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Index: Notes & Comment

Jeffrey Kripal and the secret body.

A Fortnightly Review of Secret Body: Erotic and Esoteric Currents in the History of Religions by Jeffrey J. Kripal University of Chicago Press 2017 | 448pp | $45.00 £34.50 By JAMES GALLANT. JEFFREY KIRPAL HAS devoted a substantial part of his academic career to what he sometimes calls, in ironic deference to modern skepticism, “impossible” […]

Looking back in anger.

Alan Wall: ‘Kitaj was obsessed all his life with Cézanne, and Cézanne certainly believed that everything needed in life and art was here, right before us, but we had to learn to see with utter integrity, and that meant ridding ourselves of false visual conventions. It is not the subject-matter of art that makes it lofty, but its method of perception. ‘

Literature, operationalized.

Chloë Hawkey: ‘After I smiled and granted that I was enchanted, I was left with the what? What does this mean to my life or to Franco Moretti’s? This deepens my understanding, in a very technical sense, of the text, but does it enrich the experience I have reading in it? And does it enrich the life I lead once I’ve capped my pen and returned the book to the shelf?’

Of cars, carpets, and chemistry.

John McEwen: ‘The art panjandrum and collector David Sylvester called him ‘a fifties man’. For Mills, the fifties meant the ‘wonderful’ Festival of Britain and later the arrival of Expresso coffee bars. They reverse its reputation as a dreary post-war interlude.’

A charming sense of novelty.

Christopher Landrum: ‘Machiavelli writes that legitimate governance, by either a prince or a republic, tends to accomplish new things for their people. This is because illegitimate governance is so common that its opposite always feels quite remarkable. But these new things, in order to be effective for the people, must resemble the previous things––even if their resemblance is completely contrived. For it is only the tyrant who tries to make everything appear so new that nothing resembles the old.’

Dreaming of nerve cells.

Charles Vecht, MD: ‘Freud and Cajal had much in common and were close contemporaries. Both came from simple backgrounds out of the mainland of their country, and shared an early interest in neuroanatomy. Also, they were productive and creative writers. Nevertheless, the scientific rigor that Cajal attributed to reproducible observations made him critical of Freud’s theories.’

The Utopian Animal.

David Eisenberg: ‘Owing to the failures of the Enlightenment, which were evinced by the barbarities that persistently accompanied reason’s advance, the rational animal was forced to exit the stage. In his place stands the inhabitant of the present age: the utopian animal.’

The rediscovery of the unique.

H. G. Wells: ‘Science is a match that man has just got alight. He thought he was in a room—in moments of devotion, a temple—and that his light would be reflected from and display walls inscribed with wonderful secrets and pillars carved with philosophical systems wrought into harmony. ‘

Arthur Rimbaud.

Francis Gribble: ‘Fame of a sort had come to him. An increasing coterie had come to recognise the merit of his verse — helped thereto, perhaps, by the scandalous association of his name with Verlaine’s. His memory was destined to be kept alive by a bronze bust, which the German invaders were destined to steal for the sake of copper. But he neither foresaw this tribute nor would have been much elated if he had foreseen it, the call of the East having, long since, upset his scale of values.’

Ringing the changes.

Paul Scott Derrick: ‘Berengarten’s book rings its own personal set of changes on the ‘Book of Changes’. He has constructed a brilliantly complex poetic sequence – or sequence of sequences – that grows out of the wisdom of the Chinese past, implicit in the structures and images of the Chinese language, and will extend its subtle tentacles of words into the minds of future readers. ‘

What are perversions?

Anthony Howell: ‘The text is appropriately supplied with examples from films, and Benvenuto makes interesting points about our propensity to seek out and happily identify with the perverse vicariously via fiction – drama and film enabling a catharsis similar to a positive outcome from analysis, though it appears that analysis has no obligation to come to a conclusion: one can go on seeing one’s analyst as one might any confessor. The devil ensures that temptation is an ongoing affair.’

Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Alan Wall: ‘Although many of the pieces published in these two impressive volumes would be known already to Wittgensteinians, many more would not. Unless you have not only bought anthologies like Rush Rees’s Recollections of Wittgenstein, but also followed such publications as Guy’s Hospital Reports and the Irish Medical Times, or Hermathena, then some of these essays will be new to you. Together they present a composite image of the man which is hugely impressive. Perhaps each century can produce one man like Wittgenstein; certainly not many more. ‘

Basil Bunting.

Anthony Howell: ‘Gone are the mannerisms of Bunting’s apprenticeship: the phrases reminiscent of the way Pound might conclude a snide portrait in Personae, the fusions of word with word that works for Gerald Manley Hopkins but not for the aspiring Northumbrian. Bunting denigrates form in the poem – harking back to an earlier versification crying/before the rules made poetry a pedant’s game – but his poem is nevertheless very finely crafted. The stone-mason’s chisel is a leitmotif accentuating this; indeed, the work, which Bunting describes as an autobiography, continually contrasts a sense of crafting with the sweetness of love-making. ‘

Quixote on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Nigel Wheale: ‘”10:04″ is an advance on “Leaving the Atocha Station”, you might say, even though the first novel was already brilliantly original, smart in the same vein as its successor; the interposed graphic moments seem more nuanced, less blatant kinds of intervention, in the second book. I admire these novels so much because they seem to be making a new kind of factual fiction, poetic narrative, but as always, they are a part of some larger wave.’

England as a pelting farm.

Michael Blackburn: ‘This is Labour’s attempt to look like it’s facing up to a problem and intending to fix it. Except it’s a con. The anti-English, anti-patriotic impulse is now so ingrained in the modern left it will be impossible to get rid of it even if they depose the ultra-left, Brit-hating Corbyn currently in charge. ‘