Saturday, November 12, 2011


When I had just arrived in the Old Dominion, I was somewhat adopted by an English lady who sold antiquarian books and kept an especially tidy herb garden. (I've always enjoyed exploring such places). Once, I proposed incorporating a little lavender in our omelette, and it was pretty spiffy. She began to call me, Moppet. 

Saturday commute xlvi: Friends coming

  Vision correction, a spot
  of dusting, tidying up the
  neck. Yes, and who was it,
  who came up with the idea
  that being a guy is a low-
  maintenance occupation?
  And now it's our turn to en-
  tertain. We make a point of
  dressing in nothing new, and
  dining with equal ease. Fun-
  damentally, it's Saturday.

Friday, November 11, 2011


         completing a last set of flyes
         when you look up and find that
         what he's waiting for is the

           the impatience of
           some people!

Suppose it were Friday xlv: but it might not be ready for 20 years

You go see your children first! 
And then you worry about waiting 
on line to see your brother -- 
like everybody else.

I remember how ancient I used
to suppose I would feel, by the
time a new vintage of a premier
grand cru would be decent to in-
vestigate. I have devastated
some very great vintages in
their 'teens. 

The youth engaged in the craft
depicted here occupies a trust
which he learns not to breach 
with haste. In this way he em-
bodies its steadiness, learns 
anticipation and calm in the 
same breath and mallet stroke.

We don't hear of 'statecraft'
any more. An idiot with a bor-
rowed opinion can captivate
our people and usually does.
'Gimme da biggest red ya got,'
he shouts, and we let him
have our boys.

Francis Ford Coppola, director
Francis Ford Coppola and
  Mario Puzo, Screenplay
The Godfather: Part II
Paramount, 1974©

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Have we covered the part yet, about not sautéeing in suède?

Quite right. Meant to get to this earlier. Anything that can inad-vertently splash the face is a sure bet to discover the ground, yes? This is why seasoned cooks at Guantánamo swear by rubber gloves, high impact headgear, and galoshes. And now, what fun, a trial. Mmm, greasepaint!                                                                                                               

Reading between the legs: Betty Commilfaux sends forgiveness

   Thorny, darling ~ 

One never did expect you, and I don't know that we'd have managed, had you come. Word, alone, of your acceptance deluged us with Extra Men, horseblankets outnumbering scarves 3:2. Long odds for a photo finish, and quite a strain on cook. It's no demerit, of course, to've given us the best of both worlds - cachet of your imprimatur, without the terror of conversation. I do hope you made some progress with Ford, remembering your promise to teach me Sylvia Tietjens on trees.

   Pads sends a snap ~ B


Ford Madox Ford
Parade's End
Knopf, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1928©

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Charisma of the lawbreaker

Inevitably this page has betrayed a weakness, repeatedly, for the outlaw in every field it has mangled - Eliot, most extensively I suppose. But Eliot's example really enhances what we mean, which is the guy who was bred and trained and privileged to see, and then went out and did so. That theme is everywhere here because my admiration of such people, while only marginally excusable, is completely inexhaustible. It only seems convenient to cite Eliot. In reality it takes a lot of work, because he isn't easy and he never did bother to be. It isn't difficulty that makes him good, it's his gift of difficulty that does. He is sharing the struggle. This generosity goes back to François Villon, and was fundamental in Rimbaud, Gide, Genet, and Tennessee Williams.

Now I'm in the middle of reading a book by a writer I've cited, before, which I acquired when I was 27 years old, three years beyond his when he wrote it. I've kept it around as a contingency, a sidebar to an oeuvre which was much more famous for being something else; and now, I find that it's a miracle. 

Why are we awed to see such things taking place so well, in a site of secular candour, as to move the earth before our eyes toward becoming a larger place? Is it just that the ecology of superstition and xenophobia requires a symbiotic pest, or is that we are given that elated feeling of being let out into the tonic of daylight, too, that we owe to its discovery -

                 .. to ride time as gayly as a cork.

Lawrence Durrell
The Black Book
Olympia Press, 1938©
Gerald Sykes, introduction
E.P. Dutton, 1960©

Monday, November 7, 2011

"I know but too well what they mean"

Every now and again, as we all do, I run into an undergraduate who wants me to believe something. At long last, I've come to realise that he wants to believe it, tasking me to demonstrate that the odds might favour it. The undergraduate makes a conviction of himself; a Mozart, asking his dad to let him go to Paris, at the age of 17.

It shortly occurs to the undergraduate, that he doesn't care to write the 9th Piano Concerto for Mlle Jeunehomme, that Paris is far too captivating for all that. In this way, an aesthete is born: a claimant to taste, by virtue of indulgence. And he still tasks me to support his pretense.

Yet, what is more probable: that we haven't had a Mozart for 250 years, or that he hasn't been allowed Paris? Those of us who would be the first to condemn the young for resembling us, will also be the last to forget what we wanted to believe. 

Only the most decadent aesthete denies what can be done, what needs to be done. They are offering to do it, everywhere we turn: to be life-enhancing. The more we let it hap-pen, the likelier it will be. We really don't know what to expect, but would embrace it with remembered conviction.

Let the love that was once a fire
remain an ember ..

Cole Porter
Begin the Beguine


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Striking a style

I report the evident closing of the tumblr, ciné.

but it's all right 
the way of staying 

you started comes back procession into the fire 
into the sky 

the dream you lost 
firm in its day 
reassured and remembered.

John Ashbery
Houseboat Days
  The Thief of Poetry
op. cit. 

Malaise of the hobbledehoys

You will not have forgotten, I know, the common sense of Henry James, declining lunch at All Souls to rusticate with the hobbledehoys. Who would not trade, among other things, the ad hoc sartorial mayhem of whatever's hanging on the knob, for the mortarboard and gown of flatulent authority? It is, then, with that regret which you may have found flickering before in these entries, that with an innovation in our time a kind of rescission of virtue seems to keep close company, that I pass along anecdotal evidence of more of that sad association from a friend who is acquainted with our local university.

Bearing in mind, that he was confiding to a near contemporary, in myself, who would remember a time when our demeanor and deportment would flout the annealing strain of the academic forge as best we could, in the consoling flourishes of resistance taught us by the more urbane of our peers - those genius offspring of labour organisers and jazz musicians, who lent such panache to the well-rounded class, or at least humanist cover for the well rounded man; as you will, then, be bearing this in mind, I suppose we must all reckon with the price of the extinction of jazz music and labour organisation, as we endeavour to reconstitute a baseline for appraising the present in terms of its more timeless elements.

It wasn't after all, so long ago, that a youth set out for these rigors with a kit of some sense of departure from this world, and into a kind of fairyland of colloquy with the greats under a gracious if not indulgently lenient supervision. Not that his reunions on holidays mightn't have shocked the conscience of his elders, with whatever radicalism du jour might have been served in his preceptor's study, to the everlasting mortification of his benefactors, there was a tolerant if not active expectation of something life-enhancing's coming forth from this finishing entitlement.

It is precisely this residual illusion which animates my friend's report to me, that undergraduates at the local university have taken to emulating the most egregiously very worst careerism and social climbing of their anxiously overspending parents, in the style they have adopted of addressing each other, much less their mentors. He does not refer, although well he might, to that penchant for self-portraiture which grips, so prematurely, the imagination of all our young these days, and furnishes the curriculum vitae of an entire generation with the fixtures of the same compartment. Even we, there is no harm in confessing, passed the occasional glance into the convex mirror on the way down to dinner - whose table also served, come to think of it, as our messaging device.

What they have done, is to have improv-ised a style of varsity letter for each other, by feeding quite directly off each other's vestigial spare time, that precious interval when a math major might once have picked up a copy of Beaudelaire from his roommate's bed-side. Far from distinguishing them-selves on the field or in examinations, they have set about wheeling and dealing in activities, which trade openly in as many executive stylings as their market demands. My friend tells me, they've been advised to exhibit Leadership Positions, to a culture now evidently obsessed with sinecures, which everything teaches them to respect as cynical transactions.

Now, no e-mail can issue between them without a signature block, impacted with bourgeois zealotry for gilt by association and conspicuousness of title. You bite my neck, I'll bite yours seems to have replaced that whole-some, quickening towel snap of yore, minus the blush of acknowledged honour. How pallidly these registries compare to fertile hours of play and reflection -

the air of liberty to care for the things of the mind assured and secured by machinery which is in itself a satisfaction to sense.

              D'you remember, Auguste,
              when youths could have
              actual friends?

              I was afraid you'd see
              this, Hercule.

Henry James
English Hours
op. cit.