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ARCHIVED ENTRIES FOR JULY 2012

July  31,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

"John Brewster," the colonel said, "wears socks with clocks on them and thinks Washington, DC, is slightly bigger than the universe.  What are they going to do to me?  Fire me?  Jail me?  Kill me?  Will, young Will, you know something of my history.  What can they do to me now?  I was a prisoner of the Japanese.  What is there left in human experience that they can hope or expect to scare me with?"

--Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson

July  30,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

They did travel light.  James himself no longer carried a rucksack, just a Boy Scout knapsack holding a poncho and entrenching tool, seven twenty-round magazines, a few sentimental talismans--rubbers, poker chips, and candy--and dosers of insect repellent and bandannas soaked with the stuff.  He'd concluded that wanting something was generally less painful than hauling it.

--Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson

July  29,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

Sands had arranged to be off visiting the villages with Père Patrice, but when he returned at the end of the day the brother was still there, an almost elderly Frenchman, husky, lantern-jawed, dressed as if for a day of angling, in olive short-pants and a matching vest with many pockets, fanning his face with a canvas hat with a chinstrap.  Sands and he took tea together.  His English was better than passable.  He spoke at first not of his brother, but of women.  "As I get older, the older females have more attractions.  Flesh which used to be ugly, now it can seem charming.  The thin purple veins, you know, so frail.  It's a beautiful mystery.  The new kind of grace--the grace of a calm woman, it's even more erotic.  Now I come to adore the women of the Renaissance painting.  Very full, very soft from the inside.  Have you a native concubine?"

Sands had no answer.

"No?  I don't know this country.  But I thought it's customary here to have a concubine.  I prefer a widow.  A grown woman, as I have been telling you.  She has experienced love, and she realizes how to behave in bed."

--Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson

July  28,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

The colonel said, "Look.  These things happen rarely, but they happen.  Somebody's name gets mentioned by more than one source, somebody gets a notion, somebody issues a report, somebody wants an adventure--you know how that one goes, don't you?--and pretty soon there we are.  That you've witnessed this kind of cock-up will turn out to be an invaluable experience, Skip."

--Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson

July  27,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

James felt sure if he could only say, Sarge, I don't want to fight, he would surely save himself.

"You worried about getting killed?"

"Sort of, you know, I mean--yeah."

"Nothing to worry about.  By the time The Thing eats you, you all emptied up, you ain't thinking.  Nothing but jazz happening."

James couldn't quite take comfort from this statement.

--Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson

July  26,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

Basil Seal told me, rather resentfully, because for many years now he had himself been in search of an heiress and had evolved theories on the subject of how and where they might be taken.  "You must go to the provinces," he used to say.  "The competition in London is far too hot for chaps like us.  Americans and Colonials want value for money.  The trouble is that the very rich have a natural affinity for one another.  You can see it happening all the time--stinking rich people getting fixed up.  And what happens?  They simply double their super tax and no one is the better off.  But they respect brains in the provinces.  They like a man to be ambitious there, with his way to make in the world, and there are plenty of solid, mercantile families who can settle a hundred thousand on a daughter without turning a hair, who don't care a hoot about polo, but think a Member of Parliament very fine.  That's the way to get in with them.  Stand for Parliament."

--Lucy Simmonds collected in The Complete Stories of Evelyn Waugh

July  25,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

Had I wished it, I could have earned considerably more.  I never tried to sell my stories as serials; the delicate fibres of a story suffer when it is chopped up onto weekly or monthly parts and never completely heal.  Often, when I have been reading the work of a competitor, I have said, "She was writing with an eye on the magazines.  She had to close this episode prematurely; she had to introduce that extraneous bit of melodrama, so as to make each installment a readable unit."

--My Father's House (Chapter One of the unfinished novel Work Suspended) collected in The Complete Stories of Evelyn Waugh

July  24,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

At the time of my father's death I was in Morocco, at a small French hotel outside the fortifications of Fez.  I had been there for six weeks, doing little else but write, and my book, Murder at Mountrichard Castle, was within twenty thousand words of its end.  In three weeks I should pack it up for the typist; perhaps sooner, for I had nearly passed that heavy middle period where less conscientious writers introduce their second corpse.  I was thirty-three years of age at the time, and a serious writer.  I had always been a one-corpse man and, as far as possible, a clean corpse man, eschewing the blood-transfusions to which most of my rivals resorted to revitalize their flagging stories; moreover, I eschewed anything that was even remotely sordid or salacious.  My corpses, invariably, were male, solitary, of high position in the world and, as near as possible, bloodless.  I abhorred blunt instruments and "features battered beyond recognition."  Lord George Vanburgh, in Death in the Dukeries, was decapitated but only, it will be remembered, after he had been dead for some time through other causes.  My poisons were painless; no character of mine ever writhed or vomited.  Cardinal Vascari, in Vengeance at the Vatican, my first and in other ways my least successful story, met death in a model fashion, lapsing into coma while he sat at his window, one tranquil autumn evening, overlooking the Tiber; the fingers relaxed in the scarlet lap and the rosary with the missing decade--the ingenious clue--slipped unnoticed to the carpet.  That was how John Plant's characters died.

--My Father's House (Chapter One of the unfinished novel Work Suspended) collected in The Complete Stories of Evelyn Waugh

July  23,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

It seems to me sometimes that Nature, like a lazy author, will round off abruptly into a short story what she obviously intended to be the opening of a novel.

--A House of Gentlefolks collected in The Complete Stories of Evelyn Waugh

July  22,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

The world for him was divided roughly into three hemispheres--Europe, where there had been a war; it was full of towns like Paris and Buda-Pest, all equally remote and peopled with prostitutes; the East, a place full of camels and elephants, deserts and dervishes and nodding mandarins; and America, which besides its own two continents included Australia, New Zealand, and most of the British Empire not obviously "Eastern"; somewhere, too, there were some "savages."

--A House of Gentlefolks collected in The Complete Stories of Evelyn Waugh

July  21,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

I don't necessarily thing that I'm any "better" or that what some people like to refer to as my sense of values is any purer.  They're just different and if they happen to be a little closer to reality I suppose that's a bonus, but it's hardly a virtue.  There are some scars, in fact; they've not very pleasant ones and I can only hope that they're not permanent.  Something seems to have happened to my ability to believe, for example.  I like my job but I have no faith in its permanence or the permanence of any relationship between a man and an organization.  No matter how well I do, no matter how close this relationship becomes, I still expect them to walk in one day and say "The water cooler's been fixed and those new sub-assemblies are on order and, oh, by the way, you're fired."  Five years, ten years, fifteen years, it won't many any difference.  It will all end that casually and I'll clean out my desk and go back to the phone booth in Grand Central Station.  Common sense tells me that is foolish, but I still keep very little personal stuff in my desk.  It could all be carried away in an attaché case.

--The Job Hunter: The Diary of a "Lost" Year by Allen R. Dodd

[N.B.:  And to think this was published in 1965!  Why is this book out of print and unknown?  Because it dares to speak the truth: happy endings are merely provisional and can be destroyed on the slightest of whims at any time.  And when do you know that you've finally escaped these haphazard snares--as the Greeks noted, when you're dead.  There's some cheeriness for you.]

July  20,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Okay, I can tell you the history of that boat.  Epstein bought it eight years ago after about a year of looking around to find something to suit him.  He took the Coast Guard courses and the Yacht Club's course in boat handling and he sat and listened to anyone who could teach him something, never mind who they were.  By now he's pretty much of an expert and people treat him with a lot of respect around the Yacht Club and that respect is what your friend Whozit wants, only he wants to buy it out of the catalogue.  All that hardware is supposed to make him look salty."

"If he puts much more of it topside," said Janet, "he's going to look upside down.  That birdbath of his is going to roll right over one of these days."

"I wouldn't worry.  Give it a year and he'll sell the boat and start after something else.  Whozit's the great American buttonpusher.  He's probably run through a dozen automated hobbies already and dropped them because he didn't get any fun out of them.  He's always chasing something he can't catch up with and you really ought to feel sorry for him.  A guy like Epstein, now; he doesn't give a damn whether he looks salty or not.  He just loves boats."

"I'll feel sorry for him a year from now, then," said Janet.  "Right now he gets on my nerves."

"He gets on everyone's nerves, but he happens to represent one hell of a market.  He'll buy anything with a label that says 'Now you too can be an expert with one push of the button.'"

--The Job Hunter: The Diary of a "Lost" Year by Allen R. Dodd

July  19,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

". . . nice boy, always been a nice boy.  Can't imagine what got into . . ."

"Sorry, Melly, but he isn't a particularly nice boy.  Kids are never very nice; their judgments are largely instinctive and their instincts are largely animal.  Sometimes we manage to create that particular form of inhibition known as civilization; sometimes, but not always.

--The Job Hunter: The Diary of a "Lost" Year by Allen R. Dodd

July  18,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

"You come up with an idea, nobody says no, nobody says yes.  Very interesting, they say.  We must look into this . . . Then they kiss it to death."

--The Job Hunter: The Diary of a "Lost" Year by Allen R. Dodd

July  17,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Let me give you an example," he said.  "A company has a problem.  They call in an expert--that's you.  Any work you can do, any advice you can give, may be useful of course, but the chances are it will all lead to the same conclusion they've already reached.  And that's when you earn your money."

"For what?"

"Making up their minds for them.  Backing up their own opinions.  Giving them an out, so they can say they were following expert advice and not just making a snap judgment."

"There's a couple of other possibilities," Les added.  "They may want you to do something which is better done by an outsider.  Reorganizing channels, perhaps--they could do it themselves, but that might mean feuds or resentments within the company.  So they call you in and pay you to be hated.  Ditto for anything which might involve firing somebody, of course.

--The Job Hunter: The Diary of a "Lost" Year by Allen R. Dodd

[N.B.:  Of course, consulting has changed quite a bit since the 1960s.  Nowadays, you're not just paid to be hated or to tell them what they already know but also to tell them what their competitors already know.]

July  16,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

I acquired the ability to absorb humiliation and I learned, as Phil had warned I would learn, that the nice guys may not be so nice when you are merely one more homeless human.  I absorbed the application forms and their curt demands for information which I usually never gave to anyone outside my family.  I filled them out because I had to, and I learned from them that human dignity is something more than a four-color spread of a sunset and a quote from John Stuart Mill.  Its essential element is privacy of your home and your family affairs, of your person and your thoughts; that privacy which permits the little legends which help us live with ourselves and each other.  The forms (check one) left room for no little legends; they opened out my soul like the front of a doll's house.

--The Job Hunter: The Diary of a "Lost" Year by Allen R. Dodd

July  15,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

Beyond a limited number of weeks the mere fact that you're out of a job becomes a barrier to getting one; X won't hire you this week simply because Y didn't last week.  You can double the length of your vacation ("Don't often have a chance to get away with the wife and kids") but it isn't wise to stretch it beyond six weeks and it certainly won't cover a year.  Illness is out and so is accident; one suggests bad health and the other bad luck--both undesirable qualities.  The gap can be filled--somewhat awkwardly--with vague references to unsatisfactory negotiations.  ("It seemed like the moment to start my own business, but I spent several months in careful preliminary research and found that the market just wasn't adequate.")  An occasional job hunter plugs it with one massive lie--a fictitious trip to Europe perhaps--but this is risky.

--The Job Hunter: The Diary of a "Lost" Year by Allen R. Dodd

[N.B.:   Nowadays, this advice is better than ever since one can always fill the gap arguing that one was working on a start-up internet business but had trouble with the financing (i.e., the credit cards maxed out).]

July  14,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

Something oozed from my pores like sweat and stained them--that invisible something called "seediness"--and one day, when I looked in the mirror, I saw the face of Les.  The tight lines at the corner of the mouth were there and the eyes which stayed grim even when the lips smiled.  It was a face seen behind the cut-rate counter or bending over an untidy sample case filled with cheap notions; the face of a man who works without purpose and lives without hope, a man who wished each week done until he has wished his life away.

--The Job Hunter: The Diary of a "Lost" Year by Allen R. Dodd

July  13,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

"You know as well as I do that mixing business and personal relationships--neighborhood relationships too--is just asking for trouble.  Suppose Janet wants to quit at an awkward time for you?  Okay, it happens all the time, but not between people who still meet at the same parties.  It's . . . it's always been one of the basic rules--don't do business with your neighbors."

"And it's a very good one, too," said Max, blandly.  "I'm in favor of it.  Now you tell me; why did you move up here in the first place?"

"Well, the kids . . . we needed the space . . ."

"You can get that in a dozen other suburbs.  Why do you people haunt the bar car on the train?  Why do your firms push you into neighborhood associations and community projects?  It's mainly so all of you can sell things to each other.  I don't like it; I never did like it, but that's the way the world spins these days and if I can't cure it, I may as well take advantage of it.

--The Job Hunter: The Diary of a "Lost" Year by Allen R. Dodd

July  12,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

Hew the logs I might, and raise the roof with my bare hands, but this wouldn't knock one nickel off the property taxes once the cabin was completed.  We were squeezed in that twentieth-century thumbscrew, the irreducible cost, and the answer was not to save pennies, but to earn dollars.

The worry of big debts was a dull ached, the meanness of small economies a vicious sting.

--The Job Hunter: The Diary of a "Lost" Year by Allen R. Dodd

[N.B.:  Well, if you'd call that a thumbscrew for the twentieth-century, I guess we must have improved matters with racks and red-hot irons for the twenty-first.]

July  11,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

"So the poor little baby died.  I expect it was just as well.  Children are such an awful expense, nowadays."

--Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford 

July  10,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

Cedric went on, "But I suppose you would think it more hideous than ever, Fanny.  I know that you like a room to sparkle with freshness, whereas I like it to glitter with richness.  That is where we differ at present, but you'll change.  Your taste is really good, and it is bound to mature one day."

It was true that my taste at this time, like that of the other young people I knew who cared at all about their houses, favoured pickled or painted furniture with a great deal of white, and upholstery in pale cheerful colours.  French furniture with its finely chiselled ormolu (what Cedric called bronzes), its severe lines and perfect proportions was far above my head in those days, while Louis XIV needlework, of which there was a great amount at Hampton, seemed dark and stuffy, I frankly preferred a cheerful chintz.

--Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford 

July  9,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

The safes, nevertheless, were full of treasures, if not of valuables, for Uncle Matthew's treasures were objects of esoteric worth, such as a stone quarried on the estate and said to have imprisoned for two thousand years a living toad; Linda's first shoe; the skeleton of a mouse regurgitated by an owl; a tiny gun for shooting bluebottles; the hair of all  his children made into a bracelet; a silhouette of Aunt Sadie done at a fair; a carved nut; a ship in a bottle; altogether a strange mixture of sentiment, natural history and little objects which from time to time had taken his fancy.

--Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford 

July  8,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

"No use marrying a man you can't influence.  Just look what I've done for Montdore, always seen that he takes an interest, made him accept things (jobs, I mean) and kept him up to the mark, never let him slide back.  A wife must always be on the lookout, men are so lazy by nature.  For example, Montdore if forever trying to have a little nap in the afternoon, but I won't hear of it.  Once you begin that, I tell him, you are old, and people who are old find themselves losing interest, dropping out of things and then they might as well be dead.  Montdore's only got me to thank if he's not in the same condition as most of his contemporaries, creeping about the Marlborough Club like dying flies and hardly able to drag themselves as far as the House of Lords."

--Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford 

July  7,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

The back of a head, seen at a ball, can have a most agitating effect upon a young girl, so different from the backs of other heads that it might be surrounded by a halo.  There is the question, will he turn round, will he see her, and, if so, will he merely give a polite good-evening or invite her to dance?  Oh, how I wished I could have been whirling gaily round in the arms of some fascinator instead of sitting with my aunts and uncles, too obviously a wall-flower. 

--Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford 

July  6,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Oh, don't pity me.  I've had eleven months of perfect and unalloyed happiness, very few people can say that, in the course of long long lives, I imagine."

I imagined so too.  Alfred and I are happy, as happy as married people can be.  We are in love, we are intellectually and physically suited in every possible way, we rejoice in each other's company, we have no money troubles and three delightful children.  And yet, when I consider my life, day by day, hour by hour, it seems to be composed of a series of pinpricks.  Nannies, cooks, the endless drudgery of housekeeping, the nerve-racking noise and boring repetitive conversation of small children (boring in the sense that it bores into one's very brain), their absolute incapacity to amuse themselves, their sudden and terrifying illnesses, Alfred's not infrequent bouts of moodiness, his invariable complaints at meals about the pudding, the way he will always use my tooth-paste and will always squeeze the tube in the middle.  There are the components of marriage, the wholemeal bread of life, rough, ordinary, but sustaining; Linda had been feeding upon honey-dew, and that is an incomparable diet.

--Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford 

July  5,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Everybody is getting more serious, that's the way things are going.  But, whatever one may be in politics, right, left, Fascist, Communist, society people are the only possible ones for friends.  You see, they have made a fine are of personal relationships and of all that pertains to them--manners, clothes, beautiful houses, good food, everything that makes life agreeable.  It would be silly not to take advantage of that.  Friendship is something to be built up carefully, by people with leisure, it is an art, nature does not enter into it.  You should never despise social life--that of high society--I mean, it can be a very satisfying one, entirely artificial of course, but absorbing.  Apart from the life of the intellect and the contemplative religious life, which few people are qualified to enjoy, what else is there to distinguish man from the animals but his social life?  And who understands it so well and who can make it so smooth and so amusing as society people?  But one cannot have it at the same time as a love affair, one must be whole-hearted to enjoy it, so I have cancelled all my engagements."

--The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford 

July  4,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

Jacques Baumel, who organized over a hundred clandestine meetings in three years--none of which were discovered--had set up an unrivaled security routine.  He would start with the equivalent of an airline pilot's checklist, going over pages of precautions before he was satisfied.  In Lyon he had a dozen suitable addresses, none of which was used twice running.  They had to be houses in quiet situations, with several exits, which were easy to watch discreetly.  These houses were never used as depots or hideouts, only for meetings.  They were never in the center of town, where there were too many police and informers and where those summoned had every chance of bumping into an acquaintance.  The meeting house was always guarded by a commando of three of four armed men who were capable of standing their ground if the police arrived.  The German police usually raided in small groups since, "in a city without cars"--there was no petrol--large groups were too conspicuous.

Baumel's procedure was to fix a date and choose an address.  Those summoned received a note, in code, of the day and the time and a rendezvous point with a description of the liaison agent they were to follow onto a bus.  Everyone was given a different rendezvous.  When the guide left the bus they followed her--it was usually a woman--and she led them to a security agent, the first person involved who knew the address.  He then led them to the house by a long and illogical route.

--Resistance and Betrayal: The Death and Life of the Greatest Hero of the French Resistance by Patrick Marnham

July  3,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

Like any police force the Gestapo relied on information.  Routine police work provided much of this, telephone taps, tailing, round-ups and searches, random barrier controls and paid informers.  It also received a huge amount of information from anonymous tip-offs, known as "denunciations," many of which proved to be reliable.  If the denunciations were signed then their authors were paid.  Living conditions in France during the occupation were sufficiently difficult for payment to be an effective means of obtaining information.  Already by November 1941 the standard ration card in the city of Lyon restricted people to 1,160 calories a day, which was half the prewar average.  Sugar, ersatz coffee, bread, meat, butter, cooking oil and cheese were rationed.  Flour, rice and chocolate were unavailable.  There were only occasional supplies of fruit, vegetables and eggs, all at inflated prices.  Milk was sold at nearly three times its prewar price and was restricted to pregnant women and children.  Crows were on sale in the food market at 10 francs each.  Soap was reserved for those doing unusually dirty work.  Some people, particularly old people, starved to death.  Those who could afford black market prices dealt with what they called the "Bof" (Beurre, oeufs, fromage)--"the swine who sold the food."  One English woman married to a French doctor watched her husband set to work on a length of two-year-old "rosette de Lyon" saucisson and break his jaw.

--Resistance and Betrayal: The Death and Life of the Greatest Hero of the French Resistance by Patrick Marnham

July  2,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

There was a curious state of mind recognized at the time by many resisters in occupied France; the longer they were hunted by the German police and their French auxiliaries, the more reckless they grew.  The fear they faced every day wore them out.  They watched their comrades picked off one by one and knew it could only be a matter of time before their turn came.  Sometimes they even felt relief when they were arrested, because they no longer had to fear arrest.  And this feeling of relief explained why some were so easily persuaded to talk.  Their initial determination ebbed away as they became transfixed by the death that was tracking them down.

--Resistance and Betrayal: The Death and Life of the Greatest Hero of the French Resistance by Patrick Marnham

July  1,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

Baumel-Brémond, code named "Rossini," learned his tradecraft quickly.  Faced by a police barrier he had to force himself to go directly toward it, never to double back.  He had to remember to walk on the same side of the road as the oncoming traffic, so that a car could not approach him unnoticed from behind.  Check constantly for a tail, never crumple un messages--tear the paper into tiny pieces and scatter them over very long distances.  Never enter a nightclub or a black market restaurant or a first-class railway carriage, they were raided all the time.  Keep all the rules every day, and, with luck, you might last three years as Jacques Baumel lasted.  Colonel Rémy of the Confraternity of Our Lady broke all the rules every day and was never troubled.  Other men and women kept all the rules for three days and were arrested anyway.

--Resistance and Betrayal: The Death and Life of the Greatest Hero of the French Resistance by Patrick Marnham