Saturday, June 16, 2012

Friday, having been reserved for "sexual intercourse," I

Living in the country, as we do, if I should cite a sound as one I prefer, you must regard yourself as entitled to give slight weight to the recommendation. It's in cities, after all, where one gets trombones, and cable car clangours, and the swirl of the olive's toothpick against a martini's better stemware. For some time, therefore, I make no apology for having regarded the sound of my dog Whit's drinking fresh well water from his Japanese earthen bowl as one of the prettiest refrains of the day, and I don't care if this exploitation of that sacred image is an extraction of sentiment. Sentiment, Nabokov has warned us, is disparaged most often by those who don't know what it is; and in the meanwhile, weighed even with the sound of the morning lark and the distant afternoon rumble of thunder, there is a rhythmic, cymbaline delicacy to the ripples of my dog's refreshment which always stops me dead in my present activity, simply to allow it to soothe my own spirits.

There is not, umbrage compels me to say, any resemblance between this innocent canticle and the noise which awakened me last evening, Mr Martin Amis' Pregnant Widow resting on my lap - a book, I suppose I should say - of Whit having bounded up to my bed to drain my mug of its freshly brewed Peruvian coffee, laced with steamed, local milk. 

A thump and a howl and a clattering scattering of spaniel paws later, I found myself where one pretty much always does with Mr Amis, all alone and somewhat drowsily dislocated by a text pock-marked with that clinical phrase for Friday's divine rite. 

Those who know the fiction of his father will recognise "sexual intercourse" as Mr Amis' Iraq war: the thing that just had to consume him, because of his father's expertise with it.

But there is a reason why this place harbours more than one example of Mr Amis' fiction. It's not just that we are contemporaries, that his father was agonisingly funny, and that he is very large; it's that his non-fiction is so strong that one cannot believe his wits will be unrecognisable in a novel that has been praised to the skies, even at Heywood Hill. It was with this very provenance in mind that I had brought his Pregnant Widow to that site of admittedly volatile criticism this Friday night, where it lay so eerily lightly, given the frothy standards of English book-building today, in which one turns the page entirely at one's own risk.

Now, I am bound to return to it, but I can't be sure when, because it really is very clinical, by way of obviously proposing to be both funny and observant. You can tell he means to be both, because he sets his Brits in Italy, and gives them a good allowance. We ask ourselves again, if fiction - unlike acting, say, or cuisine - is a generation-skipping art form; or, rather, if the multiple seductions of being a media figure are only bound to disclose an original, distinguishing strength. Who knew, for example, that the author of Deer Park or of Williwaw, for that matter, would turn out to be among our finer public counsellors in other forms?

The word cannot be too good, one must exuberantly say, for Martin Amis' The War Against Cliché, a collection of essays from his 22nd to his 50th year. (He is my source for the Gervais-pleasing reference to Nabokov, in a review of the master's collected lectures). This is limpid, lively, and literate writing in the mode, pretty much, of extremely amiable conversation, and it seems to have deserved, very handily, its National Book Critics (USA) Circle Award for criticism. He gives animation to his arguings that I never see in his plottings. This makes his intelligence attractive, and shows he understands that to read, is to spend time with someone.

  I note that a number of blogs I read, 
  cited to the right in Context, exhibit 
  a critical disposition, and so I assume 
  this compendium is probably pretty fam-
  iliar in that circle of peers. It merits   being known as simply delightful read-     ing, the sort of thing which Friday 
  really could be about, if it were to put   its mind to it. 

Even allowing for the stimulation of cities, it isn't true, I don't think, that most of us achieve much enjoyment of that faculty during the week, given those indentures so prevalent in our time to the affairs of Mr Romney's people, the Delaware chartered corporation. I would sooner ensconce such worthies on my lap for Friday's pursuits, than yield to them that night. This is not a very nice thing to say, but while under the extenuating irritation of Whit's invasion of my mug, I'd let it go, Mr Amis does not: social issues should have only a conditional bearing on what we generally regard as works of the fancy.

Martin Amis

The Pregnant Widow
Jonathan Cape, 2010©

The War Against Cliché
  Essays and Reviews, 1971-2000
Random House, 2002©

P. Gaye Tapp
Little Augury©
7 July 2011

Friday, June 15, 2012

In which the first person is transferred

The end of Laurent is something I can not think. Under development still and original, he is not yet even the charac-ter he has been thought and is being thought to be, as he unfolds. I don't think he has exploited the chance, yet, to swallow his first tasting from his mug; if so, I haven't heard it.

I will like the end of betrayals which his development has entailed so far. I find that I cannot support his development and at the same time have in mind such feelings for myself as naturally draw one to the approval of others, or to his use to influence the opinion of others. If one could make clear, once, at a blog, any one thing which does not have to be repeated with every entry; if a blog could bear even this vital resemblance to a book, this consolation is the one which I would cut for myself and for Laurent's creation. An obvious approach would be, to recite a blog entry as a report from Laurent, and confine the first person prospectively to my own interventions, borrowing his space.

But red mug, blue linen is to be the chronicle of a figure who thinks as Laurent says he does in his profile, at the top of the page. One figure, not two; or shall we then have Laurent, commenting on this unidentified third party? I'm not sure I'd like Laurent to be distracted by him, even if it should be amusing to see. I find I do not have thoughts which interest me so much as Laurent's.

           The first person, therefore, 
           is Laurent's hereinafter at 
           this page. I am pleased to 
           possess this confidence.

  I am completely dazzled 
  by this picture. It is 
  cute and funny and very 
  much expresses how I 
  feel to have my own boat 
  at last. Everybody should
  have one, don't you 

  I know some guys will be
  worried about 'all that
  traffic.' Well, they'll
  need to learn to row.

ii  Mathias Lauridsen

Thursday, June 14, 2012

If you see St Annie, please tell her thanks a lot

If this is not your first visit to red mug, blue linen, I appreciate that you have come to a page where it is not necessar-ily possible to negotiate more than one of its worlds at once; and where even the world that you thought you could trust, is not necessarily what it had seemed.

It's a page in favour of quiet money, but which objects to money's quiescence to the debauchery of the institutions it built; it's a page in favour of egalitarian opportun-ities but which objects to setting the denominator as low as our culture has been conditioned to want it; it's a page which does not admire luck as breeding or privilege as justified, without embracing the obligation to share them as broadly as possible. It's a page which offers no ease to the leisure class, except in the conservation and propagation of the finer legacies of the human mind, and which asserts the inspiration of the beautiful at every turn.

But beyond question, what drives high numbers to this page is its essentially continuous layering with an erotic imprint. The first reason this is the case, is to demonstrate how inextricable from every contemplative act, the aspirations of the erotic are; and the second is its corollary, and this is that the erotic charge is infinitely far from being limited strictly to engendered functions. This page simply turns the tables on Truman Capote's quip on low remarks always offered on the homoerotic gentleman who has just left the room; it populates his room with those who know better.

Self-described aesthetes are charged by the plain meaning of the word with knowing this; self-anointed arbiters of taste are tasked by their acquisitiveness to account for their hunger. We did not invent this logic; insecurity and phoniness underly fastidiousness when it comes to its exercise against the patently delectable. Then taste, whatever its ostensible antecedent, is nothing but an expression of constraint, rather than of embrace; love is nothing more than a response to authority, not to desire. We cannot pass along any doctrine of liberty on this basis; we cannot pass along any doctrine of justice, without a visceral sense of its fundamental nourishment.

And we can not teach. We cannot implant into, we cannot elicit from anyone the possession of the true or the beautiful without transmitting their energy. I correspond with a man who is experiencing the shock of no longer teaching; I respect that this must be extremely onerous. He will find a way to renew that experience, I am certain. He has been touched by the hunger to know. Felix qui potuit rerunt cognoscere causas, Virgil says; fortunate is the man who knows the causes of things. But he can never lay that knowledge down because he cannot lay those causes down. And he will not.

But that's all sort of by-the-way, because what I really felt like doing today, was to celebrate quiet money, for which I don't think the 190SL is any worse a token than some good guy's Buick. I hope, that is, because in its antiquity the "ladies' car" has really come to grow on me, for being a fairly intelligible and pleasingly responsive little mechanical device, not an ultimate driving machine of loud money and buzzy electronic controls. I think we have to learn to be nicer about our harmless luxuries; it's a good thing, for pleasure to have a simple cause.

Bob Dylan
Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues

  Book II
ca 46 B.C.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I never know what I'll think of, at the Kimbell

I know you know of such a place, where part of why
you love to be there is that you will be surprised 
to be invigorated, and not - as in other places one 
loves, possibly more, gratified and restored or cen-
ground, perceptibly, not tipping me into chaos but
elevating me in a way Antaeus hadn't known, to be
freer and more critically adroit.

Because of surgeries so recent that I could not be
more acutely sensitive to the reciprocities of pres-
sure that are articulated in standing, I'm aware of
the difference between weightlessness - not an il-
lusion at the Kimbell - and of weight, equalised in
space by sensory compensations in seeing, and pos-
sibly in listening. The canvas on the wall and I re-
gard each other without being hefted; we have mass,
but it is imponderous.

I know that what has bestowed this impression upon
truly the benignest courtesy to my pleasure. I sup-
pose I have made it clear that I am of a cast of
mind to cherish such thoughtfulness, as a gesture
of shared respect, yet so self-effacing that I am
not, unless I should blog of it, conscious of being

This is how we want to see the art of others, with-
out that grandiloquent mediation. In this simplified
entry, I wish to exercise a test, drawing on a widely
enough remembered image not to post it at all, and to
engage with others in my only skill, lighted as ever
with erotic signals of caring. This is how Laurent
may indulge the effrontery of demanding someone's at-
tention in the first place. Leaf through his entries;
the pictures are a flux, seldom a literal illustration,
inspired by a hypothetical constituency, to be contem-
porary with a real one.

An exception, today, is that I am inspired by the
departure of a fine young medical researcher at our
university, a friend who is off to take his degree
in medicine in the shade of one of Louis Kahn's more
famous projects, the Richards Medical Center at the
University of Pennsylvania - here, Kahn taught archit-
ecture to friends of mine, from my eating club. It
could not be more fitting, that so many of Kahn's
projects are devoted to the development of youth, 
and remain - as in the library at Exeter, and his
last, the gallery at Yale - in unending and concen-
trated extraction of their genius.

For this entry, I invite the freest comment, but it
would especially favour the experiment if anyone were
lection, and commence a discussion of it right here.
My interest is to experience promise and to celebrate
it, not to measure its outcome. The Kimbell is a tri-
umph of giving domicile to promise, and of exciting 
its revival, its sharing. I have cited its architect 
before, and do again, for the humaneness of his men-
tality. This is quite palpable. In the buildings of 
Louis Kahn, one of Mr Dylan's most beloved lyrics is
answered to becoming surprise, as in the Kimbell's
came home.

Louis I. Kahn
Kimbell Art Museum
Fort Worth

Alexandra Latour
Louis I. Kahn
  L'uomo, il maestro
Alexandra Latour, translation
Edizioni Kappa, 1986©

Monday, June 11, 2012

Whose is this work, called love

Oh, Augustus, it is rather I, or my poem, that is not wor-thy of my friends; yet do not again accuse me of false modesty ..

.. You cannot deny that your plan of destruction is criminal.

That which happens by the command of the gods cannot be criminal.

You are evasive, Virgil; when one is in the wrong he takes refuge in the will of the gods; I for my part have never yet heard of them ordering the destruction of [shared] property.

   eleven stories up
   and you're off
   bounding as al-
   ways on the balls
   of your feet mak-
   ing the crossing
   into your Tenth
   Street life to
   find your band of
   instant comrades
   sworn in fealty
   against a common
   foe that huge
   half hidden world
   of yours I'll
   never know.

   Hearing you it's
   hard to recognize
   that you could be
   adept at dissolu-
   tion. To me your
   husky tones meant
   upland acceptance,
   rooms without
   shame. Please, no
   more visits to 
   the underworld.
   We need you here
   if we're not to
   be phantoms our-

Hermann Broch
The Death of Virgil
Jean Starr Untermeyer, translation
Random House, 1972©

Jonathan Galassi
    A Wave [fragment]
op. cit.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Dissent, the making of disappointment commendable

Our Spring in Piedmont Virginia
is climaxing much too radiantly
these days, to languish in this
subject with contentment; but
presenting a summary to download
and save for sharing responsibly
with others in this election year,
of that fortunately bungled bur-
glary which restored our sense,
as a free people, of having a
deal with our politicians, which
we are entitled to protect. 

The defense of our politics from
corruptions of unfair advantage
is harder than ever, with these
burglars' heirs empowered by our
Court to achieve with loot what
they couldn't loot of our free
will at Watergate in 1972. But
this will be plain enough, with-
out further remark today.

Those who lived through this
early debauch of faith and fair-
ness have done almost too little
to portray its antipathy to the
young, per se, not merely in the
demographic of wartime dissent
but in the defining naïveté of
our Constitutional experiment,
itself. It is right, to cast
this nation's birthright as
eternally innocent, demanding
protection through spirited
enactments of liberty.

It is natural to envision a well
matched choral competition, in
which the prize must go to the
party who promulgates the glad-
dest sound more gladdeningly,
of energy expended in the joy
of playing fair. We defend our
politics from sadness who dis-
arm it in our daily lives. It's
a beautiful morning in Virginia;
I hope it is, where you are.