The Map.  In childhood I was given to improvising maps of small towns and villages.   I would often start with a stream, add a bridge, a railroad, then several roads that would converge at the town’s center.  And there would be a small park, a railroad station, a store, a post office, a school, a […]

The Ginsberg Variations

Speaking of Lionel Trilling, as I was some months ago, I have often thought of my omission of his most famous student, Allen Ginsberg, who was at Columbia in the mid-forties and who was also a Paterson schoolmate of mine. Over the years we spoke about five or six times, not counting the semester that […]

Great Ones Must Not Unwatched Go

Why do we seek fame? John Milton had a famously simple answer in Lycidas.  It was an “infirmity,” some kind of flaw, possibly verging on the pathological; a human condition.  It “spurs” us on to noble deeds, though inevitably this “fair guerdon” is trumped by death.  And so fame is, or attempts to be, the […]

Shakespeare’s Notebook

The current Broadway production of Hamlet is another reminder of its reputation for theatrical trouble making.  The play defies classification.  It is Shakespeare’s longest play and infamously difficult to edit.  It is like a jigsaw puzzle with either too few or too many pieces.  It has “superfluous and inconsistent scenes,” complained T. S. Eliot writing […]

Fire Leaf

A few days ago I joined June Bissell, George Tuesday and P. del Sorto at the Pleasantville Diner for breakfast.  Ordered the usual eggs over well, crisp bacon, and home fries.  While Rhonda, the waitress, poured the coffee, George asked me when he could expect the next installment of Indexing Life.  June said that I […]

Paul Blackburn: Letter from a poet

During my first year at NYU, I joined a group of university wags who thought it might be fun to satirize the “little magazines” of the day with a mimeographed production of their own. We called it Shades probably because we were unable to think of a more pretentious title. But it wasn’t long before […]