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ARCHIVED ENTRIES FOR NOVEMBER 2008

November  25,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Why, we can hardly call it a complaint, Miss Ruthyn.  I look upon it he has been poisoned--he has had, you understand me," he pursued, observing my startled look, "an overdoes of opium; you know he takes opium habitually; he takes it in laudanum, he takes it in water, and, most dangerous of all, he takes it solid, in lozenges.  I've known people take it moderately.  I've known people take it to excess, but they all were particular as to measure, and that is exactly the point I've tried to impress upon him. The habit, of course, you understand is formed, there's no uprooting that; but he won't measure--he goes by the eye and by sensation, which I need not tell you, Miss Ruthyn, is going by chance; and opium, as no doubt you are aware, is strictly a poison; a poison, no doubt, which habit will enable you to partake of, I may say, in considerable quantities, without fatal consequences, but still a poison; and to exhibit a poison so, is, I need scarcely tell you, to trifle with death. 

--Uncle Silas by Sheridan le Fanu

[N.B.:  Remember, kiddies, just say "no" to opium, laudanum, gothic castles, sinister, designing uncles seeking to kill you for your inheritance, oh, and things that go bump in the night.] 

November  24,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

This, alas! is the curse of overcivilization!  At age twenty, a young man's soul, given some degree of education, is a million miles from spontaneity, without which love is often the most boring of responsibilities.

--The Red and the Black by Stendhal (tr. Burton Raffel)

November  23,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

She was far too happy to feel concern about anything.  Innocent and naive, this good provincial woman had never tortured her soul, trying to tease some new shade of feeling, or of misfortune, out of any sensory moment.  Before Julien's coming, she had been entirely absorbed in that massive heap of things-to-be-done that, outside of Paris, is the fate of a good mother: Madame de Rnal was used to thinking of the passions as we think of the lottery--guaranteed deception and a happiness sought only by fools.

--The Red and the Black by Stendhal (tr. Burton Raffel)

[N.B.:  And when did we allow the States to have a monopoly on plying to their own citizens this "guaranteed deception and a happiness sought only by fools"?]

November  22,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

In truth, these wise fellows wield an incredibly wearisome depotism, and it is precisely this wretched word that makes small towns unlivable for those who have been successful in that great republic we call Paris.  The tyranny of opinion--and such opinion!--is every bit as idiotic in the small towns of France as it is in the United States of America.

--The Red and the Black by Stendhal (tr. Burton Raffel)

November  21,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

There are two degrees of success in Poetry.  One may express emotion artistically: and in so doing, one may cause an emotion in the reader.  The latter, of course, is the greater success.  And if a poem does that it is as immortal as the emotion aroused.  But that is seldom done, and for that reason, Poetry may be regarded as the severest and therefore the highest form of art.  It is relatively easy to induce emotion by a picture or a melody.

The nobler the emotion induced the greater the work of art.

The noblest emotion is the joy in abstract beauty.

And, of course, beauty is truth.

There I think you have my artistic creed.

--Extracts from a War Diary from The Contrary Experience by Herbert Read

November  20,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

There is another element of Poetry--Rhythm.  Here again the rhythm must express the emotion.  The emotion may vary in quantity (intensity) as the poem proceeds--in a long poem the emotion may completely change.  Hence a hard and fast rule or law of rhythm is impossible.  The rhythm must harmonize with the idea expressed: even as the melody is varied in a musical symphony.

--Extracts from a War Diary from The Contrary Experience by Herbert Read

November  19,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

Firstly, the Designs.  I see no reason why decorative art should not be as abstract as music.  (But I don't imply that all decorative art should be abstract.)  In any picture there are two elements of supreme value: design and colour.  Design may or may not be suggested by nature.  It should never be a slavish copy of nature--photography is good enough for that.  If design is suggested by nature, it should aim at expressing some unity or vitality observed by the artist in nature.  This is most expressively done by symbols invented by the artist.  Symbols are generally a simplification of the natural object: e.g. hair is represented by flat brushes of paint, instead of each separate hair being painted.

--Extracts from a War Diary from The Contrary Experience by Herbert Read

November  18,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

Colour, the second element in a picture, is more personal than design.  It is harmony as interpreted by the artist's temperament.  Now, colour in nature is not always harmonious.  Red roofs would clash with bright green grass and a blue sky.  It is the artist's duty to harmonize the colours of nature.  A shadow in nature may be turgid and interfere with the colour scheme: so the artist is at perfect liberty to paint the shadow a cool lilac.  Everywhere the artist must interpret and not copy.

--Extracts from a War Diary from The Contrary Experience by Herbert Read

November  17,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

Darrow, for his part, was content to wait if she wished it.  He remembered that once, in America, when she was a girl, and he had gone to stay with her family in the country, she had been out when he arrived, and her mother had told him to look for her in the garden.  She was not in the garden, but beyond it he had seen her approaching down a long shady path.  Without hastening her step she had smiled and signed to him to wait; and charmed by the lights and shadows that played upon her as she moved, and by the pleasure of watching he slow advance toward him, he had obeyed her and stood still.  And so she seemed now to be walking to him down the years, the light and shade of old memories and new hopes playing variously on her, and each step giving him the vision of a different grace.  She did not waver or turn aside; he knew she would come straight to where he stood; but something in her eyes said "Wait", and again he obeyed and waited.

--The Reef by Edith Wharton

November  13,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

'Ah, let us not tangle ourselves up with promises!' Madame Grandoni exclaimed.  'You know the value of any engagement one may take with regard to the Princess; it's like promising you I will stay in the bath when the hot water is turned on.  When I begin to be scalded, I have to jump out!  I will stay while I can; but I shouldn't stay if she were to do certain things.'

--The Princess Casamassima by Henry James

November  12,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

The Prince gave a low, interminable sigh.  'You ask me what I wish to propose.  What I wish to propose is that my wife does not kill me inch by inch.'

'She would be more likely to do that if you lived with her!' Madame Grandoni cried.

'Cara signora, she doesn't appear to have killed you,' the melancholy nobleman rejoined.

'Oh, me? I am past killing.  I am as hard as stone.  I went through my miseries long ago; I suffered what you have not had to suffer; I wished for death many times, and I survived it all.  Our troubles don't kill us, Prince; it is we who must try to kill them.  I have buried not a few.'

--The Princess Casamassima by Henry James

November  11,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

My wife and I had called on Miss Stein, and she and the friend who lived with her had been very cordial and friendly and we had loved the big studio with the great paintings.  It was like one of the best rooms in the finest museum except there was a big fireplace and it was warm and comfortable and thy gave you good things to eat and tea and natural distilled liqueurs made from purple plums, yellow plums or wild raspberries.  These were fragrant, colorless alcohols served from cut-glass carafes in small glasses and whether they were quetsche, mirabelle or framboise they all tasted like the fruits they came from, converted into a controlled fire on your tongue that warmed you and loosened it.

--A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

November  10,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

Here I'd better explain what a liner is.  Most old paintings need a new support before they can be cleaned.  In its simplest form, this involves soaking the old canvas with glue, 'compo' or wax, then bonding it, so to speak, to a new canvas by means of a hot table and pressure.  Sometimes the old canvas is too far gone; sometimes during the work the paint comes adrift (the picture 'blows up' as they say).  In either of these cases a 'transfer' is called for.  This means that the painting is fastened faced downwards and every shred of canvas is removed from the paint.  The new canvas is then stuck onto the back of the paint and your picture is sound again.  If it is painted on panel (wood) which has gone rotten or wormy, a really top reliner can plane all the wood off, leaving only the crust of paint, to which he then sticks a canvas.  All very, very tricky work and highly paid.  A good liner has a pretty shrewd idea of the value of the painting he is treating and usually charges accordingly.  He makes more money than many of the dealers he works for.  He is indispensable.  Any idiot can clean a painting--and many of them do--and most competent artists can strengthen (touch up) or replace missing bits of paint; indeed many famous painters have made a good thing out of this as a secret sideline.  (Very delicate work, like the rigging of ships, was often painted with a a varnish medium for easy handling: this is hell to clean because, of course, it comes off with the dirty varnish.  Consequently, many cleaners simply photograph the rigging or whatever, ruthlessly clean it off, then repaint it from the photograph.  Well, why not?)  But a good liner, as I was saying, is a pearl beyond price.

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

November  9,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

I didn't object to his being come-lately, of course.  The naturalized are often the most patriotic, just as converts are the most pious, and New England has had its illustrious share.  Robert Frost came from California to adopt it, and Mark Twain came from Missouri to adopt it, and many of Malcolm's and my friends have come from other parts of the country to adopt it, and it seemed just too dreary to have to say that it was what they brought that counted, not what they got.

--Split-Level collected in Without a Stitch in Time by Peter De Vries

November  8,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

"No, no, no," my father said.  "That isn't what the trouble is.  It's what they call Decadence.  It's an attitude toward life."  He looked at the horizontal product of their union, disposed on the living-room sofa with a cigarette.  "He'll come to his senses."

"Instead of coming to one's senses," I airily returned, "how much more delightful to let one's senses come to one."

My mother, a slender woman with a nimbus of fluffy gray hair, next tried to get me interested in "healthy" books, like the jumbo three-generation novels she herself "couldn't put down."

"The books Mother cannot put down," I said, "are the ones I cannot pick up."

--Afternoon of a Faun collected in Without a Stitch in Time by Peter De Vries

November  7,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

Just as gallantry itself was an ambivalent term, it was not always clear how far the King's own gallantry with particular ladies actually went.  What exactly transpired when the King was chez les dames late of an afternoon, as the contemporary euphemism had it?  (His own apartments were never used for such rendezvous.)  A seventeenth century dictionary actually defined chambre or bedroom as 'a place where you sleep and receive guests'.  Thus beds were everywhere and ladies happily entertained from them according to the manners of the time.  The ruelle was the name for the space between the bed and wall where a gallant might conventionally sit enjoying his lady's conversation.  But it was a remarkably short hop from ruelle to bed.

--Love and Louis XIV by Antonia Fraser

November  6,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

The reason galanterie was a useful term at this period was that it had no single meaning and could therefore be discreetly employed to cover a number of modes of behaviour.  The range was considerable.  To the Comtesse de La Fayette, gallantry was merely 'a polite or agreeable manner of saying a thing'.  For Madeleine de Scudry, analysing the subject, it all began with a wish to please and thus style was all-important.  A gallant man with a certain 'worldly je ne sais quoi' could say out loud things that other people would not dare mention.  At the same time the word definitely had other darker and more exciting meanings, from amorous conduct, the 'sweet badinage of love', to passionate flirtation and outright sex.  In her famous Map of Love, included in her best-selling novel Cllie, Madeleine de Scudry was quick to admit that the River of Inclination flowed all too fast into the Sea of Danger and beyond this Sea lay 'the Unknown Lands'.

--Love and Louis XIV by Antonia Fraser

November  5,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

Yes, our country was fearful, half mad, inauthentic.  It needed a purge.  It had a liberal Establishment obeisant to committees, foundations, and science--the liberal did not understand that the center of science was as nihilistic as a psychopath's sense of God.  We were a liberal Establishment, a prosperous land--we had a Roman consul among us--the much underrated and much disliked Lyndon Johnson was become a power in the land and doubtless a power upon the land; civilization had found its newest helmsman in the restraints, wisdom, corruption of a major politician, of an organization boss to whom all Mafias, legit and illegit, all syndicates, unions, guilds, corporations and institutions, cadres of conspiracy and agents for health, Medicare, welfare, the preservation of antibiotics, and the proliferation of the Pentagon could bend their knew.  The Establishment (the Democratic Establishment and the reeling columns of the Republican Establishment, falling back upon the center in the thundering confusion of Barry Goldwater's breakthrough) had a new leader, a mighty Caesar had arisen, Lyndon Johnson was his name, all hail, Caesar.  Caesar gave promise to unify the land.  But at what a cost.  For it the ideology were liberal, the methodology was total--to this political church would come Adlai Stevenson and Frank Sinatra, the President of U.S. Steel and the President of the Steel Workers' Union, there would be photographs of Johnson forty feet high in Atlantic City--Big Bubber Lyndon--and parties in which minority groups in native costume would have their folk dance: could one see the ghost of Joe Stalin smiling on his pipe?

--Some Honorable Men by Norman Mailer

November  4,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

We had had a hero.  He was a young good-looking man with a beautiful wife, and he had won the biggest poker game we ever played, the only real one--we had lived for a week ready to die in a nuclear war.  Whether we liked it or not.  But he had won.  It was our one true victory in all these years, our moment; so the young man began to inspire a subtle kind of love.  His strength had proved stronger than we knew.  Suddenly he was dead, and we were in grief.  But then came a trial which was worse.  For the assassin, or the man who had been arrested but was not the assassin--we would never know, not really--was killed before our sight.  In the middle of the funeral came an explosion on the porch.  Now, we were going mad.  It took more to make a nation go mad than any separate man, but we had taken miles too much.  Certainties had shattered.  Now the voice of our national nerves (our arts, our events) was in a new state.  Morality had wed itself to surrealism, there were cockroaches in all the purple transistors, we were distractable.  We had an art of the absurd; we had moral surrealism.  Our best art was Dr. Strangelove and Naked Lunch, Catch-22; Candy was our heroine; Jack Ruby our aging juvenile; Andy Warhol, Rembrandt; our national love was a corpse in Arlington; and heavyweight champion turned out to be Cassius Clay; New York was the World's Fair plus the Harlem bomb--it would take a genius to explain they were the same--and Jimmy Baldwin said, "That's your problem," on the Les Crane show at one A.M.  Even the reverends were salty as the sea.

--Some Honorable Men by Norman Mailer

November  3,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

The country was in disease.  It had been in disease for a long time.  There was nothing in our growth which was organic.  We had never solved our depression, we had merely gone to war, and going to war had never won it, not in our own minds, not as men, no, we had won it but as mothers, sources of supply; we did not know that we were equal to the Russians.  We had won a war but we had not really won it, no in the secret of our sleep.  So we had not really had a prosperity, we had had fever.  We had grown rich because of one fact with two opposite interpretations: there had been a cold war.  It was a cold war which had come because Communism was indeed a real threat to freedom, or it had come because capitalism would never survive without an economy geared to war; or was it both--who could know? who could really know?  The center of our motive was the riddle wrapped in the enigma--was the country extraordinary or accursed?  No, we had not even found our Communist threat.  We had had a secret police organization and an invisible government large enough by now to occupy the moon, we had hunted Communists from the top of the Time-Life Building to the bottom of the Collier mine; we had not found that many, not that many, and had looked like Keystone cops.  We had even had a Negro Revolution in which we did not believe.  We had had it, yes we had had it, because (in the penury of our motive) we could not afford to lose voted in Africa and India, South America and Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, name any impoverished place: we were running in a world election against the collective image of the Russ, and so we had to give the Black man his civil rights or Africa was so much nearer to Marx.  But there had not been much like love in the civil rights.  Just Dirksen.  So we were never too authentic.  No.

--Some Honorable Men by Norman Mailer

November  2,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

Ike had always been a bore, but there had been fascination in the boredom when he was President--this, after all, was the man.  Now he was just another hog wrassler of rhetoric; he pinned a few phrases in his neat determined little voice, and a few phrases pinned him back.  Ike usually fought a speech to a draw.  It was hard to listen.  All suspense had ended at Monday morning's press conference.  Ike would not come out in support of Scranton.  So the mind of the Press drifted out with the mind of the gallery.  If Ike said a few strong words about the Civil Rights Bill--"Republicans in Congress to their great credit voted far more overwhelmingly than did our opponents to pass the Civil Rights Bill"--it meant nothing.  The Moderates tried to whoop it up, the Goldwater delegations looked on in ranked masses of silence.  Ike went on.  He gave the sort of speech which takes four or five columns in The New York Times and serves to clot the aisles of history.

--Some Honorable Men by Norman Mailer

November  1,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

A minute later, Scranton and Eisenhower came together.  It was their first meeting in San Francisco; the General had just arrived that day, come into the Santa Fe depot after crossing the country by train.  He was Scranton's last hope; he might still give momentum to the bogged-down tanks of Scranton's attack--what, after all, was the measure of magic?  So Scranton must have looked for every clue in Eisenhower's greeting.  There were clues running all over.  Ike stood up from his table, he pumped Scranton's hand, he held his elbow, he wheeled about with him, he grinned, he smiled widely, he grinned again, his face flushed red, red as a two-week-old infant's face, his eyes twinkled, he never stopped talking, he never took his hands off Scranton, he never looked him in the eye.  It was the greeting of a man who is not going to help another man.

--Some Honorable Men by Norman Mailer