Monday, November 28, 2005

Sub rosa

Men watch a boxing match at Woods Saloon in Turret, (Chaffee County), Colorado. The referee stands between the boxers; they wear trunks and gloves and are poised to begin fighting. (1905)
Finish’d Hitchings’s Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary. Raw notes:
‘Obsession’ is explained as ‘the act of besieging’ or ‘the first attack of Satan, antecedent to possession’—

In a footnote: Ambrose Bierce defines ‘logomachy’ as ‘a war in which the weapons are words and the wounds punctures in the swim-bladder of self-esteem’—

The sonnet: ‘is not very suitable to the English language’—

And, later, in Life of Milton: ‘the fabric of a sonnet, however adapted to the Italian language, has never succeeded in ours’—

Johnson’s picayune and fragmentary natural world: the seal: ‘in make and growth not unlike a pig, ugly faced, and footed like a moldwarp’—

Mole ‘a little beast that works under-ground’

And of the tarantula: ‘an insect whose bite is only cured by music,’ quoting Locke—‘He that uses the word tarantula, without having any idea of what it stands for, means nothing at all by it.’

The verb ‘to worm’ means ‘to deprive a dog of something, nobody knows what, under his tongue, which is said to prevent him, nobody knows why, from running mad’—

So . . . an ‘amatorculist’ is ‘a little insignificant lover’—

‘Sciomachy’ is ‘battle with a shadow’—

The letter R ‘is called the canine letter, because it is uttered with some resemblance to the growl or snarl of a cur’

Orgasm defined as ‘Sudden vehemence’
And how Charles Lamb term’d books imprimatur’d with ‘a certain appeal for audacious readers,’ howsoever they ‘lack the essential bookish quality of actually being readable,’‘biblia abiblia’—perfect yakkety-yak lip-blubber. (A lot of that going around.)

Vernon Arena, Wolgast-Rivers boxing match (ca. 1912)
Out of Susan Sontag’s The Benefactor:
I found my heart empty of personal ambition. Ambition if it feeds at all, does so on the ambition of others. I did not come into this sort of relation, part conspiratorial and part envious, with my peers.

I don’t dream. I find intolerable the slow leakage of my substance in dreams, so I have staged my life to incorporate the energy that is usually diverted in dreaming. My writing forces from me the dream-substance, prolongs it, plays with it.

I am no artist . . . I have no inner burden which I wish to unload upon a passive audience. I do not wish to contribute one jot to the fund of public fantasy.

You have character, like an American temperance tract or the great unfinished cathedral in Barcelona.

I came to understand that words coerce the feelings they attempt to embody. Words are not the proper vehicle for a general upheaval which destroys the old accumulation of feeling.

I feared that the effort of assuming the identity of a writer might deprive her of the scant realism about herself which she possessed.

. . . sexuality, like crime, is an imperishable resource of the impersonal. Properly performed, these acts do blunt the sense of self. It is, I think, because the end is fixed: in sexuality, the orgasm; in crime, the punishment. One becomes free precisely through those acts which have an inescapable end.
An unidentified, lightweight boxer poses with one arm extended and the other drawn back, Denver, Colorado. He wears a tank shirt with leggings, laced boxing shoes, and half gloves. (ca. 1910-1920)