Wednesday, August 16, 2017

American History 101

When I finished high school and went off to college in the early 1960s, I dreamed of becoming a high school teacher of American history. Well, that never happened. My father's death, the military draft, and a hundred other detours over half a century roadblocked my dreams.

Now, with limited time on my hands, I am going to resume my studies. No, I'll never get that teaching certificate and job, which means high school students can breathe a collective sigh of relief, but at least I can discover what I might have learned somewhere along the way back in the 60s.

Future postings, except for occasional detours that will surprise no one who knows me, will be all about my American history studies. My required text is featured at the top of this posting. Other texts and materials will be added along the way. 

Well, friends, what lies ahead for me is a long overdue return to an unfulfilled dream. Perhaps you will find some things of interest in my future postings. Stay tuned. 

Now, though, I have a question for you: 

What moments or people in American history most interest you?

I ask you the foregoing question here and now before even more of the insane revisionists and anarchists prevail in their foolish efforts to erase and remove all evidence of even more of the good, bad, and ugly chapters from the American past!

Charles Bukowski's birthday and "all that"

First there is this from The Writer's Almanac:

Today is the birthday of the writer that TheWashington Post called "the poet laureate of sour alleys and dark bars, of racetracks and long shots": Charles Bukowski (books by this author ), born in Andernach, Germany (1920). He wrote more than 45 books of poetry and prose, including It Catches My Heart in Its Hands (1963), Notes of a Dirty Old Man (1969), Post Office (1971), Love Is a Dog from Hell (1977), Ham on Rye (1982), and The Last Night of the Earth Poems (1992).

His American father had been stationed in Germany during World War I, and Bukowski was the product of the man's affair with a German girl, whom he later married. The family moved to Los Angeles when Charles was a toddler, and that's where he grew up. He was picked on for his small size and his German accent, and when he was a teenager, he had such bad acne that it left permanent scars. His father had a violent temper and used to beat him. Bukowski was 13 when a friend gave him his first drink, and he, Bukowski, said, "This is going to help me for a very long time." He studied journalism in college for a couple of years, but then dropped out when World War II started, and he moved to New York to become a writer.

He published his first story when he was 24; the story was called "Aftermath of a Lengthy Rejection Slip." The rejection slip in the story reads, "Dear Mr. Bukowski: Again, this is a conglomeration of extremely good stuff and other stuff so full of idolized prostitutes, morning-after vomiting scenes, misanthropy, praise for suicide etc. that it is not quite for a magazine of any circulation at all. This is, however, pretty much a saga of a certain type of person and in it I think you've done an honest job. Possibly we will print you sometime, but I don't know exactly when. That depends on you." Bukowski would later estimate that his work was 93 percent autobiographical.

He published one more story after that but then received rejection after rejection, and he gave up writing for 10 years. He drank his way from New York to L.A., and wound up in a hospital, half dead from a bleeding ulcer. The doctor told him, "If you have another drink, it will kill you." Bukowski kept drinking, and he worked a series of odd jobs — at a pickle factory, a dog biscuit factory, a slaughterhouse, and at the post office — and then, when he was 35, he started writing poetry. His first collection was called Flower, Fist, and Bestial Wail  (1959). Ten years later, when he was 49, Bukowski accepted a job offer from John Martin, the publisher of Black Sparrow Press. Martin idolized Bukowski, and had started Black Sparrow with the sole aim of publishing his work. Martin was sure he was the next Walt Whitman, and he offered him $100 a month to quit his job and write. "I have one of two choices — stay in the post office and go crazy ... or stay out here and play at writer and starve," Bukowski wrote in a letter. "I have decided to starve." In return for Martin's faith and support, Bukowski published almost all of his major work through Black Sparrow from then on.

Bukowski summed up his philosophy in a letter he wrote in 1963: "Somebody [...] asked me: 'What do you do? How do you write, create?' You don't, I told them. You don't try. That's very important: 'not' to try, either for Cadillacs, creation or immortality. You wait, and if nothing happens, you wait some more. It's like a bug high on the wall. You wait for it to come to you. When it gets close enough you reach out, slap out and kill it. Or if you like its looks you make a pet out of it."

And there is poem, "all that," by Bukowski:

the only things I remember about
New York City
in the summer
are the fire escapes
and how the people go
out on the fire escapes
in the evening
when the sun is setting
on the other side
of the buildings
and some stretch out
and sleep there
while others sit quietly
where it's cool.

and on many
of the window sills
sit pots of geraniums or
planters filled with red
and the half-dressed people
rest there
on the fire escapes
and there are
red geraniums

this is really
something to see rather
than to talk about.

it's like a great colorful
and surprising painting
not hanging anywhere

And there is this personal postscript:

I read this poem, and I remember my summer in NYC (1965), but I am more pointedly reminded of Flannery O'Connor's early short story, "The Geranium." I bet Bukowski would be surprised by the connection I make between his poem and O'Connor. When you read the poem, what are your connections, reactions, thoughts, or comments?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A reader's resolution and readers' choices

Please ignore my two previous postings. Those ravings of a slowly fading fool deserve no further comment or discussion. 

Instead, I offer you the following reader's resolution and a question about readers' choices: 

My prescriptions for day-to-day survival in this unpleasant world include a constant need to read all sorts of fiction and nonfiction; moreover, I need to supplement my survival reading with discussions of my readings and other readers' readings, and I know that this blog is my only available outlet for those discussions. 

However, I wrestle each day with reading choices. Quite often my choices are motivated by other readers' choices. So, constant readers, tell me, please, about your recommendations. In other words, what have been your most memorable recent reading experiences? I look forward to your comments.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Why this blog is being consigned to the wasteland

In my shrinking world of fast fading physical and cognitive capacities, I see no sense in my blogging efforts, especially since the audience has been evaporating and losing interest, and my contributions to blogging are shallow redundancies and confusing contradictions. So, even though I might still visit other blogs, this blog will be consigned to the wasteland. 

The Way of All Flesh -- a blogging update

I am now and will remain on the binnacle list.
Blogging here has been terminated.
Moreover, this blog will soon disappear.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Bookstores around the world

First, take a photo tour of some the world's most interesting bookstores via his link.

Next there is this personal postscript:

I am like a kid in a candy store when I go to bookstores. However, they are disappearing, and I find myself drawn instead more often to the sweet treats accessible through Bookbub and Amazon. Yes, I am ashamed to admit it: I spend money on books at Amazon. 

Well, now I wonder: which of the featured bookstores in the linked article have you visited or would like to visit? what are your book buying outlets and habits? are you an Amazon shopper or hater or (like me) both? 

"Into My Own" by Robert Frost

INTO MY OWN by Robert Frost

ONE of my wishes is that those dark trees,
So old and firm they scarcely show the breeze,
Were not, as ’twere, the merest mask of gloom,
But stretched away unto the edge of doom.

I should not be withheld but that some day

Into their vastness I should steal away,
Fearless of ever finding open land,
Or highway where the slow wheel pours the sand.

I do not see why I should e’er turn back,
Or those should not set forth upon my track
To overtake me, who should miss me here
And long to know if still I held them dear.

They would not find me changed from him they knew—
Only more sure of all I thought was true.

* * * * *

Personal Postscript: 

The poem included above is the first in Robert Frost's first published collection, A Boy's Will. It also appears as the first poem in the Library of America edition of Frost's collected poems, prose, and plays.

If you want an improved experience with Frost's poem, read the poem aloud (which is usually good advice for any poem but is even better advice for Frost's poems), and then take a few minutes to read this important article, and be sure to view the embedded video.

Now, even though much of the article and the embedded video include focus on another Frost poem, "Kitty Hawk" (available via this link), I invite you to read "Into My Own" (the poem copied above) in light of Professor Hart's argument. To my mind, both poems point to Frost's state of mind (depression) and his need to be needed. With respect to depression, many of us can relate to the poem; with respect to the need to be needed, the poem becomes a universal experience. 

Now I invite you to share your explication of "Into My Own."
So, tell me what you think.