Friday, May 31, 2019

Clerihew for an Aging Cool


Bret Easton Ellis
Continues to sell us
Prose that proves the cool banality
Of indeterminate sexuality.

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From Labyrinths, by Jorge Luis Borges, translated by James E. Irby


"It was derisory to imagine he had not consulted them, but he was tempted by the idle pleasure of turning their pages."

from Averroes' search

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Clerihew Without Qualities


Some folks do feel
Robert Musil
Might have made some jollities
For The Man Without Qualities.

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From Life of Galileo, by Bertolt Brecht, translated by John Willett


"For a few years I was as strong as the authorities. And I handed my knowledge to those in power for them to use, fail to use, misuse -- whatever best suited their objectives."

From 14, 1633-1642, Galileo Galilei Lives in a House in the Country Near Florence, a Prisoner of the Inquisition till He Dies, the 'Discorsi'

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Clerihew of Unbearable Lightness


Milan Kundera
Never could bear a
Recurrence eternal
Of even the vernal.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From The Paradiso, by Dante Alighieri, translated by John Ciardi


"You will come to learn how bitter as salt and stone
is the bread of others, how hard the way that goes
up and down stairs that never are your own."

From Canto XVII

Monday, May 27, 2019

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From Tenth of December: Stories, by George Saunders


"It was as if I could suddenly discern, in this contemporary vignette, the ancient corollary through which Plato and some of his contemporaries might have strolled; to wit, I was sensing the eternal in the ephemeral."

From Escape from Spiderhead

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Clerihew for a Childhood Friend


The continued applause
Of his friends made in OZ
Restored the calm
Of L. Frank Baum.

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From Jeeves and the Tie That Binds, by P. G. Wodehouse


"If he had supposed that his crude humor would get so much as a simper out of me, he was disappointed. I preserved the cold aloofness of a Wednesday matinee audience, and he proceeded."

From Chapter 8

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Clerihew for the Merton Professor


John Ronald Reuel Tolkien
Was not, on the whole, keen
For life lived in the modern world;
With objects massed, machined, and knurled.

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From Why Read the Classics?, by Italo Calvino, translated by Martin McLaughlin


"As far as I'm concerned, Our Mutual Friend is an unqualified masterpiece, both in its plot and in the way it is written. As examples o writing, I will mention not only the rapid similes which crisply define a character or situation ('with an immense obtuse drab oblong face, like a face in a tablespoon'), but also the descriptive cityscapes which are worthy of a place in any anthology of urban landscape: 'A grey, dusty, withered evening in London city has not a hopeful aspect. The closed warehouses and offices have an air of death about them, and the national dread of colour has an air of mourning. The towers and steeples of the many house-encompassed churches, dark and dingy as the sky that seems descending on them, are no relief to the general gloom; a sundial on a church wall has the look, in its useless black shade, of having failed in its business enterprise, and stopped payment for ever; melancholy waifs and strays of housekeepers and porters sweep melancholy waifs and strays of paper and pins into the kennels, and other more melancholy waifs and strays explore them, searching and stooping and poking for anything to sell.'"

From Charles Dickens: Our Mutual Friend

Friday, May 24, 2019

Clerihew for Mame's Third Act


Patrick Dennis
Saw that when his
Stuff was no longer kept in stock,
He might as well butler for Ray Kroc.

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From Kaddish for an Unborn Child, by Imre Kertesz, translated by Tim Wilkinson


"It turned out that I don't write in order to seek pleasure; on the contrary, it turned out that by writing I am seeking pain, most likely because pain is truth, and as to what constitutes truth, I wrote, the answer is so simple: truth is what consumes you, I wrote."

From page 84

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Clerihew of the Triumphant Fanboy


Neil Gaiman's
Shown the way fans
Can become -- against the odds --
Very like their childhood Gods.

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From The Sickness Unto Death, by Soren Kierkegaard, translated by Alastair Hannay


"Envy is concealed admiration. A man who admires something but feels he cannot be happy surrendering himself to it, that man chooses to be envious of what he admires. He then speaks another language. In this language of his the thing he admires is said to be nothing, something stupid and humiliating and peculiar and exaggerated. Admiration is happy self-surrender, envy is unhappy self-assertion."

From Part Two, Despair is Sin

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Clerihew for the Comic Nudge


If you didn't catch it,
The late Terry Pratchett
Found the elbow
Most apropos.

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From Wise Blood, by Flannery O'Connor


"His blood reminded him that the last time he had seen Hazel Motes was when Hazel Motes had hit him over the head with a rock."

From Chapter 8

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

My Trade and Art

Ah, Spring! It is upon us and so, that annual Seattle tradition, the Airing of the Pink Knees. Last week the beloved husband A. put up the portable AC up in our bedroom. (We spent the morning hunting up two of the little screws that connect the accordion-tube to the window-block. Couldn't leave for work until we found 'em.)

We do not get what anyone in their right mind would call "hot" weather until August, but as the temperature went into the low eighties last week -- horrors -- we prepared.

Think pink.

I take the shorts from closet and again dazzle passersby with my profound whiteness. Really though, pink. I am a pink person. I am also now a round person. Think Mr. Bubble.

In other words, I've run -- or rather walked slowly -- to fat.

Fat is a sharp word for such a soft thing. I don't much mind the word. Others do. I understand. I'm fat. You needn't be. Fluffy, curvy, chunky, big, I don't have a problem with any of the current euphemisms, or with the old ones come to that. Full-figured to me suggests the ski-sloped bosoms and elaborate undercarriage of my grandmother's generation. Stout seems a very Victorian thing to be, likewise portly, or plump. I prefer Pickwickian, but no matter. Say what suits you.

But then it's easier being a fat man than it is to be a woman of whatever shape. It's being female that requires the kind of critical analysis Roxane Gay provides in her book, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body. She speaks to me nonetheless:

" show ourselves as we are, no more and no less, would be too much."


As the object of the male gaze, as a survivor of sexual violence, as a woman, of necessity she must address her body as everyone else feels free to do anyway. I needn't. As a white man, even as a gay one, my survival is less dependent on the opinion of men. For me to be fat I need only to eat too much and move too little. As a gay man, fat adds to my invisibility I suppose, but it is my white beard that has already made me altogether harmless. (There are advantages to this. Whenever I am now clocked checking out the local male fauna in bloom, I am now met with... concern. "You okay, sir?" Considering the hostility with which my clumsy cruising used to be met, concern is simply bliss. Happy to be helped across a street, sonny.)

Not an easy phrase though, "as we are." Montaigne, among others, spent his writing life attempting to describe himself as such, thus his "trade and art," and I suppose, in a small way, mine.

"I am no philosopher; evils oppress me according to their weight, and they weigh as much according to the form as the matter, and very often more." -- that from Of Vanity.

And that is the subject at hand, isn't it?

I was vain of my calves when I was young and rode a bike.  I had "a comely leg." And when I was starving in college, I was very glad of my twenty-eight inch waist. Got me a man with that body, and kept him after too. Mostly though, my vanity has always been intellectual. Tell me I'm clever and you're in, boy. Of that I am now a little ashamed, if unreformed.

Henry Miller said he needed to ponder his shame and despair in seclusion -- though he did say this in Tropic of Cancer, hence in public, so there's that. Personally, I'm glad to see shame become shameful, particularly as women have come to see themselves as beautiful in all their variation. I should like to think I might learn from their example, though I may simply be older now and if not wiser, less interested in being interesting to men. Maybe that's the lesson, or at least another.

Of my body I am and have always been less than proud. Even when I was all too briefly skinny, I was still short, and pale when that was still a bad thing. I'm hairy without ever being hirsute, a quality I've often admired in others. I've never then been entirely happy in my own skin. I've always been suspicious of those who are.

My father was a little vain of the fact that well into his forties he could still fit in the trousers he wore as a much younger man. Then he got a bum ticker and got a belly. Didn't much care for that. A very active man to the end, I know he did not like the failure of his parts.

My parts to date have yet to fail me, but I do not tax them much. Nonetheless there is an aspect of fat on which everyone still seems free to comment, the health of the over-stuffed person, and that is something I do still encounter. Fat can kill you. My waistline worries people. They are not wrong. Again, I find comfort in the Victorians: "It's an uncommonly dangerous thing to be left without padding against the shafts of disease." -- from George Eliot's Middlemarch.

All of which, dear reader, is but prelude.

I have been asked to do another photo-shoot for the bookstore where I work. Not my first rodeo. I've been in a couple of Christmas campaigns (No surprise there.) I was even, briefly, on a billboard. Why not? So when asked if I would be willing to participate in a Gay Pride campaign, I was down.

"Anything you need," I says, "anything," I says, "On a bearskin rug if you want me," I says.


I could see I'd kindled a mischievous spark with that last remark. My interlocutor from the Advertising & Promotions, he's a young fellow, and himself a friend of Dorothy -- though he may be too young for that reference.

"Are you serious?!" he says.

And here, soon enough, we will be.

So just how comfortable am I really with the body I've made? Is the absence of vanity the same thing as being willing to be photographed in just an apron and a smile?

The photo-shoot is scheduled. I'm bringing a bathrobe. Stay tuned.

Daily Dose

From Smile, by Roddy Doyle


"He picked up a book and lobbed it back on the table.
-- Scoping the opposition? he said."

From Chapter 3

Monday, May 20, 2019

Clerihew in a Black Carriage


It quickens one
That Dickinson
Used her dashes to draw breath,
Because she could not stop for Death.

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From The Savage Detectives, by Roberto Bolano, translated by Natasha Wimmer


"At the far end of the courtyard, near the buildings, are the tables where the lunatics usually spend a few minutes visiting with their families,, who bring them bananas or oranges."

From Chapter 16

Sunday, May 19, 2019

A Caricature

Working Clerihew


Studs Terkel
Said that work'll
Set you right --
At least it might.

Daily Dose

From The Secret of Evil, by Roberto Bolano, translated by Chris Andrews and Natasha Wimmer


"Although it seems counterintuitive, there is an airy quality to the uneasiness provoked by the memory of that day. And the joy is subterranean, like a geometric ship, perfectly rectangular in shape, gliding along a groove.
Sometimes Belano examines the groove."

From The Old Man of the Mountain

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Clerihew for a Cruising Neurologist


To relax
Oliver Sacks
Rode a sporty motorbike
In search of fellows he might like.

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From Essays of E. B. White, by (unsurprisingly) E. B. White


"Walden is an oddity in American letters. It may very well be the oddest of our distinguished oddities. For many it is a great deal too odd, and for many a particular bore. I have not found it to be a well-liked book among my acquaintances, although usually spoken of with respect, and one literary critic for whom I have the highest regard can find no reason for anyone's giving Walden a second thought. To admire the book is, in fact, something of an embarrassment, for the mass of men have an indistinct notion that it's author was a sort of Nature boy."

From A Slight Sound at Evening 

Friday, May 17, 2019

Clerihew for a Hard Working Author


At daybreak
Dinah Craik
Rose to pray, clean, and cook,
Then went to work on another book.

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From No One Belongs Here More Than You: Stories, by Miranda July


"We were excited about getting jobs; we hardly went anywhere without filling out an application. But once we were hired -- as furniture sanders -- we could not believe this was really what people did all day."

From Something That Needs Nothing

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From Flaubert, by Michel Winock, translated by Nicholas Elliott


"Madame Bovary propelled Gustave Flaubert's name into literary history. It also changed the author's life. Suddenly people wanted to meet him, and he was invited all over town. He was now one of the top literary figures in the nation. Paris opened its arms to him; the hermit could become a socialite."

From Chapter 13, Life in Paris

Monday, May 13, 2019

A Caricature

Clerihew for a Smilesmirk


The active voice
Of James Joyce
Can get a bit lost
In all the blarney he glossed.

Daily Dose

From The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, by James Weldon Johnson


"I sat through the opera until I could no longer stand it."

From Chapter IX

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Dublin Clerihew


No curtains lacy
Had Sean O'Casey.
Just net
I'd bet.

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From The Known World, by Edward P. Jones


"His grandmother, or a woman who told the world she was his grandmother before she was sold away, had tried to tell him about the stars ('Them stars can guide you'), but he had no head for the stars. Now he looked at them and he raised his hand to his eyes to shade them, just the way he would have done if it were the middle of the sunniest day. He was standing less than ten feet from the spot where he would die one morning."

From Chapter 4