30 June 2017

Two quotes from GV-1876 and that's all

On the left is the letter "H" from a spiral-bound, laminated church directory that I found in a box this morning. The names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all its members are listed under their corresponding initial. I'm guessing the pamphlet's creator used an old word processor's readymade "clip art" to get such a fancy font for the surname divisions. (Note that the horizontal bar is made by a hotdog.) And at the right is a map that I drew on the back of a library receipt.

Dearest diary,

I'm still working thru the several books that comprise Gore Vidal's "Narratives of Empire." This is the best time in my life to read them, I can tell; no other moment in history – at least this eon where Fate detains me – will be charged with such political...

Just now, to see if the outside atmosphere will allow me to open the windows of my apartment and remain half-alive, I interrupted my typing to check the weather online, for which I use the popular search engine whose motto is "Do Only Evil Continually"...

For God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. (Genesis 5:5-6)

...Anyway, this search engine's glossy cover displayed a picture of Victor Hugo and a blurb about celebrating his life. I don't know if it's his birthday today or what, but I'm always up for celebrating Hugo. So, for the record, I salute.

But as I was saying before getting sidetracked by concerns about humidity temperature and mortal divinities: I'm roughly halfway through the set of novels that make up Gore Vidal's "Narratives of Empire." This is the best time in my life to read them, I can tell; for no other moment in history – at least in the U.S. history that I am jinxed with – will be so politically charged...

No, things'll get politicaller. No hour will ever strike that one might label the politicallest until we all learn to love ill luck. Only then will doom unflux... or flux undoom...

I'm just trying to say that, since POLITICS, which is not normally my bent, has forced me to attend to it of late, I might as well avail myself of the silver lining of this stormcloud of obsession and enjoy some writings based on actual nightmares...

Instead of that n-word, I was going write "based on a true story," but then I remembered this passage from the second chapter of Ulysses by James Joyce:

Now back to Vidal. The novel I'm on, whose back cover I shared as yesterpost's obligatory image, is called 1876. Like the other titles that I've read from the series, it fascinates me because of its clear portrayals of past political shenanigans which bear constant and striking similarities to current political shenanigans. That idea of history repeating itself.

On a side note, however, I don't think that being ignorant of history condemns you to repeat its uncomely parts; for you could just as easily master historical knowledge for the purpose of being effectively tyrannical; contrariwise you could ignorantly luck into utopic ideas that end up saving the world. Of course it's possible that, on account of your lack of study, you stumble into the same old awful governance; I'm only saying that such a result is not certain, moreover the pendulum swings both ways: you're not condemned to resurrect Antichrist or other unwanted emperors; you might just as well wake Finnegan. Or Blake's Albion happily. If they're not all the same Adam Kadmon, I hope that every giant rises and shines.

Another side note, naive but I think worth admitting: I don't understand how Vidal can take so much interest in historical events to re-imagine them in such detail. I side naturally more with Emerson: I want no history at my back. (Which is why I hope I'm right about the above idea: Forget history and humankind'll be fine... or only as bad as its worst elements will make it in any case.) I'm thankful that Vidal cares in this way: it's fascinating to me precisely because I lack the gift myself, and my awe grows in proportion to the alienness of Vidal's excellence. (I stress that it's TO ME that he's alien, in the way that Apollo is antithetical to Dionysus – when it comes to art, I'm hopelessly Dionysian; whereas Vidal strikes me as Apollonian. I use these terms because Nietzsche's book The Birth of Tragedy persuaded me that they're helpful.) That's the good thing about appreciation: it embraces that which is familiar, simply for being familiar (I love Blake: his mind moves the way I want mine to); and it embraces that which is unalike, simply for being unalike (I love Vidal because I could never ape his essence).

OK, enough with the side notes. All I wanted to do in this quick entry is quote a couple passages from 1876. The book centers on, or hovers around, the contest between the Democratic candidate Samuel J. Tilden and the Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, in the presidential election of its titular year. Why does this interest me? As usual, because I see similarities between the events of then and now. Nothing matches exactly, but who can deny that Tilden's losing of that election has a thing or two in common with the most recent one (2016)? I myself went from not caring much about politics (due to exhaustion, helplessness, and crestfallen cynicism) to caring MUCH about politics, because of the message and campaign of Bernie Sanders. Now I think that Sanders' fate to-date has more in common with Henry A. Wallace: regarding his being succeeded as F.D.R.'s V.P. (and thus potential, extremely probable future president) by Harry S. Truman. So my interest in Vidal's 1876 is more shrugging and resigned; but it's an interest nevertheless; because it's provocative to compare and contrast Tilden with Clinton, and Hayes with Trump. What matches is intriguing, and what fails to match is intriguing. Here's a quote from Wikipedia:

Samuel Tilden, Al Gore, and Hillary Clinton are the only presidential candidates to win the popular vote without being elected President.

I cannot overemphasize that any seeming echo between the book's content and the content of genuine spacetime, whether the focus is then or now, should be taken with a grain of salt; so I only mean it in the loosest way, as a catalyst for wandering daydreams, when I say that the following passage (from part Nine, chapter 7; p.268) makes me think about Hillary Clinton – as I read it, I wonder how (if at all) she would have responded to such an inquiry. (The text is small; click to enlarge. Or just skip it.)

Now I'm already out of time, so, from the very same novel, I'll give this one last quote (which is uncharacteristically abstract-philosophical) because it charms me... I relate to it with all my blank:

...I sat alone in that dim summery drawing room and wondered how and by what route I have come to be who I am, old, derelict, unreal to myself, a victim of the sheer incomprehensible randomness of living, and of the atrocious running out of time. Why am I I, and not another? Young, not old? Or unborn, rather than (result of a most random conjoining) made flesh and deposited in a hard world, to flourish, mate, and now presently to die.


Remind yourself, O self, to continue to mull over, in future entries, the state of rap music, both modern and ancient, and to lament the ways that people now listen to music (in the shadow of the Infant Internet); then figure out if there's a best way to share audio rashness or if that dimension is a lost cause.

No comments:


More from Bryan Ray