Jack Kerouac’s recklessness or carelessness interests me. This attitude manifests in two ways: in his writing, and in his actions and life choices. Both cases lead to a cloudy charisma, simultaneously inspired and loutish.
Monday, December 26, 2022
The Mahabharata goes slightly less a-pace. I slipped off reading other things. The war is over for the Pandava’s, they have their kingdom again. Yudhisthira now feels the weight of kingly responsibility. He goes to his uncle Bhishma for advice. Bhishma fought for the Kaurava’s out of a sense of duty that doesn’t add up for me. Well there you are. His lessons for Yudhisthira bring Confucius to mind, not that I claim any breadth to that statement. Class distinctions stand inviolable. Warriors are warriors, Brahmins are Brahmins. Caste is understood as a sanctity. It is hard to wrap around this from my vantage. It reads like the bland list of advice that Polonius gives. I believe more action awaits, this part drags.
Saturday, December 10, 2022
The battlefield action in the Mahabharata strains belief. Not its fantastical nature, I expect supernatural exploits in mythological tales, but just the difficulty of imagining the events. When we read that thousands died at Arjuna’s hand as he plunges into a fray, we can shrink that figure down to tens or a lot. if we are thinking of historical events. I don’t know what historical event might have inspired the story. Perhaps some Hatfield versus McCoy thing amongst cousins expanded to include a few trillion souls on their karmic journeys including every person dumb enough to be a chariot driver, id est expendable.
A few instances of so-called celestial weapons occur. These offer complete devastation in not quite explained ways, gifts from the gods like nuclear bombs.. Mantras and magic can also be weaponized. Arjuna’s quiver remains always full despite shooting thousands of arrows a second. I can’t even picture that, tho folks at Marvel Studios probably can. The fighting brings Marvel to mind because tho the nameless cannon fodder feed rivers of blood, the upper echelon heroes join in fierce battle but walk away merely wounded. Or pouting.
Heroic speeches prior to engagement with the enemy have a long tradition. But just thinking about all these zapping arrows, strewn bodies, gored elephants and horses, overloads you. Amidst this enormous clutter of human endeavour the valiant knights scurry about seeking chivalrous one on one fights. It wears thin. The Iliad, in comparison, reads like reportage of a real event, even with the similar boasty speeches.
A marked aspect of the Mahabharata is how resplendent the people and gods are. Dressed in splendid colours and bejeweled to the gills, they are visually vivid. The Greek gods seemingly just wear robes, if that. The Norse must be imagined ever in battle gear, men and women both.
So the action on the battlefield goes clearly over the top but amidst that we still have beautiful thoughtful passages. A strong moral and spiritual note holds the story up. It comes to us by oral tradition. You can imagine the originators telling the stories, however solemn, vivacious, or thrilling.
Monday, December 05, 2022
Halfway into The Mahabharata we come to the part that often stands alone, The Bhagavad Gita. This represents a sea change for the epic. Up till now, the work has been mostly narrative with moral and spiritual matters occasionally interpolated. Now we have Krishna explaining duty to the unexpectedly quailing Arjuna. Krishna has always been understood as a god, but in human aspect. In this section he reveals himself in his terrifying god aspect. The imagery seems fit for Revelation—i. e. crazy ass—and the vision of Krishna in full godhead doesn’t exactly calm Arjuna. Eventually Arjuna comes around.
Sunday, November 27, 2022
Alan Sondheim has just published a new book, *Broken Theory*. Internet denizens with literary interests may know Sondheim’s name. He posts to numerous lists daily, I mean daily. This work comes in all shapes and sizes. It represents an unbelievably vast effort to mine the maelstrom of experience. *Broken Theory* seems like both a culmination of that effort, tho without a sense of finishing it, and perhaps a re-envisioning.
I have only just begun reading this book but twenty plus years of familiarity with Sondheim’s work gives me traces to follow. His is a work in which philosophy, psychology, literature, science, history, politics, and more collide and intercept within his experiencing mind. Does that even sound like anything? I declare that it idles.
What caught me as I began to read is that Sondheim has tempered the boundlessness of his writing so that the book can be a book. Think of how a tiny portion of The Mahabharata, The Bhagavad Gita, spun out with centripetal force as a singular work. In the same way *Broken Theory* has its own separated identity. I feel, as I read, a sense of the book as a whole while recognizing that it is but a portion of Sondheim’s enormous task.
Now, I admit that I have not read much of the book. I may not *finish* it. I think linearity doesn’t parse here, just as time seems far less linear than a calendar might suggest. Treat the book like an oracle—I doubt Sondheim has such an intention—and see what wildness, what mystery, what glint appears.
Friday, October 28, 2022
Finished Hyperion by Dan Simmons. I have mixed feelings about it. He presents a wonderfully troubling vision of the future, with humanity clearly having screwed the pooch. The intertwined narratives move a-pace but I’m pretty sure a good portion of Simmons’ intention dashed precipitously past my register. Rereading would be worthwhile if I had the energy.