Sunday, November 14, 2010

JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN by Dalton Trumbo

Why didn't I come upon this novel during the Vietnam years? Not only one of the best anti-war novels, but so imaginative, so sad, so perfectly written from the perspective that War is Hell. What other perspective is there when it comes to war? Published in 1939, written by Dalton Trumbo, it is about a soldier who has lost everything in The War To End All Wards; everything that is but his mind. Reminds me of the Clancy brother's song Johnny I Hardly Knew You. (Thank you Jeanne Lafferty.)

I stumbled upon this novel in a seventh period World History class taught by Mr. Jarze. On Veteran's Day all the history teachers were obliged to do something to explain the meaning of this holiday. Mr. Jarze chose a reading from this novel, and an accompanying video featuring Metallica using this novel as inspiration for their song.

When it comes to war there are two works we all should read before supporting it, becoming part of it, and before deciding to "just let it happen, since what can we do?"
The first is this novel, Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo.
The other is Howard Zinn's Peoples' History of The United States," or if you're not a reader Google his wonderful speech entitled Holy Wars.
That's all ye know on earth about war, and all ye need to know.
Pardon the paraphrase, Mr. Keats.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Yes, Virginia, There Is a Florida

Make no mistake: there is a Florida attached to the upper 47. It is a peninsula forever threatened by water; water everywhere. One of my friends said that the entire state is a landfill. Harsh. Sometimes seemingly true. There is an east coast. (Think monster hurricanes on doplar radar.) There is a west coast. (Think monster hurricanes stewing in the Gulf.) And there's a land in between already filled with interstates and travelers heading north and south, but not by train. Nothing moves by rail anymore. Wal-Mart trucks, Inc. carry all: from cattle, chattel, to junk from China and environs. Back to Florida. There are six churches to every person. Most of them in Pasco County. Is it truly a religious haven? Do I dare think that tax exemption is at the heart of this spirtual phenomenon? Someone advised me to get my Doctorate of Divinity on line, then I can touch people. Then I can rent space in a strip mall and call it a church. Then I can take offerings and pay zero taxes. You can't deny there is some spirit to that! The churches. Mostly fundamentalist. Some traditional. Some in a room of their own. I don't mind being amongst all these churches. Don't get me wrong. I just miss the cathedrals. The grandeur. But, I understand, it's difficult to build a cathedral on a slab.
Consider Florida before air conditoning. Don't consider mosquito coasts and malaria. They've moved south to the lower Americas.
Florida: once Red, now temporarily Blue; just itching to turn Red and rebel once again.
It is where I live. I find the book stores, the theaters, the people I enjoy. It is a diverse state. Though there aren't a lot of Main Streets. Travel Highway 19 on the west coast and town melds into town. You have to watch for the "Entering Holiday" sign stuck in front of a strip mall. But New Port Richey does have a Main Street. There's a central park of sorts. And an abandoned old home where Gloria Swanson used to live during the heyday. And on Moon Lake Road there's a windowless, stone building said to be Al Capone's hideout. No historical marker there. Just legend, imagination, sanctuary when bullets flew over Broadway. Sanctuary. Almost sounds hallowed.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

From Panama to Cambridge

In my country of Panama it is a tradition to move out every so many years for an extended period of time. In honoring my country's tradition, I have moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts for a stay of unknown length at this time.
I don't mean to be secretive, but, as we say in Panama, too much information given is too much information received.
Wise words from the most wonderful place on earth.
Let's just say that I've chosen one of the more prestigious art schools for the location of my new residence.
I am fortunate.
I am surrounded by beautiful watercolors, sketches, photography, paintings and portraits.
Celebrated artists come here every Monday night to share in the exuberance of creation!
I may even grow a beard while I am here.
I may learn to play the lute.
I may decide to strive for a better translation of Tolstoy.
I won't be incognito, if I tell you more.
Perhaps those of you who really need to be in touch will persuade me to reveal my exact location.


Sunday, April 26, 2009


I just finished reading Angelica by Arthur Phillips. If you love traditionally wrought fiction loaded with conflicts and final resolutions, so that the fate of all the characters is revealed by the end of the story, forget this novel. Angelica has been described as a cross between Rashomon and The Turning of The Screw. It is a story told by an initially unrevealed narrator. There are four segments to the novel; actually four novels within a novel. We read the first character's reality and we are left with certain, fairly fixed perspectives. Then we move on to the other three points of view, and we are suddenly never too sure of what is real, what is imagined, who's "right," who the villain is, whose narration is closer to the truth, if indeed the truth can ever be learned. So if you can't deal with irresolution, then don't even start this book.
But as a literary novel it certainly pleases. There are so many issues examined in this setting of Victorian society, from vivisection to male and female sexual roles, to spiritualism, to mystery, to science vs. the metaphysical that there is never a loss of interest. Occasionally the narration bogs down, particularly if you soon realize that it is headed toward a dead end of not knowing what's what. But the speculation more than makes up for the certainties we may seek. In fact, this is a novel that should be read twice, so that you can examine each point of view with a keener eye, so that you can decide on your take of events and find the narrative clues to support it. I'm not sure if the author has made it possible to do this with any certainty. But, that's exactly what he intended!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Anonymous Bosch

Burnt Sienna

Burnt Sienna is still sienna,
Singed in one of three degrees.
Is first the worst?
Or third to fear
When sear is no longer sienna.


Sesquicentennial -
One hundred years minus, plus a few.
Or else shaped into geometrical form.
Modified, museumed, mausoleumed;
More interesting than biennial
As puzzling as quadrihedron
Alas, not as bad as quasiheathen.
To say nothing of Tipi Hedron.


Your impassive face speaks
Through my inference.
I read into and about it
In vexing speculation.
Oh, wear your heart upon your sleeve;
And show me implications, Face!

Horse Sense

Slip shod
One horse shay
Horse poorly shod
Surely slips
The wagon breaks apart
And we wonder why we tumble out.

Sixteen and Counting

Lincolnesque -
In form, in action, perhaps
Not always, exactly in fashion.
A quality devoutly
To be wished.
Obamaesque, Arabesque
Think Gettysburg, Inaugural Two -
Slaves whose chains are broken.
One man can make the center hold?
William Butler sound retreat!
No, wait. The century sorely sags.
In Extremis

Olive slips upon my tongue;
Adheres in repetition:
Olive, olive, O-Live.
Omega oils and dry martinis.
To live is to embrace extremes.
Oh, live within the middle, Fool!
Middlemarch, Bourgeoisie
Petit and otherwise.
Bring many martinis
On this happiest of hours.
And hold every goddam olive.

Anonymous Bosch

Germanic Rumination

Of Prussia I am confused
I seek old maps to find its where
A Google, and there it is.
Prussian armies, Old Kingdoms,
Dotted lines.
A northern slice of Germany?
Hessians, Prussians - One in same
Who helped, who hurt our Revolution?
King of Prussia, Pennsylvania
What's with that?

Is It the Mother Board?

Suspend your animation,
An inner voice decrees.
Means movement and routine
Abide on sparse electricity.
Lowered amperage,
Weakened wattage
Walk, run, sleep, cry -
All settings default to
A brain gone slightly,
Awfully awry.

Puppet Tear

I've fallen --
Don't you pick me up!
I've bootstraps
Here somewhere.
Never used, never worn
Unlaced --
Hence, I've fallen.

Don't lift me, please!
There are rosebuds here
Upon the fallen ground
To gather, while I may
Only my goddam bootstraps
Are in the way.

What's this?
You tack my boostraps
To my arms and legs
All straps lead to a board
Upon your palm.
Remember though,
I'm yours forever
Once a marionette.