It’s a rainy afternoon in Holland, Michigan. They say snow is on its way but we’ll have to wait and see. I am almost to Act V of Timon of Athens by Shakespeare. I don’t think I’ve read it before. Timon has crashed and burned, being a rich citizen who gave too much of his money to friends and ends up digging in the dirt, destitute and scorned by all who exploited him and took his largess. At least that’s where he is at the end of Act IV.
If I understand correctly, this play was never performed in Shakespeare’s time. And many critics I consult seem to think it’s one of his weaker plays. But I am liking it. I guess I identify a little bit with Timon. Mostly he’s wonderfully bitter. I like that.
I just checked and his name is pronounced TAI-mon. I have been wondering exactly how to say it. I did TAI-mon some of the time, but not confidently.
I did get in the car and drive to the library to return some books and pick up Fugitive Poses: Native American Indian Scenes of Absence and Presence by Vizenor. Vizenor is an Anishinabe critic and novelist. “The Anishinaabeg are a group of culturally related indigenous peoples present in the Great Lakes region of Canada and the United States” according to Wikipedia. Anishinaabeg is the plural form. The authors of The Art of Tradition: Sacred Music, Dance & Myth of Michigan’s Anishinaabe, 1946-1955 have used this term as an umbrella for the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi people living in the Michigan lower peninsula. But Wikipedia says it covers more than these three.
The inscriptions for the Vizenor book are interesting. The first one is a quote from Kafka’s “The Wish to Be a Red Indian.”
“If one were only an Indian, instantly alert, and on a racing horse, leaning against the wind, kept on quivering jerkily over the quivering ground, until one shed one’s spurs, for there needed no spurs, threw away the reins, for there needed no reins, and hardly saw that the land before one was smoothly shorn heath when horse’s neck and head would be already gone.” Kafka
I think that might be the entire piece. Kafka has done a lot of little pieces like this.
There are several of these at the beginning of the book. Besides Kafka they are drawn from The Trouble with Being Born by E. M. Cioran, The Little Book of Unsuspected Subversion by Edmond Jabès, In Bluebeard’s Castle by George Steiner, The Work of Fire by Maurice Blanchot, The Agony of Flies by Elias Canetti, and The Names by N. Scott Momaday. It’s quite a list.
I’m wanting to go read about Timon of Athens and read some of Vizenor before my evening martini. In the meantime here’s one more of the lovely quotes at the beginning of Vizenor’s book.
“In general, the writer seems to be subjected to a state of inactivity because he is the master of the imaginary, and those who follow him into the realm of the imaginary lose sight of the problems of their true lives. But the danger he represents is much more serious. The truth is that he ruins action, not because he deals with what is unreal but because he makes all of reality available to us. Unreality begins with the whole.” The Work of Fire by Maurice Blanchot.