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Monthly Archives: June 2013

Little Green is Walter Mosely’s newest Easy Rawlins novel. It brings the iconic detective back from the dead to a second chance at life and from an even ten books to a decidedly uneven eleven, and I feel like these things could be metaphors for each other, that both the character and the series had been properly settled and nicely buried but were made to come back one time too many.

There were good reasons why Rawlins died, good reasons why he killed himself by driving his car off a cliff, and none of them were solved by bringing him back to life, none of them solved through the story of the eleventh novel either. He returns, not as the Easy Rawlins of Devil in a Blue Dress who battled working class poverty and systemic racism in order to keep his little house in Los Angeles, but as an Easy Rawlins with a mansion in Beverly Hills and a collection of rental properties and any number of friends in high places and even a maid. He is no longer a compelling character, no longer a figure that inspires sympathy, and without this sympathy the novel is not much more than an average detective novel, with the same tendencies to easy simile and tough-guy dialogue and simplistic characterization.

There are times when a character comes to its logical conclusion, and Easy Rawlins came to his. It is unfortunate that he was made to go beyond it.

This poem is supposed to be read aloud, with the parts in italics to be sung. It is not my normal sort of thing, I know, but I would hate to let people get too comfortable.

Three Songs Indirectly Related To Love

The trouble with love is that it’s trouble,
And if she loves you back, well, then it’s double,
Because the pace of love is with the heartbeat,
And there’s no place the mind and the heart meet.

It’s just, thumpity, thump, thump,
Bumpity, bump bump,
Humpity, hump, hump,

And I’m not talking about frosty the snowman.

But the funny thing is that love’s funny,
Catches with both vinegar and honey,
Cause we all want a bit of the sweet stuff,
Though we’ll say that the bitter is sweet enough.

We’re just hovering under the honey tree,
Singing, pay no attention to little me,
I just want your honeycomb all for me,

And I’m not likely talking about Winnie-the-Pooh.

So it’s a wonder that love’s still a wonder,
That it’s still as much over as under,
Cause every time the bow breaks we could fall,
And it’s a wonder the cradle still rocks at all,

That we still say, rock-a-bye baby,
Rock me my baby,
Rock on me baby,

And I’m definitely talking about my baby.

I have no useful introduction to this poem.  It is what it is.

So Poor A Scaffold

The ladder rails are made of two-by-fours,
just discards I’d say by how warped they are,
bow and bandy-legged both, and the rungs,
only strips, two-by-ones or smaller yet,
pis-poor braces for such misshapen legs,
for any legs really, and you or I —
I’d prefer it be you to be honest —
will have to clamber them right to the roof,
all that way, put our trust — or should I say,
your trust — in those twisted and tortured legs
and those thin rungs and that unwise ascent,
and I can see that you are not at all amused,
and I don’t blame you, because this one life,
or this one world, or this one universe,
cannot be reached by so poor a scaffold.

I have been reflecting on the multiple levels of meaning that lie in the word ‘device’ and that are unconsciously invoked every time we speak of our devices, of our phones and tablets and computers, though we usually intend only the dominant meaning of a contrivance or an invention, especially a machine.

The first of these unconscious meanings, or the first constellation of meanings to be more accurate, has to with device as technique, where a device is a plan or a scheme or a means to an end, most often with the implication that the end is not entirely savory. This sense of the word also relates to a more archaic sense where a device is the power, state, or act of devising. In both senses, a device is the means or the power, usually sinister, to bring about a particular end.

The second of constellation of meanings circulate around ideas of signification, where a device is a decorative design (especially in embroidery or manuscript illumination),  a graphic symbol or motto (especially in heraldry), or a literary contrivance (such as parallelism or personification), used to achieve a particular effect.  In each of these senses, a device occupies a symbolic or imagistic role, functioning variously to illustrate, to represent identity, or to deepen and clarify the words of a text.

All this symbolic subtext relates in interesting ways to the devices on which we increasingly rely.  While we keep telling each other that our devices are merely technological, merely inventions and machines, they are also quite obviously the technique or the means through which we arrive at our ends, and if these end are not necessarily malign, our use of the word ‘device’ perhaps implies a certain amount of concern about the kinds of ends that are being achieved through our technologies.  This ambiguously malign character that is invoked when we refer to our devices is all the more interesting as our gadgets come to represent us more and more, come to be the dominant symbols and images through which we produce our identities.  It is as though our very language is suspicious of how our technologies are recreating us, how they are recreating our ways of being and understanding, how they are leaving us to our own devices.