The hovering presence which scarred my childhood.
A book I ran across when all I had to do at night in Cambridge was drink or read was Sacks’s Awakenings and I didn’t put it down for a moment after I got home from work until I was finished and went back and re-read the most intense accounts. A report from a world I had only encountered in glimpses. Few years later he tripled down with The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and I was a fan for good. Search “Oliver Sacks” in this blog and you’ll see he comes up more than I might think.
As I noted recently, comics after Jonathan Winters are off my screen. [Male ones, anyway, I know, if anything, even less about female stand-ups, but don’t have the same specific objections to them.] Nobody’s ever accused me of being humorless, so I don’t feel bad about this outlook at all. What surprises me is how much reinforcement my attitude has gotten over the years. I thought The Sophisticates was a huge indictment of all the stand-up society. When I first moved to Boston in the late ’70s, comedy clubs were undergoing quite the boom. So I went to a show, I don’t remember who. I found the atmosphere relentlessly icky. Making members of the audience uncomfortable and encouraging those who were yukking it up to look down on them was a clear component of the act. It was a divisive collective experience the opposite of what I enjoyed about music performances. The final conclusion I came to is that far too many comedians are like what I consider the utter worst kind of fiction writer — those who create feuds and disasters in their own life to use as raw material.
I knew only bits about his remarkable career. My mother was fascinated by dreams and astrology (thought they were related in some way I could never quite understand — dreams predict the future, maybe). But for her (born 1910) and my father (born 1890) dreams were utterly mysterious, unexplained in any way. (The one item I most wish I could find in my mother’s possessions is her paperback The Dictionary of Dreams — it’s a kind of lost fantasy compendium.) Neither had read Freud, but he’s gone more into the wastebin than I imagined way back when. So Jouvet’s work is very profound.
But why do dolphins and whales not dream?
My review at Arts Fuse. A must for all you “graphic novel” types. Or people who have navigated the personality currents of very offbeat workplaces.
I read The Mind of a Mnemonist when it was new — must have run across it in a Bozeman bookstore — and, though I had not read Borges yet, it was indeed like one of his fables was declared true. I was too inexperienced to realize the book was a bit slippery and evasive to be trusted as straight science or even faithful reporting — in retrospect, very similar to the shadow play of Carlos Castaneda. Two points continue unchanged: you really, really wanted the story to be true because S. was a sort of magic man; it was gratifying to see the book become such a hit — was as captivating as I thought it was.
I used to have at least one every summer. Maybe two or three if I was lucky.
Hot, sun-flooded day driving the car on some not-too-serious errand or trip, listening to terrific tunes that are hitting me like never before. I would be filled with the feeling that, just for this one long moment, the whole world was happy, every human being was at peace. I would enjoy the magic even more if I shared with with someone sitting next to me.
Last summer was the first one I can remember when I did not have any such moment. A lot of things had gone wrong already in 2016, in particular I was mired in the aftereffects of the car collision. And by the end of the year, we had all passed into an unprecedented shadow.
One passage on Anderson’s Heart of a Dog that grabbed me with its wisdom yesterday was her recounting of the Buddhist teaching that one must learn “how to feel sad without being sad.” Know the negativity without being conquered by it. I knew this morning I was having a real snap of depression because while I experienced the circumstances that trigger a magic moment, all I felt was downbeat. My attempt at redeeming the time is to describe what happened.
The heat, the sun, the driving, all in place. The music was Chet Baker singing “Grey December”. I had already thought, Geeze, “Let’s Get Lost,” with lines like “Let’s defrost/In a haze” was weirder than I remembered. But I suddenly realized “Grey December” was way weirder than that, outright spooky, with memories of love like ominous ghosts. It was written by one Frank Campo, who also arranged the strings with Marty Paich and Johnny Mandel. And that’s all I know about Campo, other than the brilliant judge of tunes Ran Blake did a solo-piano version in 1995. (we’re going to go see Blake perform with singer Dominique Eade on Saturday — maybe I’ll shoot out a request.)