Sunday, December 7, 2014

Convulsive encores

There were moments, as I was wind-
ing up a Wodehouse this weekend, 
when I turned to Thorny in alarm
at my convulsions, to warn I might
not make it through the rapids of
hilarious currents that held me.

Our well-educated dread of the
ill-named holiday season has been
burnished this week by convulsion
left and right, as one of the or-
naments of American letters endured
a distasteful mutiny, a benchmark
blog announced it was fed up with
its mission, Republicans sallied
forth with tropical-tie repugnancy,
and rapists were heartened by lazy
reporting on their game. I didn't
list the justice system's exposure
on Staten Island because our soci-
ety's propagation of its crimes was
brilliantly reflected in a memoir by
Tom Ricks at The New Yorker. This
all comes in when the very question
of what a book is, and what it is
for, is plaguing our publications -
and this one - with annual demands
to be answered. It's not a test to
be shirked, and it won't be, here.
Yet there's a book we keep on writ-
ing that we still don't read.

              Inside the bunker, one of the grunts
              has been saying hideous things in his
              sleep, laughing a bad laugh and then
              going more silent than even deep sleep
              permits before starting it up again,
              and it is more terrible in there than
              any place I can even imagine. I got up
              then and went outside, any place at all
              was better than this, and stood in the 
              dark smoking a cigarette, watching the
              hills for a sign and hoping none would
              come because, shit, what could be re-
              vealed except more fear?

Salvador Dali
Portrait ..
St Petersburg

Michael Herr
  Khe Sanh 
Alfred A. Knopf, 1977©

P.G. Wodehouse
Heavy Weather
op. cit.

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