(Was there ever another writer as comprehensive as Tolstoy, who also wrote about the inner life of a dying tree?)
“Do you remember the feeling that sense was provisional and that two people could build around an utterance a world in which any usage signified? I think that’s poetry.”
“A landscape is an illimitable state. It’s not restricted within the visible area in front of our eyes, but it extends in an undefined distance, reaching for the limits of our interpretation over ourselves and the world around us. It is because every landscape is eventually defined as the vast open field where our thoughts and feelings are meeting with the outside world. It’s both an imaginary field and an actual reality, a perpetual state and a momentary revelation.” – Petros Koublis
I thought about the terrible uselessness of suffering. Love leaves behind its creation–the next generation coming into the world, the continuation of humanity. But suffering? Such a great part of human experience, the most difficult and painful, passes leaving no trace. If one were to collect the energy of suffering emitted by the millions of people here [in Kolyma] and transform it into the power of creation, one could turn our planet into a flowering garden.
But what has remained?
Rusty carcasses of ships, rotting watchtowers, deep holes from which some kind of ore was once extracted. A dismal, lifeless emptiness. Not a soul anywhere, for the exhausted columns have already passed and vanished in the cold eternal fog.
Describe the old Indian in the Mexican desert. I was driving along in a car and far off I spotted something that looked like an Indian hat lying on the sand. I stopped and walked towards it. Under the hat sat an Indian in a shallow hole that he had dug in the sand to protect himself from the wind. In front of him stood a wooden gramophone with a shabby, bashed-in megaphone. The old man was turning the crank the whole time and playing one record–he had only one record–which was so worn out that the grooves were barely there. From the tube issued a hoarse roar, crackling and the disordered tatters of a Latin American song: Rio Manzanares dejume pasar (Rio Manzanares, let me cross). Even though I had greeted him and stood in front of him for a long time, the old man paid no attention to me. ‘Papa,’ I finally shouted, ‘there is no river here.’
He kept quiet. Then, after a while, he replied, ‘Son, I am the river and I can’t cross myself.’ He said nothing more, but kept turning the crank and listening to the record.
“It’s easy to find books here. Now, an empty clay pitcher, or a spoon or a fork, that you won’t find, but books are all over. The other day I found a volume of Pushkin. ‘And the thought of death is sweet to my soul.’ I remembered that. Yes. I’ve come to like thinking. And silence helps you to prepare yourself. Man lives with death, but he doesn’t understand what it is. But I’m here alone. Yesterday I chased a wolf and a she-wolf out of the school, they were living there.”
– from a MONOLOGUE ABOUT REPENTANCE
“I remember coming back one time from a business trip. There was a moonlit landscape. On both sides of the road, to the very horizon, stretched these fields covered in white dolomite. The poisoned topsoil had been removed and buried, and in its place they brought white dolomite sand. It was like not-earth. This vision tortured me for a long time and I tried to write a story. I imagined what would be here in a hundred years: a person, or something else, would be galloping along on all fours, throwing out its long back legs, knees bent. At night it could see with a third eye, and its only ear, on the crown of its head, could even hear how ants run. Ants would be the only thing left, everything else in heaven and earth would have died.”
– from a MONOLOGUE ABOUT A MOONLIT LANDSCAPE
“I want to make a film called ‘Hostages,’ about animals. A strange thing happened to me. I became closer to animals. And trees, and birds. They’re closer to me than they were, the distance between us has narrowed. I go to the Zone now, all these years, I see a wild boar jumping out of an abandoned human house, and then an elk. That’s what I shoot. I want to make a film, to see everything through the eyes of an animal. ‘What are you shooting?’ people say to me. ‘Look around you. There’s a war on in Chechnya.’ But Saint Francis preached to the birds. He spoke to them as equals. What is these birds spoke to him in their bird language, and it wasn’t he who condescended to them?”
– from a MONOLOGUE ABOUT WAR MOVIES
Strange things happen in Thoreau: sand starts moving like water, and stones vibrate with life; extinct species return; pine trees cry; fish become trees; men grow grass out of their brains; men, not gods, walk on water; like animals and with them, they also walk on four legs; they talk to fish and birds; birds migrate back to life after they have been seen dead; humans migrate into birds; birds migrate into other birds; humans migrate into other humans; two persons come to inhabit one body; two bodies come to be inhabited by one person.
As I have in years past (2013, 2014), I will use the inevitable year-end recap time to list some of books I did not read in 2015. These are books I own and considered reading this year but did not. As the ellipses testifies, this is of necessity a partial list.
Poetics of Reverie, The Practice of Everyday Life, Imperial, Madness in Civilization, Native American Testimony, PrairyErth, Less Than One, Songs in Flight, Sula, The Road to Xanadu, Ardor, The Forty-Nine Steps, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, Dreams of a Final Theory, Street of Thieves, Dispatches from Utopia, 2666, Tales of the Strange and Marvelous, Nostalgia, The Changeling, I Love Dick, Wise Children, Great Plains, Wilderness and the American Mind, The White Goddess, The Last Lover, The Tears of Things, Omensetter’s Luck, Trieste, Shyness & Dignity, Obscurity, War, So Much War, The Lover, The North China Lover, The Turn of the Screw, Echo Tree, On the Edge, Old Masters, Dispossessed, Pitch Dark, Go Tell it on a Mountain, In the Freud Archive, Gilead, News from the Empire, Wisdom Sits in Places, Dream of Reason, History of White People, What Animals Think, A Form/Of Taking/It All, A Topology of Everyday Constellations, The House of Breath, The Passion According to G.H., The Anatomy of Melancholy, How Forests Think, Kindred…