Monthly Archives: June 2007


OED gives Coleridge’s Table Talk the first citation of this fine word, also used by the aforementioned Fischer of fallacies. I taught the sunny pleasure-dome yesterday: “white moons, with black moons following them.”

The Road to Xanadu. How about The Road to Solaris? The Road to La Maison de rendez-vous? The Road to The Road to Serfdom? (No.)

Weaving a circle round him thrice reminded me of a Fibonacci spiral, but I didn’t pursue this. Thomas Harriot’s magic books rubbed on breast and bead had little advantage, except for P. taeda. That’s the theme, at least, of my contemplated The New Mind of the South, which will take for granted the innate superiority of the coastal plain of North Carolina, unlike hillbilly Cash.

The Antiquarian

“In every New England town library, there is likely to be an ancient Puritan virgin, shriveled and dried in the snows of sixty Massachuetts [sic] winters and suitably shrouded in black bombazine, who has been at work for the past twenty years on the story of her home town from 1633 to 1933, when Franklin Roosevelt was inaugurated and history came to an end” (Fischer, David Hackett. Historians’ Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought. New York: Harper, 1970. P. 141).

illustration from the Codex Seraphinianus

I’m currently writing on speculative and analogical history—histories of the far future and how they best tell the story of their present. Hackett Fischer and I thus disagree on a lot, but I’m very interested in reading Housman’s work on Manilius, said epic work described in this LRB piece by Frank Kermode. (I also want to read the letters to see what Housman thought of Joyce and Proust in particular.)

I also taught Wordsworth today and can’t but notice this priggishness:

“And yet historians who justify their work as ‘pure research’ deliberately avoid it [the question of purpose]. Their lives are wasted in aimless wanderings, like those which Bertrand Russell remembers from his childhood, ‘In solitude,’ he writes, ‘I used to wander about the garden, alternately collecting birds’ eggs and meditating on the flight of time.’ When grown men carry on this way, the results are not amusing but pathetic.” (319)

Could a Critics’ Fallacies be written? (Or, perhaps more likely, a Literary Historians’ Fallacies?) Does anyone know of likely efforts?


Christgau on Wish You Were Here: “No dumb tribulations-of-a-rock-star epic here–the dedication to long-departed crazy Syd Barrett gives it an emotional resolve that mitigates what little self-pity lyricist Roger Waters allows himself.”

Christgau on The Final Cut (which I listened to on a ferry): “Though I wish this rewarded close listening like John Williams, Fripp & Eno, or the Archies, it’s a comfort to encounter antiwar rock that has the weight of years of self-pity behind it.”

Britt Hume under CIA Surveillance

I wanted to write something about this, but it turns out it’s old news. Oh well. (Page 27 of the “Family Jewels,” if you’re interested.) I should draft a letter to the Birchite county newspaper where I grew up and alert the credulous citizenry about this perhaps unexpected comsympy, but I’m sure it’s already been assimilated.

Also, from p. 47: “Roselli was, along with four other individuals, convicted of a conspiracy to cheat members of the Friars Club of $400,000 in a rigged gin gummy [sic] game.”

Also, after hearing Clancy’s complaint that I misspelled “Brit,” I should alert the reader that the author of the memo did as well.

L’homme qui rit

I read James Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia a few days ago and was struck by his reference to Hugo and the comprachicos. I believe that Rimbaud also identified the mutilated rictus as a metaphor for the artist, and the reader may infer substantial self-loathing from the excessively lurid details in Ellroy’s presentation.

D. S. Neff’s “Anoedipal Fiction: Schizoanalysis and The Black Dahlia” (Poetics Today 18.3 jstor) is a theoretically rich reading of the novel.

Stinking of the Lamp

I’m sure others have noticed this, but Ted Tally’s screenplay for The Silence of the Lambs (on this morning on the SF channel) mucks up Thomas Harris’s reference to the phrase “stinks of the lamp,” apparently having Lecter apply it to Clarice’s father working in a mine with a headlamp, I suppose, rather than, as in the book, having Lecter call her use of a subjunctive tense pretentious.


I’ve been reading Lem’s Peace on Earth intermittently on this long, shelter-finding trip; and he envisions, perhaps influenced by Jaynes—though he doesn’t cite him as I remember—, ultrasonic callotomy emerging as nanotech warfare strategy. . .on the moon! (There was a piece linked on metafilter today about chemical efforts to homosexualize, halitosisize, or enflatulate an enemy force— all rejected as unsuitable by planners, but braincandy just the same.)

I can remember very well the belladonna eyes of the deer that ran into my car last night on the Natchez Trace, though I don’t, of course, remember the mechanics of the swerve, braking, protective arm over my wife—any of that. I have learned to be skeptical, perhaps too skeptical, of hemispherical differentiation hypotheses, after such baroque efforts of Jaynes and then the Omni and such expositions in the early 80s; but the image-affect-memory process is interesting to consider from that perspective. (After only a glancing blow, the doe picked herself up and ran off into the woods, presumably ok.)

Were there still wolves and panthers in those woods, we wouldn’t have these problems. At least not as much.