30 dic 2009

22 dic 2009

I seem to set myself up for certain predicaments in predictable ways--predictable to anyone who knows me but unexpected to me. For example, I wrote a book including an analysis of Lorquian kitsch. Of course, I hate that whole side of Lorca's American reception, but I knew what I was in for from the start. Or should've. Now, with the "writing jazz" course, I realize that I really hate most "jazz literature" that has that exact same kitsch element--and from the same damn period as the Lorca material. All that unbearable hipsterism and evocation of Bud and Bird, all that horribly embarrassing adoration of the exotic other. My god! Oh church of Coltrane! I guess that means it's a good thing for me to teach then! The bad thing is always arguing with people who aren't bothered by all that, always setting myself in opposition to what normal people think.

Of course what allows me to hate in good conscience is that I myself am deluded hipster or flamenco wannabe. I can recognize it in others because I've been there.

I just read a short story that has Stan Getz "blasting away" or something like that. That is just wrong.
Ok. The new Lorca is not going to work as planned. I realized there wasn't enough Lorca there, in my plan, and that I didn't really want to analyze actual poetic works by Lorca very extensively, and that a reader would expect that in a book with Lorca in the title. I realized I was too swayed by the momentum of Apocryphal Lorca and by the potential marketability of the Lorca name.

So it's back to the new modernism project, which will be called something like Modernism and the Paradoxes of Spanish Literary History:.

21 dic 2009

Here's my new chpater outline. I'm trying to get the ideas to flow in the most seamless way possible, rather than write chapter on separate topics. The whole book is one long essay. The trick is to get everything in its proper place, so I'm still shifting material from one place to another, especially between Chapters 1 and 2 and the preface. I have that illusory feeling that the whole book is in my head waiting to be written. Well, not completely illusory. I do know pretty much what I'm going to say, but in working that out in detail new ideas will emerge, things will continue to shift position.

Lorca and Modernity: Paradoxes of Spanish Literary History

Chapter 1: Modernity and its Discontents
Chapter 2: Spanish Modernism and the Paradoxes of Literary History
Chapter 3: Contemporary Spanish Poetry: Late Modernism and the Cutlural Logic of Anachronism
Chapter 4: Alternate Models: Machado, Jiménez, Cernuda
Chapter 5: Play and Theory of Lorca's Duende: Nation and Performance
Apocryphal Postscript
Appendix: Glossary of the Duende

20 dic 2009

The review from Choice, from last August, which I somehow missed:

Mayhew, Jonathan. Apocryphal Lorca: translation, parody, kitsch. Chicago, 2009. 222p bibl index afp ISBN 0-226-51203-7, $45.00; ISBN 9780226512037, $45.00. Reviewed in 2009aug CHOICE.
In his preface, Mayhew (Spanish, Univ. of Kansas) describes this volume as "an exploration of the apocryphal afterlife of [Federico] García Lorca in the poetic culture of the United States." Enhanced by copious notes and an excellent bibliography, this book offers a perceptive, intriguing assessment of the García Lorca created by the postwar generation of American poets. The author delineates links between the "American Negro" and the Spanish gypsy, i.e., the American jazz of the former and the cante jondo of the latter. Although the author considers many poets, Jack Spicer, Robert Creeley, Frank O'Hara, Kenneth Koch, and Jerome Rothenberg receive more specific appraisal. For example, Mayhew looks at how Spicer's poem "After Lorca" includes correspondence between Spicer and García Lorca from the grave and highlights striking parallels between García Lorca and O'Hara. Mayhew writes that the study of deep-image poetry in both cultures is "too long a detour ... from the subject of this book," and herein lies one of its weaknesses. In an attempt at inclusiveness, the author tends to wander from his established parameters. A book for scholars, not the inexperienced or casual reader. Summing Up: Recommended. With reservations. Researchers and faculty. -- F. Colecchia, Duquesne University

17 dic 2009

I've been trying to figure out why I like Haydn's String Quartets so much, since I was never that big on the classical style. I tended always to go baroque or modern, and preferred Beethoven to Mozart or Haydn. Now Haydn is imposing himself on me in a big way, and the quartets specifically. I haven't even heard them all, but I have a passing acquaintance now with opus 20, 54, 64, 74, 76. (The numbering is confusing, because there are about several systems for this, so I'm just going with the op. #. Each opus has 3-6 quartets, each of four movements, usually an allegro, an adagio, a minuet, and a fast finale, though sometimes the minuet and adagio are reversed.) I guess the best way to account for this would be to go for the most obvious elements first and work my way toward the mystery.

Melody: the music is tuneful and immediately pleasing. That would be good even if there were nothing else. I have his melodies in my head all the time.

Structure: the structures are fairly easy to follow within each movement. You don't need a huge amount of sophistication and you don't get lost. A high degree of intelligibility. You get the feeling that it is accessible to very modest musical intelligences, like my own, but still probably satisfying for greater ones.

Where I find the appeal is in the combination of a kind of quirky unpredictability with seemingly facile and even formulaic structures and cadences. He is never afraid just to go up and down an arpeggio if that is what is called for. He is inventive in the interplay between instruments; it is as though he were writing a textbook on different ways you might write a quartet. Each movement of each work is unique: there is no sense that he could ever run out of musical ideas. Almost every possible mood is there. There is turmoil and spritely wit, bomastic pride, tenderness and even mild anger. I guess it's a cliché to say he doesn't do tragedy, but I don't really miss it.
My book is taking shape. I want it to be a kind of "big picture" book rather than just another book about Lorca. The people I asked for advice on the viability of the project were positive, but two of them said they'd prefer to read a book about several poets rather than one just about Lorca. I'd prefer to write a more seamless essay on Lorca, while dealing with other poets along the way, in order not to repeat what I did in The Poetics of Self-Consciousness and The Twilight of the Avant-Garde. Valente is rearing his head, wanting to be given equal billing with Lorca.

My model of scholarship is agonic. Much as I don't want to be influenced by Harold Bloom, I find that I am always using the language of struggle, conflict, seeing writing basically as an attempt to wrestle with problems.

16 dic 2009

The break that isn't. I have to prepare my two courses for the Spring, one a jazz course I've never taught before. I want to finish the preface to Lorca by Dec. 31; I'm going to the MLA where I will give a talk and participate in interviews. I also have to write a talk I'm giving in Spain in January, and work on this critical edition I'm doing. I have a few service obligations as well, and I haven't even turned in my grades for one course for this semester.

The winter break is probably one of the busiest times in the academic calendar. So if I have between the 14 of December and the 14 of Jaunary "off," (not teaching) that's not really a lot of time.

15 dic 2009

My 2009 book Apocryphal Lorca: Translation, Parody, Kitsch, dealt with the reception of Federico García Lorca in the US, with a focus on poets active in the 1950s and 1960s, such as Allen Ginsberg, Jack Spicer, Robert Creeley, and Frank O’Hara. Given the North-American orientation of this project, I tried to refrain as much as possible from arguing in favor of any one particular view of Lorca himself, positing instead a multi-faceted “author-function.” Still, Apocryphal Lorca did rest upon certain unstated ideas about Lorca and his place in twentieth-century poetry; it was, in fact, a book about Lorca, even though it did not attempt to put forward an affirmative view of his work. As in a drawing exercise in which the student sketches the spaces in between the parts of a piece of furniture (for example) rather than drawing the object itself, I was writing about Lorca by looking at the absence of certain features of his work in his English-language translations.

Lorca and Modernity will bring some of my implicit assumptions to the fore in order to reflect on the question of what it means for Lorca to be (arguably) the single most significant figure of twentieth-century Spanish poetry. Succintly stated, the problem is that Lorca’s poetry is affiliated with Spanish literary and intellectual traditions that view modernity itself with a great deal of ambivalence. The major critical problem posed by his work, in my view, is what to do with these ostensibly “unmodern” aspects of his work. Lorca’s seeming resistance to modernity becomes significant in both the national (Spanish) and international contexts, for Lorca is not only significant within Spanish literary history but for our conceptions of modernism itself.

13 dic 2009

As I was taking a walk today I imagined my footsteps were quarter notes. Then I counted off 8 measures while looking at my watch: about 15 seconds. So the tempo was 128. In other words, a relaxed swing.

10 dic 2009

I ate lunch at a middle-eastern place today and they had Arabia music videos playing on a tv. One began with a hip young guy looking in the mirror and checking his appearance, as though he were about to go on a date. Cut to a young attractive woman in a spacious, well-lit kitchen. She's wearing blue rubber gloves and cleaning this already meticulous kitchen. A domestic goddess? This young woman is also the singer or lip-syncher of the video. A car horn sounds. The man and the woman are seen in a convertible, wearing sunglasses. He is wearing a leather jacket. Their date is to a supermarket, where the man makes women of various ages, customers and employees, faint with a single glance in their direction. The set of the supermarket looks extremely stylized, fake, like everything else in the video. The woman is irritated with her boyfriend and threatens to throw a can of something at him. Next the couple goes to a science-fictiony place where the man is dragged from his car beaten up by people in silver science-fiction costumes. We see him in a hospital bed with his leg in a cast. The video ends somewhat anti-climactically with seemingly random scenes of a picnic...

5 dic 2009

I made the mistake of reading something by Ortega y Gasset yesterday. I wanted to look again at the essay on Andalusia. The idea about the essential laziness of the Andalusian culture is pretty damn intolerable. Ortega is no hero of mine, and neither is Gasset. (That's a joke.) I'm thinking this whole tradition of Spanish philosophy is pretty hard to take, from Unamuno to Zambrano. I know I should like Zambrano, because she is important to a lot of people in the general vicinity of things that I otherwise admire, but I cannot take her either. Her writing, her ideas.

It's interesting (to me at least) how a lot of things I write about, I'm approaching from the posture of irritation and resistance. I actually don't think good criticism can be entirely appreciative. You've got to hate something about the writer you're dealing with, or something in the existing criticism. Take Valente, about whom I've written practically a whole book, if you add up all my chapters and articles. I think he's very important, and I admire a great part of his work and what he stands for; yet I also find him profoundly irritating.

On the other hand, I couldn't spend my life studying Ortega (or Gasset). You have to have a core respect for the object of study.

3 dic 2009

Scholarly writing has more or less migrated to the SMT blog. I'm moving the best of my previous posts and stupid tricks over there. Substantive posts on literary matters will mostly be at Arcade, in a slightly more formal register. Bemsha II will soon start up: it will be the blog for my jazz course. Very brief observations will be hosted at Facebook, only for my 60 "friends." The original Bemsha Swing will remain open for business too, for other ad hoc blogging projects and as my basic on-line diary and page for advertisements for myself.

2 dic 2009

What if, by moving one's fingers one letter to the side while typing, one could produce a language still intelligible, instead of this: Ejsy og. nu ,pbomh pmr d gomhrtd pmr ;ryyrt yp yjr dofr. ejo;r yu[omh///
The closest I'm coming to an 18th century term for "classical" music is the "Galant Style." Descriptions of this style make it sound a lot like "classical," but obviously it is not an exact synonym, being somewhat more narrow in its usage. In other words, not all music that we call "classical" (in the narrower sense) is galant, and possibly some galant music we might even call "baroque." Of course, I still don't know what the baroque-era term for baroque was, if any. I suspect I'll find a series of narrower terms for specific styles, some tied to national or regional ideas.
I have a new blog, Stupid Motivational Tricks, to which I will be migrating some of my posts on scholarly writing. The blog will itself be an SMT designed to help me get this second book on Lorca done. If you read Bemsha mostly for scholarly writing tips, you will want to follow SMT as well (or instead).