Saturday, December 26, 2009

In the beginning...

Christmas is over, my woodie's outside, covered with snow, and now it's Boxing Day. Speaking of boxing, did you, by any chance, see Miguel Cotto get clobbered by Manny Pacquiao a while back?

Manoman, violence is everywhere, dear friends. Even during the holidays.

For the record, the most interesting present I received this Christmas is "The Book of Genesis, illustrated by R. Crumb."
Brief personal aside: A person in my position is showered with presents during the holidays. My personal favorite is when groups of strange women stand outside the Peter McManus cafe chanting my name, waiting to pelt me with their underthings as I stagger towards the subway entrance. Like I'm Lenny Kravitz or something. Truth be told, this happens so rarely that I haven't yet lost my zest for the experience.
Anyway, back to the book. The fact of the matter is that I have little patience for graphic novels (which are thicker verions what we used to comic books) and the work of R. Crumb has always left me cold. I deliberately didn't see that movie with Hope whatshername.

But the audacity of the act; the courage of the thing, struck me. Hit me. Hit me like a diamond bullet. Like a diamond bullet through the forehead. And which, inexorably, made me think of Kurtz: God. The genius of that! The genius! The will to do that! Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure.
To anyone who's ever stuck a stick in a can of paint and cast his seed upon the waters (whatever that last part means), the idea of illustrating Genesis is just that: Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure.

Check out Cain snuffing Abel:

And there's plenty more where that came from.

One can't help but reflect on the parallels to Art Spiegelman's Maus books. Which, dear reader, were stunners.

And the reflection upon which, inexorably, makes you think of "The Lost, Six of Six Million," a book by Daniel Mendelsohn. The Times, in its majesty, describes the opening of "The Lost" thusly:
Mendelsohn begins his account with a startling childhood experience: at gatherings of his extended family, many of them survivors of the massacred Jewish community of Bolechow, Poland (now Ukraine), “it would occasionally happen that I would walk into a room and certain people would begin to cry.” They would cry because of his startling resemblance to a distant relative among the dead, his great-uncle Shmiel Jäger, a meat shipper in Bolechow who was murdered by the Nazis along with his wife, Ester, and their four daughters.
That family--man, woman, four daughters--being the "six" mentioned in the title. Elsewhere in the review we get:
I can’t say it better than one of Daniel Mendelsohn’s travelling companions does toward the end of this powerful work of investigative empathy: “The Holocaust is so big, the scale of it is so gigantic, so enormous, that it becomes easy to think of it as something mechanical. Anonymous. But everything that happened, happened because someone made a decision. To pull a trigger, to flip a switch, to close a cattle car door, to hide, to betray.”
Which brings us, later in the review, to ...
In the beginning the reader may feel a little at sea in the welter of details and the web of relationships — whose great-aunt was the sister of which brother-in-law? It is a tribute to Mendelsohn’s narrative skills that one soon finds the close focus on family details absorbing, novelistic. Before long one begins to grasp Mendelsohn’s method, which draws on both the classical and the Biblical modes of storytelling. In fact, his interspersed meditations on conflicting models of storytelling are one of the most thought-provoking and original features of the book.
Which, inexorably, makes you think of what you assume are the first words of Genesis.
In the beginning...
Yet in Crumb's version, the first line reads:
When God began to create Heaven and earth, the earth was then without form...
Which is just further proof that the guy's got some cajones.

Asking only workman's wages
I came looking for a job
But I got no offers,
Just a come-on from the whores on Seventh Avenue
I do declare, there were times when I was so lonesome
I took some comfort there
Then I became a painter
And now people are throwing their underwear at me.
That said, New York can be a lonely town when you're the only surfer boy around. And the holidays can be difficult. But there are worse things than counting your blessings.
Footnote #1 (Reclining--Chelsea Hotel)

For you completists, the full Kurtz quote goes like this:

I've seen horrors... horrors that you've seen. But you have no right to call me a murderer. You have a right to kill me. You have a right to do that... but you have no right to judge me. It's impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror... Horror has a face... and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not, then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies! I remember when I was with Special Forces... seems a thousand centuries ago. We went into a camp to inoculate some children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn't see. We went back there, and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile. A pile of little arms. And I remember... I... I... I cried, I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out; I didn't know what I wanted to do! And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it... I never want to forget. And then I realized... like I was shot... like I was shot with a diamond... a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought, my God... the genius of that! The genius! The will to do that! Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger than we, because they could stand that. These were not monsters, these were men... trained cadres. These men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love... but they had the strength... the strength... to do that. If I had ten divisions of those men, our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral... and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling... without passion... without judgment... without judgment! Because it's judgment that defeats us.


Wow--this is really complicated!


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