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Friday, March 8, 2013


     vladimir horowitz

I put on some Schubert, les derniers quatuors, The Last Quartets, by Melos Quartet of Stuttgart, Germany. The cover of the 2cd album is a woodcut by Edvard Munch, the Norwegian artist. This is one of my desert island albums that satisfies me completely every time I hear it. Another favorite is Horowitz playing Schubert and Schumann. That's one of the loveliest albums I know. There are many. These are the ones that resonate with me. Asked who my favorite composers might be, I would not think to mention Schubert, but it turns out I like his music as much as I like Dvorjak's quartets. In classical music I tend toward the quartets and piano. I don't care for big orchestras the same way I don't care for bombast heavy metal in rock. I have collected such good (to my taste) music that I have a houseful of every kind of music I like. I've gone with preference to hear what I want to hear, not whatever some radio station's programming gets played, and I don't like commercials. So I buy my own music, books and movies. Thanks to netflix I have access to almost everything on earth in film. I have too many of these items for a sensible human being, but I'm not a sensible human being, so it works out just right. I want to play more music. I prefer my own classical to radio classical and prefer my own rock to radio rock.

Thinking of this music historically, considering Schubert only lived to age 31, he composed an awful lot of music in his twenties. Like Rimbaud the great French poet who quit writing when he was 19. One thing about youthful geniuses such as Mozart and Keats, their art is vibrant with passion. By the time I was 19, I was barely literate. It was about that age I discovered Allen Ginsberg's Howl, Ferlinghetti's Coney Island Of The Mind, Kerouac's On The Road and Dharma Bums. 17, 18 and 19 is when I was reading these guys. I was just out of high school and feeling like I was up for what was next. A guy in high school turned me onto On The Road, the latest cool thing, another turned me onto Henry Miller's Tropic of Capricorn. These writers were instrumental in opening my perceptions. Also Alan Watts books, Way of Zen one of them. These are the sorts of things I came out of high school reading, besides Peyton Place, Dr Zhivago and Ben Hur, the latter two on account of the movies. Pasternak was one of the first writers I read who was what might be called a heavy weight to somebody just out of high school. I wanted to take senior English, but it was all about reading and I wasn't fast enough a reader to keep up with the best readers in class. After high school I read the books from the senior English class, Catcher In The Rye, Brave New World, etc.

I realized how dumb I was upon graduating from high school. Not qualified for any kind of work. Barely literate. Totally uninformed. Didn't know how to work. Had worked plenty, but didn't know how any more than I knew how to study all the way through school. I'd have been so bright to have taken one of those short classes on how to study. I never learned how to study. My study amounted to cramming for exams, staying up late the night before a test. I wasted a lot of schooling not knowing how to study. It would be as good a course to teach in schools as geometry, like typing and driver's ed. It's a shame baptists are so hung up about sex they don't want schools teaching sex ed. I took it at my high school and appreciated it. It loses its sexiness right away and becomes clinical. That part doesn't matter. What matters is the education. Driver's ed was extremely valuable too. These are practical courses that apply to everyday life. Seems to me that's more important than a history class where the history is distorted and reduced to sentences to be memorized for tests. The history is important too, but driver's ed in the world we live in is vitally important.

The day before I took the plane from Wichita to Norfolk, Virginia, to go into the Navy, a guy I had only known a little bit handed me a paperback copy of Albert Camus' The Stranger. I read it on the plane and finished it soon after arriving in the transient barracks. It woke me up like a firecracker under my bed. I can't say I "got it" intellectually, academically, or even could have done well on a test. But it rearranged my thinking to where I can say it changed my life. So many changes were occurring in that time, I can say the changes Camus triggered I followed and embraced most closely. I read his plays, his other novels, his essays, his philosophy, everything by him I could find. He turned me onto the plays of Jean Genet, the novels of Sartre and Simone deBeauvoir, philosophy of Heidegger. Read some Henry Miller in that time. An interest in the Surrealists in Paris between the wars took hold of me, an interest in 20th Century French poetry and American poetry of the same period. By the time I left the Navy I was ready to start college. I knew how to read. I can't say my comprehension was way up high, but it improved a great deal. I actually went into college with a bit of a boost from all that reading during what I thought of as my time out, the time of involuntary servitude for being born male in America. I used the time reading as much as possible, for escape and education.

The officers and all authorities saw me a hopeless tool, which is what I wanted them to see. That's what I was. I had nothing for the USN. It didn't care if I lived or died. It wanted me to think dying was honorable so I'd be happy to line up and make myself an obedient target charged with nationalist propaganda. He's a rebel and he'll never ever be any good. But as I look back, that period of time the Navy took me out of my life was a great time for assessing what I was about. It turned out to be one of the most valuable times of my life. No doubt about it, I was a tool. It wouldn't do to attempt to articulate that any more than the one word. Tool will do. I've heard it said that in one's advanced years memories from the past come forward. What I see happening in self is looking at the past in patterns, seeing how a period of time was different in its function from what I saw at the time. Events and people I took for granted turned out to be important in the changing patterns. I find it interesting the people from the past I remember and the ones I don't remember. Most of them I don't remember. I like looking at the patterns. They help that which has no meaning appear to have meaning. Patterns organize illusion like the constellations organize the night sky.


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