Saturday, February 21, 2009

America #50, Founders' Promissory Notes #1

Mixed-race petit jury impaneled to try Jefferson Davis, the first mixed-race petit jury in the United States. (1867)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Anniverseries #14, Dead Presidents #45

Abraham Lincoln, born February 12, 1809

Cast of Lincoln's face, hands, and Lincoln's suit and hat.

Friday, February 06, 2009

History #13

Concerning the Age which has just passed, our fathers and our grandfathers have poured forth and accumulated so vast a quantity of information that the industry of a Ranke would be submerged by it, and the perspicacity of a Gibbon would quail before it. It is not by the direct method of a scrupulous narration that the explorer of the past can hope to depict that singular epoch. If he is wise, he will adopt a subtler strategy. He will attack his subject in unexpected places; he will fall upon the flank, or the rear; he will shoot a sudden, revealing searchlight into obscure recesses, hither-to undivined. He will row out over that great ocean of material, and lower down into it, here and there, a little bucket, which will bring up to the light of day some characteristic specimen, from those far depths, to be examined with a careful curiosity.

Lytton Strachey, preface, Eminent Victorians (1918)

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Atomic Age #1

A Nevada sheriff standing against the light from an atomic blast forty miles away.
George Silk, photographer (1955)

Scenes from a Life #22

Orson Welles and Cole Porter confer. (1946)

Monday, February 02, 2009

Apocalypse #15, America #49, Books on Books #5

But it is a great book, a very great book, the greatest book of the sea ever written. It moves awe in the soul.

The terrible fatality.



Doom! Doom! Doom! Something seems to whisper it in the very dark trees of America. Doom!

Doom of what?

Doom of our white day. We are doomed, doomed. And the doom is in America. The doom of our white day.

Ah, well, if my day is doomed, and I am doomed with my day, it is something greater than I which dooms me, so I accept my doom as a sign of the greatness which is more than I am.

Melville knew. He knew his race was doomed. His white soul, doomed. His great white epoch doomed. Himself, doomed. The idealist, doomed: The spirit, doomed.

The reversion. 'Not so much bound to any haven ahead, as rushing from all havens astern.'

That great horror of ours! It is our civilization rushing from all havens astern.

The last ghastly hunt. The White Whale.

What then is Moby Dick? He is the deepest blood-being of the white race; he is our deepest blood-nature.

And he is hunted, hunted, hunted by the maniacal fanaticism of our white mental consciousness. We want to hunt him down. To subject him to our will. And in this maniacal conscious hunt of ourselves we get dark races and pale to help us, red, yellow, and black, east and west, Quaker and fireworshipper, we get them all to help us in this ghastly maniacal hunt which is our doom and our suicide.

The last phallic being of the white man. Hunted into the death of upper consciousness and the ideal will. Our blood- self subjected to our will. Our blood-consciousness sapped by a parasitic mental or ideal consciousness.

Hot blooded sea-born Moby Dick. Hunted maniacs of the idea.

Oh God, oh God, what next, when the Pequod has sunk?

She sank in the war, and we are all flotsam.

Now what next?

Who knows ? Quien sabe? Quien sabe, senor?

Neither Spanish nor Saxon America has any answer.

The Pequod went down. And the Pequod was the ship of the white American soul. She sank, taking with her negro and Indian and Polynesian, Asiatic and Quaker and good, business- like Yankees and Ishmael: she sank all the lot of them.

Boom! as Vachel Lindsay would say.

To use the words of Jesus, IT IS FINISHED.

Consummatum est! But Moby Dick was first published in 1851. If the Great White Whale sank the ship of the Great White Soul in 1851, what's been happening ever since?

Post-mortem effects, presumably.

Because, in the first centuries, Jesus was Cetus, the Whale. And the Christians were the little fishes. Jesus, the Redeemer, was Cetus, Leviathan. And all the Christians all his little fishes.

D.H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature (1923)