Thursday, September 25, 2008

Why I Love Brunettes

And really, it was all because of Sarah Doc had even met Roxana – at the opening party for the Photocrat Gallery. He came in late from showing Godard's Pierrot le Fou to the Kinokunst Gesellschaft, and plunged through the party crowd to the bar.

People were already dancing in a spotlight near the windows. Sarah, whirling in the swirl of dancers, was wearing a translucent milky green silk dress that made her look like a jade figurine. Sarah's hair was rumple cut so short, and dyed such a startling white – that she looked like the crazy blonde from Liquid Sky who kills men with her sex,  then prays the aliens will make their corpses disappear.

Drink in hand, Doc watched Sarah writhing slowly in the spotlight almost in Tom’s arms through a long country waltz. She went on writhing sinuously counter to the slow bass back-beat underpinning the acid rock spidery organ while Tom looked for a drink.

Bill was dancing with two very pretty girls, and near them, dancing with the other girls but not with Bill, was another girl who stopped Doc's heart.

Dark hair curled around her shoulders, plush and glossy, yet so dark you almost couldn't see it. His eyes drank in those headlands where so many sailors might yet drown.

He watched her amble toward the tape deck. Rummaging in her purse, she withdrew a cassette. And her brush. Waiting for what finally turned out to be an acid rock version of Elvis Presley’s song Suspicious Minds to end, she brushed her hair back several times. One ear gleamed through her dark hair like a bit of shell.

She put in a cassette.

The pipe band music from the Rio Chongo started gently with a steel drum tapping plink plink plink plink, and she started teaching Sarah how to dance what seemed at first an extra-syncopated samba. Doc, after learning the steps, soon realized all three girls were switching men.

At first he blamed that on his clumsiness in dancing, caused by the fact that he could hardly take his eyes off Roxana. Then he blamed it on the music, which at first confused him.

But what Doc liked about that crazy tikipan pipe music from the Rio Chongo – aside from how it made girls' breasts start jiggling – was how it kept on promising to let you dance forever; it kept whirling you away from Kansas in a swirl of ecstasy in some ways so much better than a love affair that soon you believed you could dance all night with the city lights stretched out like a carpet of stars toward Corcovado, so damn lovely … happily re-syncopating all the old steps you had learned imperfectly and changing partners with blithe innocence forever.

Of course, the music might not have done so much for Doc if Roxana hadn’t trained him to catch her properly whenever she twirled back into his arms – because she always smiled so happily whenever he did it right - and then just as Doc realized he had been dancing simultaneously with four beautiful women, the Rio Chongo flowed home to the sea and the whole extravaganza faded slowly with the pipe band plink plink plinking as the steam yacht full of dancers, hull down, hooted gently over what we may as well call:

Just another lost horizon.

And now think of toffee, caramel: the scent of chocolate, coffee, cinnamon, the smell of poplar honey in the jar, Roxana's dark brown kindly eyes, Earth Mother, Pocahontas, "brown-eyed girl." The way her nipples crinkle dark brown during sex . The deep sun colored brown of beach girls wearing string bikinis; banks of brown-red loam, brown windrowed autumn leaves burning on a clear day with a plume of smoke and red small flames in clusters on the pile. Espresso sugared in the cup. Amontillado. Guinness. Jameson. A roast goose with browned potatoes. Her wet hair mahogany and ancho chilis and a grazing dark bay mare.

She'll be the one you always wanted and the one you really miss.

And what can any blonde be, really, but the after-image, pale and hazy, of which a brunette is the original?

Monday, September 22, 2008


"It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance, for our consideration and application of these things, and I know of no substitute whatever for the force and beauty of its process."

— Henry James, to H.G. Wells


"I have balanced all my books, my will is made. Only I have nothing to leave -- save to you, to whom I now leave all that is mine in the world -- my memory."

—Ford Madox Ford and Joseph Conrad, The Nature of A Crime

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Illegal Dreams

"Later, Nima told us that the son of one of his friends, a ten-year-old, had awakened his parents in horror telling them he had been having an 'illegal dream.' He had been dreaming that he was at the seaside with some men and women who were kissing, and he did not know what to do. He kept repeating to his parents that he was having illegal dreams."

— Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran

Thursday, June 12, 2008


"Love is like a journey in mountainous country, up through the clouds, and down into the shadows to an unknown destination."
— Joseph Conrad and Ford Madox Ford, Romance

Thursday, May 8, 2008

My Library

You can see my Google Books library, which includes links to Kinglake's History of the Crimean War and Abbe Huc's Travels in Tartary by clicking the link below.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


“Youth is the only season for enjoyment, and the first twenty-five years of one’s life are worth all the rest of the longest life of man, even though these five and twenty be spent in penury and contempt, and the rest in the possession of wealth, honour, respectability, ay, and many of them in strength and health. . . .”
— George Borrow, The Romany Rye

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Why We Write

“If I knew myself better I wouldn't have to write books.”

— Sybille Bedford, quoted by Andrew Barrow

The Independent, May 23, 2004

Thursday, February 7, 2008

First Post

"As for the story itself it is true enough in its essentials. The sustained invention of a really telling lie demands a talent which I do not possess."
— Joseph Conrad, Tales of Unrest

"As to Karain, nothing could happen to him unless what happens to all—failure and death; but his quality was to appear clothed in the illusion of unavoidable success."
— Joseph Conrad, "Karain," Tales of Unrest