Wednesday Sept 16:
Because I am also busy writing plays, and because I felt my plays were becoming far too talk-heavy, I began reading Antonin Artaud—as a corrective. I began with Bettina L. Knapp‘s Antonin Artaud: Man of Vision (1969)—which I found turgid and repetitive, but not without its usefulness (“…objects, music, chanting, costumes, gestures, and words, used together are much more effective in bringing about powerful reactions in the spectator than are words used either alone or as primal factors in the spectacle….”)
I then moved into the beautiful but maddening The Secret Art of Antonin Artaud by Jacques Derrida and Paule Thevenin (1998)—which is both highly engaging and cruelly difficult. Even the always helpful Mary Ann Caws, in her preface, warns us to gird our loins for our reading of Derrida’s “oddly lovely labyrinth of an essay.”
Thursday, September 17:
The next night, a glutton for punishment and hungry, at the same time, for rich and heavy nourishment, I dipped again (for maybe the 7th time) into Radio Corpse: Imagism and the Cryptaesthetic of Ezra Pound by Daniel Tiffany (1995). It’s a book I shamelessly admire, though I find it tough going (“…the autonomous image, the image as corpse should be regarded as a cryptic image, not only because of its obscurity and its withdrawal from visuality, but as a reminder of its figurative debts to the topos of death….”)
Later, as a nightcap, I read most of “Enoch Soames” in Max Beerbohm’s Seven Men and Two Others (Penguin, 1954). I had been led back to the delicious Beerbohm by a recent article about him by Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker.
Friday, September 18:
Idly read the first third of Barbary Shore, an early (1951) novel by Norman Mailer—his first book after The Naked and the Dead. It’s gritty, tough, lonely and acute. A far better book than it was generally acknowledged to be.
Then I browsed sleepily through the chapter in John Unterecker’s vast, sprawling Voyager: A Life of Hart Crane devoted exclusively to Crane’s writing of his book-length poem, The Bridge. It made me want to get up and write, but I didn’t.
Saturday September 19:
Didn’t read much on Saturday or Sunday. Had an opening on Saturday- an exhibition called Off the Cuff: Colour Blocking, by painter Ann Clarke and me—at her gallery in Newburgh, Ontario.
Monday September 21 (first day of Autumn):
Read half of Peter Demetz’s The Air Show at Brescia, 1909 (2002). The subject is enticingly described on the front cover of this exceedingly handsome little book: “A singular event of the modern age in which thousands of eager spectators came together with celebrated aviators and artists—among them Franz Kafka, Louis Bleriot, Giacomo Puccini, Glenn Curtiss, Max Brod and Gabriele D’Annunzio.” I’ll read anything about either Kafka or D’Annunzio. Unfortunately, the book, which begins briskly, descends into a sludge of statistics (how many people showed up on which day, etc.) from which it never really rallies.
Tuesday September 22:
I availed myself of the balm unfailingly provided by Thoreau’s Walden: “…The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation….”
Wednesday September 23:
Tonight, I’m going back to Doctor Faustus.