2.11.2021 – have you no eyes – rouse

have you no eyes – rouse
your soul to frenzy – love to
daily distraction

In one of the last works published by Jim Harrison (I won’t say last written work as I understand Mr. Harrison wrote until the moment he died and was found slumped at his desk with an arm hanging down, fingers open and a pencil on the floor where it dropped), Mr. Harrison wrote, “After 55 years of marriage, it might occur to you that it was the best idea of a lifetime.”

Mr. Harrison died in 2016.

It has taken me this long to get around to reading this last book.

I am very conflicted about his writing.

I was first aware of Jim Harrison when I worked in a bookstore in Michigan.

One Christmas I was chatting with some nice lady about books.

She commented how much impact Jim Harrison had made on her thinking.

I pointed to a stack of his latest book, it may have been Sundog and told her we had just got this in today.

She turned a looked at the stack.

Then she reached over and took the entire stack and said, “I just finished my Christmas shopping.”

There might be something to this guy I thought.

Right after that I happened to catch part of an interview with him at his cabin in Michigan’s Upper Pennisula.

The clip started with a view of the cabin and focused on a sign that said something like, “GO AWAY I MIGHT BE WORKING.”

I later read an interview where Mr. Harrison claimed he once retyped a 300 page manuscript because he found he had used a certain adjective twice.

This comment from a two finger typer read by a two finger typer in the pre-word processor era carried a great deal of weight.

So I read Sundog for the first time.

Powerful and profane, I was proud at getting the inside references to the UP and the Mackinac Bridge.

And I was hooked.

There are now around 24 Jim Harrison books of novels, novellas, essays and poetry on my shelf.

These books have made the many many moves and library reductions I have experienced over the last 40 years.

I enjoyed them all.

They all challenged me.

They all made me think.

Then that last one.

Then that last one before this very last, well, I thought went too far.

Hard to say exactly why but suffice it to say it was too far.

Which raised the question for me, does this misstep color the entire body of work?

My training is in history.

I had to study historiography or writing in the field of history along with writing critical essays of historical writing.

The professors I studied under had little room for writers who made errors.

I would ask really, was getting a city or a date or an address that bad.

YES I would be told.

IF YOU can find one error in a historical work, HOW MANY MORE ERRORS are there that aren’t smart enough to catch?

One bad apple did ruin the whole bunch.

There was no grace at all for errors or those who made errors in the eyes of my professors.

To this day I can no longer read Stephen Ambrose.

When it came out that one of his books contained complete passages lifted from other books, his claim of BAD EDITIING by my EDITOR (his daughter) just didn’t cut it and the dozen or so books I owned by Mr. Ambrose did not make the trip to Georgia.

As a side note the recent revelations on Mr. Ambrose and his now disputed claims of a working relationship with General Eisenhower now more less closed the lid on this discussion.

And yes Ms. Doris Kearns Goodwin, I am tottering on you (and you too Ms. Tuchman).

And don’t bother calling me Mr. Ken Burns, everyone saw what you did.

Also if you read history, notice the number of citations that are now woven into the narrative instead of hidden away in footnotes (IE: As Douglas Hofstader said in his book … etc etc etc)

ANYWAY back to Mr. Harrison.

I am slowly coming to terms with Mr. Harrison.

I can’t say he ever flew a false flag that his characters were NOT rogues, cads and all around awful people.

Hard to argue that I might be able accept terrible people, up to a point.

I finally got around to reading this last autobiographical essay in Ancient Minstral.

The last line was, as quoted above, “After 55 years of marriage, it might occur to you that it was the best idea of a lifetime.”

And while the line made me think many things it also made me laugh.

In Mr. Harrison’s novel, The Road Home, the companion novel to Dalva, the hero/villain John Northbridge (one of the tricks of Mr. Harrision is that his characters are both the hero and the villain, often at the same time) is reading his own 50 year old journals.

Northbridge, now in is 70’s, has forgotten much of what happened when he was in his 20’s and as he reads his own journals he keeps shouting out loud, “My God what will this fool do next?”

That is where I was for the last couple of years wondering about Mr. Harrison.

My God, what will this fool do next?

To read that last line, after 55 years of marriage, it might occur to you that it was the best idea of a lifetime, I like to think that in the end, he got it right.

This is my blog and I get to think what I want.

In that same last publisher essay Mr. Harrison also wrote the he loved his wife to daily distraction.

I like that.

On of the best things of Covid and working from home as I have seen more of my wife in the last year than I have in the last 20 years.

I enjoy seeing her every day.

I look forward to seeing her everyday

I am not seeing this adventure hasn’t had it sine curve of peaks and valleys but I can honestly say I love that lady to the point of daily distraction.

Lastly, Mr. Harrison quoted Boris Pasternak with a line from his poem, Sparrow Hills that goes, Rouse your soul to frenzy.

The stanza is:

Rouse your soul to frenzy. Let to-day come foaming.
It’s the world’s midday. Have you no eyes for it?

Have you no eyes for it?

Don’t wait for the last thing you publish to wake up and smell the coffee.

Rouse your soul to FRENZY.

So the haiku for today all came together.

have you no eyes – rouse
your soul to frenzy – love to
daily distraction

And at the end of the day, realize that that day you got married was the best idea of a lifetime.


Sparrow Hills by Boris Pasternak

Kisses on the breast, like water from a pitcher!
Not always, not ceaseless spurts the summer’s well.
Nor shall we raise up the hurdy-gurdy’s clamour
Each night from the dust with feet that stamp and trail.

I have heard of age, — those hideous forebodings!
When no wave will lift its hands up to the stars.
If they speak, you doubt it. No face in the meadows,
No heart in the pools, and no god in the firs.

Rouse your soul to frenzy. Let to-day come foaming.
It’s the world’s midday. Have you no eyes for it?
Look how in the heights thoughts seethe into white bubbles
Of fir-cones, woodpeckers, clouds, pine-needles, heat.

Here the rails are ended of the city tram-cars.
Further, pines must do. Further, trams cannot pass.
Further, it is Sunday. Plucking down the branches,
Skipping through the clearings, slipping on the grass.

Sifting midday light and Whitsunday and walking
Wodds would have us think the world is always so;
They’re so planned with thickets, so inspired with spaces,
Fallen from the clouds on us, like chintz below.

Борис Пастернак
Воробьевы горы
Грудь под поцелуи, как под рукомойник!
Ведь не век, не сряду, лето бьет ключом.
Ведь не ночь за ночью низкий рев гармоник
Подымаем с пыли, топчем и влечем.

Я слыхал про старость. Страшны прорицанья!
Рук к звездам не вскинет ни один бурун.
Говорят — не веришь. На лугах лица нет,
У прудов нет сердца, бога нет в бору.

Расколышь же душу! Bсю сегодня выпей.
Это полдень мира. Где глаза твои?
Видишь, в высях мысли сбились в белый кипень
Дятлов, туч и шишек, жара и хвои.

Здесь пресеклись рельсы городских трамваев.
Дальше служат сосны, дальше им нельзя.
Дальше — воскресенье, ветки отрывая,
Разбежится просека, по траве скользя.

Просевая полдень, тройцын день, гулянье,
Просит роща верить: мир всегда таков.
Так задуман чащей, так внушен поляне,
Так на нас, на ситцы пролит с облаков

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