Hotsy Totsy members: Juliet Clark - Ray Davis - Anselm Dovetonsils - Christina La Sala
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The Hotsy Totsy Club

. . . 1999-12-04

Those of us with access to the San Francisco Bay area will get a chance to relive those fabulous '90s on December 18 at The Bottom of the Hill when my official favoritest rock-and-roll band Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 get up and then get down again.

Given the rate of their recent appearances, I expect TFUL282 to show up next in 2010 or so. And these guys make Halley's comet sound like a celestial body with a central solid mass and a tail of dust and gas! Don't miss 'em, sez Cholly!

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The Conservation of American Slang: "High and wide" (as in the "Rawhide" song's "Soon you'll be living high and wide") is exactly equivalent to "dope and fat."

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Lyrics server: Frequent-Hotsy-Totsy-flier Beth Rust was actually responsible for correcting my notion of "Rawhide"'s lyrics to the above. For many years my memory waffled between:

Don't try to understand 'em
Just rope 'em, tie and brand 'em,
Soon they'll be sitting by your side.
Don't try to understand 'em
Just rope 'em, tie and brand 'em,
Soon one of them will be your bride.
-- both of which seemed to express warmer sentiments towards cattle than cowboys are rumored to feel.

. . . 1999-12-06

There's no way for I, you, one, and we to all have the same single experience. But one single experience might be described equally well by using any of the pronouns I, you, one, or we:
"I/you/one/we read this item and ask myself/yourself/oneself/ourselves: what the --?"

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Comic book stories we'd like to read:


The superhero suffers a form of amnesia in which all expletives have been forgotten. Bursting into a frame, he exclaims "What the --?" or "Why, you --!" but then breaks off, mouth half-opened, eyes startled wide with inward gaze, and wanders away from the crime scene fretfully prodding at the gap in his mind as Elmer Fudd might prod at the air beneath his feet....

. . . 1999-12-07

Our Motto:
One imagines himself
addressing his peers
I suppose. Surely
that might be the definition
of 'seriousness'? I would like,
as you see,
to convince
that my pleasure in your response
is not
plain vanity
but the pleasure of being heard,
the pleasure
of companionship, which seems
more honorable.
-- George Oppen, lineation by Charles Tomlinson

. . . 1999-12-10

Modernist Class

You can tell by the jarring sound of "Zukofsky" in The Trouble With Genius : Reading Pound, Joyce, Stein, and Zukofsky that Bob Perelman is better read than most academics. He's also better to read: his observations are sensible and accurate.

But those being observed are "Modernist," and Perelman is "Postmodernist." And, apparently as a result, his tone is one of such versatile hostility that no book could escape censure. He holds the proselytizing rhetoric of critics against the writers' own works, and he's pissy about these four writers in particular 'cause they weren't able to meet the supposed "Modernist" ambition of perfect synthesis of every conceivable human goal. He provides a brilliant short introduction to the unique virtues of Ulysses and then claims that the lovely object he just described is proof of Joyce's ineptitude.

But it's not all that clear that such weirdly individualistic writers as Joyce, Stein, and Zukofsky actually ascribed to the dopey ambitions Perelman posits, except inasmuch as any working writer has to deal with them: Sure, we got to try to do the best we can think of doing, right? And that can get pretty inflated before it gets punched down. And what we end up with is never quite what we thought we were doing, but sometimes it's still OK, and we can at least try to have a sense of humor about the yeasty smell.

After that performance, Perelman's sequel book, a collection of upbeat reviews mostly of his fellow Language Poets, is about as convincing as the happy ending the studio slapped onto Face/Off. Despite their own lunatic ambitions, Perelman's compeers don't piss him off the same way Joyce, Stein, and Zukofsky did. Why? 'Cause they're "Postmodern" and so they're smart enough to undercut their own claims to textual mastery.

The trouble with that is that The Trouble with Genius spends most of its time showing how those stuck-up Modernists also undercut their own claims to textual mastery. I mean, out-of-control-ness is pretty much what you (and Perelman) notice in the second half of Ulysses or in almost anything by Stein or Zukofsky, and it's pretty fucking arrogant to claim that such a pleasurable (and obviously labored-over) effect is attributable to blind error with those guys any more than it is with Ron Silliman or Susan Howe -- or with Melville, Dickinson, Austen in Mansfield Park, the indomitable bad taste of Flaubert, or the wild line-to-line mood swings in Shakespeare, for crying out loud.

At the end of the book, Perelman says that blanket-statement theorists, snippy critics, and it-is-what-it-is poets are playing an unproductive game of paper-scissors-rock. Probably that's a fair assessment, at least when any of them are responding to professional challenges by the other players. But who except a rhetorically worked-up poet would say that a poem was a rock (let alone say that Ezra Pound was the Alps)? Who but an allegiance-drawing theorist would announce in print that any theorist was in any conclusive fermez-la-porte! sense correct?

What Perelman leaves out of his game and out of his book is the possibility of the reader. And publishing gets to be a pretty sad affair without an occasional appearance by that self-satisfied little cluck.

. . . 1999-12-08

These United States:

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Recently received:

I was reading a Bean Bag Monthly magazine and saw a listing for a Bubba Gump Shrimp bean bag.I have searched the web site and did not see it listed, how can I purchase one?
This isn't quite what I was getting at by that quote about "my pleasure in your response," but I guess it still counts....

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For years now I've wondered (in my usual "what, me do the research myself?" way) why so many people wrote about the Brothers Grimm and so few wrote about the people (mostly women) who actually came up with their stories.

For one thing, there's the matter of credit going where it's due; after all, the Grimms weren't working all that long ago. For another, there's all the attention paid to what fairy tales supposedly tell us about childhood -- when, logically speaking, they should tell us much more about the preoccupations of the women ghostwriters and the assumptions of the credited folklorists (and, later, the marketing acumen of the Disney corporation).

And so I found Thomas O’Neill's Grimm story surprisingly satisfying. You have to shove past the National Geographic house style to get to them, but it includes some speculation on the influence of the informants' working lives and some real names:

That last bit is such a nice reminder of the impossibility of separating "folk culture" from "popular culture" from "high culture"....

. . . 1999-12-13

Things that scare me:I know that George Bishop is trying to reassure me but still, check out the odds that highway drivers on all sides of you believe they're going to heaven.

The only thing that saves us from holy civil war is that the American God is a Personal God, complete with "God Is My Friend" bumper stickers and 900 numbers, a God who cares about your personal bank account and your personal football team and not about anyone else's. It's easier for a Protestant to form a new church than to argue. That's why there's no Protestant Aquinas. And in America every household has its own monogrammed household god who's not even all that interested in the ancestors -- otherwise, why would it have let them get Alzheimers?

Just in case things get hot, though, it's nice that Bishop told us the defusing trick: Elvis sung "I believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows" with full fervor, but if you'd asked, "Mr. Presley, are you sure that it's true that there's a one-to-one correspondence between the number of flowers and the number of individual raindrops?" he might have waffled.

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The Passable Kingdom

Mares eat oats
and does eat mares
and little lambs eat those does.
A kid'll eat little lambs,
wouldn't you?

. . . 1999-12-14

Beyond any doubt, Stephin Merritt is this year's star pupil of the Lorenz Hart School of Miserable Short Ugly Love Song Lyricists, but when I encounter the following "lyric by Lorenz Hart; no music survives," this miserable old ugly chronicler can't help but recall my generation's pretender, Croonin' Costello:

I do men's nails for seventy-five cents
And I guess I earn my pay.
Kindly realize that a heel or two
Get a manicure plus a feel or two.
God, how I hate their hands!

Brokers, clerks and singers,
Arthur, John and Bill,
Each time you touch their fingers
They think you get a thrill.

God, how I hate their hands!
Hands can tear one asunder.
I go through torture nobody understands.
Stop it! My life is a nightmare!
Hands! Hands! Hands! Hands! Hands!

Hands can hold you and hurt you,
Hands can grip;
Hands can laugh at your virtue,
Hands can slip;
Hands can tear your heart out,
Hands can make you dream.
What a fool you seem.
You could scream.

Hands can beg for mercy,
I'm afraid of you.
I am black and blue.
This won't do.

My God, they're driving me crazy
With their goddamn hands.

... an' anotha thing ...... then again ...

Copyright to contributed work and quoted correspondence remains with the original authors.
All other material: Copyright 1999 Ray Davis.