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ARCHIVED ENTRIES FOR APRIL 2010

April 30,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

One adapts oneself to money much more easily than to poverty: Rousseau might have written that man was born rich and is everywhere impoverished. 

--Loser Takes All by Graham Greene

April 29,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

It was the very point of perfection in the heart of an English Mayday.  The unseen tides of the air had turned, and all nature was setting its face with the shadows of the horse-chestnuts towards the peace of the coming night.  But there were hours yet, I knew--long, long hours of the English twilight--to the ending of the day.  I was well content to be alive--to abandon myself to the drift of Time and Fate; to absorb great peace through my skin, and to love my country with the devotion that three thousand miles of intervening sea bring to fullest flower.  And what a garden of Eden it was, this fatted, clipped, and washen land!  A man could camp in any open field with more sense of home and security than the stateliest buildings of foreign cities could afford.  And the joy was that it was all mine inalienably--groomed hedgerow, spotless road, decent greystone cottage, serried spinney, tasselled copse, apple-bellied hawthorn, and well-grown tree.  A light puff of wind--it scattered flakes of may over the gleaming rails--gave me a faint whiff as it might have been of fresh cocoanut, and I knew that the golden gorse was in bloom somewhere out of sight.  Linnaeus had thanked God on his bended knees when he first saw a field of it; and, by the way, the navvy was on his knees too.  But he was by no means praying.  He was purely disgustful.

--My Sunday at Home collected in The Day's Work by Rudyard Kipling

[N.B.:  Ahhh, nothing like the whiff of vomit on a fresh May day in Merry Olde England.]

April 28,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

There was no chance now of mistaking the man's nationality.  Speech, gesture, and step, so carefully drilled into him, had gone away with the borrowed mask of indifference.  It was a lawful son of the Youngest People, whose predecessors were the Red Indian.  His voice had risen to the high, throaty crow of his breed when they labour under excitement.  His close-set eyes showed by turns unnecessary fear, annoyance beyond reason, rapid and purposeless flights of thought, the child's lust for immediate revenge, and the child's pathetic bewilderment, who knocks his head against the bad, wicked table.

--An Error in the Fourth Dimension collected in Many Inventions by Rudyard Kipling

[N.B.:  Kipling meet Dickens.]

April 27,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

An eminent murderer has remarked that if people did not die so untidily, most men, and all women, would commit at least one murder in their lives.

--The Record of Badalia Herodsfoot collected in Many Inventions by Rudyard Kipling

April 26,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

'When your man drinks, you'd better drink too!  It don't 'urt so much when 'e 'its you then,' says the Wisdom of the Women.  And surely they ought to know.

'Look at 'im!' shrieked Jenny.  'Look at 'im, standin' there without any word to say for himself, that 'ud smitch off and leave me an' never so much as a shillin' lef' be'ind!  You call yourself a man--you call yourself the bleedin' shadow of a man?  I've seen better men than you made outer chewed paper and spat out arterwards.  Look at 'im!  'E's been drunk since Thursday last, an' 'e'll be drunk s'long's 'e can get drink.  'E's took all I've got, an' me--an' me--as you see----'

--The Record of Badalia Herodsfoot collected in Many Inventions by Rudyard Kipling

April 25,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

These decisive years of the teens, when a boy grows into a man and when attraction and repulsion are impressed upon him for ever, were passed under the old, now dreary and lifeless routine of a scholasticism grown petrified and fossil.  The highest philosophy man has known, the glory of the true Middle Ages, had so been allowed to mummify and fail.  All repeated its formulae.  None were nourished.

Yet the discipline had value.  It made scholars, and Cranmer among others.  HIs languages were learned thoroughly, certainly Latin, probably already Greek; but his intelligence was not appealed to, and those faculties in him which have justly rendered famous his later work, his mastery over words, were offended by the dullness of his teachers, but his hesitating caution and reserve only confessed this much later in life.  He received what he had to receive, noting that it was insufficient.  Yet was he perhaps ungrateful in his impatient later scorn of those years, for at any rate they taught him Form, without which no man in any art can reach enduring fame.

--Cranmer by Hilaire Belloc

[N.B.:  Frank Stella, one of the great contemporary artists of our day, mocked those artists who spent years learning how to draw, with words to the effect that anyone could become technically proficient in that skill after 20 years under a master (the clear implication being that Stella was too great an artist to waste a good chunk of his career in such lowly matters).  Hundreds of years from now Stella's name will not be spoken of in contempt--for it shall not be spoken at all.]

April 24,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Just as the village was organized to be self-supporting, and every unit in it secured in revenue as in function, so the other activities in trade and in craftsmanship were organized for security: banded together in guilds wherein the quality of workmanship and prevention of oppression of the lesser by the greater or the absorption of the small man's goods by the richer, was carefully watched.

There were exceptions to this scheme of order, of course, as there are to the dominating character of any society.  Even in our own modern society of competition, insecurity and chaos, there are exceptional islands of security, endowment and peace--the university endowments, for instance.

--Cranmer by Hilaire Belloc

April 23,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

At the crossroads, which had been subjected to repeated heavy bombardment, a shattered crucifix stood in the middle of desolation, the figure of Christ reduced to one hand hanging from a nail.  He hated that Hand: it offended him that such a banal image should have so much power.

--Life Class by Pat Barker

April 22,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

The road was clogged with limbers and motor vehicles and men marching towards the front.  They look like a machine: all the boots moving as one, shoulders bristling with rifles, arms swinging, everything pointing forwards.  And on the other side of the road, men stumbling back, trying to keep time, half dead from exhaustion and with this incredible stench hanging over them.  You get whiffs of it when you cut the clothes off wounded men, but out there, in the mass, it's as solid as a wall.  And they all look so gray, faces twitching, young men who've been turned into old men.  It's a great contrast, stark and terrible, because they're the same men, really.  It's an irrigation system, full buckets going one way, empty buckets the other.  Only it's not water the buckets carry.

--Life Class by Pat Barker

April 21,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

As if to spite her, the train crawled along, sometimes stopping altogether.  Rain-drenched fields.  Reflections of gray-white cloud drifting slowly across flooded furrows.  She tried to imagine this land churned up by wheels and horses' hooves and marching feet, but she couldn't.  And why should I?  She thought, hardening again, when this was the reality.  Grass, trees, pools full of reflected sky, somewhere in the distance a curlew calling.  This is what will be left when all the armies have fought and bled and marched away.

--Life Class by Pat Barker

April 20,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

The conversation flowed, but it was the conversation of friends and he wanted to change that.  He needed to tell Elinor how he felt about her, even if it caused her to withdraw, and it probably would.  Teresa had vanished almost without trace.  Little remained of her now except a voice saying,  "You don't love me.  If you love anybody, you love Elinor, and you only love her because you know she won't have you."  In his memory, even that remark had been pruned.  "You don't love me.  You love Elinor."  That was what he remembered her saying because that was what he wished she'd said.

--Life Class by Pat Barker

April 19,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

 "Don't start throwing bricks, my dear," Colonel Neville said.  "You're a terrible shot."

--Life Class by Pat Barker

April 18,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Yes, yes.  I know, I know.  Russia's busy.  There's that other feature of national life: permanent desperation.  We will never have the "luxury" of confession and remorse.  But what if it isn't a luxury?  What if it's a necessity, a dirt-poor necessity? The conscience, I suspect, is a vital organ.  And when it goes, you go. 

--House of Meetings by Martin Amis

April 17,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

The prose lived.  And when you came to the bits where he had to do the formulas and the piety--you could almost see the typewriter keys getting seized and wedged together like a mouthful of spindly black teeth.  In the 1930s a talented writer who wasn't already in prison had just two possible futures: silence, or collaboration followed by suicide.  Only the talentless could collaborate and stay sane.  

--House of Meetings by Martin Amis

April 16,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Gogol, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy: each of them insisted on a Russian God, a specifically Russian God.  The Russian God would not be like the Russian state, but would weep and sing as it scourged.

--House of Meetings by Martin Amis

April 15,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Our favored method of chastisement was called "tossing."  It was what the peasants used to do, mindful, as ever, of scarce materials.  Don't blunt that knife, don't strain that cudgel: let gravity do it.  One man per limb, three preparatory swings, up they went, like a caber, and down they crashed.  Then we tossed them again.  Until they no longer flailed in the air.  We left them out there for the pigs: canvas bagfuls of broken bones.

--House of Meetings by Martin Amis

April 14,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

I shrugged.  Young men, after their arrival, would talk about sex and even sports for a couple of weeks, then about sex and food, then about food and sex, then about food.

--House of Meetings by Martin Amis

April 13,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Jane's new boyfriend, Mark, had joined them.  One of the people who'd asked for a beer had disappeared so he gave the spare one to Mark.  He was one of those guys, not particularly good-looking, not particularly anything, but as soon as you saw him you liked him.  Jeff took a slug of his lukecold beer.  When Mark got drawn into conversation with another group of people, Jane said, 'You know what I love about him?'

'What?'

'He's so easy-going.'

'I know what you mean.  I love easy-going people.  Even though I know I'm not one myself.  Perhaps that's why I like them so much.'

'There's something so manly about it.'

'I used that very word only a short while ago, in a different context, but I know what you mean.  The corollary of that is there's something so unmanly about being uptight.'

--Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi by Geoff Dyer

April 12,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

'In my experience,' he said, 'the thing about life-changing experiences is that they wear off surprisingly quickly so that after a few weeks you from them pretty much unchanged.  Nine times out of ten, in fact, it's precisely the life-changing experience that enables you to come to terms with the unchangingness of your own life.  That's why those novels are so popular, you know, the ones that culminate in a day or an event that will "change all of their lives forever."  It's a fiction.'

--Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi by Geoff Dyer

April 11,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

In her day Julia had been famously beautiful, a sex symbol, as they used to say.  A nostalgic glamour still attached to her even though there's actually nothing more tragic than these old howlers having to trade on looks that have given way years ago.  Jeff had interviewed another of these crumbling beauties, on stage, as part of the Brighton Festival.  What a fright!  Smoking cigarettes, working through her gravel-voiced repertoire of classic anecdotes - the night she was on acid when Hendrix puked in her fireplace!; the time she asked George Best what he did for a living! - while the audience listened politely, united by a single unspoken thought: ugh!  She didn't even have a memoir to promote.  All she was publicizing was the astonishing fact of her continued existence.  Pathetic.

--Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi by Geoff Dyer

April 10,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

"I do believe you're becoming a snob, my dear.  You're not just a little bit afraid of the working classes, are you?"

"Of course not."

"Don't be, my dear.  They're such fun.  So unrepressed."

--A Room in Chelsea Square by Anonymous (Michael Nelson)

April 9,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

"I'm not very good with secrets, my dear.  The only point of them as far as I can see is the exquisite pleasure of sharing them with other people."

--A Room in Chelsea Square by Anonymous (Michael Nelson)

April 8,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

At each step he regretted more and more that he had not agreed to go with Patrick to Paris when he had been asked the night before.  He should have swallowed his pride more quickly.  He had been right to refuse the first time, but not the second.  It was something to remember in future.  One should make a brief display of protestation quickly followed by a graceful acceptance.  If one wasn't careful one found oneself not even in the position of being able to refuse.

Nicholas realized that the hurried removal from the Rialto the night before had been contrived with a purpose.  So had Patrick's sudden departure for Paris.  Both were warnings that he mustn't think for one moment that he was indispensable.

--A Room in Chelsea Square by Anonymous (Michael Nelson)

April 7,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

It was no good pretending that he was still young.  Age was an inevitability that had to be faced.  He didn't expect young men to be attracted by his looks any more.  But there was no reason why they shouldn't be nice to him for his money.  That's to say, if they were going to reap the benefit of it.  Nicholas didn't seem to have understood the position.  He might be under the delusion that he was indispensable.  Perhaps he didn't know that young men were like pictures you wanted to buy.  You determined your top price.  Beyond that you were not prepared to bid.  Quite often you bought them well below your price.

--A Room in Chelsea Square by Anonymous (Michael Nelson)

April 6,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

"I'm not very helpful, am I?  I hope you don't mind my trying to help you.  People should try and help each other.  I remember Wystan Auden once saying to me: 'We must help one another or die!'  I think it's the best thing he ever said.  After that he went to pieces, although I'm still very fond of him.  I don't want you to think that I'm criticizing him.  It's difficult to talk about him as he works in such a different medium.  But creators have something in common after all."

"What?"

"The act of creation."

--A Room in Chelsea Square by Anonymous (Michael Nelson)

April 5,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

"That's all very well.  But what do I do now?  I can't make up my mind what I want to do.  Have you any suggestions?"

"I'm afraid not.  I'm afraid you're suffering from guilt at having missed the war.  You see war, whatever else it may do, makes us forget ourselves.  It gives a purpose to our lives.  It's a wicked thing to say, but true.  Living in the peaceful welfare state is terribly frustrating.  We're not equipped to deal with it.  We grow bored.  You'll just have to join the ranks of the angry young men and suffer."

--A Room in Chelsea Square by Anonymous (Michael Nelson)

April 4,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Although Guderian had to face opposition from conservative elements in the German Army, almost as tough as anything encountered by the French and British reformers, under Hitler's patronage he received the utmost support.  In October 1935, the first three panzer divisions were formed, with Guderian, still only a colonel, receiving command of one of them.  By the beginning of 1938, Guderian was promoted lieutenant general and placed in command of the mobile corps which played a lead role in the march into Austria.  At the end of that year, now a full general, he received the key post of Chief of Mobile Troops on the General Staff.  Guderian and the philosophy of Blitzkrieg had arrived.

--To Lose a Battle: France 1940 by Alistair Horne

[N.B.:  Here's another of Hitler's talents--the ability to recognize genius in others and to promote it, even against stubborn opposition.  And in the process of promoting such genius, Hitler suborned it to his will.  Great evil doesn't just happen--it requires in addition to the consent of others their active involvement.  Guderian survived World War II with his reputation intact and, no doubt, a heartfelt revulsion at Hitler and the great crimes he perpetrated.  But if Guderian had not consented to lead the unprovoked attack on France, arguably Hitler's later crimes, culminating in the Shoah, would not have come to fruition.]

April 3,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

But above all, Guderian and his theories were just what Hitler needed to execute his policy of lightning conquests effected with minimum force.  With that visionary intuition of his, he had remarked to Hermann Rauschning shortly after coming to power:  "The next war will be quite different from the last world war.  Infantry attacks and mass formations are obsolete.  Interlocked frontal struggles lasting for years on petrified fronts will not return.  I guarantee that.  They were a degenerate from of war"; and later, even more prophetically:  "I shall manoeuvre France right out of her Maginot Line without losing a single soldier." 

--To Lose a Battle: France 1940 by Alistair Horne

[N.B.:  And here's another trait of Hitler's that made him an idol early in his career--his apparently uncanny ability to see into the future and to have an unshakeable belief in his own destiny (and, by extension, that of the German people).  Of course, that ability was just apparent and, as later events proved, illusory in the long run.  In other words, even the blind demagogue will find the future every now and again.]

April 2,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

As early as 1933, when Hitler had attended a demonstration of Germany's earliest tank prototype, he exclaimed repeatedly to Guderian, "That's what I need! That's what I want to have!"  Hitler's own technical grasp was a constant source of astonishment to his advisers; mechanical details fascinated him, and among other things it was reputedly he who first suggested (in 1938) that the 88 mm antiaircraft gun be used in an antitank role, thereby giving birth to a weapon which was perhaps the most successful to be used on either side in World War II.  

--To Lose a Battle: France 1940 by Alistair Horne

[N.B.:  Nowadays, we tend to view Hitler as a raving, mad beast--which he undoubtedly was by the end of his life--but we should not forget that he was much more complex, much more evil than that.  He was also a modernist that not only embraced the latest technology but understood it and, in some circumstances, facilitated its development.]

April 1,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

With the construction of the Maginot Line, the wheel of French military thought, which had started spinning in 1870, performed a fatal full cycle.  In 1870 - in simplest terms - France had lost a war through adopting too defensive a posture and relying too much on permanent fortifications.  Fortress cities such as Strasbourg, Metz and Paris had been simply enveloped by Moltke's Prussians and besieged one by one.  In reaction against this calamitous defeat, France had nearly lost the next war by being too aggressive-minded.  Now, once again she was seeking safety under concrete and steel.  Rapidly the Maginot Line came to be not just a component of strategy, but a way of life.  Feeling secure behind it, like the lotus-eating mandarins of Cathay behind their Great Wall, the French Army allowed itself to atrophy, to lapse into desuetude.  

--To Lose a Battle: France 1940 by Alistair Horne