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Letters & Essays: 1960s

Letters & Essays of the Day

If You Are Permanently Lost

By Molly McCully Brown

I never have any idea where I am. I lived my whole childhood in the purple foothills of the same five-square-mile town and I still couldn’t tell you whether you turn left or right on the single thruway to get to the grade school or the grocery store, or how to find the houses of any of my childhood friends. I can’t tell you how to find the conspicuously modern angles of the apartment building in the small Mississippi town where I lived for three years in graduate school, or even easily direct you from my old house in Austin to the bright little bar where I wrote much of my first book. I never know how far I am from the airport or the highway. I can’t read a map effectively, and even though it’s less than half a mile from my current apartment in London, I couldn’t get to the Thames without the artificial voice on my cell phone—set to an Australian accent so its omnipresence is less tiresome—­calling out turn left every 250 feet. Half the time, to remember which way is left, I have to imagine for an instant that I am picking up a pen.

Two Portraits: Gustave Lerouge and Arthur Cravan

By Blaise Cendrars

Gustave Lerouge, who died several years ago on the eve of the Second World War, was the author of 312 works (in any case, that is the number of his works in my library), many of which were in several volumes and one, Le Mysterieux Docteur Cornelius, was a 150-page masterpiece of scientific detective fiction in 56 installments; others were not even signed since Gustave Lerouge often worked for publishers of the seventeenth order. 

Letters to Ezra Pound

By E. E. Cummings

When through who the unotherish twilight up drops but his nib licks Sir Oral Ne Ferdinand Joegesq’ (disarmed to the nonteeth by lose able scripture befisto-zr-P—nd subjesting etsemina our light written) and him as mightily distant from a fit of the in cheerful as am our hero but naturally encore when the ittorian extroverts Well why not send your portrait of you and your portrait of me? J, says sprouts, it ch’ll bepigged, if only in the name of Adver the Tisement;but will they immaculate it on t’other conception(meaning Brussels) which being respond fully pre answered we thus forth are proseeding.

Swinging The Paradise Street Blues: Malcolm Lowry in England

By Conrad Knickerbocker

On the night of June 26, 1957, Malcolm Lowry pitched forward and died, and his body lay on the floor all night amid a gin bottle’s broken splinters. His big novel, Under the Volcano, had been published ten years before, and somebody called him a genius then, but after the inquest “death by misadventure" only eight people attended his country church funeral. The Brighton Argus ran a few paragraphs under the headline, ’’She Broke Gin Bottle.” The Times did not cover it.

Manolo Secca

By Blaise Cendrars

I am surprised that no novelist of today has yet devoted a work to the automobile, to the modern highway, to road side inns, to gallant adventures of the road such as Casanova celebrated in his Memories, which were full of post-chaises and hostelries familiar to travelers at the end of the Eighteenth century; or as George Borrow in The Bible in Spain wrote of adventures and encounters along the road in Spain at the beginning of the Twentieth century (a little in the manner ofL’Intineraire Espagnol of t’Sterstevens, except that Borrow hadn’t gone to Spain to write a book—that would never have occurred to him—but to distribute the book of books, the Bible, in Spain, and particularly to distribute it—queer idea!—to the gypsies). 

An Anecdoted Topography of Chance

By Daniel Spoerri

In my (Tr. Note l.) room. No. 13 on the fifth floor of the Hotel Carcassonne at 24 Rue Mouffetard, to the right of the entrance door, between the stove and the sink, stands a table that VERA painted blue one day to surprise me. I have set out here to sec what the objects on a section of this table (which I could have made into a snare-picture) (see Appendix II) might suggest to me, what they might spontaneously awaken in me in describing them: the way SHERLOCK HOLMES, starting out with a single object, could solve a crime; (see Appendix III) or historians, after centuries, were able to reconstitute a whole epoch from the most famous fixation in history, Pompeii.