- AUBE & CRÉPUSCULE
- MUSINGS FOR THE WINTER OF 1999
"Aube & Crépuscule" is the magic name of the lit papillon, designed by Emile Gallé as a marriage bed in 1904. It is a stupendous piece of furniture, completed just before his death. With its dawn moth of the footboard and dusk moth of the headboard, it becomes, metaphorically, his catalfalque for the twilight zone. You may see it (and much more) at the Musée de L'Ecole de Nancy in the city of Nancy in eastern France. It is one of those rarest of places, like the Freer, or the Frick, or the Phillips, or Sir John Soane's Museum. If you don't love such connoisseurship, Jargon ain't for you, kiddo.
First, a page of ruminations. Some are new; some I have been quoting for decades. These are things for readers, foundations, artists, politicians, militants, and citizens of Tabula Rasa, Missouri, to think about:
"When everything is corrupt and filthy and brutal and pyschotic, you will be, too. And that will be considered normal. That's what I find funny. The things that are normal are horrific and horrifying to me."
-- Roseanne Barr
"People are horrible, but poets are worse."
-- Jim Cory
"Remember that without a title, without celebrity, you confront the world naked and are thus continually testing the humanity of those with whom you deal."
-- Richard Kostelanetz, Lightworks
"If there has been a betrayal in America, I think it is our betrayal of each other. I do not believe that we-- and by the word we I mean artists, writers, singers, etc.-- have really stood by each other."
-- Sherwood Anderson, letter to Theodore Dreiser, January 2, 1936
"... with the dearth of government and private financing of the arts, the best and only resource that artists have is each other."
-- Jacques D 'Amboise, New York Times, December, 1991
"America doesn't know what to do next."
-- Eileen Myles
"There must be five hundred signed copies for particular friends; four copies for the national libraries; six for the general public; and one for America."
-- Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde
"For what there is is much to very few."
-- Paul Valery
James Laughlin recently spoke of Jonathan Williams as being "an imcomparable monument of our culture." Hugh Kenner, long ago, referred to the Jargon Society as "the Custodian of Snowflakes." So nice things things are still occasionally said and Lord Crud-Vigil (one of JW's more recent personae) appreciates it. Guy Davenport, in The New Criterion: "Jonathan Williams, that master of the vernacular windfall!" Adrian Mitchell, in New Statesman & Society: "Jonathan Williams, one of the loosest cannons on the good ship Literature, is a big American with the manners of an archangel, who lives partly in a cottage in Dentdale, Cumbria, and partly on a farm near Scaly Mountain, North Carolina... In the sometime stuffy atmosphere of poetry, he comes as a breath of fresh bourbon." Douglas Chambers, writing in The Gay & Lesbian Literary Tradition, concludes: "It would be hard to think of any one person who has done more for poetry, gay and straight, in America." But, the publisher and the press become more and more invisible, so agoraphobic that they can't even find the bloody marketplace. They hide out, timidly, on the sides of mountains. They keep no guns and are fearful of heavily-armed professional scribblers, dummified & commodified readers, and a nation that has become greedy and uncouth in a remarkably big way. Jargon doubts there are 1000 extant Murkins for the kind of work the publisher and press espouse. They like words that touch and people who touch, but that will never do in the dark, sere times and lands of Nola Mae Tangerine. The publisher has often said that he thinks there are more people in America carving portrait busts of Ronald Reagan out of petrified bat guano than reading our books.
Jargon, thus, depends more and more on the persons whom Robert Duncan once called "Those Who Long For The Poem." Those who give us $1000 a year (or more) are called National Patrons. If we could find 50 of such great souls, we'd be in tall cotton. Unfortunately, it is more like 10 great souls. The slack has been taken up in 1994 and 1995 by Dan Gerber and Roy Neill Acuff, who have been marvellous in their generosity. (P.S., we, obviously, will take contributions of any size-- don't feel neglected.)
Foundations, these days, do not find us nearly enough "business-oriented." So, despite approaches to the Mapplethorpe, Warhol, Reader's Digest, Mellon, Lannan Foundations, et al., nothing really happens. Jargon is ever quirky, with old-fashioned intentions: to publish what we want to and screw the rest of it. If we had wanted to make money and be in business, we would have done something bloody else. Recall, please, that the publisher is the gonif who dropped out of Princeton and went to Black Mountain. The last time he put on a tuxedo and danced politely was with Jacqueline Bouvier at Merrywood in 1946. Where's a check from Gore Vidal?
If you feel some strange glandular necessity to support our bizarre effort, then please do, by all means, send a check to the Jargon Society in care of our accomplished and acerbic Treasurer, Thorns Craven (PO Box 15458, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27113). He is as underworked as the washing machine repairman on tv. One or two citizens of late have given us shares of stock and that is certainly a welcome option. We are a non-profit, public corporation devoted to charitable, educational, and literary purposes. Contributions are tax-deductible within legal limits. Never forget what it said on the Hasidic begging-bowl: CHARITY WILL SAVE YOU FROM DEATH!