Thursday, July 19, 2012

This season of English

Valéry Lorenzo

     And Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot
     fighting in the Captain's tower
     while calypso singers laugh at them
     and fishermen hold flowers .. 

If, within the sound of this page, a reader happens by who never drew upon the thoroughest resources of his erotic disposition in the converse of some amiable occasion, to the tune of a dissonant, faintly dissident lyric, then some lawyer at Milbank, Tweed has not been doing his job for the Estate of Cole Porter. As a lesser-educated man, I'm loathe to be held accountable even for crimson reputations. Two disturb me, considerably, in that way which insinuates itself through the fullest extraction of our language's letters, toward resembling the dearest touch one could ever lay upon the membrane of its resonance. Every season, they come back. Now it is Summer, and one can hear Mr Eliot and Henry James, saying so.

Is this useful, one might ask, as if we were discussing something as marginal as the substance of male circumcision seems to be, until some opinion is read from some bench somewhere tending to threaten the free exercise of religion - as happened only this Summer again, where it only most poignantly can, in Germany - restoring the matter to the acutest assertion of significance. 

To hear that debate, one was very much put in mind of whether James or Eliot is useful, for the countless times one noticed the question's turning not so much on what the matter of circumcision means, as on what one wants it to mean, i.e., what one likes and what one believes. How many lines in Eliot are so eloquent, one feels one could not dispose of them except upon pain of true deprivation of perception; how many images in James are so extraordinarily imperishable as he conjures them, that when we go to their sites today, we find their demolition completely incompetent to strip us of what we know is there, because of him.

     In the perfect building one is rarely sure that the
     impression is simply architectural: it is more or
     less pictorial and romantic; it depends partly upon
     various accessories and details which, however they
     may be wrought into harmony with the architectural
     idea, are not part of its essence and spirit. But in
     so far as beauty of structure is beauty of line and
     curve, balance and harmony of masses and dimensions,
     I have seldom relished it as deeply as on the grassy
     nave .. before lonely columns and empty windows where
     the wild flowers were a cornice and the sailing clouds
     a roof. The arts certainly hang together in what they 
     do for us.

One could rest the soul of perception on this predicate, that the honouring of masterworks is no affectation, that they are a birthright woven literally environmentally, to affirm for the benefit of others to whom an obligation is owed. Do I take a position in the matter of male circumcision? I have a private view, and a private view of the silly arguments I read about it. But ask me if it doesn't matter whether we have Henry James on Wells Cathedral, or Thomas Stearns Eliot on Coventry, and I will ask you not to tamper with my inheritance, and let me know as I might have known.

We are returned, I think, to the great, active question by this consideration of inheritance, just as it is asserted to be an exercise of religion to take a position on a boy's body, much less the position that the boy's body is one's own because he is a boy. May I make Mr Eliot say what I want? May I admire James for what I like, if he did not intend it? The fact is that we do, as certainly we see in our endless season of politics; but within limits rooted in a common faith and defensible construction, then we must, for the substance of what they created to be discovered, much less for it to be sustained. Then, linguistically, the resumption of the text in the new voice is natural, and not necessarily a ruin. We could instantly hear that this is what Bob Dylan had done, in Desolation Row, yet is this any concern of Summer reading?

        .. Last season's fruit is eaten
        and the fullfed beast shall kick the empty pail.
        For last year's words belong to last year's language
        And next year's words await another voice.
        But, as the passage now presents no hindrance
        To the spirit unappeased and peregrine
        Between two worlds become much like each other,
        So I find words I never thought to speak
        In streets I never thought I should revisit
        When I left my body on a distant shore.

Bob Dylan
Desolation Row
op. cit.

Henry James
English Hours
op. cit.

T. S. Eliot
Little Gidding
  Four Quartets
op. cit.

Adam Prucha
Photography, Cecilie Harris

Valéry Lorenzo
July 16, 2012

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I know better than to ask much more of life than a hunt in a tub

when it rains at The Blue
Remembered Hills™. 

Widely understood to be
the basic news of the
world for many in the
incurable adventurer set,
its travel entries take 
us through one comfy hotel
suite for strategic napping 
after another, from Rome to 
the Riviera to London to 
Vancouver. I, for one, fol-
low our roving romantics in 
only the keenest interest in how they take their eggs at Claridge's and Manhattans in Canada, with the squirmiest 
sense that Scott and the
Murphys are in awe of their revenge. But it is below the bar, in the Comments section, where the mayhem they inspire results in the swappage of tales too delicious for premeditation.

I put it to you, that only the other day, a reader wrote in to boast of doing away with a fox in his bath. Now this quality of élan in the getting through of one's day is so gallopingly disappearing, that we were all put on notice, to get on with the revels in our own tub at once.

They are, you know, everywhere, these bathers of high invention. It remains only to exchange profiles and preferences in poaching. I know better than to ask much more of life, than a seasonable hunt in a city of high rainfall and plush linens; and when I heard that our travelers were off to the wettest resort in the continent, I knew the thread count would be sublime.

And should it not be? Growing up, you know, they teach us that it is bellhops, who have all the fun. Well, who knew, that it is their wit for hotel habitation, not some occupational quirk which makes this so. I credit BRH™ with drawing this distinction (and so many fine ones like it). Moreover, I can't believe it goes too far to cite the multilinguality of bellhops as among the more natural of their advantages in hotel habitation, where it isn't a veritable cascade of tongues which counts so much, as the right one for any given traveler. Connoisseurs of the narrative of the bathtub hunt have much to be thankful for, that English is so well assimilated at BRH™, and that our fellows enjoy setting foot out of town with such free fancy.

And yet, you ask, can it fairly represent our most cultivated of connoisseurs and faultlessly companionable of duos, to portray their nappings as the rallying point of their readership? But surely this is a query for which no host can be answerable, in this era of sometimes detached retinas. We do remember their hotels, because they document their amenities with the tellingest discernment. Possibly a good natured speculation flows from fine fellowship and, as in any serviceable arterial bypass, invokes a vein of convenience to channel happy data to the healthy heart.

i  Clément Chabernaud

Monday, July 16, 2012

Not keen to sit this one out

A handsome gift collage arrived 
in my mail this past Saturday, 
enumerating the date we call, le 
quatorze. I was glad to publish it 
here to reference the fortnight we 
entered, for completing the page's 
2nd year; but I offer a substitute
picture now, because that gift was
rescinded. A pretty picture and an 
amusing one, what I liked most 
about it was its bowl of berries, 
possibly suggesting le temps des 
cérises of the Commune. But we all 
enjoy what fine use is made of the 
wild berries in the windswept set-
tings at each end of the continent, 
and we always look with keen inter-
est for their return. 

That kind of assumption has been
dealt the most stunning and com-
prehensive correction here, how-
ever, in brusque medical tides
of serial, sorry surprise. There
is no question that the tone of 
this project, my project, was
affected by great and continuing
challenges. But, before then, an
initial amusement with Laurent's
notes had acquired new shadings,
and the page had already evolved
in diverse ways. Editing, in
short, happens.

There never was a question of
sitting out the voyage. Readers
of rmbl confer the shrewdest
editings, by exerting something
resembling pressure. One can feel
sometimes to be their harvester,
at others, their companion. How
is their hand, a cluster to me.

Sunday, July 15, 2012