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Monday, December 15, 2014

HAVERFORD INTERLUDE + PART 2, (YEAR ABROAD) OF 3

SECOND SUMMER INTERLUDE

Prior to rooming with Frank, Jamie Johnston and Marty Weigart in Lloyd, second entry, for our sophomore year, Frank and I spent the summer at his mother’s apartment in Manhattan, but for his at then going to Rehoboth. 

I had met Frank’s mother the previous Christmas and – exceptional for me - struck it off with a mothering mother! Helga was a large, good-hearted, reddish-blonde blowsy Danish warhorse and I responded to her largesse and warmth. Who knows why of Frank’s friends she cared most for me? Perhaps she sensed my need for warmth which came with no strings attached. I certainly needed mothering and caring, and Helga was someone I was willing to accept it from. She was like milkmaid Frieda of my childhood years whom I would have preferred as a governess /Kindermaedchen to Ms. No. To put a fine point on my conundrum, a potential lover, a delicious young girl, whom I had necked with at Helga’s place, made the mistake of sending me two pairs of socks in Winter during my year abroad in Munich, or asking me by letter if I needed warm socks – which act of concerned generosity consigned the girl to never-never-land, and off course, poor girl hadn’t a clue what she had done wrong! Which is kind of funnee in a not very funny way, and points to my hysteria, my hyper-sensitivity to any sign of emasculating governessiness as we might call it. Meanwhile, in the long meantime, aware of the conundrum, the conundrum has not disappeared entirely, how could it have, what of the kind does; however, the interjection of a tad of thoughtfulness as the impulse comes to mind, if it comes to mind, definitely keeps the automatic reaction from automatically governing you, you say to yourself and hold both thumbs. Since, however, the U.S.A. has no lack of unloving women I did not mind their coldness, say, the so cool and stylish Paula Diamond so true to her last name of their Bryn Mawr acquaintance.

Frank’s father, a would-be writer, had died, and Helga had remarried, a male model taxi driver, Guy, pronounced Gee, with a hard G, of French Canadian provenance who indeed could not have been more handsome in a very French male model way. Frank memorialized him in his novel, Body & Soul, a sweet man and funnee but scarcely the father that Frank longed to have. “Old man” the fatherless father-seeking addressed each other for many years, and as they vied who would get the black turtle neck sweater first during their sophomore year.

Helga had a bit of money, as did Frank from a stipend his father had left them, Helga for the summer was in Fort Lauderdale, but they lived in the one manifestly poor apartment house – the only one with the fire escape mounted on its extra wide six story façade - in this very well-to-do block between Madison and Park Avenues. It was a block that I came to know well as I did all of East 86th Street from the East River to its end at Central Park at Fifth Avenue. I often breakfasted in the Adam’s Hotel eatery at the north east corner of Madison and 86th where Peter Handke would come a cropper approximately twenty-five years hence writing the novel part of his A Slow Homecoming. 

Frank also introduced me to the Yorkville section of 86th Street, a series of blocks east of Lexington. There, I found several German delis that catered to my taste for sturdy dark bread; a Hungarian restaurant with goulash; and a pool hall, Frank had a bit of a pool hustler in him I realized – aside spending one year in Europe, Frank had gone to a Manhattan High School, Stuyvesant. There is a bit about that and hustling in Frank’s Stoptime. The first glimpses - there had been one or the other during my previous visits - of the city of hustlers and thieves. But Frank was not a good looser - at Ping Pong, I was wizard. This was the second time I noticed this feature in my friend, the first had been at Christmas when we all had played a silly board game – Frank’s older sister and her husband had been there as well – that involved hammering small wooden staves into their respective holes. Again, my dexterity was far superior – eye hand co-ordination - a surprise considering Frank’s dexterity as a jazz pianist – (If only one of my grandmothers had taught my to play at our grand! I plaint yet again!) but Frank kept trying, to beat me at least once. 

There is a story in Frank’s Midair, concerning squash, that details his becoming aware how being ultra-competitive can turn ultra-obnoxious. We had also started to play chess, there we played even, as we would in the future, that is until the very end of the friendship about 30 years hence, but once for months on end, starting with a cross-country drive an unending game that perpetuated throughout the summer of 1959, months on end even though Frank had just married his first wife!

For a summer job Frank and I decided to work as independent contractors for the Good Humor Ice Cream Corporation as Good Humor Men  with Good Humor pushcarts and were assigned a spot that we imagined would be propitious for the sale of ice cream in summer: a large public bath, a huge swimming pool in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. But you must imagine this idyllic-seeming spot over-run with kids, crowded, and not Haverford type kids, but tenement kids, lower East Side kids, poor kids, a  lot of whom find nothing better to do than play with the Good Humor Man’s coin change box. – Will they steal the change or not was the question each time one of these NY sharpies went into their playful ominous act.

Working as a Good Humor salesman turned out to be yet another interesting but short chapter in my Americanization process. For. after Frank and I had worked this vein for a few weeks, we quit upon realizing that we had made $ 1.28 per hour, and, as independent contractors, so the New York City Department of Labor, had no recourse to minimum wage protection. We quit, and Frank, who did not really need to work, joined friends in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, while I lucked into an absolute dream job. 

However, prior to taking the job with the Good Humor Corporation a few other matters worth mentioning transpired. In the mail I received an invitation to join an apparently secret society at Haverford, Angel of this or the other was its name. Haverford announced, proudly, that it had resisted the introduction of secret and Greek Letter Societies of all kinds at the time that this differentiation had swept America college campuses around the time of the then turn of the 19th into the 20th centuries. Later a second of these ultra-secret societies would surface. However, one was quite sufficient for me to write a fairly outraged declination which I showed Frank before I sent it off – and which Frank helped tone down. Also, we sought to hook up with one or the other Bryn Mawr girl we had met during our freshman year – next door Pamela was yet to come into our lives, and the one we found was a Park Avenue girl who commented, evidently memorably, upon our cab reaching Union Square, that S. Klein’s big grey dilapidated box “On the Square” Department Store was where “the people” shopped. The girl was not only a snob, but also amazingly dumb. When a Bryn Mawr girl was dumb, and there were not many really dumb girls at Bryn Mawr, she was exceptionally dumb and you wondered how she had ever been accepted, until you found out how wealthy her parents were, and presumed that it might have something to do with money and would conclude that your presumption had been spot on. One dumb rich girl enhanced the endowment and the scholarship fund. Perhaps there was even a quota, ten dumb extra wealthy girls per class? This plump rich girl was compressed into a tight black dress and a girdle and lived on Park Avenue, a dumpling of sorts. 

The first time I stood at the intersection of East 86th Street and Park Avenue and contemplated this very wide canyon of huge boxy buildings all around ten to twelve stories high - a center strip of flower beds and the railway running underneath - I got the willies, it seemed unpeopled, except by cabs dropping off and picking up inhabitants from under awnings. The beauty that Frank and I had both made love to by graduation and who had started to fade at age sixteen was killed by a cab as she was crossing Park Avenue. 

It was not a good date and the performance of a dramatization of Kafka’s The Trial was not memorable. The reason that we went was due to my segueing from my Freshmen year’s involvement with Faulkner into my sophomore year’s total involvement with the work of Franz Kafka. That year would end in my becoming each of the writers discussed in The Outsider, including Nijinsky! 

Subsequently,  it was pretty much a girlless summer for me, though it scarcely needed to have been what with the Oakwood girls and sisters of Pocono counselors who I knew lived in Manhattan. Anita, Monique, even Susan F. But it was a reading and also a writing summer. I had started to write in English, and would write my one good story of that time that year, Sandro. It was a reading summer also at my dream job, albeit a not very remunerative one as the sole waiter and counterman of the restaurant in the Bronx Botanical Gardens. http://www.nybg.org/visit/dining.php which was located in a renovated Paper Mill once owned by the Lorillards, American millionaires of Tobacco fame. I had a single co-worker, who had hired me, a tall good-looking kid a few years older, Werner, who also lived in Yorkville and who picked me up and drove me home at night. It was an utterly idyllic spot, with no end of foliage and magnificent trees, right next to a stream with a weir and waterfall (the Mill!), but no guests, occasionally a few for lunch, Werner made the sandwiches, and no tips. Thus I spent the summer squeezing a lot of lemon and making a lot of lemon juice and drinking a lot of lemonade and reading reading reading all of Joseph Conrad and most of Henry James, but for James’ later novels where I felt them verging on the very dark, and I shied back from the knowledge I sensed they contained and decided to reserve them for a later, if not the end part of my life. Werner at one point proposed to me chipping in $ 25 to buy some liquor for some chippies who liked to party. Didn’t I like to have my head between two fine women’s legs? Of course I loved little more than have my head ensconced between two pretty eager legs – but felt that an orgy ought to happen naturally, that you eased into it. This was too much like getting gas or something on that order, and so I lied, and said, “Thank you, but I have a girl friend.”

By end of Freshman year, the soccer coach, Jimmy Mills, didn’t really coach and I dropped out when he did not use me except to demonstrate how to kick! A shame of sorts! But by Sophomore year I lived with congenial roommates and in a far more congenial dormitory.  

Frank Conroy and Jamie Johnston Sophomore year room-mates and I - concluded that future writers learning Greek would be a good thing – but Dr. Post, the Greek teacher, was instantly aberrant, obsessively repeating the word thalassos… over and over… over and over… and the threesome decamped to a writing course at Bryn Mawr, given by a Reader’s Digest contributor - to show you where those matters were at then!  However, the girls were not only bright also mostly pretty. I recall two women from that class and one particular event. – My love of Faulkner persisted and I had a particular liking for his long story A Rose for Emily – it is a necrophiliac’s story, and reading it I had realized I thought not only something about myself, but about great art, that is was a necrophiliac’s activity. Later Benjamin once again summed this up in one sentence “The work is the death mask of the experience.” Perhaps you must have died in some fashion very early on in life to experience the truth of that statement. – At any event, a somewhat mannish D. McNab-Brown, instantly, on hearing me admire the story, exclaimed, “You must be queer to like that story.” – I felt anything but queer in any sense of that word at the time or moment, especially since I had more than an eye on a tempestuous redhead in the class. But perhaps the kind of love for a beautiful mother expressed in that fashion for a dead mother in that story is not only unusual but will also influence your sexuality. My own fascination with the screen memory of the beautiful heartsick pilot’s wife and how I had flinched when the nurses told me that my exciting her too much was what had killed pointed in that direction.  

The redhead, Barbara, then made for the first remembered “altar” experience, the altar being a mattress that the foursome at Lloyd’s had placed before our fireplace and wrapped in red velvet or corduroy! After reading, very intensely, some Dylan Thomas poems, I lifted her hefty body up into my arms and deposited her on the altar… but there was no consummation, first of all, the basketball game was about over and the roomies would return shortly, and I had been made apprehensive when Barbara had said, as we were necking in Frank’s car and we were on the verge as I was dropping her off at French House at Bryn Mawr, that our becoming lovers would be catastrophic. That seemed to have reminded me of a similar knowledge, that children at such a young age, would be an extraordinary encumbrance, it would be imprionsed by the responsibility, which, moreover, I must have sensed, I felt quite incapable of shouldering or whatever. - Barbara was someone to have a Wild Palms with, she was from Maryland horse country, to put it in Faulknerian terms, she was perfect as Lady Chatterly! and asked me whether I preferred a woman to be in a missionary position and she was pleased when I said yes – little as I knew, then, of the pleasure of other positions, as she seemed to not to like them in her self-image of what a woman had to be. She then married a Haverford 200 pounder, a true stud, but it appears the marriage did not last.  Also, I suspect, how roiled up my first Wild Palms experience had made me was not an altogether enticing prospect. This was not the kind of easy that another “altar” experience, later, at the end of this year, would be. Barbara’s sexual eagerness then seemed to make her change her mind – but my resolve was set, and I was not about to revert to High School petting days, and easiness about oral sex lay in the future. Jamie, a hounddog already at Oakwood, then took Barbara to the boathouse by the pond. I, wisely, such a rarity in that respect, managed to excercise will power on an order of strength I had no knowledge that I possessed and rarely used in that respect - yet something in me seemed to know, much as you want a girlfriend you don’t seem to want a wife and kids.

Freshman year had been spent adoring a certain delicate beauty, Adele - Rabbit - McVeigh, who albeit being perfect example from the Virginia Woolfe, Aubrey Hepbur beauty catalogue, that I hungered for yet had memorably fat ankles! (Such a perfectionist I was!) However, Rabbit seemed to belong to a Rodney Clurman, a fellow one class ahead who seemed do be doing awfully important things, such as running one of the Networks out of Haverford!, but had interesting intelligent friends they seemed  George Malko, Steph Chodorv and Jerry Goodman who roomed together in Llods. Rodney I recall installed in Barkley the one truly hideously ugly building on campus, a monstrous granite gargoyle. Yet at the end of Sophomore year a poetess, who was not a member of the writing class, Connie H., started to drift around campus and in no time ended up on the our altar of love, that mattress encased in red corduroy that was put in front of the fire place and that had been the foursome’s first objective for our second story two bedroom apartment at 2nd entry at Lloyd Hall. “No panties!” underneath her Bermuda shorts, the invariable promise of easy loving, Connie was easy and we were easy with each other and she even came to live with me in Alexandria, Va. (where I repaired for the summer to spend time with parents finally returned from the Far East) until my hypocrite stepfather gave her the boot; and if I hadn’t been on my way to my year abroad and wanted to spend time with parents I had not seen for four years I imagine we would have joined Frank and Patty and Jamie and Hilda in Nantucket, Connie even had a twin who was just as easy, and on easy street it would have lasted quite a while. I didn’t live on easy street that often, I did for stretches during my ten years in Tribeca, where sex became as easy as breathing, and it turned out it suited me, more than the usual tempestuousness, the several Liebes Tode of my life.

The over-all problem, judging by Henry Dane’s comment seems to have been a general not just individual dissatisfaction among the variety of idiots that we were, and the solution to the problem, to the conundrum - as expressed via the inarticulate pre-mature destruction of Lower Merion, and a make believe we weren’t really there - lay elsewhere, and I realized it even then, the solution to the conundrum why so many, certainly a large percentage of the classes of 1957 and 1958 and 59 and perhaps others were none too happy, none too happy at a school that spelled “how can you possibly not be happy here,.” and the solution, or at least one solution. 


Part II


The question arises: Was the Junior Year abroad a good thing or not? I tend to think not, especially for me who was just getting oriented - “When am I not?” I ask myself even now - and sinking a few roots. The German disappointments would have still been there a few years hence 


SEE THE BERLIN SECTION:


http://artscritic.blogspot.com/2014/12/berlin-1957-section-from-screen-memories.html


as would the matters that did not disappoint: Wolfgang Clemens at the University of Munich, and his course on Modern American & British Literature, where I failed to make contact with future author of one of my favorite books, The Essay on Smut, Christian Enzsenberger, who could certainly have alerted me to German writers living in the Munich of that time, which I failed to find by my lonely self – but for a group of hopeless neighborhood Schwabing scribblers. Berlin would still have been there, as well as the Berliner Ensemble and all the other theaters, and operas, the work of Lukacs and Brecht, where I finally put in an excellent semester or extremely hard work after easy going Munich and Paris.


Did I really need a bout of Fasching decadence? I suppose I had to get it out of my system that one time. Paris would still have been there, Ionesco at the Theatre la Huchette ran for decades! So did the other theaters, the TNP, the Vieux Colombier - I had developed a fine taster for theater in Munich with  steady beautiful date Dorothea who, however, wouldn’t fuck. The great Yugoslav director Vlado Habonek whom I’d met in Munich and hooked back up with in Paris and who suggested I attend the Dubrovnik festival were not crucial although Dubrovnik and its festival became a measure for certain kinds of dramatic performance. But on my return I found no link to Lukacs at Haverford Bryn Mawr, although I certainly ctd. to feel “transcendentally homeless” – yet a few stitches had been put into putting the German and American parts together, I did have a clearer idea whence I came, of the past left behind but also in part retrieved, and behind that effort lies the attempt, forever futile, to put together many other matters that had been sundered. Frank, surprisingly, never understood that, although I myself could not have explained, at the time, what was being lived out in then and for many years after in that transatlantic back and forth. - Nor really was I able to do anything with Brecht at the time, although later both Lukacs and Brecht would prove to be sound background for further ventures in that direction. A life in the theater – I would have a bit of it in the late Sixties when I started to translate the Peter Handke plays and become involved with performing them. Being involved in the production process was the best part of it. And Nijinsky fascinated me when I read about him in The Outsider! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaslav_Nijinsky I loved to dance! But concealed it the way classmate Bradley did his poetry for fear that he’d be thought a pansy. Later, much later, in analysis I discovered not only a deep unsatisfied longing for a real father but some bi-sexual tendencies, not that, physically, any man ever attracted me sexually, but when they looked like pretty girls! Still, the deep longing for a real father persists, see TRAPPING THE TRAPPER 


http://analytic-comments.blogspot.com/2009/07/trapping-trapper-crucial-event-from.html


I, too, am part of the “fatherless” generation, which was/ is not confined to post WW II Germany, or any country with the fathers decimated, and does not mean that you didn’t have an actual father, but that you had a thoroughly unsatisfactory one. He might be great in lots of respects, as was mine; even so, the relationship with the father would have been worse if I had grown under him longer than the few years I did; the nominal stepfather, who was then, during my Senior year, at a U.S. Army base outside Stuttgart and who had helped build Panmunjom… he had been a friend until he returned an ill man from Korea. I felt I had outgrown him. - Such were not even idle speculations for the victim of a serious case of mono that I had contracted during my year abroad who was barely able to crawl around in Frank Conroy’s mother’s apartment prior to his senior year at the meretricious idyll, Haverford College, the make believe idyll – whereas I might have been well-off in the world that realizes the make believe, that makes make-believe, makes the “as if" real, and does so playfully, the world of theater.

I think the Haverford drama teacher Butman and his group were all involved in Waiting for Godot - I, who had seen Balzac’s Le Faiseur, was convinced even then that bags of money, Balzac’s Godeau returning with the bags that he had stolen, salved any grievous loss of meaning. However, I was planning to or did translate one of two Lehrstücke – The Measure Taken or The Exception and the Rule - for my senior project and can’t make up my mind whether I did or not, if I did they might be among Harry Pfund’s papers - a wonderful man and Goethe scholar, as most Goethe scholars are, Goethe may have been a heart-breaker par excellence, but he attracts kind and wise scholars, here at he University of Washington, too, in Kurt Ammerlahn, now emeritiert.
The Munich course in the Moderns had brought me to Ezra Pound. Pound trained my ear and my long piece on Hugh Selwyn Mauberly found a high rate of acceptance both at a terrific modern poetry course at Bryn Mawr where I now spent more time than at Haverford (a blond kid professor and his blonde wife and blonde childe, Wallace?) and with Ashmead at Haverford treating me with cool and welcomed maturity, a toughie, a bit too sardonic at times.  Specifically, Pound’s Personae, his amazing translations, his ABC OF READING, and the most important thing I took away with me from him: the degree to which he had backed no end of other writers. If you yourself might not be a writer, you could still have a magazine and back writers to find an audience for what they tried to say; you could have an interesting life as an editor - I think, no obviously that is where I picked up an idea that then seized me in the icy wastes of Alaska then three years hence while i was starting to live a McCabe & Mrs. Miller life among the hard-partying folks of Chena Ridge in Fairbanks. Something like that would be a kind of guiding light during my years in publishing in New York. Also much cottoned to Pounds letters, such wonderful angry letters! Something in me was furious all right. However, I was not about to haul to St. Elizabeth as certain Poundians, also at Haverford, did. A budding Marxist was not going to follow his ramblings about economics and his peculiar anti-semitism, the two seemed connected. Yes, money was the ruin of everything of course but venerating him was out of the question. Another teacher for the eternal student!



Considering the effects of the Mono that I brought back with me courtesy of the once Berlin love, which I didn’t shake entirely until I had spent nine months in Alaska in 1960, I am astonished that I actually managed to get a few good things done Senior year back, not the USSR as the Beatles would have it, but - as it felt to a born pastoralist - the land of disembodied pastoralism, disconnected from the world I had been part of the previous year. Indeed, what a world to come back to after such or any year abroad! To be cooped back up in Kindergarten! – Jamie Johnson left Haverford after Junior year – he had enough of the idyll, and went to Manhattan and I think enrolled in The New School. Not that Jamie and I were that close, but he also constituted continuity from Oakwood. Jamie was my first encounter with the easy-going West Coast, his mother screenwriter lived in Malibu, had lived in Mexico part time. Frank and Patty, once Frank was married, and I would visit him in Malibu a year after graduation. 


I might have left for Manhattan, too, but for me it was a matter of the scholarship, which required a certain amount of work – that I was too weak to perform with Mono. Thus I donated several pints of blood and let them pour one pint of it, radio-activated, back into me, for $ 500.00! which then was tested once a month for its vanishing half-lives, and this donation I think took care of board I think. I have donated a fair amount of blood in my life and have the story of the blue spot on the inside of my right arm to tell the tale of surviving radio-activated blood, to amuse the phlebotomists, now longer than 50 years! Also, my father, a first in all these years, vouchsafed a significant sum, however then failed to pay until 1975 when Haverford alerted me to an unpaid bill. 


The foursome, absent Jamie, had for a stellar replacement the very model of decency, in Dan Thomas. But only in the sense that it was a foursome did senior year duplicate sophomore year at 2nd Entry of Lloyd’s with its altar of love mattress wrapped in red corduroy by the fire place – Lleeds had a ground floor apartment with four separate rooms in a brand new dormitory which, however, never jelled as a unit, it never had a focus, and the foursome was not a unit, but a succession of twosomes. I mean, I don’t recall any conflicts but for Marty Weigert feeling that people were picking on his Franz Marc print! Marty was a sadist then!   The living room demonstrated that the four people living in that suite were not a unit – it was not lived in, it was like an airport lounge… you passed through it, there was discarded paper lying in the corners; though a brand new room, it looked disused, unclean, untaken care of, the couch was askew, as was the one solitary picture, I think it was a print, a Franz Marc, and it’s glass became cracked which upset Marty who felt that this had been done, intentionally, to him! so were the jalousies askew.  Marty had funny sadistic sides. Excess energies. How untogether the suite was could be ascertained by comparing it with the adjacent one, Lorenzo Milam and cohorts, which I recall not only for Lorenzo, a polio survivor and friend I visited in Jacksonville, to partake of my first American family “Long Day’s Journey into the Night” - that suite seemed to expel one super-heated Bryn Mawr girl after the other, they had either fucked their heads off or gotten so hot making out that they exuded flushed heat like baked apples coming out of the oven. My guess is that they were apples baked to the bursting point and perhaps they left at the last moment before succumbing.


Perhaps my lack of energy contributed to the state of the living room, and that I quickly had a real girlfriend, and would have the same girlfriend for several years who eventually broke my heart, and I happen to be someone if there is anyone who does not ever really get over a broken heart, I’m the heartbreak kid nearly as of my birth and blame Adolf Hitler. 


One major reason why the suite lacked focus and life and something to hold it together was that Frank’s girlfriend Patty Ferguson was attending graduate school in New Haven and Frank spent most weekends with her, and when he wasn’t lots of beauties hung all over him when he played the Jazz piano. – At Haverford, then, the pianos were old and untuned, and locked by 10 p.m., an odd remnant of the Quaker’s puritan heritage. Yet hadn’t Haverfford provided refuge to Rachmaninoff?


Literature and music was what Frank and I shared as of our first meeting, three years ago. I had become captivated by Jazz and blues as of Summer 1945: American Forces Network, Bremen. In Sour Orange I had started to buy jazz records, especially collections of earlier Jazz that were advertised in the papers and on radio and had made my first tentative forays to 52nd Street, the then Jazz alley of Manhattan. One of my many great misfortunes is that I never learned an instrument – the way, the pianist grandmother who had made ready to die through an act of self-starvation failed to respond to my banging the keys of the grand on the second floor landing, and though I eventually taught myself to read music I didn’t think I could learn an instrument – and it appears asking was out of the question. All this despite the fact that about the only thing my extremely musical father was proud of in his first born son was that I responded to Mozart as of the day of my birth, no doubt had already inter-uterine considering the number of concert my parents went to and his record collection.


It so happened that Frank had one of these many odd aversions of his, of all composers to Mozart, but not to classical music generally and there I became his guide. By the time of Body & Soul, which I guess wants to be read as an artist’s Bildungsroman, Frank evidently overcame his Mozart problem, whatever it ever really had been. In jazz we jibed entirely: never to be forgotten when he or I obtained the first record of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers with Horace Silver playing The Preacher. Horace became a casual acquaintance of ours, we met him at a Jazz joint in Philadelphia – the Blue Note? – and he chased the girls around the Haverford/ Bryn Mawr digs in Manhattan and I connected with him again in San Francisco and what a moment it was about a decade later when, at a Haverford graduate’s Jazz restaurant at University Place, Bradley’s, in Manhattan when I managed to tell Art Blakey how happy that first record had made me, and this short but very powerfully built drummer’s Orangutan-length arm wrapped itself vise-like around me in happiness for someone remembering an early work of his and Horace’s.


Frank was equally obtuse in the matter of drama and plays, where I made no attempt to convince him of the errors of his judgment and try to show him what he was missing. Frank was a person of powerful and unexpected aversions in every respect, especially food. Many years later, obviously, once I had become something of a Handke specialist and investigated that great writer’s plethora of ticks and foibles, especially what he himself called “autistic episodes”, I concluded that Frank, too, fell within the autistic spectrum; after all, he too, suffered from episodes of de-personalization, he too fugued at certain moments; had an over-abundance of sensitive nerves. Just read the title novella of Mid-Air and some of the other pieces in it. In particular, Conroy could not abide Ms. Nugent’s dining hall fare – breaded veal in something that claimed to be tomato sauce now forever emblematic for the inedible also for the non-autistic - and ate off campus, not fancy, but, say, at a fine Philadelphia Hoagie shop just a block or so down Lancaster Avenue. I, too, took a liking to these heaping concoctions drenched in Olive oil and vinegar. Cheese, meat, generally ham, and a salad, perhaps even with mayo between a split Boleto roll or Baguette section. It became  one of these items that define American identity for me, like steak and eggs, and ice cream sundae which when first heard was a Sunday consisting entirely of ice cream; soda fountains with banana splits and floats.  Uniquely American. Like Jazz. Or the way a certain kind of sort of upper class American girl will refer to a disposable boyfriend as a “beau”???


#

It had been quite an event sophomore year when Frank brought Patty Ferguson to the Lloyds Hall 2nd entry apartment. After all, lots of girls were brought in and out, not too many got laid on the altar of love. But I recall all room-mates happened to be there, and how we all looked up. We didn’t look up like that very often, I think it was the only time. This was an event. The opposite to this event, say, would have been if someone had brought in a chorus girl, a real chippy who made it clear on entering that she was eager to bed each and every room mate and would have done so in front of all of them and done so with utmost delight. A floozy with presence – a most unlikely event at Haverford.  
In this instance, Patty appeared, was introduced, sat down in a chair in a corner, and I think we all fell silent. And not because Patty was a stunning beauty, although a beauty she was for the gradual discovery. There was a serious young woman, yet not some kind of severe governess type, to which I would have reacted with instant negatively colored suspicion. First of all, because Patty was nicely tall, and mutedly motherly, and was not using her sexuality to communicate with us, yet you felt here as someone you could tell your deepest concerns to, your troubles, not that she would cure them, but you had the instant sense, here was someone who knew how to listen and understand. As a young man you tend not to run into young women your age who exude a quality like that. And that sense proved true . And thus you felt that you could trust her as you could your mother I suppose, you took her seriously, as you didn’t necessarily most girls. She was not a GIRL! She was not a product of the American girl culture! And the exception was welcome. However, as Frank then notes several times in his books, Patty, who had been the president of the Bryn Mawr student body, “never happened ” – never happened afterwards. It appears she was afraid of what “was out there.” True enough, scary and stupid business a lot of it. And I myself, after all, stayed on the sidelines, unless I really had no choice, or could do it on my terms. But as Frank became quite successful in his late 30s and was running around town and played at jazz places… Patty couldn’t get into the swing of the fun of that. And on that the marriage foundered as much as on Frank then starting to have too much fun as success screwed up his head. 
   

I had Paula, my blonde lioness poet, who was the Bryn Mawr editor of the Haverford Bryn Mawr Review, and I succeeded Frank as Haverford Editor and Frank introduced us. Frank as the editor his Junior Year had done a splendid job, also with covers from a New York artist friend of his, covers that seemed to derive from Jackson Pollock’s shop, the many-colored drip drops were as expressive as they were decorative. Paula and I put out only a single issue and the cover was by her Bryn Mawr friend Betsy Nelson and showed a falling Icarus. Faculty advisor, Mr. Satterthwaite, fresh from Harvard, had his Harvard fun with “falling” the theme of his review of the entire issue. I put the second version of my haunting dead pilot’s wife tonsillitis story into it and a translation of a Stadler poem. But recall nothing else about the issue, how Paula and I reached our decision, who else we consulted, etc etc etc. I recall a kid from N.Y. - Patrick? - who took drugs, a friend of Franks and who wrote, and who later over-dosed. There were some wild young poets about.



Perhaps something of theirs? I’d have to look at the issue. Bryn Mawr at the time had the school of what we called the “snap crackle and pop” poets, who, if talented, mimicked New Yorker poet Ogden Nash. I believe the Edele McVeigh whom I had fancied as a Freshmen was of that school. Renata Adler, a Junior at Bryn Mawr, I did not get to know until my years in New York. A fine writer she turned out to be, with some very, more than unusual screwball sides that someone who felt like her older brother was willing to abide. - Are there any other Bryn Mawr writers of those years? Marianne Moore I read of course, but no one of her talent was present that I became aware of. Did Ken Geist or Harvey Phillips, very bright boys, contribute anything – Harvey, considering how close we had been, also in Europe, exists solely as a most peculiar lacuna in my recollection of that last year at Haverford. I can’t even think of where he roomed! Perhaps he will fill in the blank, if there is a blank to be filled in. 



If I brought Paula we at once went into my room if I was not with her at French House at Bryn Mawr. And no end of times some inspector would come knocking at the door, sometimes a girl would follow us all the way from Bryn Mawr. Once it took us half an hour to get dressed, and still she kept waiting before giving us a talking to. If you told her to go shove it, you might both be expelled for breaking the honor code – obviously it was an occasion to move off campus and get married, I think that was the only way it could be done at the time. Imagine coming back from a year, and abroad in Europe, during which love-making had begun to normalize itself, to Haverford Bryn Mawr of the late 50ties! And I reverted to very tentative love-making on campus. Imagine Ms. Sensuality from Munich whose trampoline fucking could break down just about any wooden bed!


I think Dan had a girlfriend too, whom he married. Marty was still playing the field, much enamored of lickety-split as he called it. Marty and I had seen each other during my summer in Alexandria. I liked science. If I’d been entirely sane and not so adventure minded I would have been a biologist and worked in the field. Marty made passes at Paula, Jamie had been a hound-dog of girlfriends at Oakwood and Haverford. In that respect at least my behavior was admirable. The friendship was always more important than the girl or to find out how loyal she was. And I was like that for the rest of my life. It spelled trouble, even if it was a friend’s ex who expressed interest, my Oedipal antennae were well tuned, also with the so tempting and flirtatious girls whom I was about to teach at Stanford. Even in instances where a close friend took an interest, as in the instance of the great beauty Caroline Leslie – I withdrew, after one of these typical wrestling matches, at her estate on Long Island – Harvey and I had gone to visit her – because Frank, too, was interested. Harvey was not the Nebenbuhler, Frank was. Later, Frank and I both made love to Pamela, but quite unaware of the fact that she was screwing both of us, and whoever else, and there were other women like that later on, until Frank and I discussed her unfortunate death the last time that Frank and I actually met, which was in D.C. in the early summer of 1986. But Frank could be a really bad hound-dog too. Shooting fast forward to Christmas 1964 he followed me and Christine Doudna the willowy blonde Kansas beauty I had captured aboard the ocean liner on a return trip from Europe, and with the sweetest of sheepdog expressions followed us to my room in the Chelsea, explaining that he thought Christine would make love to him, too. In that respect I suspect he was right, but it wasn’t quite the sharing time of the 70s Tribeca yet and so ever so gently I pushed him down the hall in the opposite direction. I knew how to defer, but then there were moments that deferring ceased.

Haverford and Bryn Mawr are a twenty minute walk apart, about a mile, and there were not too many places you might stop off along the way. There was the bar at the corner of Lancaster and College Avenue, which had a darts game, and the Blue Comet Diner. That is where you might take a date while walking to or from, and it is notable in the memory bank for two events, both of them occurring senior year. 
One was Little Richard’s Long Tall Sally coming on the juke box and kicking everyone’s ass, mine and Paula’s in the instance. Rhythm and Blues was very different all right. Another alert to the world we were missing and that I then would partake of at the Apollo once in New York, and its white version through a friendship with Jerry Leiber.  
The other memory, even more distinct, since it involved possible violence, was when some kids from a Catholic College up the road, Villanova I think, wanted to pick on me, and the fellow who did the picking had only half a neck, vertically. It appeared he felt safe being ultra-aggressive in that severely debilitated state, however he lost the missing half. It had been either an accident or an operation; it was obvious that he had not been born that way. A very odd sight indeed. And my friends, I recall Marty, becoming very protective of me, not so much from Halfneck but from Halfneck’s hoodlum buddies. That was very nice, but it appeared no one knew that I was quite a good fighter and knew how to box, quite aside my prowess with an axe, and as a rider and with a canoe, and the fear of my own violence that resided in me - although how do you fight someone who already has only half a neck left? Those were Catholic kids from Villanova.
#

You have been exposed to a very different world, and of course the world you return to, has not stood still. A fine Anglo-Irish writer http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Bowen had taught writing at Bryn Mawr, that is something I missed. 

Ms. Bowen had realized Frank’s talent (anyone else’s?) and got him one of those $ 100 Knopf contracts that gave the firm first dibs if the talent ever produced a manuscript. The manuscript that was then turned in, around 1963, a novel about a religious, even I, as one of the editors of Metamorphosis, was not willing to arrogate an excerpt from it over the thumbs down of fellow editors, Michael Lebeck and Fred Jameson.

A fine class with Ashmead on American literature, James and Clemens, and Paula was brought along. Ashmead asked about Paula the last time I saw him, in 1979. He, too, had an eye for blondes. An interesting class with the interchangeable Scotsmen Woodruff Quinn on aesthetics, criticism, it jibed nicely with my interest in Pound and the background acquired via Wolfgang Clemens - Blackmuir!  Rumor had it that there was a drama teacher named Butman who felt up student’s butts. The German part of my major made for lovely late afternoon coffee and cake at Harry Pfund’s house, lots of Goethe poems learned by heart, and it appears I wrote a great paper on the Faust legend which had caught my fancy. But no stories. Perhaps the moment of grievous disappointment that ensued on reading, was elicited by reading Lukacs’s Das Ende der Vernunft in Berlin was to blame? Also the moment I then felt, retrospectively, when I had come down with mono. I told myself then or perhaps later that I was a writer who could only write about the past, and I needed a new past to be able to write again. Meanwhile I was putting some mileage on the tires. And that estimate turns out to have been correct, there came a moment in the early 80s in New York, with nearly all the rubber burnt off the tire, that I realized, had a feel for every aspect of the city, high and low, and realized how it functioned in the most intimate moment by distinct moments of its inter-connections. I could draw an image of that, like a subway map. As a snapshot. - I had found out things that you could’nt if you went looking for them.

 However, no year abroad, but an easy summer with easy Connie in Nantucket? I might have fallen in love and we might have had the good sense to move off campus. Connie WAS married by the time I got back, to a fine mathematician, named Newcome I think. And they lived off campus! So was Barbara T., to the kind of stud she deserved!

As I had sophomore year, I absolved my extra-curricular activity attending the Barnes Foundation and Violetta de Mezia’s lectures every Wednesday afternoon. If after two years – 18 months – 72 afternoons – of looking at that collection your eye is not halfway well-trained, it will never be.


There was a wonderful course in Astronomy, Profesor Greene taught it at the observatory. I happened to love physics – my grave deficiency was math – I had never recovered my genius for it after the encounter with that Indian Headmaster Master Sargent type at Oakwood. Oedipal shocks and encounters. However, via physics I came on Mach and via Mach to Musil who became the chief object of literary interest at Stanford – for his notion that literature might be as precise as physics. And much much later I actually got back up to snuff, working with a Quark specialist translating his book into English. Quarks proceeded to populate my dreams – e.g. “the charm is off” when I had fallen out of love! - the heart-shaped amulet, from a silver pillbox, dropped off. Yes. I could also fall out of love, not be with or in one or the other beauty for about fifteen years straight at one point in New York. 

As graduation approached I recall the campus in a kind of disarray, folks were kicking soccer balls all around and breaking windows, things, I know Nat Wing, Betsy Nelson’s boyfriend, and I got in trouble breaking something in Barclay. Another fraternity that was not supposed to exist had been found. Frank and I took a Chevy for a joyride and the campus Dick interviewed us – Frank has a story about fugueing in Mid-Air, perhaps it was that for him, too, at the time. For me it was the kind of acting out that had marked nights sophomore year. I didn’t belong into any kind of institution, part of me would forever be the wilde child of my war time childhood. Institutions, like my governess, proved emasculating.
Frank and I were troubled and in a troublingly, disconcertingly, insidiously troubling environment.
The administration was not respected.  The mood of the graduating class at graduation resembled that at Merion at the end of Freshmen year.
#

Paula and I were off to Breadloaf Writer’s conference in Vermont, where destitute me found some great jobs. I had bought myself my first vintage 1939 vehicle, a DeSoto Airflow – the very Chrysler type with an American girl that had turned me on in American magazines as of 1945 – there had been none of the customary model changes due to the war.  Amazingly, the vehicle had a fine engine. However, it taught me a lesson in front end maintenance. The fact that I, or Paula and I, lived through the periodic blowouts, on the Breadloaf mountain road, of one of its front tires, which wore on the inside, still amazes me. And I had no idea how to get a front end fixed! However, Paula was more high-class than an Airflow, she was no Sue Dorland of Sour Orange infamy, Paula belonged into the car I then drove at my first job that summer, as a chauffeur at the Vergennes Basin Harbor Club, its owner, old man Beach, a Mr. McGoo type, in his 1957 Cadillac convertible - which drove… like a waterbed on wheels. All it took for me to get fired from that job was to be overheard grousing that I didn’t feel like working weekends, when I wanted to be at Breadloaf. Subsequently I got a job closer to Breadloaf, at the construction of a dormitory at Middlebury College, first on a crew of Italian-American marble men, then with Polish-American tile layers. I got a union apprentice card and can still feel rubbery tile-glue stick to my hands, and imagine I still know how to crack tiles to make them fit along edges and corners. I always got along better with the American working than its middle class.

  Robert Sward and Karen Termolen are the chief remembrances from those days, who has recently reappeared in my life, a not utterly unsuccessful Canadian poet. Wherever they had been prior to showing up at Breadloaf, they brought exotic tales of youthful daisy chains in the Midwest. I felt ambivalent about Robert Frost, whose work I knew - there were only that many New England homilies I could stomach.
Amazingly, Paula, a talented poet with the best English scores on the advancement test, then was not admitted to the Stanford Writing Program. Perhaps they saw something that I didn’t?  I never did see the limitations when in love with an artist, and I would only fall in love with one artist or after another, because Paula, as she later told me, then “Lost it” – on having kids. Well yes, a cookbook, yes. Thus it is the driven and never entirely happy that become artists who try to snatch a Fetzen of paradise from the  everything destroyer. Poets being the most unhappy of all, as I, the soles of my feet, my soul, would realize many years later in Bulgaria when I found myself in a pub with its floor of broken bottles and glasses that the poets there had smashed and ground finely with heavy boots. 
I was so surprised at Paula not being admitted to Stanford that I fantasized that her father had intervened! I was Oedipal all right. He had made a big point one dinner at the Dunaway residence on Fifth Avenue, he the sturdy little bull of Chevron or Exxon Veep, who drove a Gull-Wing, that he was, that I didn’t seem to register on his cash register. Touché! The only time I ever really focused on money was during my Urizen Books days when I found ways to keep introducing funds while a partner was sluicing them out the back door. When I suddenly made money – oh how nice to have royalties! Like manna from heaven! Overall far too nonchalant for my own good, not to speak of precious Paula who was meant to be kept in the state to which her father had accustomed her. I got the point, but even if it had made the difference I would not have known how to make money for its own, or in this case a wife’s sake.   Yale once again refusing to provide me with the monies, to attend Comp Lit this time, to which Paula had been admitted, meant that I would go to Stanford German department and Teaching Assistance. Setting up Paula’s apartment in New Haven I came down with what was diagnosed as appendicitis, but turned out to be an infection of glands in that region, yet another reminder of the Mono or whatever it had been. The only thing interesting about the operation was the unpleasantness of your intestinal region in such shock that you are unable to urinate unless someone, in this instance several Swarthmore interns, with jokes about Haverford up their sleeves, introducing an ever to painful catheter into your urethra. Oh yes, and as Paula and I, enshrouded by the privacy curtain for the hospital bed, were petting who should stick his head in unannounced – a religious, collar and all. Alas. - And I was faithful to Paula, that entire summer – a vibrant splendor in the grass Ms. Goucher notwithstanding – all those vibrant young women eager to find a taker for their marvelous love - and the following year, at Stanford, with delightful young beautiful women who had little else in their pretty heads but to flirt deliciously with their German T.A. I think they come flirting out of the womb!
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NOTES 
(1)
In the instance of Haverford, the real, it did not help matters that there turned out to be two secret Greek Letter type fraternities that Haverford had made a big point in claiming that it did not have – that is, that the holier than thou Quaker administration was not straight with the student body.

(2) By the time I came on Faulkner I had a number of other obsessions under my belt. Karl May as a pre-teen, P.G. Wodehouse, to laugh myself through my first bad case of the American  flue, Joyce – a life-long Joycean, G.B. Shaw, Somerset Maugham, most of Dostoevsky, Conrad and James to come the following summer, to be followed by Kafka, and the first time I delved into the scholarship in which Kafka and his work is embedded. “Das rote Brod des Max Brod is Kafka Tod.” Kafkas Prayer –  interesting whiffs of all kinds emanated from the scholarship, vast realms. - There followed, to lesser degree, D.H. Lawrence, Virginia  Wolfe, E.M. Forster, Pound but not the Cantos in their entirety, most of Goethe, Fontane with others to come; lots of Irish writers and playwrights courtesy of Stephen Daedalus. This was the time of the rise of intelligent book clubs, vast quantities of reading material was acquired at a good price. -   The most astonishing event during that class was to experience the effect that Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers had on a chubby little redhead,  Gibson – I don’t recall anyone ever being that upset by a piece of writing! – it was clearly the mother son incest theme that affected him so intensely, he was heaving he was so upset, and flushed. I don’t recall the teacher at all –  , I believe it was an interchangeable lot for that course. However, since my English was still quite raw I was in remedial for a while with Otto Friedrich, but then switched to Ashmead, because Frank advertised him, and Ashmead was a pleasurably tough-minded teacher, also of writing. In his class that year I wrote the best thing I wrote in college, a story called Sandro (in the footnote). Ashmead had a nice way going about it when you told him you were about to write a story. He’d ask you to outline, write down the gist, and then compose it in two drafts. For me, he had just the right combination of being encouraging and critical, and you felt treated as an adult. He also was not at all reluctant to give an F – at one point I had some crazy forced idea, I still have them. - Sandro was the first time since 1949 that something grew in me and kind of wrote itself out of me, although it was not an obvious fairy tale about how The Devils Hill had acquired its name as the one I wrote for Dr. Breyer at Plön. It concerned death and the paradisiacal place I had grown up in, Fir Place. It made sense that later, within the decade. I would come on Walter Benjamin and his essay on how fairy tales grow, his essay on Leskov. (>"Ennui [Lange Weile] is the dreambird that hatches the egg of experience."] A Bryn Mawr student then did an analysis of the story, and found so much in it that if I had good sense I would have married her and tend me so that I would write nothing but fine true tales of that kind.


3) Both during sophomore and senior year there was at least one group that fancied roaming at night, be it on Bryn Mawr roofs and dorms, or liberating fine liquor from the Mainline liquor cabinets when their owners were on vacation. (I learned to appreciate good Rye whiskey, either straight, or with soda in the summer. But never more than one shot.)


A CONROY NOTE

By Sophomore year, after the Summer Interlude in the Big City I was rooming with friends in an altogether different part of campus, and those arrangements relate to the actual first real event during my first few days at Haverford, and it was in many ways the most important, and it transpired in front of a monstrosity that really stands out for unmitigated ugliness in such a pretty pastoral 18th century campus – behold the so perfectly delicate and proportioned Founders Hall https://www.google.com/search?q=founders+hall+haverford+college&bav=on.2,or.r_cp.r_qf.&bvm=bv.47883778,bs.1,d.cGE&biw=910&bih=400&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&ei=WRXBUeG_GOrwiwK5r4DYBg

 and its porch and its forever stinky slippery Gingkos – a first encounter which transpired in front of Barclay Hall. 


And it was not a gargoyle descending or vampire stepping out of Barclay and its echoing hallways, which would not have especially surprised me, it would only have been fitting for the ambience that Barclay exuded; dark granite, big bats in the belfry, chiseled rock faces. But it was a gangly acned fellow standing on the sidewalk – and we fell to talking. It was Frank Conroy closest friend for approximaly 20 years until he fled the Big City for the wages of having been unable to ride a steed entitled American success. All this I could foretell by regarding his lankiness? No, I could foretell nothing. It was all very vague. 


However, we appear to have exchanged some information. He had spent a year in Europe, his mother was Danish.  That right away established two connections. To the question what he wanted to be, Frank, with enviable certainty, replied that he would be a writer. I may have mentioned that I was starting to write again in English, but whether that would be my profession? I was an avid reader and interested in books, and that would probably be my field. We expressed mutual interest in women. Unequivocal in that matter and that respect.  What a shame that I hadn’t the money and insisted to live off campus and was in a position to offer Frank a room so that we would not have been subject to Haverford’s honor code. That thought had already crossed my mind at my first visit to Lower Marion and its Annex.  . 


    Frank was also generous with the use of the 54 Chevy convertible he bought Sophomore year, cum necking knob.   In front of Barclay I may have mentioned my interest in Faulkner that was fresh upon me and would determine my entire Freshman year. At any event, we became close enough friends, as did Frank with Jamie Johnson, another Oakwood graduate who had gone on to Haverford, that we decided to room together, with Marty Weigart, a scientist and lanky basketball star, bright and  with a sadistic streak it turned out. Frank was the first person to mention my sleepwalking or, rather, sleepstandingup in bed to me.
















PARIS


I may have mentioned that I seem to have been under the impression that it was de rigeur for a young man coming to Paris to visit a whore in the Pigalle quarter and what a fiasco that turned out to be, lost in the vast womb of the eternal whore, the penis quickly turned into a “little one” with its requisite “petit chapeau,”  which is perhaps why I didn’t undertake any of the other rigorous de rigeurs of the time. No Eiffel Tower for me, no Louvre, not at the time. Why go to a whore if you’ve been having as much as sex as I was having – well, the problem with having good and plentiful sex seemed to have been and be that the more you are having the more you want, or at least at the same rate. And for that purpose, quite unasked, who should show up in Paris but the Ms. Sensuality of Munich – of each bed is a trampoline fame - there she was at a café! De rigeur, however, is if your funds are limited, to stay at a flea bag, mine  in the Rue de la Sorbonne, immediately adjacent, not a long walk from the bodega on the Rue Monsieur le Prince where I picked up a case of scabies tended to eventually by the American clinic in Paris.


Paris turned out to be the first major city to discover by means of getting lost. Gare du Nord,  Gare de l’Est… Faubourg’s galore… Nonetheless, I loved the metro, the pissoirs the adventurous buses, the bookstalls along the Seine, the Jardin de Luxembourg. Montmartre. Mont Parnasse. Bois de Boulogne, the simple clean prix fixe eateries and vin ordinaire, the early morning croissant and café au lait, the oyster stalls, Les Halles and all the small Les Halles here there and everywhere. My rudimentary French sufficed for rudimentary negotiations. And I ought to have had the good sense to make sure to end up living there.


Harvey was studying in Paris, we had already re-encountered in Garmisch over Christmas and done elementary skiing – I may not have played much soccer at Haverford, but my knees were ruined long before. Monica showed up and we did a lot of wrestling in my 1939 BMW convertible two seater, just like Opa A.'s!. Harvey and I both loved theater – as distinct from my friendship with Frank Conroy who had an ignorant aversion to it as he did to Mozart, very odd coming from such a fine jazz pianist, and not changed until much later in life. The Theatre de la Huchette was playing Ionesco’s La Cantatrice Chauve & La Lecon – ah, what an utter delight for a confirmed (also Groucho) Marxist. For both Harvey and me. Le Vieux Colombier… all the theaters of the time. And also afternoons afternoons after another at the Cinematheque. The great Russian films in particular. -  I seem to have had the address of a Yugoslav director, Vlado Habonek, who I seemed to have met during the Fasching whirl in Munich, he had tickets to this and that. The Fasching whirl – I did not want to repeat it, I had become so involved in so many scenes I would have never gone to a single class again – one other major reason to switch to Berlin for the following semester. Remembered among the offerings are a wonderful performance of Balzac’s Le Faseur, the predecessor of Wating for Godot, with Gerard Phillipe at the TNP, which I adapted in the early 90s, and then the event that nailed down my resolve to spend the second semester in Berlin: the Berliner Ensemble’s guest performance at the Comedie Francaise of Brecht’s Mutter Courage – in pretty much its original edition with Helene Weigel. Now that was an event, and it was very different from anything I had seen before, and I was quite thoughtful as Vlado and I walked back to the Left Bank… and he suddenly stopped at a display window, the small kind of display window box into which you put precious jewelry, the kind with extra thick glass that it takes a major sledge hammer to break down. Wanting to see what had arrested my friend’s attention – Vlado was in his 40s, from Zagreb, a medium sized to slight man, regular looking, a face on the slim side, intelligent, and had already invited me to attend the Dubrovnik festival where he was putting on Verdi’s Don Carlos as well as a Hamlet and Goethe’s Iphigenia. As I had been walking near the gutter I didn’t immediately catch what caught Vlados attention and when I peeked across his shoulder I noted that he looked transfixed at a pair of panties, but not just any pair of panties I realized, these were silken, they had the most precious sheen, and a yellow pink glow, and were displayed on velvet and exceedingly well lighted, and the then unusual triangular shape, and if this panty fetishist to be had seen them covering a precious hussy’s pubis he would have even been more transfixed, and it would be some time before he met hussies who knew about such underwear and sophisticated love-making, now every Asian girl that comes to Seattle, first thing she does is head for Victoria’s Secret. However one thing, as I looked more closely, was very different about these panties, they had a powerful protuberance that could only signify what I later heard called “well hung!” Little if anything I knew then or for a long time about what it meant to be gay, even having fended off about three passes over the years, I realized that my friend Vlado seemed to be so. However, he had not laid as much as an arm around my shoulder, nor did he ever, he was a fine reader of my stories, but felt I hadn’t yet the hang of the general ongoing tragedy, meaning that by tthe time I would I would/ might become a real writer, and not be that upset. I couldn’t really imagine anything of the kind, but my appetite was whetted. I turned to the street and pretended not to have looked when Vlado - who failed to ask me if I shared his fascination with this pair of panties, or ask if I wanted to accompany him when he bought a pair - mentioned that we needed to walk on. Via Vlado or perhaps around the same time in Munich I had met a Prinz von und zu Thurn und Taxis, a strong bloke in whose Porsche Harvey and I had a memorable ride to Chartres. Was it Johannes? I will let Harvey fill in here if he likes. There was also something strange about Prince T&T, 


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thurn_und_Taxis


because at one point as we walked down a set of long wide stairs, at the TNP I think, or was it in an elevator, his thumb and forefinger clasped my neck, as though I was a frog was the thought that flashed throug my mind as I shook him off. And he didn’t do it again. Still, a peculiar boundary violation among men who scarcely knew each other. However, I was kind of proud to have come to know someone from that fabled family, decadent as it may have been, its name was what got me, the profusion of puns that it elicited.


What had it been? Six weeks, two months in Paris, and I left with two script dollars, the currency in which the U.S. Army was paid. These two dollars were meant to get me back to Vaihingen, Stuttgart where I would be re-financed, shouts of “Algerie Francaise” continue to echo in my memory chamber. It was the time of the Algerian war. I appreciated how the flics used the lead-weighted coats and truncheons to control demonstrators who were adept at tossing huge cobble-type stones and how they chased them into side streets. I was in a city that had seen a lot of that for the past several hundred years and then read why Monsieur Haussmann had built such wide boulevards that it was such a pleasure to walk. Thus Paris would be a city I would never feel lonely in but did not visit often enough; and then on to Berlin. -  


I seem to have managed to get to Strasbourg without too much difficulty and spent the night wrapped in the standard issue green U.S. Army coat, in a corner of the railway station. And was woken early in the morning to what I still regard as one of the uniquely absurd moments of my life. Someone was tugging at my right shoulder and, as I gradually awoke from deep sleep, and looked at a face that had lowered itself in my direction I noticed that the man’s other hand held a postcard, its address field showing, and then asked me, in broken English, whether I thought the postcard would get more quickly to the United States if he sent it air mail or not. I was a bit taken aback, a bit puzzled, thinking – this cannot be happening?  Am I dreaming this? Is this one of my unusual dreams? Am I sleepwalking again? When I realized that it was not a dream, the thoughts “is he putting me on?” and “if he is putting me on, why?”  the French snail of my mind allowed itself to think, as he repeated the question, and I decided to give a straight answer – the postcard did have a U.S. address – and said, in English - I couldn’t tell whether the fellow was German or French - to make sure to put the right airmail postage on it and it would get there in a week. I have been haunted by this event all my life, as though it were emblematic of more than itself, of absurdity itself.


I walked across the Rhine bridge to Germany and got my second Porche Ride (the first had been to Chartres with that Thurn & Taxis Prince) from a French Mystere Pilot! The Porsche flew in as much as a Porsche can on the Autobahn, that is just about! However, his base was somewhere in the Schwarzwald and I was deposited in the middle of it, still with nothing but two script dollars and, I realized, my solid silver cigarette lighter, a gift from my mother, worth a least $ 25.00 if you melted it down. I decided to offer the lighter in exchange for one good Blackforest ham sandwich and a glass of milk. I was so famished I felt I was hallucinating. But no, neither of the two eateries in the village would make a deal. They looked suspiciously at me, my two script dollars, the stamped silver imprimatur and said no, an experience of Schwarzwaelder behavior subsequently confirmed by any German I met who derived from that dark quarter. I concluded that those people seemed not to have got over the ravages of the thirty years war. Worse than Scotsmen. 


Then I got a ride in a fine car, but not a Mercedes, Mercedes seemed notable for not giving rides, from a couple in front and a fine young woman in her late 20s in back, nothing like the first event of its kind at the shores of Lake Ontario with a fruit ready for the picking. This was a mature young woman. They were off to a weekend somewhere and they either had a sandwich with them or bought me one. They were nice, youngish and uncomplicated and optimistic, and when they reached the turn-off to their destination the young woman asked me if I didn’t want to spend the weekend with them. And once again I had to say no, I was bothered by having only two script dollars, and that I did not have that much time to spare. I didn’t want to be beholden, even though I realized I was with generous people who only wanted to have a good time.


The few days back in my parents apartment at the U.S. Army base in in Vaihingen, prior to going to Berlin, are notable for two matters, at least they are that in my memory. One was that I made an immediate date to go to the movies with the ripe fruit that I was positive wanted devouring in a backseat or wherever or right in the movie theater, and that one morning as I woke up Dick mentioned that he had seen me sleepwalking. The previous night, my mother being asleep, he asked me not to put on a record, Bruckner I’m quite positive. I had then turned in, but in an hour or so had come back out into the living room, in my underwear, sat down by the record player, put on the record and played it at a very low volume and then gone back to sleep without taking the slightest notice of him. “Hm,” I said who had no recollection of having done anything of the kind, only of Dick’s prohibition.


Now follows the exerpted Berlin Section:


http://artscritic.blogspot.com/2014/12/berlin-1957-section-from-screen-memories.html

Thursday, December 11, 2014

BERLIN 1957 SECTION FROM SCREEN MEMORIES

BERLIN


Fränzi, Berliner Ensemble, Georgy Lukacs, a Hungarian sheep dog, Brecht, Krosigk’ Bookshop,

the rubble fields.


By the time I returned to Berlin, city of my birth, for the first time since the amazing Christmas of 1949, in Spring 1957, for Spring Semester at the F.U., the Free (as compared to the East Berlin Humboldt) University, I had had several heart aches – Sue Dorland, the star of the U.S. automobile industry advertisements, in West Orange, several at Oakwood School, none but potentials during my first two years at Haverford, Nona had been an incestous object during earliest sexual explorations, a  relationship that might have led to the most open of marriages if we kids had been left to our own devices and somehow managed to have Fir Place all to ourselves without “the cold war” putting an end to our Idyllic Years in 1947, but had proved to have become governessy by the time I saw her again in Hamburg in Fall 1956, or maybe she was just jealous that promiscuous me and a Dutch princess and another girl had the hots for each other, but seemingly no longer for her, and most recently, Fasching time in Munich, I had been nearly in love with the high-class ex-diving champion Dorothea, while finally finding some real sexual satisfaction with Miss Sensuality, aka Ms Trampoline a marvelously athletic slut.  The one romantic consummation, at age 17, had been so tumultuous it had upset and frightened me; subsequently, there had been Connie the easy - Easy come easy go afforded considerable pleasure yet I was looking for that one real girlfriend or fiend for the duration, for a kind of ordinary regular true love. And withal the aforegoing, I had managed to carry the torch for Franziska/ Fränzi ever since my first chaste kiss seven years ago during that fabulous 1949 Berlin X-mas (after seeing The Red Shoes) and, as was to be expected,  the then 12 year old Fränzi had indeed turned into Moira Shearer in the interim


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moira_Shearer.


No, not by any means or a long shot. Fränzi was far superior but also far less manageable than any dream image might be. Fränzi was a young woman who had bloomed, while I was doing petting parties with Oakwood girls, Fränzi was already having adolescent Berlin orgies, which is why 


Berlin girls and women are some of the best in the world, Fränzi had broken open, medium sized, well built, nubile, thoroughly attractive, dark haired and upon the instant of her and my re-encounter, our laying eyes on each other at her father, Dr. Albrecht Tietze’s house – Dr. Albrecht Tietze, the physician who, and Dr. Charlotte Pommer, had saved my father’s life when the Gestapo had delivered the suicidal


http://www.lukasverlag.com/programm/titel/317-gestapo-im-op.html


 father to Tietze’s Berlin Police Hospital so as to repair him for the Gestapo’s legally proper killing - this being the background why we two young people had even met at Christmas 1949, not that the background history – and its gruesome dimensions - were in the forefront of pure minds then, or to be found on our minds’ backburner but very dimly now in Spring 1957, as we realized, at once, that our destiny was the basement couch, as soon as I had got myself some condoms! 


The inadvertent matchmaker had been my mother, Lexi, the clever one, who found travel and living arrangements for her son, as she had guns and papers for irredentists during her years as counter-spy during the Nazi years. 


Unprepared for such responsiveness from a highly and chastely esteemed beloved, I had, actually, to go out and buy condoms before Fänzi told me that she loved to be naughty (Ungezogenheiten, Schweinereien) and that during a time that I was stll skittish in such matters,and perhaps also too stubborn to be obliging - Fränzi also had a boyfriend – yes things moved awfully fast, Fränzi was a fast girl - a Russky, who called Fränzi “Meine Affäre” and quickly proved jealous of a fellow he derisively called “Ami”, and not with the French pronunciation.  Meanwhile, during several weeks, her father Albrecht absent, the chaste flame, on standby all these years, now stoked by more powerful combustibles than adoration fantasy and longing, transformed into ardor. Fraenzi complimented me on what she called my sexual vigor – three times at night!  It appeared that if you got it up once in Berlin you were doing quite well at the time. Berliners sounded tired. Still fagged out by the war and aftermath.Had competitiveness played a part, as it would in the future when a hussy found a way to play two lovers off against each other? I don’t think so, I think I imagine, if I imagined anything, the Russky would just disappear, or perhaps his existence was entirely denied until he appeared physically on the scene,  sick gums, Skorbut, and all, and my gums began to fray as well, and once again I availed myself of an American clinic, for the syph? No, something less serious. Fränzi showed up all black and blue and would not sleep with me, the Ami, any more - a flame arrested in mid-flame, shocked. Not a Red Shoes kind of story at all, is it?


At that point I might have got lucky and at least read Peter Handke’s Moravian Night where he has the Austrian dramatist Raimund warning how dangerous women can be for writers or I guess for people who pursue single-minded tasks single-mindedly for twenty four hours a day seven days a week, 24/7 the shorthand for it now. Or had had my analyst who tried to warn me – boringly, after I had already learned this expensive lesson - about the danges of womanizing – where the man-eaters do the womanizing philandering Lothario in. But Peter Handke was only fifteen years old in 1957 and had just got his first fountain pen and written an essay called “my first fountain pen” at his monastery Tanzenberg and I would not run into him at the of rotten fish and cow dung stinking Cordula/ Krk when the boat that took me from Venice to Dubrovnik that summer of 1957 stopped at that island in the Adriatic. How long it took both of us, different though our endeavors and talents, to appreciate Raimund’s advice! 


No Russky in the works, a Fraenzi who makes a different choice, and the story might have been a very different one: what did Haverford or the United States have that beckoned as much as theater in Berlin? I might easily have re-emigrated. Fränzi was wonderful in bed, she loosened me up, we ought to have had a trampoline, and out of it, how wonderful to have her by my side night after night as I went to the theater, she was smart and clever, just what I needed, light. If she also had her father’s depth? I never found out. So much then for a homecoming to the city of my birth, Berlin, whose cool dry air had generally dispelled a down mood, and would in the future.


#


I don’t recall how my mother and I got to Berlin, I suspect we drove, the Soviets permitted a kind of direct throughway on the Autobahn, Helmsdorf was that the name of the point of entry to the way through East Germany? At Christmas 1949 it had been a DC-3 to Templehof.


After three weeks, with Fraenzi off to have a tubercular gland removed, I moved into an apartment that I recall as I do few others. Located a few floors up at the corner of Fasanen and Kant Strasse, not too far from the Zoo Railway Station or the Ku-Damm and an aunt Ursula von Krosigk's bookshop, and the Gedaechtniss Kirche, it consisted of two large rooms exactly the same dimension, an inbetween bathroom and kitchen, perhaps its geometric simplicity is one reason it is so firmly delineated in the memory after all these years. One room was occupied by my land lady, a tall if not statuesque slim, strong, small-breasted red-head, a serious medical student, and her Hungarian shepherd, I mean sheep dog. The other room was mine, and the Hungarian shepherd and I played endless games of catch the tennis ball that I tossed against the wall – and, at each unfailing catch, propelled by its amazing high-jumper legs, I was astounded how any eye could see anything through such a thick layer of Hungarian sheep’s wool!


My mother inquired about Fränzi, was I becoming the kind of lay-a-broad that my father had been for so many years? Was I faithless in not seeing her anymore? And I might have explained what had gone wrong, the half-way complicated business, and I would have had it been able to articulate it in something of the fashion as I did just now. And she would have understood. But I was in a kind of shock – also at being thought faithless – how so, why?  Was I meant to accept sharing a g.f. in that fashion? - and so I did not say anything at all.


One young woman I met, who knew of my status as an U.S. Army dependent, asked me for a few difficult to obtain goodies from  the P.X (Army Post Exchange), and I found them for her, but did not follow her invitation to come by her place any time I wanted. I was going and I went full force from decadence into a monastery of my own devising. And she, who was clever and bright and pretty, might have been the Berlin version of Ms. Sensuality of Munich, and far superior to mere marvelous pure sexuality. Amis were sought after, also as husbands to emigrate with!


Nor did I respond to siren calls in East Berlin where the theatrical activity far exceeded that in the West. A CIA man, at the U.S. Consulate, which was headed by a family friend since his stationing in Bremen in 1945, asked me whether I could be debriefed once a month in exchange for $ 100, got cold shouldered, too. $ 100 could get you 400 Deutsch Mark at that point and 400 Deutsch Mark translated into 1,600 East Mark, and I think I bought my complete 50 volume set of the works of Marx and Engels for the price of 100 East Mark and did not read them as religiously as I did my twenty volumes of Georgy Lukacs essays. I don’t know: if the fellow in the Yale tie had offered $ 1000, or even $ 500 I might have sold my soul – however, in the back of my mind was my mother’s entrapment by the Gestapo and that once part of any such an organization, even as the tiniest of stringers, you could never entirely extricate yourself. Trapped! And for $ 1000 I expect I would have been asked to provide more than what the sight and ear collector happened to pick up by mere chance, mere nothings. Which brings to mind whether I looked up the heroic head of the “Combat Group against Inhumanity” whom my stepfather, an OSS/ CIC officer in the Berlin of the late 1940s, had started to fund? I don’t recall. I saw him later when there was a wall, and a Checkpoint Charlie and he had the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. My Victor Laszlo!


Observing what transpired in East Berlin, and observing it in a CIA fashion would have crimped my easy going style – and indeed the going and coming was easy: there was no Berlin Wall, no Checkpoint Charlie, a U.S. Passport provided complete access to the French, British, U.S. and Russian administered city. You took the S or U-Bahn to Bahnhof Friedrichstrasse, the Berliner Ensemble at the Schiffbauerdam was my most frequent destination, and for many other venues it was the easiest stop - but at night, near invariably, no matter the time, I walked home… through the rubble fields, past the still half-destroyed house in the Budapester Strasse, in what was called the “Diplomatic Quarter,” where my parents had had an apartment during the war and where I had either heard or hallucinated the screams of the Zoo animals during a bombing attack in 1943, screams that continue to haunt me, and visualized my mother - as she was supposed to have been after a bomb blast had ripped off the façade of their building - making tea in the morning, with the outside wall gone, open air, there was Mrs. Roloff in her pink nightgown, every bird if they had not all been killed could talk to her. Open air.  And that is what I told the recruiter: “I think it would crimp my style.” But after his suggestion I did look more closely at my surroundings and also considered which if any Americans might be reporting to him. It was a dimension I just as soon kept confined to books. There was stuff going on and I was a consumer of culture – cultures I dimly realized that were in competition with each other, I the beneficiary of the ideological competition. 


For the four months I was in Berlin I went to theater or the opera or opera Comique each and every night. And befriended two men, Fred Jameson, who was four years older and had gone to Haverford and was on a Fulbright and may have already written if not published his first book, on Sartre (and Fred and I would have a spell of future together as editors of Metamorphosis), Sartre who interested me as a dramatist, say, the brilliant The Prisoners of Altona. Huis Clos not really that much. I imagine this was the period during which Fred became a Marxist.

The other theater fanatic I hooked up with was Ralph Langbacka, a member of the Swedish minority in Finland, who went on to become a famous director there. I suspect we met at the Kantine of the Ensemble where they served Krim Sekt (Champagne from the Crimean peninsula it was said) and Chinese cigarettes, allegedly made from Camel dung but with such a minute nicotine content they could not have proved cancerous to a mosquito, if mosquito’s smoke, that is, straw. We appear to have mingled with the casts that showed up after the perfomances, many of which became memorable to this day, and not all Brecht pieces by any means. I recall a marvelous Playboy of the Western World and especially Johannes R. Becher’s infamous Stalinschlacht with a real tank on the revolving stage and heroic Russian soldiers in white wolfskin ? coats one of whom was Carl Weber whom I would work with when he became a director in the United States. A piece like Stalinschlacht and why it was even performed and who Johannes R. Becher was and the role he played in the DDR – those were matters you then found out later. I read the Versuche and thought about the acting and performance theory and how Brecht gave thought about construction of his fable. I think I saw a Chalk Circle and a Puntilla and a Galileo… but I can no longer distinguish between performances I actually saw or imagined on the basis of the illustrated Theater Arbeit that gave a record of these performances and that I studied intensely then and subsequently. I don’t think the Cariolanus was ready, Brecht had just died, stupidly of the flue.



II


I enrolled at the FU (Freie Univsitaet) but did not attend a single course, not even Allewyn’s Germam Baroque seminar, a grievous mistake that I did not make up in Graduate School and that still haunts me; but I read, at my aunt’s bookshop on the Ku-Damm, the Russian poets of the time of the Revolution, the Russian formalists, chiefly 


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viktor_Shklovsky 


whose Sentimental Journey – a Kommissar writing while fighting in the Revolution would become a secret support fantasy during my years in New York! – but I did my reading, the sheepdog looking over my shoulder and interrupting invariably at the right moment as cats would in the future, chiefly at home, or at the practically next door (Steak au pommes frites) Paris Bar, then the simplest of student eateries that also served nostalgia for its just departed origins – my neighborhood seemed to lack the kind of “home cooking” that had become such a surrogate comfort in Munich. I read, not only all of Brecht, but read read read the collected literary essays – all of about 20 volumes of them - of Georgy Lukacs. These I had come upon in East Berlin in their uniform dark blue Aufbau Verlag covers, and read from cover to end, and a lot of the works that he discussed, especially those that I did not know already, and annotated annotated the whole range of Lukacs breadth and depths as a literary scholar of what is called the ‘realistic’ tradition – it ranged from Shakespeare to Thomas Mann – a huge range - Lukacs was one of these great transitional figures who brought, dragged the immensity of 19th century scholarship with him, thus he proved a kind of ten course meal, this really was the first instance of reading a critic at such length and depth… and that he seemed not to understand or sympathize with what was “realistic“ in Brecht and Kafka and the other moderns and in some German expressionist poets - it didn’t seem to matter. Well, yes, if he’d been in the same room with me, I’d have had him jumping like his surrogate Hungarian sheepdog! I’d have argued like mad! Naphta, in The Magic Mountain, is supposedly modeled on him. It would have been good to read all this in a seminar and have discussants. Did I discuss Lukacs with Fred Jameson whom I ran into and became friends with in East Berlin? I did not come upon Lukacs’s Class Consciousness, I think it was on the East German index at the time. However, it was reading Lukacs’ Die Zerstoerung der Vernunft (The Destruction of Reason), a critical philosophical tract, that I had one of those clicks... I was just reading along, and my guess it was not just the disappointment that the irruption of unreason as described by Lukacs, but also that that was the moment I became ill from the disappointement that the once first love for whom I had carried the torch all those years had been. 


 Lukacs was my introduction to Marxism and Marxist aesthetics, and by 1964 I was reading Adorno, and a few years later I prepared a wonderful Adorno reader for Farrar, Straus with an introduction by Susan Sontag. Lukacs of course felt, famously, that Adorno resided in the “Hotel Abyss” and felt comfortable there. True enough, lobster this and lobster that at the Frankfurter Hof. I, despite my origins and I suppose refined literary taste, appear to be perfectly happy with sound peasant fare.


The first two things that come to my mind if you drop the name Georgy Lukacs into it – I can’t tell how much of the voluminous that I sought to absorb at the time in Berlin is usefully embedded  - are the concept of “interest” and his formulation “machtgeschütze Innerlichkeit.” The concept of interest is not only useful in appreciating the correspondence between the utter irrationality of the financial affairs of capitalism and the multifarious irrationalisms it fosters, but also most useful psychoanalytically when addressing the ultimately selfish and sometimes interestingly unselfish beings, species that we are. In Lukacs’s instance it served him to dismember class and other interest in quite a sophisticated manner, always from a progressive and optimistic humanist perspective.  However, I would have been in a position to have asked Lukacs how he felt about Faulkner, since Faulkner presented a huge canvas Lebenswelt and his means ranged from the Shakespearean to the most modernist and cannot be said to have been equaled for a novelist of the city in a long time. 


I myself read Lukacs Theory of the Novel at that time, in 1957, precisely as he advises you not to in his extraordinary self-critique and positioning of himself, in the 1962 preface to a new edition “If he (a naïve reader – Moi-même) picks up the book in the hope that it will serve him as a guide, the result will only be a still greater disorientation.” Just what the doctored ordered in other words! The idea put forward in The Theory of the Novel, although formally similar, is in fact the complete opposite of this: the problems of the novel form are here the mirror-image of a world gone out of joint. This is why the ‘prose’ of life is here only a symptom, among many others, of the fact that reality no longer constitutes a favorable soil for art; that is why the central problem of the novel is the fact that art has to write off the closed and total forms which stem from a rounded totality of being — that art has nothing more to do with any world of forms that is immanently complete in itself. And this is not for artistic but for historico-philosophical reasons: ‘There is no longer any spontaneous totality of being”, the author of The Theory of the Novel says of present-day reality. A few years later Gottfried Benn put the same thought in another way: ‘... there was no reality, only, at most, its distorted image. In The Theory of the Novel, he coins the term "transcendental homelessness". Defining the term as the "longing of all souls for the place in which they once belonged, and the 'nostalgia… for utopian perfection, a nostalgia that feels itself and its desires to be the only true reality'". And here, Lukacs and Adorno seem to meet and agree, the Adorno who considered Le Temp Perdu the end of the novel. And if you look at the childhoods of all these extraordianary people - Adorno, Bloch, Horkheimer, Krakauer, Lukacs et al – one feature that they seem to share is extremely well to do families and quite wonderful childhoods.


#


It was while reading György Lukács 


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gy%C3%B6rgy_Luk%C3%A1cs


and picking up gobs of utilitarian information about genres and types that I then turned to his Die Zerstörung der Vernunft (The Destruction of Reason) and I think it was 


http://www.marxists.org/archive/lukacs/works/destruction-reason/ch03.htmhttp://libcom.org/tags/georg-lukacs


during the chapter on Nietzche that something quite unusual transpired that continues to mystify… something cracked inside my head! Not the way the ice cracked when a sled hit it full force after you had schussed down the slope and took off by the embankment on our pond during a deep freeze – a crack when you landed that resounded like ice lightning and left cracks running way off in every direction; nor the way that my double-bit might bite into a tree trunk. There had been a kind of decompression that I called the loss of faith in God after a walk up Eagle Rock Road in Sour Orange… the air slowly coming out of a punctured balloon or a punctured tire – it made good sense, especially in retrospect, considering the so Sour experience of Sour Orange – which had gotten to me, I was disenchanted! Bitterness would be something else. Subsequent to what might have been a kind of crack-up as the mind was digesting Lukacs description of the cumulative effect of irrationalism in German philosophy, the interest the philosophers were serving, I have had some extraordinarily interesting kinds of brain events, not just mental phenomenon, during and subsequent to my psychoanalysis and its complete regression. First of all, there was that memorable flinch that even the brain experienced as I came on a description, in 1947, of my grandfather being tortured in Buchenwald, a flinch that resulted in the instantaneous resolution that I had to get out of this country where in 1957 I then saw Wolfgang Staudte’s The Murderers Amongst Us, and then during psychoanalysis the kind of creaking that gives literal physiological expression to the appellation “shrink” as the brain expands and makes new connections. Novel at first, I became used to it as part of the procedure and was fascinated to observe the effect of the loosening of repression. Then came other and dream experiences that produced or were accompanied by actual feelings inside the brain. My ear discerned during a telephone conversation to Berlin, in 1984, that a lover was leaving – in the subsequent dream the top half of my head lifted off and I felt half decapitated for some days. - I was desperately trying to cut, break off the connection to a woman I perceived to be my femme fatale - again there was an incestuous connection to the mother – and I happened to cut my hair prior to taking a snooze. In the dream that woke me from that snooze the edge of razor – the Razor’s Edge! - cut into my brain as I left the lover. That made a certain sense, since I was cutting into the deepest connection and it was an exceedingly painful thing to do (perhaps also for the woman) to cut off a connection that had happened to foist itself on a deadly beautiful object, and a revenant as well,  but I felt brain-numbed, brain-dead for days. At one point during the analysis of the analysis with a different quite wonderful analyst on the West Coast my nose was suddenly filled with an unutterable stink that seemed to emanate directly from my brain – I had realized already that your sense of smell, as well as all other senses, is renovated to ab nova not just during the lifting of repression but especially during a complete regression as I had undergone, experienced. “Brain farts” was how I heard a self-depreciating patient describe her thoughts, a wonderful expression. Still – to feel that your brain is filled with farts! A Samuel Beckett moment, for the brain in the flower pot on the window sill. The brain turns out to be a sensate organ. Then came a moment someone knocked the hat off my head in a dream – a definite message to not be too grandiose! And the message came, via the unconscious, from Zeus! 

However, that moment in Berlin in that barren room with just a bedstead and a lot of books and a desk, and the Georgy Lukacs sheepdog, where I was reading and reading and reading, and reading a very particular book that described the destruction of something perhaps more precious than an idealized beloved – it was like a bell that cracked, precisely, to be as exact as I can be, the way a walnut cracks – just once! ‘So I am nuts and now a cracked nut at that’ went through my head – what if  a herd of squirrels invades my brain will it be like a bag of shelled peanuts? - no, it wasn’t a funny feeling at all. However, later I experienced the Northridge earthquake in 1994 in Los Angeles, it struck during the night, while I was asleep, and it injured my inner ear, and I listed like a torpedoed ship for a few weeks – and I think “quake” is perhaps the best description, one quick quake boom, the kind that had preceded the actual quake, off Catalina Island, was what transpired early summer of 1957 in Berlin, say, at a passage such as this, “Nietzsche proceeded resolutely from this distortion, which manifested itself in his age as world-weariness, pessimism, nihilism, dissipation, lack of self-belief, lack of perspectives and so on. Recognizing himself in these decadent types, he regarded them as brothers. But in his opinion, it was precisely these decadent attributes which would provide the right material for the new lords of the earth. As we have noted, he considered himself to be decadent and to be its antithesis at one and the same time. This avowal is just an epigrammatic summary of the concluding section of Zarathustra: here the ‘higher men’ gather round Zarathustra — a gallery of the most diverse decadent types that Nietzsche characterizes with shrewd psychology — and to them is addressed the prophetic announcement of the Superman and eternal recurrence. The conquest of decadence, or its own self-conquest, is not Nietzsche’s aim. When he praises the philosophical merits of his eternal recurrence, he is chiefly praising its nihilistic, relativistic and perspectiveless character. ‘Let us think this idea in its most fearful form: existence just as it is, without meaning or goal, but inevitably returning into nothingness without a finale: eternal recurrence. That is the most extreme form of nihilism. Nothingness (the “meaningless”) for ever more!’[124] Hence this new perception was intended to rein force decadent nihilism rather than to supersede it. What Nietzsche wanted was to obtain on this basis a change of direction, a turn-round, without affecting the status quo. All decadent attributes were to be converted into tools for a militant advocacy of capitalism, and the decadents themselves into activists supporting the — both outwardly and inwardly — aggressive and barbaric imperialist cause.”

http://www.marxists.org/archive/lukacs/works/destruction-reason/ch03.htm


The irrationalism producing irrationalism of capitalist finances was driven home with a vengeance. And later I would appreciate Adorno’s equally devastating Jargon of Authenticity, his critique of Heidegger.

Moreover, speculatively, that very odd moment may have coincided with the inception of a case of mononucleosis whose diminution of physical energy I didn’t sense for another month, as I was ascending the hillside in back of Dubrovnik, and which mono made for anything but a spectacular senior year at Haverford. The onset of a depression? The destruction of reason is as good reason as any to become depressed, isn’t it? My first analyst, with whom I tried to explore this then approximately twenty-five year old event, suggested the word “disappointment”. I did not want to argue with him and, say, ‘if every time I am disappointed including by myself and my brain cracked there wouldn’t be anything left for my squirrels!’ – the disappointment with the “Berlin love object” may have played a part, not just Lukacs so utterly convincing demonstration of the wages of irrationalism, it may have been cumulative, the year back in the motherland was coming to the end. I certainly had a better grasp whence I came and had reconnected with the culture, but there was little aside the theater that excerted a pull to stay. Not that the return to Haverford was much of a prospect after such a year. 
One immediate effect, however, was that I stopped writing stories. I had written the one good version of the “Tonsilitis Operation & Pilot’s Wife Dies” story as you might call it, and beats me why I failed to keep a copy for the original to be stolen out of the boot of Frank Conroy’s 1954 Chevy convertible in Nantucket. I wrote it once more back at Haverford, but it felt forced, and then published it in our review.
The “event,” as I refer to it, however, then didn’t keep me from participating with zest in the festivities in Dubrovnik.
Initially, that day, I decided not to go to the theater that night but go for a really long walk, and my walk took me to the Prinz Albrecht Strasse area where the Gestapo Headquarters had been and my father had been imprisoned and the Lehrter Strasse prison and then all the way to Zehlendorf and the Krumme Lanke where I had spent time at Christmas 1949 and there I had a long snooze under the evergreens and when I woke up it was already night. The prospect of returning to Haverford was not terribly enticing. However, at that time, where else would I go now that postwar Germany, too, had disenchanted me? There is of course an alternative to this romance manqué, that left me ill and depressed with further illnesses to come, and that is that Fraenzi has also carried the torch for me, and that though she has played around, there is no Russky, and our torches light each other, in which case, if she had wanted, I would have stayed in Berlin and completed my education and most likely have drifted or gunned to be involved in theater – after all, at that point there was not too much that drew me back to the U.S. Certainly Haverford did not. 

(1) Many of the performances, especially a the East Berlin Opera, continue to be amazingly present, the Woyzeck, the Frau Ohne Schatten, the Arabella. 













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