The Blast From Passing Gass with a Lit Match to My Ass

The Reverend Jethro Furber is a poet unto himself until he is nothing but a poet unto others. This is Madness. Henry Pimber is a poet unto himself until he is a poet unto the trees. This is Sorrow (and Suicide). Israbestis Tott is not a poet but he clearly heard a poem and remembered it. This is Triumph.

Dwelling in the consciousness of “The Reverend Jethro Furber’s Change of Heart” was in many ways like dwelling in my own. The reasons are different, but, Jethro – he and I – we are constantly composing our sing-song. And I, too, had my Pike, mine if only for a night in the garden of Ault, where wandering off, I saw the giant concrete Stephen Collins Foster and circled him with slurred speech until I climbed him and swirled ‘round his body, and, ornery, swirling my dick so swirled the piss, bracing my relief straight-arming his shoulder like old men do the wall above a urinal, drenching his inscription in our obstinacy…then, cup to his lips…Come on, drink this…Statuesquely stubborn, heh?…into the ovals of his eyes… You stupid fuckin’ Haunt… a taunt was rhymed:

You’re on the wrong side of the river, you know
Cast to look but never touch home
That’s the fate of late men commemorated in stone
So be a late man and hold your pose
While I laugh aloud about the place they chose
Here, on the wrong side of the Ohio

Abuse Your Muse. That’s one for Tott if he could grasp it. Foster speaks:

Mr. Lilly, my donor
Had a boner for my folk songs
But boy did he fuck me
If only somebody
Would pluck me
From where he stuck me
And set me up
In my old Kentucky

Stephen, it’s unbecoming of great men celebrated in stone to bitch and moan about being unlucky. Another one for Tott.

Speaking of Tott, did everyone follow the advice of Mr. Minto and reread Israbestis after you’d finished? Re-buy, Bob! Do you get it? No. Re-buy, Bob! Do you get it? No. Well, I’ll add my two cents to Robert’s sense, too, so you can fro and back, nose to the scents, forth and to: After you’ve reread Tott, go back to Furber; then back to Tott; then back to Furber; still Furber; Furber again; then back to … Now do you get it? You don’t if you didn’t … Hold on, Bill speaks:

Youthfully to the bench soars, torches around him, vibrating arms: oh this is His greatest triumph—to turn dung into a monument.
Ah well, too bad. I’ve given the game away.
Um? I have? Pity.

… play along. Bill gave the game away so you could play the game. The name of the game is called name-calling is knowing: Jabberer; Pencil-licker; Local oracle; Village idiot; Town pump; The greengrocer; Determined gabbler; Hallfoot shuffler; Windy comedian; Lazy looking young fool; Button collector; Museum director; Digger of dry earth; Peeler of print from old paper; Feeder upon the past; Despoiler of the slain; Bugger of corpses; This peasant Trimalchio; Chinese water torturer; Master; Disciple; Host. … old Hidego and Seek playing hide and go seek with the key with me.

The lock is rusted now and the double gates are bound. Ivy and weeds squeeze what they’ve long been given and words chipped on headstones erode, re-wrote illegibly. This is the state we found it in. Then, Furber clears the overgrowth, carefully scrubs clean the markers, and lays the walk with his own hands, giving what little order he can – positively refurberishing! – Tott’s garden. Or was it more like: This, though, I would like to have remain: these pieces of shade; is that asking too much? Mem. Mem. Memory. And is it asking too much to ask who’s the father, who’s the son, and who’s the ghost? May I match-make a match made in the Heavens of Birth? … and not in that order … but in that order … but not. Party on, Gerth! This is, after all, a matter for Theology, not for Feeling, isn’t it? But, wouldn’t my naming be the opposite? Oh, shut up. Shit the dialectic already. I’ll clean it up, but only because you host me. You host me. I fill your skin and flutter in your undies. You host me. I please you with my divers wet wipes. You will never stop. You’ll never stop. Never never never. Skid marks. My host, My host! Why have you not heard Me clearly! My host, My host! Why have you digested bits and pieces of Me! Remembory! Please … Remember Me! No, no, no … Remember My Songs!

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10 Responses to “The Blast From Passing Gass with a Lit Match to My Ass”

  1. Brad Johnson Says:

    When I invited a variety of people to post on Omensetter’s Luck I so hoped somebody would pick up the mantle and write this post. And, lo, you did. I’ll find an opening to respond in some manner other than gratitude, but for now, thanks for this.

  2. Dan Says:

    I’ll echo Brad’s gratitude. I haven’t participated in the discussion of the book (although I read it), but I want to say thanks for this post. So thanks.

  3. Robert Minto Says:

    This was dangerous. Gass himself has a propensity to imitate when writing about other people’s sentences — something so difficult to pull off without cheesiness. But I think you succeeded rather well. That’s just it, isn’t it — the literary greatness, quite apart from sentence style and concept, or rather presuming them and using them, of Gass’s fiction is that he really does capture the inner monologues of real human beings as they are caught up in the sing-song of their own jingly merry-go-rounds. You have some good ideas here too, which I am hesitant to write about — as I’m always hesitant with this kind of writing, because one feels like a fool if one mistakes what is being said — but after I’ve dwelt on what you’ve written a bit more I’ll have more to say. Thanks for this.

  4. bigmildred Says:

    Brad, if anyone picks up mantles and is deserving of gratitude, it’s you. Thank you for the kind words. Thank you, also, to Dan and Robert, and in my surprise I don’t know how to respond to the thanks of the three of you other than by being polite and saying You’re Welcome.

    Robert, you’ve said some things here (and elsewhere) that I want to respond to but I’ll have to postpone my response, as well, but only until the morning. And it has nothing to do with the two hour season premiere of the new season of “The Bachelor” being on right now.

  5. Brad Johnson Says:

    In an interesting way this post resonates w/ some of our earlier conversations about Tott, the inadequacies of his memory & speech, & the relationship of the novel’s opening to all that follows. I really like how you incorporated Furber’s names/descriptions of Tott and put them in service of an elaborate thesis, which I take to be that Furber & Tott are, in effect, tied at the dialectical hip. That Furber is both memory & memorial to (Tott’s) memory, both that which is remembered & the means of its recall (i.e,. because he speaks what Tott cannot). Because he names, he knows (p.131); knowledge itself, as evidenced by Tott’s tottering about in the novel’s opening, is not enough. Ah, but where there is no knowledge, or at least memory, there is nobody to name. Furber’s naming, thus, validates the memory that Tott cannot name. While I’m less sure that this provocative parallel carries through the entire book, I’m not so sure this is a deficiency of the position you’ve staked out. As I see it, you identify here a crucial, problematic aspect to a recurring theme of our discussion concerning naming & knowledge: memory.

    I would be very interested in exploring this idea further: namely, how memory permeates & makes more complex the actions and inactivities of the novel’s principle actors. Perhaps we could even hypothesize a similar relationship of memory / memorial between Pimber & Omensetter. More difficult, I suppose, the two Lucy’s. Between Furber & himself, and the degree to which memory & memorial to memory are for blurred, indistinguishable — the past lost within the present because the present is teeming with too much past. Oh, and of course, the devilish memory on display in the ballyhooed Afterword — the one described (remembered) reconstructing by memory what had been stolen from him.

  6. Guido Nius Says:

    Ron Paul mimicking the change of heart of Jethro Furber is unlikely.

  7. bigmildred Says:

    Brad, I’ll add to that. Everyone needs Old Israbestis Tott if they are to exist at all, not just Furber. But Furber needs Tott in a way that Pimber doesn’t. Gass shares Furber’s greedy dilemna; they hold it in common: how do I preserve the memory of myself (in a way that Pimber doesn’t)? In a way that Pimber doesn’t: because the preservation of the memory of myself in a symbolic act of the death of my body turns my body – the memory of me – into a symbol, and the body of any symbol is absurd, as ridiculous as Christ’s body. The reaction of Young Israbestis Tott to the fall of Uncle Simon (the ancient bony sycamore, burning and breaking my heart) foreshadows what we had already been in the shadows of, before moving into the sun into the ghost. Furber and Pimber see it as the Legend’s beginning of the end. Pimber embraces him and sets out to give him his body; Furber re-hearses it and sets out to give him his songs. Furber knows that is Tott is like himself: both attach to themselves secret design and holy significance. Pimber’s death in the tree seems non-existent in Tott’s memory unless he is purposely avoiding its retelling. Isn’t he given and doesn’t he give himself hint after hint to remember it clearly? Tott truly is a disciple of the Reverend Jethro Furber: Pimber’s death in the tree: He’d never live its telling.

    Guido, instead of a lit match it should’ve been your face.

  8. Guido Nius Says:

    I’m sorry to have caused offense. I do by the way wholeheartedly agree to “Gass shares Furber’s greedy dilemna; they hold it in common: how do I preserve the memory of myself (in a way that Pimber doesn’t)?” I am just lacking the change of heart bit.

  9. bigmildred Says:

    Robert, I can see the danger in it. It’s easy being cheesy but it’s hard laboring over every word. I don’t see Gass capturing anything other than the greatness of his own sing-song. He sings then we sing seeing the greatness of what he has sung: sing us another song soon, sing-a-ling, sing us another song soon. Paul’s command to “Day to day uttereth speech” when understood cracks the spine of the hymnal: Rub the lamp, lad. Let’s have jokes and poetry. Let progeny appear. Meaning: I think Gass encourages the idea that you have to imitate in the tradition, under the law of its styles and concepts, before making disciples of your own creativity. Why else would he give us a list of his fifty literary pillars?

  10. bigmildred Says:

    I really don’t have any idea what you’re talking about. Where is this change of heart bit? The only time I mention a change of heart is when I identify, by name, the section of the book I am talking about, “The Reverend Jethro Furber’s Change of Heart.” I didn’t make it up.


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