Saturday, December 14, 2013

D'you believe in children?

          Funny thing:

          you'd be par-
          tisan in our
          furnace, had
          you said yes.


You heard, probably, they opened the titanium wing

  Yes, I know. 
  supposed to 
  be quieter.

   But this is
   still Texas.
   And they do
   adore metal.

             With any luck,
             we might even
             see a hanging.


Bastian van Gaalen
Kevin Flamme
Hamish Quigley

A friend in Context asks, how to frame a masterpiece

giver of problems

The Huntington, the hometown library
and bicycling destination of my ear-
ly years, presents a Christmas study
place, and shows off a nifty margin-
al autograph in a copy of Julius Cae-
sar from a circulating library. But
nobody goes to the Huntington with-
out visiting the Gainsboroughs, and
of anyone old enough to stand. I re-
member this because I was mastering
both tricks when I first laid eyes
upon it. At the time, I thought he
was awfully big, but not unpleasant,
very high, but in no way haughty -
I was too young to know suspicion -
and mesmerisingly wrapped. Unchar-
acteristically, I discover that time
has not diminished it, even as gasp-
ing and standing have lost a little
of their original edge. Maybe frames
are replaced every so often, to the
refreshment of how a canvas appears;
but I'm content that this one bears
unchanging delight to children, for-
ever. (My marginalia, anyway).

For the camellias, I have only
treasurings of sweet memory. They
were propagated in our own garden,
nearby, by my father, who delight-
ed in original graftings of his
selections. How interesting, it
strikes me, for no reason what so
ever, that those camellias have
long been mulched for the enrich-
ment of others I've never seen.
It is a fact that reacquaints me
with my sense of his fatherhood,
and this contents me, too, as a
frame for my undoubted degradation.

But we are willing to accommodate
ourselves to the framing of any
masterpiece. After all, it's also
a protective act, and offers con-
soling conservation. Yet, I don't
mind to concede, that one can't be
framed and still be seen, whole. 
It is a problem we have with the
photographs of Valéry Lorenzo -
they don't mesmerise, they remind.

    Steady, like a log
    riding a sawmill's spillway,
    the steady coydog.

Paul Muldoon
Moy Sand and Gravel
  News Headlines from
  the Homer Noble Farm
op. cit.

iv  photography Valéry Lorenzo©

Friday, December 13, 2013

Tea Party to-do's, why wait?

  The other day a columnist
  for The Washington Post -
  or would that be, a blog-
  ger; one never knows, in
  the Amazon kingdom, where
  the stuff is coming from -
  was hailing a subsidence
  of the Tea Party's ram-
  page against the 5th Com-
  mandment, and I found my-
  self tallying the list of 
  deficiencies in that pro-
  ject, of chastising the
  Republican Party for ad-
  mitting modernity through
  the blinders. Is it too
  late a stage in this dawn-
  ing transition into back-
  sliding, to speak up for
  traction in the tea cup?

  Something has happened, as
  I know you don't need to be
  told, to the composition of
  our materials. Some kind of
  hamburger helper concoction
  has invaded our porcelain,
  a weirdly shiny agent of
  slipperiness, which I sup-
  pose could be some cousin
  of that non-glass stuff
  that's going into glass
  these days, in bar tumb-
  lers of exotic endurance.
  And this, mind, is taking
  place at the very time
  that Lucretius' knowing
  complaint on behalf of a
  supporting finger, is be-
  ing addressed by reducing
  the diameter of the ring
  to a mockery of digital
  passage (not that it was
  ever to be condoned). That 
  is to say, it's getting so 
  one can't get a grip anymore.

  Far be it from anyone's in-
  tentions, "after" what we're
  going through with the Repub-
  licans - always assuming, our
  scribe is on to a trend, be-
  yond coincidence - to open up
  a purge of the purgers, some
  indelicate raising of stakes
  in a game that was naughty in
  the first place. But a decline
  in our mettle is just certain 
  to settle, if a shtetl's new
  kettle is not swept, pristine. 
  As they say.

  We repulse the slippery slope
  of tractionless teacups today,
  or we defend against this slip
  and fall of civilisation, it-
  self, in backlit boots of mil-
  itancy. (Whee! These bipolar 
  binomials are fun, I've always
  wanted to try one). Nor is the 
  slide confined to tumblers and 
  go-go first responders, anymore.
  Even as we speak, we're find-
  ing an addition to one of the
  page's preferred edifices, con-
  fected of concrete diluted by
  2 percent glistening titanium
  And these are bearing walls, 
  mind you, no dangling scrims
  for Renoir and Rubens and such
  stuff. How on earth, may we at
  least demand, could this have
  come to pass in Texas?

Martin Filler
No Harm to the Kimbell
The New York Review of Books
December 9, 2013

Renzo Piano Building Workshop

Thursday, December 12, 2013

It is this world's business, what they do against their own in India

May we let it go some day,
at this: that no state is
part of Yosemite, that has
the effrontery to dictate
to Nature.

photograph, collection Laurent

Hussar's pelisse plundered, Cracker to blame

"Topicality," as our Smiley
remarked in conference with
Control, "is always suspect."

And so is it, to extract sea-
sonal merriment from that fa-
we encountered in our book of
the year; but we were not the
first. Leigh-Fermor's biograph-
er's father, himself a writer
of travels extraordinaire, and
filched the headings of the
decedent's privy files, in the
present volume of his annual
Christmas Cracker for the book-
cataloguing system is a model
of bloggerly continuity, viz:

  Detached Oddments
  Not Very Important Oddments
  Own Oddments
  Unsorted but Interesting
  Oldish - Needs Sorting
  Badly Needs Sorting
  Current: Unsorted
  Current: Various
  Vol III: Odds and Ends
  Crete: Mixed Bag
  Tiring Duplicates
  Disjecta Membra
  Scattered Intractables
  Official Bumph

A more alert moralist than I -
don't everyone rush forward -
will elatedly decry the un-
apologetic breach this posting
might resemble, but for exigent
partying conditions, celebrated
by that scrupler's own client in
our book of the year - exhibi-
tion among them. I think, what
needs to take place, is a col-
lapse from that lapse, toward 
hilarity, which convention it-
self demands of the season. Let 
so much of it fall against us
as may slough the timid scales
from honest interplay. Then, if 
anyone will confide, what became
of our Hussar's bright cuirass, 
I should be ever so grateful.

John Le Carré
Tinker, Tailor,
  Soldier, Spy
Knopf, 1974©

John Julius Norwich
A Christmas Cracker
John Julius Norwich, 2013©

i photography Hedi Slimane

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

People say, you know, Henry James can't move


  Possibly it's be-
  cause he has come

     To walk in quest of any
     object that one has more
     or less tenderly dreamed
     of, to find your way, to
     steal upon it softly, to
     see at last, if it be
     church or castle, the 
     tower-tops peeping above
     elms or beeches - to push
     forward with a rush, and
     emerge and pause and draw
     that first long breath
     which is the compromise be-
     tween so many sensations:

Henry James
English Hours
  Lichfield and Warwick

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

With Argentina

  The servants were preparing 
  the dining-room for the eve- 
  ning's reception. The after-
  noon sun squeezed through the 
  velvet draperies and bounced 
  off a runway of white damask, 
  reflecting light over walls 
  of Cordoba leather and a 
  painting of amorous geese by 
  Picasso's father, Ruiz Blasco.

  And then, poof, Argentina
  had gone, as if the canvas
  had been not a forgery, but
  another character of fraud, 
  an unblinkable hypocrisy.

After the ceremony the older
generation relaxed in the win-
ter garden, attended by a maid 
in black and white, who served 
scones and pale tea. The conver-
sation turned to Indians. The Englishman of the family said:
All this business of Indian kil-
ling is being a bit overstretch-
ed. You see, these Indians were 
a pretty low sort of Indian. I 
mean, they weren't like the Az-
tecs or the Incas. No civiliza-
tion or anything. On the whole 
they were a pretty poor lot.

Bruce Chatwin brought a cura-
tor's gaze to narrative proven-
ance. If he were a novelist, we'd know the painting were ironic, the shock would be diffused. But would we have Argentina?

This would be a sacrifice, of hunger, inquiry, love and aspiration we are not consti-tuted to make, short of the subtlest torment. We recognise the decor of Star Chamber. Who doesn't know by heart the lines of this play in his own langu-age, his own voice? We don't want to give up Chatwin, belonging by art as he might not have done to a life, he's just described in so few words. We don't want to give him up because he wrote for people who were friends of ours, whom one can remember through him, for whom we have left the table to drive off in the night to be with, them, hundreds of miles away. The season of our ceremo-nies brings the tableau back. And Argentina?

Bruce Chatwin
In Patagonia
  67:  The Ceremony
op. cit.

Tennessee Williams
The Glass Menagerie
New Directions, 1966©

Kevin Flamme