Tuesday, August 28, 2007


[publication date Nov 23, 2007]

[436 pages]

• A book?

• A long poem? -- written in a car on the highways between Normal IL and Providence RI

• An anti-pastoral response to Ashbery's quietistic _Vermont Notebook_?

• A Sisyphean meditation on American unsettledness, its collective agitation, on roads, the ugliness and emptiness of the American roadscape?. See esp. pp 87-91

• Post-nature writing?

• The only book that I know of written entirely inside a moving car

• An account of a family falling apart

• A chronicle of affect. A narrator's movement from negative mindstates toward an awareness of those states and the resolution to overcome them

• An at times lyrical (and sometimes turgid) account of the road, the weather, etc

• A simultaneous history: the personal (the driver's separation from his daughter) and the national (a chronicle of the rise of jingoism and the invasion of Iraq)

• A gift for the driver’s daughter when she is much much older

• A personal history, a chronicle intended at one level entirely for the driver’s daughter, Clio. She is 5 at book’s opening

• An exorcism. An exorcism of violence, historical and personal

• A meditation on America and American violence/aggression. Much about Iraq, passim, &
- Genocide against Lakota, driver raised in Lakota country: pp 264-285
[Entire “Appendix” concerns genocide of the Lakota, the importance of standing up to brutal, violent, remorseless people, looking into fear and sorrow]
- Teddy Roosevelt: 135 - 144
- Violent parody of Julia Ward Howe’s “Battle Hymn of the Republic”: 114-118

• A novelized notebook literally written in a car using sketchpad and pen between Sept 2002 and Dec 2004

• An attempt at a meditation in the spirit of the great renegade sociologist C. Wright Mills who suggested seeing connections between “personal troubles and public issues”

• A story of one's man's friendship with the Shenango River: 113,128, 141, 155, 208, 218, 227, 247, 260, 273, 288, 308, 310, 325, 338, 341, 352, 353, 361, 386, 419, 434

Narrative Arc: (the driver's favorite sections in bold):

Basic narrative arc and concern of book are laid out in prologue.

Book opens w/ driver in Normal, Illinois and partner and daughter and step-daughter in Providence, Rhode Island.

- Discussion of katabasis (8-14); setting of katabatic theme of notebook: narrative arc of notebook as in one sense a journey into and out of a hell, the rising out of a self-made, or a self-permitted, hell as the notebook progresses
- Meeting Herodotus in hell (8-13)
- Essay on Whitman’s comprehensive empathy and its relation to death and the comic (8-11)
- 22-36: lengthy beating and torture of American bald eagle that eventually morphs into J Robert Oppenheimer

63-64 Essay on literary narcissism (in Aufgabe)

71- A marriage occurs in attempt to save a relationship. 71-72 theory about cockroaches proffered

87-91 Catalog of road signs from Ohio to Illinois.

96-108: Essay on dung

75-77: Violent parody of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”

136-146, 161, 217: Violent attack on Nancy Reagan

110-118, 167-171, 172-180: Violent attack on Bush family

180: A divorce is decided on 4 months later (3.16.03), the very day the US invades Iraq.

194-212: Driver meets M...., a kind person; driver not used to such a kind, calm person

213–230: Driver travels to Providence to give poetry reading, negative mindstates generated by exposure to long-standing interpersonal trauma and then deflected toward southerners, also extension of a violent verbal world constructed around Nancy Reagan, in which I think she turns into an eagle again; also talk of killing a deer with a thumbtack (p. 225); further various unfocused negativities, etc

231– 253: Optative mood. Drive to collect Clio and bring her to IL for summer. 238-241: Hymn of gratitude for Clio (not in galley version)

253–267: Driver returns to Illinois with Clio. Very happy. Simple writing. Driver's favorite section.

268-276: A meditation abt personal failure, reactivity, Late Capitalism and its entraining of emotional reactivity

281–293: Immersion in a divorce hearing at Family Court in Providence. 187-88, missing home and Minnesota, remembering divorce of parents (version in New American Writing)

293–302: Description of the divorce hearing witnessed. Drive back after hearing.

303- : Travel to spend Xmas holiday with Clio in motel. Have flu. Thérèse of Liseaux (305), Nietzsche (306-307), Matthew Arnold’s misprision of reality (303-304): Driver resolves to start meditating, to get positive (304-307). Huge snowstorm (310-314).

320 - : Clio very ill. Driver travels to see her. War in Iraq, Halliburton, Thomas Paine, the radio

335-339: landscapes in CT and southern NY, & PA

347-357 : Drive for Clio’s birthday. Slaughters in Fallujah: Ramadhi, Baghdad, Basra; on Philip Wylie’s “multi-momism” and its relation to state aggression (vis. a fight between bunnies, babies, and moms) ; physical abuse of a mom toward bunnies (353-355). Large, physically abusive mom attacks bunnies. Various sorrows. (357)

239 – 264: Driver determines to embrace a strict wash of meditative practice as a means of coming out of habitual modes of perception and action. On the logically-grounded and scientific efficacy of certain aspects of Buddhistic psychology – and the resolution to begin developing lovingkindness – and how to do that

- On Isaac Bashevis Singer, flaw, hamartia and the comic: (367-370) (as found, eventually, in Jacket Magazine, #33, “The Dangerfield Conundrum: A Roundtable on Humor in Poetry”)
- On a method of mental cultivation known as Metta Bhavana (the cultivation of lovingkindness) (371-376, 387-389)
- Last trip: advice for Clio (somewhat Polonius-like, pp 396-401);
End of main part: bottom 263-264
406-436: Appendix. Meditation on facing pain, Sitting Bull, genocidal foundations of current affective habits inherent to America, Lakota especially, the Buffalo, etc etc & the serious anger and denial subtending this landscape & its inhabitants

Poetry, wrote Diderot
at the beginnings of what would come to be “our time,”
must have something in it that is barbaric, vast, & wild.
It is some such wildness & vastness (multiplied several times over) that marks Gabriel Gudding’s unexpurgated & ever-more-inclusive Notebook. In writing or recording it, he creates an ultimate on-the-road poem, ranging between the personal & political, the familial (familiar) & the transcendent (transformal), while never stopping to apologize or to correct. Seen in that light & its attendant darkness, Rhode Island Notebook is a modern/postmodern epic as a poem-including-everything. An incredibly human/humane book at bottom, it is also Gudding’s road of excess, as Blake once had it, leading him (& us) to the palace of wisdom.

-- Jerome Rothenberg

This is a remarkably vulnerable book, a dapple-drawn vortex sutra, a contemporary odyssey, an anti-Baudrillardic-bardic remapping of America. It is a meditation on loss and fecundity, an amazing read, a necessary read, by an amazing poet. It documents travel-stubble and it brings America home like nothing else I've read. Literally written on the road, everything skitters and opens to an elsewhere. What might have been an experiment in conceptual writing has emerged into an exhilaration that makes me glad I'm still alive, in the midst of critique and highways. This is the first 21st-century classic.

- Alan Sondheim


Richard Taylor said...

"An anti-pastoral response to Ashbery's quietistic _Vermont Notebook_?" I am interested in your Notebook - especially with Alan Sondheim's comment - his own work is incredible - Vermont Notebook - for me -is one of Ashbery's best books!!

Your "anti-pastoral" response is of course satirical but I thought I would record my comment - Vermont Notebook seems to me to be bypassed too much. It has a lot of the spirit of Schuyler in it ... a great poet also, in my book. I love his: "A Picnic Sonata" and "The Morning of the Poem"..

Is your book or project in a physical actuality or in any discreet form - that is can it be seen (or bought?)?

Gabriel said...


Alan was a principle inspiration for this book. Alan has long been an inspiration -- to me and so many others. I agree that Alan's work is incredible.

I also love Schuyler. His work is far more useful to me than Ashbery's -- to my feel, S is more honest, inventive, subtle than Ashbery.

RIN is yes a book -- 436 pages worth! -- available from Dalkey Archive Press. One can buy it from them or from a variety of stores, online or "geophysical."

Richard Taylor said...

Gabriel. Hi!

I like Schuyler and Ashbery - at one stage (here in NZ - for a number of years in the 90s he was my "secret"!) - I started or restarted writing about 1988 - then I found a book (by chance by Ashbery called "Houseboat Days") a friend and I read it out together and laughed over it - I had not read anything like it - but then I hadn't read much poetry (or anything except for an Engineering course I did part time) for 20 years...then I got the bug (also my friend found Cortazar's book of stories...Famas and Cronopias -
again we had good laugh!!) But I loved it. (Later I found out about Blackburn (another diary keeper) who translated it...

Yes Schuyler is very intense, and often also full of light - perhaps not enough attention paid to him perhaps cf Ashbery et al. (But Ashbery is a great poet also.) - just as in NZ here Baxter is a great poet but perhaps not enough attention is paid to Kendrick Smithyman.

BTW you shouldn't ever get bored!!
Alan has been known to say that everything interests him!!!

In a fit of madness!!! - - as I ---shouldn't--- be using my ccs - they groan with credit groans - I bought your book from Dalkey - all the way from the US - sight unseen!

This all comes from the fact I had your Blog as link on mine (Eyelight) and a friend told (reminded me) me about it - and he was enthusing about your notebook - I read Alan's and other comments and the content - I also have daugters as and am divorced and so on and I like the idea of diaries and journies...

Interesting Alan was the main inspiration - I found him the most interesting - or one of the - on the Poetics List and I have since written about him and so on - I also found that my "The Infinite Poem" idea/project/conceptual poem which I began in 1992 had been transformed to Alan's huge Internet Philosophy work...[or so it seemed] (of course the ideas of myself and Alan are probably very different but there are eerie similarities (and I have been inspired and influenced by Alan - as well as hearing about all the other long poems and so on... - probably not to imitate exactly - but certainly the multimedia approach was reinforced and so on...except I am not as well versed in postmodern philosophy etc - or theories of the Internet etc etc.

Best wishes for 2008!

Richard Taylor said...


Hmm -not possible for you to sign said book?

Doesn't matter if no.



Gabriel said...

I'd sign said book, Richard. But HOW? You live in New Zealand -- and I tho I wish I lived in New Zealand, I don't. So, yes wd love to sign, but how to sign? Here's what: if you have Dalkey send it to me, I'll sign it and send it to you. How's that sound?

I gotta get my links back up on my blog! I "upgraded" to blogger2 and they took away all my links. I'm going to put them back one of these days -- and add yours. I love reading your blog.

And yes agreed re Schuyler (and a little re Ashbery) and certainly re Alan.

Must run now. YOu don't even wanna know why.... :)


Richard Taylor said...


I seem to have lost contact with you and also Alan - is he o.k? I see he hasstill put upimages this year...

And you - you are well?

I thought you might have lost my email

I am well - the winter here was very cold for NZ

I still want to purchase or somehow get a copy of RIN