Saturday, February 26, 2011

Saturday commute xvi: staying away and coming back

I have learned - but again and again I forget - that abstraction is a bad thing, innumerable and infinitesimal and tiresome, worse than any amount of petty fact. The emotion that comes from blurring my retrospect is warmer and weaker than the excitement of whatever happened, good or bad. It is like a useless, fruitless vegetation, spreading and twining and fading and corrupting; even the ego disappears under it .. 

Therefore I scarcely noticed how long my dear friend stayed away in her bedroom; and therefore I was glad when she came back. 

For me, putting a stop to so-called thought is one of the functions of friendship.

Today we cap a visibly strenuous week, between the lines of the page, with commendation of a very brief novel which reads as a literate guest's observations of an afternoon in the country house of a good friend. This is far from the most acute passage in the book, but it cor-responds with the day. I can think of several valued readers who would like it very much; I think it's pretty fancy work, myself. But I cite this passage for its quiet intelligence, and I adopt this image to carry it because of the expression and the figure - attentive, curious, receptive, uncensorious; eleg-ant, not grand; perceptive and fluent. An interesting phrase, isn't it - the functions of friendship.

Glenway Wescott
The Pilgrim Hawk
 A Love Story
1940, 1968©
New York Review Books, 2001©

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