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ARCHIVED ENTRIES FOR MAY 2011

May  31,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Ignatius snorted at the movie credits.  All of the people involved in the film were equally unacceptable.  A set designer, in particular, had appalled him too many times in the past.  The heroine was even more offensive than she had been in the circus musical.  In this film she was a bright young secretary whom an aged man of the world was trying to seduce.  He flew her in a private jet to Bermuda and installed her in a suite.  On their first night together she broke out in a rash just as the libertine was opening her bedroom door.

"Filth!" Ignatius shouted, spewing wet popcorn over several rows.  "How dare she pretend to be a virgin.  Look at her degenerate face.  Rape her!"

--The Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

May  30,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Then you must begin a reading program immediately so that you may understand the crises of our age," Ignatius said solemnly.  "Begin with the late Romans, including Boethius, of course.  Then you should dip rather extensively into early Medieval.  You may skip the Renaissance and the Enlightenment.  That is mostly dangerous propaganda.  Now that I think of it, you had better skip the Romantics and the Victorians, too.  For the contemporary period, you should study some selected comic books."

--The Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

May  29,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

"You women had better stop giving teas and brunches and settle down to the business of learning how to draw," Ignatius thundered.  "First, you must learn how to handle a brush.  I would suggest that you all get together and paint someone's house for a start."

"Go away."

"Had you 'artists' had a part in the decoration of the Sistine Chapel, it would have ended up looking like a particularly vulgar train terminal," Ignatius snorted.

"We don't intend to be insulted by a coarse vendor," a spokeswoman for the band of large hats said haughtily.

"I see!" Ignatius screamed.  "So it is you people who slander the reputation of the hot dog vendor."

--The Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

May  28,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

The grandeur of my physique, the complexity of my worldview, the decency and taste implicit in my carriage, the grace with which I function in the mire of today's world--all of these at once confuse and astound Clyde.  Now he has relegated me to working in the French Quarter, an area which houses every vice that man has ever conceived in his wildest aberrations, including, I would imagine, several modern variants made possible through the wonders of science.  The Quarter is not unlike, I would imagine, Soho and certain sections of North Africa.  However, the residents of the French Quarter, blessed with American "Stick-to-it-tiveness" and "Know-how" are probably straining themselves at this moment to equal and surpass in variety and imagination the diversions enjoyed by the residents of those other world areas of human degradation.

Clearly an area like the French Quarter is not the proper environment for a clean-living, chaste, prudent, and impressionable young Working Boy.  Did Edison, Ford, and Rockefeller have to struggle against such odds?

--The Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

May  27,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Ignatius read the poster again, viciously.

--The Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

[N.B.:  Second-rate writers (yes, I'm looking at you, Stephen King) despise the adverb.  Indeed, they mount their writers' manual pulpits in the garb of the grammatical Savonarola and thunderously exhort young scribblers to erect their own Bonfires of the Adverbs.  And that's good advice--if you write like Stephen King.  Otherwise, you'll miss out on such felicities as the one quoted above.]

May  26,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

"All right now," he said benevolently when he had taken the camera back and flipped it off.  "Let us control our riotous impulses for the moment and plan our stratagems.  First, the two ladies here will precede us with the banner.  Directly behind the banner comes the choir with some appropriate folk or religious melody.  The lady in charge of the choir may choose the tune.  Knowing nothing of your musical folk-ways, I shall leave the selection to you, although I wish that there had been time enough to teach all of you the beauties of some madrigal.  I will only suggest that you choose a somewhat forceful melody.  The remainder of you will compose the warriors' battalion.  I shall follow the entire ensemble with my camera in order to record this memorable occasion.  As some future date all of us may realize some additional revenues from the rental of this film to student organizations and other similarly appalling societies.

--The Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

May  25,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

The Scrupularian Heresy.  This doctrine arose from the ticklish question first asked by the fifteenth century proto-seminalist, Orduri della Vacca: Is one sin repeated all day long one big sin or many tiny ones?  His disciple Pedasculus claimed that since time is infinitely divisible and subdivisible, there are as many sins as there are moments of time.  Since not many people are willing to confess an infinite number of sins, the heresy has remained confined to its originator.  The logical basis for this view has never been formally proved wrong, though Father Widdershins, O.P., the noted Thomist, claims that the answer will be forthcoming now that his Casuistry Institute has an electronic syllogism machine with a self-winding dialectic.

--A Short Guide to Catholic Church History for Catholic College Students Going Out Into the World to Defend Their Faith collected in St. Fidgeta & Other Parodies by John Bellairs

May  24,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

November, 1252:  The Turkish pirate Ragbash seizes the Dalmatian port of Spug and threatens to impale the populace if they do not make him Pope.  He is elected by acclamation.

December, 1252:  The Popes exchange excommunications for Christmas.

January, 1253:  The Dutch mystic Jan ter Koot claims that he knows who the real Pope is.  No one seems interested.

May, 1253:  All claimants to the Papal throne meet in the old Roman amphitheatre at Verona.  All agree on Zosimus II, except the Turkish claimant, who retires to a small island in the Adriatic, where he re-elects himself from time to time over the years.

January, 1254:  Four men claiming to be anti-popes appear in a boat on the Tiber.  They disappear completely.

--A Short Guide to Catholic Church History for Catholic College Students Going Out Into the World to Defend Their Faith collected in St. Fidgeta & Other Parodies by John Bellairs

May  23,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Q.  Father Burgerbitz of St. Lintel's Abbey writes: The other day when I was teaching Redemptive Transmigration I, a student asked me this question: "Since Christ and the Blessed Virgin are in Heaven bodily, and since body implies place, then Heaven must be in some place.  What if our spaceships fly into it by mistake?"  I have been ransacking the library and phoning observatories, but I can't find an answer.   What do you say?

A.  Your student's theology is correct, but he is lacking in the virtue of Hope.  If Flash Gordon, a fictional hero, can shoot down spaceships, then God certainly can.

--The Question Box collected in St. Fidgeta & Other Parodies by John Bellairs

May  22,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Of course our bold, new see-through towers look like milk cartons.  We take our functionalized shapes from the things around us, like bread loaves, potato chip bags, and the like, just as Greek architects used acanthus leaves.  This is an age of people on the go, so we like our shapes free, sharp, light, bright, and unencumbered with ornaments.  We feel our towers belong to the world of young moderns: They are zippy, yet reverent.

--The Cathedral of St. Gorboduc collected in St. Fidgeta & Other Parodies by John Bellairs

May  21,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

"But have you ever had any accidents?" said Fontana, smiling.  She stood there with her nice, little dress freshly starched, her eyes wide open, really expecting the sage-femme to answer her with the truth.  You are older than me, Fontana, but you are my daughter.  Your head only comes to my shoulder and your teeth are a little crooked with honesty.

"not when the doctor's called in," said the sage-femme scarcely audibly.  "That's why you have to sign the paper."

Fontana began laughing a little, and she turned to the sage-femme laughing, and allt he girls who had ever come into the place, the chambermaids from cheap hotels, and the girls from the Bon Marché and the nougat stands in the traveling fairs, and the girls who must dance at Bobino or the Empire for a living, cheaply painted and cheaply paid; and all the others, the nameless ones sans domicile fixe and sans profession, with their heels walked sideways like Victoria's and their faces walked long and bony like horse's faces, all of them came forbidden and unbidden out of the darkness of the corners and gathered there around them.  Victoria rose from her chair as if to wave them back from where they had come, or to stand between them and Fontana, but they paid no heed to the signs she made, they crowded close one behind the other.  Their teeth and their breaths were bad and they were wearing champagne-colored stockings over the veins and the ankle-bones and the discolorations of their flesh.  Their bones were big and their skin was coarse and they twisted their skirts like servants.  And there must be something better than this said Fontana, drawing back from the sight of them in the place, there must be something better.  She held on to Victoria's hand and she was shaking her head in the big hat and laughing at the sage-femme.  There must be something better somewhere else, the thing that was brimming in her eyes was saying.  They were out the door, they were on the landing, and behind them in the silence of the sage-femme's rooms they could hear the dripping, the endless dripping of the life-blood as it left the bodies of those others; the unceasing drip of the stream as it left the wide, bare table and fell, drop by drop, to the planks beneath it, dripping and dripping on forever like a finger tapping quickly on the floor.

--My Next Bride by Kay Boyle

May  20,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

"I never did it with anyone I didn't like," said Fontana.

"It's different," said Victoria.  "When you've had a lot to drink, it's not a matter of choosing.  Or anyway it's only the choice of being with someone all night or else going home alone," and she turned her head aside in fear that Fontana might suddenly see down into the cesspool of her heart.  You have to be rich to do it, she was thinking, rich or else married.  Poor and unmarried gives it a smell of something like misery; it doesn't sound like love any more.  When you're poor you go around without a change of line, asking for some kind of comfort and never getting it, watching the others that share it between them, going arm in arm.  You carry a great hunger for love, and you live so badly that you soil it if it ever comes near you.

--My Next Bride by Kay Boyle

May  19,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Edmond was filling up the glasses, carefully pouring the green drink out into the three of them and adding the water from the carafe.  He watched the milkiness gather and spread, watched the absinthe-pale tide mount in the tumblers and the flat gold halo lie high along the rim.  When he turned to them with their drinks in his hands, his lips were bunched up ruby-red under his neat little graying mustaches.

--My Next Bride by Kay Boyle

May  18,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

[T]oday Maradick could not possibly be called Jamesian, and certainly it did not appear so at the time to the Master himself, who on May 13 wrote to Hugh:

I "read," in a manner, "Maradick"--but there's too much to say about it, and even my weakness doesn't alter me from the grim and battered old critical critic--no other such creature among all the "reviewers" do I meanwhile behold.  Your book has a great sense and love of life--but seems to me very nearly as irreflectively juvenile as the Trojans, and to have the prime defect of your having gone into a subject--i.e. the marital, sexual, bedroom relations of M. and his wife--the literary man and his wife--since these are the key to the whole situation--which have to be tackled and face to mean anything.  You don't tackle and face them--you can't.  Also the whole thing is a monument to the abuse of voluminous dialogue, the absence of a plan of composition, alternation, distribution, structure, and other phases of presentation than the dialogue--so that line (the only thing I value in a fiction etc.) is replaced by a vast formless featherbediness--billows in which one sinks and is lost.  And yet it's all so loveable--though not so written.  It isn't written at all, darling Hugh--by which I mean you have--or, truly, only in a few places, as in Maradick's dive--never got expression tight and in close quarters (of discrimination, of specification) with its subject.  It remains loose and fat.  and you have never made out, recognised, nor stuck to, the centre of your subject.

--Hugh Walpole by Rupert Hart-Davis

[N.B.:  This letter serves as a dour warning to young writers who are more concerned with color than line (yes, all you hysterical realists, I'm looking at you).  In the long run, there is no substitute for form although color (such as dialogue) can certainly sell a lot of books in the short run.  Verily, Hugh, you received your reward in this life and so there will be no reward (for your books) in the life to come.]

May  17,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

The other new habit was that of adding at the end of each year's diary a list of his leading friends in order of merit.  This first one is headed "List of Worthy Persons," with Ferris Ross, and Fowler occupying the leading places, and Henry James lying fourth.  In succeeding years the names were in two groups headed "First Fifteen" and "Second Thirty," and each was followed by a figure, representing with varying inaccuracy the number of years which the particular friendship had endured.  Many who fancied themselves among his favourites would have been chagrined to discover that a casual word or an ill-considered action had relegated them to the second division.¹

¹  Mr Geoffrey Faber tells me that Benjamin Jowett also kept lists of his friends in his notebooks.  So did Lady Tippins in Our Mutual Friend: "She keeps a little list of her lovers, and she is always booking a new lover, or striking out an old lover, or putting a lover in her black list, or promoting a lover to her blue list, or adding up her lovers, or otherwise posting her book."

--Hugh Walpole by Rupert Hart-Davis

May  16,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Christmas was spent with his family in Edinburgh, and during the last week of the year he contracted two habits which he was to maintain almost without a break until the end of his life.  One was the habit of beginning his novels, whenever possible, in Edinburgh on Christmas Eve.  Even when he was not ready to start writing the book, or knew that he could not continue it for months, he would nevertheless write out the title-page, list of contents, and the first pages of Chapter One.  Thirteen of his novels were started in this way, and the series began on 24 December 1910, when he wrote down:  Fortitude, being a true and faithful account of the education of an explorer, by Hugh Walpole, and followed it with the opening words, later so often quoted with admiration or derision that he wished he had never written them:  "'Tisn't life that matters!  'Tis the courage you bring to it."

--Hugh Walpole by Rupert Hart-Davis

[N.B.:  'Tis 'Tis.]

May  15,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Of course he wanted to be a success: most people do.  But to argue from this that the whole of his life was based on a carefully worked out plan of self-advancement, and all his literary reputation on the puffing of his friends, is nonsense.  He went to parties primarily because he loved them.  He lectured, partly no doubt because it was profitable and good for sales, but chiefly because he enjoyed it hugely: he was a natural speaker, and people usually like doing the things they do well.  And who will seriously maintain that the tens of thousands of people, increasing steadily to hundreds of thousands, who read his books all over the world did so for any other reason save that they enjoyed them?

--Hugh Walpole by Rupert Hart-Davis

[N.B.:  Satan in the Garden of Eden could not put forth a more persuasive apologia for bad behavior.  Rupert is the publisher-equivalent of Screwtape.  And mark well his words, fledgling writers, he has described to you the wide road of mediocrity that leads where it always has: oblivion (abandon all hope, ye who enter here).]

May  14,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Hugh has so often been accursed of furthering his literary career by other than literary means, of choosing his friends for their usefulness, to him and of sloughing them off when they had ceased to be valuable, that it may be timely to discuss the question here, in the light of a contemporary incident.  Charles Marriott writes:

Not long after we settled in London [in 1909] Hugh had engaged to dine with us but threw us over for an invitation from old Lady Lovelace, explaining quite frankly that she would be of more use to him in that stage of his career as a writer.  Personally I was not scandalized; given Hugh's temperament, his determination to get on, and his uncertain position at the time, his desertion seemed to me at least logical, and what interested me most was Hugh's candour and his apparent inability to see why it should have given offence; but it upset the feminine part of my family a good deal.

--Hugh Walpole by Rupert Hart-Davis

[N.B.:  Sure, no writer nowadays may have heard of Hugh Walpole--let alone bothered to read one of his slapdash bodice-tuggers (he was much too genteel for ripping)--but they certainly live in the brave new world of publicity that Hugh helped to create.  Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.]

May  13,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

But he didn't, couldn't, destroy them; indeed it is doubtful whether he ever, except once, destroyed any of his writings.  In 1931, when William Plomer said he had torn up the complete manuscript of a novel he had written because he was not satisfied with it, Hugh replied: "Marvelous, marvelous!  I've never had the courage to destroy anything!"  Then, after a pause, "Do you know, you make me feel just like a little girl taken to see the elephants for the first time."

--Hugh Walpole by Rupert Hart-Davis

May  12,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

First: I don't care about the theological side at all.  I believe the main things.  all the rest seems to me absolutely unessential.  For instance, going to theatres in Lent doesn't seem to me wrong.  I'm also not at all Christian in my attitude to other people.  I dislike many people thoroughly and have no sympathy with certain points of view.  I have no interest at present in theological discussion and research.

--Hugh Walpole by Rupert Hart-Davis

[N.B.:  The above is an excerpt from a letter Hugh wrote to his father explaining why he did not wish to pursue theological studies.  In it he encapsulates why he was such a mediocre author: an unconcern with precision, a lack of proportion, an uninterest in other viewpoints (and, indeed, in other people) and, finally, an unhealthy obsession with that most fascinating of objects--himself.]

May  11,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

The only other event of note during this year was the acquisition off his solitary school prize, not counting that first consolation prize for reading at Truro.  This was the English Verse Prize, which he won with a poem on the set subject of "The Burning of Joan of Arc in the Market Place at Rouen."  When the headmaster presented the prize he said: "Walpole's attempt of some four hundred lines would thoroughly deserve the prize if the last three hundred and ninety-eight lines were as good as the first two."  All four hundred have now, perhaps providentially, perished.

--Hugh Walpole by Rupert Hart-Davis

[N.B.:  Hugh Walpole was a bestselling historical novelist of the early- to mid-twentieth century (sort of a leather stockings Stephen King).  All of his work, if not perished, is forgotten.  But this delightful biography, written by Walpole's long-time publisher, Rupert Hart-Davis, a gifted and erudite author in his own right, deserves at least some small place on the shelves of memorable biographies.  Rupert Hart-Davis knew Walpole was a hack but had great affection for him.  And so he has written this schizophrenic biography which tries to praise a writer whose prose--as well as his feet--is made of mud.]

May  10,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Of the score of subalterns who had managed to escape, the majority had never seen a dead person before . . . a dead English person, anyway . . . one occasionally bumped into a dead native here and there but that was not quite the same.

--The Siege of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrell

May  9,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

"There are rules of morality to be followed if we are to advance, just as there are rules of scientific investigation . . . Mrs Lang, we are raising ourselves, however painfully, so that mankind may enjoy in the future a superior life which now we can hardly conceive!  The foundations on which the new men will build their lives are Faith, Science, Respectability, Geology, Mechanical Invention, Ventilation and Rotation of Crops! . . ."

--The Siege of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrell

May  8,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Now that he had eaten, Fleury was merely waiting for a break in the conversation before voicing his own opinion on progress.  It came almost immediately.  "If there has been any progress in our century," he declared with confidence, "it has been less in material than in spiritual matters.  Think of the progress from the cynicism and materialism of our grandparents . . . from a Gibbon to a Keats, from a Voltaire to a Lamartine!"

"I disagree," replied Mr Rayne with a smile.  "It's only in practical matters that one may look for signs of progress.  Ideas are always changing, certainly, but who's to say that one is better than another?  It is in material things that progress can be clearly seen.  I hope you'll forgive me if I mention opium but really one has to go no farther to find progress exemplified.  Opium, even more than salt, is a great source of revenue of our own creation and is now more productive than any except the land revenue.  And who pays it?  Why, John Chinaman . . . who prefers our opium to any other.  That's what I call progress."

--The Siege of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrell

May  7,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Not everyone, the Collector was aware, is improved by the job he does in life; some people are visibly disimproved.  The Magistrate had performed his duties for the Company conscientiously but they had not had a good effect on him: they had made him cynical, fatalistic, and too enamoured of the rational.  His interest in phrenology, too, had had a bad effect; it had reinforced the determinism which had sapped his ideals, for he evidently believed that all one's acts were limited by the shape of one's skull.  Given the swelling above and behind the ear on each side of the skull (he had once insinuated) there was not very much the Collector could do to remedy his inability to make rapid decisions . . . Though, of course, one could not be "absolutely sure" without making exact measurements.  He had also begun to say something about a bump on each side of the Collector's crown which signified "love of approbation", but noticing, at last, how badly the Collector was responding to this opportunity for self-knowledge he had desisted with a sigh.

--The Siege of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrell

May  6,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

In this room it was even harder to believe in trouble than it had been in the hall, indeed, it was hard to believe that one was in India at all, except for the punkahs.  His eyes roamed with satisfaction over the walls, thickly armoured with paintings in oil and water-colour, with mirrors and glass cases containing stuffed birds and other wonders, over chairs and sofas upholstered in plum cretonne, over showcases of minerals and a cobra floating in a bottle of bluish alcohol, over occasional tables draped to the floor with heavy tablecloths on which stood statuettes in electro-metal of great men of literature, of Dr Johnson, of Molière, Keats, Voltaire and, of course, Shakespeare . . . but now he was obliged to return his attention to the proceedings.

--The Siege of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrell

May  5,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Ellen Terry said to me that she wasn't clever enough to have made a success in the halls.  There is a distinct decadence when interest passes from significance--meaning the total significance of a work--into DETAILS of technique.

--Guide to Kulchur by Ezra Pound

May  4,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

A civilization definitely runs down when for its best you go away from serious books to comics, from comics to the theatre, from the theatre to the cult of the music-hall.

--Guide to Kulchur by Ezra Pound

May  3,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

The Goncourt insisted that the top belongs to reality no less than the bottom.  H.J.'s [Henry James's] excuse for some of his characters was that "if they didn't exist and if no counterparts existed we, still, ought for the honour of the race to pretend that they existed."  Landor finding no good conversation had to pretend it had sometimes existed.

--Guide to Kulchur by Ezra Pound

May  2,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Obviously the American University system is run by hirelings and by boors in great part.  The last trick of the bleeders and gombeen men is to suppress learning by endowment.  You give so many gothic buildings to a University that its whole income goes in the upkeep of anachronistic monstrosities.

--Guide to Kulchur by Ezra Pound

[N.B.:  Here, in a nutshell, is both the brilliance and stupidity of Pound.  Brilliantly, Pound foresaw decades ago the crisis of higher education driven, in large part, by unsustainable costs related to maintaining the physical plant of the major modern universities.  Stupidly, he attributed this development to some malevolent intent on the part of the buildings' contributors.  Pound thought that the buildings were the fetters of oppression meant to keep the masses ignorant.  He failed to consider that they were actually giant tombstones meant to memorialize the names of those who paid for them.]

May  1,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

At least a reviewer in a popular paper (or at least one with immense circulation) has had the decency to admit that I occasionally cause the reader "suddenly to see" or that I snap out a remark . . . "that reveals the whole subject from a new angle".

That being the point of the writing.  That being the reason for presenting first one facet and then another--I mean to say the purpose of the writing is to reveal the subject.  The ideogramic method consists of presenting one facet and then another until at some point one gets off the dead and desensitized surface of the reader's mind, onto a part that will register.

The "new" angle being new to the reader who cannot always be the same reader.  The newness of the angle being relative and the writer's aim, at least this writer's aim being revelation, a just revelation irrespective of newness or oldness.

To put it another way: it does not matter a two-penny damn whether you load up your memory with the chronological sequence of what has happened, or the names of protagonists, or authors of books, or generals and leading political spouters, so long as you understand the process now going on, or the processes biological, social, economic now going on, enveloping you as an individual, in a social order, and quite unlikely to be very "new" in themselves however fresh or stale to the participant.

--Guide to Kulchur by Ezra Pound