Alphabetarion # Abruptly | Colm Tóibín

Charlotte Hilmer, Sleeping, 1956

“Ending a novel is almost like putting a child to sleep—it can't be done abruptly.” 

Colm Tóibín

Book//mark - Novelty | John Crowley, 1989

Fred Lyon. Novelty shop, San Francisco. 1950s

“When he was in college, a famous poet made a useful distinction for him. He had drunk enough
in the poet's company to be compelled to describe to him a poem he was thinking of. It would
be a monologue of sorts, the self-contemplation of a student on a summer afternoon who is
reading Euphues*. The poem itself would be a subtle series of euphuisms, translating the
heat, the day, the student's concerns, into symmetrical posies; translating even his contempt
 and boredom with that famously foolish book into a euphuism.

The poet nodded his big head in a sympathetic, rhythmic way as this was explained to him,
 then told him that there are two kinds of poems. There is the kind you write; there is the
 kind you talk about in bars. Both kinds have value and both are poems; but it's fatal to
confuse them.

In the Seventh Saint, many years later, it had struck him that the difference between himself and
 Shakespeare wasn't talent - not especially - but nerve. The capacity not to be frightened by his
largest and most potent conceptions, to simply (simply!) sit down and execute them. The dreadful
 lassitude he felt when something really large and multifarious came suddenly clear to him,
something Lear-sized yet sonnet-precise. If only they didn't rush on him whole, all at once,
massive and perfect, leaving him frightened and nerveless at the prospect of articulating
them word by scene by page. He would try to believe they were of the kind told in bars,
not the kind to be written, though there was no way to be sure of this except to attempt
the writing; he would raise a finger (the novelist in the bar mirror raising the obverse finger)
 and push forward his change. Wailing like a neglected ghost, the vast notion would beat
its wings into the void.

Sometimes it would pursue him for days and years as he fled desperately. Sometimes he would
turn to face it, and do battle. Once, twice, he had been victorious, objectively at least. Out of an
 immense concatenation of feeling, thought, word, transcendent meaning had come his first novel,
 a slim, pageant of a book, tombstone for his slain conception. A publisher had taken it, gingerly;
had slipped it quietly into the deep pool of spring releases, where it sank without a ripple, and
where he supposes it lies still, its calm Bodoni gone long since green. A second, just as slim but
 more lurid, nightmarish even, about imaginary murders in an imaginary exotic locale, had been
sold for a movie, though the movie had never been made. He felt guilt for the producer's failure
 (which perhaps the producer didn't feel), having known the book could not be filmed; he had
made a large sum, enough to finance years of this kind of thing, on a book whose first printing
 was largely returned.”

“Novelty and Security: the security of novelty, the novelty of security. Always the full thing,
 the whole subject, the true subject, stood just behind the one you found yourself contemplating.
 The trick, but it wasn't a trick, was to take up at once the thing you saw and the reason you saw
 it as well; to always bite off more than you could chew, and then chew it. If it were self-indulgence
 for him to cut and polish his semiprecious memories, and yet seem like danger, like a struggle he
was unfit for, then self-indulgence was a potent force, he must examine it, he must reckon with it.”

John Crowley, Novelty: Four Stories 1989

* Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit , a 
didactic romance by John Lyly, 1578

Briar Rose [Sleeping Beauty] | Anne Sexton, 1928-1974

Konstantin Somov,  Sleeping Young Woman, 1922 

a girl who keeps slipping off, 
arms limp as old carrots, 
into the hypnotist's trance, 
into a spirit world
speaking with the gift of tongues.
She is stuck in the time machine, 
suddenly two years old sucking her thumb, 
as inward as a snail, 
learning to talk again.
She's on a voyage.
She is swimming further and further back, 
up like a salmon, 
struggling into her mother's pocketbook.
Little doll child, 
come here to Papa.
Sit on my knee.
I have kisses for the back of your neck.
A penny for your thoughts, Princess.
I will hunt them like an emerald.

Come be my snooky
and I will give you a root.
That kind of voyage, 
rank as a honeysuckle.
a king had a christening
for his daughter Briar Rose
and because he had only twelve gold plates
he asked only twelve fairies
to the grand event.
The thirteenth fairy, 
her fingers as long and thing as straws, 
her eyes burnt by cigarettes, 
her uterus an empty teacup, 
arrived with an evil gift.
She made this prophecy: 
The princess shall prick herself
on a spinning wheel in her fifteenth year
and then fall down dead.
The court fell silent.
The king looked like Munch's Scream
Fairies' prophecies, 
in times like those, 
held water.
However the twelfth fairy
had a certain kind of eraser
and thus she mitigated the curse
changing that death
into a hundred-year sleep.

The king ordered every spinning wheel
exterminated and exorcised.
Briar Rose grew to be a goddess
and each night the king
bit the hem of her gown
to keep her safe.
He fastened the moon up
with a safety pin
to give her perpetual light
He forced every male in the court
to scour his tongue with Bab-o
lest they poison the air she dwelt in.
Thus she dwelt in his odor.
Rank as honeysuckle.

On her fifteenth birthday
she pricked her finger
on a charred spinning wheel
and the clocks stopped.
Yes indeed. She went to sleep.
The king and queen went to sleep, 
the courtiers, the flies on the wall.
The fire in the hearth grew still
and the roast meat stopped crackling.
The trees turned into metal
and the dog became china.
They all lay in a trance, 
each a catatonic
stuck in a time machine.
Even the frogs were zombies.
Only a bunch of briar roses grew
forming a great wall of tacks
around the castle.
Many princes
tried to get through the brambles
for they had heard much of Briar Rose
but they had not scoured their tongues
so they were held by the thorns
and thus were crucified.
In due time
a hundred years passed
and a prince got through.
The briars parted as if for Moses
and the prince found the tableau intact.
He kissed Briar Rose
and she woke up crying: 
Daddy! Daddy! 
Presto! She's out of prison! 
She married the prince
and all went well
except for the fear -
the fear of sleep.

Briar Rose
was an insomniac...
She could not nap
or lie in sleep
without the court chemist
mixing her some knock-out drops
and never in the prince's presence.
If if is to come, she said, 
sleep must take me unawares
while I am laughing or dancing
so that I do not know that brutal place
where I lie down with cattle prods, 
the hole in my cheek open.
Further, I must not dream
for when I do I see the table set
and a faltering crone at my place, 
her eyes burnt by cigarettes
as she eats betrayal like a slice of meat.

I must not sleep
for while I'm asleep I'm ninety
and think I'm dying.
Death rattles in my throat
like a marble.
I wear tubes like earrings.
I lie as still as a bar of iron.
You can stick a needle
through my kneecap and I won't flinch.
I'm all shot up with Novocain.
This trance girl
is yours to do with.
You could lay her in a grave, 
an awful package, 
and shovel dirt on her face
and she'd never call back: Hello there! 
But if you kissed her on the mouth
her eyes would spring open
and she'd call out: Daddy! Daddy! 
She's out of prison.

There was a theft.
That much I am told.
I was abandoned.
That much I know.
I was forced backward.
I was forced forward.
I was passed hand to hand
like a bowl of fruit.
Each night I am nailed into place
and forget who I am.
That's another kind of prison.
It's not the prince at all, 
but my father
drunkeningly bends over my bed, 
circling the abyss like a shark, 
my father thick upon me
like some sleeping jellyfish.
What voyage is this, little girl? 
This coming out of prison? 
God help -
this life after death?

Anne Sexton, 1928-1974
Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty)


Alphabetarion # People | Victor Hugo, 1862

Gaston Bertrand, Backs, 1937

“If people did not love one another, I really don't see 
what use there would be in having any spring.” 

Victor Hugo, Les Misérables, 1862


Crows | Kawanabe Kyōsai (1831-1889)

Kyosai Kawanabe (1831-1889)                                                      Kyosai Kawanabe (1831-1889)
Crow and Willow Tree, 1887                                                             Crow Flying in the Snow, 1887
Two Crows on a Pine Branch, 1887                                                Crow on a Branch, 1887                   
Crow and the Moon, 1887                                                  Crow and Reeds by a Stream, 1887
Kawanabe Kyosai, Crow on a Rock, 1887                   Crow on a Bamboo Branch, 1887
         Kyosai Kawanabe (1831-1889)                            Two Crows on a Plum Branch, 1885
Kyosai Kawanabe (1831-1889)


Self Portrait | Marcel Duchamp, 1958

Marcel Duchamp, Self Portrait in Profile, 1958

"I force myself to contradict myself, so as
to avoid conforming to my own taste."

Marcel Duchamp


Stereosc2pe + | Swing | Robert Capa / Walter Sanders, 1935-1949

 Robert Capa, At the annual Easter fair Seville, 1935                                                   Walter Sanders, Carnival, Germany, 1949

Honoré de Balzac | Fyodor Dostoevsky, 1838

"Balzac is great!" 

Fyodor Dostoevsky* 
in a letter to his brother Mikhail on 9 August 1838

* His literary idol was Honoré de Balzac and in 1843 even translated 
one of Balzac's greatest works, Eugenie Grandet, into Russian.


Fresco | Νίκος Καββαδίας, 1955

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Worshippers, 1743-45, fresco

Ο Fra Giovanni σιωπηλός οδήγαε τη γραφίδα.
Το αγγελικό του πρόσωπο χυμένος τη σπουδή.
Ορθός ο δούλος δίπλα σας, μακρύς σα νεροφίδα,
έτριβε τ' άγια χρώματα σε πέτρινο γουδί.

Όργανο, σε ξεχάσανε σε ποια κλειστή ροτόντα,
που δεν την ελειτούργησε λιβάνι και παπάς;
Από νωρίς ξεχάστηκες τους βιαστικούς ρωτώντας.
Όθε αγαπάς νυχτώθηκες, μπαίνεις και δε χτυπάς.

Σκουφί, σωκάρδι βυσσινί φορώ, μακρύ στιλέτο.
Χρυσόβουλη βαστάω γραφή και ένα πουγγί φλουριά.
Σκύβεις, κοιτάζεις το νερό που ρέει στο καναλέτο,
Γυρνάς, διώχνεις το δούλο σου και σβήνεις τα κεριά.

Άσχημος είμαι. Αμαρτωλός σε φρέσκο του Ανωνύμου,
χυμένο είναι το μάτι μου με χτύπημα σφυριού,
το αυτί κομμένο, κι έχασα μια νύχτα τη φωνή μου
στη ναυμαχία του Μισιριού.

Κι αυτός, ωραίος όπως εσύ, ψηλός, porca miseria!
το σχήμα του κρύβει λαμπρή πολεμική στολή.
Χαϊδεύει τα δυο χέρια σου, τα ευλογημένα χέρια,
πέφτει το ράσο του, ο σταυρός γλιστράει και σε φιλεί.

Με το καράβι του Θησέα σ' αφήσαμε στη Νάξο.
Γυμνή, μ' ένα στα πόδια σου θαλασσινό σκουτί.
Σε ποιες σπηλιές εκρύφτηκες και πως να σε φωνάξω;
Κοστάρω κι όλο με τραβάει μακριά το καραντί.

Ένα κοπάδι ελέφαντες, μαϊμούδες και καμήλες
σου κουβαλούσαν σε μακρύ ποντόνι τα προικιά.
Μα τα 'πιε ανεμορούφουλας απέξω από τις Μύλες
και ξέστρωσες το νυφικό κρεβάτι σου Θιακιά.

Fresco, Νίκος Καββαδίας, Sydney 1955


[Η τελευταία στροφή σε μία πρώτη γραφή του ποιήματος 
με αρχικό τίτλο Ariane]

Ανεμοβάτης μου ‘φερε γραφή απ’ την Καταιγίδα.
Θα στείλει απόψε κίτρινο, σταχτί, και «της φωτιάς».
– Κι όποιος φοβάται φύλακα, ας πάει με φορτηγίδα.
Καλός σποριάς του χωραφιού του ας γίνει, και σκαφτιάς.


Winter Coats & Dresses | Designed by Pierre Cardin, 1957-1962

Simone D'Aillencourt, coat by Pierre Cardin 1958 / photo by Georges Dambier
Pierre Cardin, 1959                                                                               Pierre Cardin, 1957
Pierre Cardin, 1959
Pierre Cardin, 1960                                                                               Pierre Cardin, 1960s
White wool coat by Pierre Cardin, photo by Georges Dambier, 1958
Pierre Cardin,1959                                                                       Pierre Cardin, 1958
Pierre Cardin, 1960                                                                                          Pierre Cardin, 1957
Pierre Cardin, 1960                                                                         Pierre Cardin, 1960s
Pierre Cardin, 1962                                                                                 Pierre Cardin, 1960
Pierre Cardin, 1958
Pierre Cardin with model at his salon, photo by Ian Berry, 1962

Silent | Rumi, 1207-73

Nicole Daksiewicz

"Listen! Clam up your mouth and be silent like an oyster shell,
for that tongue of yours is the enemy of the soul, my friend.
When the lips are silent, the heart has a hundred tongues." 

Rumi, 1207-73


Love Song | William Carlos Williams, 1912–22

Emil Nolde (1867 - 1956), Green Landscape with Red Cloud

What have I to say to you
When we shall meet?
I lie here thinking of you.

The stain of love
Is upon the world.
Yellow, yellow, yellow,
It eats into the leaves,
Smears with saffron
The horned branches that lean
Against a smooth purple sky.

There is no light—
Only a honey-thick stain
That drips from leaf to leaf
And limb to limb
Spoiling the colours
Of the whole world.

I am alone.
The weight of love
Has buoyed me up
Till my head
Knocks against the sky.

See me!
My hair is dripping with nectar—
Starlings carry it
On their black wings.
See, at last
My arms and my hands
Are lying idle.

How can I tell
If I shall ever love you again
As I do now?

William Carlos Williams, Love Song
Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22

Alphabetarion # Deception | Jean-Michel Basquiat / Arthur Conan Doyle, 1891-83

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Defacement (The Death of Michael Stewart), 1983

“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.” 

Arthur Conan Doyle, The Boscombe Valley Mystery, 1891

I am | Clarice Lispector, 1973

Lin May Saeed

"A fantastical world surrounds me and is me. I hear the mad song of a little bird and crush
butterflies between my fingers. I’m a fruit eaten away by a worm. And I await the orgasmic
 apocalypse. A dissonant throng of insects surrounds me, light of an oil lamp that I am.
I then go too far in order to be. I’m in a trance. I penetrate the surrounding air."

Clarice Lispector, The Stream of Life, 1973


Book//mark - Infinite Jest | David Foster Wallace, 1996

Infinite Jest, 1996                                                David Foster Wallace

“It’s always the same sort of grim windy Northeast November day where if you were at home you’d be eating earth-tone soups in a warm kitchen, listening to the wind and glad of home and hearth.”

“He was unsure what the thing inside him was and was unprepared to commit himself to the course of action that would be required to explore the question.”

“He just sits there. I want to be like that. Able to just sit all quiet and pull life toward me, one forehead at a time. His name is supposedly Lyle.”

“That concentrating intently on anything is very hard work.”

“He looks mean in a kind of distant way.”

“There’s sun on the wall with the hanging viewer and poster of the paranoid king and an enormous hand-drawn Sierpinski gasket.”

“Right before he’d mailed her child an expensive toy and then had his phone number changed, he’d awakened from a night of horror-show” 

“Troeltsch’s so dumb he thinks a manila folder’s a Filipino contortionist.” 

“Sipping hazelnut espresso and watching, on the cartridge-viewing system that occupied half the bedroom's south wall.” 

“The only other room up there is Avril's personal study, with a big color Xerox of M. Hamilton as Oz’s West Witch on the door and custom fiber-wiring for a tri-modem TP console.” 

“A large head is all The Darkness knows.” 

“Talent is its own expectation,” 

“The big hair was red-gold and the skin peachy-tinged pale and arms freckled and zy-gomatics indescribable and her eyes an extra-natural HD green.” 

“The worstfeeling thing that happened today was at lunch when Michael Pemulis told Mario he had an idea for setting up a Dial-a-Prayer telephone service for atheists in which the atheist dials the number and the line just rings and rings and no one answers. It was a joke and a good one, and Mario got it; what was unpleasant was that Mario was the only one at the big table whose laugh was a happy laugh; everybody else sort of looked down like they were laughing at somebody with a disability. ”

“Good-Looking Men in Small Clever Rooms That Utilize Every Centimeter of Available Space With Mind-Boggling Efficiency.” 

“You can be shaped, or you can be broken.”

“What is unfair can be a stern but invaluable teacher.”

“Die for one person? This is a craziness. Persons change, leave, die, become ill. They leave, lie, go mad, have sickness, betray you, die. Your nation outlives you. A cause outlives you.” 

“I discovered the latent rage in followers, the fate of the leader who falls from the mob's esteem.” 

“Try to learn to let what is unfair teach you.” 

“My silent response to the expectant silence begins to affect the air of the room, the bits of dust and sportcoat-lint stirred around by the AC’s vents dancing jaggedly in the slanted plane of windowlight, the air over the table like the sparkling space just above a fresh-poured seltzer.”

“Boo, I think I no longer believe in monsters as faces in the floor or feral infants or vampires or whatever. I think at seventeen now I believe the only real monsters might be the type of liar where there’s simply no way to tell.” 

“And his dreams late that night, after the Braintree-Bob Death Commitment, seem to set him under a sort of sea, at terrific depths, the water all around him silent and dim and the same temperature he is.”

“We're all lonely for something we don't know we're lonely for. How else to explain the curious feeling that goes around feeling like missing somebody we've never even met?” 

“To try and forget, rasa the tabula, wipe the memory totally out, numb it with opiates.”

“The other nice thing about the Pump Room is the way it’s connected by tunnel to the prorectors’ rows of housing units, which means men’s rooms, which means Hal can crawl, hunch, and tiptoe into” 

“You will become way less concerned with what other people think of you when you realize how seldom they do.” 

“They attain the goal, thus, and put as much equal passion into celebrating their attainment as they had put into pursuing the attainment. This is called here the Syndrome of the Endless Party. The celebrity, money, sexual behaviors, drugs and substances. The glitter. They become celebrities instead of players, and because they are celebrities only as long as they feed the culture-of-goal's hunger for the make-it, the winning, they are doomed, because you cannot both celebrate and suffer, and play is always suffering, just so.” 

“Then in such a case your temple is self and sentiment. Then in such an instance you are a fanatic of desire, a slave to your individual subjective narrow self's sentiments; a citizen of nothing. You become a citizen of nothing. You are by yourself and alone, kneeling to yourself.” 

The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you.” 

David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest, 1996

D. F. Wallace hated Infinite Jest's original cover, he wanted a specific photograph 
of Fritz Lang directing the cast of Metropolis to be used as Infinite Jest's cover.

 Fritz Lang directing the cast of Metropolis, 1927

Alphabetarion # Ants | Bela Lugosi / Lafcadio Hearn / Henry David Thoreau

Kikuji Kawada, Anxiety of the ants, 1974

"People, chained by monotony, afraid to think,
clinging to certainties... they live like ants."

Bela Lugosi

"All good work is done the way ants do things:
Little by little."

Lafcadio Hearn

"It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants.
The question is: What are we busy about?"

Henry David Thoreau

Jean Cocteau | Photos by Germaine Krull (1929-1930)

Jean Cocteau by Germaine Krull, 1929
Germaine Krull, Jean Cocteau, 1929

"We shelter an angel within us. We must be the guardians of that angel."

Jean Cocteau, Cock and harlequin: Notes concerning music, 1921

Germaine Krull, Jean Cocteau, 1930


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