Category Archives: Lit

The Old Italians Dying (376)

I probably should’ve shared this poem by Lawrence Ferlenghetti before everyone went to North Beach.

The Old Italians Dying

For years the old Italians have been dying
all over America
For years the old Italians in faded felt hats
have been sunning themselves and dying
You have seen them on the benches
in the park in Washington Square
the old Italians in their black high button shoes
the old men in their old felt fedoras
with stained hatbands
have been dying and dying
day by day
You have seen them
every day in Washington Square San Francisco
the slow bell
tolls in the morning
in the Church of Peter & Paul
in the marzipan church on the plaza
toward ten in the morning the slow bell tolls
in the towers of Peter & Paul
and the old men who are still alive
sit sunning themselves in a row
on the wood benches in the park
and watch the processions in and out
funerals in the morning
weddings in the afternoon
slow bell in the morning Fast bell at noon
In one door out the other
the old men sit there in their hats
and watch the coming & going
You have seen them
the ones who feed the pigeons
cutting the stale bread
with their thumbs & penknives
the ones with old pocketwatches
the old ones with gnarled hands
and wild eyebrows
the ones with the baggy pants
with both belt & suspenders
the grappa drinkers with teeth like corn
the Piemontesi the Genovesi the Siciliani
smelling of garlic & pepperoni
the ones who loved Mussolini
the old fascists
the ones who loved Garibaldi
the old anarchists reading L’Umanita Nova
the ones who loved Sacco & Vanzetti
They are almost all gone now
They are sitting and waiting their turn
and sunning themselves in front of the church
over the doors of which is inscribed
a phrase which would seem to be unfinished
from Dante’s Paradiso
about the glory of the One
who moves everything…
The old men are waiting
for it to be finished
for their glorious sentence on earth
to be finished
the slow bell tolls & tolls
the pigeons strut about
not even thinking of flying
the air too heavy with heavy tolling
The black hired hearses draw up
the black limousines with black windowshades
shielding the widows
the widows with the black long veils
who will outlive them all
You have seen them
madre de terra, madre di mare
The widows climb out of the limousines
The family mourners step out in stiff suits
The widows walk so slowly
up the steps of the cathedral
fishnet veils drawn down
leaning hard on darkcloth arms
Their faces do not fall apart
They are merely drawn apart
They are still the matriarchs
outliving everyone
in Little Italys all over America
the old dead dagos
hauled out in the morning sun
that does not mourn for anyone
One by one Year by year
they are carried out
The bell
never stops tolling
The old Italians with lapstrake faces
are hauled out of the hearses
by the paid pallbearer
in mafioso mourning coats & dark glasses
The old dead men are hauled out
in their black coffins like small skiffs
They enter the true church
for the first time in many years
in these carved black boats
The priests scurry about
as if to cast off the lines
The other old men
still alive on the benches
watch it all with their hats on
You have seen them sitting there
waiting for the bocce ball to stop rolling
waiting for the bell
for the slow bell
to be finished tolling
telling the unfinished Paradiso story
as seen in an unfinished phrase
on the face of a church
in a black boat without sails
making his final haul

Summer Reading 22 (1)

Here’s what I’ve read so far:

Jane Austen, Emma

This may be the greatest English novel ever written because of its absolute formal control and incisively drawn storyworld. Every paragraph seems perfectly balanced. Bridgerton— which clearly draws from Austen’s masterwork–  appears garish and jejune in comparison.

Christopher Priest, The Glamour

I wish I’d encountered Priest earlier in my life. In this psychological thriller he reaches to the roots of the concept of glamour as a form of magic– a hidden aspect of the term’s contemporary usage we would do well to understand.

Patrick Hoffman, The White Van

This is a cracking debut crime novel that exhibits a deep familiarity with San Francisco’s geography.

 

Recommended

Here’s a list of some of the books and films I read and watched this semester when I could have been doing other things:

Prose:

Among the Thugs

A vivid ethnography of English football hooligans.

The Catastrophist

A political thriller by Ronan Bennett set in decolonizing Congo.

The Murders that Made Us

Tawdry tales of criminal San Francisco from the Bear Republic to the present.

This is the Beat Generation: New York, Paris, San Francisco

There are some remarkable details and anecdotes about the Beats in this study.

The End of the Golden Gate

A collection of essays by those who have loved and left SF.

Exploits and Adventures of Brigadier Gerard

These stories about a young, arrogant cavalier in Napoleon’s army are easily equal to Conan Doyle’s best tales of Sherlock Holmes.

Harlot’s Ghost

Mailer’s mature yet romantic history of the CIA.

A Year of Gold and Mud

Letters from the first year of the Gold Rush.

Film:

The Carpetbaggers

Based on the novel by Harold Robbins. Loaded with booze, sex, ambition and avarice.

Let’s Get Lost

A gauzy, black and white account of Chet Baker told by those who loved him and those he betrayed (usually the same people).

The Man Who Haunted Himself

Roger Moore’s best film is a story of dopplegangers and corporate greed.

Basic Instinct 2

Elizabeth Trammel (Sharon Stone) goes on the road to Europe where– you can bet– her perverse appetites and charisma are unleashed.

The Card Counter

Paul Schrader’s noir love letter to poker takes up the psychological aftermath of US sanctioned torture during the invasion of Iraq.

Busting

A prime 70s cop drama with Elliot Gould and Robert Blake.

The Northman

There is not a shred of irony in this epic rendition of the Viking eddas.

The Mad Doctor of Market Street

Despite its title this occasionally bizarre Code-era horror film by Joseph H. Lewis expends most of its energies on an island in the Pacific populated by ethnocentrically rendered “natives”.

HUM376 SP22LongList

Pick 3:

John Rollins Ridge, The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta 9780143132653

An invented biography of the legendary figure of Joaquin Murieta, infamous outlaw and avenger.

Isabel Allende, Daughter of Fortune 9780063021747

Gold Rush Era historical romance.

Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon 9780679722649

The classic hard-boiled detective novel.

Frank Norris, Vandover and the Brute 9781554812394

Gothicky naturalist novel about a young fin-de-siecle degenerate.

C. Pam Zhang, How Much of These Hills is Gold 9780525537212

Imagistic, dense, poetic story of two Chinese children navigating the gold camps.

Alia Volz, Home Baked 9780358505020

Biography/ social document about selling cannibis edibles before age of irritating, boutique dispensaries.

Peter Maravelis (ed.) San Francisco Noir 2 9781933354651

A collection of “classic” SF noir.

Beth Lisick, Edie on the Green Screen 9781733367202

Middle-aged slacker comes to terms with the death of her mother and the banality of techbro SF.

Vendela Vida, We Run the Tides 9780062936240

Haven’t read it yet but Tom Stoppard really liked it. Set in Outer Richmond. 

Maxine Hong Kingston, Tripmaster Monkey 9780679727897

Kingston’s homage to one of her harshest detractors, Frank Chin, and the hippy trippy 60s in SF.