I'm starting to accumulate and work with materials on Turkey in preparation for our September adventure, and this includes an effort to learn some Turkish, an exploration of basic facts of Turkish history, and reading of novels and other textual materials. At the moment I'm rereading Ian McDonald's The Dervish House, set in Istanbul and full of interesting connections to Turkey's past and present, and it's time to read Orhan Pamuk's novels too. Last week I got The Innocence of Objects, Pamuk's telling of the tale of his creation of his literal museum (in an old house in Çukurcuma) to accompany his novel Museum of Innocence, and I'm amazed at the project. Here's a bit of description:
I kept seeking out more small museums in my travels. What I found most enthralling was the way in which objects emoted from the kitchens, bedrooms, and dinner tables where they had once been utilized would come together to form a new texture, and unintentionally striking web of relationships. I realized that when arranged with love and care, objects in the museum --an odd photograph, a bottle opener, a picture of a boat, a coffee cup, a postcard-- could attain a much greater significance than they had before. I had top put these strange photographs and used objects on my desk and reimagine them as pieces belonging to the lives of real people.Bits of the book resonate with other aspects of my life and doings, which I suppose is what one expects in influential books. Here's one that encapsulates what I think about photographic composition and aesthetics:
The more I looked at the objects on my desk next to my notebook --rusty keys, candy boxes, pliers, and lighters-- the more I felt as if they were communicating with one another. Their ending up in this place after being uprooted from the places they used to belong to and separated from the people whose lives they were once a part of --their loneliness, in a word-- aroused in me the shamanic belief that objects too have spirits.
When I found a particular object in a shop and realized, with a sudden burst of inspiration, that I might be able to weave it into my story, I would immediately buy it; and, on my way back to my studio,I would be happy. Most of the time, though, I couldn't find anything that I felt would fit into my novel in the making, and I left empty-handed. And sometimes I would buy something simply because I found it pretty, interesting, or unusual. The I would place it on my desk, believing optimistically that its role in Kemal and Füsun's story would simply come to me unbidden. (pp 51-52)
Looking at the photographs we took during the process [of making a museum layout], I realized that I was doing what the Istanbul landscape painters I so admire also did: looking for an accidental beauty in the convergence of trees, electrical cable and pylons, ships, clouds, objects, and people. The greatest happiness is when the eye discovers beauty where neither the mind conceived of nor the hand intended any. (103)
In my freshman year at Harvard I studied Swedish (Scandinavian B --there was no Scandinavian A) under Göran Printz-Pċhlson, a pleasant if (as I thought) somewhat lumbering Swedish poet (I particularly remember that he wore leather jackets which creaked when he moved). He was a friendly and generous teacher, though I was too much in awe to actually seek him out and, well, converse. Just today I happened upon an electronic version of his Letters of Blood, and Other Works in English, and learned that he died in 2006. The introductory materials tell me some of what I missed by not, well, conversing.
Poetics is a subject of which I am largely ignorant, but a quick flip through the pages of the prose parts of the book suggests that I might enjoy discovering on some winter night when the snow howls without. And I'm mostly immune to poetry, though sometimes my attention is caught. And caught it is by some bits of Printz-Pċhlson's, like this from My Interview with I.A. Richards
Inversion is a counterfeit experienceand here's the whole of Songs of Dock Boggs
there is but one irreversability.
Chestnuts, rabid squirrels, slosh and sleet,
the sullen, birdstained wisdom of John Harvard.
O Fyffes bananas, obscene planks,
the flexes bared to vision like the sinews
in Vessalius. I grope my way
through the intestines of heuristic house.
Last night we heard in Kresge Hall
a lion-vested English poet fulminate
like an under-paid volcano against Science,
applauded by a host of boffins.
Afterwards, a girl called Shirley took my hand
and wished to lead me through the maze
toward the magus posing there as Tannhäuser,
fettered with electric wires in a great maidenform...
There are gridiron reverberationsand from The Lyndon Baines Johnson Lavatory Seat Refurbishing Rightwinding Leftbranching Recursive Selfperpetuating Paradox Memorial
in the hills, sourmash
from the sheriff's office
Ah, the gavroche innocence of a barnyard rape!
He offers a smile, mild
as pick-axe handles a
mile wide which kindles
the hide of rutabaga;
their red necks swabbed
by cool, pale blue grass
in the abstracted stare of poverty
Bushwacking the melodies of God
for the breakdown of bushfires
he nurtures illustrious health
with the grating pap
of pink indulgence,
plucking the lure of life
from the audible mouchoir moment
when distant authority suppurates
the blueridge landscapes of childhood.
Raw death: a clodhopper shovel
smack in the kisser.
Here I sit thinking: Aw, shit, think how great our country is.
Here I sit, scratching my ass, thinking: Aw, shit, think how great our country is.
Here I sit, smoking some grass, scratching my ass, thinking: Aw, shit, think how great our country is.
Here I sit, sticking my middle in, smoking some grass, scratching my ass, thinking: Aw, shit, think how great our country is.
Here I sit, waiting for the end, entertaining a friend, bridging a loan, blowing my horn, sucking my stick, flexing my prick, farting through my ring, sticking my middle in, smoking some grass, scratching my ass, thinking: Aw, shit, think how great our country is.