Ponder, if you will…

“In theory one would think that power belongs to brute force. In fact, this is not the case at all: power is wielded by the magician, by the man with subtle sleight of hand. It belongs to the light-fingered cutpurse. Power belongs to art.”

–Andrei Sinyavsky (1925-1997). Excerpted from A Voice From The Chorus; translated by Kyril FitzLyon and Max Hayward.

In my senior year of high school, lingering in Miami High’s library, I began noticing these interesting names on book spines: Zamyatin, Voznesensky, Mihajlov–to name a few.

I’d been introduced to Russian writing courtesy of a very, very shambolic World Literature class. And over the fateful summer of 1982, I introduced myself to the work of Alexander Solzhenitsyn (One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich) and the collected stories of Nikolai Gogol.

One book I read during that final year of HS: a slightly acrid, bisque-paged collection of essays by a Bulgarian writer, Mihajlo Mihajlov, titled Russian Themes. And I came across a strange name in those essays: Abram Tertz, a fiction writer whose work had to be smuggled out of the USSR and back again. The more I read about him, the more I wanted to read his stories.

That would not happen, however, for several years. In which time I learned that “Abram Tertz” was a pseudonym for Andrei Sinyavsky, and that, along with a contemporary of his (Yuli Daniel, aka “Nikolai Arzhak”), he was arrested, tried and sentenced to seven years in Soviet labor camps.

But nothing prepared me for A Voice From The Chorus, culled from the letters which he sent, from camp, to his wife, Maria. It was a tour de force: musings on art, on prison life, on whatever caught his interest. And I had to read it, again and again.

And it is a book that I reread even now–a fascinating glimpse into the Brezhnev years, the persecution of writers and artists after Stalin’s death, and what moves a writer to craft and create.

Memory, Affective

This afternoon, I received the latest issue of the alumni magazine from Bennington College.

Between that and my reading of Augusten Burroughs’ memoir, <i>Dry</i>, something hit a chord with me, and I began thinking about Edward Fox.

Beautiful, beguiling Edward, all glossy black hair, bright hazel eyes, plush pink lips, and long, graceful fingers.

Lovely Edward–otterlike, sleek, hands and chest and arms furred over.

Charming Edward, so skilled at dance, so quick to laugh, his mouth a sharp white flash.

Edward, who never needed to do a single drug in his life: he was a drug, uncut, unmediated.

Edward, whose lips would never kiss mine, whose hands would never ghost over the nape of my neck.

Edward, who was the great love of my life–a perilous Muse to a heartsick poet.