Archive for Jorge Luis Borges

Pg. Seventeen, IV: The Final Chapter

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 23, 2022 by dcairns

I am now going to begin my story (said the old man), so please attend.

I picked up a few things I’d missed. The kid had a nickname, Obie. Probably from his middle name, since the initial was an O. Obadiah, possibly. Somehow, Obie Westphal sounded better than Henry Westphal. Maybe I’d use it that way after the lead; it would give the story an informal touch.

We were silent for a while and I knew that Obie, like me. was thinking of all the time spent in journalism schools and how little of it could be used when you worked on a Negro newspaper, and how rough it was — how damned nearly impossible — to get something on a daily paper.

In spite of the fact that my father had hidden $400 under the cash register, he was indicted for arson because of the $5,000 worth of insurance on his shop. He and my mother hired a Schrift relative recently out of law school to take the case. They were all convinced the charge was ridiculous. Why would an arsonist set such a small fire? All my father wanted was the $5,000 of stolen stock to be replaced. Because we didn’t have the money to raise the bail, he was taken to The Tombs. When I heard that word, I was convinced he was buried alive like my Zayda, so I was very surprised to see him alive at the trial.

The trial lasted one hundred and ninety days. Some hundred witnesses swore that the accused was Roger Charles Tichbourne–among them, four comrades-at-arms from the 6th Dragoons. Orton’s supporters steadfastly maintained that he was no impostor–had he been, they pointed out, he would surely have attempted to copy the juvenile portraits of his model. And besides, Lady Tichbourne had recognized and accepted him; clearly, in such matters, a mother does not err. All was going well, then–more or less–until an old sweetheart of Orton’s was called to testify. Not a muscle of Bogle’s face twitched at that perfidious maneuver by the “family”; he called for his black umbrella and his top hat and he went out into the decorous streets of London to seek a third inspiration. We shall never know whether he found it. Shortly before he came to Primrose Hill, he was struck by that terrible vehicle that had been pursuing him through all these years. Bogle saw it coming and managed to cry out, but he could not manage to save himself. He was thrown violently against the paving stones. The hack’s dizzying hooves cracked his skull open.

The countless tight squeezes you have been in during the course of your life, the desperate moments when you have felt an overpowering need to empty your bladder and no toilet is at hand, the times when you have found yourself stuck in traffic, for example, or sitting on a subway stalled between stations, and the pure agony of forcing yourself to hold it in. This is the universal dilemma that no one ever talks about, but everyone has been there at one time or another, everyone has lived through it, and while there is no other example of human suffering more comical than the bursting bladder, you tend not to laugh about these incidents until after you have relieved yourself–for what person over the age of three would want to wet his pants in public? That is why you will never forget these words, which were the last words spoken to one of your friends by his dying father: “Just remember, Charlie, he said, “never pass up an opportunity to piss.” And so the wisdom of the ages is handed down from one generation to the next.

All the spurious old father figures rush onstage.

Seven paragraphs from seven different page seventeens from seven different books, variously located.

Tales from the Arabian Nights, edited by Andrew Lang; The Deep End by Fredric Brown; One For New York by John A. Williams; Shelley: Also Known as Shirley, by Shelley Winters; The Improbable Impostor–Tom Castro, from A Universal History of Infamy, from Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges; Winter Journal by Paul Auster; The Place of Dead Roads by William Burroughs.

Men without Legs

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on August 29, 2020 by dcairns

In the troop of beggars we see in Capra’s POCKETFUL OF MIRACLES, along with Angelo Rossitto, newspaper salesman and small actor, we have a guy with no legs, propelling himself about on a flat cart. I was curious to see what his other credits were, but the IMDb merely listed him as “Shorty,” and when I clicked on that, it said “Shorty is an actor” and gave POCKETFUL as his only movie. But now, as I meticulously fact-check this piece, I find that he’s vanished, perhaps reunited with his phantom lower limbs in some celluloid limb-o.

(The internet is a Heraclitian river or a Borgesian Book of Sand.)

Two more Shorties feature in THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY. One is a guy nicknamed “Shorty” because he is short, though not as short as Angelo Rossitto. He gets hanged. The actor’s name was Jose Terron and he only just died last year. Sorry, Shorty.

But some online sources misidentify Terron as the legless, alcoholic ex-soldier, walking Johnny-Eck-fashion with the aid of wooden blocks, who feeds Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef) information. This guy, referred to as “half-soldier” by a sneering Angel Eyes, seems to be a Spanish amputee discovered by Leone on location, and nobody knows his name.

BUT — he has a filmography — I’m almost positive he’s also see among the limbless veterans in Cottafavi’s I CENTI CAVALLIERI. Same face, same lack of legs, same mode of ambulation.

A Spanish Civil War war veteran, or an accident victim, or what? We may never know. Unless Sir Christopher Professor Frayling has winnowed out the facts.

Pg. 17, #7

Posted in Comics, FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 12, 2020 by dcairns


The moral life of man forms part of the subject-matter of the artist, but the morality of art consists in the perfect use of an imperfect medium. No artist desires to prove anything. Even things that are true can be proved.


‘It’s in the cellar under the dining-room,’ he went on, so overcome by his worries now that he forgot to be pompous. ‘It’s mine — mine. I discovered it when I was a child, all by myself. The cellar stairway is so steep that my aunt and uncle forbade my using it, but I’d heard someone say there was a world down there. I found out later they meant an old-fashioned globe of the world, but at the time I thought they were referring to the world itself. One day when no one was there I started down in secret, but I stumbled and fell. When I opened my eyes, I discovered the Aleph.’


We see, from the start, the very strong inclination of science to deny, as much as it can, external relations of this earth.



More and more madly poured the shrieking, moaning night wind into the gulf of the inner earth. I dropped prone again and clutched vainly at the floor for fear of being swept bodily through the open gate into the phosphorescent abyss. Such fury I had not expected, and as I grew aware of an actual slipping of my form toward the abyss I was beset by a thousand new terrors of apprehension and imagination.


“I have seen Niagara thunder over her gorge in the noblest frenzy ever beheld by man,” rhapsodized Frederick Starr in a piece for the Chicago Tribune in 1909, recovered for us now by Stanley Kauffmann and Bruce Henstell in their fine anthology, American Film Criticism: “I have watched an English railroad train draw into a station, take on its passengers, and then chug away with its stubby little engine through the Yorkshire Dells [sic], past old Norman Abbeys [sic] silhouetted against the skyline, while a cluster of century-aged cottages loomed up in the valley below . . . . I have looked upon weird dances and outlandish frolics in every quarter of the globe, and I didn’t have to leave Chicago for a moment.”


Seven passages from seven page seventeens from seven different books. I belatedly recalled an entire forgotten bookcase, and rushed to avail myself of it. Of course, apart from stimulating your brains to assemble strange narratives with sparking connections, and get you wondering about what comes next, these offerings can also serve as inspiration for your purchases — if you respond favourably to a prose style, you can seek out the excerpted volume and roll around in it. See below for details.

Flaming Carrot Comics #1, by Bob Burden; The Picture of Dorian Gray, preface, by Oscar Wilde; The Aleph And Other Stories 1933-1969, title story, by Jorge Luis Borges; The Book of the Damned, by Charles Fort; Tales Designed to Thrizzle #3, by Michael Kupperman (looks like a front cover but is a panel from page 17): The Whisperer in Darkness, by HP Lovecraft, from the story Dagon; The Silent Clowns, by Walter Kerr.