Distribution Automatique

Saturday, November 13

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Blogger

1.On Friday night I stopped off at the Strand Bookshop
on the way to going to a lecture
by Peter Gay, an historian
well known for his pristine,
excellently written biography of Freud. In
addition to finding an inexpensive hardbound copy
of one of the few books by
Phillip K. Dick that I've never completely read many times,
*The Man In the High Castle*- its premise is
that Germany won the Second World War- how apropos
for 2004 Amerika- I found a copy of Tony Tost's *Invisible
Bride*, which happens to be winner of the 2003 Walt Whitman
Award, sponsored by the Academy of American Poets. I love
finding books of poetry by bloggers, and I'm enjoying this
book. First of all, it's prose poetry, which I have a bias
towards, and I liked this part a lot:

"Did you know that Rick James and Neil Young played together
in a band called The Mynah Birds? Did you know that Thomas
Jefferson was once given a 1, 235 hunk of cheese, giving us
the term "the big cheese"? That sleep walkers are not allowed
in the armed services because of the threat they pose when they
have access to dangerous equipment and are unaware of what
they are doing? I have razors hidden through my room, so I'm
curious about what will happen when all the somnabulists get in

(from *The Invisible Bride*, Louisiana State University Press, 2004-
chosen by C. D.Wright).

2. Then I went to the New School to hear a talk given by Peter Gay,
historian, Emeritus Professor at Yale,
about a book he is writing on modernism
(in his view modernists got that way because
they liked to break rules and were obsessed
with subjectivity--interesting--and modernism
still exists, though hardly so, particularly in architecture,
such as the Bilbao Guggenheim- which he says is a
must-see; also, FLW once said that his
New York Guggenheim was the only museum
ever built that made sense.)

I wished I could have brought along my copy of Prof. Gay's
famous biography of Freud, which I love, but most of my
books are as yet unpacked, unbelievably,
because I have so many and have still do not
have my bookshelves built since I moved. They
were selling some other books by Peter Gay
just before the lecture so
I bought a very interesting one titled
*Freud for Historians*. Professor Gay
is one of very few historians who are fascinated by Freud. He has
also written many books about literary history, particularly the
fin-de-siecle, which has interested me for a long time. After the
lecture I asked him to sign my book and he graciously did so (the
line was long, the lecture was packed with at least
150 or more people, mostly psychoanalysts,
since the lecture was sponsored by a psychoanalytic institute.)
After asking him if he liked Shattuck's book *The Banquet Years*
(he did, and if you haven't read it, I highly recommend it-
though not Shattuck's other books)- I asked him quickly
if he intended to write about Schwitters, Arp and the other
Dadaists (he plans to) I then asked him what i was mostly
curious about. He had emigrated from Hitler's Germany
when he was a child. Would he compare the rise of the radical
right wing now to the rise of Hitler's party in Germany?
I said I was particulary concerned because my wife
feels very worried about this. He said, no not at all. No comparison.
Still, he doesn't want to think of this, because he
doesn't want to emigrate again! Then he said, apparently
in response to what I had said about Toni,
"I don't read the newspapers." Someone standing nearby said,
"You don't read the newspapers and you are an historian?"
Then he mentioned briefly Bush's replacement for Ashcroft
and the fact that only 16% of New Yorkers voted for Bush.

When I left I thought: I really don't have to read
*Man in the High Castle* (of course I will)
because we are living it. Talking about
all this with Professor Gay,
I felt like I was in a movie about the Third Reich like
*The Blue Angel.*

Now I'm going to go read a few more pages
of my signed copy of Peter Gay's totally absorbing
*Freud for Historians* (Oxford, 1985), and maybe a
little more of Tony Tost's book too.
After reading Tony Tost's *The Invisible Bride*
some more I thought: All we ever had to do was
write about was our differences. Then
we would know each other better and
our similarities would speak for themselves.