Feb 122010

I finished re-reading Gombrowicz’s A Guide to Philosophy in Six Hours and Fifteen Minutes. G was sick with heart disease and his wife realized the only thing that could take his mind off his trouble was to get him to talk about philosophy. So she and a friend sat through these little talks and, I guess, took notes or these are G’s notes. Apparently, some of the original was unreadable hence the dropped lines indicated in the text. G’s main idea is that the history of philosophy is the story of the step-by-step reduction or narrowing of our conception of what can be accomplished by reason. He can be pretty acerbic. Here he is on Nietzsche:

In order to understand Nietzsche, it is necessary to understand an idea as simple as that of raising cows.

A cattleman is going to try to improve the species in such a way that he will let the weakest cows die and will keep the strongest cows and bulls for breeding.

All of Nietzschean morality finds its basis here.

Then I read the first and last stories in James Purdy’s 63: Dream Palace. Purdy is something else. He works to create a patina of anxious ordinariness that he then ruptures with violence. A young father grapples with his little son, forcing him to spit out something metallic concealed in his mouth. The object turns out to be the father’s wedding ring (the mother/wife had run off with someone else shortly after the boy was born). The boy (he really is little, sleeps with a stuffed crocodile–now that I think of it, that should have been a clue) kicks the father in the balls and leaves him weeping on the carpet.

I went on reading into the morning.


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