Begin the Beguine

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Saturday, July 11, 2020. I’ve lost track of the days of the week. Which is to say I’ve no longer any sense of the vibe of a Friday or Saturday, of a weekend. There I was last night on the closing shift again (that’s all I’m ever scheduled for) and I’d forgotten it was Friday. So that it seemed weird that the store was a little sparse in terms of customers and the folks that were shopping were more often wandering. And this, I’ve learned, is something some people do, namely, they go to the home improvement store to (1) wander semi-aimlessly and kill time, (2) get out of the house and perhaps get some exercise, and (3) actually go on a date, I swear. Yes, there have been couples meandering about, hand-in-hand or perhaps early in the dating game, sometimes clearly horny and looking to make out or have a quickie in the back corner or what have you. I may be exaggerating and you’re never going to get complete privacy in a home improvement store no matter the day or time but I’ve run across people hugging each other in the aisles, otherwise oblivious, in a kind of pre-foreplay mode. Whatever turns you on, I suppose. And with the restaurant scene in a shambles from all this legislative nonsense (I refuse to legitimize any of it by way of naming the “problem”) what are daters supposed to do; an aspect of dating or romance – of getting to know someone outside of your job for that matter – is the requirement for a type of public intimacy. Anyway, with the dynamics of romance perhaps changed, we’ll see. If the home improvement started serving drinks (hey, Whole Foods used to have a bar) and went back to having hot dog carts in the exits I bet we’d see a new social dynamic in the store.

A giveaway winner from Nova finally received their Time Crime yesterday. The other Canadian, a resident of Alberta which is three-quarters of a continent away towards Calgary won’t get their copy until early August. It’s silly, these delays. But so be it, I’m just glad the books are finally getting in reader’s hands. If they choose to read them, that is. There is no obligation. But I hope the Canadians take the trouble because there are references to Canada in the book. Vixy is from British Columbia and she, Mr. Z. and Neutic briefly discuss Nova, lox and gravlax, Vixy being partial to her father’s homemade Pacific style of curing. Vixy also tells Hesso that she’s from Canada. Anyway, come what may, just writing here about the characters makes me happy.

I miss them, all the Time Crime characters, they are dear friends and it makes me frustrated to think I just haven’t been editing TC2 devotedly enough. If I edit, as challenging as it is to encounter and attempt to overcome my weaknesses as a writer, I at least get to spend with Mr. Z., Vixy, Neutic, Professor Wilhelm, Captain Chase and the others. It really does amount to inhabiting a fulfilling, even essential alternative reality. I therefore recommend to anyone considering writing a novel to do it, just go for it, you never know, you may write characters that you like and become your companions, perhaps lifelong.

And there is no time, of course. My brother-in-law was diagnosed with a virulent form of brain cancer in February, had the surgery and is undergoing treatment but things have changed, I’ll put it that way and he’s no longer him. So that it’s a form of death of the self, of one’s identity while the body carries on. My point being: if there is something that you’ve been holding inside of, getting ready to get ready, perhaps, or if you assume that someday – that one fine day that we all hold in our minds – you begin doing whatever it is that gives you a sense of being properly alive, well, I say stop putting it off, stop waiting for the perfect time or a time when you’re less busy with other things or when things settle down or change – none of that matters when your time has come and it’s over and you have no time left for any of it. I say begin. Right now.

I lost a rating on Goodreads, I don’t know why, perhaps somebody disliked my blog enough to remove themselves. Or perhaps Amazon (they own Goodreads as everyone knows) did something for whatever reason. It’s not for me to fret about but, at this seemingly endless liminal stage of being a novelist, when I need all the help I can get, it’s disappointing. But the giveaway copies are getting out there, I’ve had the fifteen or so sales (writing out the numbers makes it all seem pathetically inconsequential) and maybe, just maybe, a reader will enjoy the story enough to write a review and then what a day! – another stepping stone out of obscurity and towards a sustainable readership would be underfoot.

Meanwhile, I keep using up my U.S. advertising budget on KDP to no avail, no sales, just day after day of significant expense. I’m still convinced the book cover entices folks to click on it by way of Vixy appearing to be wearing a mask, so it’s just a curiosity click – they have no intention of buying. And the description seals the no-deal. What? This isn’t about such and such (again, I refuse to name the issue). But what else to do besides keep at it? If I quit advertising the book has no chance whatsoever – it will categorically disappear unless, somehow, one of my handful of readers does something to influence another influencer. And there is the writing for its own sake, of course – the characters and their stories giving back in their way, functioning as my sustaining, alternative reality. In this way, one deliberately practices their VAPM, their veritelically authentic personal mythology and life becomes more bearable.

A beguine is a type of rhumba-like dance originating in the Caribbean and made popular elsewhere mostly by way of the Cole Porter song, “Begin the Beguine.” My reference ought to be clear to anyone who’s made it this far into the post. Begin, that is to say, your own personal beguine, your dance, whatever it is, before you find yourself before the dark gate with nothing but a lifetime of labor in place of your dreams and visions. Do your best to realize your dreams, come what may, despite the possibility of never fully achieving what you seek. The seeking alone will sustain you along the way and that’s something to live for in and of itself. I’m not kidding, it’s true. Begin.

***

I finished Barry Cooper’s Paleolithic Politics: The Human Community in Early Art (University of Notre Dame Press, 2020) and posted the rating and review on Goodreads. Nevertheless, in include it here:

This is a history-of-ideas book and as a devoted appreciator of secondary sources I found it worthwhile. However, I’d misunderstood the title as implying a study or speculation or examination of the nature of the human community, otherwise understood as culture, hence the condition of politics as it took place within the time period – a vast one to be sure – of so-called early art. (Cooper thankfully comments on the difficulties of using the term “art” to describe what I would term imagery, art being a modern manner of regarding a personally idiomatic expression for its own sake versus evoking, invoking and otherwise employing a symbol as an active component of cultural mythology).

Meanwhile, I made the mistake of assuming we would be examining, say, the nature of very early political activity, or the origins of our otherwise political natures by way, somehow, of the paleolithic imagery, be it so-called parietal (on cave walls) or mobiliary (works that could be carried from place to place). Not electoral politics, to be sure, but the nature of our inclination, seemingly ancient, towards the polis, the city state, such as it may be imagined to have existed in the sparsely populated Aurignacian. In that way, which is to say indirectly, we would perhaps also examine the grander question of the origins of consciousness. How, for example, did we come to envision the world in (1) two dimensions vs. three, and (2) as in the case of mobiliary works, how and why did we become compelled to create these things? It has to do, I think, with the idea of empowerment of objects and images, of the objects of our affection, as it has been described, and ultimately our intuitive drive to or requirement for symbol and metaphor, hence myth as true fiction (another topic entirely).

Takeaways? It introduces the players, as history has adjudicated them, with a nod towards a few outsiders, notably Marie Konig. Cooper himself, however, while keen to further the ideas of Eric Voegelin, (just as I am keen to further the ideas of, say, J. Campbell, no harm, no foul) somehow fails to make any compelling connections, let alone a furthering of ideas. It was J. Campbell, of course, quoting Henry Morton Robinson, who dismantled the mostly frustrating condition of academic publishing being concerned with writing upside down, as it were: beginning with a survey, a history of ideas and only at the very end revealing a “little mouse of an idea.”

I don’t know. Cooper provides an appendix that discusses Kant, a philosopher who frankly must have had a difficult time getting out of bed in the morning as he was convinced we were incapable of ascertaining the difference between so-called substance and phenomenon; the difference between which, arguably, doesn’t exist. I would point to a language problem whenever the philosopher gets wrapped around the axle, so to say, of a cognitive difficulty that has no substance, pun intended. Anyway, why we began with Voegelin and finished with Kant, I’m not at all certain.

That said, I think I like Cooper, despite his support of Paul Bahn and oblique dismissal of Clottes. He’s not without a refreshing aspect of lightheartedness, he’s invitingly interdisciplinary and, as I indicated, his championing of the academic outsiders is to be commended.

But I’d mentioned takeaways. I would point to the chapter entitled “Jean Clottes and the Shamanic Hypothesis” as a thrilling – yes, thrilling – portrayal of the “early controversies” to do with the Cosquer Cave and Chauvet. It’s where the history-of-ideas meets the modern dynamic of power, where the human Paleolithic (with its still unknown dynamic of power) meets Paleolithic politics, which is to say archaeological politics. In the end, the book compels me to spend time in these caves myself, somehow, someday – Cooper evokes, in spite of himself or not (for the text meanders similarly to the meanders described within cave imagery, that is, we don’t exactly know what he’s up to) the mystery of the caves and their human legacies – and in this sense it’s a memorable and invigorating accomplishment.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3361172500?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1