Remember that the city-state enshrined in this telling was a last-ditch outpost on the sere waste of the Wisp Isthmus. Conjecture establishes that Astrid bint Wanda harbored a vestige of erased indigene biopolymer in her gizzard. One or another of the washed-up duchy-founders fucked the mother of the mother of the mother of Astrid’s mother’s mother in olden times. Mamasutrianism proceeded to fork matrilineal down her bloodline. The Rhipidistians were simple semen sacks elevated to lords and douches of the duchy as a sop to their base proclivities. It’s no wonder that Siddhartha Huff longed to transition out of his Rhip wrap.
Texas cologne messed with Astrid like firewater. The dosey doe that stunned the Gala socialites stalled Astrid in full-blown psychic orgasm. By design, the cologne induced pre-mortem euphoria before stopping the heart. The gasee — normally an organ donor — experienced impending oblivion as the happiest outcome imaginable from a whole series of possible happy outcomes.
Three weeks after the Gala saga, in Astrid’s belfry it was still a pie-in-the-sky rodeo; she had clocked her eight seconds astride a pedigreed Bramer bull and was spanking the bucking beast with her free hand. No amount of finger sniffing by bigwig toxicologists posturing over Astrid’s predicament could extricate her from her trance. There was little recourse but to administer the whiff de grace.
What triggered the aspersion of Texas cologne at the Lunation Gala? Siddhartha Huff’s twitch fit or Claw Hammer’s nerve storm? No matter. What was clear was that the affective threshold monitor had functioned with prim efficiency; revelers had slumped in their tracks when the ATM’s silent alarm was tripped.
Quick thinking saved Sidd’s hash; he gassed his own self in the hermetic chamber, setting afloat an alternative factuality wherein his adoptee had waylaid him in a fiendish identity heist. The Executive Committee absolved Sidd of complicity in the escapade (justice ever favors the favored). Officious tenders stretchered woozy celebrants away to their family compounds to convalesce bemusedly in the afterglow of their Lone Star comas. The ding — fka “Claw Hammer” — was harvested and stored at Central Organics to put paid to the matter.
But what to do with Astrid bint Wanda? “Annunziata, this is a goddamn travesty,” Philemon D’Avenant grunted. His foreshortened view of the supine hierophant was dominated by the soles of her feet. It looked as if a genie hoist on orgy porridge was doing pop-a-wheelies in Astrid’s thorax. “Phil, watch your language!” his wife admonished smoothly. Only her light-blue eyes betrayed alarm; the manses of potency were massively dropped and cammed by surveillance apparatchiks. “Shocking breach,” she added, making sure her reproach registered clearly on the devices.
Annunziata knew a stinky rumor made the rounds of canapé circuits in cosseted enclaves. Its gist was that Astrid had connived in her own conniption by nipping the naughty gas on an all but daily basis — a habit stoked by lack of discipline and moral rectitude. As usual, trash talk twittered extempore from inner sancta walked the plank into lunacy lagoons. The simple truth was more devastating.
¡Me cachis en diez! Nadie está en su sitio. “Hell and damn! No one is in his place”; that was my father-in-law’s take on the hanky panky of a popular soap opera in late-Franco Spain.
In post-Franco Spain what’s to deplore and what’s to celebrate about Carmen Mola? An editor at the publishing house played fast and loose with a “biography” of a madrileña, professor and mother of three, who penned bestsellers. That’s grubby but banal in a world fudged beyond reason by social media.
In the movie, Tootsie justifies going drag saying, “It was for the work.” Give Carmen Mola a break; she’s eating for three. Fernán Caballero had only one mouth to feed! Must all ID be stitched up in tidy chromosomal cloth? Must a creator be a binary unit and not a trinity or quaternary? Let the product decide: “La Gaviota” versus “La Bestia,” and may the better creature prevail.
(Nicholas Casey, “Behind a Top Female Name in Spanish Crime Fiction: Three Men,” NYTimes, 10-29-21)
“Claw?” Siddhartha Huff ejaculated interrogatively to his unpeopled hermetic chamber. On his screen he could see Claw’s pancake cracking as if he were modeling the facial contortion he solicited from the Posse of Matrons.
Claw’s first words after the permission incantation had been, “Now say cheese!” With a slightly panicked tone he followed with, “Grin like fucking hyenas, excellencies.” Goddamn it, he was improvising!
A hush enveloped the palatial hall; every eye was on the figure in brocade doublet, a dead ringer for the sanctified Shootist, aiming the antique device at the worthies of the ball. Astrid’s thunderstruck visage was self-explanatory.
Sidd had no idea where Claw had dredged up this gibberish — what the hell was “cheese”? Had Claw’s ardor to carry off his Sidd-simulation led him to stray from the script? And with a scrap of ancient jargon gleaned, perhaps, from his exposure to archival footage of primitive “photography” rites? The etiology of the ominous breach of protocol hardly mattered now.
Sidd watched numbly as Claw raised the Polaroid and snapped. Simultaneously, a uniformed dais attendant seized his arm as if by reflex. Sidd twitched violently as the audio after-image of Claw’s expletives lingered in his earbuds.
Is the soul our dark matter — pervasive but undetectable by any instrument we possess? If there’s a part of me that isn’t glia, neurons, and enzymes, it has found a modicum of rest in the revelation that John Ashbery’s poetry was not meant by him to make sense. I’ve feared that much poetry is a riddle that I’m not up to cracking. That I haven’t subjected the poem sufficiently to the persistent hard, informed reading necessary to derive the connections that the poet has made, the arc the poem has traversed. That I’ve jousted with the poem and it has unhorsed me. Much of the fare in Poetry magazine that I peruse now defeats my understanding, is numbingly hermetic. Those are phrases I borrow from Peter Schjeldahl; he applies them to the late paintings of Kandinsky.
I read now that Ashbery was one of our greats (died 2017 at 90); that many poets imitate him now; but that not all are as good at what he did as he was. I’ve no quarrel with his reputation. I’ve glanced at him over the years as if at a sculpture on a Gothic cathedral so lofty only steeplejacks can see it.
This revelation is liberating. Last night (November 12, 2021) for the first time I read “The Tennis Court Oath” with enjoyment. I gave in to it, as it were. It didn’t sweep me off my feet, like certain poems of Auden. It would take yet more readings for me to quote a single phrase (verse?) of it from memory: As Ashbery has written… But it was slyly amusing. It gave nonsensical pleasure. Like a nursery rhyme can do? I’m not sure about that comparison, but it sprang to mind as I flash on the pleasure I got at an early age from “The Owl and the Pussycat” and its runcible spoon. I retain that spoon. No idea what kind of spoon it is. Perhaps that’s my dawning way of approaching some of this spikey verse I read: It’s runcible. Or maybe sporkish.
Dominic Sixtus Venable Regulus bin Pugh-Fuchs, Fourteenth Montmorency, inaugurated the Lunation Gala. A zillion needles of light shafted the fête. Gentlepersons in radiant attire milled among eureka palms. Tables bulged with platters of candied fungi, trayed chalices of inebriant. Couples, triples, quadruples coalesced and dispersed in recombinant chat groups.
The Posse of Matrons, stars of the night, beamed on the dais, bussing well-wishers, miming vanity rituals with period kit, gesturing reciprocation to gallant toasts flung from across the vast hall. They lolled by rank on Watteau-inspired settees draped with 3D-printed shot silks: Astrid bint Wanda, Brilliant Emeritus; Lavendar Larchmont, Brilliant; Dido Harding, Brilliant; Topeka Toombs, Medallion; Jocasta Montmorency, Medallion; Lambent Pym, Pippa Trelawney, Talulah Pierpont, Worth Arbuthnot, Legends. (Annunziata D’Avenant, Legend, had accompanied Philemon to the Riviera, so could not be present for the shot.)
In exquisite disguise Claw Hammer perambulated, dispensing languid body language and genial nods. From a hermetic chamber Siddhartha Huff monitored his doppelgänger on myriad screens. Sidd had drilled his minion in the sequence to be played out: When Astrid brandishes the Escutcheon, a third fanfare will sound. A hush will ensue. Stand on the mark. Intone the spiel. Aim the ancient device. Click it. Bow to the Posse. Fade gracefully to shadow as the crescendo of huzzahs engulfs the dais.
This article gives a stimulating sample of Marlene Dumas’ painting. Here’s a whiff of its curatorial patter:
“She is a master, in the classical sense: she makes masterpieces”… Dumas [takes] us somewhere beyond prosaic materiality… “[Faces and portraits by Dumas contain] a variety of experiences, a plurality of knowledge and truth, but all have a real, lived origin, and at the same time are of a timeless nature…”Sensuous but cerebral, cruel but tender – Dumas’s work has overturned the aesthetic of portraiture, stripping back the veneer to reveal something loathsome and visceral but also sublime.
More useful are Dumas’ words that “art is not a mirror,” and that “a good work of art is essentially elusive.” It’s also instructive to learn that for her portraiture Dumas works from “myriad newspaper cuttings, books and Polaroids that [clutter] her Amsterdam studio…”
(Deborah Nicholls-Lee, Marlene Dumas: The art exposing the evil in the ordinary,” bbc.com, 10-18-21)
My title is how the NYTimes represents the pronunciation of the name of Hungarian-born psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who died recently in Claremont, California. He coined and popularized the term “flow” to describe a state of focused contentment in which time seems to fall away.
Dr. Csikszentmihalyi… first became interested in what he later called flow while working on his dissertation, a study of creativity among painters. When he asked, in a questionnaire, what they were thinking about while painting, he noticed that they rarely spoke about their goal, creating art. Instead they talked about the process — the challenges of the canvas, the consistency of the paint… Intrigued, he later surveyed other groups and found similar responses.
(Clay Risen, “Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the Father of ‘Flow,’ Dies at 87,” NYTimes, 10-27-21)
I wonder if the goal of many painters can be said to be “creating art,” as mentioned in Dr. Csikszentmihalyi’s questionnaire? It seems a bit simplistic. I myself paint pictures and occasionally write verse; what I produce is neither art nor poetry, yet satisfies me (usually) in such a way as to keep doing it. My goal, I suppose, is to keep experiencing that satisfaction. Does this change when such activities are carried out by professionals? Can the painter or versifier themself decide that their creation is art or poetry, that creating it is their goal, and that they are not amateurs or hobbyists like me?
The spiel for the ceremonial dais shot was drearily familiar by now:
I, Siddhartha Huff-bin-Chuck, Shootist of the Dais Pose, do petition Astrid-bint-Wanda, Matronissimx of the Posse, for leave to seize their Effulgencies in bi-polaroid fanfare to the Fore-Founding Yachters — may their lordships ride at anchor in pristine astral coves.
Sidd would scream at Claw Hammer, “Too singsong! Again! Too mechanical! Again! Your fricatives are not plummy, idiot! Again!”
Claw had contracted larynx, tip-tongued alveolar ridge, exhaled labially, nasalized high mid-vowels, sharpened schwas, domineered glottal stops until the muscles throbbed.
One day it came to pass his rendition was passably Rees-Moggish. Sidd slapped Claw approvingly in the face and growled, “Better! Again!”
A tear burnt Sidd’s eye. He would shrug it off, but the oafish tyke plucked from the swart nethers of the duchy had earned a bit of bucking up, he must allow. Sidd ordered the kitchen staff of his Shalimar snuggery to double Claw’s ration of organ meat that evening.