News that the standard white porcelain toilet from J.D. Salinger’s North Carolina home is selling for $1 million on eBay gives one pause (the kind that refreshes). It’s a commodity unlike no other, because it’s where the famously reclusive author might have written the earlier drafts, which he subsequently rejected, of such disemboweling works as Raise High the Toilet Seat, Carpenters; Pee More: An Introduction; Fanny and Pooey; Catcher in the Loo; and, of course, “A Perfect Day for Bananaflush.”
Listen to Paul’s interview.
“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players… One man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages. At first the infant, mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms. And then the whining school-boy… the lover, sighing… a soldier, full of strange oaths… the justice, in fair round belly… The sixth age shifts into… the pantaloon, with spectacles on nose and pouch on side… Last scene of all, that ends this strange eventful history, is second childishness and mere oblivion: sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”
Although I’m calling this website “a personal memoir in flux,” it is also my hope that the various sections will be of interest to people, whether they know me or not. “Out on a Lim” shares short observations on day-to-day life. “Limerances” chronicles longer remembrances of things past. “Limoscenes” presents descriptions of the plays I’ve written to date, with production photos. “Images in Limbo” shows pictures of the aging process, of me with family and friends. “Limpets” are the non-human dogs in my life, and “Limitations” are tributes to people who are no longer with us. So here I am, past imperfect, present progressive, future tense. Let me know what you think. — Paul
Beloit College’s Mindset List for the incoming Class of 2014 is both comic and tragic. It makes me happy to learn that, born in 1992, “a quarter of the freshmen class has at least one immigrant parent, and the immigration debate is not a big priority unless it involves real aliens from another planet.” But it makes me sad that, for most of them, “Beethoven has always been a dog,” and that “they first met Michelangelo when he was just a computer virus.” Teachers, take note. The pitcher is empty. Say that to the kids in class, and they’ll probably tell you where to go for the cheapest beer in town.
Kreon’s downfall in the play Antigone by Sophocles is that he chose to pursue the Letter of the Law instead of the Spirit of the Law. Although “freedom of worship” is one of our most sacred constitutional rights as American citizens, Republicans are now vehemently against the building of a mosque within two blocks of Ground Zero in New York City; they claim it would celebrate the triumph of Muslim terrorists on 9/11. So President Obama now finds himself between Iraq and a hard place. The irony of all this, of course, is that in the play by Sophocles, Antigone was upholding a more ancient law. She violated the king’s new edict when she chose to bury her dead brother according to the religious custom of her time. With regard to the building of this mosque, I’m afraid that the Republicans are more like Kreon, in wanting to legislate new laws to suit their political and religious purposes; and Obama is the heroic but unfortunate Antigone, the one who upholds the Constitution of the United States. I hope that what happens to Antigone does not happen to Obama, when the same hypocritical right-wing religious fanatics who argue against our “freedom of worship” begin to rally yet again for our “right to bear arms.”
As an undergraduate English major, I dropped out of a class on John Milton (1608-1674) when I couldn’t deal with the poet’s arrogant presumption in Paradise Lost to “justify the ways of God to man.” And then, as a graduate student, I dropped out of a Milton seminar when I came across accounts of how the self-righteous polemicist went blind at the age of 46, and how he proceeded to maltreat the three daughters who were his amanuenses the last twenty years of his life. To this day, I remain ambivalent about having dropped out of those classes.
And now the media is full of news about Mel Gibson’s rancorous racist and sexist rants against his ex-girlfriend and mother of his youngest child. I hate to confess this, but among my favorite movies are some of Gibson’s earliest work as an actor—Gallipoli (1981), The Year of Living Dangerously (1982), and even the Mad Max series. He started to lose me with the Lethal Weapon movies in the late 1980s, and by the time The Man Without a Face (1993) came along, I noticed that he wasn’t aging well. Indeed, his face was undergoing a strange transformation.
And now the awful transformation is complete. The latest photographs of Mel Gibson in the media are hard to look at. It’s hard to believe, but this man, who was once so blessed with good looks, who might have been one of the good angels in Milton’s paradise, now looks like hell. But, perhaps all is not lost. For his next film project, Mel Gibson can now play the aging John Milton browbeating the women in his life. The part seems tailor-made for him. Let’s see him unleashing his lethal weapons yet again, as he seeks to “justify the ways of man to woman.”
Meanwhile, I don’t know whether to keep or throw away the Mel Gibson movies in my collection.
News leaking out of BP indicates that wayward CEO Tony Hayward is stepping down in October, and will be assigned to a key post at TNK-BP in Russia, where he will presumably oversee all offshore drilling for oil in that part of the world. No one is saying it, but I have a deep suspicion that Hayward might be CIA’s new undercover agent to undermine the Russian economy and ruin its ecology. While over there, he will, of course, hook up with defrocked Russian spy Anna Chapman, and they’ll ooze out their lives happily ever after.
Before Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, celebrities who are celebrated for doing nothing well or worthwhile except to promote themselves as celebrities, there was Hungarian-born Zsa Zsa Gabor, former beauty queen, socialite and occasional actress who starred in such howlers as Queen of Outer Space and Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood. There’s news this morning that the 93-year-old lady was watching Jeopardy in bed last night with her 9th husband, Frederic Prinz von Anhalt, when the phone rang. She reached for the phone, fell out of bed, and broke her hips and several other bones. At her age, this is no joking matter. But, unlike Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, Zsa Zsa Gabor is capable of laughing at herself. According to the tabloids, she once claimed that she was a good housekeeper because every time she divorced, she kept the house. I hope the lady recovers and mends quickly.
Having read about the new website “I Write Like” (http://iwl.me/), which matches samples of one’s own prose with those of famous authors, I decided to have the site analyze some of the longer entries from my “memoir in flux,” and here are the results.
My recollection of the one time I met Arthur Miller was likened to the prose of Vladimir Nabokov. This was very flattering indeed. I’ve read and admired everything Nabokov has ever written, most especially the novel Lolita; and, of course, his wondrous autobiography, Speak, Memory!
My account of the brief encounter I had with Kurt Vonnegut was said to be reminiscent of none other than…Kurt Vonnegut! I’m not sure what to think about this comparison, since I am definitely not a Vonnegut fan, except perhaps for a couple of short pieces in Welcome to the Monkey House.
My story about Robert Anderson’s reply to a letter I wrote him when I was a teenager in the Philippines, asking him about possible interpretations of his play Tea and Sympathy, was tagged as something William Gibson might have written. Only problem is, there are at least two William Gibsons who are writers. There’s William Gibson, the cyberpunk novelist; and there’s William Gibson, the playwright who wrote The Miracle Worker. Surely, it must be the latter, because I’ve seen many of his plays, and because I know the former only by reputation.
One of my many entries about Sarah Palin was decoded and identified with Dan Brown, whom I’ve never read. I did see the movie adaptation of The Da Vinci Code, which bored me to death, so I’m baffled by the link. But, now that I’m thinking about it, I do see some similarity between Sarah Palin’s self-satisfied smirk of a smile with that of Mona Lisa. I may be the only person in the world who thinks that Ms. Lisa looks like a balding, overweight man in drag. I’m sure this is what Sarah Palin will look like after the 2012 election.
My retelling of what happened the night I got the long-distance telephone call from Manila that my father had died, was, to my surprise, compared to the work of Stephen King. In truth, though, my father did have a dog once who had rabies and was Cujo-like before it had to be put down. And, I do like Stand by Me–the novel, the movie adaptation with River Phoenix, and also the song written and originally performed by Ben E. King.
I tried three more entries from my website—one about my mother’s laughter, and two about my various encounters with William S. Burroughs. Remarkably, all three entries identified me as another David Foster Wallace. Unfortunately, I had no idea who David Foster Wallace was, nor what he might have written. So I looked him up on the internet.
It turns out that David Foster Wallace was a novelist, short story writer, and essayist who was also a creative writing professor at Pomona College in Claremont, California. He was the recipient of a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. The Los Angeles Times named him “one of the most influential and innovative writers of the last twenty years,” and his 1996 novel Infinite Jest was included by Time magazine in its All-Time 100 Greatest Novels list (covering the period 1923-2006).
This is great. It’ll give me a good excuse to catch up on contemporary fiction. I’ve been immersed too long in theatre and dramatic literature.
By way of trivia, I also learned that David Foster Wallace was close to his two dogs, Bella and Warner, and that he had talked frequently about opening a dog shelter. His friends said that “he had a special predilection for dogs who had been abused and were unlikely to find other owners who were going to be patient enough for them”
It gets better and better. I really like this guy. I’m going to buy and read all his books, see if we really view life and approach writing the same way. And then, suddenly, his name rang a bell.
According to a September 14, 2008 article in The New York Times, David Foster Wallace “died on Friday at his home in Claremont, Calif. He was 46. A spokeswoman for the Claremont police said Mr. Wallace’s wife, Karen Green, returned home to find that her husband had hanged himself. Mr. Wallace’s father, James Donald Wallace, said in an interview on Sunday that his son had been severely depressed for a number of months.”
Oh, God. Now I’m depressed.
Sarah Palin has done it again! Although she was born in The Year of the Dragon (1964), she is not content being a mere Dragon Lady. Through the years, she has, by her own account, been a barracuda on the basketball court, an attack dog on the campaign trail for the GOP, a pitbull with lipstick. And now, in her latest television commercial, she wants to be identified as a feminist Ursus arctos horribilis, the grizzliest of the Mama Grizzlies.
Keith Olbermann has already pointed out on MSNBC that grizzlies eat their own young. To that, I’d like to add the following information which I found on the internet: “Grizzlies are subject to fragmentation, a form of population segregation. Fragmentation causes inbreeding depression, which leads to a decrease in genetic variability in the grizzly bear species. This decreases the fitness of the population for several reasons. First, inbreeding forces competition with relatives, which decreases the evolutionary fitness of the species. Secondly, the decrease in genetic variability causes an increased possibility that a lethal homozygous recessive trait may be expressed; this decreases the average litter size reproduced, indirectly decreasing the population.”
How Sarah Palin identifies with all this, I’m not sure. But, wait. At the end of her new television commercial, Sarah shapeshifts yet again. “Look out Washington,” she warns, “cause there’s a whole stampede of pink elephants crossing the line, and the E.T.A. for them stampeding through is November 2, 2010.”
So what happens after November 2, 2010? What specious subspecies is Sarah turning into next?
I watch The Rachel Maddow Show assiduously, not only because it’s the best-researched cable news program on the air, not only because Rachel is erudite and isn’t afraid to use big words or to indulge in her love of puns, but also because Rachel herself is one of the most joyous and gleeful political commentators on television today. She was at her most joyous and gleeful this past Tuesday and Wednesday when her show was aired live from Afghanistan. There she was in Kabul, striding shoulder-to-shoulder with our brave young soldiers, riding in armored trucks and playing with deadly weapons. It’s a little boy’s dream come true! And when she was shopping for a gift to bring back to her mother, Rachel showed no interest in the emeralds or other precious stones from the region which NBC chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel was trying to show her. Instead, Rachel chose to buy her mother an ugly little carpet decorated with guns! Engel looked astonished. He said he has never seen anyone actually buying one of those carpets. Rachel is now on her way home back to the States. I’d love to see the look on her mother’s face when she sees that carpet.
According to The Washington Post, U.S. Marines are being warned to be wary of foreign beauties they might meet and mate while they are on shore leave in the Seychelles islands. Pictures of Anna Chapman, the ravishing redhead who has been arrested recently as a Russian spy, are being circulated among the 3,000 sex-starved marines who have now been at sea almost seven months, as someone who might show undue interest in them, waiting for them to reveal vital information “when the moment is right.” That’ll really get us screwed. Okay, enough said about Pussy Galore. What about the U.S. Marines who happen to be women? Or gay? Pictures of which foreign male beauties should they be shown? Soccer players from Brazil and the Netherlands? Or maybe Ghana and Uruguay? Wait, how about Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner? They’re not human, are they? Who knows what they’re hiding behind those smoldering eyes? Or when they’ll sink their fangs into all our sweet and innocent shipmates? Hmmmm. For my money, “Give me Bela Lugosi or give me death!” And my lips will be forever sealed.