Friday, November 17, 2017

Suppose it were Friday cxlii: And one wouldn't give satisfaction

    Prisoners, it would appear,
    never belong, or are never
    permitted to belong, merely
    "to humanity and to them-

    That is the condition be-
    ing thought to be one of
    gender, not of misrule.

Michael Walzer
  Essays on Disobedience,
  War, and Citizenship
Harvard University Press, 1970©

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Glad news of Masha Gessen

Buried somewhat beneath reports
of a bawdy spree at the auction 
brothels for da Vinci - beneath,
even, pixels of our President's
delight in being petted abroad -
was news from New York overnight
that Masha Gessen has won the
National Book Award for her re-
markably intimate portrayal of
the restoration of totalitarian
rule in its native land. In a
season of much remembrance of
the birth of that governing sys-
tem, some of it noted here, the
state of its resurgence famous-
ly eludes the White House, we
would rather say, than seduces
it. We have reason only to pass
along the information. The prize
it deserves is in our politics.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Origins of Wednesday lix: Protocols of Ryan

It has been the greatest
transformation in the
history of the world.

Preobrazhensky at the
Seventeenth Party Con-
gress, Moscow, 1934

Rykov - who had fought against Preobrazhensky when Preobrazhensky was on the left while he was on the right but thought he was at the center - felt the same way. His opposition to Comrade Stalin filled him with 'an enormous sense of guilt before the Party,' a guilt he would 'try to expiate, come what may.'

Stalin had become, as Bukharin put it, "the personal embodiment of the mind and will of the Party." The mind and will of the Bolshevik Party had been formed around Lenin. Lenin's death and the NEP retreat had produced great disappointment, dissension, and doubt. The revolution from above had restored faith and unity by performing the miracle of rebirth. The man who had presided over that revolution was a new Lenin - a reincarnation of what Koltsov had called 'not a duality, but a synthesis,' a human being who embodied the fulfillment of the prophecy.

Exchange the name, "Reagan," for the name, 
"Lenin," and "Republican" for "Bolshevik," 
so that a Speaker of the American House of 
Representatives bears not merely a vivid
resemblance to the century's most desper-
ate apologists for "the greatest transfor-
mation in the history of the world," but 
the undegraded echo of that rapture. There
are grown men whose warp in the magnetic
field of the strongman is so repugnant to
contemplate that it is an affront simply
to mention it. It throws off one's focus
on the paperwork of single-Party pillage,
to the source of the greater stench: the
inherent decadence of ideology, or the
anxiety to flog it to life for oneself.

Yuri Slezkine
The House of Government
  A Saga of the Russian
  13: The Ideological Substance
Princeton University Press, 2017©

Marijn van Asten

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Nicely done, Australia

One imagines a government conducted
in the kitchen, in the plain generos-
ity Van Gogh taught us of old, not of
haute cuisine, but of the potato eat-
ers. Presumably, the Prime Minister
of the continent known as Australia
can rally for himself and his wife,
a little help in the kitchen, when
it comes time to govern: command a
vast wedge of some iceberg lettuce,
sprinkled bacon bits, and bottled
slush to dress it all. But I'm not
so sure that the palate is not the
last idealist, and that we convene
in the kitchen because we can con-
fess ourselves there, in a playing
field of trust. Now I forget myself.

This is the first head of state, in
the first telephone calls in the af-
terglow of the gathering of greater
crowds than North America had ever
known, to have received the insults
of the American President. We note
in reassurance, how lightly they fell
upon that certain sense of fair play,
for which a continent might open.

Nicely done, Australia. Y'all come.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Tell me of Aeneas, David Ferry

The stream still flows through the meadow grass,
As clear as it was when I used to go in swimming,

Not good at it at all, while my father's voice
Gently called out through the light of the shadowy glade,
Trying to help me learn. The branches hung down low
Over those waters made secret by their shadows.
My arms flailed in a childlike helpless way.

And now the sharp blade of the axe of time
Has utterly cut away that tangle of shadows.
The naked waters are open to the sky now 
And the stream still flows through the meadow grass.

David Ferry
Of no country I know
  New and selected
  poems and translations
  "The Lesson"
    from the Latin of Samuel Johnson
University of Chicago Press, 1999©

Marijn van Asten

Alexander Calder
Maelstrom with Blue

Man Ray

Josef Albers

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The next Aeneid

There is that moment of naïve exultation
in graduating from some grade or other
of institutionalized learning, when one
celebrates finally leaving examination
behind. This impression of release is so
short-lived that it is truly remarkable
that it can be remembered, at all. On
any given day, someone is bound to con-
clude the ten or eleven-year project of
harvesting The Aeneid, and there one 
will find oneself again, launched upon
the most undying quest for understanding
a man might have thought he'd escaped.

The Aeneid
University of Chicago, 2017©

Salvatore Piermarini

Jean Arp

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Now they've come for the Virgin

   Dietrich Bonhoeffer didn't
   of Republican casuistry at
   the Department of Justice,
   and agencies of the nation
   across the board, now lib-
   erated from fact. Still he
   resisted, until they hang-
   ed him by piano wires, for
   the delight of the head of
   state. Now they are saying
   the Virgin was but another
   ploitation -- "a little un-
   usual," but not a problem.

   Bonhoeffer must have known
   how right he was. He would
   have recognized Roy Moore.

Jeremy Dufour

Thursday, November 9, 2017

A gift we might have done without

We wake up and check his Twitter feed 
and we can feel exactly what the pres-
ident is thinking, said Thomas Binion, 
director of congressional and execu-
tive branch relations at the Heritage 
Foundation. That’s brand new to Amer-
ican politics. We haven't had access 
to a president's mindset and emotions.

Novelty is not everything it's crack-
ed up to be, in the assumption of the
Executive Branch of the American gov-
ernment. In her first year of madness
rampant over head, the United States
is not the only entity which has been
changed, as has been noticed well, in
the reports cited below. Her people,
and the natural world, itself, have
undergone the imprint of his madness,
the stab of Ahab's extremity on the
slimy deck of his Samsung abbatoire.

Great, frantic and terrible waste has
only begun. We have seen, there is no
distance between American captives of
this anomaly, and those situated else-
where in the world, to look on in hor-
of their life by malevolence and in-
stability, in freakish possession of

This page, an exercise in identifying
customs in common - a phrase borrowed
affectionately from the late English
historian E.P. Thompson - has adopted
the label, ain't we got fun, for en-
tries addressing this condition. That
reference goes on, for continuity's
sake, and with rededicated satire. It
is the hopeful mode. Despite alarm of
cause or bearing, it preserves play.

It remains, then, to defy his corrup-
tion of play, resourcefully refusing
his game, without ever ignoring its
vile intents. He feints to exhaust -
as he has been, by decades of practic-
ing the jests he hawks to his horde.
This is a man who must never have
won or lost fair, and knows he hasn't.
How wonderfully he deserves the high.

Hermelindo Fiaminghi
Alternado 2

Year One
The New York Review
  of Books
November 6, 2017©

Katha Pollitt
Year One
The New York Review
  of Books
November 7, 2017©

The New York Review
  of Books
November 10, 2016©