Posts Tagged ‘Ovid’

Back to Nature–Books Whirlybinge

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My last post was in September.  I had just started graduate school, and since then, it’s been a “mad coupla months”!  Reading and writing for every book, for quizzes and tests. Abstracts, research papers, annotations. I love it!  Writing for school is kinda chill.  It satisfies a hunger that can’t be fed by anything material.  All the reading and writing works like Slick50 in my brain.  New words and ideas are firing sparks, making new connections – synapses snapping all day long in a jazzy funk rhythm that knows no time and no boundaries.  My mind is so active and firing on all pistons…

But it’s Christmas holidays now – what some people call “winter” break.  Qoi?  Brutha, pleez!  Down in South Texas, the kindest thing I can say is that it’s NOT 100 degrees F. 

So what’s my point? Where, even?  Well, I was writing an informal essay for every novel, interpreting Middle English, analyzing, synthesizing, assessing – the whole Bloom’s.  Writing for the blog seemed redundant.  Also, I wondered whether writing about the same book here and for class might create a conflict.  I knew in my heart, there would be a significant slip differential between how the work was represented for academic purposes and how I felt about it personally.  Case in point: PATTERN RECOGNITION by William Gibson.  The protagonist Cayce is ridiculously hip and cool in her anti-logo fetish, but the novel itself is well-boring. Snail’s pace. Grim, gray other-world that’s a cross between Graham Greene and Ray Bradbury, except not interesting.  But through academic eyes, it’s a disturbingly visionary story.  Cayce talks about people she doesn’t ever see, chats online with people she never sees but once or twice. Her life has almost nothing to do with human interaction and a lot to do with cyber-communication.  Are we headed there or are we already there?  Geddit?

So I let the blog go for the time-being.  But now that it’s the hols, let the variety begin!

BOOKS BOUGHT

Saturnalia, Volume I: Books 1-2 (Loeb Classical Library)[1] Lucian, Vol. 7: Dialogues of the Dead / Dialogues of the Sea-Gods / Dialogues of the Gods / Dialogues of the Courtesans (Loeb Classical Library, No. 4[2] Genealogy of the Pagan Gods, Volume 1: Books I-V (I Tatti Renaissance Library)[3]
Juvenal and Persius (Loeb Classical Library)[4] Boccaccio, Beauvau and Chaucer: Troilus and Criseyde : Four Perspectives on Influence[5] Days of Reading (Penguin Great Ideas)[6]
One Continuous Mistake : Four Noble Truths for Writers[7] How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students[8] The Consolation of Philosophy (Norton Critical Editions)[9]

 

[1]  I really enjoyed Somnium Scipionis which led me to pick up this SATURNALIA of Macrobius.   LINK to good online overview of this work.  I also have this Loeb by Cicero – De Officiis (Walter Miller, trans.).  LINK to online overview.

[2]  Effing Cool, Irresistible titles!

Product Details[3]  Again – Effing Cool Title. It’s early days but it’s sounding like a crosMs between Bullfinch’sMythology and Ovid’s Metamorpheses.  Loving it! (LINK to online version)  (Who the hell needs Effing SparkNotes for Bullfinch’s Mythology???)

 

[4]  My Medieval Lit prof talked about these satires and I had a Pavlovian reaction to the word “satire”.  That being, ears perk up, blood flows a little faster, I start thinking of clever wordplay, double-entendres, taking the piss, etc.  I shan’t rule out a touch of salivating. (UofMichigan Collection)  I finished reading the six Juvenal satires and, while there was a strong odor of whingeing, the translation was accomplished with a good ear for standup comedy.  Very Lewis Black in nature.

image[5]  4 Perspectives on Troilus and Criseyde.  Pure intellectual spelunking. Highbrow fun.  It reads like the author’s doctoral dissertation, though. What a wonderful advantage to be able to do research in more than one language.  For all that English is wonderfully comprehensive, I now feel incomplete that I can’t read German or Italian well enough (yet) to do more thorough research in Medieval literature. (LINK to online version) My favorite version of T&C is George Phillip Krapp’s rendition in verse.  It’s out of print, but I managed to find a copy through www.ebay.com

[6]   Ahhh, Proust. You most nerdy of nerds. Is there a French word for “nerd”?  Do the French even need one?  You might think not, but then again, Franck Ribery.  C’est une tare’.  Une grosse dinde. 

Product Details[7]  I actually ordered this book in 2009 on the recommendation of my student teacher that semester.  I lent it to a friend because I started reading the other book that ordered with it.  Haven’t seen it since but it’s cool.  That’s a good sign, I think. Beautiful cover design. Very easy to read. It’s kind of like A Writing Life by Annie Dillard.  It just has that kind of “become one with the pencil” kind of vibe.  It’s actually a great apologia for writing, as is Dillard’s book.

[8]  Not here yet

[9] Not here yet.

BOOKS READ

A Writing Life (Annie Dillard)

One Continuous Mistake

Satires of Juvenal and Persius

Navarro’s Promise  (Lora Leigh)

Geneology of The Pagan Gods

Pattern Recognition (William Gibson)

“Simulacra and Simulations” by Jean Baudrillard (Chapter 7 of Baudrillard’s Selected Writings, Mark Poster, ed.)

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LYRICS TO THE MUSIC OF THE SPHERES

 

clip_image002  Heraclitus §  FRAGMENTS

 

This is an edition well-named.  In fact, when I saw how sketchy the fragments were, I was ready to send this book back.  They look more like marginalia than a work of philosophy.  Like Heraclitus was hanging out at the lyceum one day and was bored and doodling on his papyrus or whatever. 

 

Then…THEN, I started reading.  It was like…like…going backwards in time, shuffling my mental rolodex through poets, essayists, novelists, philosophers, teachers that I had met in my past lives.  So powerful was the familiarity of the ideas presented in this svelte, chic volume. 

 

Some of it sounds like it came from the Bible.  Some of it sounds like it came from “The Epic of Gilgamesh”.  The rhythm (as much as it can be rhythmic) feels like “The Hollow Men” by Eliot.  The moments of transmutation mimic Ovid.  Or did Ovid mimic Heraclitus?  If the tidbits are this good, the complete works must probably constitute the Atlantis of ancient literature.

 

Between FRAGMENTS, and “The Epic of Gilgamesh”, the Bible – as a work of literature – sounds modern.  I can appreciate even more, what a stupendous collection of genres it constitutes now that I have seen what came before.

 

If you have followed this blog over the last couple of years, you know how I feel about introductory elements.  Introductions, forewords, afterwords, tables of content, etc.  Most of the time, they are just there to make the page count.  Very few have I considered useful.  The Foreword by James Hillman is outstanding.  It states its points clearly with out any Harold Bloom-style posturing from a LazyBoy up on Mt. Parnassus.  Succinct, Spartan prose combined with luminous and illuminating perception. It was a pleasure to read, and it was interesting. 

 

Hillman pretty much had me at “archetypal”.  That’s from the first sentence.  And thanks to his Foreword, I understand what “deconstructivist” means.  Paragraph two contains a handy summing up of the pre-Socratics:

 

“Early Greek thinkers sought the stuff of which the world was made.  For Thales it was water; for Anaximenes, air; for Anaximander, a combination of hot and cold.  Empedocles expanded the stuff to four indestructible elemental principles, while Anaxagoras is said to have proposed innumerable generative seeds composing the nature of things.”

 

As a lover of words, I’m fascinated by the prefix “Anax-”.  A prefix like that with its accompanying variations naturally leads me to wonder what it means.  Is that a Hellenic prefix?

 

“Heraclitus took a different tack.  His method is more psychological.”

 

Thank you. Seriously.  Because of that introduction, everything that came after made sense and was easy to understand.

 

The first part of FRAGMENTS resonates with history and poetry – I am overwhelmed by a sense of familiarity, like that feeling you get when you walk in your front door after days away, except intensified because I did not expect to find something like this here.  The same thing happened when I first read the beginning of Ovid’s METAMORPHOSES.  (I found out from my English prof that the transmutation style was popular at the time and it was really no big deal that it sounded just like the Bible.  It was like “duh!”  Sigh…)

 

The word “fire” appears a lot in the frags.  Hillman explains that it was, quite possibly, Heraclitus’s way of expressing “flux” – “a metaphor for the shifting meanings of all truth.”  The idea of flux is the firing synapse that sparks memories of other writers, other literatures, other philosophies.  For example, H. wrote “Just as the river where I step/is not the same, and is,/so I am as I am not.” (81)  (See also frag 41.)  Translation: you can’t go home again.  (Thomas Wolfe).  Someone else, I don’t remember, also said something along the lines of “you can’t step in the same river twice.”

 

Fragment #4:  “People dull their wits with gibberish,/and cannot use their ears and eyes.”

Fragment #5:  “Many fail to grasp what they have seen,/ and cannot judge what they have learned,/although they tell themselves they know.”

 

Eminem and Dr. Dre: in modern parlance…

 

Nowadays everybody wanna talk like they got something to say
But nothin comes out when they move they lips
Just a buncha gibberish
And muthafuckas act like they forgot about Dre.

 

Yeah, I know. But why not???

 

“What was scattered/gathers./what was gathered /blows apart.

 clip_image003

A good visualization of this idea is the Tao.  One color is eternally in the process of becoming the other. The book’s most consistent theme is that of the convergence of opposites.  They exist together, change together, not necessarily causing the other, but each creating space for the other to exist.  Almost baroque in the way each force plays out its own melody in harmony with other forces, all going in the same direction, but in their own way.

 

Ø  “Harmony needs low and high/as progeny needs/ man and woman.”

 

Ø  “From the strain/ of binding opposites/ Comes harmony.”

 

Ø  “The cosmos works/ by harmony and tensions/ like the lyre and bow.”

 

After the Bible, and alongside Gilgamesh, this is one of the most resonant works I’ve ever read.  Even more so than “Prometheus Bound”.  It’s magic!

 

 

The Epic of Gilgamesh at ancienttexts.org

 

Perseus Digital Library – awesome site for ancient documents including Greek, Latin and Germanic

 

Fun map of philosophical relations of the pre-socratics

 

 

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