Saturday, June 9, 2012

Substrata of our syntax we have really not pursued

Another Slim Aarons portrait of the late Mrs Guest at a party, this is not, but from the point of view of this page it might as well be one. We have not made so much of Mrs Guest as we might have done, because her affect is so assimilated as an element, already, of the ethnographic and cultural wellsprings of the page that it would only be to wallow in the generic to reproduce her image at all. It is a given, that this portrait of Fernando Fuhrherr equally stands in the wings, so to speak, of such presentations as an individual blogger must, I think, endeavour to offer by way of distinguishing defini-tion and contribution. 

We already have people out there, richly nourishing our grasp of the guest lists of their time by diligent self-reference, who remind me of certain boys in one's eating club who couldn't bear to be known for who they are, in their own right. Again, I would rather cite Philip Johnson for the principle that everybody has a television house, than for the substance of what it shows of everyone. Shall the programming, sometimes referred to as "style," of one hour of Friday evening take precedence over another; or shall what one does with Friday evening despite television, come to the fore?

I know of one blog which grafts these stocks of caste and outcast with a very enlightened discretion and a lightly worn familiarity with them both, which already is so adequately building a dossier on their interior designer trellising that it is only logical to hope that someone will do the same one day for the growers of wine. This is a page, however, on what is left when these self-cancelling salients are set aside, and the individual voice stammers to break forth, almost to conserve the sentence by the technique of spur pruning. The argument is, not that Mrs Guest and Fernando Fuhrherr persist on the same rootstock, but that that vine is carrying something which they extract under obligation to propagate, intact.

Personal "style" is not an aspect of our syntax we have actively pursued, except as regards the creative, authorial voice, as in Terestchenko's or Lorenzo's in photography or Lauridsen's and Jeremy Young's in facial expression. Mrs Guest and Fernando Fuhrherr, on the other hand, are avatars of received expression - familiars to a fault, but alike in that constancy. They are what we have looked at forever, and rightly so, except to the extent that they may relieve us of looking. It would not be insulting to accuse me of feeling failed by these two avatars.

I wouldn't mention these distinctions on a Saturday unless I meant for them to register here. Yesterday I happened to run across again, such a demonstration of essayistic power in selection of detail as to define "looking" once again as that quality to be cultivated first among the blogger's obligatory gifts. It comes from the inwardly traveled gaze of Eleanor Clark, and it appears in a work I've cited here, before, which I happened to be consulting in that most vulnerable of moods, the quest for familiar pleasure. I have not seen a stronger image in textual form, for the arduousness of looking; it has the feel of a scene in the cinema of Robert Bresson, a hero of that act. I only regret that this citation must cost much in context, on the qualities of a fine rural priest, and of life in a harsh economic landscape -- subjects of gigantic pertinence in their own right, to this minute. But this extract may summarise the compassionate imagination that is so beyond the reach of idealised avatars, and which is indispensable for bringing forward, intact, what we all purport to cultivate.

A man of only 26 from the village has died the night before, of a highway accident. His widow has been visited by mourners who encounter the priest on a country road, walking toward her home.

He is passing the after-lunch stream of women on bikes, going the other way, back to the yards, some taking their children to work too since it is Thursday, and yesterday's death lies on their greetings to him. Not many of them from those outlying parts go to church regularly any more although they send the children; hence some of the curé's vituperation and alienation from them, but that is not in the Abbé's rôle, or his nature. He finds the fact unfortunate but doesn't dislike the people because of it; Yvette, for instance, with her grand smile edged today with the common trouble, for she has just been to see the widow and stops to speak to him about it, or lusty weather-beaten Mme Aurogné, nearing fifty and full of jokes, taking her two youngest to work with her. And Jean-Pierre? Ah, that's no joke; she is worried, he disappeared a little while ago and now she has to go and doesn't like to leave him wandering in the fields.

Later, on leaving the stricken house, the Abbé finds him masturbating by a hedge nearby. His features are blobbering and out of kilter, with one eye vacant and much bigger than the other, but he is not quite an idiot, and his mother's earlier fears of sex violence haven't been realized. Something is preying on him, he manages to say it finally; it is that he is twenty-six too, and now that the other one he has known all his life is dead and how can that be, when they were both twenty-six. His head sways like a bear's under such a weight of thought and effort of speech, and then he solves it all in a gesture the Abbé is not quick enough to stop. His huge hands are into the thorn hedge over his head and with one grab, spurting blood from all his fingers, he wrests out a bouquet, and whether from the fragrant little blossoms in it or from the blood of his own wounds, is suddenly at peace. And so, trailing vines and specks of blood from his hands, in a shower of lark-song, lumbers off to join his mother at the yard, on the Abbé's suggestion; there are a few simple jobs he can do there, though not for long at a time.

Eleanor Clark
The Oysters of Locmariaquer
  Chapter Six

1 comment:

  1. Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt.