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ARCHIVED ENTRIES FOR AUGUST 2011

August  31,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

There's a legend now that nobody saw the crash coming, but that isn't so.  A lot of people saw it coming but there wasn't much they could do about it.  Like it or not, they were being dragged along on the big balloon ride and all they could do was hang on to whatever they had and hope.

 

My father held on to his job and that was everything, too.  A lot of kids today have never seen anything but salary increases, but men used to come home and say, "Well, I got another pay cut."  The first thing a wife always asked was  "You're going to keep your job, aren't you?" and it was only after her husband said yes that she started figuring out how to get by on less.  That was the big thing, to be employed and not just one more person that nobody needed.

 

--The Job Hunter by Allen R. Dodd

 

[N.B.:  Wait, was this published yesterday?  Yep, if yesterday was 1965.]

 

August  30,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Finally, I believe, I underestimated the emotional pressure of unemployment.  I saw something of psychological shock during the war and it can do funny things to a man.  He may feel normal, he may act assured; but the injury is there and it shows itself in lassitude, disorganization, depression and quick-flaring fear.  I was jaunty during those first few weeks; "there's no problem," I said and I believed it.  But something had been broken inside and it may never be whole again.

 

--The Job Hunter by Allen R. Dodd

 

[N.B.:  I thought I'd highlight bits from this forgotten classic (there's an oxymoron for you--but I'm betting on future history (another oxymoron) to vindicate me) in light of President Obama's speech next week on jobs.  Although written when manufacturing jobs were still thriving, this book concerns a year of unemployment in the life of a white-collar professional; thus its peculiar relevance to today.  Unfortunately, the book is out of print so it, too, is looking for employment.]

 

August  29,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

We can say that [Stephen] Edgar suffers from the peculiar Australian critical climate in which it is widely and honestly believed that a rhymed poem in regular stanzas must be inhibiting to a sense of expression that would otherwise flow more freely.  the elementary truth that there are levels of imagination that a poet won't reach unless formal restrictions force him to has been largely supplanted in Australia, by a more sophisticated (though far less intelligent) conviction that freedom of expression is more likely to be attained through letting the structure follow the impulse.

 

--On a Second Reading by Clive James discussing "Man on the Moon" from Stephen Edgar's Other Summers (Poetry, January 2009)

 

August  28,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

By sheer force of will young Harrison, behind his fierce beard, became what is known as a "mixer."  He showed himself friendly.  He worked at friendship as a trade.  They say he was a conceited stripling.  But by cultivating friendly ways he certainly sloughed off selfishness, which is the root of conceit.  So he widened the horizon of his heart, and in the end this helped him more than his friends--whom he may at first have sought with a fairly low motive.

 

--Masks in a Pageant by William Allen White

 

August  27,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

American men in the eighteen-eighties still were skulking behind the barricade of their whiskers.  The whiskers and the moods that maintained them followed the Civil War.  Men found beards convenient in battle days; barbering was difficult, and while the war spirit afflicted the land whiskers symbolized war's fierceness and vanity.  In the scourge of greed and hate that follows every war, men in the sixties and seventies in America may well have needed beards to hide their shame.  General Grant was an honest man, but President Grant's administration, for all Grant's personal integrity, was corrupt and cruel.  The South was ridden and ravaged by cheap henchmen of the party in power.  The West going under the plow, but just behind the plow were flocks of evil birds of plunder--railroad promoters, political shysters, real-estate swindlers, fattening on the farmers' seed and on the worms and slugs in the new furrows.  It was an era of gorgeous spoilation, a time when bombast concealed larceny.  So much wickedness and vanity, so much sham and cupidity were rampant in the land that men did not dare to show their naked faces. 

 

--Masks in a Pageant by William Allen White

 

August  26,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

And here's another reason why, in the American scene, Dick Croker of the Tunnel Gang was safer than the communist to control the mill that was turning the raw material of the steerage into American citizens: Croker desired to be a gentleman.  The example is good.  For your communist likes his gentleman broiled on a spit and rather underdone.

 

--Masks in a Pageant by William Allen White

 

August  25,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

A cautious rascal is safer than a vain demagogue.

 

--Masks in a Pageant by William Allen White

 

[N.B.:  Too bad Hillary Clinton back in her 2008 presidential run chose as her rallying cry the observation about needing someone who can answer the 3:00 A.M. call (now prophetically revealed as truth) instead of this pithy remark (which did not need to await the validation of history).]

August  24,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

When he went into Wall street he was as ignorant of the methods there as the Mahdi on the desert.  The men who played his hand for him needed a friend at the soul of things in New York City, and they knew where the soul of things was.  They did not buy Croker.  He accepted no bribe.  He was true to his Wall Street friends, and his Wall Street friends generally stood by him.  He made real-estate investments, and his advance knowledge of proposed public improvements made his investments profitable.  He bought stock in city industrials, and his friends in office protected his investments, and the stock rose and Croker skimmed off the cream.  He frankly acknowledged that what street parlance called his political pull represented his capital.  His whole life in the years of his power was devoted to accumulating this influence, and rather proudly than otherwise he checked on its as an old man would check on his life's savings.

 

--Masks in a Pageant by William Allen White

 

[N.B.:  Thank goodness we are passed the Age of Croker when a politician thought that "his political pull represented his capital."]

August  23,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

When Croker ran for alderman in opposition to Boss Tweed's wishes, Croker was elected on the anti-boss ticket and helped to pull down Tweed.  Tweed fell, not because he was a thief, but because he did not tell the truth to his fellow-thieves; they found they could not trust him.  and Croker learned in Tweed's downfall the one trick which gave Croker power--he learned to tell those who trusted him the exact truth and to make a lie the cardinal sin in his code.  Those who shuddered at Croker's power in his day shuddered because they fancied it was generated in iniquity.  But the truth is that power to control men is always the sign of some strong quality.  No man is all good or all bad.  Men follow a leader so long as, in their eyes, his virtues outweigh his vices.

 

--Masks in a Pageant by William Allen White

August  22,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Since then the liberal movement in world politics has had its rise, its day of power, its hour of tragedy and its passing.  The liberal movement sought to make government an agency of human welfare.  One of the major mistakes of the liberal leaders was that they sought to make government the only agency of human welfare.  They forgot that masses who require the stimulation of a just prosperity for their happy well-being must themselves first learn to love justice in their own hearts before they can get much out of prosperity except food and clothes and shelter.  Liberal governments brought much prosperity to Christendom, distributed the prosperity with something like equity--only to find that the classes they had improved materially were just as greedy and dull as their oppressors had been in the days before liberalism broke the rusted chains of economic feudalism.  Government helped as an agency of human welfare; it failed as the only agency.

 

--Masks in a Pageant by William Allen White

 

[N.B.:  What is this?  The latest screed from some shock-jock radio personality?  Nope.  Just the musings of a journalist about the recent string of presidents leading up to the publication of his book--in 1928.  What happened in 1929?]

August  21,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

He conferred earnestly with a waiter, while Mr. Cupples, in a pleasant meditation, warmed himself before the great fire.  "The wine here," Trent resumed, as they seated themselves, "is almost certainly made out of grapes.  What shall we drink?"

 

Mr. Cupples came out of his reverie.  "I think," he said, "I will have milk and soda water."

 

"Speak lower!" urged Trent.  "The headwaiter has a weak heart, and might hear you.  Milk and soda water!  Cupples, you may think you have a strong constitution, and I don't say you have not, but I warn you that this habit of mixing your drinks has been the death of many a robuster man than you.  Be wise in time.  Fill high the bowl with Samian wine, leave soda to the Turkish hordes.  Here comes our food."  He gave another order to the waiter, who ranged the dishes before them and darted away.  Trent was, it seemed, a respected customer.  "I have sent," he said, "for wine that I know, and I hope you will try it.  If you have taken a vow, then in the name of all the teetotal saints drink water, which stands at your elbow, but don't seek cheap notoriety by demanding milk and soda."

 

--Trent's Last Case by E.C. Bentley

August  20,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

It's a very old story--particularly in Wall Street.  I thought it was easy; I was lucky at first; I would always be prudent--and so on.  Then came the day when I went out of my depth.  In one week I was separated from my roll, as Bunner expressed it when I told him; and I owed money too.  I had had my lesson.

 

--Trent's Last Case by E.C. Bentley

 

[N.B.:  Playing the market, as many investors could tell you nowadays, is akin to playing the horses--except none of the horses make it across to the finish line.  By the bye, Trent's Last Case was first published in 1913 and how much, and how little, has changed since.]

August  19,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

I lived with him four years without ever knowing him to tell a direct verbal falsehood, constantly as he used to practise deceit in other forms.  Can you understand the soul of a man who never hesitated to take steps that would have the effect of hoodwinking people, who would use every trick of the markets to mislead, and who was at the same time scrupulous never to utter a direct lie on the most insignificant matter?  Manderson was like that, and he was not the only one.  I suppose you might compare the state of mind to that of a soldier who is personally a truthful man, but who will stick at nothing to deceive the enemy.  The rules of the game allow it; and the same may be said of business as many business men regard it.  Only with them it is always war-time.

 

--Trent's Last Case by E.C. Bentley

 

[N.B.:  And the same is true of politicians, too.  Now, more than ever, "it is always war-time" for them.  And, indeed, there used to be a president who seemed to take a vicarious thrill in walking upon this thin tight-wire.  And I believe him that he "didn't inhale" and "it depends what the definition of 'is' is"--but he wound up being convicted of perjury anyway.  Which, I bet, if you asked him, was the greatest injustice he ever faced--even worse than Newt Gingrich.]

August  18,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

When I say "canon," I'm thinking Homer, Virgil, Dante, Shakespeare . . .  These are nuclear deterrent words almost!  But they can all be reread in terms of new idioms.  Which is to say they are classics, secure because of their human and foundational quality.  another voice will cry out that that's a Eurocentric attitude to things.  It certainly is--that's where they come from and where I live and it's part of my equipment for locating myself in time and consciousness.  You don't have to abandon values which you have created yourself in order to be open in the world to other values.

 

--An Ear to the Line: An Interview by Seamus Heaney & Dennis O'Driscoll (Poetry, Dec. 2008)

August  17,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Christopher Marlowe has great stride to his blank verse, great energy, great heady excitement; and arguably it's a martial excitement, the excitement of a culture that's going to defeat the armada, stride the world, go over to Ireland and clean them up.  I have this fancy about the quality of decisiveness, the clean beheading stroke you get in Walter Ralegh's poetry, that it's related to the professional English captain who cut the heads off Spanish soldiers at the Smerwick massacre in Ireland.  That Renaissance sprezzatura gives you style in the line, but it also gives you a ruthlessness with the sword.  Ralegh is a soldier-poet in the full sense--it's not the "pity of war" but the exultation of swordsmanship that you feel in his work.

 

--An Ear to the Line: An Interview by Seamus Heaney & Dennis O'Driscoll (Poetry, Dec. 2008)

August  16,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

At one dinner party, evidently culled from the tips of various social icebergs, I overheard the unforgettably wrong-headed sentence, 'That man is a traitor to his adopted class.'  I want one day to write the novel that fits around those self-revealing words.

 

--What to Look for in Winter: A Memoir in Blindness by Candia McWilliam

[N.B.:  And I want one day to write the novel that fits around those self-revealing words.  I already have a title: A Field Guide to Snobbery.]

August  15,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

How consoling and terrifying it was to hear the words: 'the mind is its own place; and in itself / can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven'.  When first I became blind, Fram, who lives sixty miles away, suggested that I would never be quite alone because I have 'my art.'  I felt at once consigned to live off something that I was not talented or morally courageous enough to address.  It was like telling a deer to build its future around raw meat.  I'm doing my best and I'm quite aware that whatever my 'art' was, it will have been changed by my blindness.  It remains to be seen, if I may use that word, how.  I was never alone when I could read.

 

--What to Look for in Winter: A Memoir in Blindness by Candia McWilliam

August  14,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

[My mother] was pursued by more than one man who was not within her marriage.  One of these, later, after I was the mother of three, came round for lunch with me in my marital home.

 

'What happened to your mother?' he asked.

 

'She died,' I said.

 

'Oh,' he said.  'What are you doing this afternoon?'

 

--What to Look for in Winter: A Memoir in Blindness by Candia McWilliam

August  13,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

She had a terrible temper, slanting eyes, outrageously long gesticulating hands, cheekbones like a Russian, a faint overbite, too much height, a silly voice, a gift for making rooms and occasions with nothing more than, say, sweet peas, a matchbox and herself.  She put nasturtiums in salads, she was unnecessarily kind, her heart was tender, she got things a bit wrong and said sorry, she held her hair up with paintbrushes, she shouted, she gardened passionately and hopelessly, she loved peculiar expressions - 'touch not the cat' - and was irresistible to old men; she was a bit of a snob, she had beautiful shoulders and threw bits of cloth round her home and herself; she gave too much away, she tried to save the lives of shrews, birds, mice and tramps by bringing them home, she had an extra-ness that some fell for and some resisted, she cooked on her budget as though for a family of eight, she turned heads and ended up talking not to the prince but to the scarecrow; she was untidy with spasms of obsessive reordering, she collected small heterogeneous things as though her life depended upon it; she remembered names.  She wrote rather good doggerel.  The nearest thing I have to a suicide note is one such poem.

 

--What to Look for in Winter: A Memoir in Blindness by Candia McWilliam

 

[N.B.:  Notice to varying rhythm in the sentences--one glorious, long line followed by two short, sharp marks.  Oh, you Yanks might be interested in this book?  It was published in England last year--and you will get it in a timely manner, for Yanks (March of 2012).  Just keep telling yourselves: a book doesn't exist unless it's been published on your fair shores.]

August  12,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

The sort of reading that I used to love, reading several books simultaneously, is not now possible.  I used to do it when I felt a novel brewing, that time when the unconscious is bulging, sticky and collecting with a view to its unknown quarry; in those conditions the strangest books forged relationships with one another and something new would be born.  Books, even alone in a room, have that quality; they breathe; they can even, somehow, parthenogenetically, reproduce.

 

--What to Look for in Winter: A Memoir in Blindness by Candia McWilliam

August  11,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

I have always deprecated the habit of reading simply for plot, for the solving of the puzzle.  It is the texture of the text, the touch of the writer's thinking upon my own thought, the intimacy of interinanimation that I loved and that had accompanied me all my conscious life.

 

--What to Look for in Winter: A Memoir in Blindness by Candia McWilliam

August  10,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Bill had made such classic errors.  Every toy bought six months before the boy could deal with it.  Every teacher told - with the unfortunate support of the mathematical strangeness - every teacher admonished that the boy was a genus.  Most of all Bill had wanted to share Marcus's early reading.  He himself had scratted in the thin dust of evangelical tracts.  Marcus should have imaginative worlds which Bill would enter with him.  What do you feel, what do you picture in your mind's eye, what moves you?  The slow boy looked into space.  And did sums.  Which were not his heritage, and, in that innumerate family, not shared, not marvelled over.

 

--The Virgin in the Garden by A.S. Byatt

August  9,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Conventions," she said, "have their uses.  They keep people safe - from hurt, from taking on what they can't bear.  Or they can make a slow, bearable way of getting into - bits of life.  You can't always rush people to extremes.  In case people can't stand them."

 

--The Virgin in the Garden by A.S. Byatt

August  8,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

In fact his mother soured, rapidly and ungracefully, and spent much of her time complaining over the back gate about the inadequacy of her pension, scratching and scraping, sore bones.  Daniel was mentioned as a burden.  Mrs Orton was a little woman who had been sharp and fragile; she was now padded with spare fat, on shoulders, ribs, hips, cheeks, in which her nose and chin, her delicate fingers and small eyes were sketched reminiscences of a narrower state.  Her only intense pleasure in life had been flirtation, her ripe days the days of teasing and vacillation and power before marriage.  Ted had subdued her; she had proliferated placatory objects, little cakes, doilies, antimacassars, polished spoons and brass bells, with which she would fidget, adjusting, polishing, whilst he talked, looking modestly away from him.  In her widowhood, many of these objects vanished; although the curtains were still spotless, Daniel came insensibly to think of his home as dingy.  Mrs Orton substituted the pleasures of gossip for the pleasures of flirtation: as she had once giggled with other girls over the discomfiture of suitors and rivals, so she now helped to weave an endless web of speculation, criticism, rumour about the doings of the neighbours.

 

--The Virgin in the Garden by A.S. Byatt

August  7,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

[T]he Congregational minister had taken Jude the Obscure from Bill at just Marcus's age and invited Bill's family and friends to watch him make a burnt-offering of it.

 

"In the chapel boiler.  Opened the little round door into the burning fiery furnace and poked in poor Jude, with tongs.  At arms' length.  Sermon on evil thoughts and the arrogance of the half-educated.  Meaning me."

 

"What did you do?"

 

"Retaliated in kind.  Holocaust.  Swept up every missionary pamphlet, Johnny's pennies brining eternal joy to the miserable starving heathen, gratitude of lepers for the Word of God and all that rot, when real rot was their problem, not a need for trousers and monogamy and blessed are the meek, who are not blessed.  I hadn't the guts to say a sermon, but I wrote one, God help me, in my best handwriting, and pinned it on the noticeboard, saying auto da fé meant act of faith, which although half-educated I knew, and this was mine, and in my book they were damned for false logic, false values and soppy prose.  And for burning Jude before I'd even got to the end."

 

--The Virgin in the Garden by A.S. Byatt

August  6,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Alexander had had a brief period of intense interest in Marcus.  A year ago he had produced a school Hamlet in which Marcus had been a chilling and extraordinary Ophelia.  the boy's acting had something of the same quality as his maths and music: something simply transmitted, like mediumship.  His Ophelia was docile, remote, almost automatically graceful: the songs and mad speech were a hesitant, disintegrating parody of these qualities.  He had not made a sexually attractive girl, although he had made a vulnerable one, and a bodily credible one.  He had given the flirtation and the bawdy the gawkiness of extreme uncertainty about how these forms of talk should be conducted, which was exactly how Alexander thought the part should, or anyway could, be played.

 

--The Virgin in the Garden by A.S. Byatt

August  5,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

There was the poor American woman who had a lot lived in a house below the Due Golfi on the way to Marina Piccola.  She wanted to make a sort of artistic salon and she entertained many people.  There was Pucci, the dress designer (he used to put on a different shirt between every course).  She even managed once to catch Graham [Greene]--it was very difficult to refuse her invitations because she had lunches so many days in the week and in Capri, except for a doctor, it is difficult to say, 'No, on Monday I am engaged, on Tuesday too, and Wednesday is not convenient.'  She made acquaintances, but she did not make friends, and one day she took a lot of sleeping pills and to make sure she cut her veins open over the bidet.  When she was found dead people came in and stole everything form the house, even her clothes.  I do not blame them too much, they were poor, and she had no more use for anything.  But the funeral--that was ignoble.  Of all her friends only the Dutchman, Tony Paanaker, went to the funeral--perhaps it was out of season, I cannot remember, but what I do remember is how the undertakers, before thy put the coffin in the ground, unscrewed all the brass handles and put them in their pockets.

 

--An Impossible Woman: The Memories of Dottoressa Moor (ed. Graham Greene)

August  4,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

One evening they called me that I should come quickly to a hotel, yes, to a waitress.  She was said to be ill with colic.  Well, I arrived and by the bed I found a newborn child, dead.

 

I don't know to this day if she killed it or if it was a stillbirth.  I only know the infant lay there, and that I helped her with the afterbirth, and that she begged me with tears in her eyes that no one in the hotel should know of her confinement, and this I managed to do.  I took the child with me in my big bag and buried it underneath my orange tree.  That's where it lies to this day, and no one has ever found out.  She was so very young, and I thought only of her; she was a German to boot.  And she was very plucky.  Two days later she stood again in the dining-room and waited on people.  In the meantime I had buried it and no one knew.  Everyone thought she had had an intestinal colic.

 

--An Impossible Woman: The Memories of Dottoressa Moor (ed. Graham Greene)

[N.B.:  Yes, Virginia, the past is a foreign country.]

August  3,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

You must not complain to me that I do not say always one thing after another.  The memory goes this way and then that way.  It is not like soldiers marching all in order.  So now it is that I want to tell you a little more about Don Domenico because I have told you only the funny things about him.  That horst-trough and the figs and dancing with the hunchback.  For those reasons the Bishop did not like him and at last he was sent away, but he was a good priest, not a rotten one at all, and he was loved.  When it came to dying, the whole of Positano called for him.  He was the best father-confessor at the end, and it was with him one travelled best into the next world.  It was he alone who was fetched to the dying, no other one would do for the people.  Because he was so delightful, so funny, the people had to die with Don Domenico.  Everyone, be it man of woman, he was their confessor at the end.

--An Impossible Woman: The Memories of Dottoressa Moor (ed. Graham Greene)

August  2,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Today it often seems as if truly aesthetic values have been moved out of the social realm altogether, into ever smaller private preserves.  Certainly they are not central to our concept or experience of the common good, even though we may occasionally make a public pretense of caring about such things.  Our culture, with its almost absolute emphasis on the power of acquisition, trains us to be beguiled by the bright and the shrill rather than the lovely and the subtle.  That, after all, is the transcendental logic of late-modern capitalism: the fabrication of innumerable artificial appetites, not the refinement of the few that are natural to us.  Late modernity's defining art, advertising, is nothing but a piercingly relentless tutelage in desire for the intrinsically undesirable.

 

--A Splendid Wickedness by David Bentley Hart (First Things, August/September 2011)

August  1,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Wealthy old Paula wants to marry me,

but I don't want

to marry her.  I would perhaps, if she

were even older.

--Select Epigrams of Martial (tr. Donald C. Goertz)