Saturday, September 8, 2012

Saturday commute lxvii: attempting heaven's coast

I'm glad not to expect
to get beyond a delight-
ed shock, on seeing in
someone's house I might
visit, the little snap-
shot framed on a night
table or a desk, of a
moment of play such as
this from the beach. My
surprise amuses me, as
I know it must mark my
years, and memories of 
times when this would
be unthinkable. Does
it take boldness to be
happy nowadays? What
would it be like, if

         In a diary for Heaven's Coast, Mark Doty
         wrote during Wally's illness: 

         I have this feeling that there's a word
         behind my life I can't quite say, a word
         that's pulling at everything, a word
         that's keeping me from writing because
         it's just too hard to say it.

One recognises a fierce, tenacious
literature that's in these often
campy little keepsakes, right away.
They portray the defeat of morbid-
ity, in games with which a whole
life came into being by destroy-
ing it. I always wince, still, at
the excessive privilege of setting
eyes on private memories of Kauai
or Cape Cod, but they enhance my
respect, erasing any envy. I never
feel left out, somehow, but let in.


     So you saw, then,
     Hercule, that my
     shoulder framed
     this hand to be
     anyone's, not
     just mine.

     Never just yours,
     Auguste, or ever
     just anyone's. 

Mark Doty
Heaven's Coast
  A memoir
Harper Collins, 1996©

Friday, September 7, 2012

On being under-led and knowing better

  A persistent characteristic
  of any perceived emergency
  is its tendency to bait and
  switch a fellow's focus, in-
  to absorption with pressing
  momentary details. There is
  no wonder, then, how celeb-
  rants of a status quo ante
  exploit an anxiety for the
  familiar, even maladjusted
  and unjust, conditions lately
  interrupted. The President
  has never been able to sus-
  tain his progressive obliga-
  tion while covering his ass.

The syndrome of being under-led 
and knowing better is familiar 
to the condition of awakening,
which is the natural state of
the free life. Even Ayn Rand
knew this, she just saw this
as a predatory posture. Now a
progressive encounters the pred-
ator in American political life
and needs to accept this oppor-
tunity as found consideration,
in the path of leadership he 
has chosen; for the logic of
anxiety has drawn the predator
out with the most generous can-
dour. And yet the President con-
tinues to embrace the predator's
pretense of meaning well, and
the condition of awakening is
thwarted thus by forfeit.

                     A sustainable critical dis- 
                     tance, that touchstone of
                     what is sometimes called,
                     the cultivated life, is
                     impossible without the em-
                     pathy of progressivism. It
                     is always timely for the
                     progressive to resist the
                     seductions of emergency,
                     which for him is nothing
                     other than the natural dis-
                     order of things.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

History so large

This evening, there will be an op-
portunity to listen to the first
President of the United States, ev-
er to seek election on the basis
of securing actual rights which did
not exist until he fought for them
and won them. There had never been
a right to health care in this na-
tion until he secured it as a mat-
ter of law. There had never been a
right to serve in the armed services
until he secured it as Commander in
Chief and with permanent legislation, 
irrespective of gender preference.
There is still not now a universal 
right to marry in the United States,
and he is the first President ever to
call for it and to campaign for it.

At the same time, it is striking, that
he is implacably opposed by one Party
which vows to destroy each of these
rights, and that their policies still
draw mesmerised attention. Who is anim-
ated in this land, every day on get-
ting out of bed, by the prospect of
destroying someone's life as a matter
of political satisfaction? 

There is, indeed, a candidate for the
Presidency who is willing to wear our
shame and to promulgate it, zealously.
I am thankful there is Barack Obama to
defeat him, and I cannot conceive of
a more worthy human act.

iii    Francisco Lachowski
iv     Andrew Cooper
v      André Boleyn
viii  Hedi Slimane, photography
x      Stonewall Inn, 1969
xiii  Clément Chabernaud
xv    Anderson Weisheimer

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Suppose they were just to say, We are not afraid

 The nature of our res-
 tiveness is an absence
 of security, yet much
 more prevalently an ab-
 sence of fear. This is
 the gift of a release
 from exceptionalism: a
 restoration of power. 


iii  Philip Johnson
      Johnson residence, New Canaan

iv   Matas

Monday, September 3, 2012

Living for one's soul

in The New York Times last night,
and I thought of a man who has
lived for his soul. It was how we
were taught to create our work, 
without putting it into so many
words. It has been a magnificent,
fortunate weekend: there is the
exciting new study of James, and
a revival of a beautiful life of
Horace, by a traveling friend of
Chatwin's. Theirs are voices that
will go on forever, and have fig-
ured continuously here, inexhaus-
tible as they are.

The Fall will be rich, with such
resources, and not taken from us;
you can feel the gathering in the
scent of the page, the scratch of
the nib in the notebook of "the
gentleman scholar," the burn of a
passable Sherry in a preceptor's
study, hexameters unraveling em-
bedded warmth of daytimes to re-

And now in a short piece, Michael 
Graves has written so well of the 
recklessness of our pursuit of the 
humane communion, as an extract of 
the human hand. This, in answer to
Horace's doubt of purpose in his
ode to a wealthy lawyer, Torquatus,
is one of the prettiest things I
have read in a long time, I am not
surprised to say.

   Who knows whether tomorrow the gods will have
   Anything more to give than they have given?
   What you can give to your own dear heart today
   Will not fall into the clutch of your heir tomorrow.

   Who knows if Jove who counts our score
   Will toss us in a morning more?
   What with your friend you nobly share
   At least you rescue from your heir.

   Torquatus, if the gods in heaven shall add
   The morrow to the day, what tongue has told?
   Feast then thy heart, for what thy heart has had
   The fingers of no heir will ever hold.

Quis scit an adiciant hodiernae crastina summae
   tempora di superi?
Cuncta manus avidas fugient heredis, amico
   quae dederis animo.

ii   George King

iii  Michael Graves
      Temple of Juno, Paestum

Michael Graves
Architecture and the Lost Art
  of Drawing
The New York Times
September 1, 2012

  Ode to Torquatus
  iv, 7
  David Ferry (i)
  op. cit.
  Samuel Johnson (ii)
  A.E. Housman (iii)

Peter Levi
  A Life
Duckworth, 1997©
I.B. Tauris & Co., Ltd, 2012©


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Aren't you glad you waited?

How well we know, it can't have been easy. Anything you want, they said, as if they saw you coming.

Something told you, this thing is going to get better, I just know it is, and I'll know when it's right for me.


     Good play. 

iv  Benjamin Eidem