March 22, 2007

And never worry if people laugh at you
The fools only laugh 'cos they envy you

Mark Mulroney, Sunsets in the Atomic Age, 2006

* From a 1980 interview of William Gaddis by Tom LeClair:

LeClair: Are there writers who were particularly important to you in your early years?

Gaddis: I remember being amazed, when The Recognitions first came out, by the number of reviewers who found it drawn from or an imitation of Joyce's Ulysses, which I had not read and have still not. I just haven't. Very few mentioned The Waste Land, I read that in college and it has never left me. Keats talks about poetry as being the finest wording of one's highest feelings. But to find in a poem perfectly articulated your vision of the world is remarkable. I was just beginning to draw together my own view of the world, and here it was. It was a juxtaposition of exchequer bonds and the South Seas and Doris on the stairs. Now, for me it is Yeat's The Second Coming, with its impending apocalypse. It's hard to believe, but where we live now is all there in Yeat's poem.

LeClair: 'Willie' in The Recognitions says he's doing for writing what Bruckner did for music. Did you have nonliterary models for your works?

Gaddis: While I do think music is the highest of the arts, totally abstract and ungraspable, why must we assume that writing is or needs to be derivative of other forms? A writer could set out to write a novel in the form of a fugue, but there is likely to be trouble with the technique overpowering the life in the book.

LeClair: How do dthe novels get to be so long, if they don't start out with mass in mind?

Gaddis: If one is involved with a complicated idea, and spends every day with it, takes notes, and reads selectively with it in mind, ramification proliferate. If one has what could be called an obsessional wish to exhaust an idea, understand it on six, seven, or eight levels, the book gets longer and longer.

LeClair: A common criticism of long books is self-indulgence, as though the writers had written at such length only to amuse themselves?

Gaddis: In JR, Gibbs complains about Schepperman's having to sell blood to buy paints and about Van Gogh's cutting off his ear. Hyde says, 'Who asked him to paint?' That's a central question. If you're going to write a book, who asked you to? It is, in fact, quite an act of ego to sit down in a room, while others are getting on trains and subways, and put one's vision on paper, and then ask others to pay to read it. Not only to pay, but say, 'Isn't he brilliant.' It's an act of audacity.

* Wolcott on Bush's press conference. excerpt:

"Quite a petulant display our president just put on. Chris Matthews may admire the "fighting tiger" spirit that Bush uncaged once he finished stammering and stumbling through his prepared text, but the very ferocity of Bush's defiance and vocabulary ('show trials,' 'klieg lights'--as if Pat Leahy were some Stalinist grand inquisitor) suggest that there may be something more to this story, something bigger buried deeper in the weeds. This mini-press conference was the most Nixonian performance of Bush's presidency, and his robotic repetition of the word 'reasonable' to characterize his proposal to let Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, and others be interviewed in a shady lagoon (not under oath, no transcripts made) could only remind Watergate buffs of the phrase 'modified limited hangout.'

That's what's so strange about this percolatiing scandal. Instead of defusing it, dousing it, sedating it, Bush & co. have amped it up to a mini-Watergate decibel level of confrontation and document spew, complete with a former Watergate cast member. When Dick Cheney famously told Pat Leahy to go fuck himself, he and the rest of the administration clearly never anticipated the day when Leahy would return to powerful chairmanship; I think they internalized Karl Rove's visionary scheme of a permanent Republican majority and thought the future was in the bag. Now they're holding the bag and it's leaking all over their laps."

* "I don't generally feel anything until noon, then it's time for my nap." -- Oliver Wendell Holmes


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