Letter to an evil agent recalling a death threat

Dear (esteemed agent),
It has come to my attention that some of what I wrote
to you might actually be considered a real threat, and I
want you to know that of course as a writer of satire
and noir I was only practicing my trade.
Of course I would never want you to be looking
over your shoulder wondering whether a disgruntled
writer would crack your skull with a baseball bat or
stick a knife in your spine to disable you before cutting
your throat in the elevator of your building. That
would truly be awful, for we are both fathers, and, as I
know, you made every effort to do right by my son and
just could not manage. I would not deprive your chil327
dren of a father. I simply take a joke too far. Sorry
about that, and please do not fear my coming at you
with a baseball bat to your skull or a knife to your
spine (before slitting your throat). I am not that type of
man, and in fact some of the violence my characters engage
in sickens me – I cannot stand when they take a
bat to a skull or a knife to a spine prefatory to slitting a
In fact, though I know you have officially, and tenderly
at that, resigned as my agent, I still would love
for you to read my novel “Kramberger with Monkey, or
Still Life,” for despite the lack of baseball bats and
knives to spines, there is much blood and humor, which
I know to be to your taste.
If you are interested, please let me know, and I will
send you that novel – it’s all about assassination, but
only as satire, and there is no glee or satisfaction taken
in the manner of deaths. Plus none happen in New
York, none with a baseball bat to the back of your head
or any other head, and no knives to your spine or any
other spine.
I hope this puts you at ease. You do know, of
course, from your experience with fiction writers, that
we have a hard time turning off the imagination, and so
if I seem to imagine bashing in your skull with a baseball
bat or catching you in your elevator and knifing
you in the spine prefatory to slitting your throat, it is
only that fictional part of me, that irrepressible free fictional
spirit in me, giving you the blood and tension
that I have come to know you enjoy in a novel.
All the best,
Rick Harsch

To Ignore James Joyce’s visit to Piran is to Fail to Get to the Heart of Jimmy


To Ignore James Joyce’s visit to Piran is to Fail to Get to the Heart of Jimmy

James Joyce was an Irishman, there’s no getting around it, but his comfort in Trieste as well as his love for drink and song and multilingualism suggest he was more Istrian than Irishman in spirit. If you don’t believe me, read The Years of Bloom: James Joyce in Trieste, or go to Trieste and count the plaques and statues regarding Joyce. Right there on the Canale Rosso he is captured in stride; in the giardino pubblico his bust is expertly presented—near to Italo Svevo’s, Svevo, the Triestine writer Joyce made famous, and whose bust has been stolen three times while Joyce’s, one would think in reverence, has been left alone. Oh people from around the world descend on Trieste to soak in Joyceana, to drink where Jimmy drank, to, well, try to see the city Jimmy saw. But they don’t see it, not there, not in a Trieste denuded of multifarious splenetic life by the loss of its hinterland since Jimmy left.

Ah, but there is a place for them to go to find what Jimmy saw when Jimmy was there. I remember a book event I held in Piran on the punta some three years ago that went on all night, precisely what Joyce would have experienced in the same Piran a hundred years ago. And, lo and behold, we know that Joyce WAS there, he was in Piran in 1910, and he did stay all night, he got drunk and slept on the marlstone, yes, we know this for a fact because his life is well documented—and this particular night was especially significant because Jimmy awoke with an eye infection that never ceased bothering him, that eventually led to his famous blindness, that gave him the famous patch over his eye. Yes, Joyce likely took the Parenzana up and down the coast numerous times, one time too many, one time to his misfortune. There is no doubt that he drank great wine, that part of his night must have been swell, there is no doubt he sang before he passed out—he had quite a tenor—but he did pass out and he did awaken with an eye infection in 1910. And nothing in Piran marks this event. The best writer in the world in the 20th century suffered a seminal difficulty in Piran, visited Piran, in 1910 and the town does not recognize this event.

This is an astonishing lack of imagination or energy, I don’t know which. I alerted the vice mayor 12 years ago and wrote in Primorske novice about the event 12 years ago. If Piran were to build a simple statue of a drunken Joyce somewhere in Piran, hundreds if not thousands of literary pilgrims would visit every year, many of them hard drinkers, most of them big spenders. Conferences could be held. Money would be made. Most importantly, a significant event in Joyce’s life would be on the map. This is your last chance, Piran. If you do nothing, we build the statue in Izola and attach an arrow pointing to Piran.


Day dreaming, driving, dementia without dolor, a fare without an affair, a frolic, oh the calm creep of crepuscule, safe on the sunny side of the Sierras, the sunnier side of the century, great grandmother Gravel, of whom our Donnie knew nought but of Nevada nativity and a taxi trade, while now Donnie, nude, feet on the patio table, coffee near, Hermione head nearer, nuzzling about his nethers, late morning of the third day of mating, reading the Review-Journal, ‘Christ, listen to this, after the usual drone strike kills militants in Pakistan, war crime enough, listen to this: US soldiers accused of hunting Afghan civilians, um, they made a game of it, picking out—it says at random—victims, taking turns, just killing whoever they felt like, shot kids in the head, old men, ladies, quote “There were few men of military age”, so the game was a sort of psycho roulette, as perverse as it gets, as if the least deserving, the most innocent’—now she lifted her head, ‘You’re serious?’ ‘If it makes the newspaper you can bet it was ten times worse. Normally this kind of shit gets hushed up…wait, here: for the last half year at least…reported by British, suspicious sequence of deaths…Ah: someone’s talking. That’s the thing. Unnamed. In protective custody. I wonder where that could be, the guy’s got more guns aimed at him now than the entire Taliban…’

Of course, Donnie had no way of knowing what went through his great-grandmother’s mind when she drove a regular from Virginia City to Carson City, the prescience wasted traveling from brain to mouth, but how utterly fulfilling it would have been to have known…and been able to fill her in on what happened since, perhaps even pick her brain for more thoughts. Did she know of the Maginot line? Did she intuit the Schlieffen plan or was she just vaguely correct in assuming a sort of Berlin to Paris route? Had she any notion at all, gathered from the practice wars leading up to the big one, that war itself had changed, that material technique had surpassed mental technique, that the war would be won by the rats and viruses? Her man was the last in the line to have foreskin: what would she have made of that? Maybe her son had foreskin, too, we can’t be sure. Donnie didn’t and he knew why and how ridiculous the procedure was. He was not a man for the trenches, not at all. Did she know how long it was all going to last, and did she know that the interment in trenches was unsustainable, so that the next big war—there would have to be two, anyone could see that—would of necessity be both bigger and necessitate the slaughter of civilians to end it. And that the extraordinary advances in civilian slaughtering techniques—accelerant bombing from the sky, factory gassings, nuclear bombings—would necessitate the fragmentation of wars, would have a multiplier effect on war itself, so that the civilian killing devices (there would be so many more—so many types of mines and ingenious combinations of cunning culling creations of new and ancient like cluster bombs and napalm) might be used more discretely, and more often, that areas of the globe previously of little concern outside colonial offices run by gin and quinine quaffing clubmen would of necessity require extraordinary concentrations of weaponry, that finally all these casus belli casuistree would castrulminate in a perfect symmetry of killing by drone whereby the machines flown by men at desks killed people who knew nothing of war—into the valley of death rode nobody anymore, and such had never made any sense anyway: when you’re at war with a country, what good does it to fight a fragment of that country called its military? That was never war at all. War, true war, is one side against the other, nation versus nation, and in that war one must recognize the nation as its people, and it is they one must defeat, not some mullah-picked army, not some upstart tribal chiefs soldiers, not some ideologue’s converts; what you want is the family of the enemy people at table, preferably an extended family, a family compound, twenty or thirty of them, round dinner time, and you unloose your typewriters on them and five or six or three hellfire missiles interrupt the meal, deal the people a blow; or you wait for a wedding, then you get fifty to a hundred, and you hit them where it hurts, right in the procreation, right in the virginity; and then you’ll have a funeral, attended at times by up to two hundred if you’ve done your job right, at which point your typists can strike at the very heart of meaning, the death ritual, which of course means nothing if it is accompanied by more dead than the dead, multiplies the dead, making of the funereal epic of tribe and nation a farce.

But tell me: would great-grandmother want to know? Would she consent to die as she subsequently did, self-somewhat-satisfied, disappointed as she was that her son was a drunk and yet poor roustabout, that is to say not one to come out on top in a brawl lest it occurred between he and his wife, and even then not so likely? The knowledge of the Great War’s surprises were now known to her, yes, but she certainly had no idea what they really meant, that such extravagant dementia was but a catalyst for suffering even trenchrats and gassed and shellshocked could not prepare one, for the factories, the flames, the evaporations, the one hundred civilians for the single Kraut, the famine of victors, the thousands eaten by sharks and crocodiles, the hydracockery of mass war rape, the six hundred in a valley narrowing to ravine and foibe yet increasing their catch to one hundred, one thousand times that number, a garish eldritchery of exponentional executionism.

Slovenia versus the US, part 3 I think

Some cazzo in the US is upset that I said that most Slovenes think that Americans are insane regarding gun laws. Now he’s pissed because I said they have a low level of education.

Here is the exchange as it stands right now.


Edited: Today, 10:23am Top

the shamefully low level of your education

What percentage of Slovenians have a college degree again? While you’re at it, how many Slovenian universities make the list of the top 500 universities in the world?

my answer:
>43 timspalding: Silly defensive little boy. SLOVENIA ranks #1 in high school graduates, tied with Portugal at 96%. The US is 21st at 76%. Strikes me as shameful.
University education: (2011 25 to 34 year olds OECD: US 12th at 43%; SLOVENIA 25th at 33%).
Take your pick.
A couple more stats:
Health care a virtual tie, at around 37th in the world, despite the US spending more than any country in the world per person (which people you suppose?). Strikes me as shameful.
Child abuse: US fifth worst in the world, SLOVENIA not mentioned. Strikes me as shameful.
Personal safety index: SLOVENIA #10, US not mentioned. Strikes me as shameful.
GENDER EQUALITY: SLOVENIA 5th of 36, US 28 of 36. Strikes me as shameful.
Global peace index: Slovenia 14th in the world, US #101. Strikes me as obscene.Through high school Slovenia is far ahead of the US in both math and science. Strikes me as interesting. And shameful.

Oddly, the two nations are virtually tied as polluters. Strikes me as shameful, both teams.

Any other questions?

Oh, the University of Ljubljana is among the top 500 universities in the world. I reckon it’s less expensive than any university within 100 miles of your sweet hovel.

the exchange continues:


Edited: Today, 11:16am Top
>45 RickHarsch:

You’re right. You are good at graduating high-school graduates. We’re good at college. By the way, I like how you made it only 25-34 year olds, since 40% to 25% is a pretty stark reminder of how backward you are, but, yes, are catching up. You might soon surpass Poland—woo-hoo!

Oh, the University of Ljubljana is among the top 500 universities in the world. I reckon it’s less expensive than any university within 100 miles of your sweet hovel.

It is. Slovenians can go to one university that ranks between 400 and 500 in a global survey—tied with Egypt, yay! The US has 16 of the top 20 (#1 and #3 in my home town) alone, and that’s not even counting America’s extraordinary galaxy of non-university colleges (e.g., Bowdoin, Colby and Bates near me now). American universities are indeed expensive, and that’s a problem. The flip side of that is that they’re really good, not dependent upon public spending that, as we’ve seen in many European counties, is fickle and woefully low overall.

Overall, however, in this and the last time we tangled on how great Slovenia is and how sucky America is, you don’t seem to get that the US is not a single unit, but a multitude. The United States has more diversity in its educational attainments than Europe itself does. We have, for example, states with more educated citizens than any country in Europe, and we have states that are practically second-world in their educational systems. If we were Slovenia, this would be very odd indeed. Small, homogenous countries recently subject to state socialism expert everything to be the same everywhere. Americans do not.

my resonse:


Today, 11:25am Top
I found the one I posted first–I accept whatever the overall is. Slovenia is a small, poor country, but very diverse. And it has only been a country just over two decades. Slovenia is probably not homogenous, whatever that means (do you know?), nor is it homogeneous, which perhaps, given your educational possibilitities you probably thought you were saying. Slovenians are virtually all multi-lingual, speaking Slovene and Serbian and Croatian and Bosnian by virtue of its history, and Hungarian, German, and Italian given its geography. English is widely spoken here, of course. We are also well-situated vis a vis great universities as part of the EU, with, for the best instance in my book, the University of Bologna three and a half hours away, 20 by car and the rest by reliable and cheap rail.

If you don’t find it shameful that the wealthiest nation in the world can’t graduate a quarter of your people from high school, by all means take the elitist road, and speak about colleges.

As for what I know about the US, it probably exceeds what you know by the simple virtue of my knowledge of sociology and my ability to criticise even that which is close to home.

I notice you are not interested in the rest of my stats, which I assume to some degree do make you ashamed. Child abuse, sexism, violence.

Haiku of al Suzyu


  • flattering droplets
    intent upon their vacuum
    confused ambient
  • rice well fermented
    side slog fore of a dazed dog
    wooden slatted walls