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ARCHIVED ENTRIES FOR JANUARY 2009
 

 

 

 

January  31,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Just not awake yet," Bo lied.  He felt professional about lying, and once started, would not stop.  "Momma overslept.  Got me up and out without coffee and half dressed.  Said I was late to work.  What time is it, Bill?"  Questions and complex sentences, Bo had learned, were the great shield of liars.

--Fox Hunters from The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake

January  30,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

"At the same time Richard is not only a mood of Shakespeare's, but in a persistent exemplar, after his fall, of the truth that a king is merely a man, a truth which Shakespeare seems now for the first time to have realized imaginatively.

'For you have but mistook me all this while:

I live with bread like you, feel want,

Taste grief, need friends; subjected thus,

How can you say to me, I am a king?'

"As a closer view of royalty and the aristocracy began to sap Shakespeare's awe and respect, his humor expanded, and in its turn helped on the process of disintegration.  The notion that humor is distasteful to power and position had already occurred to him when he was writing King John.  'That idiot, laughter, . . .' the king says, 'a passion hateful to my purposes.'

--The Return of William Shakespeare by Hugh Kingsmill

[N.B.:  It seems to me that this reasoning also casts light on a later, and, in my opinion, much greater play: The Merchant of Venice.  In terms of mere common humanity, a much greater thing than mere kingship, is not Shylock's famous speech, seen through this lens, even more affecting?  "If you prick us, do we not bleed?"]

January  29,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Yes, yes," Shakespeare smiled tolerantly.  "How difficult it is," he said, after a pause, "to say exactly what one thinks.  Half a dozen thoughts, perhaps, on some matter exist side by side in the same mind, but only one can emerge at a time, and the first to get out usually stands at the exit, and hits the others over the head as they try to pass."

--The Return of William Shakespeare by Hugh Kingsmill

January  28,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

We went on to dinner in the West End.  London was London on a Saturday night, Hogarth or Hieronymus Bosch, take your pick - in the restaurant we bumped into several people we knew, actors and two playwrights, so there was a lot kissing, the women kissing the women, the men kissing the women, and muddled into all this, the men kissing the men - some of us were heterosexual, but still we ran into each other's arms, rubbed cheeks, kissed, as we made growling sounds of pleasure and love - this male cuddling is a new fashion, probably come over from New York or Russia, and I don't really like it, really rather hate it, especially when they have beards, like both of the playwrights and one of the actors, they're rough on my skin, and probably full of food and insects, and they're smelly, but I see no way of repelling them unless I take to dribbling into them or blowing my nose over them, and word gets rounds that I'm to be avoided, however soft-skinned, clean and inviting my own cheeks are.

--The Smoking Diaries by Simon Gray

[N.B.:  So, you want to write a funny book?  Well, read that excerpt up there again--yep, it's just one long sentence--and when you can write one just as long and just as funny, you're ready to start scribbling.  Until then, keep your head down and let the master return to his work.]

January  27,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

'We have known each other so long,' said Emerson, 'and I have told you so often that I love you that we have come to make almost a joke of it, as if we were playing some game.  It just happens that that is our way, to laugh at things.  But I am going to say it once again, even if it has come to be a sort of catch-phrase.  I love you.  I'm reconciled to the fact that I am done for, out of the running, and that you are going to marry somebody else; but I am not going to stop loving you.  It isn't a question of whether I should be happier if I forgot you.  I can't do it.  It's just an impossibility, and that's all there is to it.  Whatever I may be to you, you are part of me, and you always will be part of me.  I might just as well try to go on living without breathing as living without loving you.'

--Something Fresh by P.G. Wodehouse

January  26,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Y'see, Jim, I'm stockholder in this camp, and I've got to make an important announcement at dinner tonight."

"Tell him, papa; it's your idea.  Listen, Mr. Brush."

"Yes, sir, about how everybody who mentions the depression must pay a fine of fifteen cents.  D'you like it?

--Heaven's My Destination by Thornton Wilder

[N.B.:  And here's a piece of advice that didn't work then and won't work now.]

January  25,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Mr. Brush, I think he was going to commit suicide last week."

"Do you?"

"I don't know.  I don't know.  And I've never mentioned it to a soul.  But one night I got up.  I saw a light in the bathroom, and he was standing there just thinking . . . and with such a look on his face, Mr. Brush, such a sad look.  And now when he calls out in his sleep I think it's about that.  There's no business at his office any more, not to speak of, and he worries about me and the children."  Here she suddenly lowered her head and whispered, passionately:  "I don't mind if we're going to be poor.  I don't care if we're as poor as dirt.  I don't care if the town pays for us, only I don't want him to be so miserable.

"So you ought to tell him that," said Brush.

--Heaven's My Destination by Thornton Wilder

[N.B.:  Although this was written during the First World Depression, it's still good advice for the Second World Depression.]

January  24,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

"That's another of my theories.  A voice like mine is just a gift, that's all.  It's not anybody's credit to have a fine voice.  It's just a thing of nature, like any other.  Niagara Falls and the caves of Kentucky and John McCormack are just gifts to the public.  It's like strength.  I happen to have that, too.  I'll help you move your trunk or your piano all day, but I wouldn't take money for it."

--Heaven's My Destination by Thornton Wilder

January  23,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

Brush leaned forward earnestly.  "You know what I think is the greatest thing in the world?  It's when a man, I mean an American, sits down to Sunday dinner with his wife and six children around him.  Do you know what I mean?"

"Six, eh?"

"Yes, and the more the better.  Well, that's the thing I want most of all, so everywhere I go I keep looking for a wife.  And every now and then I used to think I'd found her."

--Heaven's My Destination by Thornton Wilder

January  22,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Buddy," said Blodgett, "why did you say that it made you nervous to get raises?"

"Because hardly anybody else's getting raises these days.  I think everybody ought to be hit by the depression equally.  You see?"

--Heaven's My Destination by Thornton Wilder

[N.B.:  So, are you looking for some good bedtime reading as you while away the time during the Second World Depression?  Look no farther than Wilder's Heaven's My Destination an updating of Dostoevsky's The Idiot (or, depending on taste, Cervantes' Don Quixote) featuring one George Brush, whose religious convictions do battle against the forces of the Great Depression and modern humanism.  I won't reveal the outcome of this epic struggle, but I can assure you even such atheists as Bertrand Russell will shed a tear at the end.  An inspiring story for one and all.]

January  21,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

"What are you going to do with him?" asked Fursey.

"Well," said Cuthbert, "it's a little experiment of mine.  I'm trying to make him half-human.  I hope to pass him off as a minor man of letters.  He has many of the qualities.  Observe the cute narrowly-spaced eyes and the steady dribble of venom from the tongue.  He will make a very passable minor man of letters, or rather one who imagines himself to be a man of letters."

"He doesn't look very human to me," observed Fursey.

"He's not supposed to be very human," rejoined Cuthbert.  "Didn't I tell you he's to be a minor literary man?  Wait."

Cuthbert put his hand into his pocket and took out a handful of horses' teeth, which he spaced carefully across the gargoyle's mouth beneath the upper lip.  "How's that?" he asked.

"I suppose it's an improvement," muttered Fursey without much conviction.

Cuthbert nodded to the  gargoyle, which shambled back into the depths of its cave.

--The Unfortunate Fursey by Mervyn Wall

January  20,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

The Bishop gave vent to a long-drawn sigh.

"Did it ever occur to you to wonder why God created women?" he asked.  "It's the one thing that tempts me at times to doubt His infinite goodness and wisdom."

The friar shrugged his shoulders and exhaled noisily to demonstrate that this was a problem far beyond his limited perceptions.

"It's a thing that I've long since given up trying to understand," he replied.  "I assume with a blind faith that they are in the world for the trial and affliction of man, that his entry into another sphere may be the more glorious for the temptations that he has successfully withstood in this."

"It was a hard measure," muttered the Bishop.  "God's hand was heavy on mankind the day that he created woman."

--The Unfortunate Fursey by Mervyn Wall

January  19,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Time is the opposite of space, have you noticed?" she said.  "In space, everything gets more blurred the farther away you get.  With time it's different, everything becomes clear."

--Christine Falls by Benjamin Black (a/k/a John Banville)

January  18,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

It sometimes seemed to him that he favored dead bodies over living ones.  Yes, he harbored a sort of admiration for cadavers, these was-skinned, soft, suddenly ceased machines.  They were perfected, in their way, no matter how damaged or decayed, and fully as impressive as any ancient marble.  He suspected, too, that he was becoming more and more like them, that he was even in some way becoming one of them.  He would stare at his hands and they would seem to have the same texture, inert, malleable, porous, as the corpses that he worked on, as if something of their substance were seeping into him by slow but steady degrees.  Yes, he was fascinate by the mute mysteriousness of the dead.  Each corpse carried its unique secret--the precise cause of death--a secret that it was his task to uncover.  For him, the spark of death was fully as vital as the spark of life.

--Christine Falls by Benjamin Black (a/k/a John Banville)

January  17,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

Davy the barman brought their drinks.  It was strange, Quirke reflected, that he had never got to like the taste of whiskey, or of any alcohol, for that matter; even in the wild times, after Delia had died, the sour burn of the stuff had always repelled him a little, though he had still managed to pour it into himself by the jugful.  He was not a natural drinker; he believed there were such, but he was not one of them.  That was what had kept him from destruction, he supposed, in the long, lachrymose years of mourning for his lost wife.

--Christine Falls by Benjamin Black (a/k/a John Banville)

January  16,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

The second most important building is the library; Carthusians cherish books.  A quarter century after Bruno's death, Peter the Venerable notes that the monks' manual labor consists "chiefly of transcribing books."  The early Carthusian monks, in fact, made their libraries by borrowing and copying books.  Three years after Bruno's death, Guibert, the Benedictine Abbot of Nogent-Sous-Coucy, observes: "Although they submit to every kind of privation, they accumulate a very rich library."  Books are the monk's most intimate companions; they nurture and sustain him throughout his life.  In 1127, Guigo I instructed the monks: "Books forsooth, we wish to be kept very carefully as the everlasting food of our souls, and most industriously to be made, so that since we cannot do so by the mouth, we may preach the word of God with our hands."  The manuscript collection of each Charterhouse was its major treasure.  In 1371, immediately after the monks had completed the restoration of the Grande Chartreuse after one of its innumerable fires, another fire broke out.  When the Prior saw the severity of the flames, he shouted above the tumult, "My fathers, my fathers, ad libros, ad libros; let the rest burn, but save the books."

--An Infinity of Little Hours by Nancy Klein Maguire

January  15,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

Adjacent to the cubiculum, a small room that the monks call their "Ave Maria" room opens to a staircase.  At the bottom of the stairs, an ambulatory leads to an ample garden of perhaps 1,200 square feet in size.  The ambulatory has generous windows, and when snow covers the ground, the monks use it during their recreation time.  The far end of the ambulatory leads to three separate conjoining areas: a small bathroom, a workroom, and a large storage room for wood and coal.  When the monk leaves his cell three times a day to go to church, he exits into the enclosed cloister that guides him to the church.  Next to the door of the cell, a hatch, or pass-through, allows a brother to place food inside the cell; the brother never sees the monk, not the monk the brother.  A large garden, or garth, enclosed by the U-shaped cloister, separates the cells, creating visual and aural space.  Within these solitary cells, the monks work out their days.

--An Infinity of Little Hours by Nancy Klein Maguire

January  14,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

Carthusian cells are usually four-room, two-story dwellings.  Each two-story cell contains about 1,500 square feet.  In 1960, some Charterhouses still had neither electricity nor central heating.  The cell encloses the monk, and inside it he has everything he needs.  The upper floor has two rooms.  The monk's most private space, his cubiculum, has a bed in the form of a cupboard with a straw mattress (until the end of the eighteenth century, wooden shutters instead of curtains kept out the cold), a stove, a worktable, and a small oratory with a prie-dieu (a built-in kneeler and book stand) facing the wall with a crucifix hanging over it.  Each cubiculum also has some bookshelves, a bell above the bed, and a small built-in dining table with a drawer.

--An Infinity of Little Hours by Nancy Klein Maguire

January  13,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

Each Charterhouse is vast.  It must be.  Its vastness protects what the Carthusian monks call "the life," the day in, day out, unchanging monastic regimen.  Layers of concentric circles wrap the monk in solitude, enclose him, protect him from any awareness of secular life.  The first circle is the land surrounding the Charterhouse.  To protect their solitude, Carthusians acquire very large amounts of land, sometimes thousands of acres.  The exceptionally high walls around the monastic complex provide the next protective circle.  Although the monks are not unfriendly, they do not offer hospitality; outsiders, in fact, have an extraordinarily difficult time getting into the Charterhouse at all.  Within the exterior walls, the high walls of the monk's cell provide another layer of privacy, and finally, his ultimate privacy is the inner room in the cell, the cubiculum, where no one can enter without the monk's permission.  He is entirely cut off from the world.  No newspapers enter a cell, no magazines, no secular books, no telephones, no TV, no radio, not even any musical instruments.  At the center of these protective circles, the monk's own diligence and prayer protect his interior life.

--An Infinity of Little Hours by Nancy Klein Maguire

January  12,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

As we grow older and realize more clearly the limitations of human happiness, we come to see that the only real and abiding pleasure in life is to give pleasure to other people.

--Something Fresh by P.G. Wodehouse

January  11,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

He knew that doctors held that insufficient sleep made a man pale and sallow, and he had always aimed at the peach-bloom complexion which comes from a sensible eight hours between the sheets.  One of the Georges - I forget which - once said that a certain number of hours' sleep each night - I cannot recall at the moment how many - made a man something, which for the time being has slipped my memory.

--Something Fresh by P.G. Wodehouse

January  10,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

She was always criticizing my way of speaking.  One day I remember she said, 'You know what you do?  You know how rain takes the colour out of everything?  That's what you do to the English language.  You blur it every time you open your mouth.'

--The Collector by John Fowles

January  9,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

She often went on about how she hated class distinction, but she never took me in.  It's the way people speak that gives themaway, not what they say.  You only had to see her dainty ways to see how she was brought up.  She wasn't la-di-da, like many, but it was there all the same.  You could see it when she got sarcastic and impatient with me because I couldn't explain myself or I did things wrong.  Stop thinking about class, she'd say.  Like a rich man telling a poor man to stop thinking about money.

--The Collector by John Fowles

January  8,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

Miss Stein did not want to talk about his stories but always about him as a person.

"What about his novels?" I asked her.  She did not want to talk about Anderson's works any more than she would talk about Joyce.  If you brought up Joyce twice, you would not be invited back.  It was like mentioning one general favorably to another general.  You learned not to do it the first time you made the mistake.  You could always mention a general, though, that the general you were talking to had beaten.  The general you were talking to would praise the beaten general greatly and go happily into detail on how he had beaten him.

--A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

[N.B.:  This is all quite amusing given that both Sherwood Anderson and Gertrude Stein (except for a few forlorn English professors with exquisitely bad literary taste, setting aside The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas--oh, Gertrude, if only you had stuck to autobiographies!) have been completely forgotten.  This attitude, though, is perhaps, in large part, one of the causes for why certain American authors--yes, Norman Mailer, I'm looking at you--go off the rails.  Literature as war has a certain sophomoric appeal to it, but sophomores rarely graduate to Parnassus.]

January  7,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

"If you don't want to read what is bad, and want to read something that will hold your interest and is marvelous in its own way, you should read Marie Belloc Lowndes."

I had never heard of her, and Miss Stein loaned me The Lodger, that marvelous story of Jack the Ripper and another book about murder at a place outside Paris that could only be Enghien les Bains.  They were both splendid after-work books, the people credible and the action and the terror never false.  They were perfect for reading after you had worked and I read all the Mrs. Belloc Lowndes that there was.  But there was only so much and none as good as the first two and I never found anything as good for that empty time of day or night until the first fine Simenon books came out.

--A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

January  6,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Huxley is a dead man," Miss Stein said.  "Why do you want to read a dead man?  Can't you see he is dead?"

I could not see, then, that he was a dead man and I said that his books amused me and kept me from thinking.

"You should only read what is truly good or what is frankly bad."

--A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

January  5,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

When I was writing, it was necessary for me to read after I had written.  If you kept thinking about it, you would lose the thing that you were writing before you could go on with it the next day.  It was necessary to get exercise, to be tired in the body, and it was very good to make love with whom you loved.  That was better than anything.  But afterwards, when you were empty, it was necessary to read in order not to think or worry about your work until you could do it again.  I had learned already never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.

--A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway