After a health setback and adjusting to new medication, I effectively stopped reading or writing for nearly seven weeks.
Unable to think clearly or concentrate on work, I needed a way to fill the time. So I looked at pictures of crime scenes and accident victims: the aftermath of a killer who chopped a young person’s head off, a man who’d been run over by a truck so that his innards had burst through the apertures of his face. I couldn’t digest or even comprehend narrative in any form, so instead of movies I watched YouTube and archive.org videos: a satanic ritual to reanimate a corpse; a shirtless man seated at a table with a bowl of soggy ramen, holding oversized chopsticks, held in captivity by two life-sized and malicious Funko Pop figures, taunting their victim as he sobs between slurps; endless footage of ‘Karens’ disturbing the peace; a couple of good police car chases.
After a great deal of sleeping, my capacity for fiction gradually came back, first with mysteries and whodunnits, then Kobo Abe’s WOMAN IN THE DUNES and Kafka’s AMERIKA: THE MISSING PERSON. It was also an occasion to get reacquainted with graphic novels and manga, which I used to read voraciously, much more than Literature. I finally read MAUS, which was absolutely stupendous—such a bold choice to have animals represent European nationalities, with the mouse as unassimilable(?) Jews, which is absolutely courting controversy, as the epigraph by Hitler confirms, but I love what Spiegelman does with it when, halfway through the story, we go to the world of the making of the comic, where people wear animal masks.
Also the first three volumes of the MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM ORIGIN manga, drawn by the animation director of the original show. The mechs and ships look more imposing and less like toys in monochrome panels, and in general the artwork is a very crisp update of the 70s style. I read a manga adaptation of Lovecraft’s MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS as well, and while it was what you want from a visual adaptation, the drawings were a bit lacking.
I took numerous long walks, up to five miles sometimes, till the weather got too cold. These walks confirmed that my feet were indeed on the ground. I learned that I don’t really care for any of the holidays except new year’s. I don’t even wanna guess how many times I listened to “Cotton Eye Joe.” For a little while I drove a Jeep.
I seem to have bounced back to a more or less stable state, and my activities and aspirations once again involve more than sleeping for 13 hours, so to make up for my posting drought, here are selections from the last three months of my longhand journal:
October 3. WAVES. The first one came from the west. It crashed on those islands initially. But it was a big wave and it sloshed right across to the mainland. It landed on the basin with a big Crash! Water sprayed in innumerable beautiful droplets and the wind carried them further east, but not south. Then it looked like the business was done. However, from the east this time, another huge wave! SMASH! Onto the driest parts of the land, that had never gotten a fleck of the last one. These waves took two and a half centuries to do their thing. No sign of rushing water in many years. You think another rip tide is coming? If it happened before it can happen again, no?
October 9. EVENING, after a day out in Manhattan.
A comet hangs in the sky above me like my weekly assignments. The dirt path ranged over obsidian fields like a ribbon of caramel. Praise the lips of NANDINI, glossy as the Milky Way and pink as bubblegum, and of KUNDAVAI the proud feline of the river. Please allow me to remove the clinking bangles from your wrists, the rain of jewels from your olive-skinned necks. Yellow medicine rims the labial fleshwounds of the heroes. Mary Reufle and Kalki tried to explain stochastic processes to me over philly cheesesteaks and sweet potato fries.
October 13. Jack and some other friends and I arrived on a campus of old red brick buildings one afternoon, the sunlight bathing the grass lawns for now but with some rain clouds approaching in the distance. There were folks in our group I didn’t care to see and I sprinted across the quad to the next building as the drizzle began to fall and darken the paving. I went through an old fireproof door. I texted Jack to tell him where I was hiding and looked around. The floorboards creaked beneath my tread. The halls went on forever. I flipped through deckled pages as the rain pattered on the winter windows. This was my idea of a place!
October 14. [After a viewing of TAR] How do we know we are in the world of high art? Because a hazy strip of Klein International Blue hangs over Berlin, over New York City, over any place where the children enjoy Monster Hunter.
November 22. Fourth day on Z[oloft]. Saturday I took to mustering the strength to read. Read nothing. Sunday morning I managed to read some poems by Marguerite Young. Then some Marx in the evening. Brain fog. Lethargy. I slept for hours on Monday. Food makes me drowsy (but tastes GREAT).
December 24. One foggy Xmas Eve!
The dialectical operation at work in literary history. Sterne is the greatest ‘experimental’ novelist, everyone agrees. But he laid down the blueprints for 19th c. realism, see BALZAC and TOLSTOY. Then at the end of the century the Russian masters summated realism and in many senses cleared the ground for modernism and surrealism in the next century. Kafka loved Dickens and many of his scenarios originate as pastiches of the English writer. Tendencies toward opposing states.
Systemic eczema rashes on arms, torso, groin. Feels itchy!
December 26. Boxing Day. In addition to CATS, we put on another cursed “film”: 1973’s HANZO THE RAZOR.
When corruption threatens Edo Japan, only one samurai is horny enough to answer the call. He bellows his catchphrase: “Time to destroy my shit!” Hanzo is a mountain of integrity. Incorruptible, he doesn’t even take his officer’s oath, for then he would stoop to the level of his dissipated peers. A sado-masochistic freak, he uses his implements of torture on his own flesh before inflicting them on his criminal prey, to test their efficacy. His blood runs thick as cranberry jam off the thigh-crushing machine. He rises. The impression of blood remains on the spiked seat—but it seems there is a sizeable area of dryness where his genital region had once been. Yes, Hanzo the Razor gets sexually aroused by his own degradation. Don’t worry about it! He takes a wooden mallet spiked with nails and brings it down repeatedly on his titanically turgid member. He pours a kettle of boiling water over his immense penis, laid out on a wooden pedestal like a meatloaf dinner. A cloud of steam and the water cascades to each side like a parted sea. His dick now thoroughly worked upon, he makes a little hole in a sack of rice and proceeds to pump into it, plowing the rice, turning the grains over like white virgin soil. Now that’s what I call compression!
So much for the duty-conscious Hanzo the Razor.
December 28. But the worst part of this “film” I haven’t talked about. This scene is the chestburster of the movie, the true shocker set piece. So HANZO THE RAZOR is a most effective interrogator. When he needs information he simply rapes it out of women. During one such procedure, we see a shot presenting three overlapping images, one, Hanzo’s sweaty grunting mug, two, the woman screaming first in pain then in pleasure—everyone enjoys being SA’d by Hanzo the Razor in the end—and three, what seems to be the camera positioned in a moist tunnel and pushing its way back and forth like a piston. The image says, “POV: you are HTR’s dick!!!” Horrendous movie.