Monday, July 08, 2024

from "the green notebook,"

Here’s a section of a work-in-progress I’ve been composing since April, a kind of “day book,” if you will. Other fragments have been appearing over at my substack, also.

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Semi-trapped at my desk with boot upon broken foot, the site formerly known as Twitter provides me with an introduction to the work of Brazilian novelist and translator Victor Heringer (1988-2018) through the online journal grand: The Journal of One Grand Books. I should be working on final proofs for On Beauty, but I am caught up here, instead. Heringer’s piece, “THE WALL AGAINST DEATH,” provides this as introduction: “The late Victor Heringer authored the following crônica, a literary hybrid form of personal essay and cultural criticism popular in Brazil, four years before his death in 2018. Here it is available in English for the first time, translated by James Young.” There are echoes between the nameless form of this particular notebook and Heringer’s crônica, echoes of Robert Creeley’s A Day Book (1972), all the ways through which writing and writers work through their thinking across a particular blend of critical, lyric hybrid. We are not so divided, after all, however unique.

Wikipedia offers that “Crônica or crónica is a Portuguese-language form of short writings about daily topics, published in newspaper or magazine columns. Crônicas are usually written in an informal, observational and sometimes humorous tone, as in an intimate conversation between writer and reader. Writers of crônicas are called cronistas.” I very much like the idea of that, the “intimate conversation between writer and reader,” echoing back to Robert Kroetsch’s mantra of all literature as part of a much larger polyphonic conversation. And so, Heringer wrote against death, which the translation provides for him, posthumously. In that, as well. Isn’t that what we’re all doing? The push in my own writing and writing life, raised by a mother with a long-term illness that could, and even should, have taken her out multiple times across those forty-three difficult years. I need to do these things now, I thought, at seventeen, twenty-one, twenty-seven. I don’t know how much time I might have.

Ron Howard’s new Jim Henson documentary, Idea Man (2024), references a young Jim devastated by the death of his beloved brother, and the suggestion of how this pushed Jim’s future and ongoing creative endeavors. Is there ever enough time to do all the things? As Heringer, through Young’s translation, writes:

The clearly visible, upper case letters of “I defeated death” (which, ironically, were erased a few days later) stayed with me. If at first I considered the gesture (all graffiti is a gesture, and Duchampian) a little inelegant, today I find it inelegant but a little fascinating (above all because it was defeated, erased). Why such a strident proclamation of a desire for transcendence?

From an earlier draft of Christine’s Toxemia (2024): “Every body survives something. Or they don’t.”

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