Thursday, December 31, 2015

Chimes have rung at Windsor

Our sun's quaint custom,
of always setting upon one
outpost or another of the
English language, is some-
times a great convenience
to the timely mixing of a
dry martini, more or less
at will. It's from that
amusingly distributed ton-
gue that we now recite our
happy news, of the jury's
successful completion of
another tonsorial tourney,
selecting the Haircut of
the Year in a single, u-
nanimous ballot. First,
the runner-up ~ a player
of distinction in the
texts celebrated by the
champ. For our part, it
will make for a fine af-
ter dinner treat to re-
visit his best work in
film, of that very kind.

And now we learn with
great delight, that 2016
will see a 50th anniver-
sary screening in several
American cities, of that
infinitely rich tapestry
of Bolingbroke selfies,
The Haircut jurors plain-
ly reasoned, that if deso-
lation is the inevitable
backdrop for the winning
haircut, the bearer need
not be the one to wear it.

Time to go and play.

                 Now comes in the sweetest morsel
                 of the night, and we must hence
                 and leave it unpicked ..

William Shakespeare
King Henry IV
  Part II
II, iv, 364-365
The Arden Shakespeare
A.R. Humphreys
Methuen & Co., Ltd., 1966©

River Phoenix
My Private Idaho
Gus van Sant

Jeanne Moreau
  Doll Tearsheet
Orson Welles
  Sir John Falstaff
Orson Welles
  art direction
Chimes at Midnight

Bridget Gellert Lyons
Rutgers Films in Print
  Chimes at Midnight
  Orson Welles, director
Rutgers University, 1988©

We still have time for entries

  The prize for Haircut
  of the Year is not a-
  warded every year; it
  is bestowed on a ton-
  sorial performance as
  the sole redeeming a-
  menity within a field
  of view. The drawback
  here was an incontro-
  vertibly well-planted
  urn. A bit more deso-
  lation, a little less
  botanical vitality, a
  new entry could sweep
  the field of all pre-
  tenders, by midnight.

   How wittily fu-
   nerary the urn,
   dripping acrid-
   ity to burn, as
   toxic a turn as
   terned, so pit-
   iable to spurn.

   Suspicion gathered for-
   cibly among the jurors,
   of the alien intruder's
   exploitation of desola-
   lation in self-inflict-
   ed melodrama of transit.
   Still, undeniable hair.

                      With brick and mortar
                      so passé in a virtual
                      shopping day, jurors
                      sensed a true hoo-ray
                      welling up in judging
                      play, and sought out
                      moral guidance: if de-
                      light found no subsid-
                      ence, might they call
                      it all a day by award-
                      it to hay?

Dorothy Wilding
Noel Coward

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

High Noon

 We watch Frank 
 Miller's bunch
 out there, and
 the town's too
 willing to emp-
 ty the streets
 for their lit-
 tle Party. The
 story rides on
 a terror surge
 and the snarl-
 ings of intim-
 idation. Where
 is Katy Jurado?  

Carl Foreman
High Noon

Charles Simic

Sticking to our Guns
New York Review
  of Books
December 4, 2015©

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Anyone have a year without Eliot?

   Aye, and poets send out
   the sick spirit to green
   pastures, like lame hor-
   ses turned out unshod to
   the turf to renew their
   hoofs. A sort of yarb-
   doctors in their way, po-
   ets have it that for sore
   hearts, as for sore lungs,
   nature is the grand cure.
   But who froze to death my
   teamster on the prairie?
   And who made an idiot of
   Peter the Will Boy?

I was at breakfast yesterday
with a learned and accomplish-
ed couple of my acquaintance
of the past dozen years or so,
and in exchanging good news of
what we're reading, Crawford's
biography of Eliot (up to the
publication of The Waste Land)
came up, as would be normal.
It turns out, they hadn't read
the poem yet, but insofar as I
had paid it serious attention
(within my usual limits) only
in very recent years, I hold
no scorn for this revelation,
only the profoundest excite-
ment for their sake, to have
reserved that extraordinary
experience. They go all over
the world, they do whatever
they want (they are young),
and they're acutely alert in-
dividuals. I did mention the
usual assurance, that if they
had heard any Dylan (or heavy
metal or Alban Berg), they'd
been standing at the starting
gate long enough, to let them-
selves go; and in any good edi-
tion (I like the one cited be-
low), footnotes and the like
would look after them - not,
in any musical sense, that
they're needed.

As they then joined his fam-
ily, to see an afternoon of
Star Wars, I went looking for
a decent edition for them, on-
ly to find there wasn't one
in town. By "town," I mean
the site of the university
Jefferson designed for our
illumination, not far from
his own house. Of course, 
the library must hold a copy,
and probably it is available
for nothing online. 

We all do live with this poem;
but not to know it, is peculi-
ar. As our conversation over
the division of coffees and
pastries had ranged over read-
ings in poetry, in general, so
I opened a new volume from a
poet cited here before, scan-
ned some lines which could
have come only from Mark Doty,
and realized, much was going
on in them that would not be
there without The Waste Land.

With great regard for a poet
I will always read, and usu-
ally with gratitude (some,
morally obligatory), I sug-
gest he has deeply imbibed
Eliot's praise of Chaucer's
nostalgic sense, of April -

April is the cruellest month ..

           We began to think the white fish individual
           - the one of the pair who'd struggled, after all,
           when our pond's cold water shocked

           and he lay pulsing in the shallows
           till we thought him all but gone ...
           Then simply he drew himself up,

           if that were something a fish
           could do, and swam away.
           A heron ate his mate.

           He surfaced in March,
           after his first season
           entombed in the bottom mud,

           unscathed, a four-inch emperor
           in his white silk coat,
           insignia of the kingdom

           splashed over his back
           the color of candied orange rind.
           He'd nose up out of the lily-murk

           when our shadows crossed his borders,
           push to the edge to open the translucent
           white ring of his mouth over and over

           as if begging ... As if! Seems to want,
           seems to feel. But as we knew him
           semblance fell away: We felt the presence

           of the soul of him, if soul could be
           understood as specificity,
           so that when he himself was swallowed

           - white appetite perched on the roof,
           bill raised to the air, the throat unrelenting -

           the absence in the pond grew resonant,
           a sort of empty ringing. Where were the details then,
           the gestures that had marked him?


Herman Melville
The Confidence-Man
  His Masquerade
Cited in:
John Williams
Butcher's Crossing
New York Review Books, 2007©

Robert Crawford
Young Eliot
  From St Louis to 
  The Waste Land
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015©

T.S. Eliot
The Waste Land
I, i
Michael North
Norton Critical Edition, 2001©

Mark Doty
Deep Lane
  Deep Lane iii
Norton, 2015©

Friday, December 25, 2015

All the good

..  they were still 
sixty-five kilometres 
from Périgeux, on a 
winding back-country 
road, and beginning to
get hungry. The land-
scape was gilded with
the evening light.

On their way to the
restaurant where Jer-
ry Richardson had told
them, he'd had the best
meal of his life, the
Ormsbys experienced a
flat tire, their 7th
in their drive from
Vézelay, in the lug-
gage-laden Renault.

The whole of William
Maxwell's story, of
the Ormsbys' journey
to duplicate those
impressions of another
palate, is digestible
in a matter of minutes,
and can be counted on
to remain with one for
years. He writes so
delicately of mislay-
ing what to keep, it
would be improper to
say what to taste for.

I received a message
yesterday from an an-
cient friend, asking
how to send me some-
thing. I told him he
just had.

Christmas, everyone.

William Maxwell
Early Novels
  and Stories
  The Pilgrimage
    The New Yorker
    August 22, 1953
The Library of America, 2008©

Photo Laurent

Thursday, December 24, 2015

It could happen

A gallant and generous 
blogger from the Péri-
gord, La Pouyette, has 
framed a Christmas post
from the perspective of 
the handsomest way of an-
ticipating its arrival. 

Apart from Heraclitus' 
perfect perch, of a 4-
posterful of infant sib-
lings, a Christmas story  
works best in manifesting 
its miracle, in a vacancy 
rather than in an author-
ity of prophesy. I think, 
"Who knew," is its pitch, 
and that only untrumpeted, 
is its interlineation in 
the incidents of everyday 
life, a possibility. 

Prophesy didn't cause it, 
couldn't define it, can't 
help it. Now, there's pow-
wer without force.

I expect to be wrong, but
I still can be glad.

Joonas Paraviainen
Kathmandu, 2012

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

If Paris is worth a Mass

could one spare
one's pants for
a Mouton?

She'd met the French Rothschilds because 
Jacob Rothschild, of the English Roths-
childs, was the son of Barbara Hutchinson 
by her first marriage and Maro's mother 
knew her; and Jacob had introduced Maro to 
his cousin Beatrice, when she had gone to 
Paris to study. One day, Wolfgang Reinhardt 
came for drinks at the Rothschild house on 
the Avenue Marigny. Wolfie was a film pro-
ducer, said Maro. Her mother had had an af-
fair with him when John Huston was shooting 
his movie on Freud [with Montgomery Clift, 
need I say; Ed.]. 

When Wolfgang appeared, 
Beatrice told Maro that unfortunately she 
couldn't stay for lunch, because she was 
wearing trousers. Her parents always in-
sisted that women wear skirts at meals. 
Wolfgang told Maro: come with me and I'll 
give you lunch with Sartre instead.

Matthew Spender
A House in St John's Wood
  In Search of my Parents
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015©

Michelangelo Antonioni
Monica Vitti
Alain Delon

Evan Harman

Wishbone in Baccarat
Photo Laurent

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Christmas Cracker

Readers who are not disarmed
already by this year's Christ-
mas Cracker from the Mayfair
bookshop, Heywood Hill, are
welcomed to revisit previous
seasons of its writer's wis-
dom, here. The post is bound
to reach us all eventually,
with mirth of 5th Form rib-
aldry, from the perspective
of a very well-traveled ton-
gue in cheek. His Sicily, A
Short History was our runner-
up as book of the year, and
would have won, if the men-
aces commingled in its sub-
title held a candle to the
winner's merry tribe. Alas, 
mere gangsterism is not e-
nough in times of high re-
ligious dudgeon, to Cruz 
our barren dungeon as a lad-
der day saint, which is not 
the same thing (in any way)
as Gérard's rehearsal for a 
redeeming ladder day upon 
the earth. Somebody's always 
campaigning above his rank.

Each day I hesitate to
turn the key in my post
office box, in hope of
my Cracker's arrival, is
a day precariously rele-
gated to my own imagina-
tion. Mine can only wan-
der in this season, to
Norwich's adopted Venice,
and we know why: for the
perfection of the perman-
often construed as peril.

Expecting my Cracker, I'd
cite another traveler on
this necessary principle,
with an eye for simile we
value so much in Norwich,
in whom a spree of mis-
chief always bares a sim-
ple offer of delight, un-
campaigned as an embrace.

Merry wishes, in all the
ways we truly wish them.

        The music subsides; its twin, however, has risen,
        you discover upon stepping outside - not signif-
        icantly, but enough for you to feel reimbursed for 
        the faded chorale. For water, too, is choral, in
        more ways than one. It is the same water that car-
        ried the Crusaders, the merchants, St Mark's rel-
        ics, Turks, every kind of cargo, military or plea-
        sure vessel; above all, it reflected everybody who
        ever lived, not to mention stayed, in this city,
        everybody who ever strolled or waded its streets
        in the way you do now.

        Small wonder that it looks muddy green in the day-
        time and pitch black at night, rivaling the firma-
        ment .. It really does look like musical sheets,
        frayed at the edges, constantly played, coming to
        you in tidal scores, in bars of canals with innum-
        erable obbligati of bridges, mullioned windows, or
        curved crownings of Coducci cathedrals, not to men-
        tion the violin necks of gondolas.

Joseph Brodsky
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1992©

John Julius Norwich
  (né Cooper)
  A Short History from the
  Ancient Greeks to Cosa Nostra
John Murray, 2015©