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ARCHIVED ENTRIES FOR MARCH 2011

March  31,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Champagne," he said.  "First of all champagne."  When the champagne came he took a sip of it.  He was just about to accept it when he happened to catch my eye.  "No," he said.  "It's flat.  Send it back."

The proprietor arrived.  "What's all this, Gogo?"

"We don't like the champagne," said Stefan grandly.

The proprietor tasted it.  "Don't be silly," he said, slapping his old friend on the back.  "It's exquisite."

"Ah well."  Stefan took it philosophically.  "It's not like his old place in Vienna."

Max laughed.  "Hungarians don't like each other, they understand each other."

"Don't be disrespectful," said Stefan crossly.

--The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy

[N.B.:  Note how Elaine Dundy uses adverbs effectively: she places them at the end of the sentence (or, at least, after the verb).]

March  30,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

First of all, though very few seemed to be married at the time, they were all passionately involved with one another.  This had a way of making conversation rather difficult.  For instance, when one of them began talking to you it was impossible to predict which one of the others was going to get sore.  And the reason they got sore was that it was assumed that the one talking to you was also making a pass at you, and the reason that was assumed was that it was generally true.  And the reason it was generally true, was that they had nothing else to talk to me about.  Past parties--past and future parties, resorts in and out of season, their own lineages and those of their friends were their only real contributions to a conversation, except for the one that went "I was in America once . . ." and then petered out into a series of place names, so that by making a play for me I suppose they felt they were keeping their end up.  And another thing about them was the way they kept inviting you places; they invited me to a different place on an average of one every five minutes, but I discovered there were two rules governing this: first, it had to be a place you'd never been to, like "What, you've never seen the Blue Grotto?  I must take you there on the yacht this summer"; and second, it was understood that each invitation canceled the previous one--I'll leave you to guess what the very last one always was.

--The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy

March  29,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Please forgive me, but I've never had to change my mind so often at such short notice in my whole life.  It's quite breathtaking.  You see, first I thought you wanted my body, then I thought you wanted my love, then my life even, happily-ever-after and all that sort of thing, and now it turns out it is merely my money.  Oh, Teddy, darling, thank you, thank you."  I was practically sobbing.

"For what?" he asked patiently.

"For restoring my cynicism.  I was too young to lose it."

--The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy

March  28,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

I completely despised him.  From my standpoint what he had just told me was just about the worst thing he could have said to me.  The main trouble with being an homme fatal, the really, really crux of the matter was one was so entirely dependent on every single prop.  Take one away and the whole structure collapses like a house of cards.  If his wife doesn't want him, I certainly don't, was my way of putting it.

--The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy

March  27,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

"If you really like beer, you don't mind drinking it in a hot smoky crowded bar at the wrong end of town."

Jenny thought this over.  "You mean it's actually no more important to some people than drinking a glass of beer?"

"Except that this is harder to get and the beer doesn't have to like you and you think about this more and you're proud of it afterwards and you're not supposed to have it, I suppose it is like a glass of beer.  To some people.  Except that this is much nicer."

--Take a Girl like You by Kingsley Amis

March  26,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

"When I see someone as pretty as you I always start off thinking that it's going to be different this time, this time she'll have to want me a little because I want her so much.  That's the bit I always do fool myself about, at first.  Perhaps it isn't normal, all this wanting.  But I wouldn't know, would I?  I haven't any way of knowing.  What's sex all about?  How would I know?  And not knowing that means not knowing a lot of other things, too.  For instance, literature.  I used to be a great reader at one time, but not any more.  Eternity was in our lips and eyes, bliss in our brows' bent.  It's not envy.  Simpler than that.  What's he talking about?

--Take a Girl like You by Kingsley Amis

March  25,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

"You can't imagine what it's like not to know what it is to meet an attractive person who's also attracted to you, can you?  Because unattractive men don't want unattractive girls, you see.  They want attractive girls.  The merely get unattractive girls.  I think a lot of people feel vaguely when they see two duffers marrying that the duffers must prefer it that way.  Which is rather like saying that slum-dwellers would rather live in the slums than anywhere else--there they are in the slums, aren't they?  A great German thinker once said that character is destiny.  Appearance is character and destiny would have been better and truer.  What use is your character to you if you can't turn it into your destiny?

--Take a Girl like You by Kingsley Amis

March  24,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Look.  All I've got to say is this.  There are two sorts of men today, those who do--you know what I mean--and those who don't.  All the ones you're ever going to really like are the first sort, and all the ones those ideas of yours tell you you ought to have are the second sort.  Oh, there wouldn't be any problem of temptation there.  The problem would come on the wedding night.  And on all the nights after that.  There used to be a third sort, admitted.  The sort that could, but didn't--not with the girl he was going to marry, anyway.  You'd have liked him all right, though, and he wouldn't have given you any trouble trying to get you into bed before the day.  The snag about him is he's dead.  He died in 1914 or thereabouts.  He isn't ever going to turn up, Jenny, that bloke with the manners and the respect and the honour and the bunches of flowers and the attraction.  Or if he does he's going to turn out to have a wife in Birmingham or a boyfriend in Chelsea or a psychiatrist in . . . wherever psychiatrists live."

--Take a Girl like You by Kingsley Amis

March  23,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Oh lordy lordy lordy, how lovely she was, with all that thick inky-black hair and the slightly hollow cheeks and the faint blue veins at the temples and the very definite line surrounding the lips and the lips themselves and and and and and and.  and, to select almost at random the permanent faint Disney look, for some reason slightly accentuated this evening.

--Take a Girl like You by Kingsley Amis

March  22,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

He would go and that he was gone would be her first thought every morning, as her first thought now was that he was here.  She would open her eyes and see the pink-washed walls as she saw them now, the sacred picture above the empty grate, her clothes on the chair in the window.  He would be gone, as the dead are gone, and that would be there all day, in the kitchen and in the yard, when she brought in anthracite for the Rayburn, when she scalded the churns, while she fed the hens and stacked the turf.  It would be there in the fields, and with her when she stood with her eggs waiting for the presbytery hall door to open, and while Miss Connulty counted out her coins and the man with the deaf-aid looked for insulation guards or udder pads.  It would be there while she lay down beside the husband she had married, and while she made his food and cut his bread, and while the old-time music played.

'Do you want to go?' she asked.

'Everything is over for me in Ireland now.'

'I wish you weren't going.'

--Love and Summer by William Trevor

March  21,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

He was delayed there because an old ewe had died.  He might have left her in the heather, but he found a place that was a better grave for what remained of her.  He wasn't sentimental, but he respected sheep.

--Love and Summer by William Trevor

March  20,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Throughout its hundred-year history, meth has been perhaps the only example of a widely consumed illegal narcotic that might be called vocational, as opposed to recreational.  The market for meth in America is nearly as old as industrialization.  Poor and working-class Americans had been consuming the drug since the 1930s, whether it was marketed as Benzedrine, Methedrine, or Obedrin, for the simple reason that meth makes you feel good and permits you to work hard. 

--Methland by Nick Reding

March  19,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

A meth user's feelings are reflected in what are called his executive actions, or what Freese calls "his ability to choose between what we all know to be good and bad."  Freese says that what feels good is tied directly to survival.  The ability to make decisions, therefore, is in some ways controlled not by what people want, but by what they need.  Meth, says Freese, "hijacks the relationship" between what is necessary and what is desired.  "The result is that when you take away meth, nothing natural--sex, a glass of water, a good meal, anything for which we are supposed to be rewarded--feels good.  The only thing that does feel good is more meth."  Moreover, he continues, "there's a basic and lasting change in the brain's chemistry, which is a direct result of the drug's introduction."   The ultimate effects are psychopathology such as intolerable depression, profound sleep and memory loss, debilitating anxiety, severe hallucinations, and acute, schizophrenic bouts of paranoia: the very things that meth, just eighty years ago, was supposed to cure.

--Methland by Nick Reding

March  18,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

[Tom] Freese, [a doctor of clinical psychology at UCLA], says that both meth and crack "lurk" in the space between the brain's neurons, where they stop the reuptake of dopamine, thereby "flooding" you with good feelings.  But meth alone, says Freese, "goes inside the presynaptic cells to push dopamine out."  That, he says, "makes for more of a flood, if you will."  This ultimately might begin to account for why some neurological researchers see total depletion of neurotransmitters in sectors of the brains of chronic meth users.  It's perhaps no wonder, then, that the 1950s-era Methedrine and Benzadrine addicts depicted in the David Lynch movie Blue Velvet are associated with anarchy.  Moving through the world, and the movie, unable to feel anything but rage, they are the embodiment of late-stage meth addiction, the political expression of the existential scourge and the bane of the work-based American dream.

--Methland by Nick Reding

March  17,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Japanese, American, British, and German soldiers were all given methamphetamine pills to stay awake, to stay focused, and to perform under the extreme duress of war.  Methedrine, according to [Patricia] Case, was a part of every American airman's preflight kit.  Three enormous plants in Japan produced an estimated one billion Hiropon pills between 1938 and 1945.  According to a 2005 article in the German online news source Spiegel, the German pharmaceutical companies Temmler and Knoll in only four months, between April and July 1940, manufactured thirty-five million methamphetamine tablets, all of which were shipped to the Nazi army and air corps.

--Methland by Nick Reding

March  16,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Let's try to look at meth scientifically and economically," he begins.  "First, there's the part of your brain that's evolved over thousands of years to reward you for doing the things that will regenerate the species.  Have sex, feel good, in a nutshell.  Then there's meth, which is twenty times better than sex.  So, basically, meth becomes more powerful than biology.

"So you can put a tweaker in prison, and the whole time he's in there, he's thinking of only one thing: how he's going to get high the day he's out.  He's not even thinking about it, actually.  He's like, rewired to know that everything in life is about the drug.  So you say, 'What good does prison do?'

--Methland by Nick Reding

March  15,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Lab locations in Iowa in the past decade have included bait and tackle shops, river barges, networks of tunnels dug with backhoes, the cab of a combine, thousands of kitchen sinks, bathtubs, and motel rooms, a high school locker room, and a retirement home, in which the elderly residents were given excessive doses of opiates so that they would not wake up while the batchers worked.  In one Iowa county, the school district banned bake sales after several children unwittingly brought to school meth-tainted chocolate chip cookies and Rice Krispies treats that sickened classmates.

--Methland by Nick Reding

March  14,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

To add to it, the weather was gray and windy and the ship, the Sam MacManus, was old.  Black machinery beside it, at the wharf, grim gimmicks on it, grease, darkness, blues, the day itself housed in iron.  The ocean was waiting with grand and bitter provocations, as if it invited you to think how deep it was, how much colder than your blood or saltier, or to outguess it, to tell which were its feints or passes and which its real intentions, meaning business.  It wasn't any apostle-crossed or Aeneas-stirred Mediterranean, the clement, silky, marvelous beauty-sparkle bath in which all the ancientest races were children.  As we left the harbor, the North Atlantic, brute gray, heckled the ship with its strength, clanging, pushing, muttering; a hungry sizzle salted the bulkheads.

--The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow

March  13,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Einhorn had his experts who tinkered with the gas meters; he got around the electric company by splicing into the main cables; he fixed tickets and taxes; and his cleverness was unlimited in these respects.  His mind was continually full of schemes.  "But I'm not a lowlife when I think, and really think," he said.  "In the end you can't save your soul and life by thought.  but if you think, the least of the consolation prizes is the world."

--The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow

March  12,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Simon had forefront ability.  Maybe his reading was related to it, and the governor's clear-eyed gaze he had developed.  Of John Sevier.  Or of Jackson in the moment when the duelist's bullet glanced off the large button of his cloak and he made ready to fire--a lifted look of unforgiving, cosmological captaincy; that look where honesty had the strength of a prejudice, and foresight appeared as the noble cramp of impersonal worry in the forehead.  My opinion is that at one time it was genuine in Simon.  And if it was once genuine, how could you say definitely that the genuineness was ever all gone.  But he used these things.  He employed them, I know damned well.  And when they're used consciously, do they turn spurious?  Well, in a fight, who can lay off his advantages?

--The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow

March  11,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

He was in a racket he only had a strong apparent capacity for.

--The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow

March  10,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

I am an American, Chicago born--Chicago, that somber city--and go at things as I have taught myself, freestyle, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes not so innocent.  but a man's character is his fate, says Heraclitus, and in the end there isn't any way to disguise the nature of the knocks by acoustical work on the door or gloving the knuckles.

--The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow

March  9,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

You know, all those dreary pink Renoirs which are incessantly getting pinched in the South of France are either sold back to the insurers at a straight 20 per cent of the sum insured -- the companies won't pay a franc more, it's a matter of professional ethics -- or they are pinched at the express request of the owners and immediately destroyed.  The French arriviste, you see, lives in such a continual agony of snobbism that he dares not put his Renoir, bought three years ago, into a public auction and so admit that he is short of a little change - still less dare he take the risk that it might fetch less than he has told all his awful friends it is worth.  He would rather die; or, in practical terms, he would rather assassinate the painting and collect the nouveaux francs.  In England the police tend to purse their lips and wag their fingers at insurance co's who buy back stolen things from  he thieves: they feel that this is not a way to discourage villainy - in fact the whole process is strictly against the law.

--Don't Point that Thing at Me by Kyril Bonfiglioli

March  8,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

In desperation Governor Schnapps telephoned the official executioner in Pretoria to ask him if he could come down to Piemburg for the day, but the executioner was far too busy.

'Out of the question,' he told Schnapps.  'I've got thirty-two customers that day, and besides I never hang singles.  I can't remember when I last did one man.  I always do mine in batches of six at a time and in any case I have my reputation to think of.  I hang more people every year than any other executioner in the world, more than all the other executioners in the free world put together as a matter of face, and if it once got about that I had hanged a single man, people would think I was losing my touch.'

--Riotous Assembly by Tom Sharpe

March  7,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

In passing sentence Judge Schalkwyk allowed himself to depart from the lack of bias he had shown in his summing-up.  He took into account a previous conviction which concerned a motoring offence.  The convicted man had failed to give adequate notice of intention to make a left-hand turn at an intersection and, as the Judge pointed out, this threatened the very existence of the South African constitution, which was based on a series of consistent moves to the right.

--Riotous Assembly by Tom Sharpe

March  6,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

'Madness is so monotonous,' she told the doctor.  'You would think that fantasies would be more interesting, but really one has to conclude that insanity is a poor substitute for reality.'

Then again, when she looked around her, there didn't seem to be any significant difference between life in the mental hospital and life in South Africa as a whole.  Black madmen did all the work, while white lunatics lounged about imagining they were God.

--Riotous Assembly by Tom Sharpe

March  6,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

The prison Piemburg is situated on the edge of town.  It is old and looks from the outside not altogether unattractive.  An air of faded severity lingers about its stuccoed walls.  Above the huge iron doorway are printed the word 'Piemburg Tronk and Gaol', and the door itself is painted a cheerful black.  On either side the barred windows of the administrative block break the monotony of the walls, whose heights are delicately topped with cast-iron cacti which give the whole building a faintly horticultural air.  The visitor to Piemburg who passes the great rectangle of masonry might well imagine that he was in the neighbourhood of some enormous kitchen garden were it not for the frequent and persistent screams that float up over the ornamental ironwork and suggest that something more voracious than a Venus Flytrap has closed upon a victim.

--Riotous Assembly by Tom Sharpe

[N.B.:  This is from the first book by Tom Sharpe, a laugh-out-loud comedic writer whom you probably have never heard of, whose dark, ironic works tend to make Evelyn Waugh's in comparison seem to sprout daisies and forget-me-nots.  Riotous Assembly is set in apartheid South Africa and is dedicated, "for all those members of the South African Police Force whose lives are dedicated to the preservation of Western civilisation in Southern Africa."]

March  5,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

In methods, tactics, and instruments of war, Germany took the initiative in 1914.  The war was to bring a revolution in the European spirit and, as a corollary, in the European state structure.  Germany was the revolutionary power of Europe.  Located in the center of the continent, she set out to become the leader of Europe, the heart of Europe, as she put it.  Germany not only represented the idea of revolution in this war; she backed the forces of revolution everywhere, whatever their ultimate goals.  She helped Roger Casement and the Irish nationalists in their struggle against Britain, and she shipped Lenin back to Russia from Switzerland to foment revolution in Petrograd.  What was important above all for Germans was the overthrow of the old structures.  That was the whole point of the war.  Once that had been achieved, the revolutionary dynamic would proceed to erect new structures valid for the new situation.

--Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age by Modris Eksteins

March  4,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Nonetheless, the evidence as it stands shows overwhelmingly that the Germans denied international standards most systematically -- in part out of a sense of necessity, viewing these standards as injurious to their immediate welfare, but also in large part because they, the Germans, were simply less disposed to abide by rules they considered alien and historic and hence not applicable either to themselves or to the colossal significance of the moment.  The Germans were to berate themselves after the war by claiming that their propaganda effort had been far inferior to that of the Allies, but the truth of the matter was that the Allies did have more substance behind their claims against the Germans than the Germans had against their enemies.  The Germans' appeal to "honesty," "openness," and "truthfulness" had a romantic and idealistic ring; it was an appeal to internal, private virtues.  The Allies' appeal was a social, ethical, and historical one; it was to external, public values.

--Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age by Modris Eksteins

March  3,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

The young, talented, and already greatly respected historian Friedrich Meinecke wrote in the early months of the war that what the foreigner calls brutality in German behavior, the German himself must call simply honesty.  after all, if the cathedral at Rheims was being used by French observers, it had to be bombed.  It was as simple as that.  For the French and the British to call the German a barbarian in these circumstances was pure hypocrisy.  Meinecke was relatively moderate.  Another German historian expressed similar ideas in shriller tones:

Better that a thousand church towers fall than that one German soldier should fall as a result of these towers.  Let's not have any whining from humanists and aesthetes among ourselves.  We have to assert ourselves.  Those are such simple truths that it becomes tedious to have to repeat them to people who don't with to hear.

--Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age by Modris Eksteins

March  2,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

That it was the Germans who were the first to begin to reverse the rules of warfare by recognizing the importance of defense and then by implementing officially the idea of attrition -- exhausting the enemy through self-sacrifice instead of "defeating" him by dashing enterprise -- was no accident.  Germany had been the country most willing to question western social, cultural, and political norms before the war, most willing to promote the breakdown of old certainties and the advent of new possibilities.  As a corollary, the Germans were reluctant to stretch the rules of warfare.  They were less reticent to break with international conventions associated by them with a rule of law imposed by Anglo-French hegemony and regarded by them as prejudicial to German interests.

--Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age by Modris Eksteins

March  1,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

The battles of Verdun, the Somme, and Ypres embody the logic, the meaning, the essence of the Great War.  Two of every three French poilus were funneled through Verdun in 1916; most British soldiers saw action at the Somme or Ypres or both; and most German units were in Flanders or at Verdun at some point.  These also constituted the crucial battle areas of the war.  And the standard imagery that we have of the Great War--the deafening, enervating artillery barrages, the attacks in long lines of men moved forward as if in slow motion over a moonscape of craters and mud, only to confront machine guns, uncut barbed wire, and grenades--comes from these battles rather than those of the first or last year of the war.

--Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age by Modris Eksteins