About "end tatters"

“end tatters” in now available in paperback. I don’t intend an e-book version. As indicated on the copyright page, “Some of the End Tatters pieces previously appeared, some in different form, in these publications: Berfrois; Berfrois: the Book; Queen Mob’s Teahouse; Sultan’s Seal: The Hotel Cosmopolitan; One Imperative; and The Coming of the Toads.” The book does offer some new pieces also, though, so it collects previously published and new pieces. My primary purpose in publishing the book in paperback form is that I wanted to save, on paper, a number of pieces a bit scattered on-line, while I had some new pieces I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with. Besides that, I enjoy making books, reading books, collecting books.

Distributing and selling indie books is a different matter. Even giving them away does not at all ensure they’ll be read. Nevertheless, I’ll be giving away a few copies of “end tatters” to innocent bystanders. So be on the lookout.

With “end tatters,” I’ve attempted a kind of imprint, the somewhat clumsy, perhaps, “a Joe Linker book.” Below, we see the “CONTENTS” page:

CONTENTS

Bells…11
Milk…17
Trees…23
This and That…25
Taking the Call…27
Nativity Scene…33
In One’s Dotage…45
Divine Comedy…47
To Surf…49
About Confusion…57
Epiphanic Cat…67
The Tyger…69
Wealcan…71
Horny Theology…88
Withdrawal…91
Cliff Notes…93
Vintage…95
In Transit…97
Cricket…99
Remaindered…101
Typewriter…103

And a bit more info. for this post, with some pics:

Product details

  • Paperback: 105 pages
  • Publisher: Independently published (January 8, 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1654268291
  • ISBN-13: 978-1654268299
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item

In Print: "End Tatters"

“Do you want this book published,’ he asked, ‘or just printed?” Said Angus Cameron (editor at Little, Brown) to J. D. Salinger upon learning Salinger wanted no advertising of his forthcoming “The Catcher in the Rye.” Particularly, and peculiarly, from the publisher’s viewpoint, J. D. wanted no author’s photo on the cover (Ian Hamilton, In Search of J. D. Salinger, 1988, Random House, p. 115).

How to launch a book? Advance review copies. Interviews. Author’s book tour. Live readings. Ads in trade journals. Book store displays. Billboards on Sunset Boulevard and in Times Square.

Like Salinger, though they’ve actually few if any other options, the indie writer/publisher eschews the traditional publicity stunts ahead of book store distribution for a blog post or two.

This is the second in a planned series of posts designed with the usual blog accompanied by tweet fanfare to launch, from the author of “Penina’s Letters,” a new book, titled “end tatters,” coming this week. Below, we see the front and back covers, and the back gives a brief description of what’s inside:

News

Walking north up 69th on the way to Montavilla for an afternoon coffee, in the street at first, around my neighbor’s sidewalk repair project, barricades up while the newly poured cement dries. Then a short hello to the next neighbor out trying, with some difficulty, apparently, to start his gas lawnmower, yard work project of mid-December in progress. Next I came upon a five gallon bucket half full of water placed in the walkway to secure what appeared to be a tiny cement patch job. At the corner of 69th and Stark, I noticed the city fire hydrant replacement work is now complete, tools and materials cleared, the new hydrant standing like a shiny orange Christmas ornament, moved around the corner. Against the curb, a large steel plate remains to be picked up. I had just set out, the day cold but partially clear, with no wind to speak of, and already I had enough news to fill a paragraph.

What is news? Most of what passes for news these days is tabloid sensationalism, entertainment, ratings and sponsor influenced selections from a worldwide reservoir of orality and photographs depicting and commenting on current events, the more current, the better, the higher the octane the more promise the trending and the more seen the ads. Today’s news is a kind of pornography, never enough to truly satisfy, and therefore an addictive substance. Originally, pornography was simply writing about prostitutes, while news was simply new things previously unknown to an audience. Today’s news is a new pornography, stories about the risks of public exposure of joyless addictions, risky setups for personal attention and gain.

An important accoutrement used in today’s news is the public opinion poll. But how can the public have any kind of informed opinion if its only source of information is the news? Yet the news is saturated with what the latest polls show. Even the public broadcasting stations seem addicted to polls, in spite of how poorly polls used at the time had predicted the 2016 election results. And the current polls, acknowledged generally to have meaningful margins of error, don’t seem to be moving anywhere, plus or minus. Impotent, still, polls are the new foreplay of stories to come.

Down in Montavilla and now discover the food carts on Stark in front of the old Beets parking lot have vanished. Now that’s news. Story at eleven.

Advertisement

All advertisement is argument.

We start arguments when we say something and we know someone will disagree. Happens all the time. We are never safe from disagreement. If you say, “The sun rises in the east,” you might think you’d be safe from argument. But an astrophysicist listening in might say the sun does not actually rise. The earth spins in orbit around the sun, and so on and so forth. A rebuttal around what you said about where the sun rises might productively explain the importance of point of view and perspective, presuppositions and assumptions, audience and expectations, proof and fallacy. Or it might be met with an eclipse of the eyes.

Most of the above, in one form or another, you can find in books on rhetoric, and most of those have as their ultimate source of reference, Aristotle. When “The Coming of the Toads” started out, on December 27, 2007, the first post was about argument. Since then, the Toads has posted 866 arguments. Not that frequency or redundancy leads to persuasiveness. Some readers will no doubt argue that’s 866 arguments too many.

Artists enjoy argument. A poet might say, for example, “Wouldn’t it be nice if the sun rose in the west for a change?” Buckminster Fuller suggested we replace the words “sunrise” and “sunset” with sunsight and sunclipse. Fuller, a scientist and inventor, was arguing that language both informs and betrays how we see and understand things. Both physicists and philosophers might ask, “Why does the sun rise?” Their answers will be arguments. Advertisers can’t afford arguments, so they cleverly disguise saying anything someone might disagree with. An advertiser might suggest sunopen and sunclosed.

Silence, too, is often met with disagreement. “You should speak up,” someone says. “Say something.” Or your silence alone might be understood as disagreement, particularly if your arms are folded tightly across your chest. Advertisers never fold their arms or cross their legs.

Aristotle saw that arguments happen everywhere and all the time. But listening closely, he also saw that some people were better at argument than others. Some people always seemed to be right, no matter what they said. And Aristotle thought that if he studied how those people argued, he might be able to explain the tools of argument.

The proper use of those tools is the subject of another argument.

Modern Man in Search of a Sofa

It is 1985, and a corporate colleague tells me his grandfather and father had built the house he would come to grow up in just before World War II, having ordered it out of a Sears Catalog. The house was delivered as a kit, with plans, in parts, via rail to a nearby town, where it was then trucked to the lot where they put it together. Yes, “some assembly required.”

We were reading “In Search of Excellence” in the mid 80s, at all levels of the organization. But what many workers were actually in search of was a job with benefits that paid at least enough to buy a house for the fam and stuff to put in it, including sofa in the living room, pram in the entry, and car in the garage. For my part, I had recently come to realize the community college adjunct job I’d been working full time since the close of the 70s wasn’t going to produce such excellent results.

In the first half of the 20th Century, the Sears Catalog served a bit like today’s Amazon. But I searched Amazon this morning to see if I could buy a house online and have it delivered, and all I found were backyard sheds. Sears discontinued its catalog division in the early 1990s. It’s hard to stay close to the customer when the customer is constantly on the move. In any case, most corporations (and stores and shops) only affect concern for the customer; what they’re really after is a share of the customer’s wallet, or, in Amazon’s case, the whole wallet. But what happens when customers no longer pack wallets?

Or no longer want stuff, or at least, not so much stuff. Or still want some stuff, but different stuff. In other words, does Amazon sell souls? Or, as Jung put in his “Modern Man in Search of a Soul”: “No psychic value can disappear without being replaced by another of equivalent intensity” (209).

There are, it is argued, certain efficiencies that promote the use of Amazon over the emotional expense of leaving one’s safe harbor for the voyage out to the mall or downtown or the shops of Hawthorne. Why should consumers feel shame about where or how or for what they shop? In any case, it appears most feel no shame. But is that because they are driven by unconscious desires, wants that may be manipulated by elevator music, trance inducing ads, or atavistic urges to covet one’s neighbor’s goods?

I don’t know, but it often seems shoppers are led to the market like the Eloi in “The Time Machine” are pulled to the Morlocks. In return for the seemingly safe setting the Morlocks have created, the Eloi serve themselves up as food to sustain the Morlockian system.

Notes on Writing

What we call the need to write can cause depression, and all kinds of other adverse reactions.

If one does not enjoy the act of writing without objectives, mission statement, goals, needs, then one should not write. Writing for that writer will be work.

The best writing comes from play.

There is no need to write. The feeling some may have of that need is an illusion, or a mask that is disguising some other need, which can only be satisfied by not writing.

Writing is not important, but that is not to say it is without consequence.

“Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can talk with him?” Zhuangzi.

from Artaud: “The whole literary scene is a pigpen, especially today. All those who have points of reference in their minds, I mean on a certain side of their heads, in well-localized areas of their brains, all those who are masters of their language, all those for whom words have meanings, all those for whom there exists higher levels of the soul and currents of thought, those who represent the spirit of the times, and who have named these currents of thought, I am thinking of their meticulous industry and of that mechanical creaking which their minds give off in all directions—are pigs.

Those for whom certain words have meaning, and certain modes of being, those who are so precise, those for whom emotions can be classified and who quibble over some point of their hilarious classifications, those who still believe in “terms,” those who discuss the ranking ideologies of the age, those whom women discuss so intelligently and the women themselves who speak so well and who discuss the currents of the age, those who still believe in an orientation of the mind, those who follow paths, who drop names, who recommend books—these are the worst pigs of all.

You are quite unnecessary, young man!”

“All writing is garbage.” But it’s garbage that’s interesting. And what, after all, is the purpose of garbage? When readers are like mushrooms?

To write well, one must learn to become someone else, the one who does not care.

Writing is learned while writing, and in no other way, yet a good writer is a good reader.

Writing comes not from words, but from smells and odors and tastes, sounds, itches and bites, still lifes. From kitchens and bathrooms (not libraries), from bedrooms, from basements and garages and attics, from alleys and vacant lots and abandoned dwellings.

Writing is like an unmade bed.

A Modest Halloween Proposal

It sometimes seems clear if there is an afterlife it does not interfere with present life. But what is present? The light from our sun is already a little over eight seconds old. We sunbathe in the past, confident in a present we never quite seem to fully inhabit (physics explains it’s perfectly possible to split infinitives). Where then do we go? Maybe time is a question of physics, maybe of metaphysics – the things that may come after the physics.

The dead seem an extremely polite bunch. They do not intrude. Looking for them is like searching for aliens. We may feel their presence, approach them with the telescope of faith, but if they exist, somewhere-somehow, that life lies far far beyond the present five senses. To prove an afterlife, if we want to believe in ghosts and such, we must create a sense beyond our given five.

William Blake noticed angels out and about. Rilke claimed to have seen one. What is it about poets that make them easy prey for such notions? Wouldn’t it be a bit frightful if the first aliens the astronomers discover turn out to be previous earthlings? The problem with communicating with the dead may simply be the length of time their message takes to reach us. By the time the first message from the first dead reaches Earth, we may all be gone. What would the message say? Trick or Treat?

I take no issue with the dead. Nor am I looking forward to meeting any aliens. Let them keep their distance. My problem seems to be sugar: to wit, candy – the Halloween tradition (in these parts).

This year, instead of passing out candy, I propose to hand out poems. Short poems printed on three by five cards, maybe with a cartoon or drawing on one side of the card. I’ll drop a poem card into every little critter’s Halloween basket. No candy. No sugar.

But when I mentioned the idea to Susan, she said, “We’ll get our house egged for sure.”

“You think? With the cost of dairy these days?”

“And the parents will accuse you of poisoning their kids with poetry. Besides, Halloween cards are nothing new. And poetry, while sugar free, is still very high in carbs and calories, not to mention saturated and trans fats.”

So much for my proposal. I guess we’re sticking with candy.

Bells, part 3, Relax

We should probably be wary of statements beginning with the pronouncement, “Never before, in the history of the world….”

Nevertheless, given our current world predicament, we might find ourselves in need of some relaxation – seemingly, like never before.

In his little book titled “How to Relax,” the monk Thich Nhat Hanh begins:

“You don’t need to set aside special time for resting and relaxing. You don’t need a special pillow or any fancy equipment. You don’t need a whole hour. In fact, now is a very good time to relax” (page 6, “How to Relax,” Parallax Press, 2015).

The same might be said for writing. You don’t need a fancy machine, a special desk or pen, or even a purpose. What you need – is a bell.

“There is tranquility, peace, and joy within us, but we have to call them forth so they can manifest. Inviting a bell to sound is one way to call forth the joy and tranquility within” (page 100).

Thich Nhat Hanh gives us a poem to remind us of the bell we want to listen for, to hear, to send out to others:

“Body, speech, and mind in perfect oneness,
I send my heart along with the sound of this bell.
May all the hearers awaken from forgetfulness,
and transcend the path of anxiety and sorrow” (page 100).

And we don’t need a fancy blog template or website to write. Again, nevertheless, here at The Coming of the Toads, I’ve experimented with a few of the WordPress templates over time. But what did I want, if not simply to write? This isn’t the only place, the only way, I write. I keep a pocket notebook in the left rear pocket of my pants (detail for readers in need), unlined because I like to doodle and wander. I keep a spiral notebook in a desk drawer. I started The Coming of the Toads, after a few hesitant starts, in December of 2007, and have posted something at least monthly since. Why then, lately, have I been having thoughts of ending it?

I wasn’t “inviting the bell.” Not Poe’s “the tintinabulation of the bells,” nor his “anger of the bells,” nor his “moaning and the groaning of the bells.” But the bell of the muse. I like this etymological note from Oxford: “Middle English: from Old French muser ‘meditate, waste time’, perhaps from medieval Latin musum ‘muzzle’.” Writing involves a good amount of self-muzzle, or should. First, we might want to relax. Invite the bell. Then take up the pen and notebook, or open the blog.

This is the third piece in a series on bells at The Coming of the Toads.

What Goodness Knows: Ed Simon’s “Furnace of this World; or, 36 Observations About Goodness”

When Mark Twain’s Huck decides to help Jim, an illegal immigrant of his time, a runaway slave, Huck believes he’ll go to hell for his goodness. Huck knows that by helping Jim escape he’ll be breaking the law. He’ll bring the wrath of local public opinion so forcefully down upon his head, this time it’ll probably fall off. He feels good, though, having sat down and thought it out and making his decision to help Jim with deliberation and good reason. Huck does not argue that he should not go to hell for helping Jim.

Central to Ed Simon’s 100 page immersion in goodness is a discussion of Judas, who betrayed Jesus. It’s a little forced, but the idea is that without the betrayal, Jesus can’t save the world. One would think the Grand Master of Plots would come up with a work-around if Judas doesn’t cooperate, but we get the idea. Out of this betrayal, for which Judas knows he’ll go to hell, where his 30 pieces of silver won’t buy him much of anything, comes the sacrifice to end all sacrifices. So why has Judas, over time, been treated as such a heel?

For Simon, goodness is no easy matter. When Jesus said, “Come, follow me,” you knew you were not going to a party. Is goodness even possible for an embodied, fallen soul? Where along the spectrum from doing good to doing nothing to breaking bad does empathy require altruistic behavior? In other words, what good is it if you don’t have some skin in the game? Simon clarifies the question in his introduction:

“Looming over my concerns is clearly the current political climate in both Europe and the United States, particularly the increasing economic disparity, the emboldening of extremism and zealotry, and especially the casual cruelty. The desire to reflect on what goodness might mean and how to be an embodied individual implicated in systems of oppression who nonetheless wishes to stand against those systems is hopefully underscored through the entire book” (8).

from Intro. to “Furnace of This World; Or, 36 Observations About Goodness,” by Ed Simon, Zero Books, 2019.

Why does it sometimes seem easier to follow evil than good? Easier to describe and to write. Good comedy is much harder to write, and more rare, than good tragedy. And why does comedy so often rely on someone else’s pain? Any discussion of good and evil falls quickly into the Western dichotomy zone, where so much bad would not have befallen you had you simply been more good. It’s not as easy as choosing right over wrong when any choice implicates others and sets forth what might quickly become a random course of events over which you just as quickly lose control. You make a good shot, but unfortunately you end up sinking the 8 ball and give away the match. Simon is aware of that, and handles it carefully:

“I neither know what is right or wrong, nor how to prove which one a given action is, but I do know fear, anxiety, pain, relief, peace, love, and the visceral, physical, psychological experience of those states, and that must be the basis for any ethic of goodness to our fellow humans” (14).

Goodness begins, for Simon, with compassion. But can the good one does redeem one who does not? Is there a quorum of good necessary to save those not in attendance? Why does the Black Christ keep getting whitewashed over? Simon does not go it alone in navigating his theme. What good would a totalitarian good be? What does it mean to sin for good? As Dylan sang, “There’s no success like failure, and failure’s no success at all.” A little kindness for those who fail might be a good place to begin a path toward goodness.

While his Judas discussion might seem a bit forced, so too do some of Simon’s examples of evil seem extreme. They are the tabloid stories that have gone historically viral. But they are carefully placed to support the claim that evil is not a mistake. Depravity does not necessarily follow from deprivation, contrary to social studies myth:

“My Daddy beats my Mommy
My Mommy clobbers me
My Grandpa is a Commie
My Grandma pushes tea
My sister wears a mustache
My brother wears a dress
Goodness Gracious, that’s why I’m a mess!

from “Gee, Officer Krupke,” lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, “West Side Story,” 1957.

In fact, goodness might come from poverty, the road of excess not leading to Blake’s “palace of wisdom,” but to a white house of exploitation and gluttony, avarice and vainglory. The swamp might be a necessary mess.

“I apologize for the macabre nature of my observations,” Simon begins observation XXIV, “but any discussion of good implies a consideration of evil” (60). Apology accepted as we read on, for by the end of his observations, I was gobsmacked by this book. It is perfectly paced and accessible to the common reader. It’s full of researched materials from antiquity to modern times, but it’s scholarly without being pedantic or smugly academic. It does not pander to a peer group. Yet it could be used as a guide toward further reading, study, caring. It contains both the sacred and the profane. It does not preach nor profess nor confess nor hide.

Is happiness necessary to goodness? Studies over the last two decades have shown Americans are not a happy bunch. Could it be that’s because we are not sufficiently good to be really happy? Simon anticipates rebuttal. Each observation carries forward naturally and thematically. He’s not without contradictions. We learn of Margery Kempe and her autobiography. We meet, if we’ve not already, the poet Jack Gilbert. Kempe says, “Wheresoever God is, heaven is; and God is in your soul, and many an angel is round about your soul to guard it both night and day” (80). But if God is in your soul, why does it need protecting, protection from what? Protection from the world He created for you? Is that how religion came to be such a protection racket? Meanwhile, we’ve Jack Gilbert telling us “we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants” (78). Then why didn’t God make life more enjoyable, the cynic responds. But Simon stops the merry-go-round: “We laugh and enjoy and smile not in spite of the suffering implicit in all life, we laugh and enjoy and smile because of that suffering. We laugh and enjoy and smile not because we are inhuman, we laugh and enjoy and smile because we are human” (78).

Simon’s human examples of goodness are not so tabloid as his examples of evil. From Dietrich Bonhoeffer to Flannery O’Connor, from Augustine through Judas to Margaret Edson’s W;t, to Kempe and Nietzsche and on to Fr Mychal, 911’s “Victim 0001,” whose last act of love signalled that God does not hate us, we learn, if nothing else, why we are given goodness.

Simon has written a good book. We learn about the things that make poetry: kindness, fellowship, pencils. “Such is the kernel of resistance, the ethic of kindness and delight, to ‘accept our gladness in the ruthless / furnace of this world,'” Simon says, the “ruthless furnace” bit coming from Jack Gilbert (79). Simon’s last observation, number XXXVI, is a brilliant, modern version of the Lord’s Prayer, a way to think about goodness.

Elephant Garlic Honey and “Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle”

We’ve been growing more herbs these last few years. The Salsa Garden is lost, as well as most of the activities that used to surround it. Yesterday, walking with a beer through the brick bordered herb garden (used bricks salvaged from lost projects, saved from taken down chimneys – we’ve one clinker brick), I noticed three honey bees working the flowers of two elephant garlic plants. The flowers are round, purple and white balls of blossoms, about the size of a swollen baseball, blossoming one each at the top of five foot stalks.

It’s difficult of course to identify the plant a honey comes from, and these bees are foraging freely in urban wild yards up and down the block. And the elephant garlic is on its own, hardly a crop. I don’t know where the bees call home. The rampant peppermint growing up along the south facing wall will bloom soon, and will bring more bees, and butterflies, and hummingbirds. If our yard were a poem, it would be free verse.

I pulled out a prize find foraging in the neighborhood book box down on the corner this week: “Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle…And Other Modern Verse.” This is the 1966 edition that was welcomed in schools for a few years. It’s a textbook, but unlike most intro tos we see nowadays. There’s little discussion, and just one or a few questions for each poem gathered in a rear appendix. The title comes from one of the poems, written by John Tobias: “Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle Received from a Friend Called Felicity.” The book includes black and white photos scattered throughout. All of the poems are cast in italics, but not their titles.

This copy is a discard from “School District No. 1: Cleveland High School.” The “issued to” slip pasted on the inside front cover shows 10/15/71 as the first date, issued to a Donald Scott. There is a name ahead of Scott’s, Gene Brown, but no date. There are other dates and student names: Shirley Moe (undated); Felicia Tracy (undated); 4/6/76 Marie Dee. There are eleven names, one crossed out with blue ink such that it’s unreadable. The last date reads 5-15-2000. And seemingly out of place, “Iris Little 6th per” appears at the top of the slip, no date. There is a note “To the student:” which mentions how the book comes into the student’s hands, and includes a schedule of “charges” should the book be found damaged in some way upon return, including: “4. Defacing by pencil…1.00; and “5. General mistreatment (water soiled, burned, dirty, ink, lipstick, paint)…1.50.” This copy is in good condition, the only “defacing” done by school ink stamps: “Property of….” And the slip, pasted to the inside cover, which has so fascinated me I’ve barely looked at the poems yet. 160 pages.