New Cat, Mew Cat

Have you seen the new cat? How could I miss? Big cat. And fast. The new cat changes a lot. Big house, zero lot. So comes here. Our lives will never be the same. They never were the same. What were we doing? Waiting. Waiting for what? It’s what we do. How does the new…

Four Dubliners and a Scholar’s Mirror

When Richard Ellmann wrote his Library of Congress lectures in the early 1980s on four Irish writers (Wilde, Yeats, Joyce, and Beckett), later issued in book form under the title Four Dubliners, Beckett was still living (barely; he died 18 months after the book’s publication). Most of Beckett’s work comes after WWII, work that often…

Walden: From “The Pond in Winter” to “Spring”

In Samuel Beckett’s chapter of Our Exagmination Round His Factification For Incamination of Work in Progress, twelve essays looking at Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (reissued New Directions Paperbook 331, 1972), titled “Dante… Bruno. Vico.. Joyce,” Beckett says, “Words have their progressions as well as social phases. ‘Forest-cabin-village-city-academy’ is one rough progression…And every word expands with psychological…

Didi and Gogo Feted with Lifetime Achievement Award

A country road. A tree. Against the tree a bicycle. Quick! Gogo! What the hey? I was sleeping! Why can’t you let me sleep, Didi? The need for your heinie’s beauty sleep notwithstanding, Surely you’ve not forgotten we are to be feted, you hopeless hobo. I could use a new pair of shoes, though I…

Grading Etiquette

Joseph Williams’s “The Phenomenology of Error” isn’t about grading so much as it is about finding error. It’s by now a history piece, but should be revisited. The idea is that readers, graders, teachers are predisposed to look for certain things they can and do call errors and to ignore or miss other issues that…

Winter is icummen in, Lhude sing Line 15

“Winter is icummen in, / Lhude sing Goddamn,” sang the irascible Ezra Pound, and while, as far as I know, he never had to ride local Tri-Met’s Line 15, he seems to have had some experience with public transportation, for he continues, in his poem “Ancient Music”: “Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us, / An ague…

Honor and Shame: Born Again Off Maggie’s Farm

When Huck decides to help Jim at the end of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, he really does believe he’ll go to hell for his actions. Yet he’s awakening from a cultured sleep; he’s being reborn. First, he’s accepted the responsibility of a decision; he must act: “I was a-trembling, because I’d got to decide,…

Where Michael Kinsley Meets William Faulkner; or, The Beat Goes On

“The danger is in the neatness of identifications,” Beckett said in “Dante…Bruno.Vico..Joyce,” and “literary criticism is not book-keeping.” Perhaps a certain kind of journalism is book-keeping, the kind that embeds meaning in pre-packaged classifications, designations that deprive individuals of their unique character by assigning them to a group, where they are given a number. I…

Where John Cage Lip-synchs with Lloyd Thaxton while Playing Guitar Hero

“Follow your bliss,” Joseph Campbell advised, while Humanities instructors encourage students to “write about your passion.” But what if we find ourselves blissless and passionless? Or if we are passionate about anything, the last thing we want to do is to write about it, for that will suck the passion right out of the marrow….