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ARCHIVED ENTRIES FOR APRIL 2012

April  30,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

I wanted to set a new standard for body men.  Whenever the senator was flying in, I would call the airline and arrange for an agent to meet him at the gate.  (Since airlines have a lot of dealings with the federal government, they were eager to help.) The agent would escort the senator through the crowds to baggage claim and out the door, where I would be standing at the curb beside my white Chevy Suburban, which was running with either the heat or air-conditioning on.  Inside, I'd have a cooler with cold Diet Cokes (he preferred cans) and snacks.  National and local newspapers would be displayed for him to read, along with briefing pages.  If it was dinnertime and he wasn't going to be able to eat, I'd have a take-out meal and a chilled glass of Chardonnay.  The menu would depend on whether he had made a request or was on the Atkins diet at the time.  Diet meals generally involved salmon and a salad with ranch dressing and no croutons from the Glenwood Grille or 518 West.  At other times it was ribs, or country fare from Cracker Barrel.  He loved Cracker Barrel--once, he was so excited to see a new Cracker Barrel near his house that he almost made me crash.

--The Politician by Andrew Young

[N.B.:  On the front page of yesterday's New York Times is a fascinating story about this most destructive man-crush.  As the trial of John Edwards continues to grind on, the only thing absolutely clear is that hell hath no fury like a body man scorned.]

April  29,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

It is a fact that in the brutal periods of history, what changes is not the cutting edge of every new market, or the ambition that drives a new factory owner or a new hostess, or a new conquest from the performing stage, or a new triumph in a political drawing room.  All that is constant.  It is the level of coasting that goes on behind the bright and harsh facade that is different.  In a gentle era - and my youth was passed in a fairly gentle era - people of little ability could drift by in every class, at every level of society.  Jobs were found for them.  Homes were arranged.  Someone's uncle sorted it out.  Someone's mother put in a word.  But when things get tough, the weaklings are elbowed aside until they fall back and slip over the cliff.  Unskilled workers or stupid landowners alike, they are crushed by a system they cannot master and find themselves ejected on to the roadside.

--Past Imperfect by Julian Fellowes

[N.B.:  Hmmm, what generation might this observation apply to?  Let me ask some young people; they've been to college and what not.  Oh, excuse me, Millenials, if you could spare a moment from Occupying Wall Street, I'd be very interested on your thoughts regarding whether you consider this a brutal period of history?  What's that?  You must take a call from your friendly government student-loan debt collector?  That's fine, I can wait--unlike some.]

April  28,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

It always amuses me that this particular era, redolent as it is of Versailles and Queen Marie-Antoinette, is such a favourite costume theme with toffs.  They seem to have forgotten that it did not as a whole turn out well for the privileged classes, so many of whom would leave their heads, and no doubt wigs, in the basket below the guillotine.

--Past Imperfect by Julian Fellowes

April  27,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

There was an inertia in the room and we all three felt it.  This often happens when old friends get together after an interval of many years.  Prior to the meeting they imagine that something explosive and fun will come out of it, but then they are usually faced by a lacklustre group, in late middle age, who have nothing much in common any more.  For better of worse, the Rawnsley-Prices had negotiated their journey, I had travelled mine and now we were just three people in a very dirty kitchen who didn't know each other.

--Past Imperfect by Julian Fellowes

April  26,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

'Our parents used to talk about the problem child in any family,' I said.  'Now, it seems to be more the norm to have one child who isn't a problem.  If you're lucky.'

--Past Imperfect by Julian Fellowes

April  25,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

Not for the first time I was struck by the phenomenon, another by-product of the social revolution of the last four decades, whereby parents these days frequently belong to an entirely different social class from their children.  Obviously, this was Lucy's daughter, but she spoke with a south London accent, harsh and unlovely in its delivery, and her plaited hair and rough clothes would have told a stranger of long, hard struggles on an under-supported housing estate, not weekends with her grandfather, the baronet.  Having known Lucy at roughly the same age, I can testify that they could have come from different galaxies for all they shared.  Why don't parents mind this?  Or don't they notice it?  Isn't the desire to bring up your young with the habits and customs of your own tribe one of the most fundamental imperatives in the animal kingdom?  Nor is this restricted to any one part of our society.  Everywhere in modern Britain parents are raising cuckoos, aliens from a foreign place.

--Past Imperfect by Julian Fellowes

April  24,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

This phenomenon, where the losers in a revolution try to demonstrate their support for, and approval of, the changes that have destroyed them, always fascinates me.  I suppose it is an offshoot of the Stockholm Syndrome, where kidnap victims start to defend their captors.  Certainly, we've seen and heard a lot of it over the past few decades, especially among those toffs who are determined to show they are not being left behind.  'We mustn't cling on to the past,' they say cheerily, 'we have to move with the times.'  When the only movement possible for them, once all their values have been denigrated and destroyed, is down and out.

--Past Imperfect by Julian Fellowes

April  23,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

The history of costume is, as we know, a fascinating subject in itself and I find it interesting that I will almost certainly live to see the death of one outfit, at least, that was significant enough in its heyday, namely White Tie.  From early in the nineteenth century, thanks to Mr Brummell, until the middle of the twentieth, it was the male costume of choice for any Society evening, the club colours of the British aristocracy.  When, in the late 1920s, the Duke of Rutland was asked by his brother-in-law if he ever wore a dinner jacket he thought for a moment.  'When I dine alone with the Duchess in her bedroom,' he replied.

--Past Imperfect by Julian Fellowes

April  22,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

In all the time I knew him, he never made the classic parvenu mistake of lapsing into over-familiarity.  Not long ago I was talking to a man before a shoot.  We had got on well at dinner the night before and he, supposing, I imagine, that we were now friends, began to poke me jocularly in the stomach as he joshed me about my weight.  He smiled as he said it and looked into my eyes, but what he saw there cannot have encourage him as I had decided, on that instant, I would never seek his company again.  Damian made no such error.  His approach was relaxed and easy but never egregious or impertinent. 

--Past Imperfect by Julian Fellowes

[N.B.:  So you like Downton Abbey, ehhh?  Well, who doesn't--but that is sugary, sentimental candy a surfeit of which will make you sick.  Come on over to Past Imperfect and enjoy some of Fellowes's filet mignon.]

April  21,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

We often used to spend whole evenings there, eating, talking, dancing, although it is hard to imagine what the modern equivalent of this sort of place might be, since to manage all three in a single location seems impossible now, given the ferocious, really savage, volume that music is played at today anywhere one might be expected to dance.  I suppose it must have begun to get louder in the discotheques after I had ceased to go to them, but I was not aware of the new fashion until perfectly normal people in their forties and fifties adopted it and started to give parties that must rank among the worst in history.  Often I hear the notion of the nightclub, where you sat and chatted while the music played, spoken of as belonging to the generation before mine, men and women in evening clothes sitting around the Mirabelle in the 1930s and '40s, dancing to Snake Hips Johnson and his orchestra while they sipped White Ladies, but like so many truisms this is not true.  The opportunity to eat, talk and dance was available to us and I enjoyed it.

--Past Imperfect by Julian Fellowes

April  20,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

The major-domo--imported with the band from Egypt--tried to put a good face on it by remarking that this was originally Pilate's Praetorium.  It might have been.  No one was quite sure.  On the whole most people thought that it was, though certainly much altered.  Helena was plainly impressed.  The major-domo went further.  These marble steps, he explained, were the identical stairway which Our Lord had descended on his way to death.  The effect was beyond his expectation.  The aged Empress knelt down, there and then in her travelling cloak, and painfully and prayerfully climbed the twenty-eight steps on her knees.  More than this, she made the whole of her suite follow her example.  Next day she ordered her private cohort of sappers to take the whole staircase to pieces, number them, crate them and pack them on wagons.  "I am sending it to Pope Sylvester," she said.  "A thing like this ought to be in the Lateran.  You clearly do not attach proper importance to it here."

--Helena by Evelyn Waugh

April  19,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

When Macarius examined his conscience it was with the method and trained observation of a field-naturalist in a later age studying the life of a pond.  Less scientific penitents noted merely the few big fish; the squeamish recoiled from the weed and scum and with closed eyes blurted out an emotional, inaccurate tale of self-reproach.  But through all his long life the Bishop had refined his knowledge of the soul until each opacity, each microscopic gem had a peculiar significance for him.  He knew what was noxious, what was harmless, what was of value.

--Helena by Evelyn Waugh

April  18,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

Never do harm except for positive, immediate advantage.  Beyond that simple rule, Fausta held, lay disaster and perhaps damnation.

--Helena by Evelyn Waugh

April  17,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Sylvester?" she said with a wave of her plump white hand.  "Oh yes, of course you'll have to meet him.  It's only polite.  And of course we all respect his office.  But he's not a man of any personal distinction, I assure you.  If he's ever declared a saint they ought to commemorate him on the last day of the year.  A thoroughly holy, simple old man.  No one has a word against him except that, frankly, between ourselves, he is something of a bore.  I'm all for holiness, of course.  Everyone is now.  But after all, one is human.  I'm sure in Heaven, when we're all holy, I shall be very pleased to spend hours on end with Sylvester.  Here on earth one does want a little something besides, don't you think?

--Helena by Evelyn Waugh

April  16,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

The oblivious Caesars fought on.  They marched across frontiers, made treaties and broke them, decreed marriages and divorces and legitimizations, murdered their prisoners, betrayed their allies, deserted their dead and dying armies, boasted and despaired, fell on their swords or sued for mercy.  All the tiny mechanism of Power regularly revolved, like a watch still ticking on the wrist of a dead man.

--Helena by Evelyn Waugh

April  15,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

"It needs a special quality to be a martyr - just as it needs a special quality to be a writer.  Mine is the humbler role, but one must not think it quite valueless.  One might combine two proverbs and say: 'Art is long and will prevail.'  You see it is equally possible to give the right form to the wrong thing, and the wrong form to the right thing.  Suppose that in years to come, when the Church's troubles seem to be over, there should come an apostate of my own trade, a false historian, with the mind of Cicero or Tacitus and the soul of an animal," and he nodded towards the gibbon who fretted his golden chain and chattered for fruit.  "A man like that might make it his business to write down the martyrs and excuse the persecutors.  He might be refuted again and again but what he wrote would remain in people's minds when the refutations were quite forgotten.  That is what style does - it has the Egyptian secret of the embalmers.  It is not to be despised."

--Helena by Evelyn Waugh

April  14,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

"They have no faith, the English.  They believe in what men make, but what men make crumbles.  Look at their empire.  This is all they have.  Charles II Street and South Africa House and a lot of stupid-looking stone men on stone horses.  The sun rises and sets on it in twelve hours, no trouble.  This is what is left."

--White Teeth by Zadie Smith

April  13,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

Greeting cards routinely tell us everybody deserves love.  No.  Everybody deserves clean water.  Not everybody deserves love all the time.

--White Teeth by Zadie Smith

April  12,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

Girls either wanted him or wanted to improve him, but most often a combination of the two.  They wanted to improve him until he justified the amount they wanted him.

--White Teeth by Zadie Smith

April  11,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

Irie, looking strangely like the crowd on top of the wall in her everyday garb of CND badges, graffiti-covered trousers, and beaded hair, shook her head in saddened disbelief.  She was that age.  Whatever she said burst like genius into centuries of silence.  Whatever she touched was the first stroke of its kind.  Whatever she believed was not formed by faith but carved from certainty.  Whatever she thought was the first time such thought had ever been thunk.

--White Teeth by Zadie Smith

April  10,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

The first few doors she received the usual pained faces: nice women shooing her away as politely as possible, making sure they didn't get too close, scared they might catch religion like an infection.  As she got into the poorer end of the street, the reaction became more aggressive; shouts came from windows or behind closed doors.

"If that's the bloody Jehovah's Witnesses, tell 'em to piss off!"

Or, more imaginatively, "Sorry, love, don't you know what day it is?  It's Sunday, innit?  I'm knackered.  I've spent all week creating the land and oceans.  It's me day of rest."

--White Teeth by Zadie Smith

April  9,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

She wore her sexuality with an older woman's ease and not (as with most of the girls Archie had run with in the past) like an awkward purse, never knowing how to hold it, where to hang it, or when to just put it down.

--White Teeth by Zadie Smith

April  8,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

BARBED WIRE

The silence, with its ragged edge of lost communication,

silence at the latter end,

is now a spiked north wind.

 

Last words

toss about me in the streets, waste paper

or a cigarette butt in some gutter stream

that overflows

from crumpled darkness.

"Look, I am plunged in the midst of them, a dagger

in their midst."

 

and over the edge

the nightmares peer, with their tall stories

and the day's unheard-of cry.

--Eithne Wilkins (collected in New British Poets: An Anthology (ed. Kenneth Rexroth))

April  7,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

INFANT NOAH

Calm the boy sleeps, though death is in the clouds.

Smiling he sleeps, and dreams of that tall ship

Moored near the dead stars and the moon in shrouds,

Built out of light, whose faith his hands equip.

It was imagined when remorse of making

Winged the bent, brooding brows of God in doubt.

All distances were narrowed to his waking:

"I built his city, then I cast him out."

Time's great tide falls; under that tide the sands

Turn, and the world is shown there thousand-hilled

To the opening, ageless eyes.  On eyelids, hands,

Falls a dove's shade, God's cloud, a velvet leaf.

And his shut eyes hold heaven in their dark sheaf,

In whom the rainbow's covenant is fulfilled.

--Vernon Watkins (collected in New British Poets: An Anthology (ed. Kenneth Rexroth))

April  6,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

THE MOTHER AND CHILD

Let hands be about him white, O his mother's first,

Who caught him, fallen from light through nine months' haste

Of darkness, hid in the worshipping womb, the chaste

Thought of the creature with its certain thirst.

Looking up to her eyes declined that make her fair

He kicks and strikes for joy, reaching for those dumb springs.

He climbs her, sinks, and his mouth under darkness clings

To the night-surrounded milk in the fire of her hair.

 

She drops her arm, and, feeling the fruit of his lips,

Tends him cunningly.  O, what secrets are set

In the tomb of each breath, where a world of light in eclipse

Of a darkly worshipping world exults in the joy she gave

Knowing that miracle, miracle to beget,

Springs like a star to her milk, is not for the grave.

--Vernon Watkins (collected in New British Poets: An Anthology (ed. Kenneth Rexroth))

April  5,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

VARIOUS ENDS

Sidney, according to report, was kindly hearted

When stretched upon the field of death;

And in his gentleness, ignored the blood that spurted,

Expending the last gutter of his flickering breath.

 

Marlowe, whose raw temper used to rise

Like boiling milk, went on the booze;

a quick word and his half-startled eyes

Mirrored his guts flapping on his buckled shoes.

 

Swift went crazy in his lonely tower,

where blasphemous obscenity paid the warders,

Who brought a string of visitors every hour

To see the wild beast, the Dean in holy orders.

 

And there were those who coughed out their sweet soft lungs

Upon the mountains, or the clear green sea.

Owen found half-an-ounce of lead with wings;

And Tennyson died quietly, after tea.

 

Sam Johnson scissored at the surgeon's stitches

To drain more poison from his bloated body.

And Byron may have recalled the pretty bitches,

Nursing his fevered head in hands unsteady.

 

De Nerval finished swinging from a grid

And round his neck the Queen of Sheba's garter.

Swinburne died of boredom, doing as he was bid,

And Shelley bobbed lightly on the Mediterranean water.

 

Rimbaud, his leg grown blue and gross and round,

Lay sweating for those last weeks on his truckle-bed;

He could not die--the future was unbroken ground--

Only Paris, Verlaine and poetry were dead.

 

Blake had no doubts, his old fingers curled

Around dear Kate's frail and transparent hand;

Death merely meant a changing of his world,

A widening of experience, for him it marked no end.

--Ruthven Todd (collected in New British Poets: An Anthology (ed. Kenneth Rexroth))

April  4,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

CATS

Those who love cats which do not even purr

Or which are thin and tired and very old,

Bend down to them in the street and stroke their fur

And rub their ears, and smooth their breast, and hold

Them carefully, and gaze into their eyes of gold.

 

For how can they pass what does not ask for love

But draws it out of those who have too much,

Frustrated souls who cannot use it all, who have

Somewhere too tight and sad within them, such

A tenderness it flows through all they touch.

 

They are the ones who love without reward,

Those on whom eyes are closed, form whom heads turn,

Who know only too well they can afford

To squander love, since in the breast it burns

With the cold anguish every lover learns.

 

So they pass on, victims of silent things,

And what they love remains indifferent

And stretches in the sun and yawns, or licks the rings

That sheathe its claws, or sleeps and is content,

Not knowing who she was, or what she meant.

--Francis Scarfe (collected in New British Poets: An Anthology (ed. Kenneth Rexroth))

April  3,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

LIVING

The smoky blue of evening wreathes from fields

            Of tumbled clay,

And lanes where summer's trampled body sprawls

             In damp decay.

 

Through the thin mist, a heavy tread encroaching,

            I greet my neighbor

Clumsily slouching homeward to his cottage,

            Tired after labour.

 

Alone with dusk, I light a cigarette,

            But let it smoulder.

Another year burns down to stub and ash,

            And I am older. 

--D. S. Savage (collected in New British Poets: An Anthology (ed. Kenneth Rexroth))

April  2,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

NIGHT IN MARTINDALE

Not in the rustle of water, the air's noise,

the roar of storm, the ominous birds, the cries--

the angel here speaks with a human note.

 

Stone into man must grow, the human word

carved by our whispers in the passing air

 

is the authentic utterance of cloud,

the speech of flowing water, blowing wind,

of silver moon and stunted juniper.

 

Words say, waters flow,

rocks weather, ferns wither, winds blow, times go,

I write the sun's Love, and the stars' No.

--Kathleen Raine (collected in New British Poets: An Anthology (ed. Kenneth Rexroth))

April  1,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

"I think any hardship is better than pretending to do what one is paid for, and never really doing it."

--Middlemarch by George Eliot