Lonesome Rangers of Excessive Candour: Scores of Post-Toasties New World Hip-Hop (An Imaginary Free Jazz Session of Cult Studs, with a Touch of Story, Too!)

Hitting this parenthetical, I knew I was in the wonderful Land of Clute:
--Ajvaz has made it clear he does not want the reader to be reminded of Magic Realism in his work, that his texts do not valorize any hero bearer of sigils out of the swamp nor any origin tale at the heart of the delta of tales untold--
Since the death of John Leonard, I've come to cherish Clute more than ever. I've always had an admiration for Clute -- for though my ability to embrace his ideas has often been tempered by my (quasi-irrational?) antipathy to taxonomy vs. his career of it, I love his rhythms and diction, and more than that, I love his willingness to follow the words into a realm more of sound than sense, something Shakespeare did now and then, and all the best poets, and John Leonard, too, who was nearly unique in offering that quality as a book reviewer.

Nearly unique. I think of Leonard and Clute as the Jazz Johns of Bookchat. I wish they'd had the chance to play a session together. Imagine what it might sound like--
The sky's falling and so's the yen. Suddenly the jaws of Story shut cleanly on him. And he realizes he's been holding his breath even on those occasions -- under a tent at Caramoor, once in a cathedral -- to which he's been invited as a designated partisan, after which he's guaranteed a standing ovation because, of course, he's followed by the Laureate, who reads from her novel-in-progress, which begins: "They shoot the white girl first."
Shouting, farting, swearing, grinding his intimates into stricken silence but also lifting them high, shitting himself so hard he blasts a hole in his own peritoneum, arguing, staggering from the ring of truths so great the world shouts God in his ear, he is a stunning creation, a histrion utterly real to the eye, a porridge of sensation who turns on a dime into icon.  Old son, you're nicked.  From sea to shining sea: long-distance loneliness ... Deer slayers, cow punchers, whaling captains and raft river rats ... Greedheads, gun nuts, and religious crazies ... Carpetbaggers, claims jumpers, con men, dead redskins, despised coolies, fugitive slaves, and No Irish Need Apply ... Land grabs, lynching bees, and Love Canals ... Lone Rangers, private eyes, serial killers, and cyberpunks. Not exactly the ideal social space for a radical Johnny Appleseed to plant his dream beans.
All in all, though, it is a structure into which a thousand tales could nestle, each nudzhing its niche, each transacting furiously. So superior are these sentences to the churlishness that passes for criticism elsewhere in our culture -- the exorcism, the vampire bite, the vanity production, the body-snatching and the sperm-sucking -- so generous and wise, that they seem to belong to an entirely different realm of discourse, where the liberal arts meet something like transubstantiation. It is the outside of the inside of the data of the dance. It is a shape for the knowing we're going to need.


  1. The thing I admire about Clute's work most of all, which, admittedly, I don't always get (often not his fault but mine) or agree with, is his earnestness. He's really thought deeply about the works he reviews, cares about the ideas and craft embodied within, for better or worse, and is always honest in his assessment. I just dont see a lot of that from others.

    Jeff Ford

  2. I have this notion that when Clute doesn't know what to say, he just writes a parody of himself that's indistinguishable from his actual prose style. Just as often, though, I think he brings far more to the table than the original works he examines do. This was a great reminder to appreciate him while he's still doing his thing.

    You've also made me miss John Leonard all over again. I went back to your eulogy of (can it be?) nearly two years ago and found myself doing the same thing I did at the time, corralling the spouse and reading his sentences aloud to her. I'd skip a mortgage payment if the Library of America put out a volume or two of his complete works.


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