Tumbling down the heap

Welcome to an unending ticker-tape of crap too small for my blog Asleep on the Compost Heap or too big for Twitter.

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Aug 30

I used to be a terrible glutton when it came to food and drink (especially drink - I was alcoholic) so I’m always sensitive to descriptions of gluttons in literature. I think I’ve found the grandaddy of them all in Spenser’s Faerie Queene.

"And by his side rode loathsome Gluttony,
   Deformed creature, on a filthie swyne,
   His belly was vp-blowne with luxury,
   And eke with fatnesse swollen were his eyne,
   And like a Crane his necke was long and fyne,
   With which he swallowd vp excessiue feast,
   For want whereof poore people oft did pyne;
   And all the way, most like a brutish beast,
   He spued vp his gorge, that all did him deteast.

In greene vine leaues he was right fitly clad;
   For other clothes he could not weare for heat,
   And on his head an yuie girland had,
   From vnder which fast trickled downe the sweat:
   Still as he rode, he somewhat still did eat,
   And in his hand did beare a bouzing can,
   Of which he supt so oft, that on his seat
   His dronken corse he scarse vpholden can,
In shape and life more like a monster, then a man.”

image


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Aug 28

Giacometti on the human head.

"The first time that I saw the head I was looking at become fixed, immobilized definitively in a moment in time, I shook with terror as never before in my life and a cold sweat ran down my back. What I was looking at was an object like any other, no, different, not like any other object, but like something which was alive and dead at the same time." 


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Jul 21

"But at my back in a cold blast I hear

The rattle of the bones, and chuckle spread from ear to ear.” 

TS Eliot’s The Wasteland is full of weirdness and fear. The line above is taken from part III of the poem, which is called The Fire Sermon.


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Jul 18

"We’re captive on the carousel of time/ We can’t return, we can only look behind" - lyrics of this song are actually terrifying

(Source: Spotify)


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Jul 14
I found an old book of Paul Gauguin’s letters (printed in the 1940s) in the secondhand floor of Chapters bookshop and I’m reading it at the moment. Here, in a letter from 1885 (around when he started seriously thinking about being a full time artist) to his friend, the painter Emile Schuffenecker, he talks about Cezanne, and seems to be describing the break with Impressionism.
"Look at Cezanne, the misunderstood, an essentially Eastern nature (he looks like an old man of the Levant). In his methods, he affects a mystery and the heavy tranquility of a dreamer; his colours are grave like the character of orientals; a man of the South, he spends whole days on the mountain top reading Virgil and looking at the sky. So his horizons are lofty, his blues most intense, and with him red has an amazing vibration. Virgil has more than one meaning and can be interpreted as one likes; the literature of his pictures has a parabolic meaning with two conclusions; his backgrounds are equally imaginative and realistic. To sum up: when we look at one of his pictures, we exclaim ‘Strange.’"
The painting is Still Life with Peaches by Gauguin.

I found an old book of Paul Gauguin’s letters (printed in the 1940s) in the secondhand floor of Chapters bookshop and I’m reading it at the moment. Here, in a letter from 1885 (around when he started seriously thinking about being a full time artist) to his friend, the painter Emile Schuffenecker, he talks about Cezanne, and seems to be describing the break with Impressionism.

"Look at Cezanne, the misunderstood, an essentially Eastern nature (he looks like an old man of the Levant). In his methods, he affects a mystery and the heavy tranquility of a dreamer; his colours are grave like the character of orientals; a man of the South, he spends whole days on the mountain top reading Virgil and looking at the sky. So his horizons are lofty, his blues most intense, and with him red has an amazing vibration. Virgil has more than one meaning and can be interpreted as one likes; the literature of his pictures has a parabolic meaning with two conclusions; his backgrounds are equally imaginative and realistic. To sum up: when we look at one of his pictures, we exclaim ‘Strange.’"

The painting is Still Life with Peaches by Gauguin.


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Jul 12

Groovy new album out on Woodsist

(Source: Spotify)


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Jul 9

Stinker!

This is a micro micro short story within the bigger Chekov story ‘After the Theatre.’ It’s a magic lil exercise in condensing a lot of information into a small space.

'She remembered how on the previous day Gruzdev had romped with Maxim, the family poodle, after they had taken tea together, and later he told her the story of a clever poodle who chased a raven round the garden. Suddenly the raven stopped, looked round, and said: “Stinker!” The poodle was completely unaware that the raven was trained, and became terribly confused, running away with a look of utter bewilderment. After a while he began to bark.'


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Jul 8

No ideas but in things! What William Carlos Williams loved in Marianne Moore’s poetry is on full display here, with her climactic description of Mt Rainier’s huge Octopus glacier, at the end of her poem ‘An Octopus,’ which rivals the whale Moby Dick as an all consuming nature image, representing all sorts of things throughout the poem, from the blank cruel deceptive beauty of nature, to her own poetic project. What a poem.

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'Relentless accuracy is the nature of this octopus 
with its capacity for fact. 
'Creeping slowly as with meditated stealth, 
its arms seeming to approach from all directions,’ 
it receives one under winds that ‘tear the snow to bits 
and hurl it like a sandblast 
shearing off twigs and loose bark from the trees.’ 
Is ‘tree’ the word for these things 
'flat on the ground like vines'? 
some ‘bent in a half circle with branches on one side 
suggesting dust-brushes, not trees; 
some finding strength in union, forming little stunted grooves 
their flattened mats of branches shrunk in trying to escape’ 
from the hard mountain ‘planned by ice and polished by the wind’– 
the white volcano with no weather side; 
the lightning flashing at its base, 
rain falling in the valleys, and snow falling on the peak– 
the glassy octopus symmetrically pointed, 
its claw cut by the avalanche 
'with a sound like the crack of a rifle, 
in a curtain of powdered snow launched like a waterfall.’


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Jul 1

Gusev

Weird metaphorical imaginings a character has in Chekov’s Gusev:

'Pavel Ivanich suffered from sea-sickness. When the sea was rough he was usually bad-tempered, and the merest trifle would reduce him to a state of complete exasperation. In Gusev's opinion there was nothing at all to be angry about. What was strange or astonishing in the story about the fish or the wind slipping its chains? Suppose the fish were as big as a mountain, suppose its backbone was as strong as a sturgeon's, and then suppose that far away, at the very end of the world, there were great walls of stone and the furious winds were chained to these walls. If the winds had not broken loose from their chains, how do you account for the fact that they fling themselves across the sea like maniacs, and struggle to escape like dogs? If they were not chained up, what became of them when the seas were calm?'

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Jun 29

Pedder Bay

I won a scholarship school in Canada when I was 17. It was an international school located in a place of natural beauty, in the rainforests north of Victoria on Vancouver island. Being there was a very intense experience, and before I left I could tell that it would remain in people’s memories (not so much my own thankfully) as a kind of tantalizing idyll.

I worked this out from observing the stream of past pupils who made unwise pilgrimages back to the place during the academic year.

I remember sitting on a rock, concealed by fir branches, eating a cookie and watching this guy, a South American student who graduated two years before, wander down the jetty on his own. He unhooked a canoe and took it out into Pedder Bay, the small, beautiful bay the college opened onto, a river’s delta into the Pacific. He paddled for a bit, then stopped, with the oar lying across the nose of the boat. While evening birds made strange rubbery hoots in the woods, he looked out to the horizon with the most chillingly forlorn expression.

Had he discovered, as Proust did, that the charm of the places we have known resides not in the places themselves, but in time also, and by merely revisiting them we will never recapture what was that is lost?


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