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ARCHIVED ENTRIES FOR MARCH 2009

March  31,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

"I don't see how a fine girl like you can believe that the Bible tells lies and that we come from monkeys, and that it's all right for girls to smoke cigarettes.  What becomes of the world if we let all those ideas into it?  What good is living in the world if we become like the foolish city people that believe things like that?  Why . . . why you'd just be an ordinary person if you had ideas like that!"

--Heaven's My Destination by Thornton Wilder

March  30,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

"God's blessing," said Sancho Pana, "be upon the man who first invented this self-same thing called sleep--it covers a man all over like a cloak."  Now there is more to me in this, and it speaks warmer to my heart and affections, than all the dissertations squeezed out of the heads of the learned together upon the subject.

--Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne

March  29,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

To those who do not yet know of which gender Bruscambille is--inasmuch as a prologue upon long noses might easily be done by either--'twill be no objection against the simile--to say, That when my father got home, he solaced himself with Bruscambille after the manner in which, 'tis ten to one, your worship solaced yourself with your first mistress--that is, from morning even unto night: which, by the bye, how delightful soever it may prove to the inamorato--is of little or no entertainment at all to by-standers.--Take notice, I go no father with the simile--my father's eye was greater than his appetite--his zeal greater than his knowledge--he cooled--his affections became divided--he got hold of Prignitz--purchased Scroderus, Andrea Paraeus, Bouchet's Evening Conferences, and above all, the great and learned Hafen Slawkenberius; of which, as I shall have much to say by and bye--I will say nothing now.

--Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne

March  28,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

My father's collection was not great, but to make amends, it was curious; and consequently he was some time in making it; he had the great good fortune however, to set off well, in getting Bruscambille's prologue upon long noses, almost for nothing--for he gave no more for Bruscambille than three half-crowns; owning indeed to the strong fancy which the stall-man saw my father had for the book the moment he laid his hands upon it.--There are not three Bruscambilles in Christendom--said the stall-man, except what are chained up in the libraries of the curious.  My father flung down the money as quick as lightning--took Bruscambille into his bosom--hired home from Piccadilly to Coleman Street with it, as he would have hied home with a treasure, without taking his hand once off Bruscambille all the way.

--Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne

March  27,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

--Here stands Wit--and there stands Judgment, close beside it, just like the two knobs I'm speaking of, upon the back of this self-same chair on which I am sitting.

--You see they are the highest and most ornamental parts of its frame--as wit and judgment are of ours--and like them too, indubitably both made and fitted to go together, in order, as we say in all such cases of duplicated embellishments--to answer one another.

--Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne

March  26,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

At one particularly extravagant banquet he burst into sudden peals of laughter.  The Consuls, who were reclining next to him, politely asked whether they might share the joke.  'What do you think?' he answerered.  'It occurred to me that I have only to give one nod and both your throats will be cut on the spot!'

--The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius (tr. Robert Graves) 

March  25,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

Everything that Caligula said and did was marked with equal cruelty, even during his hours of rest and amusement and banquetry.  He frequently had trials by torture held in his presence while he was eating or otherwise enjoying himself; and kept an expert headsman in readiness to decapitate the prisoners brought in from gaol.  When the bridge across the sea at Puteoli was being blessed, he invited a number of spectators from the shore to inspect it; then abruptly tipped them into the water.  Some clung to the ships' rudders, but he had them dislodged with boat-hooks and oars, and left to drown.  At a public dinner in the City he sent to his executioners a slave who had stolen a strip of silver from a couch; they were to lop off the man's hands, tie them around his neck so that they hung on his breast, and take him for a tour of the tables, displaying a placard in explanation of his punishment.  On another occasion a gladiator against whom he was fencing with a wooden sword fell down deliberately; whereupon Caligula drew a real dagger, stabbed him to death, and ran about waving the palm-branch of victory.

--The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius (tr. Robert Graves) 

March  24,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

The knights earned his constant displeasure for spending their time, or so he complained, at the play or the Games.  On one occasion the people cheered the wrong team; he cried angrily: 'I wish all you Romans had only one neck!'  When a shout arose in the amphitheatre for Tetrinius the Bandit to come out and fight, he said that all those who called for him were Tetriniuses too.  A group of net-and-trident gladiators, dressed in tunics, put up a very poor show against the five men-at-arms with whom they were matched; but when he sentenced them to death for cowardice, one of them seized a trident and killed each of his opponents in turn.  Caligula then publicly expressed his horror at what he called 'this most bloody murder', and his disgust with those who had been able to stomach the sight.

He went about complaining how bad the times were, and particularly that there had been no public disasters like the Varus masssacre under Augustus, or the collapse of the amphitheatre at Fidenae under Tiberius.  The prosperity of his own reign, he said, would lead to its being wholly forgotten, and he often prayed for a great military catastrophe, or for famine, plague, fire, or at least an earthquake.

--The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius (tr. Robert Graves) 

March  23,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

Next, Caligula extended the Palace as far as the Forum; converted the shrine of Castor and Pollux into a vestibule; and would often stand beside these Divine Brethren to be worshipped by all visitants, some of whom addressed him as 'Latian Jupiter'.  He established a shrine to himself as God, with priests, the costliest possible victims, and a life-sized golden image, which was dressed every day in clothes identical with those that he happened to be wearing.  All the richest citizens tried to gain priesthoods here, either by influence or bribery.  Flamingoes, peacocks, black grouse, guinea-hens, and pheasants were offered as sacrifices, each on a particular day of the month.  When the moon shone full and bright he always invited the Moon-goddess to his bed; and during the day would indulge in whispered conversations with Capitoline Jupiter, pressing his ear to the god's mouth, and sometimes raising his voice in anger.  Once he was overheard threatening the god: 'If you do not raise me up to Heaven I will cast you down to Hell.'

--The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius (tr. Robert Graves) 

March  15,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

Such is the law of our nature.  Our judgment ripens; our imagination decays.  We cannot at once enjoy the flowers of the spring of life and the fruits of its autumn, the pleasures of close investigation and those of agreeable error.  We cannot sit at once in the front of the stage and behind the scenes.  We cannot be under the illusion of the spectacle, while we are watching the movements of the ropes and pulleys which dispose it.

--John Dryden collected in Macaulay's Essays by Lord Macaulay

[N.B.:  This is why I have no time for those programs which endeavor to go "behind the scenes" in the making of some bit of cinematic flotsam and jetsam but also why I revel in the tawdriest melodrama filmed in glorious Technicolor.]

March  14,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

In process of time, the instruments by which the imagination works are brought to perfection.  Men have not more imagination than their rude ancestors.  We strongly suspect that they have much less.  But they produce better works of imagination.  Thus, up to a certain period, the diminution of the poetical powers is far more than compensated by the improvement of all the appliances and means of which those powers stand in need.  Then comes the short period of splendid and consummate excellence.  And then, from causes against which it is vain to struggle, poetry begins to decline.  The progress of language, which was at first favourable, becomes fatal to it, and, instead of compensating for the decay of the imagination, accelerates that decay, and renders it more obvious.  When the adventurer in the Arabian tale anointed one of his eyes with the contents of the magical box, all the riches of the earth, however widely dispersed, however sacredly concealed, became visible to him.  But, when he tried the experiment on both eyes, he was struck with blindness.  What the enchanted elixir was to the sight of the body, language is to the sight of the imagination.  At first it calls up a world of glorious illusions; but, when it becomes too copious, it altogether destroys the visual power.

--John Dryden collected in Macaulay's Essays by Lord Macaulay

March  13,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

These considerations account for the absurdities into which the greatest writers have fallen, when they have attempted to give general rules for composition, or to pronounce judgment on the works of others.  They are unaccustomed to analyse what they feel; they, therefore, perpetually refer their emotions to causes which have not in the slightest degree tended to produce them.  They feel pleasure in reading a book.  They never consider that this pleasure may be the effect of ideas which some unmeaning expression, striking on the first link of a chain of associations, may have called up in their own minds--that they have themselves furnished to the author the beauties which they admire.

--John Dryden collected in Macaulay's Essays by Lord Macaulay

March  12,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

She rose and set the brush down on the dresser and went over and reached into the closet for a dressing gown, murmuring something into it that was indistinguishable but that seemed to me to resemble the single word "God."

"God," I said, "like Alfred Hitchcock, vouchsafes us only glimpses of  Himself.  I have often thought of this.  And also that we make a game of trying to spot Him in this scene and then that, till we've squandered the revelation of the whole instead of simply accepting and enjoying what He has created."

--Overture collected in Without a Stitch in Time by Peter de Vries

March  11,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

My wife had commenced her morning ritual, and was brushing her hair.  She did it, as usual, sitting on the edge of her bed, from which she could see her reflection in the dresser mirror.  Perched tailorwise on mine, I could see it, too.

"I think it's 'special' myself, but that's no matter now," I said.  "Maybe you don't like the merely acoustical pun--think only the pun with a point or meaning is worth while.  Well, how's this one for size?  'Sweet are the uses of perversity.'  You don't have to laugh," I went on, when she didn't.  "The humor I'm in now isn't really humor, but more like wit.  Intellectual."

--Overture collected in Without a Stitch in Time by Peter de Vries

March  10,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

Everything he saw became a symbol of his own existence, from a rabbit caught in headlights to raindrops racing down a window-pane.  Perhaps it was a sign that he was going to become a poet or a philosopher: the kind of person who, when he stood on the sea-shore, didn't see waves breaking on a beach, but saw the surge of human will or the rhythms of copulation, who didn't hear the sound of the tide but heard the eroding roar of time and the last moaning sigh of humanity fizzing into nothingness.  But perhaps it was a sign, he also thought, that he was turning into a pretentious wanker.

--The Liar by Stephen Fry

March  5,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

'I mean, you send me off to school for most of the year and then as soon as I come back you can't wait to get rid of me.  I just hope you won't both be surprised if I lock you in an old people's home when you're old and smelly.'

'Darling!  Don't be horrid.'

'And I'll only come and visit you to give you work to do.  Shirts to iron and socks to darn.'

'Ade, that's an awful thing to say!'

'And only then will you know what it's like to be unloved by your own flesh and blood!' said Adrian, drying his hands.  'And don't giggle woman, because it isn't funny!'

'No darling, of course it isn't,' his mother said with her hand over her mouth.

--The Liar by Stephen Fry

March  4,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

The view that all women are alike seemed to Frank, as a piece of thinking, to err on the inadequate side.  They were indeed all different.  But in one particular all women were alike, and that was in their uniform desire to be different; and in their cheap fear of seeming cheap.  Seized by the idea of making her his wife and eager to anticipate the marriage ceremony, he was prepared to hear her say that no doubt he thought her just like any other woman, and he replied that, on the contrary, she seemed to him peculiarly, uniquely different from them all; after which assurance she behaved like all the other women, and then said:

'Now, I wonder what you'll think of me after that.'

He had not thought anything of her to start with and did not think any the worse of her now.

'Now,' he said, 'we simply must get married.'

--Doom by William Gerhardie

March  3,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

Frank's ideas were vague and nebulous.  Lord Ottercove, he thought, bought consols, sold them at valuation, at contango, and depreciation; bought debentures at quotation; accumulated stock, multiplied it by going into liquidation--and made a fortune.  Frank believed High Finance to be closely allied with Mysticism.  It was ineffable and inutterable: it could be revealed, but not explained; its priests were inspired.

--Doom by William Gerhardie

[N.B.:  Lord Ottercove, Lord Greenspan, the names change but the disaster remains the same.]

March  2,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

But love isn't an atomic bomb, so let's take a homelier comparison.  I'm writing this at the home of a friend in Michigan.  It's a normal American house with all the gadgets technology can dream (except a gadget for making happiness).  He drove me here from the Detroit airport yesterday.  As we turned into the driveway he reached into the glove pocket for a remote-control device; at a masterful touch, the garage doors rolled up and away.  This is the model I propose.  You are arriving home--or think you are--and as you approach the garage you try to work your routine magic.  Nothing happens; the doors remain closed.  You do it again.  Again nothing.  At first puzzled, then anxious, then furious with disbelief, you sit in the driveway with the engine running; you sit there for weeks, months, for years, waiting for the doors to open.  But you are in the wrong car, in front of the wrong garage, waiting outside the wrong house.  One of the troubles is this: the heart isn't heart-shaped.

--A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters by Julian Barnes

March  1,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

We must keep these words in their box behind glass.  And when we take them out we must be careful with them.  Men will say 'I love you' to get women into bed with them; women will say 'I love you' to get men into marriage with them; both will say 'I love you' to keep fear at bay, to convince themselves of the deed by the word, to assure themselves that the promised condition has arrived, to deceive themselves that it hasn't yet gone away.  We must beware of such uses.  I love you shouldn't go out into the world, become a currency, a traded share, make profits for us.  It will do that if we let it. 

--A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters by Julian Barnes