Wednesday, June 24, 2009

À droite

Having exhaled (exhumed?) the lowbrow products of procrastination (below; backdated), a few things are jumping around for attention. This article is still remarkably fresh in my mind, for example, if only because it's so delightfully derivative of Borges' "Benares" (1923, Fervor de Buenos Aires):
False and impenetrable
like a garden traced on a mirror,
the imagined city
which my eyes have never seen
interweaves distances
and repeats its unreachable houses.
The sudden sun
shatters the complex obscurity
of temples, dunghills, prisons, patios
and will scale walls
and blaze on to a sacred river.
the city which a foliage of stars oppressed
pours over the horizon
and in a morning
full of steps and of sleep
light is opening the streets like branches.
At the same time dawn breaks
on all shutters looking east
and the voice of a muezzin
from its high tower
saddens the air of day
and announces to the city of many gods
the solitude of God.
(And to think that while I play with doubtful images
the city I sing persists
in a predestined place of the world,
with its precise topography
peopled like a dream,
with hospitals and barracks
and slow avenues of poplars
and men with rotten lips
who feel the cold in their teeth.)
Or, at least, derivative of the paraphrasing I was doing around the poem in my thesis. I'm still riffing on parallel structures, though, and this morning chewed through Urn Burial's fifth chapter again, where Browne turns from cataloguing the virtues and idiosyncrasies of funerary customs to melancholy: "'Tis too late to be ambitious," he sighs. "The great Mutations of the world are acted, our time may be too short for our designes." But the point is, really, that it has always been too late to be ambitious, and it always will. Which leaves unspoken the problem of Art; the significant absence, perhaps, as obvious as "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius"'s footnotes about Tlön's "scandalous" materialism leaving the problem of material.

All of which is, effectively, the Borges-narrator resigned to the rise of Tlön and hiding in his uncertain translation of Urn Burial. In what will be a fusion of Quevedo's satire and Browne's reflections on mortality, the narrator of "Tlön, Uqbar" is writing the equivalent to the story in which he exists. Circularity rocks. And, one assumes, rolls.

Browne, for all his subtle gloom, managed to find something positive, although it's mildly undercut:
Darknesse and light divide the course of our time, and oblivion shares with memory a great part even of our living beings; we slightly remember our felicities, and the smartest stroaks of affliction leave but short smart upon us. Sense endureth no extremeties, and sorrows destroy us or themselves. To weep into stones are fables.
Oh, and despite Borges' avowed love for Urn Burial – he name-checked it in 1925's Inquisiciones, wrote "Tlön, Uqbar" around it, and translated Chapter V for Victoria Ocampo's Sur in 1944 – I still haven't found any articles linking Browne's style to Borges'. There's plenty of thematic junk, and I'm sure adding to the pile, but nothing yet on the way the semi-colons balance the omissions, distortions and contradictions, and, mostly, assist the underlying pragmatism. Although it may be too obvious to mention without being a little gauche.

Apropos of nothing, or perhaps of the trend towards the gauche, I just flicked past Choire Sicha's review – and fitting proposed subtitle – of the new Transformers film, Michael Bay's very male gaze and Megan Fox:
All on her own, she is reeling back twenty years of gender and film studies textbooks. While we may have thought the male gaze was wilting or troublesome, Megan Fox proves that (for her and a select few others, at least) the male gaze is just some flimsy and pitiful little ray to rub her flesh up against so as to keep warm her nearly-exposed rump. She is hard to believe, with the soft kitty-cat stripper ways of a Gina Gershon melded with the hard machineness of a Linda Fiorentino.

And finally, this whole thing jumped out at me in my daily headline filtering this morning. I'd heard all about Neda Agha-Soltan's death, I thought, and by now everyone has, but I'd like to know why it hit a little harder than the other deaths of protesters in Iran, or anywhere. That a video camera was right there? Her wide eyes when she lay on the street? Or the Persian meaning of her name – "voice", "calling" or "divine message"? I'm going to leave it there, because trying to answer that brings me right back to the gauche. And, to make the stupid pun I promised myself I wouldn't, I'd rather aim for the adroit.

No comments: