If you look closely, you can detect the traces

Of teenagers drowned in the puddles of their faces.

Perhaps this is beauty’s curse, the clinging,

King Canute by the seaside singing:

Stop in the name of love. But the aging process

Stops for no one. There’s no recess

In decay’s schoolday, no stopping the seasons,

Even if you’re sockless and sporting Bass Weejuns.


Inherit the Hot Air

This morning’s edition of The Post and Courier features clashing “conservative” columns by Senator Mike Fair and assistant editor Frank Wooten on natural selection’s being taught in public schools.   David Brooks versus Paul Krugman this ain’t.   Think, rather, The Emperor of Lilliput debating Bottom the Weaver.

Since Mr. Wooten’s column is a response to Senator Fair’s, I’ll begin with his, which poses some syntactical challenges for the reader .

He begins by announcing his world view is Christian and he has “that perspective on issues when it applies.” He complains that some who perpetrate subtle attacks “on some issues promoted by Christians” like evolution ignore the Christian bias in other issues, for example, legislation Fair has promoted to help “inmates, women, children, etc” — as if Christianity held a patent on human kindness, as if compassion could not manifest from other religions or mere humanism. By the way, in my travels I have run across ragged beggar children, but I’ve never thought to myself, “Hey, I’m not a Christian, so I’m not going to give that grimy by-product of a random series of accidents and mutations any of my tourist dollars.”

Fair then goes on to claim that “the courts have placed a stranglehold on the search for truth in science.” What in the hell does this mean? Are anti-evolutionary scientists being arrested, convicted, and imprisoned Galileo-like so they can’t continue their quest to prove evolution fallacious? He then goes on to write, “The ‘truth’ must conform to Darwinism, or it is not allowed. I don’t suppose it matters what your eyes see or your mind tells you.”

What he means by that last sentence I can only guess. Do his eyes see a cloud floating above, and does his mind tell him there’s a white bearded, golden robed masculine God sitting on a throne up on that cloud who created our solar system in 6 days 6,000 years ago?

Then Fair careens off on a tangent and argues that “Noah, Webster, a Founding Father (Webster, by the way, spent the Revolution as an undergraduate at Yale), was considered the Father of Education” (ah, the obscuring cloak of the passive voice), and Founding Father Webster declared, “The Christian New Testament is the Moral Law for the United States,” which certainly should be news to the Navaho, Cherokee, and Sioux tribes.

This rhetorical path leads Fair to the Supreme Court, which in essence has embraced “atheism, a religious belief,” to be “allowed to be a factor in driving Darwinism in public schools.” So, a religion, after all, is driving public policy, and that religion is atheism.

He then writes

The Big Bang Theory confirming the truth of a beginner, judged to be a conclusion or debate that is not allowed; many facts are excluded from science and astronomy because of their non-atheistic implications that point directly to intelligence.

I have no idea what he means by the string of phrases masquerading as a sentence that begins the quote, but I wish he’d offered an example or two of scientific facts that have been banned from textbooks because those facts “point directly to intelligence.”

He asks rhetorically, “Why should a young person care about character if he is just a random conglomeration of particles” and ends with “we are all here for a purpose, and random causes do not fit with the facts.”

From the film version of "Inherit the Hot Air starring from left to right Frank Wooten, Sen. Mike Fair, and Wesley Moore

From the film version of “Inherit the Hot Air” starring from left to right Frank Wooten, Sen. Mike Fair, and Wesley Moore

Mr. Wooten begs to disagree with Senator Fair. He wonders if these “South Carolina folks who still see perceive evolution as a threat to Christianity” have seen Inherit the Wind.”

My guess is probably not, but if they had, they no doubt would identify with William Jennings Bryan, not Clarence Darrow.

Although Wooten blithely ignores some of the problems evolution poses for Christianity, he makes a credible case for the separation of religious belief and scientific education.

He fears that op-ed pieces like Fair’s that reject “basic science” undermine “true conservatives who fairly object to anti-American slants in textbooks,” slanted stuff that mentions the massacre at Wounded Knee and questions the detonation of atomic bombs on civilian populations, acts that suggest that maybe the Christian New Testament is not the Moral Law for the United States after all.


Bang Endings

Barry-White-Soul-SeductionA while back, I posted a piece called “First Impressions,” which celebrated killer opening sentences from various novels like [cue Barry White] this here delicious, obsessive echo chamber of a love song from Mr Baddass himself, Влади́мир Влади́мирович Набо́ков:

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.

However, as Franz Kafka once told me, “Starten eines Roman ist eine verdammt viel einfacher, als Abschluss einer“* so I decided to lay 5 of my favorite closing lines on you, lines that rat-a-tat-tat the novels’ themes in sound and sense. (BTW, the actual quotes themselves should be read aloud).

*Starting a novel is a helluva lot easier than finishing one.

1. The Sound and the Fury: “The broken flower drooped over Ben’s fist and his eyes were empty and blue and serene again as cornice and façade flowed smoothly once more from left to right, post and tree, window and doorway and signboard each in its ordered place.”

If Mr. Faulkner were employed by SparkNotes, he might “summarize” that last sentence like this: A description of Benjy — christened Maury — Compson, idiot grandson of the Confederate General patriarch of that fallen family, the drooping and broken flower an emblem of Ben’s beloved lost sister’s honor, Maury/Benjamin just having gone apeshit because the black tween servant Luster had swung the wagon bearing the family on their ritualistic visit to the grave of General Compson’s alcoholic son Jason Sr. to the left of the monument, provoking sounds of ”horror; shock; agony eyeless, tongueless, just sound,” from the that thirty-three-year-old with the mind-of-a-three-year-old, bellowing until the “only sane” Compson brother, Jason Jr., catches the reins to swing the horse Queenie in the opposite direction, calming Benjy, the sentence itself capsuling the fall of the House of Compson, the disappearance of the Old South, its doomed fetish for tradition.

joyce mainUlysses: O and the sea the sea crimson sometimes like fire and the glorious sunsets and the figtrees in the Alameda gardens yes and all the queer little streets and pink and blue and yellow houses and the rosegardens and the jessamine and geraniums and cactuses and Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down Jo me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.

Riding the rapids of Mrs. Molly Bloom’s stream of consciousness as she contemplates her hubby Leopold, heroic cuckold, who has come home again, home again, jiggedy jig, and who lies in bed next to her, his feet facing the headboard and his head facing the footboard, and what can you say to the life-affirming ending of that concluding sentence but yes sir ree bob tail– Yes!

Y’all ready now for a slow dance?

The portrait of Abert Camus by Haeree Choi

The portrait of Abert Camus by Haeree Choi

3. The Stranger: For everything to be consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate.

Mon Dieu, is smoking a cigarette during the absurd ritual of sitting up all night with your mother’s corpse or having casual sex the night after her funeral so wrong? How absurd! These acts by our narrator Meursault seem to shock his all-white Algerian jury more than the offing of a mere native (which in Colonial Africa is tantamount to jaywalking).  You might say that Meursault’s jail sentence has been a Godsend – i.e., you might say that if he didn’t exist in an arid, godless abyss of a universe — but the good news is that in the fleeting ever disappearing now in which he types the concluding paragraph, he has discovered that he and the indifferent universe are one. OM.

4. The Sun Also Rises: A taxi came up the street, the waiter hanging out at the side. I tipped him and told the driver where to drive, and got in beside Brett. The driver started up the street. I settled back. Brett moved close to me. We sat close against each other. I put my arm around her and she rested against me comfortably. It was very hot and bright, and the houses looked sharply white. We turned out onto the Gran Via.

“Oh, Jake,” Brett said, “we could have had such a damned good time together.”

Ahead was a mounted policeman in khaki directing traffic. He raised his baton. The car slowed suddenly pressing Brett against me.

“Yes,” I said. “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”fiesta-sun-also-rises-ernest-hemingway-paperback-cover-art

Who knows if Viagra would have worked on narrator Jake Barnes. Did his war injury render him a gelding or sever his penis? No crisp declarative sentences answer those questions. Certainly, as a man Jake is the opposite of what the vulgar call “dickless.”  Whatever, all I really care about is that mounted policeman raising his baton is an invaluable tool in convincing skeptical students that phallic symbols aren’t perverse illusions engendered by English teachers’ diseased minds .

5. “Midnight Rambler”: I’ll stick my knife right down your throat, baby, and it hurts!

Okay, as Condoleezza Rice’s and Colonel Kurtz’s lovechild might say, “Strictly speaking, ‘Midnight Rambler’ isn’t exactly a novel, but it is a narrative, sort of, and this post is getting too long, and goddammit, that last line of the Stones’ classic absolutely nails the sound and sense of the sort of narrative, and it‘s literally “killer”, so fuck you and your rigid mind-forged manacles.”  


Kafkaesque Security Questions


  1. Where were you when you first realized your father was a despicable human being?


  1. How did you dispose of the remains of your first pet?


  1. What’s your favorite Yiddish word?


  1. If you weren’t a coward, what would you have tattooed on your chest?


  1. Who is your least favorite brother Karamazov?


Robert Crumb's rendering of Kafka

Robert Crumb’s rendering of Kafka


Public Houses I Have Known and Loved

My mother’s side of the family — the Baptist side – considered alcohol an abomination, Satanic spittle concocted to rob the imbiber of his or her moral wits, or to shift to a perhaps more accurate metaphor, concocted to de-magnetize the self-polluter’s moral compass.

My father’s people, on the other hand, despite their Protestant names – Luther and Wesley – didn’t much adhere to Holy Writ. My mother – praise be — was a non-judgmental, fun-loving redhead with a heightened, countercultural aversion to self-righteousness, so she didn’t consider drinking sinful and enjoyed a Crown Royal and Coke on occasion.

Mama's childhood residence, the setting of one very unmerry Xmas

Mama’s childhood residence

Nevertheless, her father when he drank could be a belligerent drunk, and my own father reacted to alcohol in Jekyll/Hyde fashion — either he had you on the carpet rolling in laughter or cowering as he hurled some odd or end across the room. So I suspect that early in their marriage, Mama might have followed in her own mother’s footsteps and attempted to discourage my father from drinking.

Perhaps Mama’s antipathy to Daddy’s drinking explains how I ended up hanging out at bars at a very early age — even before I acquired language and therefore memory. These bar excursions must have occurred when we lived on Wentworth Street or when my parents lived at Clemson. The story goes (and my parents shared it together on numerous occasions to numerous audiences) that sometimes when Mama left me in Daddy’s care, he absconded with me in tow to the most obscure bar he could think of, only to have the phone ring there and the barman to ask if there were a Wesley Moore present. Daddy, according to this legend, awed by Mama’s preternatural ability to track him down, would come straight home to face the wrath of his red-headed Scotch-Irish wife.

No telling the impact the conviviality of taverns — the blinking pinball machines, the raucous laughter, the seductive perfumes, the voice of Nat King Cole on the jukebox — had on my tiny developing cerebral cortex. Some studies claim that exposing infants with their rapidly developing brains to classical music enhances math skills, so perhaps my exposure to cigarette smoke, vulgar jokes, and male camaraderie helped to develop my Dionysian social skills, my ability to strike up an amiable conversation to the occupant of my adjacent bar stool, whether he be a vacationing Wall Street bigshot at Rue de Jean or a bushy bearded homeless rummy at Chico Feo.

Truth be told, I like hanging out solo at what my ancestors called public houses.

The Pool Room

My first post-toddler bar/tavern/pub hangout was the S&S Sporting Center (aka the Pool Room) located on Main Street in my hometown Summerville. Although it wasn’t literally a tavern, Mr. George, his wife Monkey, and son Boise served draft and canned beers in an establishment that featured a long bar with at least twenty swivelable bar stools. I sat at that bar many a Saturday afternoon or summer day slurping down delicious chilidogs, sipping Cokes, eavesdropping on beer swilling rustics or wayward Episcopalians.

Scrupulously honest, the Pool Room proprietors demanded proof of age, and when you turned 18, handing your license to Boise as you ordered a draft was a rite of passage. You could go there by yourself and be sure to know someone — if even if were only Boise, who not only had a degree from Brevard College but who had also served his county in the arm forces. He was our hometown Hemingway, a stoic who had seen the world.

Once I hit college and my hair had reached my shoulders, I quit hanging at the Pool Room in the summers. The last time I remember being there, some white stranger with a Hendrix-sized jew-fro and tie-dyed tee shirt strolled in, and I overheard a native son say, “Let’s kick his ass before he puts one of them psycheee-DEL-ic records on the jukebox.”

Morris Knight’s

I don’t know how exactly to characterize Morris Knight’s. Because it was within walking distance from my house, and not far at all if you cut through the woods and later people’s yards, we would go there in the daytime to buy firecrackers. There was a bar with floor-attached stools and a coin-operated pool table. This was back in the days before pop tops, and I remember the bartender, a fat woman, opening the cans with a church key, puncturing two triangular openings across from one another. I’m pretty sure they didn’t serve draft.

I only went there at night once on a camping out excursion when I was in junior high, and the joint was rocking, as Chuck Berry might say. The odor of beer mixed with cigarette smoke was heavy in the air, and I saw a man staggeringly drunk try to traverse the narrow front room. Whoever ran the joint immediately ran us off when we tried to cop some firecrackers.

Later there was a place on the north side of town called the Teepee Lounge when I was in college, but I only patronized it a couple of times.

By then, we had started driving to Charleston to hang out at College of Charleston bars like Hogpenny’s or to the Isle of Palms to destinations now long gone.

USC Bars

IMG_1468Let’s see, the Campus Club, the Opus, the Second Level, Don’s, the Senate Plaza, Capitol Coal, Oliver’s Pub — and, of course, the Golden Spur where my late wife Judy Birdsong and I met as bartenders.

Located in the back of the student union building, what the Spur lacked in style — it felt sort of like a cafeteria — it made up in convenience and prices. Happy Hour beers cost 15 cents and a pitcher a dollar. Also, sometimes the Spur featured musical and comedy acts. Steve Martin performed there before anyone had ever heard of him, and I saw Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee play there for free. sonny-1

Being a bartender at the Spur made you sort of a minor celebrity around campus in that seeming strangers recognized you and called you by name, but I tended not to dig lots of the regulars, a few of who seemed to be nascent alcoholics. We had this irritating promotion where you’d by your own Golden Spur mug and carry with you to the bar and receive your first draft free.

In the dead summer time, when I was the only non-managerial bartender, some kids would come in at 11 and stay virtually all day and night. You could set your watch by their coming and going. Then in the high season during Monday Night Football or Columbia’s big party night Thursday, the place would be packed wall-to-wall, and occasionally you’d have to deal with belligerent drunks or puke-bespattered restrooms.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed my time there. It might be the best job I ever had.

Charleston Bars

Rue de Jean is my downtown hangout, and back before the pandemic, I’d show up there around 9:30 on the second Tuesday of each month after my book club dispersed. Although he no longer works there, what distinguished the Rue from any of the other bars was Mr. Steve Smoak, a world-class bartender who on a busy night moved with the grace of Nureyev as he glided over to grab a bottle and in one fluid motion scooped ice and poured while seeking eye contact with the next customer. When things weren’t busy, he was a witty raconteur, a cat who knew his way around, a latter-day Bosie, if you will.

Of course, the so-called City of Folly Beach probably has more bars per capita than any other municipality in the Palmetto State. I suggest the Surf Bar for visitors and the Jack of Cups for beer connoisseurs, the Sand Dollar for Saturday Night dancing, the eponymous Sunset Cay for marsh vistas, but, by far, my major hangout is Chico Feo, an outdoor Caribbean bohemian confab of the homeless, the homely, and the hip. The superb bartenders reach for an All Day IPA, which costs a mere 3 bucks, when they see me at a distance parking my bike.

Some of the clientele are down and out but seem happy, like characters from a Jerry Jeff Walker song. When I was teaching, I’d grade essays there on fair-weather Saturdays and Sundays. Once, my friend Greg, who was at the time homeless, chided me for grading my essays at the Jack of Cups when the temperatures were what I’d call uncomfortable. “You should grade them outdoors,” he said. “I don’t think I’ll ever sleep indoors ever again.”  He said it as if sleeping under a roof was somehow inhibiting.

“What about the winter,” I asked. “Don’t you get cold in the winter?”

“I have a sleeping bag,” he said and smiled and ordered another PBR.

A Fascist Vet Answers Your Pet Questions

Blaine Middlebrow: Hello, pet lovers out there; it’s time once again for the South Carolina Today and Yesterday. This morning we’re honored to have a guest vet on the show, Dr. Viktor Autarky, Commandant of the Gadsden Veterinary Clinic in beautiful Pickens, South Carolina. He’s here to answer your pet questions for you.

Good afternoon, Dr. Autarky.   Already the phones are lighting up with listeners eager to have you answer their pet questions, but before we get to those callers, you have something to say about pets being outside in these blazing August temperatures.

Autarky [in a heavy German accent]: That is correct, comrade. I hear people saying to bring your pets indoors when the temperatures get above 35 degrees.

Middlebrow: That would be 95 degrees Fahrenheit, right?

Autarky: Ya, 95 degrees Fahrenheit.   But I say that bringing your pets inside is bad policy. They must stay outside and endure the heat. After all, they are animals, and they survived for millions of years before there were human habitations. Who does bring the coyotes in during the summer? They seem to be doing just fine. I say do not spoils your pets. It makes zem weak.

Middlebrow: Gosh, I never thought of it quite like that. And we certainly don’t want our pets to be weak.

Autarky: Nor our children. Dat is why Comrade Haley won’t expand Medicaid. Let natural selection take care of the problem. It will sort out the weak from the strong.

Middlebrow: Okay, then. Let’s get right to the phones. We have on the line Lindsey from Greenville. Lindsey, how can Dr. Autarky help you?

Lindsey: Well, you just got this adorable rescue mixed breed from the shelter, and well, she has real food issues. I accidently left the pantry door open, and she ate up all the bread – or we thought she had – but she had actually hidden packages all over the house. How can I train her not to steal food?

Middlebrow: First, what do you expect? You chose a dog that is ze product of miscegenation. Did you beat the mongrel?

Lindsey: Of course, not.

Autarky: Next time scream in the mongrel’s ear, point to ze bread, and beat it with a stick. If it does it again, put it down and get a German shepherd.

[Buzzing sound of hung up phone]

Autarky: We must not coddle or pets or our children. Who is dis football player, what’s his name, the Viking who disciplined his son?

Middlebrow: Adrian Peterson?

Autarky: Ya, Ya. I cannot believe that he has been suspended for disciplining his son.

Middlebrow: Have you seen the photographs?

Autarky: Ya, superficial lacerations from a mere switch. My beloved father used a cattle prod on me, and I turned out all right.

Middlebrow: All righty. Time for another caller. We have Justine on the line from Mt. Pleasant. Justine, how can we help you?

Justine: I just moved into an apartment complex that only allows cats, so I got one. I’ve never owned a cat in my life. When I had dogs, I used to like it when they would lick my hand, so the other day, I put some milk on my hand, so the cat would learn to lick me, but when he did, his tongue felt yukky, like sandpaper. Is that normal or is the cat deformed?

Autarky: I strongly suggest you put it down. Euthanize it.

Middlebrow: Ah, Justine. You might want to get a second opinion on that.

Autarky: Be my guest, but I assure you there is no cure for a cat with a scratchy tongue.

Middlebrow: I think we have time for one last caller. It’s Briona, from Sullivan’s Island. Briona, what’s up? How can we help you?

Briona: I heard Dr. Autarky mention coyotes earlier. They’re taking over the island. Just last week one jumped over a four-foot fence and took away my neighbor’s toy French poodle. The animal control people won’t do anything about it. I have a five year old, and I’m terrified to leave him alone in our fenced yard. Would a coyote attack a child that age? What should we do?

Autarky [chuckling]: A French poodle, you say? Good work comrade coyote. But, seriously, I take it your five-year-old is armed and knows how to shoot a shotgun.

Briona: Well, no. Isn’t that too young?

Autarky: Nein, of course, not. I could clean, load, and accurately shoot a luger when I was 3. You must teach your son how to shoot. I suggest for youngsters that age a 410 shotgun because it’s much easier to hit the target. I promise you, if you take my advice, we’ll not have any coyote problems, nor any problems from bullies as well.

Briona. Well, thanks, doctor. I’ll look into that.

Middlebrow: Well, folks, that’s all the time we have for pet questions. I’d like to thank Dr. Viktor Autarky of the Gadsden Veterinary Clinic for taking time to be with his today.

Autarky: You are very welcome. My pleasure. We must remain strong.

Middlebrow: Well, next up, we have South Carolina novelist  Theodora Thaddeus Templeton who’s going to discuss her latest book Mt. Pleasant By-Pass. But first, a message from our sponsors.



The Struggle Itself

Each weekday morning when Judy’s getting her 96-straight hours of EPOCH at Roper, I pull into the Doughty Street Parking Lot around 7,  just when the hospital staff switches from day to night shift. As I cross Doughty on foot, Judy’s morning paper in hand, I work against the oncoming pedestrian traffic of off-duty nurses, technicians, engineers, many in their uniforms. Nurses in their navy blue combinations and high-priced athletic shoes seem especially happy.  I see them walking in groups of three, smiling, chatting, heading to their cars. They work 3 day-12 hour shifts in a fulfilling profession; nevertheless they’re delighted at the moment to be free.

(Now, what do they do? Devour a delicious breakfast and slurp down a bloody mary before drifting off in front of the Today Show?)

Going with my flow, the on-coming staff marches in, but, even though they seem relatively eager to start work, their affect isn’t nearly as upbeat as their departing colleagues. Then again, we aint talking all doctors and nurses here. Some of these people’s jobs don’t seem fulfilling at all, like those men awkwardly manipulating box-stacked carts into narrow elevators, like those cafeteria workers breathing for hours the odor of hospital food, like the crew out front dealing with valet parking.

Their minutes probably crawl by.

MC Escher: Convex and Concave

MC Escher: Convex and Concave

Of course, I’m on the way to work myself to shift through dozens of emails before advisory, and if I’m brave enough, to peek at the day’s school calendar, an absurd, way-too-busy color-coded chart of lines and rectangles that look as if they could be the work of MC Escher. We ride a rotating schedule – either Week A or Week B — and when I arrive at work on a Friday morning, people often greet me with the salutation “Happy Friday” or comment sunnily “it’s Friday.” Some time during the day I’ll receive an email inviting me to a “happy hour” in some conveniently located spirit-stocked decompression chamber.


Mythically speaking, labor is one of Adam’s curses, punishment for his uxoriousness, his casting his lot with Eve instead of Yahweh, which brought death into the world and all our woe, e.g. work — in Adam’s case tilling “cursed ground” that produces “thorns and thistles” — in my case dealing with an educational agenda that might be likened to a jewel box of tangled necklaces — academics, sports, service, chapels, assemblies, advisories, peer reviews, study halls. Or think of circus clowns, not leaving a car one after another after another, but entering a car one after another after another.

Actually, I interpret the Eden myth as a story about the shift from hunting/gathering to agriculture, the shift from running around half naked to the natural pulse of the earth’s heartbeat to our settling down to the soul-crushing repetitiveness of the punch clock.  Thus, the knowledge of good and evil becomes the knowledge of how to cultivate plants from seeds, which many scholars believe was a discovery made by women, the gatherers of edible plants. And, of course, settled communities brought us the establishment of property and its evil twin poverty.  I maintain that Amazonian tribespeople untouched by Western civilization live more meaningful lives than the average American who watches five hours of TV a day.

There’s a cool Philip Larkin poem about what a bitch work is called “Toads.” It goes like this:


Why should I let the toad work

Squat on my life?

Can’t I use my wit as a pitchfork

and drive the brute off?


Six days of the week it soils

With its sickening poison-

Just for paying a few bills!

That’s out of proportion.


Lots of folk live on their wits:

Lecturers, lispers,

Losels, loblolly-men, louts-

They don’t end as paupers;


Lots of folk live up lanes

With fires in a bucket,

Eat windfalls and tinned sardines-

They seem to like it.


Their nippers have got bare feet,

Their unspeakable wives

Are skinny as whippets-and yet

No one actually starves.


Ah, were I courageous enough

To shout Stuff your pension!

But I know, all too well, that’s the stuff

That dreams are made on:


For something sufficiently toad-like

Squats in me, too;

Its hunkers are heavy as hard luck,

And cold as snow,


And will never allow me to blarney

My way to getting

The fame and the girl and the money

All at one sitting.


I don’t say, one bodies the other

One’s spiritual truth;

But I do say it’s hard to lose either,

When you have both.


I’m with you, Philip. After listening to my litany yesterday about how frustrating teaching has become in the age of technology,  a colleague asked me why didn’t I retire.  A reasonable question given the frustrations I had just catalogued – parents having access to the grades I post on the website, shooting me emails that proliferate like mushrooms while I’m bouncing from meetings to covering detentions or contacting the help desk because the projection wire in one of the rooms where I teach doesn’t work.

Why don’t I retire?  Because I don’t want to. I eventually get bored in the summers if I’m not traveling or working on a project. I like interacting with students, instructing them about the bane of unnecessary linking verbs and the sloppiness of the “naked this” — not to mention the fun introducing them to the Wife of Bath or riding with them up the Congo with Marlow as we steam towards Mistah Kurtz.

It’s like what Camus says in “The Myth of Sisyphus.” –

I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one’s burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.


Freud, Jung, Hamlet, and Joyce

A Finger Puppet Play in One Act

freud pyschoanalyzes Hamlet










Scene One : The castle at Elsinore.

Enter Hamlet moping

Hamlet: O, would this too, too solid flesh melt

and resolve itself into a dew.

O, how weary stale and flat seem to me

All the uses of this world. Fie on it. Fie!


Goddamn it! What a rogue and peasant slave am I!


The night sky that wheels above us,

That brave o’er hanging firmament,

That majestic roof fretted with golden fire,

Why it appearth no other thing to me

than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors.


O, to be or not to be that is the question.

O, to sweat and groan under a weary life.


Fie on it. Fie.

But soft! Methinks

I hear that most pernicious woman

whose name is frailty.


Enter Gertrude:


Gertrude: Hamlet, O Hamlet.

Hamlet: Yes, mother.

Gertrude. O Hamlet, cast thy nighted color off and

let me giveth thee a sponge bath.

Hamlet: O mother, you know I have that appointment

Today with Dr. Freud.

Gertrude: I had forgot. Cancel it, love.

Hamlet: You knoweth what a procrastinator

I be. I shall go to the appointment.

Gertrude: Well giveth your mother a little kiss,

my love, before thou leavest.


Scene Two: Dr. Freud’s Offices.

Freud and James Joyce engaging in “the talking cure.”

Freud: Keep Going, Mr. Joyce. Get it Out

Joyce: Well, you know or don’t you kennet or haven’t I told you every telling has a taling and that’s the he and the she of it. Look, look, the dusk is growing!

Freud: Very well then, Mr. Joyce I’ll see you next time.

Joyce: By the way, Doc, to say that a great genius is half-mad, while recognizing his artistic prowess, is worth as much as saying that he was rheumatic, or that he suffered from diabetes. Madness, in fact, is a medical expression to which a balanced critic should pay no more heed than he would to the accusation of heresy brought by the theologian, or to the accusation of immorality brought by the public prosecutor. Good Day

exit Joyce

Freud: His Inflated ego is furthered pathologized by anal expulsiveness. What is that last book of his Finnegan’s Wake by a vast shit explosion? Anna!

Enter Anna Freud.

Anna: Yes, Father?

Freud: Whose next?

Anna. He calls himself Hamlet, Hamlet the Dane.


Scene Three: Hamlet and Freud’s session

(Hamlet lying on the psychiatric couch)

Freud: Enough about your mother. Tell me about this step father of yours.

Hamlet: O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain! Bloody, bawdy villain!

Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain!

Freud: So I take it you do not like this man.

Hamlet: I should have fatted all the region kites

With this slave’s offal.

Freud: My son, it’s quite clear that you suffer from an Oedipal complex, that you are fixated in the phallic stage.   Our work is done here. That will be 500 marks.

Hamlet: You joketh. That’s it? I want another opinion.

Freud: Very well. Anna!  Bring in Dr. Jung

Enter Jung.

Freud: Dr. Jung, this young man wants to kill his father.

Hamlet: Stepfather!

Freud: To kill his father so he can be with alone with his mother, which obviously denotes the Oedipal complex.

Jung: I’ve been thinking, Herr Mentor, that you over-emphasize the sexual component in mental illness. I have a slightly different take.

Freud: I dare you! How dare you! Contradict me!

They fight.

Scene Four: Hamlet alone on the Battlement.


I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves

Combing the white hair of the waves blown back

When the wind blows the water white and black.


We have lingered in the chambers of the sea

By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown

Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

The rest is silence.

Enter Joyce doing a jig

Joyce: If others have their will Ann hath a way. By cock, she was to blame. She put the comether on him, sweet and twentysix. The greyeyed goddess who bends over the boy Adonis, stooping to conquer, as prologue to the swelling act, is a boldfaced Stratford wench who tumbles in a cornfield a lover younger than herself.

End here. Us then. Finn, again! Take. Bussoftlhee, mememormee! Till thousandsthee. Lps. The keys to. Given! A way a lone a last a loved a long the


The End.