Wallace Stevens – The Men That Are Falling

The Reading Eagle recently tweeted out an archival story about Reading native Wallace Stevens winning an award for poetry in 1936. Stevens’ ‘The Men That Are Falling’ won the award out of more than 2,000 poems submitted to the Nation magazine, and it was published in the magazine that fall.

From the article: “Editors of The Nation said Stevens’ work is marked by a scrupulous regard equalled by few of the present-day poets.”

Stevens had published Harmonium in 1923. Two decades before the end of his life, he was working as vice president of a Hartford insurance company, and this poem would go on to be published as the concluding poem of the collection The Man with the Blue Guitar . I have read that it may be a sort of elegy to the fallen soldiers of the Spanish civil war.





Wallace Stevens

The Men That Are Falling

God and all angels sing the world to sleep
Now that the moon is rising in the heat

And crickets are loud again in the grass. The moon
Burns in the mind on lost remembrances.

He lies down and the night wind blows upon him here.
The bells grow longer. This is not sleep. This is desire.

Ah! Yes, desire…this leaning on his bed,
This leaning on his elbows on his bed,

Staring, at midnight, at the pillow that is black
In the catastrophic room…beyond despair,

Like an intenser instinct. What is it he desires?
But this he cannot know, the man that thinks,

Yet life itself, the fulfillment of desire
In the grinding ric-rac, staring steadily

At a head upon the pillow in the dark,
More than sudarium, speaking the speech

Of absolutes, bodiless, a head
Thick-lipped from riot and rebellious cries

Speak and say the immaculate syllables
That he spoke only by doing what he did.

God and all angels, this was his desire,
Whose head lies blurring here, for this he died.

Taste of the blood upon his martyred lips,
O pensioners, O demagogues and pay-men!

This death was his belief though death is a stone.
This man loved earth, not heaven, enough to die.

The night wind blows upon the dreamer, bent
Over words that are life’s voluble utterance.



quincecunct: quincunx


First she let her hair fal and down it flussed to her feet its
teviots winding coils. Then, mothernaked, she sampood herself
with galawater and fraguant pistania mud, wupper and lauar,
from crown to sole. Next she greesed the groove of her keel,
warthes and wears and mole and itcher, with antifouling butter-
scatch and turfentide and serpenthyme and with leafmould she
ushered round prunella isles and eslats dun, quincecunct, allover
her little mary. Peeld gold of waxwork her jellybelly and her


grains of incense anguille bronze. And after that she wove a gar-
land for her hair. She pleated it. She plaited it. Of meadowgrass
and riverflags, the bulrush and waterweed, and of fallen griefs of
weeping willow. Then she made her bracelets and her anklets
and her armlets and a jetty amulet for necklace of clicking cobbles
and pattering pebbles and rumbledown rubble, richmond and
rehr, of Irish rhunerhinerstones and shellmarble bangles. That
done, a dawk of smut to her airy ey, Annushka Lutetiavitch
Pufflovah, and the lellipos cream to her lippeleens and the pick
of the paintbox for her pommettes, from strawbirry reds to
extra violates, and she sendred her boudeloire maids to His
Affluence, Ciliegia Grande and Kirschie Real, the two chirsines,
with respecks from his missus, seepy and sewery, and a request
might she passe of him for a minnikin. A call to pay and light a
taper, in Brie-on-Arrosa, back in a sprizzling. The cock striking
mine, the stalls bridely sign, there’s Zambosy waiting for Me!


In Finnegans Wake I.8, p. 206-7, JJ deploys one of the quadrant-flags of the book by invoking the name of the traditional pattern that is one of the novel’s key structural foundations. Cementing ALP’s vagina as the center of the universe, it seems. (The central flag is the famous Euclid explanation in Nightlessons, II.2.) Structuring a novel to abstract infinite non-repeating patterns was one of JJ’s I believe motivators. To incorporate more and more patterning, in more and more dimensions, until obtaining the blurry hash of which above find an example of it’s near-clearest.

Page 293

Page 293

Aside: Antichrist

Seeing Antichrist and Melancholia when they came out in theaters was distilled confusion, but rewatching them the other way around (reverse order) was very rewarding.

by Ruth Scott Blackson

by Ruth Scott Blackson

I suppose I did it because I was getting nostalgic for favorite films of old or just excited about Nymphomaniac. I found the end of the world in Melancholia doesn’t seem so bad the second time, and Antichrist was much more powerful when it wasn’t as surprising and horrible.

The violence in Antichrist begins as sexual, with a few bites, scratches and hits during sex scenes between Willem Defoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg. But for most of the final 45 dialogue-less minutes, the characters graphically torture each other.

I was basically nauseated the first time and thought LVT might have gone too far into horror. But re-watching, it struck me how the attacks could simply be a way of showing in imagery the emotional violence that can exist between a man and a woman.

Alberto Giacometti by Cartier Bresson

Alberto Giacometti by Cartier Bresson

The film’s final long fight begins outside the bedroom, when CG (She) attacks WD (He) and knocks him down. She pulls off his pants and smashes his penis and testicles with a block of wood. Then, she masturbates his bleeding penis until it ejaculates blood. He goes unconscious.

After, she drives a long cork-screw looking device through the fatty part of his thigh, then feels the blood, widens the wound with her fingers, and touches the muscle.

Then she forces a long thick screw into the leghole and out the other side, with a large – min. 10 kilos – weight (lathe wheel) on one end, and bolts it on the other side.

This item is attached to WD’s leg until moments before the end of the film.

While she is running around, he crawls outside and pulls himself into a hole in the soil, under a tall tree. She is running around searching for him with a shovel. Eventually, she sees the hole and beats at it with her shovel. Then, she goes above and digs from there, until a hole breaks in the soil, upon which she slams her shovel relentlessly.

Chap. 4, the three beggars, begins. CG’s face becomes pained and sympathetic; she digs into the soil with her hands until she uncovers WD’s face, buried along with the rest of his body, and strokes it. She then drags him into the house.

Inside the violence is on reprieve while they lie together having memories. She remembers that she saw her son just as he crawled to the window, just as he fell, she remained where she was, getting fucked by her husband, and actually seeming to orgasm at this moment from the sight. Or if not directly aroused by the sight, just too caught in the lust of the moment to stop for her child.

After this, she begs him to hold her as she places a pair of scissors next to her vagina. He does, and she circumcises herself by cutting off her clitoris, screaming horribly, which alerts the deer, fox, and peacock distant outside in the woods.

Then she lies there, weeping in the house, when he begins to remember the son as well, and picks up a wrench to unbolt the lathe wheel. She eventually notices and impales him in the back with the scissors. He pulls them out. They tumble. He flails at her with the wrench. They separate.

WD unscrews the bolt, drops the wheel, and with a horrifying scream of pain, pulls out the pipe.

Then, in one of the film’s most poignant moments, he looks at her, and they look at each other. They look like an old couple that hasn’t seen each other for a long time, truly seeing each other, with that, ‘we’re both still here’ expression – esp. CB’s face, which despite the violence she has wreaked is still that of a tortured, inconsolably sad, beautiful woman, clinging to hope.

But then he has a vision of the boy; and a close-up of her lone, devious eye in a watery shot, and his face hardens and he steps closer to her.

As he stands in front of her his vision becomes small snippets of the close-up watery black and white of her physiognomy that was shown repeatedly during her hospital stay — breath audible, skin rising and falling, arteries pumping. Then he pinches her trachea shut with his thumbs and holds her until she dies, with a tortured expression on his face.

It does sound like a horror movie. But neither of the characters is acting either terrified, or bloodthirsty and vicious. And in fact the victim murders the attacker at the end. But ironically a woman is the primary attacker.


These men hardly seem reasonable





Salinger, the documentary, I could not watch for more than five minutes. Perhaps it will be a good film for middle schools students of the future. To an obsessed Salinger reader, there is nothing new to be garnered there.

The book version, it’s a relief, opens differently, with a detailed account of Salinger’s by all accounts horrific war experiences.

But the book is lacking in many key regards.

One particularly troubling error is a selection of words in the segment regarding “The Catcher in the Rye‘s” unfortunate association with murderers.

john hinckley salinger biography by Shiels and Salerno is poorly writtenJohn Hinckley, who, under the influence of The Catcher in the Rye, attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan.” — Shields and Salerno

This caption represents the kind of mind-boggling error that invalidates the entire book by calling the credibility of the authors into doubt. Certainly, Shields has some funny gimmicks up his sleeve, and Salerno apparently knows how to tie his shoelaces. But this garbage does not deserve to be in print, and anyone who thinks it does is moronic.

Was Charles Manson under the influence of The White Album when he ordered his followers to rip a fetus out of a woman? Was GW Bush under the influence of the Bible when he invaded Iraq?

No. Obviously not. They were under the influence of their own madness, their own twisted logic. They may have seized on these artworks as supports for their schemes, plans and activities, but to assert a causal relation between the work, as if the work could influence a harmless innocent into firing bullets at another human, in the way that alcohol influences the brain to not react as quickly when a deer darts in front the car you’re driving, is sheer absurdity and unfathomable stupidity.

The real question is how stupid are Shields and Salerno? Under the influence of what brain-deadening critical doctrine were they working when they commit this disgusting offense against truth?

They make Brian Helgeland‘s view espoused in Conspiracy Theory, that these killers were all CIA agents programmed to buy Catcher so that the government could track them by their purchases if they ever went AWOL, seem sound by comparison.

The book also includes a lengthy quote by John Guare on this subject – he describes how he found the book horrifying and determined that young men should be prohibited from reading the book due to the misanthropic murderous impulses it will doubtless cause to bloom in their hapless, blank minds. Thanks John. And here I was worried about my kid reading Bret Easton Ellis or Dennis Cooper.

May they be so written about. Under the influence of Shields’ ‘Reality Hunger,’ Barnes & Noble booksellers has decided to only offer print editions of non-fiction celebrity memoirs from now on. Under the influence of Six Degrees of Separation, wealthy upper-class families suspect that young African Americans are pathological liars.


Daddy Eroshka’s “Pilgrim Rhyme” from Tolstoy’s the Cossacks


Hail! Ye, living in Sion,
This is your King,
Our steeds we shall sit on,
Sophonius is weeping.
Zacharias is speaking,
Father Pilgrim,
Mankind ever loving.
-The Cossacks, Leo Tolstoy

Update, Jan. 1, 2014:

Version from The Cossacks, Modern Library version, trans. Peter Constantine

Hail you who live in Zion
Behold your King!
We mount our horse
Sophonia weepeth,
Zacharias speaketh,
Father Mandreth
Mankind loveth.

O lost


I am listening to the audiobook of Zuckerman Unbound by Philip Roth. To me, early Roth is good; but The Professor of Desire is the first great novel, and only with The Ghost Writer, and its sequel, ZU, did Roth truly rocket upwards to the heights. My ears perked up at a moment in the text when a book is referenced in passing.

Carrying his books from one life into the next was nothing new to Zuckerman. He had left his family for Chicago in 1949 carrying in his suitcase the annotated works of Thomas Wolfe and Roget’s Thesaurus

The closest thing I can find online is one The Annotated Thomas Wolfe Bibliography, by John Bassett. Now I’m asking: is there actually an annotated works of Wolfe, or is it a fantasy book that only Zuckerman gets to read? Is Mr. Roth out there to answer? We know he reads the internet (everybody knows that Wikipedia is run by assholes, Mr. Roth. Welcome to 2013). If he’s anything like my grandfather was in retirement, he’s probably spending all of his time playing jacks on his computer.


Look Homeward Angel had a huge impact on my love of letters at a tender age. I have Of Time and the River on my shelf right here; and The Web and The Rock and You Can’t Go Home Again are stashed on my parents’ shelves. I haven’t been able to read them yet. Something about knowing that they are just fragments of “The October Fair,” Wolfe’s lost epic tale, makes the thought of cracking them open prematurely disappointing. But an annotated works would revive my flagging spirits just a tad, if it’s not just a figment of Roth’s fantasy.

And here’s another little reason why I find the loss of Wolfe’s original vision so sad. This list is just inside the front cover of Of Time in the River. It’s both a thrilling statement of Wolfe’s artistic ambition, and a really sad reminder of all that was lost when the original The October Fair was tossed à la baby-with-the-bathwater in favor of three autobiographical novels.