraid I don't even understand the question.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Well again.

So, I was terribly ill starting on like Wednesday of this week, and I finally am at full strength this morning. This blows, because I missed both Jake and Eddie being in LA, and I couldn't physically walk to two of my classes. But, now I am better. In the spirit of conformity, here are some of the results for googling "Jonathan looks like":

Jonathan looks like he is about to lose the game.

Jonathan looks like he's fallen.

Jonathan looks like Boris Karloff. (I think this was spelled with a 'v,' but I doubt anyone knows what Bulgarian accordion legend Boris Karlov really looked like.)

Jonathan looks like Doug Savant KC Sunshine.

Jonathan looks like a hot power bottom.

Jonathan looks like the Tungsten will do well in the business environment.

Jonathan looks like he might beat a few ppl up but only ppl who try to hurt u.

Jonathan looks like a little jamacan (sic) guy.

Jonathan looks like a man who has killed 12 people.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Post-Poker Night Update

So, played poker on Saturday night. It was the first time we had eight people at the table. It was crazy. It took me all of five hours to lose all ten of the dollars I took. Which is still a better entertainment value than a night at the movies. Yeah. I got beat hard. The Wild Turkey might have had something to do with it. But, trend-wise, I am also in the negative for all time.

In other news, it's Dad's birthday.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Buena Vista

I was driving to work this evening, and I looked up to see actual clouds. Astounded at this sight, I realized that my leg has been hurting for like two days. I concluded that it would finally finally finally rain. As I was, by will alone, thus setting my mind in motion, I realized that I was running a red light. I made it to the other side of the intersection in one piece, only to realize that there were two cops pulling up alongside of me. The first cop pulls up even with my windows, looks over, and shakes his head at me before turning on his lights and peeling away to the right. His friend follows him. They were Irvine cops, so I can only assume someone saw a homeless person on a golf-course. I have no doubt that my crime was among the city's most heinous for the week.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

And because not all of you care...

Here is a nice picture for you to contemplate. "Contemplation" is actually a very funny word to do a google image search for. If you like this guy's work--and who could blame you?--you can purchase digital posters of that stuff online. I know that the prospect of digital wall hangings thrills some of you in ways you would never dare admit.

Because I have decided to post something every day.

Grad school is legitimately soul-wasting. I can feel flakes of my soul whittle off whenever I try to understand why I am being told to read Derrida.

So, on a grad school note, no word back on my MA draft yet. Because I feel like changing the pace from talking about my dream images of big SG's lingham, this is what the current draft looks like:

Fever of Itself:
Figurative Self-Generation in The Fall of Hyperion
By Jonathan Tanner

The Fall of Hyperion is, from a reader’s perspective and from the very moment of its title, in a strange relationship to its precedent, Hyperion. Keats began Hyperion by November of 1818, and abandoned it in early 1819.[1] It, together with the death of Keats’ brother Tom, ushers in what Walter Jackson Bate refers to as Keats’ “Fertile Year,”[2] a period that sees the production of The Eve of St. Agnes; Lamia; the odes Psyche, Nightingale, Melancholy, and Grecian Urn; The Fall of Hyperion; and To Autumn. The abandoned Hyperion was taken up again in the reconceived Fall in July or August of 1819, during a visit by Keats’ friend, Charles Brown, with whom Keats had agreed to write the verse tragedy Otho the Great.[3] Keats ends up abandoning the Hyperion project again in September of the same year.
In a letter to J.H. Reynolds dated the 21st of September, 1819, Keats gives the following reason for this abandonment, revealing the self-critical stance he held toward the project: “I have given up Hyperion—there were too many Miltonic inversions in it—Miltonic verse cannot be written but in an artful or rather artist’s humour.”[4] The apparently “artful” construction of the Hyperion project’s second installment (Keats would have abandoned the original poem eight months earlier) is criticized as overly poetic and unnatural. In a letter written over ten days, from September 17-27, (thus simultaneously with the letter to Reynolds), Keats claims that he prefers “the native music of [Chatterton’s language] to Milton’s cut by feet.”[5] Milton’s presence again stands in for the negative aspect of Poetry-as-Art, with versification opposed to the less-mechanical expression of natural language. Continuing his point by saying that “life for Milton would be death” to him, Keats makes clear what seems to be at stake in the abandonment of the Hyperion project: a turn toward a more natural approach to poetry. His examination of poetry is already at work in The Fall of Hyperion. The Fall is inherently an examination of all poetry because it relies on a central metaphor that calls not only its genre within which it is operating into question, but, through it, the genre of poetry. That central metaphor is given by Moneta at the beginning of Canto II, and it continues an interrogation of Hyperion that begins with its title.
Hyperion, an unfinished poem, was published with the subtitle, ‘A Fragment’ in the volume of poems put out by Taylor and Hessey in June of 1820.[6] The title The Fall of Hyperion not only suggests a re-centering of the poem on the tragic defeat of the titans, but, by way of the original text, also suggests a supplementary positioning in its echo of the original. Not only does The Fall already suffer, in its title, from the mediation of being a secondary text, but its own subtitle, ‘A Dream,’ relegates it to an even more obscure relation to its source. The poet-narrator’s movement from dream banquet to the vision of Saturn’s tomb to Moneta’s vision within that tomb re-casts the actual content of Hyperion in terms of the sequel. All of the new narrative motion of The Fall is used as a framing device for that content, pushing both poems into the almost irretrievable distance of a dream within a dream. This distance, however, is not solely the product of the supplemental nature of the sequel but is equally the product of the figurative nature of The Fall as a text. Textually, The Fall of Hyperion is figurative in that the whole work stands in a figurative relation to its source poem. Moneta’s metaphor is a figure for The Fall’s relation to Hyperion.
I use the term “figurative” as a hinge to suggest two distinct but related ideas that run through The Fall of Hyperion. First, The Fall is emblematic of what the Hyperion project could have been—the turning away from unnatural poetry toward something new. It is only or merely emblematic because Keats’ statements about his reasons for abandoning it show that, despite its obvious concern and vigilant self-criticism, The Fall fails, for Keats, to be completely representative of that potential. Second, The Fall figures Hyperion in a more metaphorical sense; it carries the substance of the original within it, as the poet-narrator of the second poem dreams the contents of the first. It may not be immediately evident that The Fall of Hyperion is figurative because it is in a particular figurative relationship, like that of metaphor, to the original, but this is one of the senses in which The Fall is a figurative text.
It could be said that The Fall is the vehicle for the tenor, Hyperion, but this would not be entirely accurate. The Fall, understood as “vehicle,” lends to Hyperion as “tenor” the qualities of a dream through framing the narrative and verse content of the original as a source within mediating layers of dream-visions. It would be difficult to point to any particular aspect of The Fall that comes to light as a result of this conception of a figurative relation between the texts. While the mechanical relationship vehicle-tenor does not seem to point to anything of immediate interest, it might be helpful to my illustration of the term “figurative” to say that, in the same terms, the examination of the “tension,” or points of dissimilarity, between the two works is what is at stake in this argument.[7] In a large sense, the relationship between the two is metaphorical in the etymological sense of a “carrying over” or a “transfer” of meaning from one work to another.
The Fall is, then, in some respect, the figure of the content of the originary poem. It constantly alludes to and repeats Hyperion, carrying over large portions of that text without ever managing to tell the same story. The meaning of Hyperion is transported in The Fall, which seems as much a metaphor for the narrative of Hyperion as Hyperion is a narrative. A brief look at a few attempts by critics to suggest readings of The Fall will allow us to see how important it is for critical projects concerning the two texts to address this figurative nature.
Paul de Man, early in The Resistance to Theory, follows the dream within a dream as far as the title and stops. The attempt to describe (or reduce to grammatical legibility) the figurative boundaries of any text is not feasible in his terms. He does not go to the text of The Fall of Hyperion, but stops at the impossibility of interpreting the genitive in the title—the encroachment of the rhetorical and figurative prevents reading any further. He asks whether the title should be read as
‘Hyperion’s Fall,’ the case story of the defeat of an older by a newer power, the very recognizable story from which Keats indeed started out but from which he increasingly stayed away, or as “Hyperion Falling,” the much less specific but more disquieting evocation of an actual process of falling, regardless of its beginning, its end, or the identity of the entity to whom it befalls to be falling?[8]

One implication of his discussion is that if the second text is, as he suggests at one point, really the story of the fall of Hyperion as text, then we begin at the level of not first, but second-order discourse, an issue we will address a little later. In broader terms, our difficulty in squeezing meaning from the distinctions between poet and dreamer or poem and dream in The Fall’s famous induction would, to follow de Man’s argument, be a part of the inherently indecipherable figurative nature of the text, and a manifestation of the impossibility for Keats as much as the reader of interpreting even the title. This is not entirely satisfying. We will explore further not only the central, figurative structure of the poem, but also the questions raised by the induction shortly.
De Man continues by saying that “one could hardly expect to find solace in this “fearful symmetry” between the author’s and the reader’s plight since, at this point, the symmetry is no longer a formal but an actual trap, and the question no longer “merely” theoretical.”[9] The result of his investigation for our present discussion is that even the “unfinished” nature of both texts becomes fraught with meaning—one more term in the chain of figures leading from Hyperion down into the dream.
While it is true that most critics concentrate on the relationship between the two poems and their unfinished nature, some do not. Grant F. Scott does not put the two fragments in some kind of developmental schema with regard to Keats or his poetic project, but treats them together, not as epic poems or even as poems but as ekphrases. The description of these two poems, not as belonging to one genre or another but as tropes writ large, manifests the idea of the figurative that much of the criticism skirts—addressing its relationship to pictorial or plastic representation. At the same time, Scott calls the two poems the “verbal representations of another verbal representation.” [10] This is an attempt at getting at the figuring that underlies The Fall and its relationship to Hyperion, one that manages to get to the text itself, but only by calling the poems by a different name—ekphrases and not poems. It is interesting to note, but only in terms of the generic problems of The Fall, which we will be an issue later, that Scott claims always to investigate the genre to which Keats’s ekphrastic poems belong before going on to discuss them as ekphrases. He does so for To Autumn—in his argument, the covert perfection of Keats’s ekphrastic technique—in the same chapter as his discussion of Hyperion and The Fall, but he fails to perform that kind of investigation for the Hyperion fragments.[11]
Terence Hoagwood, taking another approach, calls The Fall of Hyperion “a sequence of surrogates; a chain of figures; metaphors of metaphors; ultimately a dream within a dream.”[12] Hoagwood’s argument is that the figure of the fictive relationship of credit to any real value based on the means of production haunts The Fall. It is this disconnect between the fictive term and the absent substance it supposedly represents that is at the bottom of the dream within a dream.[13]
My argument concerning The Fall’s figurative underpinnings does not originate in paralysis before the title or the incomplete nature of The Fall or its predecessor. It instead stems from the fact that the poem has, inscribed within it, a central metaphor which marks the text as even more deeply mediated than its oneiric nature might suggest. This figurative center does indeed result in the poem’s appearance as a “chain of surrogates,” but, in order to understand The Fall’s slippery nature, we need to look at it textually, taking as granted the self-reflexivity that de Man’s reading of the title provides and the elusiveness that most critics perceive in The Fall’s constant motion from frame to narrative frame.
At the beginning of Canto II, Moneta tells the narrator:
Mortal, that thou mays’t understand aright,
I humanize my sayings to thine ear,
Making comparisons of earthly things;
Or thou might’st better listen to the wind,
Whose language is to thee a barren noise,
Though it blows legend-laden through the trees.

Moneta’s metaphor [wind is legend-laden language] consists of the idea that her story, (and consequently) the narrator’s, and the reader’s, however it may drip with meaning, will be but ‘a barren noise,’ if the events and language are not humanized for the listener, or compared to earthly things. The events that must be compared in such a way are the events of the fragmentary Hyperion.
The text of The Fall of Hyperion, through the revelation of Moneta’s metaphor, becomes a comparison of the kind she mentions. Humanization is achieved in the second text through the introduction of the strong narrative subject and the narrative frame of the dream vision, allowing the barren noise of Hyperion to be available to the human ear. As Michael O’Neill puts it, The Fall of Hyperion “wants to tackle issues that lean profoundly on ‘earthly things’—the verb ‘humanize’ illuminates a central ambition of The Fall—yet the ‘barren noise’ of self-concern has its part to play in the poem’s chastened music.”[14]
“Self-concern” is apt, indeed, as the poem’s principal concern is how to be concerned with both Hyperion and itself. Large chunks of the Hyperion text are re-staged and re-used, but they are buried beneath three frames: the first frame is that of the dream-vision, the second is that of the dream within a dream, and the third is that of Moneta and her revelatory visions of the Titans.
If the text of Hyperion is dimly heard echoing through those layers of narrative structure, it is not perceived as clearly as those moments where the text echoes itself. The structure is suggestive of a self-conscious narrative, pursued at a surface level, certainly, but even lines of verse new to The Fall are echoed within its verses, as when the narrator describes “the tall shade veiled in drooping white.”[15] Compare “…that the breath/ Moved the thin linen folds that drooping hung/ About the golden censer from the hand/ Pendent” to “…that her breath/ Stirred the thin folds of gauze that drooping hung/ About a golden censer from her hand/ Pendent.”[16] These verses are less 30 lines apart, and they reflect one another strongly enough to suggest that the poem might be worrying about itself at least as much as about its purported content—the fall of Hyperion.
Indeed, O’Neill identifies this as the poem’s “essentially undignified, even shaming, theme: the ‘fever’ of self-consciousness, subjectivity, reflexiveness.”[17] Self-consciousness, reflexivity, and subjectivity are present even in the choice to make the poem’s voice that of the narrator who is engaged in writing the poem. Unlike Hyperion, the second poem is not presented as the fragment of a poetic construction, but as a tale related and written at the same time. It is, in a sense, a demonstration of poetry that writes itself, where artifice has become a concern of the poem and the narrator-poet alike.
Reflexivity is the engine that drives Moneta’s central metaphor. Though the reader knows that it is a dream from the very beginning—the signal of the subtitle being a major clue—
even the “Methought I stood” of line 19 which begins the first frame of the narration is patterned so as to signal the start of a dream-vision. Nancy Goslee notes in passing that the OED’s references for the word ‘methought,’ all occur in dream visions, going back to 1300 or 1400.[18] If the signaling of the sub-title and the genre-specific ‘methought’ were not enough to let the reader know that dreams were the matter, the dreaming narrator takes a drink of ‘transparent juice,’ which rapes “unwilling life away.”[19] That juice is said to be “parent of [the narrator’s] theme.”[20] The parent of the theme, on the one hand, is the tragic fall of Hyperion—and Keats’ failure to bring Hyperion into being, and, on the other, the dream that The Fall of Hyperion pretends to represent.
The idea that an element of that dream could generate the dream itself goes hand-in-hand with the pun on trans(parent), signaling the starkly plot-driven causality of drinking the draught in the first place and thereby reinforcing the problem of self-concern. Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion are the fever that inflicts the poem, just as Moneta’s visions, which are enwombed behind her hollow eyes, seem to be the cause of her withering away—the same sickness that has her “deathwards progressing/ To no death.”[21] The content of those visions is the content of Hyperion, the content that must be recuperated to write The Fall of Hyperion.
If we take as evidence that Hyperion opens in the shady vale of Saturn’s defeat and that the destination for the narrator-poet of The Fall is Moneta’s vision of that same vale, then the figure of the-poem-Hyperion as the legend to be interpreted, the absent/present heart at the center of The Fall (of Hyperion), can be analogized to a concept in Keats’s famous bit of marginalia to Paradise Lost: “There is a cool pleasure in the very sound of vale…It is a sort of delphic Abstraction, a beautiful thing made more beautiful by being reflected and put in a mist.”[22] The concept of a ‘beautiful thing made more beautiful by being reflected and put in a mist’ is central to The Fall of Hyperion. O’Neill suggests that this statement could be read as “an artful treatment of Saturn’s misery” in Hyperion.[23] It seems even more apt when used as a figure for The Fall as a whole, especially when we consider that the word ‘vale’ evokes the narrative setting of Hyperion’s text while ‘delphic’ evokes the cause of Hyperion’s fall, namely, his replacement by Apollo.
The beginning of Hyperion is built around the image of a “vale.” The poem opens “Deep in the shady sadness of a vale / Far sunken from the healthy breath of morn,” where Saturn lies defeated.[24] The Fall buries it within Moneta’s vision of the titans’ defeat. The narrator recounts:
No sooner had this conjuration passed
My devout lips, than side by side we stood
(Like a stunt bramble by a solemn pine)
Deep in the shady sadness of a vale,
Far sunken from the healthy breath of morn,
Far from the fiery noon and eve’s one star. [25]

The vale is the scene of representation. The stationing of a realmless, defeated Saturn takes place there, and the story proceeds from that inaugural gesture of defeat. At least, this is so in Hyperion. The use of the vale in The Fall of Hyperion is mediated, not just by the mirror reflections of the revealed vision within the dream within the dream-vision, but also by the syntax of the re-staged scene. In The Fall, the conjuration and the parenthetical simile are given equal importance to the vale. Soon after, this placement is echoed (or reflected again) with another use of the term, at lines 110-11: “No stir of life / Was in this shrouded vale.”
The vale has come to be shrouded as well as shady in fewer than twenty lines, obscuring the ostensible source of the narrative with a mist evoking both the menace of death and the “Shadows” that plague the narrator-poet’s conception of Poesy from the induction. The reflections grow mistier. The word ‘vale’ is used but once in Hyperion, and that in the first line. The vale is the setting from which the entire work of the first poem unfolds. The Fall of Hyperion makes use of the word four times. The first two have been mentioned.
In the third instance, the narrator, forced to watch the stillness of the scene for quite some time, confesses that “Oftentimes [he] prayed / Intense, that Death would take [him] from the Vale.”[26] The proximity of “death” to “vale” results in certain biblical resonances; the vale’s shrouded and shady nature elevates the “Vale” to the same status as “Death.” It seems compelling that the two words are set off textually through capitalization, although we can’t be sure how the printed poem would have looked at completion had it made it to publication in Keats’ lifetime.
Shortly after Moneta’s humanization speech at the beginning of Canto II, the final echo of the vale comes, as the narrator reveals another change of scene: “Now in clear light I stood / Relieved from the dusk vale.” The vale of Saturn’s failure is thrown back into obscurity, but it is suggestive that that this happens only after Moneta confesses her act of translation by metaphor. It is as if the narrator, warned about the mediated nature of Moneta’s revelations and distanced from the vale by Moneta’s act of removing them from the scene, is able to recognize the dimness of his vision. The light that casts the “Shadows of melodious utterance” seems at the beginning to be the light that throws the vale into shade. The shade becomes a shroud, and the shroud is revealed to show Death. When the mediated nature of Moneta’s presentation of Hyperion’s content is revealed by way of the metaphor at the beginning of Canto II, the sourceless light emanating from the original text dims to twilight, while the light of the more immediate dream grows brighter.
It is important to note that the space to which the two retreat is that of the chastisement of poets and all the “dreamer tribe,” another critical space. The move out from the frame of the narrative proper and back to the frame of the dream within the dream is not an escape toward immediacy, then, but a turn back inward to the place of the narrator-poet’s debate about poetry.
It seems, having considered this movement, that an inability to escape the reflexive inward-turning of the poem that is to be compared to earthly things is what prevents The Fall of Hyperion from becoming more than barren noise. This is not by way of saying that the whole thing has deconstructed itself, or that some sort of straying away from any possible meaning has led the whole project into aporia. Nor am I suggesting that the text is dialectical after a Romantic Ironic model like McGann’s—it does not create and de-create itself by unwittingly carrying the seeds of its own destruction.[27] What happens in The Fall of Hyperion is more intentional than the first allows room for, and it is less eager than the second requires, more plagued by doubt.
Even before entering the meaning of the figurative Fall, the narrative that has been carried over from Hyperion, the reader is confronted with an induction to the poem that deliberately frames the whole effort in terms of doubt and self-reflexivity. An examination of that induction will help us to find out what is at stake in the nature of the text and how the narrator-poet comes to understand his function as simultaneously that of the poet and the critic, thus forcing the poem to overlap both the genre of poetry and the genre of criticism.

The Falling Sickness: Genre Trouble

The first eighteen lines of The Fall of Hyperion present a narrator-poet concerned with what distinguishes a poet from a fanatic or a savage:

Fanatics have their dreams, wherewith they weave
A paradise for a sect; the savage too
From forth the loftiest fashion of his sleep
Guesses at Heaven; pity these have not
Traced upon vellum or wild Indian leaf
The Shadows of melodious utterance. [28]

It seems at first that the simple distinction to be made between poets and the other two categories is that of writing.[29] But Keats elaborates:

But bare of laurel they live, dream, and die;
For Poesy alone can tell her dreams,
With the fine spell of words alone can save
Imagination from the sable charm
And dumb enchantment.[30]

It is somewhat clear that two distinctions mark poetry as different from dream that are quite separate from poetry’s written quality. The first is “telling” and the second, recognition.
In the first instance, it is the act of utterance which is poetry, “for Poesy alone can tell her dreams.” This seems contradictory at first, until we notice that what is traced upon vellum is not the poetry itself, but merely the “Shadows of melodious utterance.” Utterance is somewhat recombined with writing in the pun on the word “spell,” but further emphasis is placed on the act of speech in the lines that follow: “Who alive can say,/ ‘Thou art no Poet—mayst not tell thy dreams?’/ Since every man whose soul is not a clod/ Hath visions, and would speak, if he had loved, / And been well nurtured in his mother tongue.”[31] More layers of conditional mediation are placed between man and poet. Love is needed, and nurturing in the mother tongue, whatever that entails.
In the second instance, however, ‘Poesy’ is equated either with ‘laurel’ or with the tracings of the ‘Shadows of melodious utterance.’ ‘Laurel’ seems to mean the crown of Poesy which comes from recognition. If this is so, the lines that follow indicate not a pure self-recognition in the mode of the narrative portion of the poem, but a recognition of, by, or in history:
Whether the dream now purposed to rehearse
Be poet’s or fanatic’s will be known
When this warm scribe my hand is in the grave.[32]

This is the common reading, and is certainly reasonable. But what is at stake in the test of time seems not to be whether what is being written will be recognized by history as poetry or not, but as either the dream of a poet or of a fanatic. There is yet another layer of mediation between the poet and the Poesy.
To put it another way, it is not necessarily that the worth or historical interest of the work will be determined by/is related to time or history outside the poem, but that the kind of dream the poem turns out to be will be so determined or understood. If it seems clear enough that poetry is meant to be a kind of dream that somehow manages to become poetry where others fail, then the warm scribe’s cold test is about, precisely, whether what is being written is poetry per se or whether it is what poetry is being distinguished from.
The last three lines of the induction are engaged in a critical act; they call the genre of the work into question. Paul Hamilton states the problem in both historical and critical terms, saying that “if the poem will only be recognizable as poetry by a later age, it is not poetry, now.”[33] The central question of Hamilton’s “now,” as it relates to the test of the warm scribe, is the problem of Keats’ “when.” The time when it “will be known” becomes any time after the moment when the “when” is uttered. It is, thus, a problem of continued deferral, as each utterance pushes that time into the future.
The incomplete nature of the poem and the self-critical look at the test itself conspire to forbid us to say that the moment of testing is, so to speak, at hand. Exactly what kind of History can be contained in something forever in the future of the moment of its reading is, it would seem, unknowable. Moreover, if it is ‘not poetry’ now, that is to say, at the moment of writing, or at any moment at which the text is engaged, then it would be difficult to call it anything but writing about poetry. If “not poetry,” then criticism. It is engaged in second-order discourse.
Under the terms of my argument, a poet may be said to be engaged in writing first-order discourse when he writes a poem. At the same time, a critic writing about a poem is writing second-order discourse. One produces poetry, the other describes poetry and produces criticism. The moment when a poem becomes critical of its own project, or self-critical, it is no longer strictly first-order discourse, but partially second-order discourse.[34] A level of abstraction exists between the two orders that puts pressure on the text. The poem becoming both poem and criticism of its poetic project does one of two things: it either forces the critic up a level of abstraction automatically or forces the critic to share the same critical space with the poet. The mediations and negotiations of layers of abstraction in some cases force strange effects, as the connection to the first order of discourse and the primary text become ever more attenuated.
The narrator who begins in this manner stands in a different place than the narrator of Hyperion; he stands in a particularly critical relationship to the text and to the act of narrating/composing the text. Hyperion unfolds and remains unquestioned in its happening by the narrator. The Fall of Hyperion is related from a human perspective, namely that of doubt. Some have suggested that that doubt is doubt about history or the specific place or status of the poet as it relates to history, but, certainly, in this instance, it is doubt about what it is that is being written, and what it means to write it.
In a discussion of the German romantics, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy demonstrate that this tendency toward critical discourse is by no means unique to Keats. Criticism was viewed by the German romantics as being instrumental in the constitution of literature in a fundamental way.[35] A narrator-poet engaged in a project of criticism would be in some measure constituting the grounds against which his poem would be read both as poetry and criticism. In this manner, such a poet-critic would have concerns beyond the bounds of his poem that put pressure on both the text being written and the reader. A narrator-poet who seeks to combine such disparate elements into the work he is himself engaged in writing is caught in a auto-poetic process that threatens to exceed him.
Jerome McGann, while talking about Moneta’s tragic understanding of the events of Hyperion in his The Romantic Ideology, makes the point that “the Romantic Imagination does not save, it offers…a tragic understanding…The judgment which it passes on the world is therefore always justified—if it is to be justified at all—by the depth of the poetry’s self-criticism.” [36] That this is necessarily the case is clear from the way the Romantics put the individual subject at the “determining center of the world.”[37] If this is an attempt at a first principle, it should be applicable here.
Certainly, the poet-narrator is the determining center of the world of The Fall, much more so than in Hyperion, and certainly, in this case, the depth of the self-criticism is not lacking. It is the tragic understanding of the self-critical role of the narrator-poet in The Fall that separates it from its predecessor. The tragic understanding in The Fall, by these terms, would be an understanding of the impossibility of a poetry-criticism that founds itself as it is written. It seems to be saying that the preceding fragment was a piece of a conjectured artifact—this poem that followed it does not have such grandiose claims.[38] Its title told of the first poem’s failure, and its induction, justifiably unable even to be certain of its genre, proleptically doubted its own success.
Nancy Goslee sees the shift from the first Hyperion fragment to the second as being one from the statuesque, ekphrastic, Miltonic voice of the Hyperion to the picturesque or pictorial “Romantic” vision of The Fall. The development of the poems, as she sees them, can be situated along the lines of the history of Romantic aesthetic theories and within the debates concerning Schlegel’s or Hazlitt’s belief in the inferiority of the plastic arts to a Romantic picturesque vision. Goslee seems to do more than this, however, treating Hyperion almost as if it were sculpture and analyzing The Fall in scenes corresponding to the tableaux as if it were the presentation of a series of paintings.[39]
These kinds of re-positionings, the kinds of generic tools that critics bring to bear on the text raises the question: what is the genre of the piece? Is it a poem? Is it something else? It is perhaps no surprise that genre should trouble the poem. Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy suggest that the project of Keats’ German romantic counterparts was, in a certain sense, to produce something new, called ‘literature,’ “beyond the divisions of classical (or modern) poetics and capable of resolving the inherent (“generic”) divisions of the written thing.”[40] The necessity of getting beyond traditional or modern poetics in order even to describe the project in which the German romantics were engaged seems to have its reflection in the narrator-poet’s predicament. The test of the warm hand, considered in that light, is a way to escape beyond those inherent generic divisions—and the responsibility of creating something ‘new’— by the expedient of time and the continuous motion of time beyond the reach of the narrator-poet. The inability of the narrator-poet, however, to transcend in such a way is already doubly foretold—in Keats’ inability to describe the birth of the “modern consciousness”[41] that Apollo might have represented in Hyperion—and in the fragmentary nature of both poems.
The attempt to describe The Fall of Hyperion in terms of generic delimitations forces us to consider the implications of the poem’s figurative generation on a wider scale. As Goslee puts it, Keats “chooses a conceptually detached intellectual and analytical frame” which “he uses…to question not only the conventional modes of dream vision, but poetry as a whole.”[42] Putting an ample distance between “dream-vision” and “poetry” sets up distinctions for Goslee that reflect Keats’s divisions between “dreamer” and “poet,” but the questioning of poetry as a whole, is, broadly taken, the questioning of literature as a whole. Thus, the genre of The Fall of Hyperion is something like the genre of the “literary work,” as conceived in the opening remarks of the Strasbourg Colloquium on Genre—that is to say, the self-reflexive and self-instituting genre that entails its own rules of production and its own theory—the genre of self-generation.[43] The Fall falls into just such a category.

Or thou might’st better listen to the wind
The figurative nature of The Fall and the self-critical stance of its narrator-poet echo each other in Moneta’s metaphor. Moneta describes the figurative wind (for the wind which is the vehicle for the metaphor is itself an absent term) of Canto II as “legend-laden.”[44] The word legend combines within it the two conditions to ‘Poesy’ set forth in the induction: telling and recognition. The legend-laden wind is at once sound to be heard—the melodious utterance of Poesy—but not understood, and a sign to be read, as the humanizing of the scenes entail a possibility of interpretation. The interpretations of Moneta’s translation and the narrator-poet’s understanding of the comparison are like the traced Shadows that plague the distinction of Poesy from Dream. A ‘legend’ is both heard and read, as the legend near a work of art in a museum or as the key to unlocking the arcane symbology of an ancient map.[45]
The word ‘legend’ also contains the denotation of a story grown larger in the telling—which certainly speaks to the burden of Hyperion’s antecedent relationship to The Fall—and a figure who receives recognition for great deeds, recognition very much like the laurel which sometimes distinguishes the poet. The word ‘legend,’ then, seems to echo the generic trouble of the text, as it, too, presents a number of possibilities of reading, and it is placed at the center of the comparison to ‘earthly things’ which sits at the heart of the text’s figurative nature. Genre and figure become fevers of each other, and it is the difficulty of reading these figures methodologically and textually which put both the narrator-poet and the reader-critic into, as Paul de Man put it, such “fearful symmetry.”
It is not merely circumstance which brings the induction of The Fall and Moneta’s humanizing metaphor together. Keats does it himself in yet another letter written during the same period in September. In the letter to Woodhouse dated 21, 22 September 1819, Keats writes part of the induction out, breaking off at what we have as line eleven, “And dumb enchantment—.”[46] What is remarkable about the letter as it relates to my argument is that Keats has written across these lines of poetry, at ninety degrees[47], the following: “My Poetry will never be fit for any thing it does n’t cover its ground well—You see he she is off her guard and does n’t move a peg though Prose is coming up in an awkward style enough—Now a blow in the spondee will finish her—But let it get over this line of circumvallation if it can. These are unpleasant Phrase[s.]”[48] Here, Keats narrows the gap between the Keats as author and the narrator-poet of The Fall of Hyperion.
The mock-criticism of his poetry on the grounds that it fails to react to lines written at cross-purposes elevates the order of his circumvallation automatically. The pun on “covering ground well” does not entirely cover the self-critical tone of “My poetry will never be fit for any thing” though it is easy to read in a humorous spirit. Here, Keats, and not the narrator-poet, assumes the comic mantle of self-commentator, thus becoming a part of the second-order discourse defined above. He pushes this further, however, when he describes the “style” of his prose in the same half-humorous way.[49] Keats has simultaneously become the author of the narrator-poet, the Critic of his own Poetry, and the Critic of his Criticism. In much the way the narrator-poet of The Fall of Hyperion pushes the level of critical response until it becomes but a reflection of a reflection, a figure of a figure, a dream within a dream, Keats has, through his letters, placed even more abstraction on the shoulders of the textual critics of The Fall. Ultimately, Keats abandons his authority and leaves the induction to its own devices, saying, “But let it get over this line of circumvallation if it can.” The The Fall of Hyperion needs no warm hand to guide it—for, fragmentary as the poem is, the self-reflexive, figurative nature of its verse has succeeded in creating a literary space of self-generation where Poesy can tell her dreams alone.
[1] Stillinger gives October, 1818 as a possible window for the beginning of composition in John Keats: Complete Poems. John Mee (John Keats: Selected Letters) suggests November, while Walter Jackson Bate’s biography points to mid-September.
[2] Walter Jackson Bate, John Keats (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1963) pg. 562.
[3] Bate, pg. 564-5.
[4] John Keats, Selected Letters, eds. Robert Gittings and Jon Mee, (Oxford and New York: Oxford UP, 2002), pg. 272.
[5] Letters, pg. 303.
[6] John Keats, Complete Poems, ed. Jack Stillinger (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1972) pg. 488.
[7] The terms “vehicle,” “tenor,” “ground,” and “tension” are I.A. Richards’, cf. Richards, The Philosophy of Rhetoric (1936).
[8] Paul de Man, The Resistance to Theory (Minneapolis: The U of Minnesota P, 1986) pg. 16.
[9] Ibid. 17.
[10] Grant F. Scott, The Sculpted Word: Keats, Ekphrasis, and the Visual Arts (Hanover: The UP of New England, 1994), 156.
[11] Scott, pg. 164 and following.
[12] Terence Allan Hoagwood, ‘Keats, fictionality, and finance: The Fall of Hyperion,’ in Nicholas Roe ed., Keats and History (Cambridge: The U of Cambridge Press, 1995) pg. 131.
[13] Hoagwood, 127.
[14] Michael O’Neill, ‘‘When this warm scribe my hand’: Writing and History in Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion’ in KAH, pg. 149
[15] The Fall of Hyperion Canto I, 194
[16] The Fall, Canto I, 195-198 and 217-220, respectively.
[17] O’Neill, pg. 149.
[18] Nancy Moore Goslee, Uriel’s Eye (Tuscaloosa: The U of Alabama P, 1985), pg 220n.
[19] The Fall, Canto I, 51.
[20] --, Canto I, 46.
[21]--, Canto I, 260-261.
[22] Taken from “Keats’s Marginalia to Paradise Lost,’ in E. Cook (ed.), John Keats, Oxford Authors Series, (Oxford and New York: 1990), 338.
[23] O’Neill, pg. 155.
[24] Hyperion, Book I, 1-2.
[25] The Fall of Hyperion, Canto I, 91-96.
[26] Ibid. 397-8.
[27] Anne Mellor, English Romantic Irony, (Cambridge, MA: 1980), 5.
[28] The Fall, Canto I, 1-6.
[29] It does not seem to me immediately clear why one would lump everyone into Poets and Other guys. Keats does not exactly do this. Is it the same, for example, to weave a Paradise for a sect and to guess at Heaven? One would seem to be fabricating a reward in the one case, and blindly attempting to describe an actual place in the other.
[30] The Fall, Canto I, 7-11.
[31] Ibid. 11-15. “Every man whose soul is not a clod” is problematic because of the way it appears to be an inverse echo of Ode to a Nightingale’s sixth stanza: “Now more than ever seems it rich to die…/To thy high requiem become a sod.”
[32] Ibid. 16-18.
[33] Paul Hamilton ‘Keats and Critique,’ in Marjorie Levinson et al., Rethinking Historicism: Critical Readings in Romantic History (Oxford and New York: 1987), pg. 136.
[34] If it is difficult to imagine a poem that does not somewhat inhabit such a self-critical moment, that is, so to speak, purely first-order discourse, then allow me to suggest that, for the purposes of this argument, pastoral poetry does not typically engage in the kind of self-questioning to which I am referring. At the same time, Spenser’s Shephearde’s Calendar would be an example of hybrid first- and second-order poems within an understanding of the pastoral.
[35] Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy, The Literary Absolute (New York: SUNY Press, 1988), chapters 3 &4.
[36] Jerome J. McGann, The Romantic Ideology (Chicago: The U of Chicago P, 1983), pg. 132.
[37] Ibid.
[38] McGann, talking about Swingle, asks the question, “Can the mind in fact establish a relationship with something eternal?” (64) This question seems suggestive of what might be at stake in the different approaches to the two fragments.
[39] Goslee, chapters 3-4.
[40] Absolute, pg. 11.
[41] Bate, 564.
[42] Goslee, 102.
[43] J. Chartin, S. Weber, J. Nancy, P. Lacoue-Labarthe, “Pour situer le colloque ‘LE GENRE,’” Glyph 7 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1980), pg. 236.
[44] The Fall, Canto II, 6.
[45] I know I did not think of this second denotation on my own, but for the life of me I cannot find what suggested it. The context of museums makes me suspect Grant F. Scott.
[46] Letters, pgs. 273-278.
[47] Ibid. 411n.
[48] Ibid. 276.
[49] This could—if stretched—perhaps be applied to his handwriting—but seems to be commenting on the Prose itself, which gets equal status with Poetry in terms of capitalization. Certainly, identifying the writing as circumvallation could play either way, as commentary in the act of writing in which he was engaged or as an engagement with the material nature of orthography. Either way it would still constitute a higher order of discourse than just Poetry or
just Prose.