"I know about 1000 songs. I don’t know why I know 1000 songs. I wake up with music in my head." — William Kennedy
William Kennedy will appear at Skidmore’s Zankel Music Center tonight at 8 under the auspices of the New York State Summer Writers Institute for a discussion of an opera based on his novel Roscoe with musical performances by singers from Opera Saratoga. Here’s a short film from a 2012 Salmagundi Salon, a very different kind of musical evening celebrating this most musical of writers.
The opening of Nadine Gordimer’s story “Afterlife” that appeared in Salmagundi #160-161:
You’ll be together again with all your lost ones. Everyone’s lost ones who ever lived in virtue and the faith. Heaven unbelievably, beyond mortal comprehension, overcrowded. Worse than post office queues, bank queues, sports stadia and pop concert crowds, political protest mobs, worse than airport security check queues, their official archangels demanding you take your shoes off.
Paradise a limitless supply of virgins. But any male who’s lived his manhood span on earth knows that virgins aren’t any treat—squeaks of pain and smears of blood to put up with—experienced women are the ones who know how to make love.
Only the things of this world. That doesn’t mean to say materialism; not to be understood in the sense of possessions. What good you do in this world. No afterlife reward.
The Bhagavadgita 11.22: “as a man discards a worn garment and puts on one that is new, so the spirit discards a worn out body and moves on to one that is new.”
There’s not much point in going through how all the other faiths deal with the avoidance of the inevitable; the end.
Remembering Nadine Gordimer
(drawing by Lowell Boyers)
The extraordinary poet Rosanna Warren is here this week—and reads a new poem in Poetry Foundation & Poetry Magazine here:
Victoria Redel is in the house, too, tonight—fictionista, stylist, gripping story-teller …
He came to the first of the boys. “Why don’t you just sit up nice and take those off the seats.” the boy said nothing and Madame S. watched the boy’s large feet brightly beating out some rhythm. “i said get yourself up, please.”
Madame S. watched the conductor reach down and grab the top of the boy’s shirt.
“Don’t let me catch you with your feet up again,” the conductor said, but Madame S. could see that as soon as the conductor roughly let go of the boy’s shirt and pressed his way through the aisles, nodding at Madame S as he punched her ticket and then continued out of the car, the boy had already slipped down and stretched out his legs until they stuck off the seat into the aisle, his sneakers twitching, jumping in a way that looked very much like a well-schooled changement les pieds. —From “The North Train,” Salmagundi #`176
The brilliant, redoubtable Phillip Lopate in in the house tonight … Here’s the beginning of a terrific and useful piece from the King of the Personal Essay …
How Do You End an Essay?
by Phillip Lopate
I am often asked by students: how do i know when an essay is finished? It is a difficult question to answer in the abstract, and my first impulse is say that it depends on each piece. But I know I am dodging the problem by resorting to a case-by-case approach, because underneath their inquiry is a larger, legitimate concern: If, as I maintain, an essay is the track of one’s thoughts, and is not dependent on any discernible deep structure such as the isosceles triangle epiphany in the modern short story, what’s to say that it can’t simply go on and on? Each thought leads to another, and then another, so how is one to know when the time has come to end an essay?
One of our favorite Salmagundi poets, Barry Goldensohn, will be returning to Saratoga and Skidmore this week …
Read some new poems, including the one on Ovid and his lack of “Roman control,” here
HAMMER BY FRANK BIDART
To be both author of
this statue, and the statue itself.
When the quest is indecipherable, -
…what is left is a career.
What once was apprehended in passion
survives as opinion.
The stone arm raising a stone hammer
dreams it can descend upon itself.
Published in Salmagundi #121/122 (Winter-Spring 1999)
Thomas Bernhard: Asphyxiation*
By Nancy Huston
Do you understand? Life is the purest, most limpid, darkest, most crystalline form of despair… Only one path can take you there and it leads through the snow and ice of despair, you must embark upon it over and above the adultery of reason.
—Thomas Bernhard, Frost
I am a genius
as I’ve always repeated to myself
in the face of all that might seem to contradict it
We despair very early on in life
Capitalizing on despair
has made a genius out of me.
—Thomas Bernhard, Simply Complicated
Thomas Bernhard’s childhood was marked by complications. He owed his last name to a man whom he never met, his grandmother Anna’s first husband. Anna had abandoned this man (as well as their two children) for a certain Johannes Freumbichler, who had dreams of becoming a great writer; their first child, Herta (Thomas’s mother), was born before they were married.
The family revolved entirely around Freumbichler’s lofty literary ambitons; everything else had to be sacrificed to them. Johannes’s brother had committed suicide and Johannes himself had strong depressive tendencies; throughout his life he was haunted by the urge to kill himself and frequently announced to his family that he would do so. Anna described this man’s literary work as “her only wealth, her only religion,” and was passionately committed to serving him. His body of work turned out to be monumental indeed (as many pages as Thomas Mann!) – but also, unfortunately, mediocre. Though his books were systematically rejected by publishers, Freumbichler would not stoop to taking a job; thus, the problem of the family’s survival was left to Anna – and, later, to their children. Theirs was a life of perpetual poverty and insecurity. Their furniture was mostly made of sugar boxes; their possessions were often at the pawnshop; they were penniless nomads, constantly on the move, objects of contempt in the numerous villages where they set up housekeeping.
See Brian Dewan’s filmstrip to learn more: