I spent some time with an American undergraduate of West Indian descent, who'd never heard of Derek Walcott, and also of English descent, who didn't know of Gandhi's genius for exemplary civil disobedience. The squalor of public education in the United States exceeds everything known to me in its capacity to amaze. Because of this nation's enormous vestigial power I regard the steadily deteriorating sense of history among its elites as an international emergency, and I have not been reluctant to name names of gangsters who depend upon it, for their corruption of our judgment and their exploitation of our people's good will.
Naturally, I did not direct my scholarly acquaintance to this page's references to Gandhi and Walcott; one's isolation in Virginia is acute enough. Rather, I asked him what he would like to see fixed, that seems to him a disorder in his world.
He said, the failure of his university to achieve his high school's harmonisation (integration, an indispensable consensus in America for three generations, until flouted by the Roberts Court) in the student population. I asked him, how he saw himself - English? West Indian?
"I'm black," he answered impatiently; and when I responded that there are any number of ways of being that, he smiled and said, "Yes, but we'll never get that far."
This page has its reasons for rejecting that isolating assumption, which go directly to the capacity of this nation to govern itself rationally and to protect its people equitably. For my three undergraduate summers, when we were pursuing our versions of the Grand Tour, I was compiling my own motorcycle diaries at college, teaching high school boys literature and their history. They were from Trenton, Newark, Hightstown, New Brunswick. But we never got that far. They were all black.
Where is the shore of the heart of darkness? What is the beach, where it can be penetrated? We could give learning any number of place names, but here are two resources which propose a single method, instead; and it is plainly not a bad beginning. I refer readers of Joseph Conrad, and viewers of Matteo Garrone's Gomorrah to Elizabeth Avedon's globally vital blog, for an indispensable recent report from Ghana. And I refer readers of Peter Matthiessen to Ivan Terestchenko's several recent postings on East Africa. Let the camera connect the dots.
My late mother-in-law's gift for euphemism was so advanced, it was possible to relish the most sardonic cut and the soothingest substitution of subject in one of her remarks, as facets of a single polished thought. This can be explosive, when maturity's perspective intersects with youth's plentiful dilemmas. One could certainly have lived with that woman, but for matrimony's fatal weakness for the wrong generation. Still, as I stumble about life's redundant desert to this day, I ponder the compliment she paid me once, of having a musical ear. I think she was referring to an innocent susceptibility in my accent, to the tone prevailing in my last place of sleep (I was frequently in California, while she was in darkest New York); but I don't rule out, she was praising my hypocrisy in plain sight.
People who hasard the publication of writing ought strenuously to ignore their readers' assessments, at least where venturing into remote demographics. If they have a musical ear, they risk quickly being drawn and quartered. I have readers who want fewer pictures; I have readers who want fewer words. I have readers who want fewer syllables - and these are the readers who survived the previous waves of emigration from the page; but now, for some imponderable half-life of a newly discovered element, I have readers from Canada, who do this stuff very well in a freer format. Naughty Robbie Rosses, if you will, natural rhetoricians of the wordless throat, spelling doom in one's seduction by their eloquence -- who call for less of everything. I like my hypocrisy to be accused, not shown.
The paradox of the superior vintage is to be no less beset by temptation than the off years. When conditions fur- nish the most perfect ripening of the fruit, there is the tempta- tion to overcrop it, reducing its vigour; to sell it on the fame of its year, or to al- low its potential al- cohol to overwhelm its acidity, to boast: one has the biggest red on the block. It will fade, and it should.
In equivocal vintages, such as ours this year, additives of potential alcohol (plain sugar), acids, off-the-shelf tannins and infusions of oak tempt one to de- ceptions against the hard work of hand sel- ection of the fruit, for an inevitably small return on investment, with nevertheless estimable wine.
Viticulture is full of difficult vintages and good people, and very few unambiguous prin- ciples. The cultiva- tion of ignorant de- mand is anathema to the vigneron. But in this country, a market based still in saloons exerts great pressure on winegrowers; with fewer louts, the palate would be better developed, and it would appreciate the character of time's convergence with place, from which there is wine.
I observe temptation in viticulture, to tamper with that convergence, as leading time and again to the defeat of elegance.
The farmer is the first to be moved unbearably to decry that consequence, and not just because his love and that of his ances- tors, or his living and that of his dependents are so exposed. There is nothing ambivalent about the claims upon his soul. He is not a winegrower by necessity.
Elegance, he knows, is supple enough for compromise, but not for contempt. Possibly he has always lived in that time and in that place, where popular vulgarity tested his soul. If he lives here and now, he knows acutely and fatalistically that the invisible hand is a poor artist and a tragic husband, but excitable and obdurate.
We have to concede, the integrity and structure of wines are a bellweth- er of their culture; the mystical allusion, terroir appropriately surveys this variable. The winegrower can shape structuring var- iables within the limits available to the educator, in loco parentis; he is aware of this model, and that his wine depends up- on his embrace of it. But he can seldom develop taste in the taster or def- end the emergence of beauty against inclement consump- tion. Other ages, other cul- tures, other visions pour his soul. And how has this always been done?
Counting from the vintage of 1785: Son Altesse Sérénissime has the goodness to accord to Étienne Magnien, vigneron of La Romanée, an augmentation of ten livres, .. on condition that he cultivates the vines with the greatest of care .. S.A.S. desires not a large quantity of wine, but of quality. You know that a vine overcharged with fruit produces only a mediocre wine. Please tell the vigneron to prune the vines accordingly. Such is Monseigneur's ultimate wish ..