thursday's child is full of woe   

July 23rd, 2009

What the world needs is more geniuses with humility, there are so few of us left.

Oscar Levant

Dignity is overrated.

Larry Glawson


For rent: smallish tidal wave. Currently housed in my tub. $7/day. Box 2.

Willing to trade: a large oil painting of a large oil painting for a small watercolour of same. Box 19.

Public Service Announcement: the internet will be unavailable for public use for 11 seconds sometime between 4 and 4:15 AM on Friday, July 24th, 2009 due to a need to remove some of the web pages that are no longer relevant. Normal service will resume afterwards. Sorry for any inconvenience.

Next Tuesday is International Three Day. Collect things into threes, gather in groups of three or just count to three! Fun! Fun! Fun!

Now available: bales of lint collected from my dryer over the last 14 years. Approximate weight per bale: 200kg. $7/bale OBO. Box 2087.

We're hiring! Bernard's Poetry Bazaar is looking for a variety of individuals to fill a number of different shifts in our new 25000 square foot Regent Avenue location. We need people for both our Asuka and our Nara Period departments (must be fluent in Japanese obviously but preference will be given to specialists in the Manyoshu), for our Pre- Columbian Meso- American Section (knowledge of Nahuatl would be helpful), also for our Concrete Poetry Department (must supply own tools) and for our Dirty Limericks Wing.

Unattached carbon molecule seeks other carbon molecules. Object: creating a higher life form. Box 14.

For sale: one tremendously successful website. One million dollars. OBO. Box 1.

Listen to Part Fifteen of

The Mystery of the Lost Lenore

Click on the picture. (4:46)

Or start from the beginning.



Send an email to us and tell us something we don't know:

The Furious Intelligence of
Hargo Penumber:

A Critical Biography

It is not usual for a writer of fiction, such as I, to set out to write, never mind complete, a biography of a critic especially one as critical as Hargo Penumber but then Hargo Penumber was nothing, as I am, if not unusual.

Penumber, from the very beginnings of his literary and journalistic career as a paper boy in the then independent City of St. James, possessed a mind keenly aware of the failings of his fellow human beings and he shied not away from making them aware of his awareness.

While still in short pants the jam-stained young schoolboy would, while making his weekly collections for the Tribune, his first employer, distribute to the homes on his route and the homeowners therein, brief critical essays, on the state of their lawns, the clearness or lack of clearness of their sidewalks in winter and the relative condition of their mailboxes. These, unfortunately, were not well-recieved and the young Hargo was introduced, very early in his career indeed, to the perils of unemployment.

His next journalistic endeavour was an unpaid, but not necessarily unrewarding, sojourn as a "Cub reporter" on his school newspaper, The Arthur H.Oliver Hollerer. There he launched into a series of savagely brilliant attacks on scouting, Lord Baden Powell, the Anglican Church and the Lord Almighty Himself.

It was the young Penumber's contention that the Cub Scouts were a somewhat suspect organization that appeared to be devoted to indoctrinating the youth of the Commonwealth into a "pale and pasty" religion which was the earthly manifestation of a God whom Penumber described as "second-rate, bourgeois and without real style or meat".

The final installment of his series, entitled The Anglican God, Why bother? resulted not only in the end of his tenure at the Hollerer but also occasioned the arising of a small scar in his hairline that remained visible throughout his life.

The teenaged Penumber receded somewhat from the voicing of his considerable opinions but he still had them. His journals from the period are filled with his critical insights and numerous and vociferous pronouncements on great variety of subjects.

These adolescent journals are not home to the usual run of soppy-eyed juvenalia. They are organized into discrete essays on a plethora of topics, and feature descriptive and searing titles such as The Folly of Socks; Water Fountains: Aqueous Sirens Sing Scholars to Scylla; Brad Turner: The Unibrowed, Slack-jawed Bane of My Existence and Language Arts: Neither Language nor Art.

The first named, The Folly of Socks is a brilliant assault on one of mankind's more foolish fashion faux-pas. In it Penumber elucidates an alternate history of the garment and traces the origins of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 to a misguided attempt by Bismarck to force the French to wear them. This is scholarship and philosophy conjoined, for Penumber is able to show the underpinnings of the Germanic mindset that led to the ubiquity of this fool's apparel.

As a young man in his twenties Hargo Penumber began to move away from social criticism and into the swirling world of aesthetic theory. This coincided with his discovery of the French language. Certainly people had been speaking French for some time before Penumber began it but they had been making something of a hash of it and a lot of what was written was plain gibberish. This Penumber set out, unsuccessfully, to remedy.

Most of Penumber's French writings exist only in English, as he wrote not a word of it, but they are ground-breaking nonetheless. His first published essay: Je n'ai Mange pas la Marionette (often translated as My Aunt's Pen) is a startling condemnation of French as a language and indeed of all French thought previous to Sartre.

In Nausea- I'll say! the young philosopher explained fully and completely how Sartre had erred in his thinking about the nature of man and totally misinterpreted the essence of the human experience. Then he made fun of his glasses.

But one thing that Penumber learned from the French was how to make a living writing incomprehensible tracts about art, philosophy and literature that people would buy and talk about endlessly but never really read. This he proceeded to do.

In his first full length book (he had previously self-published the monograph Cigarettes are the key to good Lung Health), which was named Phillips, Robertson and the Allen Key despite having nothing whatever to do with screwdrivers, he attacked the problem of looking at paintings from the point of view of the paint. This is widely considered to be the most opaque work ever written on the subject. Here are his "thoughts" on Jackson Pollock:

In the context of these works colours form and forms colour. It is not a matter of lines but the ideation of the practical as real, as that which cannot be described but merely circumscribed through its variant manifestations and only then in terms comprehensible to the brush. Otherwise one is left with the sensation of a kind of incarnate fullness which springs not from the paint but from the surface. The surface referred to being, of necessity not the canvas, but the ephemeral plain on which such things exist. Or maybe not.

At the age of twenty-four Hargo Penumber had penned a work that would have set the art world on its ear if anyone of them had read it. The only people who did were philosophy undergrads who wanted desperately to appear smarter than they were. Luckily for Penumber there were a lot of them. The payments from the sale of the book (and the subsequent movie starring Martin Landau as "The Brush") paid for a small cottage at Gull Lake. It was here, at the lake, that the young aesthetic philospher set out to write his second book. It was to be a collection of critical essays concerned with the influence of the Canadian Prairie landscape on Thomas Mann.

For two years Penumber slaved over the first of the sixteen planned essays. In his journals of the time he mentions many difficulties with the subject which was the connection between the area around Baldur and the first three chapters of the Magister Ludi. Near the end of the second year Penumber sunk into a deep depression when he realized that Thomas Mann had not only never visited Baldur or its environs but he hadn't written Magister Ludi either. He recovered slightly when he thought he spotted a reference to Baldur in an essay on Herman Hesse but it turned out to be a recipe for biscuits.

Penumber began to lose his mind. He managed to write a few book reviews for a variety of journals but he could not keep focused on his work. He would go for long walks around the nearby lake muttering incomprehensible pronouncements to his pet dog Betty who would attempt to hump all the other local dogs, some of the slower moving cats and the occasional unlucky squirrel. The residents of Gull Lake, canine, feline, spermophilous and human learned to avoid the pair.

On the night of September 14th 1986 Hargo Penumber walked out of his cottage leaving all the lights on and the stereo blazing A Walk in the Black Forest at top volume. He appears to have gone down to the beach as his clothes (a fez, an Izod shirt and an enormous pair of red rugby pants) were found there the next morning along with a note stating:

I can go on no longer. I have gone as far as a man can. To go further one must be a fish or at the very least a frog.

The next day, the 15th, he was discovered working in the Bay downtown in the stationary department. He is there to this day.

C.F. Maynard

Yes, that's right - it's a reprint (or repost) from 2006.