Ephemeris by Norm Sibum

London Lunar whispers Walser at me, as if Walser were a name that only can be whispered, even if the man made nothing like the splash Joyce made in the European literary lake. However, Walser, it seems, did affect something of an undertow in literary doings, so much so, he had the respect of Kafka, Hesse and Musil, among others; and in a more contemporary time, Sebald. Of which Walser do I speak? Robert Walser, Swiss author and apparent lunatic. The Wikipedia write-up on him characterizes his output, and I paraphrase, as ‘playful serenity behind which lurk existential terrors’. Yes, well, there are those existential terrors. Literary Thug #1, on the other hand, finds Sebald a crashing bore; suspects him of being but a pin-up boy for that part of academe that is fatally addicted to cachet. Literary Thug #1, perhaps, does partake of the national sulk that is part bravado or homebrew take-down of the elite, and part prejudice against foreign-born literary sophistication. Sophistication that does not come pre-packaged as an ism is particularly spurious. (London Lunar would insist Sebald is not an intellectual writer, meaning he is not, willy-nilly, poncy.) God knows, there are plenty of Canadian intelleckshual writers of either gender deep in mackinaw and work boots, so, what of their outlook on existential terrors? Alright then: no dread in Yellowknife, try Sudbury. I do believe Literary Thug #1 observed there are no characters in a Sebald treatment of life; it is all about self, self, self, nothing but the navel-gazing, m’am. Well, I am not going to take sides in what could threaten to become a dust-up between two good friends of mine, and though I have my own quarrels with artyfartiness, I do not flinch at the spectre of ‘fine writing’ as per fine writing; and I would not insult the ‘people’ by going proletarian on them, pretending to know what makes ‘the people’ tick and letting the world in on the secret in some endlessly patronizing fashion. Morning. Nikas. Speaking of ‘the people’, here is Irish Harpy who will have something to complain about in a moment – just give her a second to get her bearings and that first flash of caffeine in her system. Enter Bilko, one nemesis I have among others in local life, especially on a Tuesday morning when he has his gig in this very place, which it is to carry on in his booth like a one-man Spike Milligan band; and, if you have any thoughts in your head, forget them. Whatever the syndrome from which he suffers, he, all by himself, can with aplomb defend any Canadian literary bastion you care to identify against all European fetishism that springs to mind, should he take an interest in such matters. (I wonder how he feels about Truffaut.) E was over a few nights ago to watch Brideshead Revisited. It is, she most emphatically declared, her cup of tea. I confess to liking the movie, the series, the book, and not necessarily in that order. The movie should perhaps be required viewing, just as The Night of the Iguana ought to be. Or that little minds with God in them do terrible things. As do some large minds with all of paradise in their assumptions, not to mention sympathy for the devil. I have been harbouring a notion of late of going on about the soul and redemption, but why jeopardize my street creds? Besides, such goings-on is generally frowned upon at any Comedy Central whose Wizard of Oz, whose patron saint is Darwin or some such oracle of scientific reasoning. (I have no argument with Darwin or some such when it comes to the pure operation of science in its relations with the workings of nature; secularists of missionary zeal trouble me, however. There seems to be no relaxing around them.) For all that, Thistle is back. He has a handful of books he wishes for me to read, as if that were all I needed for a raison d’etre in life. He otherwise goes on about oysters and Spanish Banks and the snow on Vancouver mountain peaks and how it is he takes a dim view of the idle, especially the idle rich. Life on that coast must certainly be idyllic—Guitar Teach also threatens to civilize me, even if it is too late in the game for me and musicianship to occupy the same page, as it were. But duet-ing with the man, having at Bach’s Minuet in G with a flat pick with just the right give in it – it does bizarre things to ‘soul’ and ‘redemption’ and the urge to keep open a channel of communications with those words. Now, speaking of ancient peoples, and seeing as they had no science of which to properly boast, did the lack thereof render them stupid and bereft of any understanding of anything? Ah, you think this a question I just happened to have plucked out of the air at random. It may well be. Perhaps Literary Thug #1 drove me to it, he the seventh son of the seventh proverbial son tucking into that proverbial seventh Heineken. Still, there is the following: It may be said with some plausibility that there is an abecedarian ignorance that comes before knowledge, and another, doctoral ignorance that comes after knowledge; an ignorance that knowledge creates and engenders, just as it undoes and destroys the first—Montaigne.