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ARCHIVED ENTRIES FOR MARCH 2013

March  31,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

"If you're as detached as that, why does the obsolete institution of marriage survive with you?"

"Oh, it still has its uses.  One couldn't be divorced without it."

--The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton

March  30,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

But perhaps another stroke of luck might befall him: he was getting to have the drifting dependence on "luck" of the man conscious of his inability to direct his life.

--The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton

March  29,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Isn't that the key to our easy divorces?  If we cared for women in the old barbarous possessive way do you suppose we'd give them up as readily as we do?  The real paradox is the fact that the men who make, materially, the biggest sacrifices for their women, should do least for them ideally and romantically."

--The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton

March  28,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Some of the principal figures of Undine's group had rallied for the occasion, and almost all were in exasperating enjoyment of the privileges for which she pined.  There was young Jim Driscoll, heir-apparent of the house, with his short stout mistrustful wife, who hated society, but went everywhere lest it might be thought she had been left out; the "beautiful Mrs. Beringer," a lovely aimless being, who kept (as Laura Fairford said) a home for stray opinions, and could never quite tell them apart; little Dicky Bowles, whom every one invited because he was understood to "say things" if one didn't; the Harvey Shallums, fresh from Paris, and dragging in their wake a bewildered nobleman vaguely designated as "the Count," who offered cautious conversational openings, like an explorer trying beads on savages; and, behind these more salient types, the usual filling in of those who are seen everywhere because they have learned to catch the social eye.  Such a company was one to flatter the artist as much as his sitter, so completely did it represent that unanimity of opinion which constitutes social strength.

--The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton

March  27,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

He could not rouse in her any scruple about incurring fresh debts, yet he knew she was no longer unaware of the value of money.  She had learned to bargain, pare down prices, evade fees, brow-beat the small tradespeople and wheedle concessions from the great--not, as Ralph perceived, from any effort to restrain her expenses, but only to prolong and intensify the pleasure of spending.  Pained by the trait, he tried to laugh her out of it.  He told her once that she had a miserly hand--showing her, in proof, that, for all their softness, the fingers would not bend back, or the pink palm open.  But she retorted a little sharply that it was no wonder, since she'd heard nothing talked of since their marriage but economy; and this left him without any answer.  So the purveyors continued to mount to their apartment, and Ralph, in the course of his frequent flights from it, found himself always dodging the corners of black glazed boxes and swaying pyramids of pasteboard; always lifting his hat to sidling milliners' girls, or effacing himself before slender vendeuses floating by in a mist of opopanax.  He felt incompetent to pronounce on the needs to which these visitors ministered; but the reappearance among them of the blond-bearded jeweller gave him ground for fresh fears.  Undine had assured him that she had given up the idea of having her ornaments reset, and there had been ample time for their return; but on his questioning her she explained that there had been delays and "bothers" and put him in the wrong by asking ironically if he supposed she was buying things "for pleasure" when she knew as well as he that there wasn't any money to pay for them.

--The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton

March  26,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Peter lounging and luxuriating among the seductions of the Boulevard with the disgusting ease of a man whose wants are all measured by money, and who always has enough to gratify them.

--The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton

March  25,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

[D]uring their first days together it had seemed as though pecuniary questions were the last likely to be raised between them.  But his marital education had since made strides, and he now knew that a disregard for money may imply not the willingness to get on without it but merely a blind confidence that it will somehow be provided.  If Undine, like the lilies of the field, took no care, it was not because her wants were as few but because she assumed that care would be taken for her by those whose privilege it was to enable her to until floral insouciance with Sheban elegance.

--The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton

March  21,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Ralph don't make a living out of the law, you say?  No, it didn't strike me he'd be likely to,f rom the talks I've had with him.  Fact is, the law's a business that wants---"  Mr. Spragg broke off, checked by a protest from Mr. Dagonet.  "Oh, a profession, you call it?  It ain't a business?"  His smile gre more indulgent as this novel distinction dawned on him.  "Why, I guess that's the whole trouble with Ralph.  Nobody expects to make money in a profession; and if you've taught him to regard the law that way, he'd better go right into cooking-stoves and done with it."

--The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton

March  20,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Ralph interposed with another laugh.  "You see, Undine, you'd better think twice before you divorce me!"

"Ralph!" his mother again breathed; but the girl, flushed and sparkling, flung back:  "Oh, it all depends on you!  Out in Apex, if a girl marries a man who don't come up to what she expected, people consider it's to her credit to want to change.  You'd better think twice of that!"

--The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton

[N.B.:  Hypergamy is not just something bantered about nowadays--and this novel is probably the best illustration of it.]

March  19,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Her incessant movements were not the result of shyness: she thought it the correct thing to be animated in society, and noise and restlessness were her only notion of vivacity.  She therefore watched herself approvingly, admiring the light on her hair, the flash of teeth between her smiling lips, the pure shadows of her throat and shoulders as she passed from one attitude to another.  Only one fact disturbed her: there was a hint of too much fulness in the curves of her neck and in the spring of her hips.  She was tall enough to carry off a little extra weight, but excessive slimness was the fashion, and she shuddered at the thought that she might some day deviated from the perpendicular.

--The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton

March  18,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Undine was fiercely independent and yet passionately imitative.  She wanted to surprise every one by her dash and originality, but she could not help modelling herself on the last person she met, and the confusion of ideals thus produced caused her much perturbation when she had to choose between two courses.

--The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton

March  14,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

One thing is glaringly certain: Brett's addiction did his art no good at all.  He thought it did, of course.  Junkies often think that.  He once defiantly inscribed the initials WS--"With Smack"--on one of his prizewinning Australian paintings, just so that those in the know would know.  Whatever losses may be forced on junkies by their habit, they are apt to claim that these have been net gains, compensating them in some measure by a deepening of their perceptions, and consequently of their art.  Actually, this has never been provably so.  The examples often cited for the defense--the classic one, of course, being the interrupted opium dream on which Coleridge's Kubla Khan was based--come nowhere near outweighing the countless malformations, abortions, and confusions of talent brought about in writers, painters, and musicians by the use of heavily addictive drugs.  Can anyone who really knows music lay his hand on his heart and honestly sear that Charlie Parker's or Ray Charles's musical achievements were greater for the insights granted them by the needle?  In writers and painters, whose work is even less the product of brilliant moments of improvisation, where it demands the steady elaboration of complex and even rational sequences, the benefits of heroin are even less arguable.

--Things I Didn't Know by Robert Hughes

[N.B.:  Actually, I think Hughes is wrong, at least with respect to classical composers who don't compose with the compositional net down, as it were--so that "steady elaboration of complex and even rational sequences" was just as important for their work.  For those classical composers I can't think of one who was a junkie.]

March  13,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

The shame of addiction, which can be very pressing, is apt to make junkies into missionaries.  They like, and need, to drag others down with them.  Such aggression compensates for their own weakness and dependency with drugs.

--Things I Didn't Know by Robert Hughes

March  12,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Ken attached an almost mystical importance to porn, and I do not.  Memories of real sex, for which I am blessed with excellent recall, suit me just fine in its place, and they do not add ten dollars to the hotel bill. 

--Things I Didn't Know by Robert Hughes

[N.B.:  This remark is a good example of how quickly technology changes.  I suppose in ten years one will have to explain that in the recent past one could rent movies--including pornographic ones--from one's hotel-room television set.]

March  11,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

The youth underground was culturally illiterate, ignorant of most things older than itself.  Having so little sense of the past, its predictions about the future were baseless. . . . The depths of tedium that can be plumbed by sitting around half stoned, listening to people chatter moonily about reuniting humankind and erasing its aggressive instincts through Love and Dope, are scarcely imaginable to those who have not suffered them. 

--Things I Didn't Know by Robert Hughes

March  10,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

It came from the notion, favored, I suppose, by Marxist intellectuals of a certain cast of mind, that art which strives to give and to record pleasure, on no matter how complex and nuanced a level of recollection, must be superficial in and of itself; that the sensuous must be of a lower level than the intellectual.  I have never been able to agree with this fatuously categorical judgment, and it was the Bonnard show that really brought my objections into the foreground. 

--Things I Didn't Know by Robert Hughes

March  9,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

It was of a retrospective show of the work of Pierre Bonnard, at the Royal Academy.  Until then I had not looked at Bonnard much and had lazily assumed, like many and, indeed, most people, that he was what the French condescendingly call a petit-maître, not a "major" artist like Picasso or Matisse: too domestic in subject matter, too intimate in scale, too lacking in public command.  "It's not painting, what he does," Picasso had said to Françoise Gilot, who had faithfully recorded this arrogant stupidity; and in 1947, less than twenty years before, the most influential French art magazine, Cahier d'Art--which never dared publish anything that might have met with the disapproval of Picasso and his circle--greeted the death of Bonnard at the age of seventy-nine with the ferocious judgment that the esteem for Bonnard "is shared only by people who know nothing about the grave difficulties of art and cling above all to what is facile and agreeable."  After two days' looking at the Academy's magnificent show I realized that this was nothing but rhetorical poppycock.

--Things I Didn't Know by Robert Hughes

[N.B.:  As for Picasso's remark--it takes one to know one.]

March  8,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

In 1966 I wrote, for the Sunday Times, the first review that I can reread with pleasure, as though it were someone else's work.

--Things I Didn't Know by Robert Hughes

[N.B.:  This is the true test of good written work--oh, and if everything one writes gives this same sensation than either one is Jane Austen or a hack.]

March  7,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Perhaps the best comment I heard on this theme park of religious mumbo jumbo came from an Irishman I met one day, on line at the Grotto [at Lourdes].  He was a quadruple amputee--I forget what had been the cause of this catastrophic accident, though he told me--and he reposed in a large wicker basket on wheels, with his head sticking out one end, not unlike a claret bottle.  A green blanket, embroidered with a gold harp, was drawn over him, and his basket was pushed by one of his brothers.  This, he told me, was his ninth visit to Lourdes; he came every year and had every intention of keeping up his visits.  Eventually, with some hesitation, I got around to what seemed to me the crux of the situation.  Did he really think the intercession of the Virgin was going to make one or more of his lost limbs sprout again?  He looked at me as though I were mad.  "What sort of a fool d'you take me for?" he said sharply.  "I come here because I like to be with me own class of people."

--Things I Didn't Know by Robert Hughes

March  6,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

The owner of a bar in Tuscania made fake bronze gods, warriors, and other "Etruscan" goodies that were sold in the Porta Portese market in Rome and from there made their way up the food chain to wealthy collectors; the new bronzes, cast and hammered in a local garage, were laid in a shallow trench behind the bar and covered with straw.  This served as a urinal for clients; human urine gave the metal a superficially convincing patina.

--Things I Didn't Know by Robert Hughes

March  5,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

The great merit of one's own painting, for a critic, is that it teaches a somewhat negative but important lesson.  It shows you how incredibly difficult certain effects that one sees in the work of real masters can be to achieve.  It demonstrates that nothing, not even facility itself, is easy.  Without knowing about such matters, one cannot write usefully about art.  Ars celat artem, ran the Latin tag; art conceals art.  One of the critic's tasks is to unmask, in some degree, the fact of that concealment.

--Things I Didn't Know by Robert Hughes

March  4,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

The sea around Argentario was speckled with islands, the nearest of which was called Giannutri.  On Giannutri were the beautiful ruins of a Roman villa, supposedly built by the dissolute late emperor Elagabalus.  Three columns with Corinthian capitals still rose from a plinth at the top of a crumbling flight of steps, and framed a blue view over the Tyrrhenian.  It was a romantic spot; nobody lived there--in those days there was no need for guardiani--and you could go diving among the rocks for sea urchins, which grew there in clumps and spreading black meadows of slowly waving spines; their orange roe, extracted with scissors and a teaspoon, was good eaten raw but made an exquisite pasta sauce if you collected enough.  A little further out from the rocks, in about twenty feet of water, lay row upon row of band-new ancient Roman amphorea, which had been made and fired in a pottery kiln on the mainland and laid down to "mature," acquiring incrustations of marine growth and fan corals, until they were ready to bring up and transport to the Porta Portese flea market in Rome for unwitting American and German tourists.

--Things I Didn't Know by Robert Hughes

March  2,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Christianity permits and sanctions the drinking of wine; and of all the holy brethren in Palestine there are none who hold fast to this gladsome rite so strenuously as the monks of Damascus; not that they are more zealous Christians than the rest of their fellows in the Holy Land, but that they have better wine.  Whilst I was at Damascus, I had my quarters at the Franciscan convent there; and very soon after my arrival I asked one of the monks to let me know something of the spots that deserved to be seen: I made my inquiry in reference to the associations with which the city had been hallowed by the sojourn and adventures of St. Paul.  "There is nothing in all Damascus," said the good man, "half so well worth seeing as our cellars;" and forthwith he invited me to go, see, and admire the long range of liquid treasure that he and his brethren had laid up for themselves on earth.  And these, I soon found, were not as the treasures of the miser that lie in unprofitable disuse; for day by day, and hour by hour, the golden juice ascended from the dark recesses of the cellar to the uppermost brains of the friars.  Dear old fellows!  In the midst of that solemn land, their Christian laughter rang loudly and merrily--their eyes kept flashing with joyful fire, and their heavy woollen petticoats could no more weigh down the springiness of their paces, than the filmy gauze of a danseuse can clog her bounding step.

--Eothen by Alexander Kinglake

March  1,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Lady Hester's unholy claim to supremacy in the spiritual kingdom was, no doubt, the suggestion of fierce and inordinate pride most perilously akin to madness; but I am quite sure that the mind of the woman was too strong to be thoroughly overcome by even this potent feeling.  I plainly saw that she was not an unhesitating follower of her own system; and I even fancied that I could distinguish the brief moments during which she contrived to believe in Herself, from those long and less happy intervals in which her own reason was too strong for her.

--Eothen by Alexander Kinglake