elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,

Bruce Boone & Jamie

Bruce Boone (born 1940) is the author of Century of Clouds, My Walk with Bob, The Truth about Ted, and LaFontaine (in collaboration with Robert Gluck). He has translated works by Georges Bataille, Pascale Quignard, and Jean-Francois Lyotard. Ghosts preoccupy Bruce Boone, who lives alone now in San Francisco with only dog Sadie. He wants to write a love story about Jamie, his late beloved. But they come at him like bats.

Searching for info about what is Mr. Boone currently doing, I found this wonderful blog about the loss of his partner Jamie, A stele for Jamie, posted on August 31, 2010. It brought tears to my eyes, and it still does, every time I read it.

"It struck me pretty forceably this morning that in the last year I’ve created a giant spidersweb of Jamie references here and there, in stories, notes, prose-writing, whatever and yet, who from this crazed mess when arbitrarily assembled in a heap—could by any stretch begin to grasp who or what Jamie is and was to me. I’ll attempt a beginning this morning and see how far I get.

To have as much generosity toward other people as he had and in death still has: remembering even on his deathbed (noted a mistranslation in Richard Howard’s translation of the Barthes book on the effects on him of his mother’s death, a small thing, and though Howard’s certainly become a far better translator than the man who so monstrously translated the Baudelaire FLEURS DE MAL/FLOWERS OF EVIL ugh! Still that was decades ago and he’s much, no vastly improved in my opinion. But, this may be nitpicking but it stands for more than the one given instance, why in the world would he refer to the mother’s deathbed, or passing, or being taken as we say sometimes, or used to, “in the throes of death”—all of these apply to the French word “agonie”. Or have I already said that? Hope not. When H decides to translate the underlying French word “agonie” by the English agony it therefore gives a false impression. For in the French, unlike the English cognate you have the impression of great suffering, of, indeed—agony. Whereas the word in French simpy refers to someone’s being on their last legs, on their deathbed, that and nothing more, there’s no pain necessarily implied by the usage.

Where does the usage come from? Go back to the Greek athletic and poetic contests, competitions—and the word for such an event, or for what is undergone by anyone participating in this—the Greek word agony (agon and its cognates) takes to to the athlete or poet in question who partiipates, with others, or an other, in the contest involved. There is no implication of pain—it just mean the contesting of me against you or vice versa in the general competition of poetry-recitation, javalin-throwing or whatever. Along its trajectory in time its’ meaning changed in the middle ages, in French, to the idea of dying (or perhaps originally: competing with a death that comes to you), then somehow the meaning diverged in English becoming what we know it to be today—excruciating pain. There are only two likely reasons for the mistranslation ( such as in the MEDITATiON JOURNAL of Roland Barthes ((Journal de deuil)) that will be coming out next month, October of 2010, tr. R. Howard). It seems partiularly pretentious to misuse the French word in this English edition (plublishers proofs) because it retraces a now almost established habit—of essentially, on the part of a translator, making what is in French the word for a rather simple experience (the last stages of dying, in this case, with the word agonie in French) into something either more dramatic or, as has been the case with so many postmodern French translations to English on the part of their translators, of, by merely transliterating rather than translating, creating out of the whole “rhizome” of post-modern French theory work something that though perhaps relatively simple and easy to comprehend in French, in English have become works of an elite: that is, comprehension can often, far too often, depend on a prior knowledge of technical terms that that only been turned to technical words by lazy, superficial, or themselves pretentious translators. Let me compare this tendency to the way Freud was, early on and even today, still translated, using a specific example which will be familiar enough. In German Freud writes of das Es (the id), das Ich (the ego) and das ueber-ich (or superego). But in fact Freud’s use of these words as components of his own theory make use of common everyday terms. Ich just means I. Likewise, ueber-ich is simply a made-up term that means something like “the thing controling the I, or ich”. “ Id, Latin for “it” should, similarly be left exactly as it is, it should be translated “the it”—with all that common-sense comprehension which is precisely what the official translation of Freud’s “id”, by not translating it to English “it” but leaving it as a gibberish piece of Latin that few will understand, makes a mockery of Freud’s intention to be above all—accessible—instead of becoming part of a whole body of work that remains today the special province of academics, or perhaps they should be called Mandarins (unless that’s become a racist term).

All this, preliminarie to some essentials about Jamie, about our life together. Everything that follows will follow the order of my heart not chronology or the order of spiritual importance, again instead of some artificial chronological.

After he died on the voice mail of my phone I found a message from him, sent I think a few days earlier one morning. It went something like this. “Hi darlin’ I’m not used to not seeing you this early in the morning (the message was time-stamped at 10:30am on the day it was sent).” Then there were a few practical matters, then he closed. “You’ll never know how much I love you. No. You will.” and then this. “After I die when you die I’ll find you if I have to SMELL you out!” That was something he’d said often and given his very rural and ranch background and the fact that his dad was official trapper for the state of New Mexico, it gave it a real reality-effect, it pierced me to my heart like nothing else he could have said.

So I listened to this often several times a day after he died. And I remember thinking (though those of you who know me will know I’m not particularly gifted in many practical things, am a total wash-out when it comes to the spatial-mechanic aspects (like this computer) that others seem to do without any trouble at all. What could I have been thinking? But this message was the only physical part of him still left and I wanted to keep it without ever letting it get away from me. For about three weeks the trick worked and I would enter some other kind of reality listening to the recording of his voice. But the impractical part of me lost him. Why hadn’t I realize that of course the phone company would have some limit to the time you can keep at your disposal a particularly important message—in this case his very and physical—words, themselves. The day came and I dialed up my voice mail messages but some automatic device installed by the phone company having reached its time limit had erased it completely. Now there was nothing, since I don’t consider his “ashes” to be real physical parts of him unlike the way I hear his actual voice, it was gone, he was gone, Jamie had I realized completely disappeared, been scattered in all his physical being, to the four corners of the earth and returned to the emptiness when he had come. I cannot being to describe the depths of something near to despair. Every part of me as the realization sunk in began, my lungs and voice only being their agent but the despair came from the deepest physical part of me—the me that remains what is most properly described as being a me. I was sitting on our bed, our marriage bed, sitting on the edge, feeling punched right in the solar plexus, bent over almost to my drawn-up knees and just—howling and howing and howling. The next morning I got (for the first time) a protest note from the neighbors against Sadie, our Yorkie’s rude behavior. For that night she too howled and though I reached my end a last, she did not—and no one in any of the adjacent apartments could sleep that night.

If I were asked to somehow try to center the source of all that caused this mourning by being, as a presence, suddenly being stolen from me, I would have to say, among so many loving words and the well-worn physical being that had been magically recreated for me as a voice-mail what part of it, which was it that was the center of the loved thing-and-person from which everything else would have to be described as radiating out—I would immediately reply—“the way he said, called me “darlin’.” And that will tell you something about how I loved Jamie. What I really loved in Jamie was not just a single person but a person inseparable from his country or southwestern culture. When he called me “darlin’” he meant it so absolutely it was the knife again, cutting to the core of my heart. It had something a culture soaked in blood, a tough culture, a culture that formed its social group beneath those mountains, as a community in some way both a close to nature as any community I”d ever spent time in and at the same time formed that same community AGAINST itself, against the storms, the searing heat of the desert, the legacy of demands that required a community in which each was closer to each other than in any other I’d known but also created a social grouping formed first and foremost as being AGAINST: against what then? Against each other, family to family, against nature, the looming moutains above, the hot hot hot desert constantly burning feet that had to treat on it—but generally just against, that’s all. (http://bruceboone.wordpress.com/2010/08/31/jamie-2/)

Bruce Boone, 1988, by Robert Giard (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/brbldl_getrec.asp?fld=img&id=1123731)
American photographer Robert Giard is renowned for his portraits of American poets and writers; his particular focus was on gay and lesbian writers. Some of his photographs of the American gay and lesbian literary community appear in his groundbreaking book Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, published by MIT Press in 1997. Giard’s stated mission was to define the literary history and cultural identity of gays and lesbians for the mainstream of American society, which perceived them as disparate, marginal individuals possessing neither. In all, he photographed more than 600 writers. (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/digitallibrary/giard.html)

Further Readings:

Century of Clouds by Bruce Boone
Paperback: 120 pages
Publisher: Nightboat (December 8, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0982264526
ISBN-13: 978-0982264522
Amazon: Century of Clouds

This edition restores to print a central text of the New Narrative movement, founded in San Francisco by Boone and Robert Gluck in response to the stagnation of contemporary experimental poetry of the late 1970s. Wishing to bring the vigor and energy of the gay rights and feminist movements, Bruce Boone's writing of the late 1970s is as fresh, funny, witty, and self-reflexive as it was thirty years ago. First published in 1980, Century of Clouds, based on Boone's experiences at the summer meeting of Marxism and Theory Group in St. Cloud, Minnesota, takes up issues of sexuality, political and theoretical identity, religion, and friendship in the characteristically rich and varied writing of the New Narrative movement.

My Walk with Bob by Bruce Boone
Paperback: 49 pages
Publisher: Ithuriel's Spear (March 30, 2006)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0974950262
ISBN-13: 978-0974950266
Amazon: My Walk with Bob

Fiction. Gay and Lesbian Studies. Memoir. This collection of conversations and ruminations during walks around the city was first published in 1979 by Black Star Series, San Francisco. It was immediately recognized as a core text by a group of young writers known collectively as the New Narrative school, associated with Robert Gluck's workshops and other events held at Small Press Traffic. The anecdotal stories reveal what it was like to be gay and interested in intelligent literature in 1970's San Francisco. Dennis Cooper calls it "a seminal and perfect work," and for Camille Roy it is "a founding document, and the brilliant record of an opening in writing."

More Particular Voices at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Particular Voices

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Tags: author: bruce boone, particular voices

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