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ARCHIVED ENTRIES FOR JUNE 2009

June  30,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

Aesthetic interest is of the greatest practical import to beings like us, who move on the surface of things.  To engage now with those distant parts of my life which are not of immediate concern, to absorb into the present choice the full reality of a life that stretches into distant moral space, I need insight into the meaning of things.  I need symbols in the present moment, of matters beyond the moment.  The ability to participate imaginatively in merely possible states of affairs is one of the gifts of culture: without this ability a person may not know what it is like to achieve the goals at which he aims, and his pursuit of those goals will be to a certain measure irrational.

--Culture Counts by Roger Scruton

June  25,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

And up from the earth beneath them came the wonderful movement of what was stirring and groaning in its sleep, of trees toughening from saplings over-night, of water breaking and rivers rising, of some momentous arousing as if a man who slept curved under the mountains and plains and the waters was awaking and brushing the pine-forests and the world's endless spider-webs from his eyes and preparing to stretch yawning from one continent to another.  The shivers of spring that ran through his blood were now an excitement in the earth, more wonderful each year because of how completely they were forgotten, and more voluptuous because of the centuries of fragrance and blossoming they had gathered into themselves. 

--My Next Bride by Kay Boyle

June  24,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

"I like you, Victoria," said Anthony.  "I like the way you don't say things," he said.

--My Next Bride by Kay Boyle

June  23,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

Only women grow up, Victoria was thinking; men go on remembering the time when their families stood on guard about them, or the books on the table, or the silver, and there was no need for explanation.  Haven't you learned that once cut out of the family's life you are a single thing given to yourself and other people, carved out separate to stand alone or not to stand at all?

--My Next Bride by Kay Boyle

June  22,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

The first postulate is this: "Truth Lies in Proportion."  You do not tell an historical truth by merely stating a known fact; not even by stating a number of facts in a certain and true order.  You can only tell it justly by stating the known things in the order of their value.

It has been objected by unthinking men that history is necessarily uncertain because it necessarily consists in the facts selected by the narrator, and since he can leave out what he chooses the result may be almost anything.  But this is to presuppose that the man who is telling the story is not desirous of presenting the truth.  Suppose he be so desirous, he will only achieve his object by a just selection: that is by selection according to the order of value, giving chief weight to what is most important in connection with his narrative, less weight to what is less important, and omitting, as he is bound to omit within some limits, however large, what is least important.  This is especially clear in the case of general statement on so large a matter as the establishment of a civilization, its origin, character and development. 

--The Crisis of Our Civilization by Hilaire Belloc 

June  21,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

Soon, soon all human joys must end:

Grim death approaches with his sickle:

Courage! There is still time, my friend,

To eat a Briggs's Breakfast Pickle.

--Meet Mr. Mulliner by P.G. Wodehouse

June  20,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

A sound like the sudden descent of an iron girder on a sheet of tin, followed by a jangling of bells, a wailing of tortured cats, and the noise of a few steam-riveters at work, announced to their trained ears that the music had begun.  Sweeping her to him with a violence which, attempted in any other place, would have earned him a sentence of thirty days coupled with some strong remarks from the Bench, Lancelot began to push her yielding form through the sea of humanity till they reached the centre of the whirlpool.  There, unable to move in any direction, they surrendered themselves to the ecstasy of the dance, wiping their feet on the polished flooring and occasionally pushing an elbow into some stranger's encroaching rib.

'This,' murmured the girl with closed eyes, 'is divine.'

'What?' bellowed Lancelot, for the orchestra, in addition to ringing bells, had now begun to howl like wolves at dinner-time.

--Meet Mr. Mulliner by P.G. Wodehouse

[N.B.:  That old fuss-budget, P.G., making fun of hard rock and mosh pits.  What a fuddy-duddy!  Wait a minute, this was published in 1927--he's an even bigger old fogey than I thought.  The more things change . . . .]

June  19,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

The chances were, therefore, that sooner or later he would find her at some night club or other.

He started, accordingly, to make the round of the night clubs.  As soon as one was raided, he went on to another.  Within a month he had visited the Mauve Mouse, the Scarlet Centipede, the Vicious Cheese, the Gay Fritter, the Placid Prune, the Cafe de Bologna, Billy's, Milly's, Ike's, Spike's, Mike's, and the Ham and Beef.  And it was at the Ham and Beef that at last he found her.

--Meet Mr. Mulliner by P.G. Wodehouse

[N.B.:  Are you starting up a new, ultra-cool, ultra-swank, ultra-sophisticated, ultra-skank new club but can't come up with a suitable moniker?  Problem solved.  No, don't thank me, thank P.G.  My preference, by the bye, is for the Vicious Cheese (or, maybe, the Mauve Mouse).]

June  18,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

'Sir Jasper Finch-Farrowmere?' said Wilfred.

'ffinch-ffarrowmere,' corrected his visitor, his sensitive ear detecting the capital letters.

'Ah yes.  You spell it with two small f's.'

'Four small f's.'

--Meet Mr. Mulliner by P.G. Wodehouse

June  17,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

Ever since his first ecstasy or vision of Christminster and its possibilities, Jude had meditated much and curiously on the probable sort of process that was involved in turning the expressions of one language into those of another.  He concluded that a grammar of the required tongue would contain, primarily, a rule, prescription, or clue of the nature of a secret cipher, which, once know, would enable him, by merely applying it, to change at will all words of his own speech into those of the foreign one.  His childish idea was, in fact, a pushing to the extremity of mathematical precision what is everywhere known as Grimm's Law--an aggrandizement of rough rules to ideal completeness.  Thus he assumed that the words of the required language were always to be found somewhere latent in the words of the given language by those who had the art to uncover them, such art being furnished by the books aforesaid.

--Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

June  16,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

So much for the unhappy beginning of Jude's career as a book.  After these verdicts from the press its next misfortune was to be burnt by a bishop--probably in despair at not being able to burn me--and his advertisement of his meritorious act in the papers.

Then somebody discovered that Jude was a moral work--austere in its treatment of a difficult subject--as if the writer had not all the time said in the Preface that it was meant to be so.  Thereupon many uncursed me, and the matter ended, the only effect of it on human conduct that I could discover being its effect on myself--the experience completely curing me of further interest in novel-writing.

--Postscript from Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

June  15,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

"You wonder why I will not publish?  The people will laugh at my book, or that mangled version of it which filters down to them from the universities.  The people always mistake at first the frightening for the comic thing.  But very soon they will come to see what it is that I have done, I mean what they will imagine I have done, diminished Earth, made of it merely another planet among planets; they will begin to despise the world, and something will die, and out of that death will come death.

--Doctor Copernicus by John Banville

June  14,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

"You think that to see is to perceive, but listen, listen: seeing is not perception!  Why will no one realise that?  I lift my head and look at the stars, as did the ancients, and I say: what are those lights?  Some call them torches borne by angels, other pinpricks in the shroud of Heaven; others till, scientists such as ourselves, call them stars and planets that make a manner of machine whose workings we strive to comprehend.  But do you understand that, without perception, all these theories are equal in value.  Stars or torches, it is all one, all merely an exalted naming; those lights shine on, indifferent to what we call them. 

--Doctor Copernicus by John Banville

June  10,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

There is peace here, while all Italy is in turmoil--O I know, I know you would not call it peace, but besottedness.  Yet call it what you will, our citizens, like their fellows in Firenze, are well fed and therefore well content to leave things just as they are.  That is the equation; it is as simple as that.  You may harangue them all you wish, berate them for their decadence, but they will only laugh at you--that is, so long as you are no more than a crazy astronomer with your head in the clouds.  Come down to earth and meddle in their affairs, then it will be another matter.  Fra Girolamo, the formidable Savonarola, was cherished for a time by Firenze.  The city writhed in holy ecstasy under his lash, until he began to frighten them, and then--why, then they burnt him.  You see?  No, no Jacob, there will be no autos da fe in Bologna."

--Doctor Copernicus by John Banville

June  9,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Plato in the Timaeus says that the universe is a kind of animal, eternal and perfect, whose life is lived entirely within itself, created by God in the form of a globe, which is the most pleasing in its perfection and most like itself of all figures.  Aristotle postulated as an explanation of planetary motion a mechanism of fifty-five crystalline spheres, each one touching and driving another and all driven by the primary motion of the sphere of the fixed stars.  Pythagoras likened the world to a vast lyre whose strings as it were are the orbits of the planets, which in their intervals sing beyond human hearing a perfect harmonic scale.  And all this, this crystalline eternal singing being, this you call an engine?"

"I meant no disrespect.  Only I am seeking a means of understanding and belief."  He hesitated, smiling a little sheepishly at the lofty sound of that.  "Herr Wodka--Herr Wodka, what do you believe?"

The Canon opened wide his empty arms.

"I believe that the world is here," he said, "that it exists, and that it is inexplicable.  All these great men that we have spoken of, did they believe that what they proposed exists in reality?  Did Ptolemy believe in the strange image of wheels within wheels that he postulated as a true picture of planetary motion.  Do we believe in it, even though we say that it is true?  For you see, when we are dealing with these matters, truth becomes an ambiguous concept.  In our own day Nicolas Cusanus has said that the universe is an infinite sphere whose centre is nowhere.  Now this is a contradictio in adjecto, since the motions of sphere and infinity cannot sensibly be put together; yet how much more strange is the Cusan's universe that those of Ptolemy or Aristotle?  Well, I leave the question to you."  He smiled again, ruefully.  "I think it will give you must heartache."

--Doctor Copernicus by John Banville

June  8,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

She led the way into the sitting room, which was beautifully cool and full of the scent of small red carnations.  The Colonel, who was not even conscious of being a hopelessly untidy person himself, nevertheless was always truck by the pervading neatness, the laundered freshness, of all parts of Miss Wilkinson's house.  It was like a little chintz holy-of-holies, always embalmed, always the same.

--Where the Cloud Breaks collected it A Month by the Lake & Other Stories by H.E. Bates

June  7,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

For the same reasons neither of them owned either television or radio, the Colonel having laid it down in expressly severe terms, almost as if in holy writ, that he would not only never have such antisocial devices in the house but that they were also, in a sense, degenerate: if not immoral.

--Where the Cloud Breaks collected it A Month by the Lake & Other Stories by H.E. Bates

June  6,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

The woman was composed mainly of a series of droops.  Her brown dress drooped from her large shoulders and chest and arms like a badly looped curtain.  A treble row of pearls dropped from her neck, from which, in turn, drooped a treble bagginess of skins.  From under her eyes drooped pouches that seemed once to have been full of something but that were now merely punctured and drained and flabby.  And from her mouth, most of the time, drooped a cigarette from which she could not bother to remove the drooping ashes.

--The Evolution of Saxby collected it A Month by the Lake & Other Stories by H.E. Bates

June  5,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

One of the things that success in business enabled him to do was to expend a good deal of time, care and money on his choice of clothes.  He thought a man ought not only to dress well but, rather like an animal adopting protective colouring, to dress according to his immediate surroundings.  That was why he wore simple plain blue suits at the office, sober clerical greys when he did business in London and now, on the lake, a variety of light, sunny blues, yellows, browns and greens that matched the burning autumn mountains, the honey expanses of water, the oleanders, the Italianate villas and skies.  That, he thought, was the kind of thing that kept him young.

--A Month by the Lake collected it A Month by the Lake & Other Stories by H.E. Bates

June  4,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

What ought to strike the newcomer to Bates's short stories is the variety of tone, the manner in which the vocabulary expands or contracts to fit the subject, and the faultless ear for human speech.  In that nothing much seems to happen--only a nuance of change in relationships, a minimal modification of attitude--Bates is seen clearly to be in the tradition of Chekhov, to whom one ought to add the Joyce of Dubliners.  The O. Henry tradition of the twist in the tail is not here; rather what we have is what Joyce called the epiphany--the showing forth of some small human truth in rather drab and ordinary human circumstances.  "She stood staring at all this for some time longer.  She had forgotten her shoes and now she dared not go back for them.  Her eyes were big and colourless.  One of her small stony lips was held tight right above the other and it might have been that she wished, after all, that she too was dead."  That is the end of "Death and the Cherry Tree."  Just a wish, not even that--just the possibility of a wish, a velleity.  It's enough.

--Introduction by Anthony Burgess to A Month by the Lake & Other Stories by H.E. Bates

June  3,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

'But you said so.'

'Ironically.  You should study the inflexion when I speak; it is all-important.  As important as punctuation.  Ever heard of King Charles?'

'Yes.'

'"King Charles walked and talked

Half an hour after his head was cut off."

That doesn't seem to make sense.'

'No.  How indeed could a man walk and talk half an hour after his head was cut off?'

'Precisely.  Even King Charles couldn't do it.  But put a full stop after "talked" and it makes perfect sense.  You may have heard of treaties being wrecked by a comma out of place.  And what punctuation is for the written speech, intonation is for the spoken language.  You should have listened for it.'

--Doom by William Gerhardie

June  2,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

'Conservatism is a subversive habit of conserving the liberties won in the past by their opponents.  If Conservatism is to be alive to-morrow, let Liberals have their way to-day.'

--Doom by William Gerhardie

June  1,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

Forty years ago the picture had hung proudly in the Academy.  Not, naturally, in a good light, but then not all whom the Muses called were able to withstand the intoxication of success.  If his peers had passed him by, Art, itself, had not failed him.  It was better to bring beauty to untutored eyes, and now that he was an old man he could say thing convincingly, than to hang bleakly in a gallery before a dozen students and half-hearted visitors tramping from room to room to while away the time.  His ships had been the gay cover for First Steps to History, Part II.  They had been a calendar, even a jigsaw puzzle.  Some might laugh, like that fellow Dale who sneered about "coloured photographs" just because he had never learned to draw but made splotches in red and black with his thumb he called Abstract No. 7.  What the world needed was not machinery but penitence, a return to apprenticeship, to straight lines and "taking pains."

--Beowulf by Bryher