Monday, February 19, 2007

Killkenny Sound and the White House Poets

I recall WOP urging me years ago to check out the blogosphere, but it wasn't until I destroyed my TV that I found the time to check out that world, and I have to say I find the activity much more stimulating, edifying, bizarre, and satisfying than anything on the boob-tube. For those out there not living a numbed, wasted, semi-existence in TV-land, you may wish to check out some poetry.
YITS: whaddya say we make a road trip to Limerick for a wee visit to the White House with a satchel of your work in hand!

And for those who miss the session scene at Nannys: There are some good Irish and Scottish music podcasts on ITunes as well. Have a listen to The Angus Sessions or if you want a taste of the Scottish Pub scene. Thistlepod with Fionna Ritchie remains among the best in Celtic music broadcasting. Temple Bar Trad is also quite good. Try a sample of Culturesluts too, if you want to sit in on just a goodchat.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

A View From Catholic Scotland

[I pulled this off of a blog from the westcoast of Scotland. Thought some PW faithful, many of whom are fellow Catholic travellers, might find it interesting. The original is here]
It's sometimes strange what people type into Google and find West Coast Ramblings. The most common search phrase that finds my blog might be 'An analysis of a poem by Keats' or 'TMA02' or some such associated with my OU studies and it's nice to see new visitors, isn't it. Imagine my surpise therefore when I discovered I was up there on Google for the search phrase 'Imagine all the proddies', because that is exactly the phrase that someone has typed in and found me. What do you think it means? Did John Lennon write another version of his most famous song especially for the Catholic/Protestant divide?I was born and raised in the West of Scotland and although raised a Catholic I never identified with that section of the populace who were descended from the Irish Catholic. There were at my school more Dochertys and Gallaghers, O'Neills and McLaughlins, than there were more commonly perceived Scots names such as McDonald and Mackenzie etc. They were still running a weekly bus between Glasgow and Donegal in those days. But although many of my classmates aligned themselves as being Irish first, Scots second, Celtic supporting etc. I really never, except for a period when I used to take advantage of a free entry into Parkhead after shaking a collecting tin for one of the local priests, I really never felt myself to be in the same mould so to speak. Well I didn't have the genetic background for a start; my mother's side were originally Scots and Welsh and my father's lineage goes back to the Cromarty Firth area for some hundreds of years.I suppose I must have made a conscious decision at some point that if I was going to support any team then for me it felt better to support the local team, Greenock Morton, and so I could stand aloof from all that Rangers/Celtic/Proddy/Catholic crap that so many people wanted to hang on to. Serving an apprenticeship in the local shipbuilding and marine engineering industry in the early sixties I was nevertheless exposed to anti Catholic bigotry and in my naievete my reaction was bemusement, perhaps even bewilderment. Still I was never tempted to react either by pretending to be what I wasn't or by going to the other extreme and adopting the green and white of the Catholic bigot.We've moved on from those days and now although Orange marches and Irish republican marches in the west of Scotland are not entirely a thing of the past they, and the people who promote such things, are increasingly irrelevant and in the general perception so insignificant as to be nearly moribund. And a good thing too.Anway the number one result for the Google search 'Imagine all the proddies' will take you to a letter in the on-line Scotsman which begins thus:It was deeply disappointing to see Sam Galbraith's comments that Catholic schools are the "root cause of sectarianism" (your report, 26 December). As one who travels frequently in other European countries, and has seen separate Catholic schools in action with none of the prejudices that exist in Scotland, it is clear bigotry is bred in the home and the community. Now I can't say I know Sam Galbraith but I used to live in the same scheme as him and looked up to him when I was a Boy Scout and he was a charismatic Venture Scout. His career as a consultant neuro-surgeon, Westminster MP and cabinet minister in a sense mirrored the heights he scaled as a first class mountaineer. He went to Greenock High School, the local 'proddy' school as we used to think of non-denominational schools in those days. And I agree with him; I just hate this separate school system we have in Scotland. It is divisive and it is also simply unfair. There is no justification for it and it should be scrapped. And it would be except for the disproportionate power wielded by the Catholic church in central Scotland local and national politics. I bow to no-one in my support of people to practice their religion but that religion should stand on its own two feet and not depend on an unfair advantage in order to achieve a dominant position in society.This is a secular society and our schools should reflect this. Fuck religion. Now I welcome your comments on the above but here's a challenge for you; if you wish to offer an argument in favour of separate Catholic schools you are not allowed to use the word 'ethos'.
Posted by west coaster at 9:59 PM 1 comments Links to this post

Final Thoughts?

I had hoped we might get more interplay with our discussion of The Painted Bird, but the fact that a few of us at least read together and forced ourselves to think about something long enough to comment pleases me deeply. One final thought for me, and this goes back to an earlier commentary I posted on YITS' observations: Glancing at the Makovsky quotation he inserted before the text, I am convinced now that Kosinski consciously sought to write a novel about humans in the natural world acting as animals. What perhaps distinguishes man from other animals is another constant in the narrative, i.e. the comet, the all-important fire that literally could mean the difference between life and deah for the boy, who Prometheus-like, had to steal his own comet from another man. (Not sure how the Greek analogy works here, since Prometheus obviously belongs to the world of gods rather than men or animals.) I am much less sure how to address the theological issues contained in the narrative, a point that Sobes and YITS brought up for discussion, except perhaps to say that Kosinski's outlook seems rather dim on the idea of God caring much about the world He's created. If anything, I think he definitely mocks Christianity in general and the Catholic beliefs of the peasantry among whom the boy wanders in particular. It is possible Kosinski is making a distinction between religion, what he seems to think is the blind adherence to bizarre rituals and superstitions (the boy you will recall is frequently the victim of their 'misguided' beliefs), and spirituality, but I tended to percieve more a voice of almost total spiritual despair and contempt for those who don't quite 'get it' yet. People had always been comforted by their belief in God, K writes, And they usually died before their children. Such was the law of nature. [my emphasis] God was always in people's minds, he goes on, even when He Himself was too busy to listen to their prayers and keep track of their accumulated days of indulgence. Perhaps Kosinski wants to believe in a God, or grew up with belief and in a religious tradition he would like to have maintained, but his own experiences, similar to another famous Holocaust novelist, crushed him so completely as to extinguish God from the world and the divine spark from humanity (again, without the comet's spark, man whithers and dies). And here we return to where we began, Kosinki's own life story and its relevance to the text. What wasn't included in the Afterward (for some reason placed at the beginning of the novel), and for obvious reasons since that was written by Kosinski himself, is the fact that in 1979 Jerzy Kosinski took his own life.
Thanks to all who contributed their thoughts on the book. I hope more readers will join us in our next literary excursion, this time to Transylvania (Wallachia?) as we read The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova. Let's shoot for 1 April for our next discussion. Oh, and as a final thought I have no idea why someone would think The Painted Bird is pornographic! Oh, and no one mentioned the rat scene - OUCH! [YITS: your copy is on its way to Belfast, so don't worry bout buying one there.]

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Painted Bird

Well i've just finished the book and I would have to agree with the opinions offered by my esteemed collegues here on PaddyWop. Humans are selfish bags of water whose sole aim in life is to live longer and more lavishly than his neighbour, and if that means being cruel or even taking a life, we find a way to justify it by convincing ourselves that the meaning, and the reason for living is surviving and anything we do in the name of survival is alright. I got the impression while reading that Kosinski felt that humans are the bane of the earth and they have even corrupted the natural world; such as the story of how Lekh took revenge on a stork which ultimately led to its death. Man is fundamentally cruel; in his experiences in the countryside Kosinski came across people who did'nt want to aspire to any 'superman' status, instead he is content to just suvive while cloaking himself in superstition as a means of enhancing some lives while condeming others to misery. Kosinski highlighted that, especially in times of war, everything is decay and decaying and those who live in those times are either decaying or feeding off the decay. On a less depressing note, however, I also think there was a somewhat positive tone, especially toward the end. The episode when he jumped under trains and the feeling he got from that plus his feelings about revenge, were interpreted by me as saying that the best revenge to get on anyone, any god even life itslef, is imply to live and enjoy life and to make it fulfilling.

I'm not sure whether I would consider it to be a great book, not on the surface anyway, but it did raise some interesting philosophical questions. Nor would I consider it to be simply an example of twisted Holocaust-ponro because any book that can provoke the type of complex thought that this book obviously did is worthy of a better description. I was wondering, though what conclusions people drew on the superstition and religion in the book? Are they one in the same?

Finally I would also like to commend Paddy on the most fitting and beautiful eulogy he wrote for the Nanny's below. Ne'er a more fitting wrtiten send off could anyone hope for, nor was there ever anyone more fitting than Nanny.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Painted Bird

I am going to join with my buddy Paddy and leave a few thoughts about The Painted Bird. Before I do however, I just want to let everyone know that the WOP is continuing his downward quest for less of himself. I scaled in today at 236.7 lbs. I began the trip at 255.

I agree with Paddy that we are all barbarians just below the surface. A lot of apparant barbarism seemed to rise to the surface in TPB and tells us a lot about ourselves. Maybe Hobbes was right and we are nothing but "selfish brutish beasts". The question is, can we be more? I live my life hoping that we can and trying to be better. I could be a fool. I don't know.

I do believe that there is a truth to TPB that is powerful and stiring. I dont think Kosinski ever intended the book to be a memoir or journal of his actual life.
It gives us a glimpse of life in a part of the world where the savagery of life is much closer to the surface. Whether Kosinski himself actually experienced every outrage that the boy in the story suffered is really not important. The question is, did the world he describe reflect a reality with the ring of truth? Just as Paddy seems to always attack my story telling for its lack of exact reproduction of the events I describe, there is no question that the stories ring true and illuminate the human condition through the prism of my consciousness. I think the same thing is as work in TPB and in fact all fiction that has a ring of truth to it.

Just once last comment, my wife seems to think that TPB is pornographic. How about some comments on that idea.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

PW Book Club


Let's get this bird off the ground. We rather fell into this work, our fist selection for the WP book discussion, because Sobes was looking for a book to read a few weeks back and I had a copy in my office. Rereading the thing this past week brought to the surface a couple of deeply felt gut instincts of my own: 1) people will always remain essentially barbarians, despite the thin veneer of civilization with which we try to cover ourselves, and 2) never trust anyone. Considering the controversy surrounding the book, I wonder, and offer this as a topic of discussion, whether or not it matters if this is fiction or a catalogue of horrors from Kosinski's early life? Is the story, and the writing, powerful enough to elevate The Painted Bird to 'great book' (not in the Columbia or U of Chicago sense) status? Or is this just an example of twisted Holocaust-porno posing as great literature?

Friday, February 02, 2007

Raise Your Glasses Lads - Those Were Good Times Indeed

Of all the money e'er I had, I spent it in good company;And all the harm I've ever done, alas was done to none but me;And all I've done for want of wit, to memory now I can't recall,So fill me to the parting glass, goodnight and joy be with you all.

Of all the comrades e'er I had, they're sorry for my going away,And all the sweethearts e'er I had , they wish me one more day to stay,But since it falls unto my lot that I should go and you should not,I'll gently rise and softly call, goodnight and joy be with you all.

If I had money enough to spend and leisure time to sit awhile,There is a fair maid in this town who sorely has my heart beguiled. Her rosy cheeks and ruby lips, I own she has my heart in thrall,So fill me to the parting glass, goodnight and joy be with you all.

In Memorium - Nanny O'Briens RIP 2007

A short fat man..........

I have always thought of myself as a short fat man but it was never brought home to me clearly than it was last wednesday in front of the coffin of Nanny O'brien's. As I paid my respects to the old girl, as Paddy rolled the tap, a dc dick went walking past with a bouquet of flowers in his hand. With a tough of levity, I asked him if he would leave the flowers on the doorstop of the old girl. With a collosal misunderstanding, he replied "watch who you are talking to you short fat fuck!". A moment of levity, or so I hoped, turned into just another moment of acerbity in Washington D.C.

I am short. I am fat. But I don't think I am a fuck. So whoever you are, I apologize for raining on your parade as you walked to your woman's home, but I was only trying to lighten your day and you spilled acid on me.