Saturday, December 20, 2014

Le Baron, Chouzy

Through the years, Cartier-Bresson's
famous post-war portrait of a vigner-
on at home in the Loire Valley has ac-
cumulated, for anyone who's revisited
it over time, a gathering context of
associations, relevant and extraneous
in equal parts, so that it is pleas-
ing to try to see it as for the first
time, although at one's present age,
and in one's present culture and soci-
ety. One of the first things to strike
one is the angle of view, higher than
if one were at the table and lower than at the mantle; but this is not a Rollei photograph, which could account for an abdominal perspective. This is a Leica image, from the nose. The vis-itor bowed.

    Nothing in this
    space is a clat-
    ter. Everything
    thuds; which is
    to say, illumin-
    ation weighs ev-
    erything in aud-
    ible coherency.

    It's a declara-
    tion of genius,
    yet whose, I'm
    not sure.

Henri Cartier-Bresson
Le Baron, Chouzy-sur-Cissé

Martin Conte 
work shirt

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Cuban choke-hold and the next Bush

 The Alan Turing story
 has been told, well,
 already, but we have
 a people who wouldn't
 know that. The hostage
 our diplomacy has been
 to a concentration of
 Cuban grudge-bearers, 
 in a State of elector-
 al vote riches, is be-
 ing gradually released
 in a market of relaxing
 hysterias. There is e-
 ven talk that we might

 This may put the next
 Bush pleasantly on the
 spot in his Party, as
 he styles himself to
 win its many yahoos.
 Worst case, he'd still
 have to come before us.

 Just a hopeful thought.

Hugh Whitemore
Breaking the Code
  Based on the book,
  Alan Turing: The Enigma
  By Andrew Hodges
Samuel French, Inc.
Hugh Whitemore, Ltd, 1987©

Thursday, December 18, 2014

How rude

  Prepared my dog's
  dinner last even-
  ing, mixed a cock-
  tail, went to my
  desk, clicked the
  wi/fi, tapped my
  telephone, and 
  saw a letter from
  the wife of my old-
  est friend, saying
  he is dead. I've
  awakened to the
  how rude phase of
  shock, and insofar
  as we dwell in i-
  rony, that's what
  to register here.
  This is a page a-
  bout playing fair.
  And the first of
  these injunctions
  is, to play. 



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Origins of Wednesday x: Gérard and the proof of jell-o

We can't have been alone in
noticing how doctrinaire our
gastronomic texts have turned.
Even in the matter of jell-o,
there are those who'll contend
that it's all in the mold, and
some, the hue, as others claim
weights are what make it true.

This last assertion struck our
Gérard as reflecting his own
experience, sufficiently to in-
sinuate itself into his mind un-
der the appealing pseudonym of
"logic." And little is so con-
soling as the mantle of that
mentality, where it already lies
so close at hand - and especial-
ly, in the intimidating court of

Logic it was, then, that drove
Gérard to create his masterpiece,
a well-jelled swimming pool of a-
gave extract, to celebrate his
new aviators. Ours was not to rea-
son, against a slope of verdured
slime, but rise to praise how tea-
sin' was the rôle played by the 

               We have given the measurements for the 
               water for the jelly in grams, rather
               than millilitres. This is because, al-
               though millilitres and grams are equal,
               in recipes where precision is important
               you get a more accurate result if you
               weigh the liquid.

Honi soit
qui mal y

Jack Adair-Bevan
Paûla Zarate
Matthew Pennington
Iain Pennington
  Recipes, Foods and Spirituous
  Liquors, from our Bounteous
  Walled Garden in the Several
  Seasons of the Year
  [The Mendips, Somerset]
    Summer:  Pineapple Weed Jelly
    220 grams caster sugar
    40 grams pineapple weed
    13 grams gelatine leaves
    Cherry Spoom to serve
Ebury Press

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Listening at the Monteleone vii: Pacings of Advent

          There is a king inside the king that the king
          does not acknowledge ..

          The glittering ship captained by darkness
          swiftly, evenly, crosses and


          I have seen it. I cannot
          forget. Memory is a fact of the soul.

Frank Bidart's poem, of which this
is a fragment, runs for 30 pages in
the edition of the small collection
which it ends. He has remarked that
this poem seemed to him to climax
many years of working finally to re-
lease it, and one can believe that.

Then when such a work emerges I'd
guess it's never so much out of sea-
son, as beyond seasons. This is at
least how it strikes me. The Monte-
leone series is where it fits here. 

Frank Bidart
  The Second Hour
  of the Night
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
op. cit.

Is all information intestinally suspect?

 I know, I know. It must
 seem to be one sluggish
 day for wit, when Ox-
 ford dons take to imit-
 ating our darling Cen-
 tral Intelligence lads.
 Was Freud right? Is all
 interest in information
 inherently a barnyard
 occupation? Was Animal
 Farm satirical at all?
 Never let it be said,
 the Augean labors of
 research are for the
 squeamish, the tongue-
 tied, the twisted, or
 hamfisted of the pen,
 where smelly gents' in-
 telligence is laid out
 end to end, for type-
 setters to mend.

 The unredacted typo is
 the least of terrors,
 where rectitude's feuds
 are internecine. Hoist
 a glass to confusion of
 us all, our enemies are
 bound to know us by it. 

                  reading some of these pages one
                  immediately detects an affinity
                  between the savage intestine
                  feuds of Oxford (and 'the House'
                  in particular) and those of the
                  intelligence services.



Geoffrey Wheatcroft
The Spy as Historian ..
The Spectator
20 September 2014©

Monday, December 15, 2014

My station

I had the pleasure again of reading some rather wonderful things this year, as I trust everybody did - the privilege, at least, if not the opportunity. In my way of living the opportunity has generally been plentiful, even if sometimes the graduation from the compulsory to the habitual, may have felt deprived of ceremony. As the poet of my gen-eration said, I was hungry, and it was your world. To some extent this feeling has been a constant with me.

In the ironic realm of gratitude for this, or simple adaptation, I certainly wish to acknowledge the unreasonably generous fount of companionship afforded by way of reading, in something that isn't a book at all. I refer to my priceless subscription to The New York Review of Books, which has joined me in countless lunches throughout the year, with printouts of archived essays of the past 50 years, and lately with tablet-domiciled scrolls of these treasures. In the way we observe the device-borne, treading water by thumb-swipe in the shallows, fleeing patient jellyfish, I undertake a comparably determined, if premeditated study of writers referenced here occa-sionally, and others, enabled by the incomparable frequency with which nearly anything they most wanted one to see, they most wanted to publish there. There is not another publication in which such depth of vertical tastings affords such true rapport with character, and only one's allotment of curious friends can promise superior comfort. But this is already known, and I pray, by them.

That said, the year delivered, through the auspices of this very magazine, a republication of Montaigne in the translation familiar to William Shakespeare. By any rational rubric - ah, but we say metric these days, as if we had invented evidence - the occasion would sweep the field in tweeting, and so it must have been doing. I don't tweet, but somehow this could be metered, surely. Or do all these little flutters just converge, without (like Skinner's rats) proving Deuteronomy?

No, a book of consequence matures, as Emerson believed, in our experience with it, in an arbitrary limitation of time, and gains a little imperviousness to distraction, even to fashion. This is seldom a coincidence - a dictionary, for example, offers to suit that definition, but then we have Samuel Johnson's, which doesn't. And which is the one we love. 

If I am lunching with literature, I'm touched by the paradoxical intimacy with strangers that tweeting contrives to invert for one's nearest and dearest thousands. Yet again, it's simply a matter of hunger, and what to do about it. I live with a terrible example, in the form of an English dog. He will be 2 years old this week, with the equinox; but precocious as he is, he's not getting the gift of a thousand masters. He's getting one, to mortify him with laughter in Wodehouse, to lull him with the statelier essays, and to tweak his constitutionals with the provocations of real, naughty birds. He's from California. I'm afraid it shows. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Do some years not yield? The book of the year

  Chiefswood is wonderfully beau-
  tiful. Everything, this year, 
  is a month late, so I see it as 
  it normally is at the end of May. 

No garden flowers are out: their time is not yet; but everything is green, and the green is broken, unexpectedly, here and there, by great red and white rhododend-ron flowers, still in bloom, which appear through cracks of space across the sparkling water of the stream. I thought that I would take out the [tractor] yester-day, but when I saw the long grass full of corn-flowers, I had not the heart to cut them, and deferred my action. I am enjoying being here, though alone and feeding on cold ham, kippers and spring onions.

                I am tired of endless committees. 
                Why should I wear out my life sit-
                ting on them, et propter vitam vi- 
                vendi perdere causas? So I wander
                in these delightful glades, and 
                pause to read literature, not agen- 
                da or minutes, and to write to you. 

                We long to see you back. 

An excerpt from what I saw
in the book of the year, a
carrying forward in radiant 
form. I celebrate merely to 
open it.

To Trevor-Roper, Chiefswood
had much in common with Hor-
ace's Tivoli, a retreat for
restoration, from the zenith
of imperial pomp. He writes
to his step-son in America,
regretting his refusal of a
large capital transfer from
his mother, the daughter of
the Earl Field Marshal Haig.
His subjects are the young
man; the distinctions between
practices in pluralism, toler-
ance, faith, and manners in
England and America; and as
we see, the consolations of
onions and the legitimacy of

55 - 138
 Book 8
   "and for the sake of
   living, lose what makes
   life worth living"

Willem de Kooning
1904 - 1997

André Kertész

Hugh Trevor-Roper
1914 - 2003
100 Letters from Hugh
28 June 1969
Richard Davenport-Hines
  and Adam Sisman, editors
Oxford University Press, 2014©