Fiction: the first show I was involved with in college was called “The Street of Crocodiles.” I ran the light board – it was one of those ancient slide boards, no easy buttons. It was like playing an organ – the play was so deeply magical that there was a light shift at least every two minutes. Years later I came across something else called “The Street of Crocodiles” – a film by The Brothers Quay, with which I became similarly entranced. Eventually I was to find The Street of Crocodiles in it’s (almost) original form – a book by Bruno Schulz, a Polish writer murdered by the Nazis. His work drips with sensation, with strange birds & light & honey, with thick tensions of realities co-mingling. Here is the opening of “The Street of Crocodiles,” from the first story entitled “August”:
In July my Father went to take the waters and left me, with my mother and elder brother, a prey to the blinding white heat of the summer days. Dizzy with light, we dipped into that enormous book of holidays, it’s pages blazing with sunshine and scented with the sweet melting pulp of golden pears.
On those luminous mornings Adela returned from the market, like Pomona emerging from the flames of day, spilling from her basket the colorful beauty of the sun – the shiny pink cherries full of juice under their transparent skins, the mysterious black morellos that smelled so much better than they tasted; apricots in whose golden pulp lay the core of long afternoons. And next to that pure poetry of fruit, she unloaded sides of meat with they keyboard of ribs swollen with energy and strength and seaweeds of vegetables like dead octopuses and squids – the raw material of meals with a yet undefined taste, the vegetative and terrestrial ingredients of dinner, exuding a wild & rustic smell.
Schulz has received some attention lately; There is an article about him in the recent fiction issue of The New Yorker. I have been reading “Sanatorium Under The Sign of The Hourglass” – another deeply strange & entrancing book. His murder, and the frenzy of WW II, alas, swallowed the manuscript his last novel – a book apparently called “The Messiah,” which no one had ever read….
Poetry: In my recent workshop with Mark Doty, he arrived one day with a box full of books to give away. HUZZZZZAH! A feeding frenzy ensued (or, rather, my insane urge to gather free things kicked in). One of the books I went home with was “Shells” by Craig Arnold, who earlier this year went missing on a volcanic Japanese island. I had never read his work before, and as I read shells, I’m struck by the loss of such a poet. I’m only in the middle of the book, reading & re-reading his poem “Grace,” for Jeff Buckley. It’s deeply refreshing to read someone who (if pressured to label), I’d call a narrative poet – I go adrift sometimes in the sea of …what? Poems I can’t find a heart in – poems that are all machine & no blood. (Thank you, Mark.)
Music: for dancing – Lady Gaga; for driving – Regina Spektor’s new album ‘Far’; for walks at dusk – Flying Club Cup by Beirut; for Sundays – quiet Velvet Underground songs
To Eat: Yogurt with honey; cherries