Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Horace at your back iv: when you simply can't be starstruck

We know it saddens friends, to think that our imperviousness to stars (much as we might admire their work) is a kind of rebuke. It's as if we didn't envy their china, and thought that Mrs Guest were simply normal. Horace was received as a star, which seems almost reasonable, but he was reminded of a baby girl playing under her nurse's watchful eye, what she eagerly desired to have, she soon abandoned when bored with it. He is saying this to his patron, the most omnipotent figure the earth had ever known - possibly, has ever known. He is mocking as degenerate, the favour of authority: If the Greeks had found novelty as offensive as we do, what would nowadays be old?  

In the next line, Horace all but jugularly asks Augustus, What likes and dislikes are there that you wouldn't suppose could be easily changed? It's notable that this spontaneous question appears in his most urgent case for poetry and its criticism, the first letter in his second, final book in this form. Horace ran a merry flirtation with misery in his missives to indulgent tyranny, and one doesn't care to think where Voltaire would be without him. But what stardom is reserved for those who work that illumination from the other end of light, and give embrace to freedom?

In his later years my father, then widowed and childless but one, sharpened an already Socratic mode with me in my visits to exploit his La Jolla weather. Referring to this man, whom he'd seen in plays in Pasadena when I was an infant, he once asked me, How do you suppose Tennessee Williams was able to write with such understanding of women? I have no regard for my educated, elegant answer - he'd paid for it, he was entitled to it. But I do have regard for a humane gift for interrogation which, finding the right register and range, deftly crafts a dialogue to embrace the actual subject of his scrutiny beyond any category of liking. 

Satires and Epistles
  Epistle to Augustus
John Davie, translation
op. cit.

ii  ad for a former client of Laurent

iii Brando corresponding 


  1. I'm curious about the comme des garcons photo. did you shoot it? do you shoot some of these pics? I'm still trying to figure out your blog which is most distracting and seductive.

  2. Dear JTB, You make a case for the page to post some sidebar disavowal of responsibility, unless otherwise specified, for the pictures. Your confusion is only fair and I apologise. I have presented photographs of my own, but as in all cases when I do know who the photographer is, I will make note of it at the foot of the posting. In "Matter," I should probably introduce a heading for Laurent photography. (I happened to represent C de G in another capacity). But I do hope you never figure out what's going on here; I'd hate to trifle with your present opinion, which you are kind to mention. And I still could go for that clafoutis de poire.

  3. CdG has long been an obsession, from the clothes to the magazine 6 to colognes and candles (and now incense). And I'm not opposed to a piece or two from the women's line for myself.

    And if that clafoutis is of interest, you should try a berry one. Yummier.

  4. They are a wonderfully creative group and the people I worked with, in bringing them to San Francisco, were among the most inspiring clients I ever represented. Their creativity allowed me to be creative and I felt pleasure in their fulfillment.

    Yes, there's a guyscent of some interest. Perhaps you should pop me an e-mail.

    I have still not exhausted my interest in pears.