Ray DiPalma told me something recently, over the phone, that he repeats in this book—that his “intention is always to write something, not necessarily to write about something.” He delivers on that intention in this imposing new collection from Otis Books, the very busy imprint of Otis College of Art and Design in L.A.
DiPalma scatters clues throughout the book, hinting at what this writing is all about, the most revealing being:
Magnanimous evasions and strategies meticulously violated,
Forgotten conflicts, maxims, wily distractions, sonorities,
Logical starting points, garbled melodies, dissemblings,
Perpetual adjustments, baffling embraces, panaceas, trills,
Recapitulations, subverted calibrations, drifting rhythms,
Aimless tracings, slogans, requisite materials, hybrids, puzzles,
Penalties, nuances, seductive myths, targets, elegant solutions,
Adornments, disparate etymologies, routines, cavalier methods,
Complex interpretations, jargons, weird polarities, chosen dialects,
Melancholias, bravura caprices, abbreviations, masquerades
The subtitle of this collection is Journals and Daybooks 1998--2008, and the journal-day book framework really allows DiPalma to showcase the astounding eclecticism and erudition he brings to his work. A meticulous attention to language has always been central to DiPalma’s writing, and a macaronic spirit inhabits The Ancient Use of Stone (no surprise, really: he has corrected my Latin—with which, like most one-time Catholic schoolboys, I have a fading familiarity—and I know Ray’s first language was Italian).
[photo: DiPalma in the '70s]
Forest and Cave
The book is an album
not a final set of solutions
The real discoveries
Are to be found elsewhere
What the book exhibits
Are the ways to them
The collection is filled with incisive quotes from a huge cast of thinkers and writers (Breton: “Our brains are dulled by the incurable mania of wanting to make the unknown known”; “Raids are our agriculture”—Bedouin Proverb), wry autobiographical complaints and comments (“Short noon walk for Georgie. Encounter no unpleasant dogs—unlike earlier this morning when the 3 vicious dogs from two doors west showed up in the park. Exchange of words with the dogs’ owner. More than a few profanities”), lists of neologisms (among my favorites: gratiturd, improversion, neolurkism, nocturinal), and more than forty of his collages:
[left: part of p. 85]
“Fuck the posthumous! We want to sit down, eat, and drink sometime today!,” DiPalma proclaims. And I won’t argue with that. I’m hungry.
“Keep commentary to a minimum,” he admonishes elsewhere, and thus I will stop here.