Thursday, May 31, 2012

Style as we know it: going as the fish course

I don't know who is responsible for this, but if I were to allow my educated guess - the raglan shoulder and its easy collar, the neck-line and subtleties of the T, the sandals - to narrow it down, I'd be changing my subject, which is what an enviably comfy and hearten-ingly pretty way this is to dress, for checking into a hospital on a gorgeous Spring weekend, for an i-v drip and a raft of ultrasounds. One always likes, I think, not to carry paradox so far as to be construed as mocking; but where blithe and lovely, in particular, are to be under pressure, a little private reservation of panache can be indulged to nobody's affront. I don't think I could see dressing this way for a garden lunch, for fear of risking competi-tion with the host setting, if not the sea bass, itself; and yet, I suppose this is the idea. Spring fashion strikes me as one of those cases, where congruency commonly verges upon the incongruous: infelicitous, tautological, but prevalent, of course.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Gérard, who knows his way around a conundrum

Of all the associates who have enlisted in the sustenance of rmbl as the Reform Club lark that it is - from this position - certainly Gérard has shown himself to lack none of Dickie Hakluyt's gall, Naughty Witt's cheek, Hercule and Auguste's obliviousness, and dear Thorny's genius for the strategic doze so much as he, and in this observation we include his plodding little editor. You can imagine with what relief, then, we greeted his solution to our recuperation's tiresome insomnia, tricky leg and spiking pain, which is to take an hour every day in his Maserati Infamnia, as revenge. It had been wasted on his present proving ground anyway, his uncle's breakwater.

Gérard is infallibly too polite to ask a thing to be practical, if he likes the looks of it. We, too, treasure a barometer from Hermès, of impeccable uselessness, because it's such a handsome little caricature of a ship's portal. The Infamnia pleased Gérard in his piercing days, and we set our barometer to say what we want. 

Not that this sentimental aesthetic indulgence extends to his choice of companions, all gifted in some way, for performing some thing; and it was nothing for him to flip through his rolodex under "Feet, Agile, Exemplar of," to make his remedy as elegant as it is. Lacking adult passenger legroom and headroom, the Infamnia acts as a kind of global compression bandage, not merely upon the imagination of the young, but upon the propinquity of its occupants. Driven, then, at that breakneck velocity at which even the reflexes are gulpingly obliterated, the Infamnia delivers a fearsomely accelerated massage, of which an hour seems to drain every complaint.

          Well, you know someone'll
          take this seriously, Hercule.
          Guys will line up for an
          Infamnia, and it doesn't 

          Oh, I hear that it might
          very well, Auguste.

Monday, May 28, 2012


    The meeting in the school corridor,
    a year and a half later, I keep re-
    living in my mind, as if I were go-
    ing through a series of reincarna-
    tions that end up each time in the
    same failure. I saw that he recog-
    nized me, and there was no use in

    my hoping that I would seem not to
    have recognized him, because I
    could feel the expression of sur-
    prise on my face. He didn't speak.
    I didn't speak. We just kept on

I remember thinking afterward, When enough time has passed he will know that I haven't told anybody. .. But I still went on worrying for fear he would think that the reason I didn't speak to him was that I didn't want to know him, after what happened. Which is, I'm afraid, what he did think. What else? ..

Sometimes I almost remember passing him in the school corridors afterward. And I think, though I am not at all sure of this, that I can remember being happy that I was keeping his secret. Which must mean that he was there, that we continued to pass each other in the halls, that he didn't move away. ..

.. I do feel guilty, even so. A little. And always will, perhaps, whenever I think about him. Whether he was spared .. Whether after a while .. Whether he had as lonely a time as I did .. And whether .. all that finally began to seem less real, more like something he dreamed, so that instead of being stuck there he could go on and by the grace of God lead his own life, undestroyed by what was not his doing.

William Maxwell
1908 - 2000
Later Novels and Stories
  (Volume 2 of 2)
  So Long, See You Tomorrow
  1979 (The New Yorker)
Christopher Carduff, editor
The Library of America, 2008©

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Be with me


Always wonderfully impressive
to me is our hearing's genius,
evolved early enough as to seem
only sensory, for giving us the
etymology, the genealogy of a
complex sound which pleases us 
instantly with complete coher-
ency and unquestioned generosity.
A healing voice, if you like,
we trace and assimilate in one
transformative shudder. Yet,
even knowing its quality, one
may wonder how it is produced
in fact, much less where, as
we say, it may have come from.

A healing voice, than which
many say there is no greater,
makes its way from still sil-
ence to resolved completeness
in the first measure of the
widely known Cavatina from
Beethoven's Op. 130 Quartet.

When I was a college boy,
steeping myself in this music
via an ancient victrola (com-
paratively speaking), I could
very clearly understand what 
the critical fuss was about,
in awe of this invention; but
it was also clear to me, that
the music responded to a con-
dition my life had not pres-
ented to me. 

Drawing closer, in time, 
through observation and ex-
perience, to the condition 
for which the wholeness of 
this song is reserved, is 
rather to pass through an-
other veil of love. In my
hearing of the Cavatina on
this evening of isolation
and pain beyond my ability
to anticipate, I feel not
merely the mystery of that
first measure's derivation
as noise, and its swift
identification; I feel a
quality in a healing voice
which I had never imagined.

This very familiar piece of
music is justly famous for its
companionship to suffering, a
way almost of lifting it a bit
from one's shoulders. But no
one ever told me what a summons
it is, away from pain; and no
one ever told me me what a sum-
mons it is, to the unlonely com-
munion of those who undergo it.

In my way of thinking of such
things as the gifts that they 
are - that they need to be
handed along - the Cavatina's
entreaty, its acoustic path 
from the tormenting meaning-
lessness of suffering, strikes 
me as something I have to hope 
will come to the constituents 
of this page.

I am disappointed with the
presentations available via
you tube, which in any case
represent an irresponsible
way of listening. There is 
no rush in this. I would
recommend the compact disc
recording by the Alban Berg
Quartet (EMI).

i  Francisco Lachowski