The Body Snatchers

The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney

They say the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn’t exist. I don’t know about the Devil, but it seems it might be just as applicable to the surveillance state, once abhorred by the radical left. It is just this sort of creeping and relentless paranoia, so prevalent in the Cold War era, that Jack Finney co-opts for the premise of his sci-fi masterpiece, The Body Snatchers.

McCarthyism was in full swing during the first half of the 1950s, a prime example of what Richard Hofstadter was referring to when he wrote his influential article ‘The Paranoid Style in American Politics’ for Harper’s a decade later. Hofstadter freely admits both the pejorative use of the term paranoid in his article as well as his appropriation of the term from the clinical desk references of psychology. One key feature of the psychological basis of paranoia is that it can be interpreted as both a defensive structure and a compensatory response to an identity in jeopardy. According to Jung, mass societies can react to threats and stimuli in a manner similar to that of the individual, lashing out in the political arena in ways that are analogous to the functions of the subconscious.

The Body Snatchers, by Jack Finney, is often considered an expression of Cold War paranoia, interpreted by critics as a symptom of a broader societal malaise. Hofstadter attributes other science fiction tropes to this category as well, such as fantastic fears about brainwashing and flying saucers. This latter, of course, spread beyond the domain of the fictional to become a subject of popular fascination, developing its own sub-cultures of believers and theorists, creating its own literature and inspiring evidence gatherers and researchers from across the globe.

Yet something is distinctly different about Finney’s work as well, there is an ambiguity towards identity that links it to another tradition, that of the horror fiction of H.P. Lovecraft and the later dystopian musings of Phillip K. Dick, and even the psychedelic personality disintegrations of Robert Anton Wilson

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) via TCM

At the same time, such mass produced Leave-it-to-Beaver notions of what families were and who people were supposed to be, left out whole ranges of others who existed on the margins of that suburban paradise, and who crept about like pod people threatening to invade from without and corrupt the work ethic of those who cared more about keeping the sidewalks swept than the did about nightmare visions at the edge of their optical range. In this sense the book has seemed very much of its time, both with respect to the dialogue, which seems short and snappy to the point of abruptness, like an old film noir picture, as well as the attitudes of the characters, paternalistic to the point of benign authoritarianism. It is telling, however, that both the main character and his love interest, Becky, no matter how facile their flirtations seem, are at the same time dominated by the shadow of divorce, from which both are emotionally recovering. This is as far as Finney goes in giving his characters a sense of greater depth, and it may well be the wellspring of anxiety from which the whole of the paranoia derives. Again and again the main character fends off the attraction he has for Becky by making crude or flippant remarks and takes time to note that he would like to avoid ‘the trap’ of marriage. It seems at times that the whole need to avoid attraction is just another aspect of the main character trying to subvert his unconscious needs, a denial of the physical in preference to the purely conscious and hence ideological. This need for emotional distance is undermined through the story, however, by the dangers they face together fighting off the menace from space. This sub plot, which I found to be annoying and unnecessary at first, gradually came to seem a countrapunal thread to the whole wider narrative.

Body Snatchers is as much about potential dangers of identity loss as it is about 5th columns of subversives, even if it manages to skirt some of the more terrifying aspects of the idea by projecting such losses outwards towards society as opposed to the internalization of the conflict sometimes expressed by those others just mentioned. This exteriorizing feature might well be an example of how deeply ingrained the identity consciousnesses of mainstream Americans were during the postwar era, typified by the need to latch onto and protect those notions of self so extreme as to border on the pathological. Finney seems to be lifting freely from the desk references as well.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) via TCM

There are other overtly psychological aspects to the story as well. The body doubles always are found forming and growing in the dark cellars and coal bins belonging to the main characters. This might seem to make sense from a rationalized narrative point of view, but one wonders how the alien pods would work their magic if faced with apartment dwellers or the homeless. These are not the subjects of the disintegrating influence of the space weeds, however, it is small town America which is explicitly endangered, and it is the town itself, more so than the individuals who seem to be suffering. Again and again the eye of the narrator, Dr. Miles Bennell, is drawn to weeds, and trash, and decrepitude which seems to be creeping into the town, a symptom brought on by the apathy exhibited by the replacement people once they have taken hold. 

One of the most frightening sequences is early on, when the first replacement is found and examined in detail. A friend of the protagonist has discovered an unfinished blank of his own doppelganger forming in his basement storage nook and has tossed it up on a pool table for an impromptu examination. The description of the basement rumpus room is minimal but the swinging overhead light, focused on the body-laden pool felt, creating a strobe of illumination and shadow on the protean corpse, is a genius of macabre juxtaposition, laying the grotesque homunculus atop the casual mid century mundane. Eventually the new allies will recruit a psychologist friend to aid them in their attempt to understand the growing threat to their idealized lives, but when they return to exhibit the corpse it has vanished into a pile of gray fluff, like so many dust bunnies. This is another little trick that Finney seems to want to play on us, as this too seems to be the outcome of the absorbed. Dust to dust, indeed –  and yet we fetishize the form of our own being. 

Suburban life, 1950s style.

That the whole thing might be an irruption of the shadow from the unconscious into the light is a possibility that is given again and again in little hints throughout. I already mentioned the predilection for basements, but another theme is the need for sleep. Consciousness is an absolute requirement to defend against the depredations of the aliens, they can only replace you in your sleep. In one instance Dr. Miles must rescue Becky from her own family house where she has returned to see her now replacement family one last time. He invades her house by breaking in and discovers her double hidden away in the basement of her house. When he goes upstairs he accidentally walks in on her sleeping father, also a replacement (one wonders why the aliens need to sleep at all) before finding her and carrying her out of the house. She needed saving from her hidden self, obviously, she was a woman, but furthermore, she is so deep into the transformation that she can barely wake up and literally has to be carried as dead weight away from the house. The psychological interpretations are obvious. 

Pod Person from Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

There are other examples of how the author uses psychology to inform his narrative. In one case, after the main resistors have become temporarily convinced that they are all imagining things, they rejoice in a too vivacious celebratory breakfast, even though in reality there is little about their situation that has changed. In another case they drive off into the night to flee the town that they now know has been overrun. But once they escape they more or less throw up their hands and, realizing there is nowhere else to go, they decide to just return to the place from which they had fled. It buys the narrative time, but also is a testament to the tendency of people to adopt and maintain persistent patterns of behavior, even when those patterns are dangerous or unhealthy. 

Eventually the whole town is consumed by the vegitative. Apparently identical, what had once been a source of comfort now posed a threat. Finney writes: 

The men, women, and children in the street and stores below me were something else now, every last one of them. They were each our enemies, including those with the eyes, faces, gestures, and walks of old friends. There was no help for us here, except from each other, and even now the communities around us were being invaded.

The Body Snatchers, Jack Finney
In the final scene, Matthew (Donald Sutherland) demonstrates the characteristic pose by which the “pod people” identify unconverted humans.

Ultimately everything is reduced to function. Aliens consume planets just because that is what they do. Humans propagate for the same reasons. Love is a chemical response and we follow the dictates of our nature. It turns out that the author considers the will to life as part of that nature, and that is the one thing that the aliens can’t tolerate. When the protagonists burn a number of budding pods in the field the body invaders just give up, finding that they cannot resist the human instinct for self preservation. How loaded is that phrase, self preservation, something that cannot exist in a collective. And so the aliens just leave and float off into space, leaving our heroes behind to inherit the earth. Of course, we can easily imagine other more likely endings to the story but this one is Finney’s and I’m going to allow it.

Common or no?

Just curious if anybody has had any luck (good or bad) with trying to keep a common place book? I keep starting them and then forgetting them when I need them, even though I am always reading on a large variety of topics that could certainly benefit from some note taking and organization. How do I make it a part of my system? When do I create a special subject notebook or file and when a common place book entry instead?

My mostly empty commonplace book
John Locke’s double-page index, as printed in the English translation of New Method for Common-Place Books (1706). via Public Domain Review.

My 2021 Reading List

The Alchemist / Paulo Coelho
Snow Crash / Neil Stephenson
Chimpanzee politics: Power and sex among apes / Frans de Waal
The mechanics of Ancient Egyptian magic / Robert K. Ritner,
Religions of the Hellenistic-Roman Age / Antonía Tripolitis
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The Sumerians: Their history, culture, and character / Samuel Noah Kramer
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Isaac Newton / James Gleick
Galactic pot-healer / Philip K. Dick
Gods and robots: Myths, machines, and ancient dreams of technology / Adrienne Mayor
Synchronicity / C. G. Jung
Altered states / Paddy Chayefsky
The divine invasion / Philip K. Dick
On writing / Stephen King
Wise blood / Flannery O’Connor
Kim / Rudyard Kipling
Two Essays on Analytical Psychology / C. G. Jung
The transmigration of Timothy Archer / Phillip K. Dick
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This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is incollage_20220112_175705912.jpgMay
Big Sur / Jack Kerouac
The dead / James Joyce
Fanfarlo / Charles Baudelaire
The island of Doctor Moreau / H. G. Wells
To walk the night / William Sloane
The edge of running water / William Sloane
The alteration / Kingsley Amis
Bob Dylan: An intimate biography / Anthony Scaduto
The king of elfland’s daughter / Lord Dunsany
The archetypes and the collective unconscious (vol. 9.1) / C. G. Jung
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The essence of Tsongkhapa’s teachings. Three aspects of the Path / TsongKhaPa & His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Rendezvous with Rama – Arthur C. Clarke
Cosmic puppets – Phillip K. Dick
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Rama II / Arthur C. Clarke & Gentry Lee
Dogs in Antiquity: Anubis to Cerberus, the origins of the domestic dog / Douglas Brewer, et al.
Dark entries / Robert Aickman
True Grit / Charles Portis
The treasure of the Sierra Madre / B. Traven
Inside Vasubandhu’s Yogacara: A practitioner’s guide / Ben Connelly
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Rosemary’s baby / Ira Levin
The family / Ed Sanders
Masters of Atlantis / Charles Portis
Fuzz : When nature breaks the law / Mary Roach
The ultimate evil : the search for the sons of Sam / Maury Terry
Soul catcher / Frank Herbert
Fear : Trump in the White House / Bob Woodward
Bad blood : Secrets and lies in a Silicon Valley startup / John Carryrou
Warlock / Oakley Hall
Hell house / Richard Matheson
Erebus : The story of a ship / Michael Palin
Rage / Bob Woodward
Peril / Bob Woodward and Robert Costa
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The Ministry for the Future / Kim Stanley Robinson
Artemis / Andy Weir
Against the grain ; a deep history of the earliest states / John C. Scott
The last duel ; A true story of crime, scandal, and trial by combat / Eric Jager
Annihilation / Jeff Vandermeer
Authority / Jeff Vandermeer
Acceptance / Jeff Vandermeer
Rebirth of a nation : The making of modern America, 1877 – 1920 / Jackson Lear
1898 : The birth of the American century / David Traxel
Vril :The power of the coming race / Edward Bulwer-Lytton
The dawn of everything: A new history of humanity / David Graeber and David Wengrow
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Seaborn fragment of a dream

From whence the dream that the siren’s song contains all the knowledge of the world encoded in it’s subtle and sublime melodies? It comes from the sea itself and is the very lure of its own singing. But it is the limit of that knowledge that eventually assumes the stark guise of madness, for knowledge exists on but a human scale, and has not truth in’t.

Incarnate things speak only to themselves, no matter how grandiloquent, no matter how great and all encompassing. But in the final fading of the ultimate string, which after all must have a bound in time, truth remains unspoken and unrevealed and always shall be, and therein lies the crushing melancholy of knowing – for knowing is as empty as the sound of surf within the vacant shell.

“All human choices lead ultimately to disaster. There is nothing to be done and nothing to be saved, so let the sea come in and wash it clean.” This is their song, and it is knowledge of the fate of the world.

We stopper our ears to such knowledge because we cannot live and function in the face of its stark revelation. We must abandon worldliness then, unless we dare to wear the cloak and mantle of the hero, which burns us up like acid in its deadly apotheosis.

Planet of the Apes

Spoilers for both book and film adaptations below.

Planet of the Apes /
by Pierre Boulle (Author), Xan Fielding (Translator)

Despite the popularity and resilience of the franchise, I suspect that the number of fans who have actually read the 1963 book by Pierre Boulle is relatively modest compared with those who have seen the movies. That is a shame, because, despite some significant differences between the source material and the films, the book offers us a new window into the cultural idiom of the 1960s. It also provides us with a satire of culture and technology that is timeless, if idiosyncratic.

This book has two characteristics that will likely be surprising to fans of the movies. For one thing this book is far more satirical, without becoming a farce, than is the movie. It is really only a science fiction novel in the broadest sense. Speculative fiction is perhaps a more appropriate term. Yes, it involves rockets and relativity and evolution and astrophysics, but the scientific rigmarole merely serves as a backdrop to the narrative. The truth is that the science is at best a pasteboard set in the novel. It is secondary at best, and the tale actually could have benefited from some research by the author in this regard. Not that the science in the movie is all that accurate either, but this is less distracting in a film, where the problem can be dissolved by hand waving, effects, and suspension of disbelief. This is harder to accomplish in a novel, especially when one has already been exposed to hard science authors like Arthur C. Clarke or, more recently, Andy Weir. It is perhaps a function of its era that the technical aspects of the story are less worked out than we might wish, coming from an age where science realism dominates the scene.

Perhaps this criticism is a little unfair given the state of science fiction in the early 1960s, as opposed to now, but I can’t imagine that calling apes ‘monkeys’ was likely never good practice from a scientific perspective, and I object to this careless use of language, unless it can be attributed an artifact of a poor translation or a French idiom of which I am unaware. In the latter case the fault is with the editor, but still, it is a fault.

A second difference between the book and the movie that will likely strike the reader is that the ape society presented in the book is not as backwards as is that in the movie. They are not a primitive culture so much as an imitative one. This actually turns out to be one the primary themes of the novel, and one that is hardly developed in the movies. Ape culture in the book is presented as being fully modern and contemporary to the time, but at the same time stuck, due to failure of innovation and original thinking on the part of the apes. This is a critique of culture and the humanities, as much as it is a meditation on technology and societal advancement. There is even a long passage where the author meditates upon the appropriation of literature from one generation to the next, and one gets the sense that the author is acutely critical of the derivative nature of much artistic production. It makes one wonder what the author might be appropriating, himself. The comments are wry and self deprecating in a way that almost breaks the fourth wall of the narrative.

Chimpanzee using a tool via Serious Science.

There were some other themes in the novel that intrigued me as well. The animality of the humans was an interesting aspect of the book, and the way in which they fought against the trappings of society instead of resisting the apes themselves was an aspect that intrigued me. It reminded me very much of another recent read of mine, The Dawn of Everything, by David Graeber and David Wengrow. A complicated book that covers a wide swath of modern anthropology. I was reminded of one of the books theses, that so-called primitive societies might not actually be primitive by fate or failure of the imagination but by conscious choice. The connection did not go much deeper than this faint resonance, but it did open my eyes to the possibility that the dichotomy presented by the novel, that between animal and human, civilization and savagery, was not at all clear cut. After all, we may think of apes as dumb animals, but in fact they are accomplished at tool use, strategic thinking, political thinking, and levels of communication that we normally attribute to humans alone.

Ultimately there are some significant changes in plotting that were made by the movie franchise. Most important of these is that the astronauts are not on Earth when they encounter the ape planet, only after going home does the protagonist discover that, after many centuries, his home planet too, has given in to the urge to abandon creativity for the sake of comfort and allowed the ape servants to take over there as well. It doesn’t quite have the shock value of Charlton Heston discovering the Statue of Liberty buried in a radioactive desert, but it does better highlight the author’s point that at some level we are victims of our own drive towards status, luxury, and comfort. It really is a tale as old as time, and one that the ancient Romans dealt with in their literature. When does society become decadent and begin to undermine the very necessity that caused it to evolve in the first place?

Anthropology and societal development aside, however, the author seems more interested in how people can, in some circumstances, overlook their physical differences, as well as how, in other circumstances, they can become ingrained in established modes of behavior. One feature that the book shares with the movies is the stratification of ape society into different casts that fail to think outside of their particular ethnic box. This is directly adapted into the films and is a key feature of the social commentary. Less evident in the movie is how the protagonist is able to move between worlds. He has empathy for his human friends based on their physical form, this is true, but he is able to more or less enter ape society as the tale progresses and to abandon his old connections, and his human mistress, based on cultural cues. Social hierarchy triumphs over physicality, at least for a while, and this is telling. Only when the mute and animalistic Nova is learned to be pregnant, does the protagonist deign to return to her and vow to protect her from her ape captors and tormenters.

This blaming of the social system harkens back to the original reaction of the feral humans to the trappings of society, physically fighting against the clothes and technology, as opposed to the strange humans that have come to exist among them. It is the trappings of culture, the clothes, the machines, the houses, the guns, that transform our thinking as much as the social connections that we make or the empathetic response we have due to natural biological similitude. This is the reason that the apes refuse to clothe the protagonist throughout much of the book, continually remarking upon its absurdity. To do so would be to make him tacitly one of them and undermine their own stratification based on physical appearance and caste. In the end it turns out to be the clothes that make (and unmake) the man, or the ape, as the case may be.

Featured Image “Concept Sketch of Forbidden Zone – Mentor Huebner” via Invisible Themepark.

Descriptive Muchness: a narrative fragment

   To the northeast the beach continued along as straight as a razor until its sandy edge eventually merged into the slate grey of the sea and sky in a triple vanishing point of morning drizzle, only just beginning to show the pink and golden flecks of a still uncertain sunrise, lurking just below the horizon line of Neptune’s watery realm.

   In the opposite direction, the strand continued along for about a mile of open shore, bounded on the landward side by a wide and up-built concrete promenade overlooked by a seemingly endless line of dreary and desolate hotel high-rises, now all but abandoned, their black gaping windows like empty sockets in a mirthless jester’s grin.

   The slightly arcing line of sand and sea terminated abruptly to the south, truncated by the great pier, demarked dimly by the haze smeared warning lights, which kept its linear bulk distinct from the yawning chasm of the night shadowed sea.

   The twinkling halogen line extended perpendicularly out into the susurrating breakers before abruptly vanishing into an abyssal gloom, a limit beyond which all was shrouded in the impenetrable mists and fog choked atmosphere of the still-not-yet-dawn.

   Except for one winking golden globe at the farthest edge of visibility, a trawler’s searching beam, perhaps, floating on an indistinct boundary of dark on dark, which vaguely separated the under deep from that greater depth of space above, which sheltered, beetling over. And this distant lamp so bewitched and beckoned the eye, that it was like some maritime willow-the-wisp of ancient fancy, steering the drowsy beachcomber’s weaving walk, ever so slightly towards its numinous pull, so that pant cuffs, incautiously unrolled, became suddenly salt sodden in the foaming thrusts of shushing surf, pouncing abruptly at the stillness of the shore.

Rembrandt Steele: Exploring local history through art and artists

Today I have been engaged in a little freeform research, the kind of thing that keeps me engaged with history even when I don’t have much in the way of professional opportunities to practice it. The real problem over the last year has obviously been the pandemic, and I am excited about opportunities that may be forthcoming to get back into the physical archive space as opposed to the very limited virtual one. Nonetheless, online is the place to start so that you don’t waste time at the repository. 

This morning I logged some web hours researching my old school, the John Herron School of Art and Design. There are a wide range of materials available, some of which are located in the Ruth Lilly Special Collections & Archives at IUPUI’s University Library (Herron joined in partnership with IU in the late 1960s and became part of IUPUI in 1969), with some other materials found at The Indiana Historical Society’s Glick Center, and still more being hinted of as being located in the Indianapolis Museum of Art Archives at Newfields. In addition to material about the school itself, of course, and its associated parent organization, there is a coterie of personalities associated with its hundred-plus year history, many of which have their own personal collections in the archives. 

The Tinker House, site of the original Heron School of Art

One of these personalities, who I have investigated at a bit in detail, was an artist, photographer, and amateur architect named Rembrandt T. Steele, son of well-known Indiana painter T. C. Steele. It turns out that when the Art Association of Indianapolis, which was organized in 1883, decided to form a school with the monies left to it by local businessman John Herron, they looked to the Steele family for inspiration. The organization purchased the artist’s former house and studio property, known as the Tinker-house, just northeast of the intersection of Pennsylvania and 16th streets, and transformed it into an art school. This was in 1902. 

They also made ‘Brandt’ Steele, one of the first faculty members of the new school to be opened in the former residence. A galley was to be opened as well, and the property was much renovated to accommodate it’s new functions. It probably didn’t hurt his career that Brandt’s father was the vice president of the Art Association.

The standard curriculum was to practice art intensively, “six hours daily, six days in a week.” Steele was assigned to teach design daily in a class listed as, “Modern ornament. The study of nature and its application to design.”

1902 Circular

A note on the back of the circular notes that “the annual membership fee to the art association is five dollars,” and that when “both parents are members” it entitles children to attend all lectures and receptions given by the Association.

Brandt Steele House In Woodruff Place Indianapolis

There were other items of interest about Steele the younger in the archives as well, along with his immediate family. Not only was Brandy a successful ceramicist, but he also designed his own home from scratch, one of the more distinctive properties in the city dating to the turn of the century, still standing on East Drive, in Woodruff place. Steele was an avid photographer, so there are large collections of his photographs in the archive. With none of them digitized, however, their contents only hinted at by the available finding aids.

In addition to Brandt’s drawings and papers, the archives also contain many writings and drawings attributed to his wife, Helen McKay Steele, including essays, letters, and most intriguing of all diaries. Helen was the daughter of a local newspaper magnate, and an accomplished writer, making her letters a pleasure to peruse.

Taken together the archival collection of the two personalities offers insightful and personal first hand views into Midwestern urban life during the Victorian Era. Early letters between them reference the Spanish-American War, and photos show that Brandt joined the Indiana Militia later, during the First World War. 

Page from letter of Hellen McKay Steele to Brandt, dated May 14 1898

6 P.M. Sunday —

Been over to corner of Meridian and 5th to see regiment go by. It was very quiet and solemn but I cant see anything with normal eyes while you are sick. I wanted to call and perhaps get a glimpse of you earlier but mamma thought better not — I do hope this messy note will not be delayed

Hellen McKay Steele to Brandt Steele: May 14, 1898.
Indiana Historical Society.

Hellen Elizabeth died in 1947, while Brandt died in 1965 at the generously old age of 95. Both are buried together in the famous local landmark, Crown Hill Cemetery. Together they lived through two world wars, a pandemic, and a great depression, while Brandt survived his wife well into the Cold War. I am looking forward to looking deeper into their joint histories, as well as those of the Art School and Association, with a view to recreating some of the elements of upper class life in downtown Indianapolis during the turn of the last century. Wish me luck!

To the reader

The best thing about this blog is that it exists. Which is to say, it is better to have a blog that serves as a creative outlet and forum which may need fixing and tightening, than to have no forum at all. This site started as an adjunct to my attempts to self-learn Attic Greek. My failures as an autodidact aside, it quickly became clear that I didn’t have time to maintain this site and so it languished for several years as I took a more traditional approach to beefing up my education. Now, here we are several (okay, many) years later, and I have resurrected this blog as a means of personal literary expression. Which is shorthand for this is now a writer’s blog, and I as a writer intend to write… here. But what am I writing? I guess that remains to be seen.

It’s clear that I don’t really know what I am doing here, most of the time. Just look around, things are all over the place. It’s not that I have some overriding concern I’d like to examine to the nth degree; like the historical nuances of Iron Age Time Keeping or How to Make a Fortune Convincing Others to Buy Crypto. I did have that when this was a blog about Ancient Greek, but what has it become? What am I even doing here? Finding my voice is the best way that I can state it, and it looks to be an ongoing process, and one that threatens to expand into many different modes and forms of expression.

All I can say in my defense is that, while I may not know exactly what I am doing, I do know, more or less, where I am headed. I am moving forward, groping in the darkness, and looking for signs of light and life. I am writing. I am exploring. And mostly, I have just been keeping it to myself… or else presenting it in an ephemeral manner on social media. I have found the wherewithal to write daily, or nearly daily. I keep a journal that has little to do with this space, until, that is, something pops out and demands a hearing. I need an outlet for those occasional flashes of inspiration, which I do actually manage to inveigle from the spirits once in a while. I need a place to work out larger ideas and themes as well, presenting my research as it were. I do also need some outside structure and limit pressuring me to write for an actual audience, real or imagined. That is, I guess, why I have a blog; at least this blog, let’s just leave the others out of it for the time being.

… readers can expect to see new poems and poetic fragments of works in progress being posted here as the work continues… Other, more detailed examinations, in an academic or philosophical style, may appear from time to time as well, but I would like to avoid overly long and highly detailed studies for the time being.
Mercury in a Decorative Frame with Grotesques

I am mercurial ☿ by nature. I follow the wind where it listeth. Today, I might be working on poetry; tomorrow, I might actually be looking into some of those historical nuances I poked fun at earlier. But even while I am finding my voice, my public voice, I intend to keep this blog going. Not because anyone needs a record of my musings, but because I think that they might be entertaining and even sometimes valuable or well-crafted. And I need it. I need it as a spur to continue to improve and dare to put things out there for someone to maybe read. Sapere aude, or, maybe I should say, scriptare aude

But I also understand the exigencies of keeping an audience engaged. I don’t want to make this an exercise in confusion or self indulgence, a shotgun approach to literary accomplishment. So, I intend to forge and keep a few themes that I can return to over and again, and give you all, whomever you might eventually turn out to be, something to hang your hats on. A little stability in an unstable world.

So, here are my proposals. For one thing I intend to keep working in a poetic mode, at least periodically, for the foreseeable future. With this in mind you readers can expect to see new poems and poetic fragments of works in progress being posted here as the work continues. But I am interested in prose, too. With that aspect in mind I would at least like to feature a regular series of posts just on my interests at large as they present themselves during any given week. Maybe that means a travel report, or some commentary on world events, or just going down the rabbit hole on some subject that has captured my attention; not unlike this post itself, for example. The news of the day as my mind reads it, so to speak, and definitely from a subjective point of view. 

Other, more detailed examinations, in an academic or philosophical style, may appear from time to time as well, but I would like to avoid overly long and highly detailed studies for the time being. I have other venues for that sort of examination, and if it is not of general interest, don’t expect to see it here. While this blog did start out – or at least restart – in an academic mode, it did so merely as a vehicle of convenience. I needed a place to post my work for a class on the history of the book and so I did it here. Now, I want to shift gears away from academics, though I may return to such topics, more casually , from time to time.

Finally, I would like to post some thoughts or brief biographical materials together on authors and their works as I encounter them. I have been making it a point to read much more fiction that I am normally accustomed to, and I would like to examine those items here. Such literature reviews will concern authors that I find interesting in whatever aspect, genre, or medium, I encounter their work. Hopefully, I will dig into such works while I am still reading them and they are fresh in my mind. I will especially seek to focus on authors about whom I wish to discover more myself; I can then share my findings and recommendations with you. So, look forward to that if you are a book lover, as I have been reading some excellent and somewhat obscure authors of late in a variety of genres as well as my usual staples of history and nonfiction. 

Well, that is all I have to say on the subject of subjects. I hope to be a more active poster in the future now that I have some working parameters, and I hope if you visit here you will follow this blog and return from time to time to see what’s new.

Thanks for visiting,

Wm. J.