Saturday, May 24, 2014

As every soldier is unknown

  A generation will pass
  before the sky will be
  perfectly clear of
  clouds for his shining.
  However, what's a gen-
  eration to a sun?

            Oh, let mee not serve so, as those men serve
            Whom honours smoakes at once fatten and sterve;
            Poorly enrich't with great mens words or lookes;
            Nor so write my name in thy loving bookes
            As those Idolatrous flatterers, which still
            Their Princes stiles, with many Realmes fulfill
            Whence they no tribute have, and where no sway.
            Such services I offer as shall pay
            Themselves, I hate dead names: O then let mee
            Favourite in ordinary, or no favourite bee.

T.E. Lawrence
  to the widow of
  Thomas Hardy
  15 January 1928
The Selected Letters
Malcolm Brown, editor
W.W. Norton & Company, 1989©

John Donne
ca 1598
Elegy VI
The Complete Poetry
  and Selected Prose ..
Charles M. Coffin
Random House, 1952©

Friday, May 23, 2014

Now that we are all assimilating Larry Kramer

The cultural whale is full, these
days, of notable bits of Larry Kra-
mer, Ahab of homophile New York be-
fore there was a whiff of HIV, and
ever since its default Father Map-
ple. This alimentary reconciliation
almost makes one sentimental for
Danton, Desmoulins, and St Juste, 
scions of the Panthéon and vision-
aries of Les Invalides. A first-
class crank, afloat in any status-
driven society, is selected from
his class to sit next to Alice
Longworth, so long as he sustains
his malice. Mr Kramer does no less.

If one hasn't anything nice to say
about anybody, it's shrewd to con-
fide this where saying anything of
the kind would sound monstrously
insensitive. And so it was, that
Mr Kramer was given an epidemic,
to leverage his contempt for ho-
mophile culture in Faggots into 
a much more gloriously universal
alarm in The Normal Heart. Like
Danton, Desmoulins and St Juste,
he was the beneficiary of a sys-
tem, compounded by unexpected
circumstances, which gave almost
infinite scope to febrile griev-
ance. This was to be expected.

      So, grabbing Nephew and a load of implements,
      he allowed the former to guide him and his lat-
      ter, recollecting from somewhere "and a little
      child shall lead them," hoping he'd soon be
      leading himself toward that more propitious spot
      in The Meat Rack where he was going to dig his 

Years before the news broke of the
Terror on that silent summer morning
in The New York Times, his own dark
vision undressed itself in satire.
We'll never know, if Kramer was
the necessary prophet that he is
now being hailed for being. Men
and boys deserve some of the cred-
it, surely, for their honest, cruel 
deaths, of which no measure will
ever be possible. He hardly mat-
ters; his tremors are behind us, 
and we are left with sharing his 
survival. It's more than we can 
claim to do with Danton, Desmou-
lins, and St Juste. But would they 
stand for it, Ishmael?

Larry Kramer
Random House, 1978©

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Annals of cognitive revulsion: Wes Anderson for American Express

The mind makes it hazardous to
take a holiday, especially if
one yields to the temptation,
as I've been doing, to resume
contact with the great world
of artistic achievement. This
mensual jaunt I've declared,
began well enough, in a shop-
ping spree from The Golden
Bowl. There, I was able to
relish the luxuriant folds
of possibility in the prose
of our language's perfected
gift for observation, with
Wittgenstein having laid the
groundwork for altering one's
perspective, as I later found
being cited in The Wherewithal
of Philip Schultz. 

Between Bond Street and Treb-
linka, however, I hadn't reck-
oned on the possibility of en-
countering Wes Anderson, al-
though any long-deferred oc-
casion is bound to catch one
by surprise. Preparing to con-
sider his new movie on Zweig,
I plucked The Darjeeling Lim-
ited from the Criterion cat-
alogue, and settled down with
a Bombay and Fever Tree to
give it a go. Yet it is a de-
fect widely remarked of Cri-
terion's issuings, to steep
them in multiple recitals of
a director's work, so that I
found myself greeted by a
commercial he had "crafted"
for American Express, the
travel parasite. Odysseus had
craft, Ben Hogan had craft.
One stole a city, the other
bestowed the purest stroke. 

I assume that Mr Anderson
must have a mother, and that
she may be a reader of rmbl,
so I don't wish to lay too
much stress on the distinc-
tion he compels one to note,
between lark and snark. One
can see that he achieves a
lot of traction in his work
with send-ups and spoofs of
cinematic precedents, in the
mode of the film school wit.
Even François Truffaut was
not above declaring a famil-
iarity with the Greats.

                   Others will have to have the
                   last word, on the difference
                   between a hustle and a sport.
                   But I think, completely to
                   mime the work of someone else,
                   as an exhibition of fluency,
                   is to exhibit no more than
                   truancy from fair play. Prob-
                   ably I won't bother with Mr
                   Anderson's movies, after all.

                   He has lighted upon what is
                   likely the highest-ascending
                   lark in cinema after Chaplin
                   and Renoir, piggybacking snark
                   to a generation that missed 
                   the original release of an
                   unalloyed, unquestionable,
                   inimitable and triumphal ar-
                   tifact of love as we know it.
                   It's a question of purposes. 
                   Any defense of homage in this
                   is no different from a lien on
                   what is ours, from a parasite.
                   It is one thing, to endure it;
                   to instruct us to be thrilled,
                   is hustling.

François Truffaut
La nuit americaine
Day for Night
Georges Delerue

David Levine
François Truffaut
October 11, 1990
Laurent library scan
The New York Review©