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Themes & Motifs in the Sallis Oeuvre
Richard Martin


In interviews, James Sallis has commented on how he sees an overarching unity to his various writings; dominant themes and motifs surfacing not only in his novels, poems, and short stories but also evident in his essays and forays into literary criticism and review work. This section of the James Sallis Web Pages endeavours to identify some of the most recurrent of these.

Many of these themes and motifs have percolated throughout Jim's literary output since the late 1960s, from the short story Récits to the avant-garde novel Renderings. Such works' playful self-reflexivity, allusiveness, surrealism, existentialism, temporal elisions, occasional violence, and critical surveillance of human interaction and modes of communication, mark Jim out as a potent literary voice continuing the traditions of such masters of the medium as Cervantes, Joyce, Camus, and Pynchon. That he has lent his extraordinary writing qualities to crime and science fiction has been to the benefit of each of the genres; respecting the traditions of both, he has injected new life into each by hybridizing them with his own modernist motifs.



There are three dominant forms of blurring in Jim's work:

1. The notion of temporal, spatial, and personal elisions; the modernist conception, epitomized in Borgesian fiction, that all time is one time (the eternal present), all places one place, all people one person. This comes across clearly in the Griffin novels, especially if we accept that their narrator is an elderly Lew, his fallible memory eliding events from his life's history, flashing back, foreshadowing, blurring, failing completely.

Some examples:

The whole of the essay, Making Up America.

The discussion of time and ritual in the essay, Circles. (Note that ritual is also a key motif in Jim's essays, American Solitude and Civility.)

Doo-Wop, the Griffin novels' equivalent of T. S. Eliot's Tiresias in The Wasteland; symbol of elision; collector of fragments of other people's lives; storyteller.

Does Lew Griffin, in an example of multiple elision, meet a future version of himself (perhaps the Lew of Cricket's Nighttown sequence) in Black Hornet (86-87)?

When Lew is in hospital injured or coming out of a drunk, he often sees a whir of faces – friends, family, historical figures, the people he seeks out, the criminals he encounters. See Fly (96, 183), Moth (202), Hornet (61), Bluebottle (27-31).

Title of Ray Amano's book, Verge, in Bluebottle. The title of Jim's own poem, Borders. The frequent references to the rim or the edge of the world in Jim's poetry (see, for example, To a Friend with Good Counsel or In My Solitude).

The motif of Venn diagrams in Jim's work (see below for references).

References to Hopi Mean Time (see below for references).

The many references in the Griffin books, the other novels, the short stories, and the poems, to time, memory, guilt, nostalgia, and loss reinforce this notion of temporal blurring; the past rendered immediate and accessible, the time of the narration and that of the narrated events blurred into one.


Some quotations about blurrings:

"All my faces had run together like cheap watercolor." From the short story, The History Makers.

"Our cities and their malls have become indistinguishable, another blur like the blur of noise that assails us endlessly." From the essay, Living Without History.

"These are men / with yellow eyes, men / who admit no borders." From the poem, Harbor.

"Always the past events of his life elude him. A face, dragged out of memory, will float away in the sift of present sensations. This woman he is with becomes every woman he's been with. And for the future he holds no great expectations. Things will go on happening, and will be largely like the things that have already happened." Renderings, 26-27.

"He sits looking out at the southwestern sky, his life now made up of small rituals and repetitions, yesterday's indistinguishable from today's, today's preparing tomorrow's." Renderings, 83.

"Walsh and I walked out of the bar into streets suspended timelessly somewhere between dark and light. Everything was either blinding white or dead black, edges leached away by gray – like in old movies. For a moment I didn't know if it was morning or evening. And for another terrifying moment I had no idea where I was." Black Hornet, 85.

"Things gone gray, beginning to lose edges." Black Hornet, 170.

"I remember a December, unseasonably warm – it might have been June. Sometime in the late sixties. Cataclysms everywhere: social, racial, personal. The whole period's kind of a blur. Not a good time for me, as they say." Eye of the Cricket, 18.

"I drifted as though on a raft: asleep, awake and somewhere in between, sounds around me settling in half-acknowledged, setting off sparks that caught at the dream-tinder." Eye of the Cricket, 126.

"Most of it's a kind of blur, you understand, what happened when, the order of things." Robert Lee/Lew Griffin2 in Eye of the Cricket, 178.

"I became vaguely aware of evening settling in again outside my window, borders of one nap blurring into the next, no checkpoints or crossing guards." Bluebottle, 135.


2. Allusions, quotation, and intertextuality; the notion that all art belongs to the same cultural pool, everything overlapping and intersecting with everything else. All of Jim's texts are heavily allusive, from the shortest of poems to the novel, Death Will Have Your Eyes.

3. Passing; racial blurrings. This recurs throughout the Griffin books: the characters of Corene Davis and Frankie DeNoux, for example, or the allusions to George Schuyler's book, Black No More. It also features in the Winner section of Jim's short story, Occasions.



Communication is a dominant motif in Jim's work. It is tied in to the recurrent depiction of failed relationships and the exploration of the breakdown of meaningful human interaction that permeates all of Jim's fiction and poetry. His work abounds with references to the mechanical modes by which people now interact with one another, suggesting man's increasing alienation from his fellow man. There are many instances in his work, too, where characters in one-on-one situations are incapable of conveying their thoughts and emotions to their companions. See, for example, the account of the end of Verne's and Lew's relationship in Bluebottle (129-32).

Also, as in the work of Thomas Pynchon, there is this notion of signs and meaning – everything communicating something – leading to information overload and paranoia. Note, for example, the overt references to semiology and the reading of "signs" in the poem Temptation of Silence, and the many allusions in Jim's work to his friend David Lunde's poem, An Interesting Signal/A Very Dull Movie. See also the short story, The Invasion of Dallas, in which an alien attempts to come to terms with mankind's communication systems.

Signs, semiology, and modes of communication are important ingredients in Jim's novel, Death Will Have Your Eyes, a key work in his oeuvre that shares the "on the road" setting and paranoia of such books as Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49, Don DeLillo's Running Dog, Theodore Roszak's Flicker, and Geoff Dyer's The Search. ["The road gives us release, reaffirms the discontinuity of our lives, whispers to us that we are after all free, that (around this curve, when we reach the next town, if we can only make it to California) things will change. Twain and Kerouac both knew the great American novel would have to be a book of the road. So did James Fenimore Cooper, before there were roads." James Sallis, Death Will Have Your Eyes, 62.]

Technology (both as an aid and hindrance to communication)

  • In the Griffin books LaVerne often has to be tracked down with a series of phone calls (e.g. Fly, 29).
  • In the Griffin books, Don Walsh is always having to break off from his telephone conversations with Lew to talk to/shout at someone in the squad room; broken circuits, communication breakdown.
  • Lew's comments on technological means of communication in Eye of the Cricket (54).
  • Zeke's reaction to the answer machine in Eye of the Cricket (143).
  • Crossed telephone lines in the short story How's Death?
  • The computer as a mode of communication in the short story Becoming.
  • The numerous coded telephone calls of Death Will Have Your Eyes.
  • Numerous references to television, often as a companion, in Death Will Have Your Eyes. See, for example, pages 124, 126, 151, & 169.


Mail/Letters/Telegrams (as recurrent motif)

  • Griffin novels: The Long-Legged Fly (7, 45, 161), Eye of the Cricket (1, 185), Bluebottle (98)
  • Other novels: Renderings (22-25, 27, 33, 36, 41, 49, 62, 77), Death Will Have Your Eyes (118-20)
  • Short stories: And then the dark—, Bubbles, Changes, Delta Flight 281, Doucement S'il Vous Plaît, The First Few Kinds of Truth, The History Makers, Jeremiad, Jim and Mary G, Letter to a Young Poet, Only the Words Are Different (Part 3), Others, Pure Reason, Récits
  • Poetry: Among the Missing, Apostrophe, Celebration, Country Music, Evolution of the Day,For David (aka And My Poor Fool Is Hanged?), Installments, In the Realm, Last Best Friend, P.S., The Surrealist's Vacation, To a Friend with Good Counsel
  • Essays: Accounts Due, Literary Life, Poetry: A Beginner's Manual, Pushing Envelopes, Temporary Life, Wounds of Waiting


"I moved my hand to activate the dampers. All sound outside the booth sank to a dull, low murmur like the sea far off, while motion continued, bringing as it always did a strange sense of isolation and unreality."
James Sallis, 'Faces, Hands: Kettle of Stars'.

"Communication then has again proved impossible o well."
James Sallis, 'Insect Men of Boston'.

"To survive, to go on and to give birth to civilization, cities and civil suits, we learned to communicate, and now we've become compulsive communicators, unable to stop even when there's no more to say, unable to acknowledge silence.

"And perhaps that, communication, is finally but another avatar of our compulsive pattern-making – of the art, music, literature and philosophy through which we impose temporizing form on the chaos we see all about us, because we cannot do otherwise."
James Sallis, Renderings, 48.

"Signs again. Hidden meanings, messages."
James Sallis, Death Will Have Your Eyes, 125.

"Increasingly I come to the notion of all human activity — speech, music, the theory of relativity — as metaphor."
James Sallis, 'Circles'.

"We're afloat each day in a lashing sea of noise, bodies, automobiles, information. Our children learn their language, and thus their dreams and desires, from television, popular songs and movies."
James Sallis, 'American Solitude'.

"There is so much to say, the world / has so many messages for us."
James Sallis, 'Installments'.

"Words have no knowledge; / only our fear / knows the names of things."
James Sallis, 'Principles of Aesthetics'.



entropy 1. a measure of the unavailability of a system's thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work. 2. a measure of the disorganization or degradation of the universe. 3. a measure of the rate of transfer of information in a message.
From the Concise Oxford Dictionary.

Cf. Thomas Pynchon's short story 'Entropy' (collected in Slow Learner) and his novella The Crying of Lot 49, both of them acknowledged influences on Jim and his work. The former is cited in Jim's short story Others.

"He lies on the floor, overcome / by entropy"
 James Sallis, 'Eft'.

"Entropy, information theory, stuff like that... I think."
James Sallis, 'Enclave'.

"The chaos, he knew, was apparent. An illusion. The real problem was over-organization, entropy, the seeming confusion only the final struggle against its imposition. Fact and metaphysics were, finally, the same thing."
 James Sallis, 'The Anxiety in the Eyes of the Cricket'.

"An object at rest stays at rest, and I was very much at rest."
James Sallis, 'Faces, Hands: Kettle of Stars'.

"No one cares. No one, frankly, gives a damn. Anomie and entropy. The birthrate still declines, the city collapses into itself."
James Sallis, 'Only the Words Are Different' (Part 5).

"I boiled too much water on the stove, raising the level of entropy in the world."
James Sallis, Renderings, 96. (The line echoes the poem 'Living with you', which was featured in Jim's short story, 'Jeremiad', and is reprinted in Sorrow's Kitchen.)

"Meanwhile connections between myself and the world were faltering, as though tiny men with hatchets hacked away at cables linking us, cables that carried information, images, energy, power. The world, what I could see of it, had contracted to a round tunnel, through which I sighted. On the rim, just our of sight, images sparked and fell away into darkness. Beautiful in the way only lost things can be. Then darkness closed its hand."
James Sallis, Bluebottle, 10.

"Everything connects in Goodis' world; everything circles back, all streets bear one down to the same dead end. One's past, chopped away like a rotting limb, returns in a chance encounter, a woman's face at the window, an opening door. A man's entire life comes down to a stain on the street, to the wrong choice he had to make, to a few safe, seductively shadowed places.... Virtually every Goodis novel is cut to this pattern. The books, and the lives they describe, are closed circuits. Something gives the protagonist's life a nudge, lends it new momentum, and for a time, set in motion, it remains in motion; but then inertia's other side rolls up and the life comes back to rest, to full stop. It's a repose for which the protagonist has paid dearly, giving up everything else, and it may well be all he values now."
James Sallis, Difficult Lives, 50-51.



Throughout Jim's work there appears the figure of the writer (the protagonist of Renderings, for example, or the poets who proliferate in the early short stories), as well as numerous other figures involved in publishing (editor Lee Gardner in Bluebottle), education (Lew Griffin as lecturer in Moth and Eye of the Cricket), or artistic creation (David before the start of his adventure in Death Will Have Your Eyes, the artist partners of short story protagonists, the sculptors of early short pieces, and the theatrical performers of Enclave and Eye of the Cricket). Jim's novels, short stories, and poems, as we keep reiterating, are also packed with allusion and quotation, referencing both works by Jim and the wider cultural pool filled by other authors, filmmakers, artists, and musicians. Such elements serve to underline the self-reflexivity and playfulness that characterizes much of Jim's writing. This playfulness is also conveyed in the Griffin books, for example, by Lew's musings on literary creation, his roles as novelist and university lecturer, and his (or another's?) occasional interjections into the narrative from the viewpoint of an elderly narrator in the 1990s (well illustrated in Black Hornet, 60 & 77, and Bluebottle, 103). Possibly the most overtly self-referential of all Jim's texts are the two hors série novels, Renderings and Death Will Have Your Eyes; the former, in particular, serves as a repository for all the concepts and ideas that circulate through Jim's novels, short stories, poems, and book reviews.

Some examples:

Reconstructing the facts, reportage, etc. From Black Hornet, 81: "What follows is not what Walsh and I heard then, a stuttering, inchoate tale in which the narrator seemed at times a participant, and which seemed somehow still to be going on, but a version pieced together from Doo-Wop's story and a subsequent telephone conversation with Frankie DeNoux." This reconstruction by the narrator of reported events is a stylistic device also frequently employed by James Lee Burke in his Dave Robicheaux books.

Storytelling as a form of reconstruction and, in Bluebottle, even detection. See, for example, comment on page 61 of Bluebottle.

Writing notes about hunting down Carl Joseph in Black Hornet (173-74) and then using them later – "I began playing with it, improvising, letting the piece go where it would."

Eye of the Cricket: the narrative pauses temporarily as Lew/the narrator browses through his notes (112).

Review of Lew Griffin'sBlack Hornet in Moth (30), before Jim Sallis's Black Hornet has even been written.

The writing process and self-conscious commentary on it: Eye of the Cricket, 146 & 188.

Playfulness in Moth (44): A repeated, lengthy description interrupted with the parenthetical comment "(see above)."

Playfulness in Bluebottle (56): the narrator comments on the complexity of the previous sentence.

The short story, Notes. Like T. S. Eliot's appended notes to The Waste Land, these serve as artefact, drawing attention to the process of literary creation itself.

Throughout Jim's work, there is the recurrent figure of the artist wife and/or partner. See, for example, Renderings (7, 72, 96), or the figure of Deborah in Eye of the Cricket. This figure also appears frequently in Jim's short stories and essays.


There is also the playfulness of Jim alluding to his own work. In Eye of the Cricket (83 & 85), for example, he alludes to his novel Renderings. In Moth (54) there is a brief allusion to his short story Alaska. In Death Will Have Your Eyes(87) he alludes to the same Voznesensky poem, Family Graveyard, that he translated from the Russian. In the same novel (178), he also alludes to his short story, Potato Tree. Renderings, throughout, has many echoes and mirrors of his poems and short stories (most notably, the poem, "Guage," which was featured in the story, Occasions, on page 21; The Creation of Bennie Good on page 36; I Saw Robert Johnson on page 77; and the poem, Living with you, which was featured in his story, Jeremiad, on page 96). The novel also alludes to the Griffin novels (Vicky from The Long-Legged Fly, for example, appears on page 81).



If Sallis chooses bugs, there's a reason for it. What he wants to taste is the otherness of insects, their fast-burn and utterly alien sense of time.
Iain Sinclair, 'Hopi Mean Time'.

Insects (general)

  • Other novels: Renderings (21)
  • Short stories: And then the dark—, Faces, Hands: The Floors of His Heart, A Few last Words, Insect Men of Boston, Intimations, Occasions (in the poem, 'Guage')
  • Poetry: Grammars, Twilight
  • Note that insects are not the only creatures that proliferate in Jim's work. His poetry and short stories, in particular, are filled with references to birds, fish, wolves, frogs, lizards, geckos, jaguars.


  • Griffin novels: Moth (95)
  • Other novels: Renderings (20)
  • Short stories: Impossible Things Before Breakfast, Joyride, Occasions (in the poem, 'Guage')
  • Essays: Forward, Bravely, Into the Anthills


  • Griffin novels: The Long-Legged Fly (23), Black Hornet (46)
  • Short stories: Occasions (31 December 3 A.M. section)
  • Poetry: Some Years into It, The Surrealist's Vacation


  • Short stories: The History Makers, Occassions (in the poem, 'A vid')


  • Short stories: 53rd American Dream
  • Poetry: Dawn


  • Short stories: Ansley's Dreams


  • Griffin novels: The Long-Legged Fly (13-14, 163), Moth (45), Black Hornet (173, 179), Cricket (1)
  • Short stories: Blue Lab, Breakfast With Ralph, Enclave, I Saw Robert Johnson, Kazoo (as a nickname), Only the Words Are Different (Part 5), Récits
  • Essays: Arizona Evenings, One Sunday

Colorado beetle

  • Short stories: The Anxiety in the Eyes of the Cricket


  • Short stories: I Saw Robert Johnson


  • Griffin novels: Moth (151), Eye of the Cricket (title, epigraph)
  • Other novels: Renderings (78, 104); Death Will Have Your Eyes (114)
  • Short stories: The Anxiety in the Eyes of the Cricket, Bleak Bay, The Creation of Bennie Good, Hazards of Autobiography, Impossible Things Before Breakfast
  • Essays: Making Up America
  • From Enrique Anderson Imbert: "Then I felt within me the desperate / rebelliousness of things that did not / want to die, the thirst of mosses, the / anxiety in the eyes of the cricket...."
  • Note the association of the cricket with death in Cornell Woolrich's short story, 'Rear Window'


  • Short stories: Intimations


  • Griffin novels: Eye of the Cricket (174)
  • Short Stories: Récits


  • Griffin novels: The Ghost of a Flea, title of the sixth Griffin novel, taken from the painting by William Blake
  • Other novels: Renderings (96; also an allusion to Blake's painting)


  • Griffin novels: The Long-Legged Fly (title, 6-7, 17, 20, 68), Moth (68, 95), Black Hornet (77), Bluebottle (title)
  • Other novels: Renderings (7, 20), Death Will Have Your Eyes (61)
  • Short stories: 53rd American Dream, Blue Devils, Front & Centaur, Jeremiad, Kazoo, Occasions (in the poem, 'Guage'), Only the Words Are Different (Part 5), Récits
  • Poetry: Installments, New York Poems, Pastoral
  • From W. B. Yeats: "Like a long-legged fly upon the stream / His mind moves upon silence."


  • Griffin novels: The Long-Legged Fly (164-65)
  • Poetry: Yellow


  • Griffin novels: Black Hornet (title)
  • Short stories: The Leveller


  • Short stories: Occasions (in the poem, 'Guage')


  • Short stories: Kazoo (as a nickname)


  • Griffin novels: The Long-Legged Fly (90)
  • Other novels: Death Will Have Your Eyes (114)
  • Short stories: Récits
  • Poetry: Among the Missing, They Who Have No King
  • Essays: Standing by Death


  • Griffin novels: Moth (title, epigraph at start of novel quoting James Wright), Black Hornet (139), Eye of the Cricket (17), Bluebottle (130; page also includes a repetition of the epigraph from James Wright used at the start of Moth)
  • Other novels: Renderings (7, 20)
  • Short stories: Hows Death?, Jeremiad, Occasions (in the poem, 'Guage')
  • Poetry: Alone, Evolutions of the Day, For Blaise Cendrars, In Memory, Three Women, Tucson
  • Essays: Arizona Evenings, Increments, One Sunday
  • From James Wright: "Father, the dark moths / Crouch at the sills of the earth, waiting."


  • Griffin novels: Cricket (95)


  • Griffin novels: Moth (127)
  • Other novels: Renderings (37)
  • Short stories: Only the Words Are Different (Part 1)
  • Poetry: Eft


  • Short stories: Becoming, Bubbles, Finger and Flame, I Saw Robert Johnson
  • Essays: Circles


  • Poetry: Among the Missing


  • Griffin novels: Black Hornet (43), Bluebottle (112)
  • Other novels: Death Will Have Your Eyes (36, 110)
  • Short stories: Notes
  • Poetry: The Surrealist Travels by Train


  • Short stories: Front & Centaur


  • Other novels: Renderings (20)
  • Short stories: Dogs in the Nighttime, The First Few Kinds of Truth, Intimations
  • Poetry: Among the Missing, Pastoral




  • Griffin novels: throughout, in the characters of Lew, Don, Hosie, Doo-Wop, etc. See, for example, Moth (98-99)
  • Short stories: Alaska
  • Poetry: Country Music, Foreign Policy
  • Essays: Old Story At Airport, Wounds of Waiting

America as a Museum

  • Poetry: Last Best Friend
  • Essays: Making Up America

Birds on powerlines

  • Short stories: Saguaro Arms
  • Poetry: Chemin
  • Essays: Accounts Due, Circles, Hearts of the City

Bodily mutilation

  • Griffin novels: Black Hornet (86), Bluebottle (85-86)
  • Other novels: Renderings, 31
  • Short stories: 53rd American Dream, And then the dark—, The Anxiety in the Eyes of the Cricket, Blue Devils, Dawn Over Doldrums, I Saw Robert Johnson, Jeremiad, Moments of Personal Adventure, Wolf
  • Poetry: Halfway House, In Potato's Bed, Prayer
  • Essays: Taking the Stage
  • Note also the theme of cannibalism (53rd American Dream, D.C. al FINE, Delta Flight 281, Wolf)
  • A series of poems in Jim's unpublished Saguaro Arms and Leaning into the Electric Day collections centre on body parts (Heidegger's Body Parts, Ordinary Mornings, Ordinary Nights, In Potato's Bed, Tenderness).This motif also features in Sorrow's Kitchen (A Marriage, New York Poems).

City quest

  • Griffin novels: The Long-Legged Fly, Black Hornet, Eye of the Cricket, Bluebottle
  • Short stories: Bubbles

"Convenience Kills" slogan

  • Griffin novels: Moth (122), Eye of the Cricket (163), Bluebottle (153)
  • Essays: Living Without History

Denying/hiding that one is a writer

  • Essays: Hearts of the City, Literary Life, Poetry: A Beginner's Manual

Diminutive fires of the planet (reference to Pablo Neruda)

  • Griffin novels: Bluebottle (23, 110)
  • Other novels: Death Will Have Your Eyes (25)
  • Short stories: Vocalities


  • Other novels: Renderings (36)
  • Short stories: 53rd American Dream, The Creation of Bennie Good, Occasions (Dédicaces section)


  • Griffin novels: Black Hornet (113); often, across the books, Lew dreams when he's in hospital (e.g. Bluebottle,27-31)
  • Other novels: Renderings (26, 45, 47, 79), Death Will Have Your Eyes (42-43, 139, 147)
  • Short stories: A Few Last Words, Blue Lab, I Saw Robert Johnson, Wolf
  • Poetry: Ordinary Nights


  • Griffin novels: Black Hornet (86–87), Eye of the Cricket (29-33, 86-87, 172-79)
  • Other novels: Death Will Have Your Eyes, Renderings
  • Short stories: The Creation of Bennie Good, Jeremiad, Others, Walls of Affection, Wolf (suggestion of the man/beast dichotomy embodied in the figure of the werewolf)
  • Poetry: After a Poem by Wat, How It Started, Meeting Myself, Some Years into It
  • Essays: Accounts Due


  • Other novels: Renderings (37, 55-58, 61, 63, 79, 106)
  • Short stories: Bubbles, Kazoo, Hazards of Autobiography, The History Makers, Occasions (Negotiation section and the poem, 'A marriage'), Pure Reason, Récits, Shutting Darkness Down, Walls of Affection
  • Poetry: Adrift, Boston, Eft, For David (aka And My Poor Fool Is Hanged?), Installments, A Marriage, Negotiation, The Plan Behind Improvisation, Rain, Reading the World
  • There is a recurrent motif of fish swimming into stone and fossilisation in Jim's recent Arizonan work (see also theme of turning to stone below)

Hopi people and their conception of time

  • Griffin novels: Black Hornet (80), Eye of the Cricket (97, 160), Bluebottle (38)
  • Other novels: Renderings (67, 83-84)
  • Poetry: Temptation of Silence


  • Griffin novels: The Long-Legged Fly (11-12, 38-43, 83-85, 95-99), Moth (1-8, 53-54, 99-100, 105, 111-12, 137-41, 164, 202-5), Black Hornet (61-67, 133-34, 170-75), Eye of the Cricket (7-8, 29-33, 47, 62-63, 73-76, 126), Bluebottle (9-25, 31-40, 47-52)
  • Other novels: Renderings (38)
  • Short stories: Alaska, Becoming, Bubbles, Echo, Jeremiad, Occasions (Winner section), Potato Tree
  • Essays: Gently Into the Land of Meateaters, Increments, Standing by Death, Temporary Life, Wounds of Waiting

Incidental traffic accidents

  • Griffin novels: The Long-Legged Fly (151)
  • Short stories: Delta Flight 281, A Few Last Words, I Saw Robert Johnson, The Leveller


  • Griffin novels: repeatedly throughout the Griffin novels, especially with Lew resorting to alcohol or reading to fill the night (e.g. Cricket, 18-21, 83)
  • Other novels: Renderings (27, 59, 71)
  • Short stories: Alaska, And then the dark—, A Few Last Words, D.C. al FINE, I Saw Robert Johnson, Memory, My Friend Zarathustra, Vocalities
  • Poetry: In Memory, Memory at 3 A.M., Principles of Aesthetics
  • Essays: Temporary Life
  • From Principles of Aesthetics: "Insomnia, / an old friend, collects me from sleep."
  • Note the frequent references to 2, 3 and 4 a.m. in essays (The Book Not Written, Circles, Intelligent Life in Duncanville, Temporary Life), book introductions (It's Three O'Clock), poetry (Memory at 3 A.M., New York at 3 A.M.), and stories (31 December 3 A.M., And then the dark—, Memory, Pure Reason, Wolf)

Jumping out of windows

  • Short stories: D.C. al FINE, Kazoo, Only the Words Are Different (Parts 1 & 3)

Man with no more past (reference to Blaise Cendrars)

  • Other novels: Renderings (27), Death Will Have Your Eyes (171)
  • Short stories: Occasions (Dédicaces section)


  • Griffin novels: Eye of the Cricket (89-90)
  • Other novels: Renderings (9-11, 33, 36), Death Will Have Your Eyes (164)
  • Short stories: Blue Lab, Others
  • Poetry: Memory at 3 A.M., Second Generation, To a Friend with Good Counsel
  • Essays: American Solitude

Memory is a hunting horn & Je me retournerai souvent (reference to Guillaume Apollinaire)

  • Other novels: Death Will Have Your Eyes (137-38)
  • Short stories: Occasions (31 December 3 A.M. section), Récits

Putting distress signals in code (reference to David Lunde)

  • Griffin novels: The Long-Legged Fly (36), Moth (169), Eye of the Cricket (88)
  • Poetry: For Blaise Cendrars

Salvation between the legs of a woman (reference to Blaise Cendrars)

  • Other novels: Renderings (81)
  • Poetry: For Blaise Cendrars, To a Friend with Good Counsel

Shark fins, knives, jagged edges and mirrors (reference to W. S. Merwin)

  • Other novels: Renderings (27)
  • Short stories: Occasions (Procés section), Récits
  • Poetry: Intelligent Life in Duncanville, Recovery, Temptation of Silence

Trees bent over like old men

  • Essays: Hearts of the City, Wounds of Waiting
  • See also comments on tree motif in the note on page 129 of Bluebottle in this site's Griffin's Cross-References page
  • Particularly in Jim's later work, there is a frequent association between trees, the process of ageing and death. Most commonly this is conveyed through seasonal (Autumn/Fall, Winter) imagery. See, for example, the poem Winter Afternoons

Train travel as life journey

  • Griffin novels: The Long-Legged Fly (91), Moth (121), Eye of the Cricket (15-16)
  • Other novels: Renderings (13-18)

Turning into stone

  • Griffin novels: The Long-Legged Fly (90), Eye of the Cricket (15)
  • Short stories: Becoming
  • Poetry: Temptation of Silence

Unwanted/abandoned/unknown child

  • Griffin novels: Baby Girl McTell in Moth, Carl Joseph in Black Hornet
  • Short stories: Intimations, Jim and Mary G, Need, Saguaro Arms

Venn diagrams

  • Other novels: Renderings (18)
  • Short stories: Dawn Over Doldrums
  • Book reviews: Getting in Touch with Your Demons, Journey to the Heart of Céline

Watching women take children to school/daycare

  • Other novels: Renderings (77)
  • Short stories: I Saw Robert Johnson
  • Poetry: Poems
  • Essays: One Sunday


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