here there is none that can guide me aright in the pathless wood.—
If I've had to howl 'neath the lashes of fate, trust me to find folks I can lash in my turn—
The corpses all laugh. But their laughter is forced;
Enough for the day is the evil thereof,—
and further: Discount not thy funeral.—
Not long ago, the NHL team from Colorado—dead last in the league—hosted the one from Calgary, second-to-last. The game itself was uninspired but inspiring, in that it led well-regarded veteran goaltender J-S Giguère to go ham on his squad after the game. All this has been more-than-adequately covered elsewhere, of course. Over to The Classical, however, I came at things from a slightly different angle: Losing Again: A Play in Verse. It hosts probably the piece of art I'm proudest of having had a hand in ever: Bogdan von Pylon's pitch-perfect reworking of Raymond Pettibon's cover for Black Flag's Jealous Again.
Aside from the best art you will see today, the piece trickles from a lot of different sources. One is our own semi-tradition of bets here at CtC: Bogdan von Pylon and I renewed our whimsical wager of Shopping of Photos by him or Crafting of Poems by me in the event of "our" team losing. "My" team lost, naturally, and so I began to guide my pen across page—carving and wheeling like the plodding skates of an Avalanche defenseman getting beaten wide—then other, darker roots of influence manifested and from the thick taproot of menace and despair began to bloom weird leaves. I thought of the faces of the goaltenders who worked that night, and thought of their losses and reversals: It instantly seemed that a few short stanzas were inadequate to the task of capturing the spirit of the thing, the meaning of this late-season trudge through the slough. The obvious solution to this perilous lack was a play in verse.
Probably this seemed very necessary because I have of late been reading Peer Gynt, in the aftermath, for all is aftermath, of an interesting staging thereof I attended with the Lady Noodles not long ago. It was, in the words of the program, "a hybrid Peer Gynt [combining] parts of ... three scores—Grieg, Schnittke, and Holloway—with a semi-staged multimedia production". The staging was somewhat light, playing much for laughs and eliding essentially everything from the third quarter of the book, which contains Peer Gynt's attempts to sell himself as a prophet, some still-disturbing scenes in a madhouse, and a sequence of actually horrifying cruelty on a ship. The book used for that performance did elide these sections, anyway. The rather superb Robin Holloway piece "Ocean Voyage" did seem to evoke/embody much of the tumult and sad human shittiness Ibsen built into those passages, though it was incorporated clumsily into the show, being very long and more than a little flow-breaking.
One of the primary themes of Peer Gynt is the frank evil causing/caused-by the philosophy demanded by the Motor City 5: "let me be who I am". This philosophy is of course ascendant now, and not merely in our politics! It has poisoned our writing, too. Essentially every writer within 10 years of my age sallies forth misunderstanding the lessons of confessional poetry/Lester Bangs/David Foster Wallace/Joan Didion/Herman Melville/whoever strikes you as what Ibsen called "Old fossil Highnesses who make it their pride to keep plebeian blots excluded from their line's escutcheon", and reduces every topic to "a written monologue by that most interesting being, myself". But these writers aren't Alice James, or Ibsen, or even Bangs, and the spring of self is stagnating badly.
It's here, sir, that one is oneself with a vengeance; oneself, and nothing whatever besides. We go, full sail, as our very selves. Each one shuts himself up in the barrel of self, in the self-fermentation he dives to the bottom,—with the self-bung he seals it hermetically, and seasons the staves in the well of self. No one has tears for the other's woes; no one has mind for the other's ideas. We're our very selves, both in thought and tone, ourselves to the spring-board's uttermost verge,—
And, well, fuck that. Since I wish to speak of the rough infinity of things more interesting than myself before I speak of myself, the formal play of a play in verse seemed Just The Thing. Plus the third and fourth influences plaguing, or maybe blessing, my every word; I speak, naturally, of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 and of Thomas Pynchon—or at least I speak of the urge so potent in them to STOP
(Let's put on a show!)
everything and break into song. And so what was conceived as a pair of poems turned into a play in verse turned into a rock opera—or at least a musical. Which, again: you can read over at The Classical: Losing Again.
But why goalies in particular, you probably aren't asking. There are several reasons. First, as I learned from Manufacturing Consent—not that one, the other one—the name of the game is to try to build up an analysis of the whole structure of capitalism by looking closely at the shop floor; so why not start my look at the shop floor with a look at the goalies? (Charles Fort is instructive here: all life is connected and "One measures a circle, starting anywhere.") Second, if hockey itself be of interest, then surely goalies are of interest, for as one brilliant observer querulously asked "Is [the goalie] not worth between 50 and 60 percent of his [sic] team?"
Okay, so that brilliant observer was legendary goalie Jacques Plante, who perhaps is not the disinterested historian one would wish most for. Nevertheless, goalies do seem important. Third: their helmets are colorful and interesting and draw the eye.
Perhaps, despite all good faith and honest craft, the project failed. Perhaps the result was still and all more an autobiography than an analysis, revealing only my needy vanity, my own failure(s) and rotten (mis-)appropriations of the work of others as an attempt to reclaim what the world stole from me. Perhaps my foolish project is too much like Peer Gynt's, self-serving always, ignorant and arrogant, doomed to an inherent and meaningless uniqueness that can never be special; nothing more than my identity in prose form, a portrait of no more than a shallow and sickly self.
It's true—my grounding's by no means thorough,
and history's wheels within wheels are deceptive;—
but pooh; the wilder the starting-point,
the result will oft be the more original.—
Thanks for reading, everybody!!