Saturday, August 18, 2012

Saturday commute lxvi: Waiting for the day to open

  It's bad enough,
  when the dough-
  nut shop stays
  but when the pa-
  perboy is late,
  it seldom helps
  to know what held
  him up.

                      Someone else is out
                      there, carving edges
                      off the surf, and you
                      have waited patiently
                      for news of where it is.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Where were you when we were at Putney, Mr Romney?

We sit and we watch, cycle after electoral cycle, as the Republican Party in the United States puts forward as a candidate for the highest executive position in the republic, a theorist steeped in defiant ignorance of that office’s origins and the purposes of free government, and whose passion, to leave whose legacy, is to expand that sphere of ignorance insofar as it must govern this nation as a new and degenerate principle of representative government. What the last Administration did to the self-incrimination clause of the Fifth Amendment, the greatest masterpiece of human rights ever inscribed as law, can probably never be undone. And they are far from shy of bold ideas. 

Now we have, in the assertion by Mitt Romney, that the public interest in his disclosure of his financial condition is “Small-Minded,” more than a revolting reduction of the public interest to the voyeurism of Women’s Wear Daily. We have an assertion of policy, itself, that the people have no right to an understanding of who may be holding their offices and formulating, implementing and enforcing laws governing their lives.

Never mind that the enunciation of this new policy comes at a time when the Republican Party has conducted nationwide warfare against voters of slight or no connection to permanent physical addresses in the jurisdictions where the laws will bind them, wherever they may happen to sleep - under highway overpasses, in dormitories of seasonal occupation, on park benches, in some friend’s utility closet. Never mind, that the laws this Party is so anxious to precipitate intend to sever these identical people, from the protections of their own government; and never mind, that they may call in Rupert Murdoch's rednecks as cheerleader of their rectitude.

Ignoring, then, the convergence of the apparent hauteur in Mr Romney’s disdain for an informed electorate with his propagation of ignorance, itself, as a screen for these policies, what is striking is just how miserably credible his incompetence is in making his claim. It was rejected in the Puritan Revolution of 1647, having been given full airing and expression in debates of Cromwell’s Army at Putney. You and I did not have a finer education than Romney’s, but possibly he was out forcibly shaving the head of a fellow student that day, when his classmates were gathering with their preceptor to learn about where the doctrine of suffrage comes from in Anglo-American representative government. If he knew, we could hope he would not so boldly, so thrillingly entertainingly, so enchantingly masculinely propose to stamp it out.

Now I think it could not be more urgently pertinent to any voter’s consideration of policy, and certainly not more relevant to the consideration policy is likely to extend to him, for him to possess information respecting the financial condition of the man who demands the confidence of his vote. Mr Romney adheres to scruples which exalt the getting of riches and the founding of society upon them. It is reasonable, it is fundamentally sane and necessary, to know how he thinks this should be done. But Mr Romney has gone further than anyone in Presidential history, to offer his wealth as the reason for his elevation to that office. Let him exhibit it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Paul Ryan Watch: Cutie sent to Coventry

Who can forget how the ideologues drove
McCain to flail with Sarah Palin, for the
refreshing spectacle of a courageous pol-
itician, speaking boldly? That overlay of
Capra claptrap on a shrewdly erotic repair
of the ticket has been recast for Romney,
as an endearing Proud Daddy/Eager Son duo
of Ayn Rand zombies of the Waste Land. It
was timely, in this first week of celebra-
tion of the GOP's latest fantasy, for our
ket to stand in the corner today: better
than the dock tomorrow.

Nationwide, the Paul Ryan Watch is on. How
the Republican Party develops the myth of
the tragic 16-year-old heir to his share
of one of the largest construction firms 
in the Midwest, and parlays his cousins'
ownership of a small town into a sinecure
in its Congressional office, thence to run
as an expert in the rotten borough's pho-
bias for seven 2-year terms, will be a
wonder to watch as every one of his cruel
bromides is dissolved in clarifying study,
against the tacky pec-scratch of Fox News.

Compliments to Maureen Dowd, nailing the 
mountebank cynicism of this nomination
right on time.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Endangered Tories lead the Summer List

We know, there can be nothing more
poignant than an English aristocrat
in his balancing act to sustain in-
calculable luxury through the quick
turnover of tourists at his estates. 
This Summer, Heywood Hill's List
presents the usual number of such
specimens, and two have landed here
with surprisingly redeeming charm
in self-revelation, intoning the
same theme of countryside husband-
ry. Hugh, Lord Cavendish of Furness
has presented a gorgeous tour of 
his famous gardens at Holker, in 
Cumbria, and the Duchess of Rutland
offers a spirited chronicle of the
shooting seasons at Belvoir Castle,
replete with heaps of avian carcasses.

What is interesting, staggeringly sumptuous scenery aside, is how aggressively political these titles are, in demanding sympathy for the right to lock up the place at any moment, and be alone in one's hereditary horizon. Infantility, oddly, is the leading argument: a childhood adoration of an Algerian oak is enough to warrant title to it in perpetuity. But should this fail, there is the custodial qualification, of watering the place for others to pay to see it in bloom. The daunting load of work involved in profiteering from this stewardship - never envisioned, until the 20th Century - is never far from recital.

From, however, that little bit of strain that binds us all, in the great human story of comforting the impregnable, it is only fair to take delight in the daunting glory of the other 23 hours of their day. In Lord Cavendish's 17 thousand arcadian acres, really no more than 25 represent a compelling recurring demand upon his curiosity, not counting the house, of course. At the rate at which Rutlands find themselves breeding grouse, the appalling density of their downpour cannot truly be said to represent a threatening depletion. And when it comes to that, the Duke of Buccleuch is not far to visit. These are not barren pantries. 

I very much enjoyed these two volumes, for to their credit there is no skimping in presenting the refinement of the world they document. That there is a market to support such glimpses of the exquisite, I should not have doubted (if I ever did), given the new candour of selfishness we observe in our long recession's penalties for expensive tastes. And nothing is more refreshing to an American, steeped in our plutocracy's drumbeat gospel that its tax immunities are "deficit neutral," to hear a Tory candidly exult in selling sleep-overs to expense accounts.

Hugh Cavendish
A Time to Plant
  Life and Gardening at Holker
Frances Lincoln, Ltd., 2012©

Emma, Duchess of Rutland
  A Season of Discovery
Quiller, 2012©

Sunday, August 12, 2012

We leave ideology for pathology, hook, line and stinker

Did I just see, for the second
election for national office in
the United States in a row, the
Republican Party poke me in the
eye by proposing, for 1st-in-
line-of-succession to the Pres-
idency, a figure of insultingly
vanishing experience, intellect,
judgment and dignity, in order
to inflame itself in broad day-
light with ideological red meat?

This is the most compulsive Par-
ty since the Khmer Rouge. The
transparent adolescent inversion,
the anguished horror of betrayal
in every stroke of social progress, 
are the naughty stink of Justice 
Alito and Justice Clarence Thomas; 
and now we shall see if this ter-
ribly unsecret abnormal psychology
can be voted into national office 
under any ventilation at all.

But had they the decency of a nano-
second's lapse of hypocrisy in the
announcement, to admit that they
wish to thrill their savage member-
ship by affirming, for the second
explicit time, Romney's embrace of
Ryan's fascist budget, before prom-
ising all general media in earshot,
that their nominee will put forth
his own, i.e., sane ideas? Do we
never tire of demagogues who don't
mean it?

So, again: is all that we are left in
the Ryan nomination a set of killer 
abs, acknowledged in every single
press release of the day, to go guy-
boast to guyboast against Joey Biden
in the Fall? But we already know, Joe
thinks he's handsome.

Francine du Plessix Gray on that interesting office

And who was it, who could have known
that into our time there would fall
an attention upon the conjugal engage-
ments of the Bourbon court, with Mrs.
Rodd still in print? Never wasting,
never wanting anxiously the by-ways
of the Petit Trianon, Francine du
Plessix Gray's publishers have given
to our August distractions her study
of Axel von Fersen, The Queen's Lov-
er, just in time for an afternoon's
browse at the University bookstore.
No less than that infallible atten-
dant upon genital activity in High
Places, Edmund White has waved his
knowing wand of favour over its roil-
ing covers, and Adam Gopnik (fast
contending for docent in all displays
Parisian) praises the text for dis-
covering a novel poignancy in the
admittedly familiar mechanics of the
amorous act. Who, then, could escape
the shop, uninformed?

We are not, in our reticent station,
about to compete with these sages in
the distinguishing of the historic
from the merely mundane tweak and par-
ry of furtive heterosexuality; when,
may it be remembered, the template
for registering their seismicity is
safely etched in the masterpieces of
Nancy Mitford, of the previous mid-
Century. Her Pompadour, Sun King and
Voltaire in Love all satisfy the
question of whether anyone were busy
in this way, with persuasive conjec-
tures on what this could have meant
for Statecraft and the lumens of the
Enlightenment, itself. 

Now, in Gray - a writer I have con-
sulted in the overhang of parents
(Them) and at The New York Review
we meet a refresher course in how 
turmoil of social change might en-
hance the morbidity of concupiscent 
escape. What's it like, in other
words, when all else is not going
according to plan? In this new nov-
el, I cannot raise expectations of 
Stendhal or Manzoni, Lampedusa or 
even Genet; but I think I can tes-
tify to its satisfying the fast-food 
connoisseurship of puberty, such as 
we can recall it from Catullus. Here, 
again, are all the marvels of the 
responsive features, lavishly ad-
dressed, here the exegesis of the 
immortal undercurrents' purgations, 
and mercifully without any bio-
graphical obligation. There will 
be no quiz, Class: it is presumed 
that you have mastered this material.

Yes, I do now understand that Marie
Antoinette's boyfriend lent his ar-
dour to the liberation of the Amer-
ican colonies, and was probably a
pretty good guy in his indulgence
of his own sovereign's hideous ho-
mosexual exploitations of his court.
How modern and accessible our dear
Marshall of Sweden does seem to us
in this light, as a fellow traveler
in the getting through of a time of
fiscal indiscipline. But the revolu-
tion in France cannot be said to
have been accelerated by his hap-
pening to have been in a consoling
place at an abject moment in a mon-
arch's day, and so one cannot as-
sign this text to anyone but lay-
about gossips in the prurience of
of our forbears, whose body count 
mounts well enough, already. Read-
ers, however, who accept a publish-
er's representations of historical
purpose in the product at hand, are
warned of acquiring a vapid tease.

Francine du Plessix Gray
The Queen's Lover
Penguin Press, 2012©