A camera recorded Rudy Kurniawan, twenty-six years old but looking young enough to be carded, as he attended a Christie’s wine auction in Los Angeles, a catalog of fancy wines in his lap. The rare Asian among older white males, he wore a caramel-colored leather jacket, zipped up almost to the neck. His straight black hair is of modest length, and his sideburns just brush his ears. His eyes are dark and sharp behind black-rimmed eyeglasses. The auctioneer had just gaveled down a prize lot of wine that might have been made many decades ago by a callus-handed French farmer who would have been gratified to get a buck per bottle. In this year of 2003, somebody in this room had just bought it for thousands of dollars. Kurniawan turned to the person on his left. “Dude,” he said, “I drank that wine on Thursday night. Now I feel bad. Can I refill the bottle and put the cork back in?”
Kurniawan flashed a smile and chuckled to himself.
Here in the land of knee-jerk World War III threats, the vast majority of us working schmos commute to our jobs by car (ALONE, like very sad, lonely dumbasses), despite substantial evidence that this makes everyone who does it goddamned miserable.
Such an unfortunate state of affairs comes thanks to a beautiful, toxic American melange. There’s that peculiar strain of post-war automotive patriotism, and the powerful industries that grew out of it, like the tire and auto companies who ripped up the Los Angeles streetcar tracks. And then there’s our barbaric contemporary urban (or, rather, suburban) planning that centers the car, by which I mean is hostile at best (and deadly on the regular) to anyone who dares not go everywhere in a two-ton shrine to pollution, alienation and death. (Here’s a surprise: I don’t like to drive.)
Picasso’s blue period lasted three years. In 1901, a close friend of his killed himself, and the painter sunk into a serious depression, one that was to last until 1904. During this time, he painted virtually nothing but monochromatic pieces in blues and greens, usually of melancholy or impoverished figures. In my freshman year of college, in a darkened classroom in Art History 101, I learned a bit of color theory, including the notion of cool and warm colors. Cool colors in a painting, like blue, seem to recede; warm colors are foregrounded, hitting the eye first. This also seems to match their symbolic properties, with warm colors evoking dynamism, passion, intensity, and cool colors suggesting distance, restraint, calm. As a young poet, I wondered if this idea could be transferred to poetry. There were many ways, surely, for poets to suggest sadness or calm aside from merely the subject matter. Could the idea of a poet’s palette be pushed further—could poets work visually on the page without color to achieve some of the same effects that color would?
The library at St. Catherine’s Monastery is the oldest continually operating library in the world. Among its thousands of ancient parchments are at least 160 palimpsests—manuscripts that bear faint scratches and flecks of ink beneath more recent writing. These illegible marks are the only clues to words that were scraped away by the monastery’s monks between the 8th and 12th centuries to reuse the parchments. Some were written in long-lost languages that have almost entirely vanished from the historical record.
But now these erased passages are reemerging from the past. In an unlikely collaboration between an Orthodox wing of the Christian faith and cutting-edge science, a small group of international researchers are using specialized imaging techniques that photograph the parchments with different colors of light from multiple angles. This technology allows the researchers to read the original texts for the first time since they were wiped away, revealing lost ancient poems, early religious texts, and doubling the known vocabulary of languages that have not been used for more than 1,000 years.
The gothic has always returned to us what we repress, whether that be monks hiding in priest holes or bodies buried in swamps. Those who have been socio-economically repressed – fighting men, former squaddies, Travellers – resurge in this rich, fabular novel, as does something more radical and doomed: a pre-capitalist morality. The embedding of such myths in the language and landscape of Hughes, dragged down from the moorland and into the woods, makes for a scarred, black gem.