Saturday, November 28, 2015

Hunting sunrise

                    . . The sun
Must bear no name, gold flourisher, but be
In the difficulty of what it is to be.

Wallace Stevens
Notes toward a
  Supreme Fiction
Collected Poetry
 and Prose
Frank Kermode
  and Joan Richardson
op. cit.

Joseph Alleman

Max Streetley

Saturday commute cxvi: à la recherche du temps délicieux

Perhaps the immobility of 
the things that surround us 
is forced upon them by our 
conviction that they are them-
selves, and not anything else, 
by the immobility of our con-
ception of them. For it always 
happened that when I awoke like 
this, and my mind struggled in 
an unsuccessful attempt to dis-
cover where I was, everything 
revolved around me through the 
darkness: things, places, years.

  For my second undergraduate
  year I checked out of the
  Firestone Library one of
  their several copies of La-
  rousse Gastronomique. That's
  OK. In another year I lived
  with practically everything
  they had on the civil war in
  Spain. A dorm room is a dy-
  namite place for immersion;
  but I was lucky to have New
  York nearby, for field re-
  search in certain appetites.
  The other day, I found my-
  self transcribing Richard
  Olney's take on oeufs en
  meurette for a student, in
  his own term of wonder.

Ara Guler, photograph
Istanbul, 1956

Marcel Proust
C.K. Scott Moncrieff
À la recherche du
  temps perdu

Roger Chauveron
Café Chauveron
139 East 53rd Street

Friday, November 27, 2015

Suppose it were Friday cix: orange fade to black

  Very reasonably, the Ivy League
  has always reserved the prerog-
  ative to ignore the gridiron in
  the higher calling of cultivat-
  ing an imitation of the languor
  of the Platonic symposium. This
  predilection reaches disturbing
  levels, however, when a loss to
  both Harvard and Yale is capped
  by temporizing at Dartmouth. It
  is one thing to abjure competi-
  tion in the dialogues that mat-
  ter, but entirely another, when
  refusing honourable temptation.
  It can begin to look unamiable.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Princeton as a task

I would be interested to know
if Woodrow Wilson were better
known for a deeply controver-
sial Presidency of Princeton,
or of the United States. In
both settings he was a com-
promised Progressive, and in
both he seems to be emerging
as being at fault for it. How
distracting the dead can be.

I offer no opinion in the ex-
citing question, of whether
his name should be associated
with various institutions he
very clearly did inspire at
Princeton - principally, a
School of Public and Interna-
tional Affairs which has lent 
cover for many contentious 
careers, such as that of Gen-
eral David Petraeus; and an
experiment in non-discrimin-
atory undergraduate society,
a nominal "college" within the
college, the first of its kind,
followed next by one named for
Adlai Stevenson.

Among Wilson's other interests,
he also supported the viciously
discriminatory (and anti-intel-
lectual) association, the Ku
Klux Klan, famous for conduct-
ing a wave of terror for sev-
eral generations in the United
States against many sects, but
most notably against one race.

It would be hard to name such
complex, if not compromised Pro-
gressives, without thinking of
Thomas Jefferson, James Madison,
Franklin Delano Roosevelt and
William Jefferson Clinton; but
of them, only Madison attended
Princeton, earning nomenclature
of an underclass dining hall for
the trouble of authoring the na-
tion's charter of government, and
its first ten amendments. 

Now, for acts having nothing to
do with Wilson's brilliant en-
hancements of undergraduate ed-
ucation at Princeton, structur-
ing a system of instruction be-
yond price or compromise, and
without the balkanizations of
teaching of Harvard and Yale,
revulsion with his racism has
brought a challenge to the trif-
ling honoraria of what a couple
of buildings are called. Icons
are made for clasms, and exer-
tions of this kind come proper-
ly to the territory of inquiry.
Wield the soap, for what it is
worth; it cannot touch the task.

It's when we see Samuel Alito,
Donald Rumsfeld, and Ted Cruz
listed as alumni of the univer-
sity, that genuinely pressing
questions present themselves, 
and truly do implicate the soul
of the liberal education. Even
with the best will in the world,
a great institution can misfire;
and when Princeton is reconciled
with the lasting moment of Wil-
son's contributions, possibly a
little curiosity will remain, for
addressing the mentality of those
in her care, this very day. Wood-
row Wilson's project can fail; if
one wants a better Princeton, let
vigilance look there.

Thanksgiving, 2015

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Time to think seriously of wintering

   I haven't thought to mention
   this, but if it weren't for
   California's sudden fashion,
   a hundred years ago, as a
   pleasant place for a winter
   residence, I'd not have been
   brought into this world, to
   a later generation, as a na-
   tive of that same impression.

   Now, as I think of winter-
   ing in my own time, I have
   to weigh the shock the place
   precipitates, as an unbeara-
   ble levitation in litheness,
   against everyone's endurance
   of the same crisis. 

   Everyone says, Oh, go ahead,
   be strong. Nobody, they re-
   mind me, encouragingly, has
   any water to swim anymore.

   But you know, I've long held,
   the elements alone are not to
   blame for California. It only
   seems to be spoiled, to feel
   the specific gravity of one's
   place of birth as the natural
   state. Is there such a thing?
   It's not for me to worry about.
   It can be resisted, as you see
   in this conjecture. But it can
   not be distrusted. Ask Rubens.

   Siblings, age 13 and 9. A point
   spread structuring the natural
   state, is a place of origin of
   enduring specific gravity. At-
   testing to and testing that im-
   pression, the goldfinch dances
   on his ribbon, undistrustfully.


Peter Paul Rubens
Albert and Nikolaus
Collection Lichtenstein

Sunday, November 22, 2015