Saturday, May 28, 2011

The long towel

In "real picture life" (Roland and Susan, Eat my heart out), this por-trait shows a figure in a towel with red stripes, and another in a towel with blue. 

How corny; but then what could be cornier than one, long towel? 

Still, one can believe that, sooner than that two guys would go to the beach in superficial colour-coded identity distinctions. 

I count one towel.

Hydroconscious sanctuary of Saturday

Moving parts of a conversation one may join at any point - and given the way water works, one that is bound to continue. 

The hydroconscious have a favourite day, but will sometimes resort to any other without warning. At least we saw them coming.

i:    cine tumblr
vii: another country (rev.)


Saturday commute xxvii: to the flux that knows no time

The hour is late in the morning, not early; and still, the vessel rocks in place, nattily sec-ured. A bobbing plinth is flexing to support our own suspension out of time. All our love presents itself and takes an easy place with us right here, voices, kept within, emerge to share each other's company and ours. This is not the monotone of the Armistice Ball in Scott, but a cool polyphony of treasures no one heard until just now.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Suppose it were Friday ii

All my people are larger bodies than mine, quiet, with voices gentle and meaningless like the voices of sleeping birds. One is an artist, he is living at home. One is a musician, she is living at home. One is my mother who is good to me. One is my father who is good to me. By some chance, here they are, all on this earth; and who shall ever tell the sorrow of being on this earth, lying, on quilts, on the grass, in a summer evening, among the sounds of night.

May god bless my people .. oh, remember them kindly in their time of trouble; and in the hour of their taking away.

After a little while I am taken in and put to bed. Sleep, soft smiling, draws me into her: and those receive me, who quietly treat me, as one familiar and well-beloved in that home: but will not, oh, will not, not now, not ever; but will not ever tell me who I am.

James Agee
Knoxville: Summer 1915
op. cit.

     James Agee grew up in a lower-middle class family in eastern Tennessee in the early years of the previous century. At a very young age, his father died in an automobile, as he would in his 40s. He was sent to be educated by an Episcopal priest, who encouraged him to attend the Philips Academy at Exeter. He then went on to Harvard College and his subsequent life is rather well known. One keeps coming back to the vanishing improbability of the migration from Tennessee to New Hampshire, even as we all understand the pitfalls of ascribing too much to institutional associations. 

Whether the Agee we know endured that instruction or prospered there, we do know two things: Exeter is proud to claim him; and why that should be. Reading in Agee is something one finds oneself do-ing occasionally, here, because they are still learning dance on the steps of the museum in Minneapolis, and climbing rock somewhere, un-known. Without irony, they are falling in love again; can't help it.

Water comments quickly on our craft

The feedback of the sail is unarguable, like the lift of the shell under stroke. There's a hunger for impartial voices, in certain kinds of happiness.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The interval

There is an age, as is now widely understood in America, which has no idea what it is doing and is engaged, off and on, in an interval of sorting out. Great suspense per-tains within each indiv-idual, and each family, but broadly speaking, exceptions in the climax of the process only prove the rule. The anomaly is the assumption of a resolution, in a life of diffraction and due dates at every turn. My friend is my friend; I am not his fault.

David Ross

At supper that night, as many times before

.. his father said, Well, spose we go to the picture show.

Oh, Jay! his mother said. That horrid little man!

What's wrong with him? his father asked, not because he didn't know what she would say, but so she would say it.

He's so nasty! she said, as she always did. So vulgar! With his nasty little cane; hooking up skirts and things, and that nasty little walk!

His father laughed, as he always did, and Rufus felt that it had become rather an empty joke; but as always the laughter also cheered him; he felt that the laughter enclosed him with his father. 

They walked downtown in the light of mother-of-pearl, to the Majestic, and found their way to seats by the light of the screen, in the exhilarating smell of stale tobacco, rank sweat, perfume and dirty drawers, while the piano played fast music and galloping horses raised a grandiose flag of dust ..

James Agee
A Death in the Family
op. post.
McDowell & Obolensky, 1957©
  Appearing previously in:
  The New Yorker
  Partisan Review
  The Cambridge Review
  Harper's Bazaar

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Possibly it was over the top ~ but we didn't think so at the time

Years ago - decades, as I recall - the Swedish manufacturer of the Hasselblad camera took a full-page ad to anatomise the device for the purpose of discussing the finishing of its mechanical parts. Hundreds of pieces had been subjected to the refinements, variously, of horse-hair, chamois, pumice, feathers, dusts, cloths, solvents and even wood, to say nothing of grinding stones. Of course one paid for this character, this promise.

One sensed nothing so much as the tack of a fine boat, when all was said and done, and what was cherished about the Hasselblad was its sympathy for the sensual quest.

Nothing much more than a weighty box with a very good lens, the camera lacked the speed of some and the unobtrusiveness of others. But there wasn’t an anchor or a garage door lifted on the planet to greater delight than one could know in focusing with that eloquent machine. The famine for this world was in that thing.

Has the extinction of machining extinguished something else?

This is not new. An
end of craftsmanship 
has been announced for 
thousands of years.

Every generation
lives with less of
what it was, more
of what is left.

Ours was the last
to know the silk in
the machine, and to
sense the passion in
their feel, their heft,
their balance in use,
inspiring concentration.

One fine day,
maybe none of
the senses will
be needed to
make pictures.
Ketchup, after
all, is already
a vegetable.

iv, Gordon Willis for Francis Coppola

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Forgiving Claggart

We wear our blazer
easily, in here.

His words stung me. Every criticism seemed irrefutable if previously unsuspected. It was true I loved my characters ..

Edmund White
The Beautiful Room is Empty
Knopf, 1988©

Then would fiscal virtue, Dr Johnson, be the last refuge of prudes?

chip of the closed, lost world, toward whose unseen grasses
this long-necked emissary horse
  eagerly still
  stretches, to graze
    World; Grass;
stretching Horse; ripe with hunger, bright circle
of appetite, risen to feed and famish us, from exile underground ... for
you  chip of the incommensurate
closed world   A n g e l

We suppose, by now, it's lost on nobody that the zeal to make an example of Greece is the exact coin of the new Right-wing hypocrisy in the United States. The practice of maldistributing bread with circuses of moral intimidation is a constant in this nation, and reeks of the counting house of Cotton Mather and the squalid plantation of Jim Crow. Having ransacked the wealth of the nation for the very purpose of impoverishing it, it is not now an act of genius for the Goths to blame the victim. Even the Roman Catholic bishops are finally disgusted. Can the renewal of the oil depletion allowance be worth the loss of a new generation?

Frank Bidart
A Coin for Joe, with the image
  of a Horse; ca 350-325 BC
op. cit.

ii, Tassos

The Washington Post
May 23, 2011

Monday, May 23, 2011

The curator at Windsor ii: a most discriminating friend

Banville's spy is a fully evolved dévoté of concealment and yet of risk at the same time. It has never been pretty, being so pretty as Anthony Blunt. But never mind a nation, one thinks of the friend who needs to know. His existence is the flaw in Forster's deceptive formula, of thinking first of one's friend before one's country. But which friend, dear Fellow of King's? What, ultimately, is the trust worthiness of a confidence one friend may know, and not an-other? It's so widely understood that the affections of such a men-tality are inherently treacherous, that it is no strain to greet Blunt as a spy. What's untenable is his impostorship as a friend.

Waxing nostalgic to the stenographer of his espionage confession, Blunt misses "the aphrodisiac properties of secrecy and fear." The literature on those oft-remarked properties is not limited to the rebel and the felon, of course, and extends to the plea-bargains of Right-wing Senators in ever-expanding ripples of their proclivities, from public indecency to racketeering. Yet what a sweet edge these terrors gave to my adven-tures in the night, what throat-thickening excitement they provoked. But Blunt goes on to propound that eternal complaint of Tories, if ever someone else's ostentation should capture the public gaze: 

All the talk now is of freedom and pride (pride!), but these young hotheads, clamouring for the right to do it in the streets if they feel like it, do not seem to appreciate, or at least seem to wish to deny .. the higher one had climbed in society, the further one would fall. I had recur-ring, sweat-inducing images of the Palace gates clanging shut against me ..

Everyone appreciates how easy it was, to be as uneasy as Anthony Blunt. His sexuality had nothing to do with it. What angered, what animated him was not oppression or injustice. It was trust.


E.M. Forster
Two Cheers for Democracy
Harcourt, 1951©

John Banville 
The Untouchable
op. cit.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Lake Michigan, Sunday morning

They are not talking much, 
and the talk is quiet, 
of nothing in particular, 
of nothing at all in particular, 
of nothing at all.

James Agee