Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Au revoir, les treize

    They made a
    for butter?

Martin Conte

Jean-Pierre Léaud
Jean Cocteau
François Truffaut

Past red

for a critic
at the exhib-
ition, and
for visitors

  And don't presume you knew the man       you wronged
  so very well. He surely had virtues       you were unaware of;
  nor perhaps are those deep wounds the     ones
  that you imagine (out of ignorance of     his life)
  to be the dreadful blows that came       from you

  Don't count on your feeble memory.
  Temper your remorse, which is always
  so one-sidedly against you, it's           casuistry.

              An obstacle was there and it distorted
              my actions and the way I lived my life.
              An obstacle was there and it stopped me
              on many occasions when I was going to speak.

  But perhaps it's not worth
  so much care and trouble on
    puzzling me out.
  Afterwards - in some more
    perfect society -
  someone else who's fashioned
    like me
  will surely appear and be free
    to do as he pleases.

C.P. Cavafy
  i Remorse
  1925, unfinished
  ii - iii Hidden
  1908, unpublished
Daniel Mendelsohn
  editor and translator
C.P. Cavafy
  The Unfinished Poems
    The First English Translation
op. cit.

Authentication failure and I

Have I kept secret my relation-
ship with social media? I don't
mean D&B or Dilatory Domiciles,
much less alumni publications.
I mean, as you'd suppose, the
darling upstart industries with
GPS impertinence, which captured
friends I knew once, whom I nev-
er hear from anymore, because I
refuse authentication. Every day,
it's the same distraught message
from the leading app du jour, ex-
claiming that my authentication
has failed, in the belief (I'm 
only guessing) that I should be
sufficiently alarmed to leap in-
to corrective engulfment, to be
ratified as real, as if one's
surgeons, themselves, could not
be trusted to find a heartbeat
without this evidentiary trail.

Not to be pompous about it, it
suits me to dissatisfy entreat-
ies for absorption in this new
standard of trust. I remember
methods that work well enough
for that; and for recognition,
too. I do wish my telephones
would accept this reassurance,
but they persist in urging me,
disturbing me, distracting me
and worse, to immerse myself 
in a daisy chain illusion of
sustaining my relationships.
Not extremely likely, anyway,
that I'd be a fit for any-
one's corsage of intimates.
Who would forget Forster -

It would require a botanist
to do justice to these flow-
ers, but fortunately there
is no occasion to do justice
to flowers.

Oh, yes, indeed. I'm aware of
how much leverage I'm refus-
ing, how much linkage I am
squandering, for the projec-
tion of one's face into the
grand tier - or was it, upon
the stage, my cap's supposed
to be set? O, mirror, mirror,
marry me, at least my merry
effigy, today, lest all of
my society despair of improp-
riety in play. One does feel
somewhat Waldenish at times,
while others seem genuinely 
to thrill to this mindlessly
acquisitive, exhibitionist 
structuring of friendships. 
It lacks the requisite dignity
even for abstention to imply 
characteristic of life, or any 
remark one could intend. 

                  Then the camel will shuffle 
                  up and down, dragging after 
                  him a wooden plough, and the 
                  Bedouin, guiding it, will sing 
                  tunes to the camel that he can 
                  only sing to the camel, because 
                  in his mind the tune and the 
                  camel are the same thing.

E.M. Forster
Pharos and Pharillon
Creative Arts Book
  Company, Berkeley, 1980©

Monday, December 30, 2013

Absolutist surveillance, anyone?


   ... unless a statesman
   feels some sense of re-
   vulsion when he has to
   choose to commit a nec-
   essary evil, he is far
   more likely to commit
   an evil when it is not

Noel Annan could capture the Wodehousian enchantedness of Comrade Stalin perhaps better than the master, himself, given the latter's absorption in record-keeping. In the surreal ditziness of the doddering ornithologist, Saxby senior, there were flashes of unanswerable penetration, resembling Stalin's on hearing that his spy, Kim Philby, was being a huge success in Spain, even as Franco was advancing. That isn't logical, Stalin objected. It's rather the way one feels to be given excuses of endearing innocence for a President, on the strength of his liking for Topolobampo, who's amassing a dossier on the entire world. Nice taco, Comrade?

 It's enough to engender the ennui
 on which repression always relies,
 to be greeted with the identical
 intimidations one voted against, 
 all one's life, as the culture's
 descent into the paranoia of the
 Cold War climaxed in the incred-
 iblest confection of invisible e-
 mergencies, in every corner of a
 soccer child's locker room. Al-
 ways there was the complaisantly
 clever "reformer," who'd promise
 relief from domestic injustice in
 broad daylight, who'd dare us to
 risk our lives and our hopes with
 worse. Now we admit, this isn't
 logical, and with the clear-eyed,
 crazy ornithologist, we observe, 
 there's no such bogey in the sky.

 It's where we go to breathe.


Noel Annan
Dean of the Cold War
The New York Review of Books©

P.G. Wodehouse
Cocktail Time
op. cit.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Constructive apronstrings

Rare as they
may be, they
can throttle
the silly to
a standstill.

    At Groton he bucked
    the spartan regime
    of its headmaster.
    Endicott Peabody
    told his mother to
    take him away since
    he would never make
    a Groton boy out of
    him. His mother re-
    plied she had not
    sent Dean there to
    be made into a Grot-
    on boy but to be ed-
    ucated, and she sug-
    gested Peabody should
    start doing so.

Noel Annan
Provost of King's College
Vice-Chancellor of University College

Dean of the Cold War
  A review of
  James Chace, Acheson:
  The Secretary of State
  who Created the American
The New York Review of Books
November 19, 1998©

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Come to year's end


 The duties of living
 wear a face visibly,
 and yet when it goes
 the other way, a vis-
 age is companionship
 I find, sight unseen. 


Saturday commute xcviii: foraging abroad

   I was in great health and 
   and spirits, and fully ab-
   le to enter into the ideas
   of the brave, rude men whom 
   I found in all quarters.


      It was just being
      for a little while
      one of the prisca
      gens mortalium,
      who ran about in
      the woods eating
      acorns and drink-
      ing water.                         

James Boswell
The Yale Editions of
  the Private Papers
  of James Boswell
Frank Brady and
  Frederick A. Pottle, editors
Boswell on the Grand Tour
  Italy, Corsica, and France
  1765 - 1766
McGraw-Hill, 1955©

 ii, 2

Hamish Quigley
Max Motta

Friday, December 27, 2013

Suppose it were Friday lxxxix: Daybreak

  are willing to go any-
  where on earth except 

It is a portrait not of Marian Evans the woman but of George Eliot the artist, and one is not surprised to learn that Lewes rejected it. The face is sad, the eyes are cold and weary, the expression superior, the mouth is sensual and cruel: not the cruelty of a torturer, but the cruelty of a judge. Why should it not be? No charge of hypocrisy laid at her door could compare with the double-dealing of the society which condemned her .. Human beings, particularly when they are artists, are too valuable, too disparate, too contradictory to be left in the hands of the critics or the psychoanalysts. Their poignancy rests in the peculiar force with which each spurns the ideal.

Janet Flanner
The New Yorker©
October 30, 1948

Walking Since Daybreak
  A Story of Eastern Europe,
  World War II, and the Heart
  of our Century
Houghton Mifflin, 1999©

Noel Annan
  A review of
  George Eliot
  Gordon Haight, 1968
The New York Review©
January 2, 1969