Saturday, October 30, 2021

Our son, gone six years today, visits me in a dream~


          Dream from the night of October 3, 2021, annotated



Dreams are boring, says the main character in Robert Stone’s “Helping.”


Never put a dream in a story, said Camoin, who generally had few rules about writing. He believed in what works.  Okay, he said, backing the needle off a tad, You can put a dream in a story if you have to, but it must have absolutely nothing to do with anything else in the story.




My father and I were going to mass in Galesburg.  We were dressed up in sport coats and ties.  He was driving north, presumably from Macomb, and there were snow covered mountains to the west rising above a flat prairie.[1]  My father remarked that sometimes when he was in the shower he could see these mountains out the window and was amazed by them.


Bob Dylan’s song “The Girl from the North Country” was playing in the background during most of this dream.[2]


We arrived at the church and there was no place to park. My dad kept trying to park on the street, but the spots were not legal. Finally, we decided I would go get us seats in the church and he would park the car.[3]


During the dream I heard something crash in the house, but did not investigate.


I walked in through a door and was in the sacristy where a red-haired priest was familiar to me, but I couldn’t place him. He was not the red-haired priest from the Newman Center at Western Illinois University.[4]


I went into the building through the sacristy and into the church.  The seats were against the walls and a small make-shift altar was in the middle of the room.  I found an empty bench on the left and sat at its end, intending to save a seat for my father.  An older couple with a developmentally disabled adult daughter sat down next to me and I explained I was saving the seat for my father.  They said okay, but the disabled daughter was sitting super close to me and kind of hanging on me.  I was very uncomfortable and the parents were pulling her away from me.  Although my clothes were very dressy as I stretched out my legs in front of me I that I was wearing brightly patterned socks that did not match my pants or shoes.


During the dream I heard the wind blow a door shut inside the house, but did not investigate.


Meanwhile, where was my father?  And why wasn’t mass starting? It was ten minutes after the hour: 10:10. It was taking my father over twenty minutes to park the car.  I finally got up and walked out of the church to find my father.


He wheeled up, and now I noticed the car was a big boxy American sedan, from the 1970s.  My father was no longer wearing his church clothes.  Macklin was in the back seat and he had an enormous bag of tacos and a pizza in a box.[5]He explained he had been in the mountains for days.  “Where?” I asked. “Way up there,” he said, “all the way to Lake Constance.”[6] He was dressed in hiking clothes, including his ski pants with suspenders.[7]  He was real happy about his days in the mountains and especially about all the food and we were looking for some place to stop and eat it. That was the end of the dream, Macklin smiling.


In the morning I looked for signs of fallen objects or a shut door and found none.  I had been up for a couple hours and wondered why it was still dark outside.  The garbage truck came by and I wondered why it was so late. I checked my watch and it was only a little after six. The garbage truck was on time; I had been awake since around four a.m.


The Takeaway

I recorded this dream because in the six years since he passed away I have only remembered dreaming about Macklin two or three times. And, he was so happy in this dream and it made me happy to see him happy.  


I think I don’t dream of him so much because he is always on my waking mind. I mean this quite literally. It’s like when you’re writing a sustained piece, a novel, and as you go about your daily life you’re only half in the world because in your head you’re “writing” the novel. Or, like when you’re dreaming, you can be conscious of what might be going on in the waking world: a crashing sound in the house, a slammed door.  Even, I suppose, if nothing has crashed and nor any door has slammed shut.


Macklin could eat a tremendous amount of food. I remember driving him to work and he asked if we could stop at McDonalds. Sure. He ordered a large breakfast, and then he said, “Can I have another one?” Sure, I said. Twenty bucks of McDonald’s breakfast.  Aisha and I once asked him if there was anything he wanted us to get for him from Costco.  “Get me some FOOD I CAN EAT,” he roared.


I shared the dream first with my wife and my son.  My wife was fearful: “Do you think it means you’re going to die?”  But that’s not how I interpreted it. 

My son said, “Was that heaven inside that car?” 

“Yeah,” I said, “It may have been. Maybe as close as I’ll get to it.”

`           My son and I are planning a pilgrimage to Lake Constance. Apparently, it is a very strenuous hike, even dangerous if you believe the route description (though I doubt it). When you hear a call like this, you answer.  We will tread carefully and listen to the wind, the rock, and the stars. We’ll sleep by the shore of Lake Constance, and, perchance, dream.





  • [1] Macomb, Illinois, our home for 13 years was about a thousand miles from any mountains.

[2] The Dylan/Johnny Cash duet version.

[3] I have never been to the Catholic church in Galesburg and have no idea where it is.

[4] “Sacristy.” This word can only be in my head because I am watching a horror series, Midnight Mass, on television that had a few sacristy scenes.

[5] Macklin passed away in 2015.

[6] Lake Constance.  Never heard of it.  Research shows a famous one in Switzerland and another one in the Olympic Mountains of Washington State. In the dream, I presumed he was in the Chugach above Anchorage.

[7] These are real pants that he left behind.

Monday, September 27, 2021

The Great Old Stadiums of Detroit and Other Memories


Sometimes when I first awaken I start reading before my eyes are able to accurately focus.  Thus, the other morning I read "Ted Williams lists the books she read while writing her latest novel . . .” And I thought: I didn’t know Ted Williams wrote novels.  And when did he change genders?  Then the words swam into focus: Tia Williams. Tia.  Idiot.  But I thought about Ted Williams.  The last batter to hit for an average of .400.  A baseball career interrupted by serving as a fighter pilot in two wars. 


My uncle Chuck talked about seeing Williams launching a ball over the right field wall and out of Tiger Stadium (probably Briggs Stadium at the time, felled by the wrecking ball in 2009).  The amazing thing, my uncle said, was that he had a pin in his shoulder, holding it together.

Tiger Stadium, Michigan Ave and Trumball.


My uncle also saw Jake LaMotta fight.  Twice, if I remember right.  LaMotta fought over 80 times professionally and about a quarter of them were in Detroit, mostly at the old Olympia, then home to the Red Wings.  But LaMotta also fought in Tiger Stadium, as did Joe Louis before him. Even if you don’t follow boxing you may have seen Martin Scorsese’s’ version of LaMotta in Raging Bull.  It must have been something to see that rage in person.


The last time I was in Tiger Stadium was the year before I left Detroit and also Al Kaline’s last season.  Number 6. In Little League the best player on the team wore number 6 to the envy of everyone else.  I remember watching Kaline foul off about 20 pitches that night and that was when it dawned on me that he was doing it on purpose, waiting for his pitch. This late awakening to a subtlety of the game probably explains a lot about my track career (as Coach George Harrison, our high school’s baseball coach once quipped).  Kaline waited for his pitch and stroked it gracefully into the outfield for a single.  He passed away last year at the age of 85 and had been in the Tiger organization for 67 years. Everyone loved that guy. 


I have been blessed to see a lot of amazing athletes do their work in person.


We went down to Cobo Arena (“repurposed” 2010—2015) to see Julius Erving play in an exhibition game against the Pistons. Exhibition because he then played in the old ABA, his enormous hand on the old red, white, and blue basketball.  He sported an tremendous Afro, and, as he was known for, defied gravity right before our eyes.


I don’t remember anything about the Red Wings game I saw at the old Olympia Stadium (demolished 1987) except for the hushed reverence that moved through the crowd when Gordie Howe took the ice.  Number 9.


Once I was running down Golfview, the street bordering Dearborn Country Club. A tournament was going on and as I passed the first tee, which was right next to the fence, I realized Jack Nicklaus was teeing up.  It must have been a Masters Tour.  I stopped and walked to the fence.  I was ten feet away from the tee. Nicklaus teed off. I was amazed by the power and precision of his swing.  When the club struck the ball it was like a small explosion.  I am not a golfer, but don’t let anyone tell you golf is not a sport.


My wife happened to be in Louisville when Muhammed Ali died.  She came back with a photograph of herself and Chuck Wepner.  “Who is he?” she asked me.  Chuck Wepner!  He knocked Ali down in the 9th round!  He almost went the distance, TKO-ed by the Greatest with a few seconds left in the 15th round.  Wepner has been the subject of several movies, of which one you know well: Rocky.


I should have mentioned this above, but maybe it fits better here at the end. Ted Williams apparently was an atheist and had his body cryogenically frozen for a possible return here on earth.  But I suppose he had already attained a bit of immortality.


Maybe we all have a dusting of immortality in us, if there’s a spark of us left in someone‘s living memory. I remember best the athletic feats of my teammates and friends and I wouldn’t trade those memories for anyone else’s. I remember playing football our senior year down in Southgate on a Sunday afternoon in 1970.  We couldn’t win the league championship unless we won that day against Aquinas and the teams were evenly matched. Mick DeGiulio, all 115 pounds of him, streaked down the left sideline and our quarterback Pat Sarb hit him on the longest pass play of the season for the game winning touchdown. Number 18. It’s cool to see the greatest athletes of all time do their work in person. But Mick’s touchdown against Aquinas? Man, I’ll never forget that.





Monday, August 30, 2021

Sacred Objects: A Photo Essay

I am committed to drastically unburdening myself of material possessions.  This required me to investigate the contents of boxes that I’ve hauled all over the country, but not opened in many years, in some cases, decades. Here’s some stuff I found.

1.     My first rosary.  A gift from my uncle George Harvey, my Confirmation sponsor, 1963. Uncle George died alone, of covid in the early days of the pandemic.  A remarkable man, dearly missed.


2.     Stopwatch.  A gift Christmas gift from my father, 1969.  I used to carry this unwieldy object when I ran on the track. Still works just fine.

3.     Salewa crampons, 1971. My first purchase from REI. First worn on Popocatepetl.


4.     Mountain Gazette # 30, February 1975.  The only edition of this magazine I saved, except for the one commemorating Hunter Thompson, which I can’t find.  I read Dick Dorworth’s “Night Driving” and within a month loaded up my 1968 AMC Javelin and drove west, where I’ve mostly stayed.

5.      Schonhofen label. When I first moved west I worked making packs with Mike and Margaret Schonhofen. After we dissolved that business, Mike and Marg had their own label before Mike left to design gear, first for Chouinard, then Nike etc. We remain best of friends.


6.     Typewriter keys. I hauled this old Remington typewriter around for decades before  finally, reluctantly, letting it go.  I plucked the keys off like a deranged dentist.

7.     Untitled first story (nonfiction) I wrote. Set at a Deroit Lions game. Less cringe-inducing than I expected. Typed on aforementioned typewriter.


8.     Wooden spoon. Hand-carved by friend and climbing partner Jim Pinter-Lucke and gifted to me on the occasion of my 30th birthday, a year before we climbed Alpamayo together. Was really really glad to find this.

9.     Letter from Fred Beckey.  Note the purloined hotel stationery and “postage due.” Classic Fred!

10.  Four copies of Conquest of Everest, John Hunt's story of the first ascent, 1953. Including Assault on Everest, the American version. I am keeping a fifth copy, not pictured here, signed by Ed Hillary. Let me know if you need one of these!

Saturday, July 24, 2021

My Last Notes from the MFA Residency, 2021


At the end of the residency I collect my notes, sprinkled in with some reading and experiences that occurred during the residency and read them back in a closing address just before we say goodbye.



Why is it that some words are harder to say than others? (in my notes but unattributed)


"Whatever that thing that happens is called." (Daryl Farmer in “Why We Write”)


I love when what happens on the page is something that I didn’t know was in me (me, in response to something Daryl said)


Sylvia Plath’s Ariel was written in “the blue hour,” the numinous predawn window of time before her children awakened.  Which I like because that’s how/when I wrote my novel, Forty Crows.


“  . . . a childhood of utter tedium . . . a soulful girl, she watched the trains approach and depart or pored over the Sears catalog, which she called the book of dreams.” Wrote David Yaffe of Joni Mitchell.


I have always loved Joni Mitchell.  Watch a video of her performing when she was young,  Her  smile says, “I am an artist at the height of my powers and I am in love with the world.”


“The purpose of the writing comes after the writing.”  Says Sharon Emmerichs, author of The Shield-Maiden.


Rick Bass reminds us of the movie Jeremiah Johnson.  I remember seeing that in 1973 and having one of those Rilkean “You must change your life” moments.  I left college the next week.


“You know how tight the grains are in a 300-year-old spruce tree.”   We didn’t know, but we trust you, Rick.


This phrase from Valerie Miner’s story “Iconoclast”: “Layla, still ascending.” Her characters on an archetypal voyage descending into the underworld and returning.


Rick Bass asks: “Have we become so accustomed to ugliness that we fear all beauty?” 


“YOU’RE MUTED!” Being the most oft repeated phrase of the residency.


“Rain, no game,” said Valerie’s brother, young master of baseball field conditions and brevity.


Sunday night my son calls.  The car has died on the Seward Highway just past Beluga Point.  I agree to drive down, call the tow truck, switch cars with him, and wait for the tow.  I only see him once a year, so I don’t mind the fuss.  The tow truck driver arrives and I like him immediately.  He works with great efficiency, focus, and precision.  I don’t know how this works, so I ask, “Can you give me a ride back up to Anchorage? “He smiles, channeling his inner Julius, the Samuel L. Jackson character from Pulp Fiction, “What kind of tow truck driver would I be, if I didn’t give you a ride back to Anchorage?  The ride was slow, all the Sunday night traffic backed up, heading home after a weekend down south, but it was a beautiful night, the pink afterglow of the sunset lingering to the north.  The time was approaching midnight and the whole way back we talked, mostly him, about the pleasures of driving the truck, rescuing the lost, and sometimes coming upon the maimed and dead.  When he got my car settled in at the mechanic’s shop, we shook hands and I said, “Man, you are good at your job.” And his smile lit up the what was now near darkness.


“Reality is under no obligation to be interesting,” said Borges. “But you are,” I told our writers.


“Trouble, Hold On.”  Being a sign held up to the camera by Ed Allen.

Marcus. Being the name of the tow truck driver.


“Listening to music while you’re reading,” Ed said, “is like listening to music while you’re listening to music.”


"It was poetry that made history interesting to me.” So said Camille Dungy.


My son asked me some computer related question, to which I answer that I don’t even know what he has just asked.  “It’s a mystery to me,” he says, "that they (they meaning the university) continue to send you paychecks.”


It’s Hemingway’s birthday a dozen or so facebook pages tell me.  This calls to mind a story Garcia-Marquez tells about seeing Hemingway on the streets of Paris.  It’s 1957 and Garcia-Marquez is unknown, Hemingway, of course, famous.  Garcia-Marquez describes him in cowboy boots, a baseball cap, and somehow incongruous small round wire-rimmed glasses.  He is with his wife Mary Welsh and is obviously enjoying himself in the bookstalls near the Sorbonne.  Unable to bring himself to approach the great man, Garcia-Marquez yells from across the street, “MAESTRO!”  Hemingway turns and yells back, “Adios, amigo!”  It was hard to believe, Garcia-Marquez adds, that he would live only four more years.


“Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship in the kingdom of the healthy and the kingdom of the sick,” said Susan Sontag, related to us by Tara Ballard.


I remember Richard Rodriguez saying to us, “You are here, and you have your pen in your hand.”


By the way, Ed went out of his way to say he wouldn’t judge you for not having read “The Wasteland.”  I won’t judge you for not having read A Hundred Years of Solitude.  But we could never be great friends.


At the end of one of Ed Allen’s presentations he said “I am lucky.  I get to read what I love and talk about it with people I care about.”  Yes to that.


The first day I told James Salter’s story about the French critic, near death, who said “To write!  What a marvelous thing!”


Finally, full circle back to Warren Zevon, who I’ve kept in my heart awhile as he asked.  Let’s also take his better known advice to heart: “Enjoy every sandwich.”

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Mother's Day on Turtle Island, 2021

Arrived in Michigan the day of my mother’s 90th birthday and leaving the day after Mother’s Day. Lucky and blessed to spend these days with her.


My mother lives on a lake in northern Michigan. The place is wonderfully serene before Memorial Day. Earlier in the week I kayaked out to the wetlands in the rain in the morning. The air was cold but windless and the lake was glassy but for the raindrops. I did not see the heron I searched for until I returned home where it stood in Turtle Town not a hundred feet from where I had set off.  My feet were cold four hours later.


Today at the Mecosta Bookstore I found a pristine copy of Gary Snyder’s Turtle Island, unyellowed pages, possibly unread, and priced less than it would have cost in 1969 dollars.


O!Coot (John P. O’Grady) mentions in a message that today is Gary’s 91st birthday.


Turtle Island is dedicated to Snyder’s mother, “Lois Snyder Hennessy, My Mother.”


Perusing the book, well known to me, I find the only sign of a previous reader, the last sentence of the Introductory Note underlined in ballpoint:  “. . . all share views at the deepest levels of their cultural traditions African, Asians, or European.  Hark again to those roots, to see our ancient solidarity, and then to work together on Turtle island.”


My son and I kayak out to the wetlands.  We coast silently past the loon’s nest, the mother flattening herself over her eggs to hide from our view.  We paddle lightly, sorry to have worried her. In the distance I see a line of shining spheres on a log. They look like football helmets lined up for game day. Turtles. We approach as slowly as possible.  The log is about forty feet long. Over twenty-five painted turtles shining in the sun, dropping off one-by-one as we approach. 


I am in Michigan for only a couple more days, my wife in Anchorage.  I imagine her receiving the cut flowers our son sent.  She reminds me telepathically from great distance that our son needs to deliver the statue of the Blessed Virgin that we inherited from my aunt.


I last saw Gary the pre-pandemic summer in Davis where we talked, as ever, of the mountains of our youth, the Cascades.  And also of the spectacular black and white photographs of Vittorio Sella, which he remembers vividly from the Mazama club house in Portland and I know mostly from books.


When you read Turtle Island on Mother’s Day you become acutely aware of the Mother-ness of the work, in addition to the recurring themes of gratitude and stewardship: “all created things are of the mother.”


My son has remembered to turn over the statue to me.  It’s encased in bubble wrap and I pack it carefully.  He says he kept it in his attic with its face in the little attic window watching over the street in his blighted neighborhood.


When I hug my mother goodbye she says, not entirely kidding, “David, don’t go.” She steps back and adds, “I’ve been saying that for fifty years.”


My son drives me to the airport.  I leave Turtle Island with him. Also a copy of The Nick Adams Stories. He says he’s fished the Two-Hearted River but hasn’t read the story. This is somewhat different from others who know the “river” because a craft beer is named after it.


Home: the Virgin survived the 3500 air miles intact.  But when we unswaddle it from its bubble-wrap, we discover the statue is not of the Virgin at all.  It is Saint Ann, the Virgin’s mother, instructing a smaller, supposedly younger, blue-clad Virgin, pointing with her index finger at an open book.  Two-for-one.


I think my favorite line in Turtle Island is the coda to “Why Log Truck Drivers Rise Earlier Than 

Students of Zen”: “There is no other life.”




Saturday, March 20, 2021

The Barking Man


“The Barking Man” is a photograph, maybe, that I took on the summit of the Aiguille du Midi in 1980. It shows a man, a French man, “barking” at the statue of the Virgin Mary that adorns the summit. His back is to Mt. Blanc. He is very literally, “sounding his barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.”  When I organized the photographic slides from that trip,” The Barking Man” did not make the cut into the “show” carousel.  I’m not sure why exactly; I may have felt it unbecoming of the seriousness with which I took the whole enterprise back then; it may have been that I felt compelled to keep the moment private rather than make it “public,” as if dozens of people would see the slides, when in fact, perhaps  a half-dozen would.

            As years passed, I realized that particular climb was one of the very best I had ever done. 

It went like this: we left Chamonix in the last tram up to the top of Aiguille du Midi at 12,605 feet.  There, we guerilla-bivouacked just outside the tunnel that went from the labyrinthine, mostly-tourist-safe structure to access the actual mountain.  When the sunrise hit the mountain top we descended down to the glacier and hiked over to ridge we had to gain. We had to overcome a bergschrund, ascend a steep snow slope to a ridgeline, and then drop down the other side of the ridge to the Col de la Fourche hut, a bare bones structure with no amenities, designed to sleep about eight. We were the first ones there, early afternoon. A pack sat stashed in one corner.  We had a long time to gaze across the glacier at our objective, the Brenva Spur on Mt. Blanc. Too long, in fact, as the longer we looked at the thing, the more intimidating it became.  Climbers began to trickle in. Late in the afternoon a helicopter appeared overhead and dropped down out of view to our right.  When it rose again into the air a human body was attached to a long line and dangled in the air as the helicopter whacked out of view. We came to believe that the dead climber had left his pack in the corner and we allowed it some space, despite that the hut would soon become overcrowded.

Sleep in an eight-person hut packed with twice as many bodies is a pretty thought.  The climbers begin stirring to depart at midnight. Besides, we were too scared to sleep.  Somehow John, my climbing partner has misplaced his glasses and while we hunt for them, pairs of alpinists left the hut, until finally it was just him and me. The glasses are not found. Nonetheless, we rappelled off the railing on the hut’s porch and soon we were on the glacier looking up at the starlit Brenva Spur, which has only grown more ominous, somehow, in the dark.  

Now the climb is officially abandoned–is a decision that’s obvious even a decision?–and we turned our attention to the problem of getting back to the Aiguille du Midi.  The prospect of retracing our steps, starting with the rappel route is unappealing, if not impossible. Despite our headlamps and a map we decide to sit tight until we can see, a few more hours of darkness to endure.  While we sat shivering in the dark an astonishingly white light began illuminate the sky from behind the shadow of the ridge.  We could not imagine its source.  The second coming?  In retrospect, obviously it was a full moon rising.  But at the time it wasn’t obvious, we simply did not know the moon could cast so much light. 

Moonlight aside we waited for the sun. Yes, it appeared we could access the ridge that led to the Tour Ronde. Once on the ridge could we follow it to the summit?  We wouldn‘t know until we were on it? Was this a climbing route? Who knew?  Up we went. 

It was a wild remote place with no evidence of human passage. We were like the car on a dark road whose passengers could see only as far as the headlights illumined. Up we went rope-length by rope-length.  I mantled over a lip and found two perfectly formed crystals, as if in a shallow dish, waiting for me since time immemorial. Soon we were on the summit, an incredible spot centrally located in the Mt Blanc range with spectacular views in every direction. And it was here we met the Barking Man.

The descent was well-travelled and soon we were trudging back up the trail to the Aiguille du Midi, bone tired and feeling like failures. Until, waiting for the tram back down to Chamonix, we explained to a pair of Brits what we had done.  “You did what?”  and “Brilliant.”

            Years later, the memory took on the brilliance it deserved and I began to think about the Barking Man. But I couldn’t find the photograph.


Now it’s forty-one years later and I am downsizing. Books must be reduced in number. I shed  skis like bad pennies, cutting the quiver in half. Clothes, goodbye. I decided to take my photographic slides out of their carousels and put them in boxes. I know, I know, I should have digitized them, but I don’t have time for that just now.  I did get a bit ruthless after a while and if I couldn’t recognize the mountain and it wasn’t particularly beautiful I flung it into the trash.  Unfortunately, this concept came to me late in the process.

            I did not find the photograph of The Barking Man.  I did, however, find every other photograph I had considered missing over the years: my wife reading a book next to her beloved dog, Yida, at Tamarack Lodge near Mammoth Mountain; the shot of Denny Cliff wandering through the towering seracs of the Carbon Glacier on the north side of Mt Rainier; the summit photo of me on Mt. Stuart wearing my white Peter Storm sweater and cotton knickers–a print of which had hung in my aunt’s house all these years and disappeared from the estate sale after she passed away.

My friend John is writing his “climbing memoir” and asked me for some details. I remembered that about twenty years ago I had typed my journal from that summer in Chamonix.  Good thing, too, as I have no idea where the original is. I read through it before I sent him a copy.  I find this description: “John & I sit on the summit, where a jolly French photographer snaps our photograph and barks at the statue of the Virgin Mary.”  The photograph the barking man took of us exists (dull and generic). But I couldn’t find “The Barking Man.”

His image is burned into my mind, but maybe the photograph doesn’t exist at all, maybe it was always nothing more than memory and language.  Yawp! Yawp!

Sunday, March 14, 2021

A Short Dialogue with David Markson


Salinger, wasn’t it, who said the sign of really good book is that you want to call the writer up on the phone when you’re finished reading it?  The strange thing is that now you can almost do it—you can find writers through the internet, send them a note.


Unless they’re dead, of course, like David Markson is. Sad, because there’s so much I want to talk to him about. In the tetralogy he addresses Reader and identifies himself as Writer or Protagonist


Bahktin, wasn’t it, who said that all texts are a dialogue?


David Markson and I share most of a name: Mark and Steven distinguish us. Also his erudition, compared to which mine is nearly nonexistent.


Here is our dialogue:


Reader’s Block, 1996


A used book once property of the Linn State Technical College Library of Linn, Missouri.  Checked out once and due back 11/21/04.


M: If forced to choose, Giacometti once said, he would rescue a car from a burning building before a Rembrandt.


S: That time my friend Tom Hazuka was visiting and reading from his work in the art gallery and a tornado was upon us. The building had no basement so we hid in an interior closet and the gallery director gave us each a valuable painting to hold on to.  My friend Tama hugged a Rembrandt.


M: Impoverished and freezing, Gerad de Nerval hanged himself near a cheap Paris doss-house after no one responded to his late night knock.


S: Once I got a message from my son in which he was desperate, hungry, sleeping in his car, near the end.  I was able to answer that particular late night knock.


M: Will Protagonist have sold any of his books before moving?  Could he be selling some of them now, piecemeal, as it were for pocket money?


S: I am now trying to reduce my personal library by two-thirds. Most of these books have no resale value whatsoever, no value at all, except to me.


M: Does Reader still possess recordings?


S: I just gave away all the classical vinyl, sold sixty more (all they’d take) and donated the rest. I own CDs, also an anachronistic technology.


M: Protagonist’s son or daughter may one day want his books. (Double book-marked)


S: My son once said he would keep my mountaineering book collection (considerable in number) intact after I was gone. He had no interest in reading them, only in comforting me.  But, alas, I have outlived him.  Markson’s books, by his direction, were somewhat mysteriously bequeathed to The Strand bookstore in New York.  Some learned of his death by finding copies of his books on The Strand’s shelves.


M: Are any of the books Protagonist is packing inscribed by their authors? Or are those the ones he is more likely selling, for their added value?


S: My scenario is different. I just don’t have room.


M: Protagonist’s obsolescent phonograph. And scarred long-playing records, never surrendered for compact discs.


S: I saved about thirty vinyl albums, to play on my simple department store record player.


M: Robert Louis Stevenson died of a cerebral hemorrhage at forty-four, but had been emaciated by tuberculosis before that.  A bundle of sticks in a bag, Henry Adams said he looked like.


S: Tuberculosis plagued my grandparents all their lives. I am writing about it in an essay-in-progress, so noted this.


M: Not sorting books and phonograph records merely, but the narrowing residue of an entire life? Papers, files of correspondence?  


S: “The narrowing residue of an entire life.”  I tried to throw away a couple stacks of letters and ended up retrieving them from the recycling bin.  I found a 15-page letter written in 1985 by a dear friend who died last summer.



This is Not a Novel, l 2001


M: Space is blue and birds fly through it.

      Said Werner Heisenberg.


S: Of every entry in all four books, I love this one most.



M: Philip Larkin died of cancer of the esophagus

Only hours afterward, a twenty-volume diary that he had kept for almost fifty years was destroyed by one of his executors.


S: My father died of same.  He left no writing, very few material possessions, too, took his secrets with him.  Was much nicer person than Larkin.


M: Caesar’s corpse lay in Senate for some hours before slaves finally bore it away on a litter. 

With one arm hanging down, Suetonius makes note of.


S: After my friend died last summer, two women arrived with a litter to bear him away in a hearse.  His sister reported to me that when they negotiated the front porch, they dropped the litter and his body rolled into the bushes.


P 48/49 have a bookmark.  Why?


M: No matter how frequently, always given pause at remembering there is no color whatsoever in the canvas.


S: No color whatsoever?


Pages 100/109 have bookmark from an earlier reading. Again, why?


Pages 110/11 have our son’s counselor’s business card as a bookmark.  Perhaps, random?


M: Writer incidentally doing his best here—insofar as his memory allows—not to repeat things he has included in his earlier work,

Meaning in this instance the four hundred and fifty or more deaths that were mentioned in his last book also.


S: Because of my interest in tuberculosis, I tallied the number of deaths M mentions in this volume alone, by tuberculosis.  39.



Vanishing Point 2004


M: William Faulkner once allowed himself to be interviewed on radio during a University of Virginia football game.

And was announced as the winner of the Mobil Prize.


S: America.


M: White does not exist in nature, said Renoir.


S: Renoir should have been in Anchorage on Wednesday when sixteen inches of snow fell.


M: Does anyone ever die who is not remembered through the remainder of at least one other entire lifetime by someone?


S: We hope not, but wonder, don’t we? I remember my friend, typed out his 15-page letter. 


M: Luca Signorelli, at the sudden death of a young son—having the corpse stripped and making a full-length drawing of the boy for remembrance.

And with extraordinary fortitude, shedding not a tear.


S: I write often about the sudden death of my young son. I can do so without shedding a tear.  But if I try to read the words aloud, to an audience, there are tears.


Bookmark 170/171.  Not sure why.


Bookmark: The train ticket Chicago to Macomb Jan 14. Does not specify the year.  Departs 5:55 p.m.


M: According to his own wish, Liszt’s funeral was conducted without music.


S: My son had made it known that he wanted Townes Van Zandt’s cover of Jagger and Richard’s Dead Flowers to play at his funeral.  The priest did not care for it, but the wish was granted.



The Last Novel, 2007


M:  In November 1919, after a solar eclipse had irrefutably verified Einstein’s concept of Relativity, British physicists convened a major press gathering to announce it.  The New York Times assigned the story to a man named Henry Crouch—a golf reporter.


S: America!  Again.


M:        What, still alive at twenty-two,

 A fine upstanding lad like you?


S: Kingsmill’s parody of A.E. Housman, misquoted; it’s clean not fine.  In any case, twenty-two, being the year my son did not surpass.


A Prairie Lights Books receipt indicating the book was purchased on 9/17/08. Remembering that, although I have been in Prairie Lights dozens of times, I was definitely not in Iowa City in September of 2008.


A receipt indicating I purchased it from aa internet bookseller called HollyLooyaBooks on 1/11/10.


M: Books weaken the memory.

      Says Plato in the Phaedrus.


S: Imagine what Plato would think of computers, the internet.


M: Future generations will regard Bob Dylan with the awe reserved for Blake, Whitman, Picasso, and the like.

Said an otherwise seemingly rational writer named Jonathan Lethem.


S: I wonder what M would think of Dylan receiving the Mobil Prize.  Actually, I guess we know.  I wonder if Lethem has seen this?  Will ask him–he’s one of the writers I have conversed with over the internet.



Markson died, alone, in 2010, three years after he finished The Last Novel, the fourth of what critics have informally titled The Notecard Quartet.  He feels alive in these pages, as long as readers keep him so.