Friday, October 5, 2012

Suppose, there were no social reward for taste

I very much enjoy, reasoning through
such questions. Even loaded as this
one is, by a cluster of indefinite
terms - or, possibly partly because
of it - we can just see the room 
refilling with friends, even if a-
larmed and elated to be with each
other under the auspices of some-
thing challenging us. The nature of
the love which convenes such meet-
ings is quite central to this proj-
ect, and I sometimes think I have
neglected it.

Oh, treasures, every one of them;
but all or very nearly all, lent
to society's refurbishment in the
very dreams they knew. Prolifer-
ators of wonders, as we appraise
such people; one can't help but
wonder at the line between the
social and the humane, and self-
effacement and ambition, can one?

But is there such a line? Or have
we not just contemplated ambition
as the same thing as self-efface-
ment? This is Friday, not an occa-
sion to gather in abstractions. On
the other hand, it is a day like
any other, in which one catches a
glimpse here and there of what 
it may be like, not to pursue it
as a tautology. 

i - iv  Jeremy Young

Thursday, October 4, 2012

I disagree, that the President was diminished by self-control


  Oh, my goodness. I was embarrassed
  last evening, by the quick reactions
  of the enthusiasts, to the effect
  that the manic challenger in the
  evening's Presidential election
  'debate' was more impressive than
  the reserved incumbent. It was never
  so clear to me before, how scribes
  treat our politics as entertainment,
  as if Callas were out of voice (more
  than her style anticipated, that is)
  in a new production of Manon Lescaut.
  That would be regrettable, of course.

It's as if there were no point to drawing reference to the fact, that he is the President, and people do know him. On the 'strength' of his conduct this evening, I'm certain that this still cannot be said of the challenger, an unbecoming anxiety's reinforcements aside. I am confident that anyone who respects his vote, and can distinguish it from a ticket to the sadomasochistic tragedies of Puccini, will have no difficulty in finding the President's unflappable consistency to have been exactly suited to his recitals of what he has done, what he believes, what he expects and what he intends; and that the cascade, not to say blizzard of novations of himself offered by the pretender, are of a piece with his established cynicism.

To anyone who has been watching this Presidency with a fraction of the attention for which our scribes are paid to do it for us, the spectacle of more flailings against this holder of the office will also be utterly of a piece - with the character of his position, in a time of unseemly polarisation. It may well be, given the influence of any concert of reviews, that voters will imbibe the belief that the President fared poorly. But that will mean, that the President fared poorly, as we have seen in his legislative conflicts throughout his term of office. It will not mean that he is electorally impaired.

On the contrary. The challenger's task was far from met, in persuading voters to adopt a selection of him-self, in an etch-resketched profile of remixed posturing and deception, as the justification for an aban-donment of a relationship of endur-ance. This characteristic of the President's plainly earned respect, for his embrace of the nation's ordeal with patience of no compla-cency, endows voters with a feeling of trust which cannot be disturbed by a hectically showy night on the stage with a settled phony. It is easily compatible with resolve to stay the course, to concede that the President may have 'lost' in the kind of show which is of interest only to quar-relers. This is not what he does.

           The professed 'Conservative' commentator,
           George Will, has theorised that the Pres-
           ident may enjoy re-election because of re-
           luctance to compromise what the electorate
           senses as its own racial achievement, in
           his election four years ago. How little
           that philosophy's claim to grasp human na-
           ture has ever been deserved. The resistance
           is that of a historical tide of struggle,
           much deeper than novelty, to be sundered 
           by a shallow phosphorescence in its way.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Now that we have Argentina

herself to our google map, it's
possible to hope that we might 
move on from American politics,
and get about the serious bus-
iness of play at this page, in
lamentably short supply since
the medical distractions of late
winter. How splendid it is, of
Argentina to return on the heels
of Quixote and of Ishmael, yet

Now, can you stand it, there
are people who will say, there
is not the slightest excuse for
anything in this posting: not
one shred of contribution to
the vitality of the mind, much
less of any nobler organ of op-
inion. But there you are: we
who argue, for a fact-based im-
pression of the world, are well
advised to project one without
remorse, and let the Edict of
Aunts try to find us. So, allow
me to level with you, and drive
you completely nuts in the bar-

There is a satirist named Edward
St Aubyn, who is the likelier son
of the writer of Lucky Jim and
Girl, 20 than the massively bril-
liant Brooklynite who surely is.
Mr St Aubyn is dangerously funny,
in almost the only way funny ever
can be, whose latest venture caps
a quintet of novels chronicling a
gloriously extended Tory boyhood,
At Last to the death of his parent
of great financial hope.

If, in short, we are to lay aside 
the cudgels of political fratricide
in favour of delight, St Aubyn's
substitution of failed infanticide,
suicide, and gladder sides of beef
can not have come into print for a
higher purpose, or reached America
at a timelier moment. I realise, 
too, there are Argentines who've
not laughed since the last Waugh,  
and I celebrate their elating re-
turn with a probitive turn of our
laughter's priceless estate. 

Edward St Aubyn

The Patrick Melrose Novels
  Never Mind, Bad News,
  Some Hope, Mother's Milk
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
  Picador Press, 2012©

At Last
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011©

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Loomings ii

I offer this posting with regard
for a direct inquiry I received.
Most of us who blog, I'd wager, 
have our private correspondents,
who trade ideas and feelings out-
side of the repartée of the pub-
lic page. And I interpret the
character of the private corres-
pondent also to include the lit-
erary resource and the diaries
which interact with us in per-
mission and resiliency, uninter-
rupted by postal vicissitudes -
dynamic waveforms of memory, by
content less infused than style,
ing resources of our passage
Have you ever been asked, what
need there is for a masterpiece? 

Of course, one is always delighted
to find another person who under-
stands, say, that the right against
self-incrimination is the absolute
core of human rights; but one can
get along pretty well, simply to
allow it to shape one's judgment 
of pretty new suggestions, such as
enhanced interrogation.

Those who know their Peter Grimes
will know what I mean, when they
call to mind Britten's sea inter-
ludes, which I warmly believe un-
derstand Melville as well as Crabbe,
the naïve as well as the mad, and
speak to us undyingly of their
quest for reconciliation. The sea
interludes are suspiciously akin
to acoustic production design, 
but work as internal soliloquy.

Politics in America cast us back 
on that sea, to which we are not 
called by any inner voice or na-
tural, Parliamentary timing, but 
by a Constitutional calendar com-
manding us to stamp government's 
ticket of legitimacy. The artifi-
ciality of the occasion undoubt-
edly lends that quality to its
enactment - inducing, it seems
very likely to me - a chronic
and distracting resort to reli-
gion, where the ingredients for 
a spirited secular dispute were
not mature enough in their clar-
ity to generate the savagery of
partisan vituperation. This is 
the natural space of the naïve 
as well as the mad. 

Now we are at it, again - as
the chorus has it in Britten,
Grimes is at his business -
and tomorrow night, the two
principal parties will put
forth their arguments to hold
the Executive sinecure in our
government - the submerged, 
regulation-writing, fate-dic-
tating borough of that showy
surface of name-calling tirade
which passes for an election in
this country. As in most such
diversions in the past, we are
to be fed a religious quarrel -
who detests Marxism more, who
apologises for slavery less -
to drive us toward a monument-
al financial consequence, of
often mortal dimensions.

Who knew, Ishmael? This year, the
great whale looms frenetically, as
the question of white, male rule,
its grazings out of sight, the on-
ly explanation for the morbidity,
hysteria, and birther refusal to
navigate the current with us all.
At the same time, the threadbare
Manichaean Heresy of revanchist
reasoning in our politics has
gained personification in a cham-
pion of absolute greed, a vocal
idolator of the Great Bear and 
Pleiades of money - only money,
mated by a minstrel of Palin-
esque depth and conscience. It's
almost an afterthought, to dismiss
everyone else as ugly, but with 
sublime, unwitting modesty. He is
right, of course. 

We're not his job to worry about.

    Well, then, however the old sea-
    captains may order me about - 
    however they may thump and punch
    me about, I have the satisfaction
    of knowing that it is all right;
    that everybody else is one way or
    other served in much the same way
    - either in a physical or metaphy-
    sical point of view, that is; and
    so the universal thump is passed
    round, and all hands should rub
    each other's shoulder-blades, and
    be content..

    And, doubtless, my going on this
    whaling voyage, formed part of the
    grand programme of Providence that
    was drawn up a long time ago. It
    came in as a sort of brief interlude
    and solo between more extensive per-
    formances. I take it that this part
    of the bill must have run something
    like this:

Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States.



    The pale usher - he loved to dust his
    old grammars, it somehow mildly remind-
    ed him of his mortality.

Herman Melville
  or The Whale
  i  Chapter I: Loomings
  ii Etymology
op. cit.

Monday, October 1, 2012

A question of who had done the reading

Ours was a stern weekend, 
first with Virginia giving
away a done deal football
game against some denizens
of the Delta, and then giv-
ing it away to them again
with a last-minute penalty
inscribed in the ninth cir-
cle of a dimmer sphere.
By the time the Ryder Cup
had sailed for Europe yet
again, it seemed as if we
did deserve our politics.

It put one in mind of an ap-
praisal of Tobias Smollett's
translation of Don Quixote, 
suggested by Carlos Fuentes,
on its re-appearance in print
some time ago: believing the
world is what we read, and
discovering that the world
reads us. Our politics does
believe that it reads the
world, notwithstanding that
so few of us can believe it.
It's enough to make one care-
ful of how we're being read.

Miguel de Cervantes
The Adventures of
  Don Quixote de la Mancha
Tobias Smollett, translation
Carlos Fuentes, introduction
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1986©