Serviceable sentences, 29/10,000

Contemporary US academia is today effectively a child exploitation ring, transforming crippling debts for students into billion dollar endowments for the institutions, while never ceasing to produce more Leftist discourse.
—dc cooper, “Notes on the Alt-Right,” (7 February 2017)

(Add this, this, or this, et. al., and the Right could turn the hyperbole of the above into a Brahmin blood libel.)


Christensen on Hollander’s qabbalistic poetics

Many of [John] Hollander’s unique lyric structures are based on prime numbers and their factorials. Among others, Hollander’s partiality for prime numbers is evident in spy-master Cupcake’s “eleven-phase transposition grid,” in Reflections on Espionage, and in the thirteen-syllable line throughout Powers of Thirteen. Moreover, two of the major sequences, Spectral Emanations and Powers of Thirteen are built on factorials of prime numbers (7 and 13 respectively). … At three moments in this half-century of publication, Hollander has marked out the scope of his achievement with Selected Poems (1972, 1978, and 1993), with only thirteen poems common to all three editions.*
*Thirteen is a number significant to Hollander, who discovered, in the course of writing Powers of Thirteen, that the initial letters of his name, first and last, add up to thirteen. The thirteen poems are “For Both of You”; “The Great Bear”; “Movie-Going”; “Digging It Out”; “Off Marblehead”; “The Ninth of July”; “Sunday Evenings”: “From the Ramble”; “The Night Mirror”; “Under Cancer”; “Granny Smith”; “Adam’s Task”; and “The Head of the Bed.”
—Philip H. Christensen, “John Hollander’s Selected Poems (1972, 1978, and 1993) and the Necessity of ‘Preparing a Perpetual Calendar,’” in Hélène Aji & Jennifer Kilgore-Caradec (eds.), Selected Poems: From Modernism to Now (2012; my emphasis).

Serviceable sentences, 27/10,000

If, as you say, we are destroying number by affirming the strict infinite, why then I concede that number also is swallowable, & that one of these days we shall eat it like custard.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson, from Journal Z [A] (1842-1843), in Selected Journals 1841-1877 (ed. Lawrence Rosenwald)

(Cf. Of all the numbers swallowed in adherence to the edible Emersonian qabbala, the best digested will be 2, 3, 4 & 5.. [H/t timespiralpress.])


Serviceable sentences, 25/10,000

To insist in all particulars were an Herculean task, to reckon up insanas substructiones, insanos labores, insanum luxum, mad labours, mad books, endeavours, carriages, gross ignorance, ridiculous actions, absurd gestures; insanam gulam, insana jurgia [mad gluttony, mad disputes], insaniam villarum, as Tully terms them, madness of villages, stupend structures; as those Egyptian pyramids, labyrinths, and sphinxes, which a company of crowned asses, ad ostentationem opum [to show off their wealth], vainly built, when neither the architect nor king that made them, or to what use and purpose, are yet known: in insist in their hypocrisy, in constancy, blindness, rashness, dementem temeritatem, fraud, cozenage, malice, anger, impudence, ingratitude, ambition, gross superstition, tempora infecta et adulatione sordida, as in Tiberius’ times, such base flattery, stupend, parasitical fawning and colloguing, etc., brawls, conflicts, desires, contentions, it would ask an expert Vesalius to anatomize every member.
—Robert Burton, “Democritus Junior to the Reader,” The Anatomy of Melancholy (1638/1651)

(Cf. Beckett, three hundred years later: “For if you set out to mention everything you would never be done, and that’s what counts, to be done, to have done.”)


Serviceable sentences, 24/10,000

Moral convictions alter with the decades, while strong representations of perennial experiences and compelling arrangements of artistic form remain to speak, in astonishingly different ways, to each decade.
—John Pistelli, “In Defense of Aesthetic Criticism” (23 April 2017)

(Technically it’s a violation of my protocol—single sentences serviceable as units or quanta of influence by virtue of an axiomatic, gnomic, knowingly elliptical, or willfully evasive quality—but I append the sentence that follows the above because it points out that quality: “This is so obviously—and even empirically—true that I do not really see how anyone can deny it, unless you find Oedipus the King incomprehensible or unendurable because we no longer expose infants.”)


Serviceable sentences, 23/10,000

Thus like a Sayler by the Tempest hurl’d / A shore, the Babe is shipwrack’d on the World.
—John Dryden, “From Lucretius, Book the Fifth,” Sylvæ: or, the Second Part of Poetical Miscellanies (1685)

(Cf. Wordsworth’s translation of the same lines from De rerum natura: “Like a shipwreck’d Sailer tost / By rough waves on a perilous coast, / Lies the Babe ….” Dryden carries it away here.)


Davenport on Davidson

I picked up a copy of Avram Davidson‘s Rork! a few days ago, on the strength of Peregrine PrimusThe Phoenix and the Mirror, & that one Wolfe blurb. Pick up any and every copy of Davidson that crosses your path. (EDIT: Found & purchased a copy of Mutiny in Space a week later—I practice what I preach.) They seem to be on the wane these days, and far fewer of them cross my path here in TX than in other places I’ve lived. (How does that accord with your experience of Davidson on the shelves, gentle readers?)

Guy Davenport is another champion of Davidson, and I found the following comments in his letters to James Laughlin. If you’re not a reader of Davidson—and so not interested in Davenport’s glasperlenspiel, playing him alongside Tolstoy, Perelman, Twain, Burton, Pliny the Elder, Montaigne, & Hakluyt—the anecdote in the first letter about nonrecognition & dead mafioso is well worth your time.

Lovely as your letter is today, and the jacket design, I was most pleased to have a letter from Avram Davidson, dictated to a hospital orderly, and brief but pithy. Avram on his 70th birthday a month ago collapsed with a diabetic attack and lay on his floor for two days before he was found. I’d tracked him (I believe I said in my last letter) to a Bremerton WA hospital. He sounds brave and chipper. I’d talked last week with his nurse, and told her Avram was a very distinguished writer, “just a notch or two below Tolstoy,” which I’d thought was a practical hyperbole. The nurse got this all mixed up, and thought Avram lived in Bremerton near the Tolstoys, and asked what kind of neighbors they were.
Nonrecognition of the great always causes high comedy. Do you remember the Mafioso who was executed by fellow business partners on his doorsteps in NY (back in WW II)? He has in his pocket a list of names (presumably to buy art books as Xmas presents for a daughter). Anyway, the FBI sent out an all-points alert to bring in Caravaggio, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Duccio di Buoninsegna. Shoot on sight.
—Guy Davenport, “[Letter to James Laughlin],” (7 May 1993; my emphasis)

One of the things in today’s mail was Avram Davidson’s Adventures in Unhistory (Owlswick), signed. Avram died four days ago, just beyond his 70th birthday. He had a diabetes attack, went into a coma, lay on his floor for 2½ days, but had been dismissed from a hospital and put in a nursing home. I had a scrawled letter from him, which I’m still trying to decipher, and a dictated one. He was reading my Drummer. He must have signed my copy of his new book just before the collapse. I wonder if the Times did an obit? I would place him beside Perelman as a humorist and close to Mark Twain as a compounder of the fantastic and the absurd.
—Guy Davenport, “[Letter to James Laughlin]” (13 May 1993)

I’ve finished Avram’s book—Studies in Unhistory—that came out while he was dying. It’s for people who delight in Burton (Robt, of the Anatomy), Pliny the Elder, Montaigne, and Hakluyt. Each essay comes up with an unlikely origin for the mandrake, dragons, mermaids, werewolves, and such. A book for bright teenagers, and old codgers nodding by the fire.
—Guy Davenport, “[Letter to James Laughlin]” (17[-18] May 1993; my emphasis)

(All letters excerpted from Guy Davenport and James Laughlin: Selected Letters [2007].)