Burn Pile: Brodsky and the water of Venice, the sea and surrealism, “He’s-at-Homes", Proust’s honey bread, and Marlon James talking about Toni Morrison

Brodsky sighed when churches were closed for the night. 

Joseph Brodsky, the Nobel-lauerate emigre poet, wasn’t buried in Russia, his motherland, but Venice, in which he found less a second home than an imaginative companion. In an essay from The Smithsonian, a walk through Venice with the great poet is recounted; a wandering through half-finished ideas and revisions inspired by the city.   

“Time can be an enemy or a friend,” [Brodsky] said, quickly returning to the subject of the city. He argued that “time is water and the Venetians conquered both by building a city on water, and framed time with their canals. Or tamed time. Or fenced it in. Or caged it.”

A quick recommendation. Although she needs no help, like at all, Valeria Luiselli wrote a beautiful mediation about walking, sidewalks, Brodsky, Venice, Mexico City and graveyards: Sidewalks. From Coffeehouse Press. 

The sea washes up unexpected objects. And in that way, in much more complex terms, the poet Agnieszka Taborska argues that in the sea one finds an organizing principle for surrealism. "It is no accident that the Surrealists' map of the imagination had more water than lands.” From Asymptote. 

A whaler's wife might as well be a widow. However, certain issues can be worked around. An article about the fascinating history of “He’s-at-Homes,” more commonly know as dildos, and whaling culture. 

She unwrapped the stony phallus from its pink tissue paper and handed it to me. It was heavier than it looked. The head had been painted wild-berry red. The shaft was off-white and touched with light brown stains. Through the center was a hole no thicker than a straw, as if it had been skewered for drying. Saw marks streaked the cross section of the flat base, and it had been circumcised with whittling scrapes. “No mistaking what it is,” Connie said, as I turned it in my hand. From LitHub. 

A fun fact for those times when you pretend you’ve read In Search of Lost Time: The famous madeleine (of whose fame I just learned of) that triggers the “deep-dive” into memory was almost not a madeleine at all. "A first draft of Proust’s monumental novel dating from 1907 had the author reminiscing not about madeleines as the sensory trigger for a childhood memory about his aunt, but instead about toasted bread mixed with honey." From the Guardian. 

Marlon James has this to say about finishing Morrison’s Song of Solomon (and more): 

 "I finished that novel thinking I could fly."

From the Guardian (again).