“The Morning” & “Just Write Anything!”

Two Stories by Osvaldo Lamborghini, translated by Jessica Sequeria, just out from Sublunary Editions (Seattle), measures a mere 80 pages (4 and ½” by 7” by ¼”) and contains the pieces “The Morning” and “Just Write Anything!” and also an introduction (by Cesar Aira, translated by Adrian Nathan West), an acknowledgements page, a 4 page translator’s note, and 62 endnotes (in a font size so small this reader’s used eyes required over-the-counter reading glasses of +3.50 strength), almost as long as either story – indeed, a third story – as well as a Parental Advisory warning label (suitable for bookmark use), modified to read:

P A R E N T A L
A D V I S O R Y
OSVALDO LAMBORGHINI

One is tempted to form a review as response in a supposed style of the stories:

In the beginning was the word. And the ice dam(n) broke, the word escaped, and all hell broke loose, as in a Blow-up. A devil’s drool (“Las Babas del Diablo,” Cortazar). It was all done on a typewriter. That tin bell kept us awake. Its tintinnabulations. And he had to send his only son, or daughter, as the case may arise, to supply some endnotes, but he didn’t explain to what end. And the notes musical, in a sense, pleasant. One confessed to eating the plums. Bless me Father, for I have eaten the plums. They were purple. And the season Lent. We had given up meaning for the season, without reason. And the church filled with words, every pew stuffed end to end. And every word related. In each word all the genetic material of the language, of all the languages, of the uttered universe. Prokaryotic flagellum. To allow word movement. The words stood, knelt, sat, stood, and filed out, one by one, pew after pew, line after line. Some disappeared. Through the blank pages of the cosmos, along the gaucho trails along the green rivers in the gorged valleys below the ghastly ghostly mountains, seeping through the pampas and the full drainage basins, out to sea. The sea, the sea! Wordomics. This is my body, a comics: “To ourselves … new paganism … omphalos” (Joyce, Ulysses).

Of the two stories, “The Morning” and “Just Write Anything!,” the latter is perhaps the more accessible, comprehendible if not understandable, than the former, but the first, “The Morning,” one might find more enjoyable. The two stories might have been written for two different audiences (although Aira’s introduction suggests Lamborghini didn’t write to any particular audience), but neither seems within the purview of the common reader. But what is within the purview of the common reader? Slogans? Well, slogans are comprehendible, but rarely understood. They become like magic words, spells. In the US today, MAGA might serve as an example; an argument of proposal in no need of backing, it is not an argument at all, but an order, a command. Authoritarian. Enter, sex, and why we need a parental advisory. Sex, like politics, manipulative, special interest, you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours. For the working class, sex is one thing, for the middle class, something else. The middle class wants relief from guilt, a guilt the working class does not feel. The middle class wants to enjoy, to experience pleasure, guilty it has benefits others don’t, but not enough that it can’t also enjoy envy of those who have more. Thus the middle class craves perfumes and brands, must have fantasy and escape, ritual that includes punishments and rewards. The working class has not time nor appetite for values which can’t readily be seen, measured, felt. As for Peronism and whether or not readers need a background in Argentine history to appreciate Lamborghini, Peronism might not be substantially different from any other ism around the world seeking to exploit one class by numbing another class for the enrichment of a third class, except that Peron started out wanting to make all of the people happy all of the time. But of course there are always those who don’t want to be happy, or don’t care to be made happy. Politics is sex without love.

In other words, for the working class, the word innuendo means exactly what it sounds like, while for the middle class, it can only suggest what cannot in what is sometimes called polite society (on the endangered species list) be directly talked about, and must be submersed in ambiguity, doubt, and mistrust. Enter Peron, that is to say, to wit, an imputation that what is valued most in each class can somehow be conjoined, but the ballroom can’t hold everyone.

Click here, on the belly button, where you were tied to your mother, treading water in the salt marsh. You were still nullifidian then. All gills and fins. Your mother’s voice coming muffled through the cloudy water. And then your cry, and then your sucking, and then your sleep, and then the tin bell, and the rhythm rolling. The next time you awake, you are swaddled in the bottom of a dory, your father at the oars, your mother tending a fishing line, all against a muddy current in coastal waters.

Lamborghini’s writing is probably not egalitarian, not as evidenced by these two stories or the three poems appearing in Firmament No. 1 (Sublunary Editions, Winter 2021), not that it needs to be, yet it contains all the characteristics readers generally value. Humor surrounded by horror. The sweets and sours and bitters and salts of life. It is a writing of associative addition, one image conjuring up or giving way to another, the narrative like a bus ride, the bus stopping at the end of every sentence to let someone off and to take on another rider. Though these riders are not necessarily characters – they may be ideas, or props. Repetition is therefore valued, and memory encouraged. So that at the end of “The Morning,” if asked what it is about, we can say it is about a character savaged. But the common reader wants her back scratched, not whipped.

The form (forms) of these two short stories appears very different in each, the one on the open sea, the other back and forth where the rivers spread in the tidal marsh. Jessica Sequeira’s “endnotes” are indispensable, and actually a pleasure. For one thing, it’s comforting as a reader to know you’re in the same boat as other readers, translators, critics. That is to say, the difficulty is not yours alone, not yours at all. You are now able to read. And while the endnotes clarify, elucidate, inform, they also project, surmise, guess.

Sublunary Editions is an independent press out of Seattle. You can find a copy of Two Stories by Osvaldo Lamborghini here.

Sex, Catechism, and Nature

Library box books

Did He smile to make me?
The Tyger knows the answer
but waits behind the tree
while the smithy pounds
the fire to awoke cold eyes.

Did He make me to eat,
be eaten, or both, the blacksmith
beating, the heart now bleating,
dressed in cute bows,
the smithy now a ceremony?

Nature prefers wildernesses,
yet sticks to codes where one is tamed
to another, where one seems made
to ask questions, while the other
stares in doubt.

~~~

I’m in the habit of walking daily, not as committed to it as Thoreau, who said he walked eight miles through the woods daily, but most days I at least get around the block to have a peak into the neighborhood library box and see what new old stuff folks have tossed in, and this week I pull out three books, at first a delightful find, then, as I sit down back at the house to have a closer look, somewhat chilling.

I was raised on the Baltimore Catechism, and somehow I remember the first question as, “Why did God make me?” But this newer catechism reads, “Why did God make us?” A substantive change, I thought, so I looked up the Baltimore and read, “Why did God make you?” In any case, it was the answers I found somewhat chilling. Small wonder so many of us grew to question authority.

Disappointed in the catechism, I turned to Anne Hooper’s “Sexology 101,” also, I began to think, a kind of catechism in that its underlying purpose seems to be to ask and answer questions of a sexual nature, its focus though more on how we have sex rather than why we have it, and how we might disguise or diagnose or misunderstand or not even recognize our intentions from or with others. It seems humans have taken sex off nature’s grid, where there is no Q & A Following. We got to a point where no one talked about sex, but then studies were conducted, questions asked, and the rest is now academically stereotyped.

Dropping “Sexology 101,” at random I opened Michael Pollan’s “Second Nature” to page 67, where I find this: “That same scar shows up in The Great Gatsby, when Nick Carraway rents the house next to Gatsby’s and fails to maintain his lawn according to West Egg standards.” The “scar” referenced, I learn as I read backwards, is “a disgrace…where the crew-cut lawn rubs up against the shaggy one, is enough to disturb the peace of an entire neighborhood; it is a scar on the face of suburbia, an intolerable hint of trouble in paradise.” It seems someone had not read or gave no heed to their community lawn catechism: “After neighbors took it upon themselves to mow down the offending meadow, he erected a sign that said: “‘This yard is not an example of sloth. It is a natural yard, growing the way God intended.'”

I stack the new old books on the coffee table to return to the library box on the morrow. In the middle of the night I awake, a line of words in my head suggesting the three books tie together, and a kind of triptych poem emerges, which I finish off over a cup of coffee come morning.