Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Jennifer Lawrence Admires a Conch

I guess you think I "blogged" an awful lot in May for somebody who stopped "blogging" in April. Shows how much you know! There was so much stuff I didn't "blog" about in May! You wouldn't even believe it. Here is some of it. 1. Stopped by Square Books and bought a notebook. Katelyn said, "Don't you like ______?" (She named another brand.) I said I found the binding inferior. "You should write a letter to the company!" said Katelyn. "I love writing letters to companies." I asked her, "What are you, a ninety-year-old man at heart?" "She does it after she eats her liver and onions," said Slade. Katelyn guilelessly confirmed that she loves liver and onions and wishes she knew how to cook it for herself. 2. Ace wasn't in his office, where I was supposed to meet him, so I sat in the anteroom (?) and looked at a magazine with this caption on the cover: "With a team of wildlife experts, Uma Thurman moves a white rhino threatened by poachers to safety." But you don't see any wildlife experts; you just see Uma Thurman hugging a rhinoceros's head. I like how scrupulous they are not to give us the false impression that Uma Thurman was out there wrangling rhinos by herself. 3. I started reading the new Don DeLillo novel, which is about cryogenics, I guess. That made me recall all of a sudden that McNeil and I tried writing a screenplay called BLUE PERIOD back when we were in our twenties. The plot was that two guys (?) got trapped in an industrial walk-in freezer and told each other stories while they waited and hoped for help to arrive. One story was about a war with Antarctica, maybe? All the stories were about being cold. I remember that McNeil invented a weapon called the ICBM (Icy Cold Banana Malted instead of Intercontinental Ballistic Missile). Another story was about a scam artist with a cryogenics lab. He froze celebrities and thawed them out on a desert island, where they were forced to act in a movie he had written. That's all I remember about the screenplay. McNeil, confirming that such an attempted screenplay existed, said it featured a character named Dean running for office with the slogan "Dean Is Clean." 4. I met with Julia via computer monitor. I thought she said, "You look great!" She actually said, "You look gray!" 5. My doctor's waiting room suddenly has all of Richard Howorth's old NEW YORKER magazines in it - with his home address on the mailing labels and everything! 6. Dr. Theresa went to lunch at Handy Andy and I had pangs of jealousy, traces of which I allowed to cross my face. I had been craving Handy Andy, having recently written about it for publication (details forthcoming, surely, though I am not "blogging" anymore): I feared I had misremembered the condiments with which the Handy Andy double cheeseburger is dressed! Fact checking! Dr. Theresa even offered to bring me one home to examine and consume, but then we remembered that I had a doctor's appointment shortly (different doctor; never mind why I have so many doctors!) and a double cheeseburger might not sit well at a doctor's appointment. 7. This other doctor had more standard waiting room fare: in PEOPLE I read about how Tennille of The Captain and Tennille was embarrassed by a damaged finger she suffered in a wheelbarrow accident as a child. That's why she always turned down movie offers! Meanwhile, "The Captain" wore his famous captain's hat even to bed, humiliated by a failed hair transplant. They struck me as... tragic? "Jennifer Lawrence admires a conch" was a phrase I read in US magazine. 8. In an ADVENTURE TIME meeting I was trying to say the title of the TV show THE BIG BANG THEORY but I accidentally said "8 1/2 MEN." Sadly, I was not trying to be esoteric or funny. My brain had simply fizzled out and died. A good laugh was had by most. 9. We drove past Tom Franklin's place and there was a chicken pecking in his yard. I don't think he owns chickens! (See also.) This was a fluffy chicken with black feathers, salted with white. 10. I realized that I didn't give you a truly complete picture of everything I learned from THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY. I kept a bunch of it off the "blog" and crammed it instead into a novel that will probably never be published, but here's the epigraph, anyway: "Bees indeed make neat and curious works, and many other creatures besides; but when they have done, they cannot judge of them." 11. McNeil's apple tree (below) is producing again. 12. Megan Abbott and I emailed back and forth about what Lady MacBeth meant by "spirits that tend on mortal thoughts" and I sent her a chapter about demonology in Shakespeare from some old book. Only afterward did I realize that the old book was by T.F. Thistelton Dyer, who provided the epigraph for my new book of short stories MOVIE STARS! Yes, that is just one more example of the meaningless junk I didn't "blog" about this month. "Posting" this a week early I do hereby vanquish May's tyranny over my troubled and searching mind.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A Barnacle

McNeil writes: "I saw THE GHOST AND MR. CHICKEN at the Bel Air Mall cinema one Saturday morning at 9 a.m. with my Boy Scout troop. We all hooted and hollered for Mr. Chicken to 'kiss her!' when he was sitting with a girl on a porch swing." I know I'm not "blogging" anymore, but can I help it if something floats along and attaches itself to a previous "post" like a barnacle?

Thursday, May 12, 2016


Last night Chris Offutt made a lot of good points about Icarus and I composed an entire "blog" "post" in my head summarizing them until I remembered I don't "blog" anymore. And anyway, maybe Chris will want to write up his own thoughts on the matter one day. In fact, I encouraged him to do so. Volubly! And when I got home, Megan Abbott had emailed me: "if I do a search through my emails with you for the word 'chicken,' dozens of emails come up! chicken foot, chicken leg, chicken comb, chickens brooding under tables, the ghost and Mr. Chicken" (pictured)... the other day Dr. Theresa said, "Hey, I thought you weren't 'blogging' anymore." And I said, "I only 'blogged' like two more times" and Dr. Theresa said "..."

Sunday, May 08, 2016

McNeil Log

In what may be a perverse secret campaign to keep me "blogging" against my wishes, McNeil sends the following email: "If you die before me, and if there is a viewing, I'm going to act like your tie needs straightening. When I pull my hands out I'll snap a ten dollar bill by the ends, hold it up to the light, then fold it up, put it in the pocket of my swimming trunks, put my hand against my side in a defining gesture and exit." I like how he saves the swimming trunks detail, and the casual way in which it is revealed. He adds, "You know who else does that gesture a lot? Major Healey!" And as soon as I read it, I could picture Roger Healey with his hand in just that position. But does that make it true? I have always intended to keep a log of McNeil's activities, even in the absence of the "blog."
Final note: McNeil and I have spent our whole lives spelling it "Healy," but according to imdb it's "Healey." Also: I just remembered something else from THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY. Burton talks about something you're compelled to do "will or nill," meaning whether you want to or not. And I wondered whether the roots of the adverb "willy-nilly" lie in that phrase. It makes a kind of sense! But I don't care enough to look it up.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

"Blog"trospective 18: The Anatomy of Melancholy

As promised, though I have "stopped 'blogging,'" I have returned to you just long enough to boast about finishing all 977 pages of THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY. That includes the first appendix, "The Conclusion of the Author to the Reader" (reworked by Burton for his introduction and left out of most subsequent editions), but not the second appendix, in which Burton's birthdate is deduced through astrological data. It only took me something like a year. I won't rehash my many excuses, no, I won't say how big and bulky the 1927 edition is and how I couldn't carry it on airplanes. I won't point out the good, long run I had of reading it before I was interrupted. But - before we get to the main body of this, the final "blog"trospective, I will tell you what I learned from THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY since the last time I saw you. 1. Compared to Blind Alfred Reed, Robert Burton is kind of progressive. He (Burton) gives us (as is his wont) several pages of quotations from ancient scholars enumerating what is supposedly wrong with women. But then he has to admit, "And that which I have said (to speak truth) no more concerns them than men, though women be more frequently named in this Tract; (to apologize once for all) I am neither partial against them, or therefore bitter... If any man take exception at my words, let him alter the name, read him for her, and 'tis all one in effect." 2. "Eating the egg of a night-owl causeth abstemiousness, according to Iarcha the Indian gymnosophist." Burton is speaking of sexual or romantic abstemiousness, though the idea that an owl's egg can cure alcoholism somehow made it to the United States, as reported previously on the "blog." Another of the "absurd remedies" for love mentioned by Burton is the wearing of "Characteristical Images," such as "the seal of a woman with disheveled hair." 3. "Gentle youths" are advised to "Let not the Doves outpass your murmurings... or oyster kissings," which would seem to imply that oysters are good kissers, as good at kissing as doves are at murmuring. I did very little research into the matter. We all know that oysters are supposed to be an aphrodisiac, so why shouldn't they be good kissers? I also recall that prostitutes were called "oysters" and "monkeys" in Burton's time, and though I doubt that's what is meant here, it does make me realize I took at least one of Burton's allusions to monkeys too literally. 4. After one victory, Caesar's soldiers sang a song that went, "Citizens, look to your wives, we bring you a bald adulterer." Gee, what a nice song. I learned of it in Burton's section on the sexual prowess of bald men (pictured). 5. Speaking of which, I learned the word "cornute," which, had I thought about it for a second, I would have known meant to put the horns on, or cuckold, but I didn't think at all, no, I just looked it up in my old dictionary. 6. Lots more owls in these final pages. At least half a dozen. In the passage urging young women not to marry old men, Burton tells how Sophocles, "a very old man, as cold as January, a bed-fellow of bones... doted yet upon Archippe a young Courtesan" and quotes an old poem: "Night-crows on tombs, owl sits on carcass dead,/ So lies a wench with Sophocles in bed." Ha ha, take that, Sophocles! 7. "As a dam of water stopped in one place breaks out into another, so doth superstition." This seems to anticipate Freud! Does it? I don't know. I think of Dr. Theresa's favorite phrase, "the return of the repressed." 8. He calls the goddess Venus "as common as a barber's chair." Was that a familiar insult at the time? Anyway, it's kind of snappy, if rude. 9. Burton says that people can be obsessive on one subject but otherwise fully functional: "they are like comets, round in all places but only where they blaze." A nice phrase! 10. Well, Burton has thought a lot about religious tolerance and I can't say he's for it. He does think burning people at the stake might be a little extreme, sometimes: "We have frequently such Prophets and dreamers amongst us, whom we persecute with fire... I think the most compendious cure for some of them at least, had been in Bedlam. But enough of this." 12. Yet at the same time he doesn't care for hellfire preachers, "nothing but gall and horror, and a mad noise, they make all their auditors desperate, many are wounded by this means, and they commonly that are most devout and precise." 13. "A Tuscan Sooth-sayer, as Paterculus tells the story, perceiving himself and Fulvius Flaccus his dear friend, now both carried to prison by Opimius, and in despair of pardon, seeing the young man weep, said, do as I do; and with that knockt out his brains against the door-cheek, as he was entering into Prison, and so desperately died." Well, that's a terrible story, sorry! But I can't help liking the phrase "knockt out his brains against the door-cheek." It's vivid! 14. Here's Burton's version of that Bible verse I like: "I am like a Pelican in the wilderness, an Owl because of thine indignation." Ha ha! No, I don't know why that's funny. 15. "... the more they search and read Scriptures, or divine Treatises, the more they puzzle themselves, as a bird in a net, the more they are intangled and precipitated into this preposterous gulf." I know how they feel! 16. I learned the word "Mormoluches," which seems to mean "hobgoblins." And now take my arm as we stroll through THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY as summarized previously on this "blog": against vainglory---aliens (two green children who fell from Heaven)---alkermes---Aquinas beats a talking brass man to pieces with a hammer (1927 footnote)---architectural talent of bees, the---Artemidorus the Grammarian loses his wits by the unexpected sight of a crocodile---bats and owls hover in melancholy darkness over a shady bower---Burton critical of, yet defiant about, his own work---company of young men and maids cursed to sing for a year without stopping---compares the profession of a physician unfavorably to that of a hangman---contains numerous owls---cucubuth---cultivating a taste for exquisite sauces is an impediment to happiness---Cupid and Death exchange arrows---delusion of live frogs in belly---dizzards---emperor who was bad at kissing, the---February a peak time for werewolves---fairies walk about in little coats---fairybabes of tombs and graves---fiery urine---glucupicron---invention of the ball---led (by a 1927 footnote to Burton) to Godwin's LIVES OF THE NECROMANCERS---man gets gas from a concoction meant to increase his libido, a---man with a fear of peeing cured by being told the town is on fire, a---mice sleeping under the snow, as fat as butter---parable of a mule and an ass---people cured of various ailments by falling on their heads---pickitivant---Pied Piper story presented as fact, the---possible roots of "willy-nilly"---trees fall in love. In closing I ask you to recall the previous seventeen "blog"trospectives: 1. Tom Franklin. 2. Phil Oppenheim. 3. Movies. 4. The Moon. 5. Sandwiches. 6. The United States. 7. The Beach Boys. 8. Arnold Stang. 9. Books With Owls In Them. 10. Gelatin. 11. Monkeys Riding Dogs. 12. Kent Osborne Eating Chicken. 13. What Happened When Megan Abbott Lived In Oxford, Mississippi. 14. Graveyards. 15. Feeding a Possum. 16. The Twentieth Century. 17. Stuff I Left Out of the Book I Wrote About Cigarette Lighters. If you "click" on them all, and then "click" on every "link" within them, and every "link" within every "link," you will have discovered my own anatomy of my own melancholy. "The world shall end like a Comedy, and we shall meet at last in Heaven, and live in bliss together; or else in conclusion, fade away into nothing." Okay, so long, see you on McNeil's birthday.