Statistics reveal that Caucasians in the United States are dying earlier, I recall reading some months back in a national newspaper. Alcoholism, addiction, and suicide play no small part there, it said. Southern Ohio, where I grew up, is no exception. Stories reach me now of the early deaths of my former associates: a cousin of mine, a chronic alcoholic who survived numerous car crashes, once severed his carotid artery, and was saved by doctors. Years later he dove into shallow water and was paralyzed; he died two years later from meningitis. The neighbor-boy down the street from where I grew up died last year of an overdose (opiates, I presume). My one-time tennis teacher drank himself to death, my parents factually inform me. (He was 41; he might have had a new liver, but refused to abjure alcohol.) The Daubenmire boy is dead too (opiates or heroin). The younger brother of one of my classmates, a Navy cryptographer, took his own life. There is no end to these stories.
We are now in a little town in Ohio. Here and there among the houses, which are certainly comical in their structure, all towered and pillared and trellised, like a child’s drawing of a hous, we saw strange, shell-like cellars extending deep into the earth. Our inquiries brought the information that these were originally designed as roasting pits for the preparation of human flesh. Upon consulting a history book, I learned that cannibalism was prevalent in the Middle West as late as 1924. These pits are now the scene of dog-baiting and cock-fighting. This region is up-to-date in the extreme: it is not at all unusual to see other sights in these diggings — women cohabiting with sheep, pigs, and dogs; men masturbating stallions with greased inner-tubes; surgeons performing cancer operations; local election rallies featuring the castrating and lynching of Negroes — all this is done to acquaint the public with a new cosmetic or tooth powder, or to open a new movie palace or church. I do not wonder that this state ranks second in the number of sons it has contributed to the White House.
– from Kenneth Patchen’s Journal of Albion Moonlight (New Directions, 1941)
“In 1748, the Oneida Sheckellamy, an intermediary on the Indian-white frontier in the Ohio Valley, went to considerable lengths to converse with a German visitor. A colonist translated the German’s words into Mahican, then a Mahican woman translated them into Shawnee for her husband, who in turn translated them into Oneida. Shickellamy’s reply went through the several translators in reverse order: Onedia to Shawnee to Mahican to German. More than two thousand miles to the west, in what is now Montana, the American explorers Lewis and Clark encountered similar problems in opening diplomatic relations with the Flathead or Salish Indians in 1805. No one in the American party spoke Salish. To communicate, the Americans delivered their speech in English, which François Labiche, one of the party, translated into French. Toussaint Charbonneau translated the French version into Hidatsa; his Shoshone wife, Sacagawea, who had lived among the Hidatsas, translated the speech into Shoshone. Finally, a Shoshone boy living with the Salish translated it into their language. One wonders how much of the original speech remained intact after traveling the length of this elaborate linguistic chain.”
– Colin G. Calloway’s New Worlds for All: Indians, Europeans, and the Remaking of Early America (2nd ed., Johns Hopkins UP, 2013. P. 129.)
The Book of J (Genesis, Exodus, Numbers) (c. 950 B.C.; trans. David Rosenberg, 1990; interpreted by Harold Bloom; in progress)
On the Shortness of Life (49 A.D.) – Seneca (trans. C.D.N. Costa, 1997)
Books VI, VII, & VIII of Mémoires d’outre-tombe (1849) – François-René de Chateaubriand
Vie de Samuel Johnson (1959) – Giorgio Manganelli (trans. Dominique Férault, 2010)
Patagoni (1971), Zip Odes (1979), Dept. of the Interior (1980), Waters of Potowmack (1982), Golden Delicious (1985), Mountaineers Are Always Free! (1987), Araminta and the Coyotes (1991), Huascarán (1997) – Paul Metcalf
Six Memos for the Next Millennium (1985) – Italo Calvino (trans. Patrick Creagh, 1988)
But Beautiful (1990) – Geoff Dyer (rereading)
The Ohio Frontier: An Anthology of Early Writings (2005) – edited by Emily Foster
Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma-Queen (2015) – Mary Norris
Blazes, Posts, & Stones: A History of Ohio’s Original Land Subdivisions (2015) – James L. Williams (in progress)
Ohio Board of Education President Debe Terhar wants all mentions of the Toni Morrison novel The Bluest Eye removed from state guidelines for schools teaching to the new Common Core academic standards. She thinks the book is “pornographic.”
(This is an update to the post Dayton in books: a collage.)
Joe Brainard’s I remember (1975) is an incredible book, touching, intimate, and beautiful. It consists of more than 1,000 brief entries that begin with the words “I remember.”
Brainard was from Tulsa, Oklahoma, went to New York City where he remained friends with Ron Padgett, and met Kensward Elmslie, John Ashbery, Ted Berrigan, and others of the New York poets of the 60s and 70s. He’s remembered as both an artist (painter, sketch artist?) and as a writer of about ten other books.
Just a few excerpts on Brainard’s brief stint in Dayton, Ohio, where he had a scholarship through the Dayton Art Institute:
I remember when I won a scholarship to the Dayton, Ohio, Art Institute and I didn’t like it but I didn’t want to hurt their feelings by just quitting so I told them that my father was dying of cancer. (53)
I remember in Dayton, Ohio, the art fair in the park where they made me take down all my naked self-portraits. (53)
I remember a girl in Dayton, Ohio, who “taught” me what to do with your tongue, which it turns out, is definitely what not to do with your tongue. You could really hurt somebody that way. (Strangulation.) (153)
UPDATE: The amazing PennSound archive has a 1/2 hr. recording of Joe Brainard reading from this work.