Author's Note:

The Long Habit of Living is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

"Once New York City glowed all night from the lights of those cafeterias.  In any neighborhood you could find a cup of tea, a danish, and a conversation of some nature.  
Now, instead of Dubrow's and Garfield's, instead of the Belmore, instead of the Automat on 14th street, instead of my old haunts on upper Broadway, there are Burger Kings.
 How can the soul linger and know the wonder of its own isolation in such places?

Only desolation encumbered by self-knowledge waits to embrace us now."

(The Final Opus of Leon Solomon, by Jerome Badanes, pp. 73-74.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The east wind raved like lunatics helpless without sedation. (things that are precious to me)

Some of the things that are precious to me are the drifts of language and imagery that float out of books and hang around me long after I've finished reading them.  At one time I was able to paper my bathroom walls with them, my closet doors and the bedroom door itself covered as well with the excerpts and banners of sentiments too painful to let go, sometimes too glorious to enjoy only by myself.  Sometimes it was just a part of a sentence, like from James Purdy's story "Mr. Evening" (1968):

"...then he was back in the chair again, the snow still pelted the shutters, 
and the east wind raved like lunatics helpless without sedation."  

There are far too many to put into one post.  I'm sharing now.

From Anita Brookner's novel Falling Slowly--

She herself had succumbed to more corrupt attractions which still aroused in her a mournful excitement.  She was not good enough for Rivers, that was it.  Sometimes she heard a wistful note in her voice when she was speaking to him, but only because her respect for him was so great.

If she were unavailable, and had made herself so, it was because she judged herself to be unsuitable.  ...It was the natural expression of a profound remorse.

From Edmond and Jules de Goncourt's novel Germinie Lacerteux

She suffered as though her honor were being torn piece by piece from her in the kennel.  But in proportion to her sufferings she pressed herself against her love and cleaved to it.  She was not angry with it, she uttered no reproach against it.  She clung to it by all the tears that it brought her pride to shed.

And, thrown back and riveted upon her shame, she might be seen in the street through which lately she had passed proudly and with head carried high, advancing furtively and fearfully, with bent back, an oblique glance, anxious to avoid recognition, and hastening her steps in front of the shops which swept out their slanders upon her heels.

James Purdy has become one of my favorites.  His complete short stories took me to places reminiscent of Flannery O'Connor, Barry Hannah, Larry Brown, and even James Baldwin.  He'd once said about his writing:

"I think I learned early on that the only subjects I could deal with were impossible.
...if I chose an easy subject, I couldn't write it because it wouldn't mean anything to me."

Here's an excerpt from Purdy's short story, "Short Papa" (1976)

"I've always wanted to do what was best, Lester," Mama went on, "but parents too are only after all flesh and blood as someday you will find out for yourself."

An excerpt from Purdy's short story "Eventide" (1956), about a mother's lament for a son who left her.

"It ain't like there bein' no way out to your troubles: it's the way out that kills you," Mahalia said.  "If it was goodbye for always like when someone dies, I think I could stand it better.  But this kind of parting ain't like the Lord's way."
She walked over to the chair where Plumy was and laid her hand on her.  Somehow the idea of George Watson's being dead so long and yet still being a baby a mother could love had a kind of perfect quality she liked.  She thought then quietly and without shame how nice it would be if T-boy could also be perfect in death, so that he would belong to her in the same perfect way as George Watson belonged to Plumy.  There was comfort in tending the grave of a dead son, whether he was killed in war or peace, and it was so difficult to tend the memory of a son who just went away and never came back.  Yet somehow she knew as she looked at Plumy, somehow she would go on with the memory of T-boy Jordan even though he still lived in the world.

An excerpt from Purdy's short story "Sound of Talking" (1955)
In the summertime, it helped to watch the swallows flying around when the pain was intense in his legs, or to listen to a plane going quite far off, and then hear all sound stop.  There was a relief from the sound then that made you almost think your own pain had quit.

She wanted him to want something so that she could want something, but she knew he would never want at all again.  There would be suffering, the suffering that would make him swell in the chair until he looked like a god in ecstasy, but it would all be just a man practicing for death, and the suffering illusion.

And why should a man practicing for death take time out to teach a bird to talk?

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Dear Lou, Please Kill the Cats - published by The Blotter Magazine

 The Blotter Magazine has just published my latest, "Dear Lou, Please Kill the Cats" 

"...I took the 7 train to Vernon Blvd/Jackson Avenue and then walked a couple blocks just north of the Long Island Railroad train yards.  My assignment was Henry’s apartment on 51st Avenue, in a bleak, forgotten part of Long Island City."  

"...Henry’s was an old closest-to-the-factory apartment which one could find easily in this industrialized part of Queens."

"...he remained in a godless, gas-lined, three-cat apartment with dusty, dirty, wall-to-wall carpeting and cheap motel furnishings that sent me back to the days of telephone cable spools used as tables and plaster images of conquistadors for that southwest motif circa 1960."

"What's the mirror for?" Owen asked.
"To keep an eye on the cats," I  said. 

Click here to read the story at The Blotter Magazine.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

A Return to Patrick Leigh Fermor - in the Trans-Carpathian forests

I want to take you back once again to Patrick Leigh Fermor. 

If you've read this blog before, you'll know that Fermor is a Titan in my canon.  His 1977 book, A Time of Gifts, which I read a few months ago, is quite literally a gift to the reader.  With an abundance of medieval history, art history, linguistics, and travelogue writing jewels, this is one of the best, one of the most beautiful, one of the most interesting books I've read in a long, long time.

I'm including in today's post excerpts from the book for your enjoyment, your education, and your empowerment, along with some pictures to help illustrate where he's talking about and what he's talking about.

And so we begin...

[While hiking along a stretch of the River Danube in Austria, about 16 miles from the current Slovakian  border, Fermor approaches the town of Petronell.  And so we learn of the The Miracle of the Thundering Legions.]

Arch of Titus

" I approached the little town of Petronell, by wondering what a distant object could be that was growing steadily larger as I advanced.  It turned out to be a Roman triumphal gateway standing in the middle of a field like a provincial version of the Arch of Titus; alone, enormous and astonishing.  

Petronell-Carnuntum, Austria

The vault sprang from massive piers and the marble facings had long fallen away, laying bare a battered and voluminous core of brick and rubble.  Rooks crowded all over it and hopped among the half-buried fragments that scattered the furrows.  Visible for miles, the arch of Carnuntum must have amazed the Marcomanni and the Quadi on the opposite side of the bank.
A Marcomanni warrior (second century A.D.)

The Quadi (second century A.D.)
Marcus Aurelius wintered here three years, striding cloaked across the ploughland amid the hovering pensees, alternately writing his meditations and subduing the barbarians on the other side of the Danube.  His most famous victory--fought in a deep canyon and celestially reinforced by thunder and hail--was known as the Miracle of the Thundering Legions." (p. 234) (See the end of the post for an explanation of the Miracle of the Thundering Legions.)

The Edge of the Slav World

[Fermor wanders into a "lively drinking-hell" in rural Czechoslovakia.]

"...Enmeshed in smoke and the fumes of plum-brandy with paprika-pods sizzling on the charcoal, they were hiccupping festive dactyls to each other and unsteadily clinking their tenth thimblefuls of palinka: vigorous, angular-faced, dark-clad and dark-glanced men with black mustaches tipped down at the corners of their mouths.  Their white shirts were buttoned at the throat.

They wore low-crowned black hats with narrow brims and high boots of shiny black leather with a Hessian notch at the knee.  Hunnish whips were looped about their wrists.  They might have just dismounted after sacking the palace of the Moravian kral."  (p. 242)

[ On the next day, and down the street Fermor was in another tavern...]

"...the tow-haired Slovaks drinking there were dressed in conical fleece hats and patched sheepskin-jerkins with the matted wool turned inwards.  They were shod in canoe-shaped cowhide moccasins.  Their shanks, cross-gartered with uncured thongs, were bulbously swaddled in felt that would only be unwrapped in the spring.  Swamp-and-conifer men they looked, with faces tundrablank and eyes as blue and as vague as unmapped lakes which the plum-brandy was misting over.  But they might just as well have been swallowing hydromel a thousand years earlier, before setting off to track the cloven spoor of the aurochs across a frozen Trans-Carpathian bog."  (p. 242) 

Prague Under Snow

Church of St. George
[Fermor takes a tour of the Hradschin, the citadel that dominates the capital city of Prague.  Within the citadel's walls, one finds the church of St. George.]

"They separated, converged again, and crossed each other and as they sped away, enclosed slender spans of wall like the petals of tulips; and when two ribs intersected, they might both have been obliquely notched and then half-joggled together with studied carelessness.  They writhed on their own axes and simultaneously followed the curve of the vault; and often, after these contorted intersections, the ribs that followed a concave thrust were chopped off short while the convex plunged headlong and were swallowed up in the masonry.  The loose mesh tightened as it neared the rounded summit and the frantic reticulation jammed in momentary deadlock. 
Inside the cathedral at Hradschin

 Four truncated ribs, dovetailing in rough parallelograms, formed keystones and then broke loose again with a wildness which at first glance resembled organic violence clean out of control.  But a second glance, embracing the wider design, captured a strange and marvellous coherence, as though petrifaction had arrested this whirling dynamism at a chance moment of balance and harmony,"  (p. 257)
Inside the Trans-Carpathian forest (Hungary, Romania, Ukraine)

Fermor, Patrick Leigh.  A Time of Gifts, New York: New York Review Books, 2005.

[The Miracle of the Thundering Legion:  The story is that the Romans, entangled in a defile, were suffering from thirst. A sudden storm gave abundance of rain, while hail and thunder confounded their enemies, and enabled the Romans to gain an easy and complete victory. This triumph was universally considered at the time, and for long afterwards, to have been a miracle, and bore the title of "The Miracle of the Thundering Legion." The pagan writers ascribed the victory to the magic arts of an Egyptian named Arnuphis who prevailed on Mercury and other gods to give relief, while the Christians attributed it to the prayers of their brethren in a legion to which, they affirmed, the emperor then gave the name of "The Thundering." (Courtesy of NNDB Mapper)]

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Bringing forth what is within me. The YEAR in BOOKS: 2015.

Another year come and gone, another year’s worth of wonderful books read with pleasure, amazement, stimulation, learning, and some even with a drudgery.

In the Gnostic Gospel According To Thomas, Jesus supposedly says, "If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you.  If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you."  These books, like so many of the ones that came before them, have helped to bring forth what is within me.

FICTION in chronological order:
Alan Furst, Blood of Victory. One of my favorite contemporary authors.
Naguib Mahfouz, Miramar and The Thief and the Dogs.  Nobel prize-winning Egyptian author.
Colm Toibin, The Heather Blazing.
Anita Brooker, Leaving Home.  Another contemporary favorite.
Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Shadow of the Wind.  Very exciting, interesting story for the book lover in you. 
Alan Furst, Dark Voyage.
Jack London, Martin Eden.  An extraordinary novel, which I think most college students should read. Lots of quotable moments.
Patrick Leigh Fermor, The Violins of Saint-Jacques.
Eric Ambler,  A Coffin for Dimitrios (that genre I like so much...pre-World War II international political military spying, before the world became the insidious uneasy place it is).
James Baldwin, Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone started out well but got very lost very fast.
Alan Furst, The Foreign Correspondent (yes, I love Alan Furst novels and with their rich history and local color of Europe in the late 1930s and early 1940s, they are very good). 
Baroness Orczy, The [Old] Man in the Corner, detective thriller a precursor to that genre of fiction that gave us Nero Wolfe books, is a series of seemingly unrelated tales, all surprising and all very intelligent.
Voltaire, Candide Zadig & Other Stories was hilarious, bizarre, and very beautifully Voltaire.
 Kobo Abe, The Ruined Map was arch; a private detective backdrop with weird turnings.  
Gustave Flaubert, Bouvard and Pecuchet, unfinished yet brilliant.
Hubert Selby, The Room (god awful).
Jose Saramago (one of my heroes), Raised from the Ground.  A very beautiful novel, timeless in its depiction of men and women bound to the land, and the cruelty they endure from the power of the landowning elite and the government (based on events in Portugal prior to the revolution, or one of them at least).
Anita Brookner, Strangers.   "Fate is rarely kind, and nature never."
Alan Furst, The Spies of Warsaw (they keep getting better; not the spies, the books).
Anthony Trollope,  Dr. Wortle’s School, an appropriate morality novel eyebrow raising in its time I’m sure about relationships, loyalty, honor, trust.  
Anita Brookner, Latecomers.
Neil Stephenson, Snow Crash. outrageous, funny, and baroque (in a good way) novel of Los Angeles’ future.
Philipp Meyer, The Son.  Ambitious, interesting, well-research and captivating gets a high recommendation from me.
Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, was at times funny but mostly, being mixed with historical background of the Dominican Republic--which was far from being a republic, it was average.  
Alan Furst, Spies of the Balkans, was another foray into history with suspense as its train ride.
Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lowland, bland portrayal of two Bengali Indians and the struggles with normality vs. defiance; yes, it was bland.
Simone de Beauvoir, The Blood of Others (de Beauvoir never disappoints me; she is another one of my heroes).
Tariq Ali, Redemption, was so well-written and scary in its portrayal of political fraud and humiliation (kind of redundant, true).
Jean Rhys, Quartet
Penelope Fitzgerald, The Blue Flower, a novel about the 18th century German poet Novalis.  It doesn’t end happy.  Think Goethe’s Werther
David Sedaris, Barrel Fever, so funny, it had me in constant stitches. 
Jean Rhys, After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie.
Orhan Pamuk,  A Strangeness in My Mind   My main man, his latest novel. A beautiful book of modern Turkey, covering several decades in the life of one Mevlut, a man of melancholy nature  but immense self-respect.  It is not easy nor profitable being a good man.
Philipp Meyer, American Rust, was one that I could not put down, but I did, because I had to go to sleep you know.  This is a hard story about Pennsylvania and how American industry big shots turned their backs on labor and gave us a wasteland in the Northeast.  But there’s more to it than that.  His characters are incredibly sympathetic even though at times incredibly irritatingly dumb.
Lionel Shriver, Big Brother examines the menace of food, what depression does to you with food as its ally, and then the dangers of the fast-cure methodologies that leave your body and psyche scarred, as if you didn’t already have enough to begin with.
Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea.  This book was written in a Faulknerian confusion without William Faulkner’s adeptness with language and literary style.  I don’t recommend it.

NONFICTION in chronological order.
Drink Time by Delores Payas, a memoir of her visits to one of my favorite writers, the great travel writer, historian, linguist, bon vivant Patrick Leigh Fermor.
In Siberia by Colin Thubron. A book that gives you an intimacy with “the cold facts” of Russia.
Allison Bartlett, The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, about a conman and the rare books he stole.
Martin Short, I Must Say.  Kept me laughing while at the same time giving pause at some of the unusual kindness one can find in the entertainment industry.
Patrick Leigh Fermor, his trilogy about trekking across Europe as a young man right before the Second World War--Between the Woods and the Stream; A Time of Gifts (which is one of the best books I’ve ever read); and The Broken Road.   A Time to Keep Silence was about his stays in various European monasteries.  I loved this book.
David Cannadine, The Undivided Past.  Says The Guardian: “...elegantly written and stimulating book is a useful reminder that some historians have been willing servants to political projects of all kinds. “
Jennet Conant, The Irregulars.  This is a great book about the British MI6 people who tried their best to keep Americans interested in England right after Hitler's declaration of war and his invasion. Brilliant.  And such a small, small world it is.
Michael Lewis, Flash Boys.  A fascinating expose on the “esoteric, highly technical world of high-frequency trading” who rip off investors and destabilize the global financial system. 
The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels. “the long-buried roots of Christianity, a work of luminous scholarship and wide popular appeal.”

The Uneasy Chair: A Biography of Bernard de Voto by Wallace Stegner.  Bernard DeVoto—novelist, critic, historian, editor—was an outsider both in his native Utah (where he was baptized a Catholic) and in the East, despite his Harvard education.  A scholar of extraordinary breadth of interest and knowledge, he ranged widely in his writings, contributing in the major subdivisions of anthropology, history, sociology, and psychology.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Blue Monday Review - September 2015 - a good issue, yes?

[Left] Here's the cover of the Blue Monday Review, September 2015, in which, yes, is my short story "General Mouse."

[Below] The author enjoying the tactile experience of a good literary magazine.

[Below] Title page of the story.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

General Mouse - a short story, now appearing in the Blue Monday Review

"General Mouse" one of my most recent short stories, is now published in the latest issue of Blue Monday Review.  Vol. 2, No. 3, September 2015.

     “They have lost their minds.”
     He was twisting the neck of a large clear plastic garbage bag and winding a tie around it, all the while looking at men’s and women’s bottoms leaking out over plastic chairs with cranky old wooden seats, breasts resting fully on formica table tops, faces hung with the sad thick layers of gluttony.
     “They have lost their minds,” he said to himself. “Saint Anthony, pray for them, they are so fat, they eat themselves sick. How do they sleep at night? Where do they go, these Americans, but from one meal to the next? Even their souls are fat, so when they die, how will they rise to heaven? They will sink to hell. Their addiction to liberty has set their minds free. They are too free.”

  Click here for the link to BMR's website and get the full issue and read the story.

If you'd like a Adobe Digital Editions copy, email me and I'll send you one.