la boutique obscure

May 15, 2014

I am new to Perec, a member of the French Oulipo group.  They were intent on creating literature with systems and constraints:  a premier example is Perec’s novel, La disparition (A Void), written without using the letter ‘e’. (I’m not sure about the English translation!) Personally, I’m not keen on this sort of stuff, but Italo Calvino was an enthusiastic member, so, I’ll try some of it, even though his works that play with such number/word games are, to me, his least appealing.

La boutique obscure is a journal of dreams from the early 1970s. I’ve always been drawn to surrealism, outré romanticism, and films that incorporate dream sequences, so I found it very enjoyable.  He records his dreams pretty straight; not at all the way Freud records dreams, as if they were taken from the text of a dense Victorian novel.

On and off during my life, I have recorded my own dreams.  The more you do it, the more dreams you remember it seems!  I was inspired by La boutique to start a new journal of my unwaking experience.  Here are the first two entries, with explanatory, non-dream, info in brackets.  Obviously, I am time-travelling:

Meeting with J. [a girlfriend from high school]

I am in a library, or some such public building.  I am standing at a high table, like the ones they used to have in the card catalog section, or that you find at a post office.  J comes in.  We are both middle-aged adults. [J. died of a brain tumor before she was forty.]  She is a tiny bit plump, as you might expect of a woman in her fifties who was extremely petite.  She is wearing a brown business suit, and her long blonde hair is touched with some grey.  She is rummaging in a very large, reddish  shoulder bag that she throws on the table.

She tells me, “You stole my mother’s inheritance[?]”

I am indignant, and reply loudly, “I most certainly did not!”

She continues to rummage in her bag, and then says, “Oh, I found it.  I see.”

Meeting with G. [a very wild male friend of mine from junior high school days]

We are sitting, with a table between us, sort of a card table.  We are both adults, dressed in suits.  G.’s hair is still full, and wild as usual.  He is not so thin as when we were boys.  There is half of a large Italian hero on the table between us.  It looks very good; lots of meat and vegetables on good bread.  G. is yelling at me about it, saying that it is somehow wrong that I am eating it.  He is being outrageous and purposely irrational in a way that was typical of him.

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Out of Context

April 12, 2011

For a dissenting view on the inscription planned for the 9/11 memorial [my post] see this letter to the NYTimes. 

Great sentences can transcend the storylines from which they come.

Is ‘transcendence‘ dependent on ignorance?  Context used to be part of what we like to call ‘culture.’  And what makes the sentence,

No day shall erase you from the memory of time, a great one?  Partly it’s  historical resonance, which entails memory, and context… Otherwise, whence comes the loftiness of the sentiment..?

I wonder if the plan is to cite the author of the sentence in the inscription?


GWB Down the Memory Hole…Again

August 22, 2007


Greetings from the Ministry of Truth!

Here’s one from the memory hole: George Bush speaking today at a VFW post about his “policy” in Iraq. He drew a parallel between the consequences of the American withdrawal from Vietnam and what he claims will happen if we leave off fighting in Iraq. Here is one piece of evidence he presented:

“In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge began a murderous rule in which hundreds of thousands of Cambodians died by starvation, torture, or execution.

Just for the record, it was several millions of Cambodians who died under the insane regime of Pol Pot, but who’s counting? Not GWB, for sure. More important, it was the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia that put a stop to the Pol Pot regime’s murder, not that they (ancient enemies of the Khmer) were totally altruistic in their aims in removing him from power. Quite a stretch to claim that it was the Vietnamese Communists that caused the atrocities in Cambodia. Of course, it did happen after we left, but isn’t that a co-inky-dink? Most historians agree that it was America’s involvement in Vietnam that caused, one way or another, the destruction of Cambodia.