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ARCHIVED ENTRIES FOR JULY 2014

July  31,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

"That's just it.  Daddy writes too much, don't you think?  He hardly ever revises.  he writes something, then he 'gets rid of it' by publishing it, I've heard him actually say that, and then he writes something else.  He's always in such a hurry, it's neurotic.  I see no point in being an artist unless you try all the time to be perfect." 

--The Black Prince by Iris Murdoch

July  30,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

Zbigniew was no believer, not in anything; but he found himself believing, for the first time, in death.  Death was not just an idea, or something that happened to other people.  He would die one day, just as this woman was dying, and he would die, as she did, alone.  Even if there were people who loved him all around, he would die alone. 

--Capital by John Lanchester

July  29,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

From his dealings with his mother, Smitty had learned the following truth: the person doing the worrying experiences it as a form of love; the person being worried about experiences it as a form of control.

--Capital by John Lanchester

July  28,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

In Max's case, the glasses were a form of defence mechanism or camouflage.  They helped hide his face.  At the same time they tried to look cool: but this was an each-way bet and as so often with each-way bets, it didn't come off.  Max's specs had narrow wire frames and were technocratic in a way that tried to express personality but did not.

--Capital by John Lanchester

July  27,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

Max was one of those men who were summed up by their glasses.  As contact lenses and corrective eye surgery became increasingly ubiquitous, glasses were turning into a deliberate statement - not just the type of glasses but the whole fact of wearing them.  They were a way of being above vanity (popular with nerds and certain kinds of actor or musician), or of trying to look more intelligent (popular with off-duty models), or of expressing intellectual disdain for disguise in a form-follows-function way (architects, designers), or of being too poor of too not-bothered.

--Capital by John Lanchester

[N.B.:  Hmmm, now where might Texas Governor Rick Perry fit in here?]

July  26,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

If you have seven children, Shahid wondered, does that mean you're keen on sex, keen on your wife, or keen on children?  Or just sh*t at contraception?  Or all four of those things?

--Capital by John Lanchester

July  25,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

You heard people say forty was the new thirty and fifty was the new forty and sixty was the  new forty-five, but you never heard anybody say eighty was the new anything.  Eighty was just eighty.

--Capital by John Lanchester

July  24,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

There would be girls there; he had met his last girlfriend in a place called Shooters during happy hour.  She eventually broke up with him after complaining that he never wanted to go anywhere and never wanted to do anything.  That, Zbigniew still felt, was not fair.  He had never wanted to go anywhere and never wanted to do anything that cost money - an important difference.

--Capital by John Lanchester

July  23,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

Arabella had a habit of overstating things, one that she had so much internalised that it was not always easy for she herself to tell when she was mildly pleased about something and when she was genuinely delighted.  Gresham's Law was at work: the cheap money of overstatement was gradually driving out the good money of true feeling.

--Capital by John Lanchester

July  22,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

The idea of luxury, even the word 'luxury', was important to Arabella.  Luxury meant something that was by definition overpriced, but was so nice, so lovely, in itself that you did not mind, in fact was so lovely that the expensiveness became part of the point, part of the distinction between the people who could not afford a thing and the select few who not only could, but also understood the desirability of paying so much for it.  Arabella knew that there were thoughtlessly rich people who could afford everything; she didn't see herself as one of them but instead as one of an elite who both knew what money meant and could afford the things they wanted; and the knowledge of what money meant gave the drama of high prices a special piquancy.  She loved expensive things because she knew what their expensiveness meant.  She had a complete understanding of the signifiers.

--Capital by John Lanchester

July  21,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

Zbigniew was a sharp student of his British customers and knew that in this country builders had a reputation for specific things: they were expensive and lazy; they were never available when you wanted them; they took over your house and behaved as if it were theirs during the work; and they left things half-finished and went off to another job so that the last phase of the work dragged on for months.  He set out always to be the opposite of all those things and to stick to this policy at all times.

--Capital by John Lanchester

July  20,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

If you want to keep servants you must treat them badly.  The same, I find, applies to lovers.

--The Life and Loves of a She-Devil by Fay Weldon

July  19,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

Mr. Ghengis enjoyed his work.  It seemed to him that it was one of the few occupations in the world that could not be faulted.  Social work could be seen as system-bolstering; ordinary doctoring as fostering the interest of the pharmaceutical companies; teaching as the enslavement of the young mind; the arts as idle elitism; business of any kind as grinding the world's poor beneath the capitalist heel; and so forth: but cosmetic surgery was pure.  It made the ugly beautiful.  To transform the human body, the shell of the soul, was, Mr. Ghengis felt, the nearest a man could get to motherhood: molding, shaping, bringing forth in pain and anguish.  True, the pain and anguish were not strictly his but his patients'.  Nevertheless, he felt it.  Nothing was for nothing.

--The Life and Loves of a She-Devil by Fay Weldon

July  18,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

Another man soon moved into the space left by Paul's father--nature abhors an empty bed--and stayed for three months, before moving on to a less child-encumbered woman; leaving Vickie pregnant.

--The Life and Loves of a She-Devil by Fay Weldon

July  17,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

Vickie wriggled and protested and insulted and derided the state, her provider, in much the same way that wives will insult and deride the husbands who provide for them, care for them, love them.  Vickie's second baby, Paul, was born to a father recognizably his, who stayed for six months after the birth, only to go out one evening to buy a packet of cigarettes, never to reappear.

--The Life and Loves of a She-Devil by Fay Weldon

July  16,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

At the age of eighteen Vickie had felt quite sorry for herself and thought that to give her life a purpose and a meaning she should have babies, and set about achieving this ambition.  It is always important to have someone to love, as well as something to do.  Once she had a baby, the Welfare Department paid her rent and gave her vouchers for electricity and food, and if she argued enough, War on Want would pay her gas bill and her television rental and keep her washing machine in order.  But it was hard work getting around from department to department, encumbered as she was by her two small children.  One way and another, she would have enough for the children's breakfast, but not for their supper, and so forth.  In return, the state demanded respect and gratitude and not--as any Bradwell Park husband would--merely payment in kind, of the flesh.  Sex in Bradwell Park was regarded as a bargaining ploy, rarely seen as a source of mutual pleasure or spiritual refreshment, and the notion of partnership between man and wife was generally abhorrent to both sexes.

--The Life and Loves of a She-Devil by Fay Weldon

[N.B.:  Remember, this is a book by a British author about the British published in 1983.]

July  15,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Never trust a woman," observed Polly Patch, and the judge was glad she was unfashionable enough to indulge in the kind of sexist remarks that had once kept conversations so lively, and animation flashing between the sexes.

--The Life and Loves of a She-Devil by Fay Weldon

July  14,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

There is always a living to be earned doing the work that others prefer not to do.  Employment can generally be found looking after other people's children, caring for the insane, or guarding imprisoned criminals, cleaning public rest rooms, laying out the dead, or making beds in cheap hotels.  Payment is usually small, but enough to keep the recipient alive and strong enough to get to work the next day.  There is always, as governments are fond of saying, work for those who want it.

--The Life and Loves of a She-Devil by Fay Weldon

July  13,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

"I'm sick," hiccuped Andy, and was, over everything.

--The Life and Loves of a She-Devil by Fay Weldon

July  12,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

Lust corrodes as love does not.  Lust is all hard hammer blows, cracking and splitting.  Love is a slippery, velvety cloak to hide in.  Lust is real and love is the stuff of dreams, and dreams are what we are made of.  A million million women couldn't be wrong.  Could they?

--The Life and Loves of a She-Devil by Fay Weldon

July  11,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

As Mary Fisher kept saying, "I am only as good as my last novel."  And Bobbo knew that her novels were not "good" at all, but merely salable, a distinction she was afraid to make, for what is salable today is unsalable tomorrow.

--The Life and Loves of a She-Devil by Fay Weldon

July  10,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

Brenda and Angus left.  They walked away down the path, side by side but not touching.  Domestic strife is catching.  Happy couples do well to avoid the company of the unhappy.

--The Life and Loves of a She-Devil by Fay Weldon

July  9,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

And how, especially, do ugly women survive, those whom the world pities?  The dogs, as they call us.  I'll tell you; they live as I do, outfacing truth, hardening the skin against perpetual humiliation, until it's as tough and cold as a crocodile's.  And we wait for old age to equalize all things.  We make good old women.

--The Life and Loves of a She-Devil by Fay Weldon

July  8,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

A critic he took more seriously was a distant cousin from Boston, Alice Gould, who had moved to Spain to complete groundbreaking scholarship on a life of Christopher Columbus.  Harry had met her in Seville, and had been struck by her independent spirit and formidable erudition.  She examined the character of his sonnets at length, and he copied her remarks verbatim into his working notebook. . . . She then tickles him with faint praise:

You seem to me to use the sonnet line naturally--to think in phrases of that length and structure, so that one never gets the felling of an artificial form with arbitrary rules--a feeling given by very many writers, whom one wants to ticket with "Just see me write a sonnet."  But while your phrases are sonnet-phrases, I do not think your ideas are sonnet ideas.  I do not feel any tossing to and fro of an idea and finally reaching a conclusion--nor yet the other sonnet-fitting development of a parallel, a simile, a likeness in unlikeness between the two parts--I think that even the subjects on which you offer your ideas are not sonnet subjects.  A picture in words is not to my thinking a sonnet-subject, nor yet is a statement or a single reflection. . . . [The sonnet] must either stray forward by successive steps, considering each step, or march like Milton to a beating organ-time and bring up with a bang. . . .

--Black Sun: The Brief Transit and Violent Eclipse of Harry Crosby by Geoffrey Wolff

July  7,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

When Harry was with Hemingway, he usually drank too much, and after one particularly savage bout with him woke in disgust to notice that whenever he got drunk his hands got dirty.  Hemingway introduced Harry to Goya's Disasters of War, and otherwise satisfied his appetite for the macabre by giving him a photograph of a man's arm that had been removed from the belly of a shark off Key West.

--Black Sun: The Brief Transit and Violent Eclipse of Harry Crosby by Geoffrey Wolff

July  6,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

Reading and writing were for Harry--as for Kafka--a form of prayer.  And perhaps because he was as literal as he was literary, he began to dwell on books as sacred artifacts as well as sacred processes.  He noted in his journal that "books should be real things--they were so once when a man would give a fat field in exchange for a small manuscript."  He was both intimidated and exhilarated by his realization that every age throws up only a few books able to stick to the ribs of the future, only a few works of literature--"news that stays news," in Pound's formulation.  He never gave voice to his ambition to produce even one such enduring work, but it was his entire purpose, why he worked so hard to learn the trick of genius, why he transformed himself into what he perceived to be an artistic character.

--Black Sun: The Brief Transit and Violent Eclipse of Harry Crosby by Geoffrey Wolff

[N.B.:  There are but a few ways to live forever and almost all of them lack the ability of the immortalized to put the stamp on the future interpretation of what made them immortal.  Great statesmen--and great brutes--must rely on the kind offices of future historians.  Artists must allow theie mute works stand in fquiet glory for their thoughts.  Classical composers have the opposite problem and instead leave behind works of great sound but which speak in a language of music, not men (and let us pass in silence, as will eternity, over our songwriting troubadours who compose mawkish ditties about loves lost and found amongst the hay--diddle-diddle).  Only writers get to pass their composed thoughts on to future generations in a form that requires an immersion in the work for more than an inarticulate moment.  And that's why more people want to write than to paint or to compose.]

July  5,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Frans and Mai were with us and Croucher and Gretchen.  At about one o'clock it was WILD men and women stark naked dancing people rushing to and fro. . . . From our loge I opened the sack and down dropped the ten serpents.  Screams and shouts.  Yet later in the evening I sat next to a plump girl who was suckling one of the serpents!  Dear me!  Somewhere about two o'clock came the costume contest and the Beauty Prize lovely nude models ivory-white against a black velvet curtain standing upon a dais.  Deafening applause."

--Black Sun: The Brief Transit and Violent Eclipse of Harry Crosby by Geoffrey Wolff

July  4,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

The following year Stephen Crosby was in approving attendance, caparisoned in an extraordinary Cambodian getup, with a toothbrush attached to his hat.  Before the ball Harry, Caresse and Mai de Geetere enjoyed a bath together, then painted themselves green, together with Lymington and a girl for whom he and Harry shared an affection.  That year Harry wore seven pigeons and carried ten live snakes in a sack--more and more was the only measure he valued--and he and Caresse gave a better party than last year's, for more people.  The students clamored for GIN GIN GIN when the champagne punch ran out, and mobbed the Crosbys' maid--it was difficult to know which exactly of several things they wanted from her--and for an ugly moment Harry was afraid it had all gone too far.  But he got the party under way to the ball at about ten o'clock, and as he wrote his mother two days later, by the standards of pandemonium it was a great success.

--Black Sun: The Brief Transit and Violent Eclipse of Harry Crosby by Geoffrey Wolff

July  3,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

So far he had been dabbling, but at the 1926 ball, Lymington's first, Harry set the tone of the following three full-throttle orgies.  The motif was Incan, and he rubbed himself down with red ocher and wore a red loincloth and a necklace of three dead pigeons.  But before the ball there was a supper party--if a champagne punch made from forty bottles of brut, and five each of whiskey, cointreau and gin, may be called supper--given in the library of 19 rue de Lille for eighty students and their girls.  . . .  Caresse wore bare breasts and a turquoise wig, and at the ball won a prize of twenty-five bottles of champagne for the Crosbys' group by riding around the ballroom in the jaws of a papier-mâché dragon propelled through the Salle Wagram by a couple of dozen drunk students.  Harry passed out and woke up next morning stinking of dead pigeons and sticky with paint, in bed with Lymington, Caresse, Lymington's girl (who was angry that he had not troubled to make love to her) and several others, newly met.

--Black Sun: The Brief Transit and Violent Eclipse of Harry Crosby by Geoffrey Wolff

July  2,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

The Four Arts Ball marked the closing of the art academies for the summer and the climax of a year of study.  Weeks before the orgy a masquerade motif was announced, though costumes consisted of not much more than body paint, a loincloth and an elaborate headdress.  (Dress designers invariably smuggled in their scouts to steal ideas from the bizarre inventions.).

--Black Sun: The Brief Transit and Violent Eclipse of Harry Crosby by Geoffrey Wolff

July  1,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

But for mischief, bad intentions and inventive self-indulgence no private party could equal the institution of the Four Arts Ball, a costume extravaganza staged every June by students of the arts in Paris, notorious for spectacular drunkenness and public fornication between stranger and stranger.  The dances were restricted to male art students and as many women as wished to attend, but Harry and Caresse nevertheless went every year from 1923 till 1929, and brought along the Powels, the de Geeteres and Lymington.

--Black Sun: The Brief Transit and Violent Eclipse of Harry Crosby by Geoffrey Wolff