The Ruins by Josh Calvo

“The Ruins” is Josh Calvo’s monthly dirge for sundry Aleppos of memory—all real, all lost, all his. “The Ruins” is a term borrowed from pre-Islamic poetry, in which “weeping over the ruins” is a favorite gharad; the word gharad, which literally means “purpose” and roughly corresponds to genre, is used to indicate not so much a poem’s theme as the driving force behind its utterance. “The Ruins” is the title of both the series and the first piece in the series. Josh Calvo, who is first and foremost a true writer though he also translates from  Hebrew and Arabic, among other languages dead and alive, can be reached at this email.

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Entrance to Aleppo Castle, G. Eric and Edith Matson Photograph Collection, 1898. Source: loc.gov

Then the rains washed over the ruins, like a book whose text is written and rewritten….

— Labid (d. 661)[1]

For reasons he has kept to himself, Hakham Abraham Yeshaya Dayan–—born around the turn of the nineteenth century in Aleppo, and risen to become a rabbinic leader in its Jewish community, authoring several religious and scholarly books which have now become obscure, the world to which they are addressed having disappeared and the city in which they were to be read and applied having become in the hundred years since he lived unfathomably and irreversibly unrecognizable—decided suddenly, with the dawning of what would be the decade before his death, that the time had come for him to walk along the walls of his ancient city in search of signs from its long history. For want of some sense of his inner motivations, of what he beheld in his mind whenever he tried to see Aleppo in times he cannot have known, of what image of the city as he knew it over his own lifetime had been building itself in his memory, I can discover little more than he himself has admitted—or that has, by chance or by force, admitted itself—into his words. The nineteenth-century Hakham would not have needed to describe the impression left in mind by what he could still see outside: like the feeling of what remained of what once was: or the music of the undead voices of those who lived before: the cold stone of a synagogue surviving in the walls of a mosques: or the distant echoing of King David’s cavalry and Mongol horses heard faintly, aloft the wind from faraway mountains. And now that the Aleppo he knew has smoldered and will never again be seen, what remains are only these silent words by which it will never be described.

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𝐹𝑜𝓊𝓃𝒹 The Whole Damn #amwriting Thing

Writing is one thing, reading is another, but the Literary Twitter is something else. At best it’s an improvised, collective, ever-updating fount of news, knowledge, and wit. At worst, it’s a column of ice chipped at by the axes of cutely compressed links to the world’s ever-expanding online literary content; endless self-promotion and sycophantic promotion of others; quipped opinion regarding live televised events (cable TV dramas, disasters du jour); public conversations better served by texts unread by thousands of strangers; declamations upon the craft of writing and everything else (as though there were anything else, ha ha ha); lesser-known writers retweeting better-known writers hoping to gain better-known writers’ favor; middling writers retweeting publicity staff hyping middling reviews in middling publications of middling novels; writers offering mash-up puns of canonical novel titles; writers tweeting daily pics of their word count function on their latest novel manuscripts; the whole damn #amwriting thing; pretentious young writers pitching surreal/absurdist novels or films or products or outerspace expeditions; famous novelists tweeting insights ripped from novels published long ago that no one reads anymore; writers with their Goodreads accounts synched with their Twitter so everyone can see they’ve given five stars to some non-fiction anthology published by their friends; writers who’ve tweeted nearly 50K times proclaiming their gratitude for writing and reading on the day of a domestic terrorist event; writers playing nice in the character-restricted sandbox but rarely letting loose and saying exactly what they think, that is unless their handle is @breteastonellis.

— from “Leeching the Seething in One Long Paragraph: @ThomasBernhard and the Comedy of Contempt” by Lee Klein

2018

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