Wednesday, April 11, 2012

"Beware of torticollis," she says

All of life for me has been an im-
provisation of a study posture. If
I had ever come near to a position
which enabled efficiency in assim-
ilation without advancing fatigue
or promoting complacency, I'd prob-
ably have violated half the rulings
of the anti-trust code, to amass
these competing virtues in one cushy
entity, and wrought the ruin of the 
furniture trade and the cloisters 
at the same time. And yet we still 
hear of the upholsterers, and now 
and then of other Orders.

torticollis is that one has to look
it up. We can't have a true frisson 
of study without an irritant, a pang
with a word someone uses right in
front of us, which rings no bell
at all. It's only a pity that the
lexicon is so nearby these days,
and I have real sorrow for an en-
tire generation which hasn't had
to go downstairs to the dictionary
stand in mother's morning side of
the library, to find out what the
heck is going on. Only yesterday,
learning was so chronically about
getting up. Hence the contingent
postures we ancients still adopt,
so conducive (we were told) to in-
tellectual versatility, and that
good character otherwise sustained
by the cold shower.

Torticollis does sound promisingly
like a cause of action popular in
the common law of Area Code 310,
not otherwise famous for monastic
contemplations. One can see entire
phone banks of clinky-loafered law
clerks, churning prospective plain-
tiffs from the student directories
of UCLA, "How's our pretty neck to-
day, my dear?" And it does hold out
that promise, for which I don't ex-
pect so much as a referral fee, 
from the glossy new skyscraper on
Santa Monica Boulevard, for legal
stalwarts of its cause. There's
something more and more contemp-
tible about any free exchange of
ideas in the Facebook age, when
you can get a billion.

Now, seating, on the other hand, con-
tinues to command our consideration,
if only as an investment principle.
Several dozen amusingly artisanal
plinths for the posterior can set 
up a pleasant little trade almost 
anywhere that Jaguars gather, un-
like their namesakes as it is to
do so. And if the chair doesn't 
have to be conducive to study any
longer, one can just imagine what
this would lend to its price.

But now we come to our provenance
for torticollis, in a writer who'd been
having her parquet repaired, possibly
to mitigate the risk of slip-and-falls.
I had written to her, on some creative
counsel she was giving in the matter of
the study posture, when she warned me of
a risk I hadn't given due weight in mine.
Nor had this compassion the tone of the
reprimand we might expect, toward the
irreverence for the bombe implicit in 
improvisation. Just free information,
if I'd bother to look it up.

More and more, I tend to resist things that
are free, in most circumstances; I regret
the dismissal of provenance, obligation,
rapport, reinvestiture. This is only to
work a torticollis in the mind. I'm with 
Woody Allen; I like copyright, even in a
pedagogic passing from cup to cup. I like
knowing to whom I owe my ability to swim,
my putting stroke, my snicker at the phrase,
always chasing Rimbauds. I believe in tex-
tiles, tessuti, and integuments of taste.
Some are wired their way, I am in mine. 
Behind what I possess, there is no annul-
ment. There is context, or I am missing.

Le style et la matière


  1. "Only yesterday,
    learning was so chronically about
    getting up." Today it is about spreading out - in every sense. To information at one's fingertips and more along the way; to others around the world; to the edges of the often sat at chair! How could I know that torticolis could lead to such text and context?

    1. All of this was inherent, Madame, in your original anthropomorphic proposal - and more, of course, but the biography of the chair is far from over, I trust.