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So man became, by way of his passage through the cave, the dreaming animal.

Hans Blumenberg


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Monday, August 24th, 2009

Browsing a friend's library...

Here in Scituate, MA we are staying at our friends' Deedee and Paul's beautiful house -- they are vacationing in Maine this week and lent us their place. This is the best way to travel, I think -- for cheapskate-related reasons and personal comfort, I would much rather be in a house and making our own meals...

In addition to having a lovely house, Deedee and Paul have a great library, full of books that I'm not expecting -- I did not bring along any reading material for the week, just browsing through their shelves. Two wonderful finds so far: Brooklyn Is: Southwest of the Island, by James Agee; and In the American Grain by W.C. Williams.

Brooklyn Is is an essay about the borough that Agee wrote for Fortune magazine in 1939 -- they would not publish it and it was not printed until 1968. I love the descriptions of physical Brooklyn -- I can recognize much of it 70 years on -- and there are some hilarious notes about the people Agee meets in different neighborhoods. I'm reading Fordham U. Press's edition of the essay from 2005, which has a worthwhile introduction by Jonathan Lethem.

In the American Grain is completely unexpected -- I do not really know much of anything about Williams besides some of his poetry, he was apparently also a deeply perceptive amateur historian. This book (published in 1925) consists of short prose pieces that examine figures in American history and the history of European colonization of the Americas -- in his foreword Williams says he has "sought to re-name the things seen, now lost in chaos of borrowed titles, many of them inappropriate, under which the true character lies hid." Some fantastic prose -- it presupposes familiarity with some source texts which I am lacking -- making me wish he had included a bibliography!

posted morning of August 24th, 2009: Respond
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Red Eric

Hardship lives in me. What I suffer is myslf that outraces the water or the wind. But that it only should be mine, cuts deep. It is the half only. And it takes it out of my taste that the choice is theirs. I have the rough of it not because I will it, but because it is all that is left, a remnant from their coatcloth. This is the gall on the meat. Let the hail beat me. It is a kind of joy I feel in such things.
Eric the Red is the first character from American History to appear in Williams' In the American Grain -- its first chapter is pieces of narrative taken (as near as I can tell) from The Saga of Eric the Red and Voyage of Freydis, Helgi and Finnbogi with an internal look at the actors' motivations that is Williams' invention -- it is a little hard to know how to classify this writing but for now I am going with "historical fiction"...

posted evening of August 24th, 2009: Respond
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