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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Bruce Chatwin on San Francisco and poet Robert Duncan

World's Greatest Travel Writer, Bruce Chatwin: "... San Francisco which is so unlike anything else in the US it doesn't really bear thinking about. It's utterly light-weight and sugary with no sense of purpose or depth. The people are overcome with an incurable frivolity whenever they set foot in it. This doesn't mean that one couldn't live here. In fact I think one could easily, preferably with something equally frivolous to do..." (1972).

...We went one night to the grand San Francisco poet Robert Duncan who is famous with the young for his grandiloquent and skilled outbursts on the Vietnam war. I on the other hand thought him one of the most unpleasant people I have ever met, with a waxen witch-like face, hair tied in a pigtail and a pair of ludicrous white sideburns. He gassed on and on in a flat monotone and it was impossible to decide if the tone was hysterical or dead pan. The house was a creepy-crawly nightmare, and betrayed la moralite des choses, all art nouveau of the worst kind. Bloodless fingers fingering the objects as he spoke, and I suspect that if he weren't fingering art nouveau objects he could just as easily be pressing buttons or ordering napalm, so sinister and obsessed with the demonic alternative he was." Letter to Elizabeth, 1972.