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Avant-Captain_Nemo RSS Feed (Aboard my black outlaw submarine cruising through the sewers in a city near you.)

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Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade
Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade
by Patrick Dennis
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.27
207 used & new from $0.01

3 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Permanence At Rest And Motion, November 16, 2005
Auntie Mame is proteus but within the whirling kaleidoscope of changes is an essential core. She is as sophisticated as Paris and as simple as the fields of Nebraska. She'd be an infuriating goddess to worship because she would laugh at the worship. Her energy is neither creative or destructive. It's a matter of the kind of motion that illuminates by charm. Her love would be disastrous if she was one of Shakespeare's characters but she isn't. She's an American original, a note of real Americana; a flashing off of the spark of the True America denied and fear by heavy fundamentalists in religion, politics, and art. She is wit itself because she knows how to retire. She might have committed enough sins to damn any other human being but she wont ever be damned because of her invincible ignorance - a facet of her compassionate id. Auntie Mame is like Bugs Bunny - that other creature too anarchical to be an anarchist. Auntie Mame knows no super-ego. She does not quest for freedom because she already is free.

No Country for Old Men
No Country for Old Men
by Cormac McCarthy
Edition: Hardcover
178 used & new from $2.26

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Country For Cormac McCarthy, November 15, 2005
This review is from: No Country for Old Men (Hardcover)
A study commissioned by the NEA showed that within fifty years the reading of great literature - fiction, poems, and plays will be virtually extinct. If that's true than Cormac McCarthy stands near the end of the American literary tradition and we readers should bless ourselves for living in such tragic epic times with McCarthy as a last noble survivor before the oncoming dark.

I use the word "noble" advisedly. Something in any of us gets tired of cheap thrillers and programmed romances and yearns for the nobility and moral grandeur that Mr. McCarthy makes his home in. His house is the apocalypse and it is burning down, on fire, and the smoke rises over the great dead men and women who lie at the bottom of this novel, "No Country For Old Men" with Sherrif Bell left standing - though he too will go down into the dark soon.

Sherrif Bell is a Horatio without a Hamlet - a Horatio as heroic figure who never quites get to do any real heroic deed other than sympathize and suffer as his world blows itself into pieces. He is one of the most sympathetic characters in American fiction. There is not a touch of Ahab - nothing shrill or demoniac in his basically compassionate soul. He is wise after the facts. He meant well but many of his choices were wrong or thwarted and he has the sad habit of looking back over it all seeking for answers that elude him as the sun sets.

This is Evening Redness In the West come back as a coda. Chigurh summons up the shade of Judge Holden from "Blood Meridian" but we were warned that Judge Holden never dies. Chigurh may very well be Satan or Death personified but its more likely he is something that was once merely human. Though he is preternaturally invincible there is something about him that suggests he is still young in his crimes, or that he is still learning.

The heart of this novel is not so much bewilderment at death but bewilderment and fear at the death of a country - the country that was the Republic - not Empire - of America. Sherrif Bell is alwasy there, too late and too sorry, to watch one more intense derangement of the country he grew up in - no place left for survivors from another time. No place left for old men.

The Power to Believe
The Power to Believe
21 used & new from $4.15

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark Glamor And Beauty, November 15, 2005
This review is from: The Power to Believe (Audio CD)
Dark glamor and a beauty as clear and as fragile as a rose appear in the music of King Crimson's "The Power To Believe". I feel as I listen to this work as if King Crimson has long since survived the fall of a thousand ages and moved into a future age so remote it bares little resemblance to our own. There is a sense of doom and psychological complexity so apparent in much of King Crimson's greatest music since long, long ago they led us into the Court of the Crimson King. At moments I feel as if I woke in a city tens of thousands of years hence and I listen to the sounds of the city from a hotel room on a street whose name I cannot remember. Past all bearings and all reckonings there is still a power to believe.

Why is it that King Crimson can combine age with such great vitality? So many other rock acts long since have outlived their usefulness. They become mere ghosts of what they once were while their legends beckon with a power that no longer exists to make music as equally great in the present. Not so with the Crimson King. They are the not-quite-icey survivors of rock music taking it into dimensions of feeling that shock and unsettle, creating a beauty that provokes unease.

It's a great pity that the corporate rock world celebrates guitarists like Hendrix or the Edge of U2 ( great guitarists, to be sure) in a delirium of rock orthodoxy while Robert Fripp is largely ignored. Fripp cannot be controlled or classified. He began doing things with the guitar at an early age that can only be called uncanny. And now, thousands of years into a remote future he still does things with a guitar that can only be called uncanny. There is a sound coming out of his guitar that fills the whole album with a sense that we might learn to live in a time of real legends walking this earth once again.

56 used & new from $0.33

4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ancient Voice, November 14, 2005
This review is from: Aerial (Audio CD)
"Aerial" is a dream album and returns Kate Bush to a power she hasn't quite had since "Hounds of Love". There is a beauty in this music touched by faerie - a sort of divine melancholy and inwardness, an uncanny freedom lit by a good weird that made Kate Bush more than ordinary, and beloved to people around the world. I worried this new album would be the tired musings of an artist who had lost contact with the muse - just look at the Rolling Stones these days. It's not. Twelve years have not stolen Kate Bush's central spirit from her. She is still a witch, still a divine figure in contact with the spirits and the Spirit. Her songs blend together to form one ancient voice. There is a wind blowing through this music and the kind of light that shines in reveries or at the bottom of dreams. I could see Kate Bush walking in solitude on a moor in the fog communing with the faerie poetry of the land and in tune with the secrets of the soul and nature.

Some reviewers feel the new album is a disappointment. I say "Give it time". Any artist's new work is always bound to hit us like an anti-climax. But "Aerial" is too sweet, too melancholy, too much full of the ethereality of time and memory and spirit to be denied. You will understand it sooner or later - or better still, it will understand you.

Five stars for the return of the goddess!

The Bell Jar: A Novel (Perennial Classics)
The Bell Jar: A Novel (Perennial Classics)
by Sylvia Plath
Edition: Paperback
211 used & new from $0.01

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Fragile Unfolding Of An Archetype, November 9, 2005
Slyvia Plath did something in literature many other lesser writers would kill to do. She used strokes of light and shadow to capture a living archetype in all of its dreadful beauty and fragility - something almost unnameable but close to us in the world within which we live. But she went furthur than that. She saw herself through a glass darkly and within the archetypal she discovered a person. Archetypes are archetypes but persons are an entirely different order and magnitude of being.

I have a hard time describing to myself what the actual nature and greatness of "The Bell Jar" is. It exists in a place where mere mood becomes something objective and transcendent; a place where our words fumble about on the fringes of counciousness to describe a face that is so achingly familiar, lovely, terrifying in the richness of its capacity for self-destruction. Not a whisper is soft enough to capture the delicacy of the portrait of Esther Greenwood. Her cynicism is sad and accurate. When I think of Plath herself peering out through Greenwood's too wise and too hopeless eyes I am reminded that there is a state of being that is neither sane nor insane - it is hyper-sane marked by a terrifying lucidity possessed by only a few people in human history: Jesus Christ, Simone Weil, William Shakespeare, Sylvia Plath herself, of course, in her poems also, such as in the last flower she offered up for our inspection "Ariel".

Plath's lucidity is knowing. She knows herself and she sees something in the world, something that can hardly be spoken but also cannot be refuted.

The great American writers of the Twentieth Century are Flannery O'Connor, R. A. Lafferty, William Faulkner, Ralph Ellison, and Sylvia Plath who gave herself to us completely but only for an hour. Only her ghost remains and it will haunt us until the end of time.

The Sword of Shannara
The Sword of Shannara
by Terry Brooks
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.19
116 used & new from $1.02

77 of 135 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Book That Started It All, November 9, 2005
One looks at a copy of "The Sword of Shannara" with a bit of cruelty in one's eye. Not cruelty aimed at the hundreds of millions of poor, innocent, beautiful trees that were minding their own business when one day they were savagely and abruptly cut down to be made into the paper on which "The Sword of Shannara" was printed. Not even cruelty aimed at the hapless Terry Brooks who could not write great epic literature to save his doomed, heathen soul. Not cruelty aimed at the millions of geeky junior high lads who read this book and thought it was great literature. But cruelty and scorn aimed at the publishing industry that found a way to make big money out cheap versions of the people's poetry.
Ah well. Who can blame them? This is the book that started the most swollen parasitic force on the surface of literature ever to exist in human history - the rise and triumph of the trash epics. All of our Robert Jordans, Terry Goodkinds, David Eddings, and so many thousands more could not have gone out and did what they did without the iniquitous subterfuge of Terry Brooks and his "Sword of Shannara."
I don't see why people say Brooks is a Tolkien clone. If Brooks and his legions of progeny were actually clones of the great J.R.R. Tolkien I would feel as if I had entered into a reader's paradise. But "The Sword of Shannara" is absolutely nothing like "The Lord of the Rings". Brooks tome lacks the transcendent beauty of a Tolkien - Tolkien's sorrow and anguish, Tolkien's transcendent joy, Tolkien's capacity to create characters that are as beloved to his readers and are the characters of Charles Dickens. There is an unsettling richness and feel in Tolkien's work - something uncanny and startling as if Tolkien had summoned up from the darkness a lost continent of being that neither Brooks or any other writer of a trash epic even knows exists (never mind the capacity to summon it up from the darkness!)
Fortunately the epic fantasy is not entirely in the dull hands of trash epicists like Terry Brooks. Serious writers of the tradition that began with William Morris and was re-invented by Tolkien are writing - Stephen R. Donaldson, Patricia A. McKillip, Gene Wolfe, and the titan of the north: R. Scott Bakker. A hundred thousand trash epics will not darken their interest.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Bright Beauty, November 7, 2005
This review is from: October (Audio CD)
If you look up the word "fresh" in the dictionary you should see a photograph of this album "October". The album is fresh - fresh as the original fires of creation, fresh as the smell of the top of a newborn babie's head, fresh as the incredible and incomphrehensible brightness of the leaves in October. There is an original joy in this work, an unconquerable joy combined with the desperate intelligence and soul-seeking of young men just barely out of their adolescence. The sound is broad and deep and is a harbinger of the kind of work that made U2 not just an institution but almost a religion. Back then U2 was great but they were not good yet - that is they were hardly competent. Along the way they picked up all sorts of interesting tricks, wore all sorts of interesting masks and did all sorts of interesting things. But there is a big bright light in this album that can never be denied. Though they where many colors these days the big bright light can never be extinguished.

A Fractured Mind: My Life with Multiple Personality Disorder
A Fractured Mind: My Life with Multiple Personality Disorder
by Robert B. Oxnam
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $23.95
112 used & new from $0.01

30 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Odyssey of Robert Oxnam, November 4, 2005
Doctor Robert Oxnam goes on a boat ride near the beginning of this book - one that has the contours of an escape. Yet, in a very real sense this whole story "A Fractured Mind" is a sea voyage and a sea change, an Odyssey in the traditon of Homer's great work. Like Homer, Oxnam is a blind bard until the fragmented pieces of his own soul come home for a reckoning.

Before he becomes aware of the other people living inside his skull he is that strange figure caught in a song by the Beatles "He's a real nowhere man". There is something hollow yet implacably driven about his life. He consists of ambitions and cravings as he dashes meaninglessly through the existential void of his life. Compelled to deal with his alcoholism or be destroyed it is only a matter of time before the uncanny something that has bewildered his life manifests one day in his therapists office as a small boy.

Before that there are warning signs like intimations of doom across his life. Why does he suffer these strange "blank spots" in his memories? Most sceptics of Dissociative Identity Disorder irrationally believe that therapists magically create alter egos and memories in their clients - where this profoundly idiotic point of view comes from is beyond me. But in any case Oxnam's therapist does not create the symptoms Oxnam experiences before therapy and before the revelation of the first alter.

From the revelation of the first alter Oxnam's life ceases to become a mere wandering or a mere drive for an empty success in his field. Properly speaking it becomes a pilgrimage - an actual journey and a true sea change into self-knowledge and self-presence, out of an irresponsible careerism into a deep responsiblity for himself and others.

An earlier reviewer asserts that Oxnam invented his own MPD to deal with his only "moderately successful career." That must be one of the more stupid excuses for denying a multiple's story I've yet heard. Obviously the questions raised about the normal human soul and personal identity by the fact of multiplicity are still quite unsettling to some very weak minded people even though we now live in the twenty first century and it ought to be obvious to everyone now that the human soul is wondrously strange and that we hardly know ourselves and what treasures of darkness exist within us.

What ever the case may be we owe a debt to Doctor Robert Oxnam who has set his pen and heart to paper true. It is sojourners and survivors like him who summon up the deepest courage to deal with life as it is unlike the nervous scorners who run for the shadows like the scared people they are.

May the odyssey of Robert Oxnam fare forward and fare well.

Decreation: Poetry, Essays, Opera
Decreation: Poetry, Essays, Opera
by Anne Carson
Edition: Hardcover
26 used & new from $2.86

29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligence Has No Other Name, October 31, 2005
Intelligence has no other name than Anne Carson. And "Decreation" proves that Ms. Carson has not lost the good of intellect as she pursues an incomphrehensible sublime through the intricate paths that connect the uber-sublime Simone Weil, Margerate Porete, Longinus, the negative theology of Samuel Beckett, and a thousand other things, themes, and people. Though not all of the pieces in this volume are verse all are pure poetry shifting through an intense tesseract where things that are most traditional are radically re-interpreted in direction that is surreal, avant-garde, and yet classical.

This kind of work is an example of what strong poets should be attempting to do today and it is one reason why Ms. Carson is the brightest bard of our hour, worthy to stand on the heights with Emily Dickinson and Paul Celan.

As I read these poems and essays I feel that my own imagination and intellect are struck by a light that is feminine and precise, strong, even rutheless, breath taking in its wilful ascents and descents, and firmly dedicated to its own unique spiritual quest.

There are passages in the poems in which I encountered the truly indescribable. Few are the poets these days that will dare to take on such possiblities and labors. Most poets writing are grinding out stuff that sounds like the slightly piqued pseudo-spiritual musings of third-rate diarists. But not Ms. Carson.

I must confess I can hardly wait for her next volume but for now I have too much to ponder as I watch my own mind quietly re-organized by Anne Carson's on-going aesthetic triumphs.

Price: $17.33
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Precision and Passion = Extreme Beauty, October 29, 2005
This review is from: Pan-Acousticon (Audio CD)
An extreme brilliance speaks through the mutations of sound this albumn offers. Zeena Parkins has not come to entertain or even inform, she afflicts us with her vision which sounds eerie, intense, and full of an astonishing beauty. There is something rutheless in Ms. Parkins' soul that commands sound itself and compells it through a diverse world of sonic shapes and sonic sizes. I hear in this music the violent fires of change at the heart of creation constantly raging, mutating, pushing through a limitless series of extremes.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 27, 2007 1:43 PM PDT

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