Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Confederacy of Dunces: Some Useful Links

Greetings, Colleagues—

I encourage all of you to (re)read John Kennedy Toole's rollicking novel, A Confederacy of Dunces. Here is an extract from the Introduction to Joel Fletcher's recent book Ken & Thelma.

According to Wikipedia Thelma Toole is described as educated and "highly cultured" (unlike Irene Reilly), but quite controlling. Toole's father, Ken, was less of a force in his son's life, but hardly absent, either (unlike the barely mentioned Mr. Reilly, he of the "weak seed").

Note, too, that Ignatius is apparently based in good part on his former professor, Bob Byrne, but jumps off as well from Toole's own experiences (e.g., short-lived jobs in a men's clothing factory and vending tamales).

Finally, some pix. (And thanks to Glenn for all these links!)

Cheers, Steve

Sunday, March 20, 2011

tu barda llena de mariposas

"Not for a moment, beautiful aged Walt Whitman, have I failed to see your beard full of butterflies."


Sunday, March 13, 2011


Probably don't need to point out to anyone Randy Shulman's good interview with Edward Albee in the latest MetroWeekly, occasioned by Arena's current and continuing Albee Fest, most of which is free (?) and at least some of which some of us are going to. This raises the question of what we might read by him (having read nothing). Malcolm—both Purdy's novella and Albee's adaptation—seems an obvious choice, except that the Purdy I think is o.o.p. Of course, anything by Albee is arguably a candidate (ex persona, as it were). At Home at the Zoo—old "Zoo Story" with its new prequel "Home Life"—might be a good recommendation. Others?

blast from the past

This was the cover of a CD that another book club member made for me for my 40th birthday.  He sent me a spreadsheet with almost 7,000 music titles that he had downloaded from the internet.  He put the 20 songs I picked onto the CD.

Friday, March 11, 2011


I've been a fan of Anne Carson since Autobiography of Red (discussed at our meeting on 7/20/1999). Next time you are meandering through the poetry section of your favorite book store, see if they have a copy of Nox, spend a few minutes browsing through the pages, and let me know what you think about it.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Warren Cup

I've just learned about this, or heard about it but never saw an image (or am approaching senility more quickly than I ever imagined possible) — in any event, to share with those of you who have been as ignorant or clueless (or witless) as I … The Warren Cup. By the way, NSFW (but what do I know) … or TGIF — it's the weekend (that much I do know)!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pingpong Howl

I was not, forty years ago, nor now, so captivated by "Howl" as most people were last night. Some verses I would have read aloud then—except for the overwhelming liveliness of our discussion—exemplify for me the "brilliantly absurdist poem" Perloff characterizes in her review below:

and who were given instead the concrete void of insulin Metrazol electricity hydrotherapy psychotherapy occupational therapy pingpong & amnesia,
who in humorless protest overturned only one symbolic pingpong table, resting briefly in catatonia,

I'm with you in Rockland where you scream in a straightjacket that you're losing the game of the actual pingpong of the abyss

(verses 68, 69, and 104; pages 120, 121, and 174 in the graphic novel).

The first "pingpong" has to evoke a laugh; the second, reflection; and the last, if memory serves, poignance. Taken together, the best three lines in the poem. If I can find a way to read the rest of the poem this way, it will be for me not merely historically important (both as literature and as event) but intrinsically memorable.

"Holy, holy, holy hyperbole!"

When the young Allen Ginsberg (ably played by James Franco) reads this line from the "Moloch" section of "Howl" in the smoke-filled Six Gallery in San Francisco (on October 7, 1955), the guys in the front row, including Neal Cassady, "secret hero of these poems, cocksman and Adonis of Denver", break into laughter. The whole boatload of sensitive bullshit: they know, and Allen knows, that "Howl", far from being the romantic cry of the heart or grand political jeremiad it is often presumed to be, is in fact a brilliantly absurdist poem, whose complex baroque structure teeters between high seriousness and wry self-mockery, hallucinatory fervour and comic deflation.

So the beginning of Marjorie Perloff's exceptionally interesting review in the February 18, 2011, issue of the Times Literary Supplement. I would provide a link but it would only work for subscribers. Still, anyone interested in the movie, the poem, the poet, or the times (his then, ours now) will be rewarded by the trek to any library with a copy.