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September 22, 1968 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1968-09-22

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Sunday, September 22, 1968


Page Five

Sunday, September 22, 1968 THE MICHIGAN DAILY Page Five


Giacomo': His own art

Giacomo Joyce, by James Joyce (Richard
Ellman, Ed.). Viking, $3.95.
Originally published in a sumptuous, $10.00
,format, the Viking limited edition of James
Joyce's Giacomo Joyce, a notebook of the writer's
and probably his; last-to-be-published work, can
now be had in slim, neat-to-the-hand form, at
the price of $3.95, still under the Viking label.
Besides an ampler elegance, the only thing
that differentiates the original edition from this
one is that the original has two full-size replica
pages of Joyce's own Jottings. Since the purpose
of including these facsimile pages-which in the
cheaper edition are reduced photostats-is sup-
posedly to retain ,the notebook quality, Giacomo
Joyce may then be described in one sense as a
private account, the artist's quarry, of voyeur-
istic. hopes and passions provoked by one of his
female pupils during the time he spent in
Trieste as a Berlitz language instructor. It has,
however, its interesting formal and aesthetic
For one thing, there is the question of whether
it is really a notebook, just a private quarry, or
not. For some reason Joyce liked his jottings
enough to re-copy them and arrange them (with
deliberation?) in some sort of fashioned unity,
no matter whether this was ultimately intended
by him for publication. Thus the whole matter
of the relationship of private introspection to
public art, of freedoms to stringencies, becomes
salient. The layout of even the cheaper edition
still retains in cold print the discontinuous and
piecemeal arrangement of words and images on
the page, as Joyce originally spaced them. Sup-
posedly we thus get translated into conventional
book-printing typography the stops and rushes
of the artist's hand. We are put nearer the
sources of energy that direct the transmutation
of experience from what is wholly incommuni-
cable to at least embryonic artistic formulations.
On the other hand, Richard Ellman, Joyce's
high priest, who has written an introduction
and notes to both editions, implies that Joyce
was working according to some kind of Mallar-
mean aesthetic: the spatial arrangement itself
bears relation to and enhances the poetic con-
tent. Was Joyce then inventing a new prose
form,' or simply pinning and fixing images for
himself? Or, most interesting, both?
The question is even interestingly com-
pounded by the peculiar lack of narrative en-
ergy, which lack may partly be blamed on the
transition of "intimacies" to cold print and "the
public volume." But, typography and layout
aside, the essential psychic experience of Giac-

line friendship between Irishman and Jew. And
certainly this particular preoccupation, with the
attraction between "alien" races-each separated
from the compact majority in which they have
been embedded, and needing to forge themselves
out without help from the easy assumptions of
that compact majority-certainly this is one of
the most important themes in the larger works.
The introduction tells us that the Giacomo
of the title was inserted into the notebook, in-
scribed in another hand, and 'that it is the
Italian colloquial name for the Don Juan. Since
Joyce also refers within the "diary" to "Jim
dear" and "Jamesy," the name is clearly his-
and why not the hand as well, since any forger
knows that many things contribute to a good
persona? The persona pseudonym then signi-
fies his Italian hat, perhaps his exile, his escape
from the vulgarities of his own nativity into an
exotic Mediterranean place, and hence also his
attraction to fellow exiles of stereotypically
warmer sensualities-though the whole matter
of attraction between exiles is handled here in
the most oblique and allusive way, and is mostly,
of course, personal and domestic rather than
national and universal. But the sense of the
plaything, and the "writ smal-ness," is unde-
niably enticing for itself, as well as being marked
inevitably with the natural genius of persona
Giacomo, alias Joyce.
Ellman's appendix indexes with precision
such likely transmutations that bits of this
work have undergone in their incorporation into
Joyces' epical ones. Parts of this index are in-
disputably relevant as, for example, the famous
Oxen of the Sun episode. And they are dra-
matic, for they trace the artist's telegraphy as
it becomes concretized into a rigorous aesthetic
But some of the index seems merely con-
jecture, if not scholarly fuss-budgetry; the
transmutations are trivial even if proveable, in-
volving sometimes only the transposition of a
word, a thing we all do in writing business
letters (when he points out, for example,
and there are many such instances, that "soft-
ened pulp" here, becomes in Ulysses "mawkish
pulp . . . soft, warm"). In fact, in some cases,
the first spareness is more interesting than the
And the notebook does stay largely embedded
within the privacies of its writers experience.
It is no great work of art, and whether it would
even be noteworthy is speculative if its com-
poser's name were not attached to it. So there
still remains the central puzzle of what the work
wishes to do. Ellman calls it "a great achieve-
mene . . . (of) small fragile enduring perfec-
tion," yet to call it more modestly a "notebook,"
despite its having been reprocessed by the ar-
tist, would make more sense of its uneveness
and its aesthetic puzzles.
If one honors much of it as the first hasty
impressions of the writer's sensibility, one can
allow the surprises to vary. And they do. They
range from this kind of embarrassing poetic
amateurism: "A dark wave of sense, again and
again, and again. Mine eyes fail in darkness,
mine eyes fail, mine eyes fail in darkness, love.
Again, no more. Dark love, dark longing: No
more. Darkness", to the following startling,
single, lovely line: "A flower given by her to my
daughter. Frail gift, frail giver, frail blue-veined
The justifying rationale left to be that this
is "just a notebook," one need not resort to
Mallarme to explain curious spacings, which are
as much natural and random, as tendentious
and potent, dislocations of thought. Gacomo's
self-tantalizing preciosities are easily inter-
spersed with widely Catholic pre-occupations as
evocative and terse an anything in the larger
works: "Tawny gloom in the vast gargoyled
church. It is as cold as on that morning: quia
frigus erat. Upon the steps of the far high altar,
naked as the body of the Lord, the ministers lie
prostrate in weak prayer. The voice of an unseen
reader rises, intoning the lesson from Hosea."
Inevitably though, one of the constant tensions
of the "notebook" form, is that within such a
passage as this, she, as she, only a sketchy psy-
chological presence, is being asked to do too
much symbolic work ("slothed with the shadows
of the sindark nave, her thick elbows at my arm.
Her flesh recalls the thrill of that raw mist-
veiled morning, hurrying torches, cruel eyes. Her
soul is sorrowful, trembles and would weep. Weep
not for me, o daughter of Jerusalem")-
Finally then, the nicest case for the im-
portance as well as the appeal of the quarry is

Joyce's own ironic sense of himself. For re-
peatedly, in theme, in style, and in form, te
thing seems to mark deliberately the juncture
where introspection is still embedded in the
fragments and spurts of artistic consciousness,
with where it becomes a public, sustained, whole
formulation of character and action.
Discarding the rubric of "enduring perfec-
tion" and allowing this to stand as a shorthand
of notes, clarifies the ostensible, if calculated
honesty of the form: it is precisely an instru-
ment sensitive to registering extremes from
cumbersome inarticulations to "raw" talent. And
Joyce doubtless enjoyed the ambiguities of these
The medley of styles show artistic play, and
anticipate, in Ellman's apt phrase, the "clashing
of dictions" in the larger works. Also, in collect-
ing these episodes of the self and making them
fair copy, Joyce is doing just what he tells us
at the end of the manuscript, both posing and
being himself: "Write it, damn you, what 'else
are you good for." We are in fact right at the
point of the artist's postures to himself; the
name which Joyce supposedly just "let stand"
is a tip-off. With his sense of ironies layered
on ironies, his swift shuttling between perspec-
tive and worlds, Joyce's own artistic postures are
interesting, not only as measures of changing
self-distance, but as a record of his navigating
the byways of voyeurism and exhibitionism in a
continual quest: what his fellow Irishman, Yeats,

DOksbooks booksbooks bool
Leonard Cohen: Songs should suffice

Selected Poems, 1956-1968, by Leonard Cohen. Vik-
ing, $5.75 (hard), $1.95 (paper).
As one who was-and still is-intrigued and excited
by The Songs of Leonard Cohen, last year's recording
of Cohen singing Cohen, but who now has read the
168 poems included in the Selected Poems, opportunis-
tically offered this summer by the Viking Press, I envy
those of you whose acquaintance with Cohen's work is
limited to the 10 poems on the recording.
Cohen has published four volumes of verse and two
novels in the last 12 years. The books of poetry are in-
terspersed with occasional prose pieces and playlets,
some of which are included in the current-and con-
trived-selection. The strange fact about this book is
that it contains only three of the poems Cohen has
turned into songs-for surely the contrivance of se-
lecting Cohen's poems at this stage has something to
do with the success and popularity of the songs. And
the song-poems, even divorced from their musical set-
ting and the visceral, plaintive wail of Cohen's voice,
are generally far better than almost all of what has
been selected.
One poem in the selection, "A Kite is a Victim,"
contains the pleasure of real poetry and a large indica-
tion of Cohen's interests, themes, and talents.
A kite is a victim you are sure of.
You love it because it pulls
gentle enough to call you master'
strong enough to call you fool;
because it lives
like a desperate trained falcon.
in the high sweet air,
and you can always haul it down
to tame it in your drawer.
A kite is the last poem you've written,
' so you give it to the wind,
but you don't let it go
until someone finds you
something else to do.
A kite is a contract of glory
that must be made with the sun,
under the travelling cordless moon,
to make you worthy and lyric and pure.
Cohen is concerned with possession and the agony of
surrender, with love and loneliness and creation, with
insecurities and ideal dreams. When he is a poet these
are mixed uncertainly together as tense and tentative
experiences for which there are no clever answers.
Another poem, "For Wilf and His House," from Let
Us Compare Mythologies-and that title comes from a
line in this, poem-is a fine introduction to Cohen's
free, associative system of image and symbol, with its
mixed references across the lines of Jewish and Chris-
tian mythology and its mixed involvements of the sa-
cred with the profane.
But the songs from the recording-particularly "Su-
zanne,'' "Master Song," "So Long, Marianne," and most
of "One of Us Cannot Be Wrong"-are Cohen's best
work. In these he is most surely a poet. The feeling of
these poems is genuine, immediate, and natural. The

The images, when together, become surrealistic

imagery is surreal-or, miore precisely, the images are
overpoweringly straight, while their combination in the
whole poem, their organization into significant poetic
statement, is surrealistic. At his best Cohere uses lan-
guage that communicates directly to our senses; to com-
prehend the sense experience which comes from this
communication, however, takes a great deal of serious
and intense imaginative effort.
It would be wrong to say that Cohen writes about or
only about sex; but sexual experience is the primary
action and energy of his poems. Whati he does is ex-
perience sexual reality with all of his senses in the
imagery of the poems, the effect of this making sex not
just experience but life itself. Thematically Cohen's
poems are all concerned with life, which he represents
through a rich complication of sex as love, energy, act,
habit, and emotion.
At times Cohen thinks in his poems-rather tritely
-and at times he explains-anticlimactically. But he
also makes metaphors which create and communicate
more than they say. This is most apparent perhaps, in
the obscure story of "Master Song":
I believe you heard your master sing
When I lay sick in bed
I believe he told you everything
I keep locked in my head
Your master took you traveling,
at least that's what you said
d love did you come back to bring
your prisoner wine and bread.
He took you on his air-o-plane
which he flew without any hands
and you cruised above the ribbons of rain
that drove the crowd from the stands
Then he killed the lights on a lonely lane
where an ape with angel glands.
erased the final wisps of pain
with the music of rubber bands.

The experience is rendered indirectly, through the use
of new metaphoric associations and puns made out of
the idioms and free symbolism of contemporary lan-
guage, together with the suggestion of the mystical and
sacramental aspects of this terribly physical life. It is
this creative combination that gives Cohen's good poems
their surrealistic quality.
And the combination is essential. Cohen argues for
the integration of all experience, sacred and profane.
He praises life by reducing it to its human elements-
Jesus was a sailor
when he walked upon the water
and he spent a long time watching
from a lonely wooden tower.

but he himself was broken
long before the sky would open,
forsaken, almost human,
he sank beneath your wisdom like a stone.,


-and exalts life in the poignant discovery of its most
human frustrations-
And now I hear your master sing
You'kneel for him to come
His body is a golden string
that your body is hanging from
His body is a golden string
My body is growing numb
O love I hear your master sing
Your shirt is all undone.
Of course Cohen is saying things in these lines much
more particularly than I have said them; but then to
discover the particular is much more difficult than this
kind of generalizing. And for the few good poems, Co-
hen is worth the effort and the pleasure of attentive
submission to him to find what he is really saying.
But don't buy the book. You get all of his best and
plenty to work with on the lyric sheet included with the

A metaphorical mix in Mother Russia

omo Joyce is aloof from us and this aloofness
has much to do with the quality of the ex-
perience itself.
The record begins with a question, "Who?,"
and answers that the female object of the ques-
tion is not only an enigma to Joyce, but that
she styles herself enigmatically: "A pale face
surrounded by heavy odorous furs. ,Her move-
ments are shy and nervous. She uses quizzing
glasses." The object of his most ravishing de-
sires, she is most often seen as cold, aloof, en-
shrouded in grey, a figure of refined sensualities
and sensibilities, just out of reach. Joyce seems
partly to enjoy with irony his own sense of her
safe distance, and to find in it cause for build-
ing passions. She is indeed at her most finely
focussed and sensual when she is most afar-
and redounds to him the finesse of his own wry
ironies: "She walks before me along the corri-
dor and as she walks, a dark coil of hair slowly
uncoils and falls. Slowly uncoiling, falling hair.
She does not know and walks before me, simple
and proud." Or: "My words in her mind: cold
polished stones sinking through a ,quagmire." '
If the girl is most erotic when she is coldest
and most inaccessible, this is also when his own
self-mockery fluorishes best. He gets her into
finest perspective when he plays the tutor role,-
ironically relishing the distance that their ages
and positions put between them:
"She says that had the Portrait of the Artist
been frank only for the frankness' sake, she
would have asked why I had given it to her to
read. O you would, would you? A lady of letters."
"She listens, virgin most prudent."
On the other hand, his most rabid passages
are his least effective, and have the sound of
Durrell at his worst, rather than of Stephen
Daedalus or Bloom at their swooning best:
"Soft sucking lips kiss my left armpit: a
coiling kiss on myriad veins, I burn. I crumple
like a burning leaf. From my right armpit a fang
of flame leaps out. A starry snake has kissed me:
a cold nightsnake. I am lost."
Even if Giacomo Joyce were just a quarry for
James' own erotic preciosities, Ellman's intima-
tion that the record of this "affair" with the
Triestine Jewess (Amalia Popper) also telescopes
intn a liter affair with a Martha Fleischman in

The Heart of a Dog, by Mik-
hail Bulgakov (tr. by Michael
Glenny). Harcourt, Brace and
World, $3.95.
A level of Gothic horror is lost
in the "translation" of The
Heart of a Dog. Language alone
is not the problem, unless we
take language to mean some-
thing more than the rumble and
sounding of the Russian brass.
Bulgakov's satire appears for-
eign because of a new relation-
ship between his semantic-
events and the "advanced" cul-
ture of 1968. The problem isthe
ossification of reality; our capa-
city to imagine has become the
fossil of the Scientific Method.
The Heart of a Dog is the
story'of a transplant operation,
grafting human organs into the
body of a full-blooded hound.
Well--we seeutransplants every
day. And Bulgakov identifies
his protaganist with Faust, in

order to enrich his texture by
sustained religious reference.
The metaphor is dead, since
we can not contend with the es-
sential "unreality" of the real.
Something which happens so
often and so notoriously can not
possibly partake of the "Black
Arts." The real is the rational,
after all. Were we to question
each element in our environ-
ment, searching for the demon-
ic power at its base, the result
would be mass psychosis.
But it is precisely this psycho-
tic search for a moral definition
that Bulgakov assumes in his
readership. He is an author of
the Grand Tradition, Russian
Style. The Devil, or some apo-
theosis of Evil, is furiously pre-
sent throughout Dostoevsky
and just as furiously absent on
the enervated stage of Chekhov.
Bulgakov, himself, has employed
the demonic metaphor with
great success in The Master and
Margarita, his major novel and
life's work. Unfortunately, the

motif of transplantation in The
Heart of a Dog is no longer ex-
travagant enough to support a
vision of despair and damnation.
The terms of Bulgakov's com-
parison are this: that the at-
tempt of Russian revolutionary/
theorists to improve the life of
the common man is like trying
to turn a dog into a man, by a
superficial operation. The result
is a smooth skinned, smooth
tongued bi-ped who walks erect,
but still has the "heart of a
dog." Unlike the more casual
operation of a metaphor, which
delimits a private experience by
association with some familiar
ground, Bulgakov is attempting
extension and amplification of
a familiar phenomenon. When
The Heart of a Dog was written
(in the 20's), after all, revolu-
tionary slogans were as common
in Russia as our own ubiquitous
body odor.
Certain of the motifs employ-
ed by Bulgakov, however, do re-
tain their functional horror. We
have advanced to the point of
organ transplant, butnot to the
point of organ recognition.,
When Bulgakov's heroic doctor
accomplishes the humanization
of a dog through the 'grafting
of only the pituitary gland and
the male genitals, he wrings
from us the appropriate shock
of recognition. Similarly, we
respond, with all our deep-
hearted misanthropy, to t h e
heinous depravity of operating
upon a doggie. Sex and the An-
ti-Vivisectionist League. go on
But despite all of his satirical
elements, it is difficult to re-
strict our attention to the satir-
ist in Bulgakov. He has not the
satirist's singularity of design,
at least the satire to which, we
have become accustomed- It is
interesting to compare Bulga-
kov's rendition of the Soviet Re-
volution with Orwell's Animal
Farm. Only a fool, or a dis-
traught English teacher, would
attemnt to identify a precisef

lence. He is renamed symboli-
cally, this "new man" w h o
gives the lie to the masterly
revolutionary hypothesis.
Throughout The Heart of a
Dog, Bulgakov refuses to suc-
cumb to the simplicities of "par-
allel construction." His charac-
ters are fulsome, beings, and his
world a meticulously artful pro-
jection of the private mind. In
his reliance. on dialogue and a
confined center of action, we
are reminded :of Bulgakov's
training with the Moscow Art
Theatre. His elements perform
themselves, his meanings are
revealed in action, gesture, and
word-there Is little need for an
external standard of interpreta-
It is a reliance on external
detail which has led translator
Michael Glenny to misinterpret
Bulgakov's ending, in his intro-
duction to the novel.
"In the story this modern
Frankenstein is so appalled
by the unredeemable beastli-
ness of the creature he has
conjured up, that he reversed
the process and turns his
"new man" back into a dog.
With this ending, Bulgakov
implies that he would like to
see the whole ghastly experi-
ment- of the Revolution can-
celed out -.-
Glenny expects the author to

maintain a literal parallel with
reality at all times. Since Lenin
& Co. did not, or could not, re-
verse the revolution, Glenny in-
terprets the author's meaning
only as "wishful thinking." But
Bulgakov portrays a condition,
a life-style of servility, a meta-
physic of groveling submission
as well as a physical peasantry
in his canine 4mage. It is equally
possible that Bulgakov felt that
the Russian Revolution did not
create a "new man," but only
brought a country dog, into the
Today's writers...
Assistant Profesor of Eng-
using Leonard Cohen's poems
as course material in his intro-
ductory Poetry class,
who is currently taking time
off from her work toward a
Ph.D. in Comparative Litera-
ture while she serves as an As-
sistant Study Director In the
Institute for Social Research,
has reviewed films and plays
for The Daily.
Ph.D. candidate in the English
department, and is now teach-
ing English 123 to freshmen.
Two years ago, she served as
Arts Editor of The Daily.

And a full line of Cookbooks
200 N. Fourth
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