Category Archives: lit crit

harold brodkey, “his son, in his arms, in light, aloft”

“in most social talk, most politeness, most literature, most religion, it is as if violence didn’t exist–except as sin, something far away. this is flattering to women. it is also conducive to grace–because the heaviness of fear, the shadowy henchmen selves that fear attaches to us, that fear sees in others, is banished.
where am i in the web of jealousy that trembles at every human movement?
what detectives we have to be.

some memories huddle in a grainy light. what it is is a number of similar events bunching themselves, superimposing themselves, to make a false memory, a collage, a mental artifact. within the boundaries of one such memory one plunges from year to year, is small and helpless, is a little older: one remembers it all but it is nothing that happened, that clutch of happenings, of associations, those gifts and ghosts of a meaning.
i can, if i concentrate, whiten the light–or yellow-whiten it, actually–and when the graininess goes, it is suddenly one afternoon.”


my new fix: this recording, “Escape to New York (in which we do whatever we can get away with)”

“In comparison to his photographs of Central Park, the images in East 100th Street are airless and cramped. The exteriors feel like interiors. Rarely do you see the sky, or the spine of the Triborough Bridge, that big animal, lying across the East River. The city resembles a room, a closed space, a closet. The effect is counterintuitive; in Davidson’s work, narrow alleys and low ceilings serve as reminders of the city’s size, of how much it contains, and conceals.

If you believe people do whatever they can get away with, you might imagine his portraits of people peering out windows or sprawled on beds to be portraits of lust and false-heartedness. Manhattan’s geography generates infidelity: ours is a capacious city, a vast island whose size permits isolation and therefore betrayal.

Davidson’s photographs remind us that people’s personal lives are mostly tedious. Everybody has dirty plates and families. Privacy protects us. Behind closed doors we shine our shoes and our personalities; we rest and then resume playing the roles of interesting people. We hide our worst selves, and our dullest: we would rather have people see us as bad than boring.”  Elizabeth Gumport, writing for this recording


“looking in the mirror staring back at me isn’t so much a face as the expression of a predicament.”

“A few times in my life I’ve had moments of absolute clarity. When for a few brief seconds the silence drowns out the noise and I can feel rather than think, and things seem so sharp and the world seems so fresh. It’s as though it had all just come into existence.
I can never make these moments last. I cling to them, but like everything, they fade. I have lived my life on these moments. They pull me back to the present, and I realize that everything is exactly the way it was meant to be.”
— Christopher Isherwood (A Single Man)

maurice sendak, “tell them anything you want, just be honest”

“(people ask) why are you stuck in childhood? i don’t know.  i guess that’s where my heart is.”

sunday night film screenings at the ace hotel

tonight, showing of new film, “tell them anything you want,” about author maurice sendak, with lance bangs and spike jonze around for q&a after.  free but once capacity hits, forget it

anne carson, the beauty of the husband

“Anyway what would you have done–
torn the phone off the wall? smothered him with a pillow?
emptied his wallet and run?
But you overlook an important cultural function of games.
To test the will of the gods.
Huizinga reminds us that war itself is a form of divination.

Husband and wife did not therefore engage in murder
but continued their tour of the Peloponnese….

Waiting for the future and for the gods,

husband and wife rested,

as players may rest against the rules of the game,
if it is a game, if they know the rules,
and it was and they did.”

monday mass: nick flynn, the ticking is the bomb

“i’ve come to believe that the function of torture in our society is not about getting information, in spite of what we might want to believe. it is merely about power. it tells the world that there is now no limit to what we will do when we feel threatened. that it is ineffective in gathering information, that it is actually counterproductive in making us any safer, has been clearly documented, it’s been known for years. that the box has been opened, and that the use of torture continues, now legally, suggests that it has become, for us, a mystical symbol, no less based on superstition than carving a crescent into a stick. money, information, these words you are reading–all of this will seem quaint in five hundred years, if we have that long. what they will say when they look back on this time is that torture continued from the death of Christ for over two thousand years–a strange, primitive reenactment. they will see that at first we confused it with passion, which devolved into the Inquisition, and then transformed into what we now call “information.” they will see that a handful of maniacs living in caves were able to take down the greatest empire on earth, they will wonder how that could be. all we can tell them is that these maniacs understood our fear, that they transformed into it as we tried to hold on, asking, over and over, our meaningless question.”