Tuesday, August 21, 2007

If you have five seconds to spare, Mr. Arnold Schnabel will now tell you the story of his life

Arnold Schnabel made an unusually direct foray into the mystery of his sexuality in this sonnet (“Not merely perfection, but perfection squared,” as John Updike put it), first published in the August 10, 1963 edition of the Olney Times. (Thanks to Kathleen Maher and to the good ladies and gentlemen of the Arnold Schnabel Society.)

“Committed Bachelor”

My life’s been a series of more or less
Humiliating moments, and so much
More often more than less; I’ve made a mess
Of all my fitful bold attempts to touch
Another human being (except for
My mom) and in that rather rare case
Of someone else presuming the rapture
Of my company I will always race
For the nearest exit, out of the fear,
Bordering on certainty, that there must
Be something deeply wrong with a person
So desperate; and also they are just
So homely usually, and worse than
That, dull; and thus is curiosity
Trumped by the demon dubiosity.

(Kindly go to the right hand column of this page for links to so many other splendid Arnold Schnabel poems as well as to our on-going serialization of his previously unpublished memoir Railroad Train to Heaven.)

And now a word from the lovely Miss Joan Jett:


Anonymous said...

Here we find Arnold's truest, adulterated poetry!
But oh so tragic! Where were the kindly, kinky psychiatrists after his stay at Byberry?
And why wasn't his long-suffering mother praying to the Patron Saint of glorious, romantic love as it occurs in life, giving us penitents a mere hint of the ecstasy awaiting us in heaven?
I'll have to look up that Saint's name, since he or she (albeit women were, and still are--pay attention Pope B16!--rarely sainted for their overt sexuality) is presently obscure. Further, whoever this most holy soul might be was altogether omitted from my history classes, taught by "maiden lady" school teachers, who'd mostly left the convent without venturing very far.

Dan Leo said...

I suspect that Arnold simply stopped seeing the shrinks some time after his stay at Byberry, and I'm pretty sure he continued to eschew the prescribed pills -- as he put it in one of his earlier poems ("The Schaefer Award Theatre"), "They were a wall between me and life".

Oh, and I'm sure his mother was wearing out her rosary beads on Anold's behalf, not to mention wearing out her poor old knees with daily masses. She certainly seems to have been very forbearing.

(PS, fans: Kathleen reports in a follow-up e-mail that the patron saint in question would have been none other than good old Valentine. No doubt Mrs. Schnabel was getting off a hopeful prayer or two a day to good old Valentine for his belated intercession on her son's behalf.)

Anonymous said...

OK- I'd have to go back and refresh, I could be pulling this out of... well, you know where, but I always felt that Arnold's mother might just be the type to like a son to stay around. No woman could replace her, but then maybe I'm confusing Arnold with Norman Bates...

Sorry Arnold.

Were there ever any letters to the editor regarding Arnold and his poetry?

Dan Leo said...

Hmm, letters to the editor? Good idea, Jennifer. We'll have to do some research in the Schnabel files. I'm sure there must have been some through the many years that Arnold published his masterpieces weekly in the Olney Times.