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ARCHIVED ENTRIES FOR NOVEMBER 2009

November  30,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

We shook hands.  He had the handshake of a thin person who has learned how to make a good impression by shaking hands firmly even though that strength always feels as if it is made up of bones and nerves.  He knew there was a way of getting an intensity of feeling into shaking hands but he had not learned how to do it.  He was one of those people who have to learn everything.  I say 'one of those people' and I am not sure why.  Perhaps because, as I got to know him better, he came to seem so emphatically himself, so individual.  Perhaps it is from people like this that we come to an understanding of types.

--Paris Trance by Geoff Dyer

November  29,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

It is hard to say, difficult to preserve those first impressions because they are being changed by second - and third and fourth - impressions even as they are registering as impressions.  Even when we recall with photographic exactness the way in which someone first presented themselves to us, that likeness is touched by every trace of emotion we have felt up to - and including - the moment when we are recalling the scene.

--Paris Trance by Geoff Dyer

November  28,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

There are various reasons for this change.  When society had a hierarchy of orders, the nobleman, deeply conscious and proud of his rank, did not feel jealous of the man of letters; he conversed with him on familiar terms, because talent did not encroach on his rank or offend his vanity.  Then too, in that century of spleen, that century in the image of Louis XV, a century in which the aristocracy found life ready-made for them and exhausted it all too quickly, the emptiness and nothingness of mind were incalculable, and the distraction offered by an intelligent man, the pleasure provided by conversation, were highly prized.  A man of letters was a rare bird, whose intelligence and verve tickled delicate, sophisticated minds.  Easy-going hospitality, a friendly welcome, flattering attentions did not strike eighteenth-century society as too high a price to pay for the pleasure of a writer's company.

But the bourgeoisie stopped all that.  The grand passion of the bourgeoisie is equality.  The man of letters offends it because a man of letters is better known than a bourgeois.  He arouses a hidden rancour, a secret jealousy.  Moreover, the bourgeoisie, an enormous family of active people, doing business and making children, has no need of intellectual intercourse: it is satisfied with the newspaper. 

--Pages from the Goncourt Journal (ed. and tr. by Robert Baldick), 11 May 1859

November  27,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

Matia told us all this, and this too.  There exist--this is a fact, she has seen one herself, taken along by another midwife--there exist imitation women, complete in every detail, with all the charms and uses of real women: manikins with flesh which you can push in and which comes out again, a tongue which darts in and out for five minutes, eyes which roll, hair which you would swear was the real thing, and moistness and warmth where you would expect to find them, on sale at the manufacturer's for 15,000 francs, for the use of religious communities or rich sailors.  This one was for a ship whose name Maria has forgotten; but there are others to suit all pockets, down to male and female parts in gilded boxes which cost only 300 francs.  Maria told us that the one she saw was a wonderful sight.  It was nearly finished; there were only the toes-nails which still had to be stuck on.

--Pages from the Goncourt Journal (ed. and tr. by Robert Baldick), 6 May 1858

November  26,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

Overheard at the next table at Broggi's:

'I've met his mistress.'

'But that's his wife!'

'He introduced her to me as his mistress, to rehabilitate her. . . .'

--Pages from the Goncourt Journal (ed. and tr. by Robert Baldick), 5 March 1858

November  25,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

Prayer of my cousin Villedeuil:

'O Lord, let my urine be less cloudy, let the little flies stop stinging me in the backside, let me live long enough to make another hundred thousand francs, let the Emperor stay in power so that my dividends may increase, and let the rise in Anzin Coal shares be maintained.'

His housekeeper sued to read this out to him every night, and he would repeat it with his hands clasped.

--Pages from the Goncourt Journal (ed. and tr. by Robert Baldick), Undated 1854

November  24,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

She also told me that one day, leaving the house of a lover who had thrown her out and whom she adored, she said to the cab-driver who had brought her: 'Take me to a brothel.'  And he retorted coldly: 'Which one?'

--Pages from the Goncourt Journal (ed. and tr. by Robert Baldick), Undated 1853

November  23,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

De Lurde and Simon, another important government official, were talking together very seriously.  Somebody who had interrupted them said: 'You are busy, I'll leave you.'  'Yes', he was told.  'We were discussing whether one should wear one's decorations on a visit to a brothel or not.  I say one shouldn't; Simon says one should.  He says that if you do, they give you women who haven't got the pox.

--Pages from the Goncourt Journal (ed. and tr. by Robert Baldick), August 1852

November  22,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

Constitutional dilatoriness, an inability to carry anything though from beginning to end without the intervention of a thousand experiments and afterthoughts, had always been part of Leonardo's character, and we must recognise it as a disease of the will similar to that which ruined the magnificent intellect of Coleridge.  'Di mi se mai fu fatta alcuna cosa' - tell me if anything was ever done - this was the first sentence which flowed from Leonardo's pen in any vacant moment.  'Di mi se mai', 'di mi se mai', again and again, dozens of times, we find it on sheets of drawings, among scribbles or mathematical jottings, or beside the most painstaking calculations, till it becomes a sort of refrain, and a clear symptom of his trouble.  With Leonardo, of course, the shrinking of the will was only intermittent and was largely cancelled by the super-human energy of his mind.

--Leonardo da Vinci by Kenneth Clark

November  21,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

To him landscape seems to have represented the wildness of nature, the vast, untamed background of human life; so the resemblance of his mountains to the craggy precipices of Chinese painting is no accident, for the Chinese artists also wished to symbolise the contrast between wild nature and busy organised society.  Yet between Leonardo and the Chinese there is also a profound difference.  To the Chinese a mountain landscape was chiefly a symbol, an ideograph of solitude and communion with nature, expressed in the most correct and elegant forms which the artist could command.  To Leonardo a landscape, like a human being, was part of a vast machine, to be understood part by part and, if possible, in the whole.  Rocks were not simply decorative silhouettes.  They were part of the earth's bones, with an anatomy of their own, caused by some remote seismic upheaval.  Clouds were not random curls of the brush, drawn by some celestial artist, but were the congregation of tiny drops formed from the evaporation of the sea, and soon would pour back their rain into the rivers.  Thus, Leonardo's landscapes, however wildly romantic his choice of subject matter, never take on the slightly artificial appearance of the Chinese.  To realise the deep knowledge of natural appearance behind them, we have only to compare the background of the 'Mona Lisa', in some ways the most romantic of all, with the caricature of Leaonardo's landscape in such a schoolpiece as the 'Resurrection', in Berlin, where the mountains are arranged like the scenery in a toy theatre.

--Leonardo da Vinci by Kenneth Clark

November  20,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

I think that Leonardo's theories of light and shade led him to push his chiaroscuro a little further than his sensibility alone would have warranted.  We shall see an example of this when we come to examine the second version of the 'Virgin of the Rocks'.  The Paris picture shows Leonardo's natural feeling for darkness in the general setting, but the figures themselves are lit by more or less diffused rays: in the London picture the light comes from a single source and is concentrated on the heads so that a large part of each is in shadow.  The result is a loss of colour and transparency which reminds us disagreeably of Leonardo's followers; for whatever the effect of chiaroscuro and contrapposto on Leonardo himself, on his imitators it was disastrous.  He had provided them with a style, the true meaning of which they could not understand, and one which was peculiarly dangerous to mediocrities.  A bad picture in the quattrocento style still has the merit of bright decorative colour; even its crudities may be a source of charm.  A bad picture in the style of Leonardo is a horror of black shadows and squirming shapes.

--Leonardo da Vinci by Kenneth Clark

November  19,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

We have now reached what is commonly held to be the climax of Leonardo's career as a painter, the 'Last Supper'.  It is a point at which the student of Leonardo must hesitate, appalled at the quantity of writing which this masterpiece has already evoked, and at the unquestionable authority of the masterpiece itself.  And almost more numbing than this authority is its familiarity.  How can we criticise a work which we have all known from childhood?  We have come to regard Leonardo's 'Last Supper' more as a work of nature than a work of man, and we no more think of questioning its shape than we should question the shape of the British Isles on the map.  Before such a picture the difficulty is not so much to analyse our feelings as to have any feelings at all.  But there are alternatives to the direct aesthetic approach.  We may profitably imagine the day when the 'Last Supper' did not exist, and Leonardo was faced with a blank wall and an exacting patron.

--Leonardo da Vinci by Kenneth Clark

November  18,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

'Tis so with couples: they do make up differences in all manner of queer ways,' said the bark-ripper.  'I knowed a woman; and the husband o' her went away for four-and-twenty year.  And one night he came home when she was sitting by the fire, and there-upon he sat down himself on the other side of the chimney-corner.  "Well," says she, "have ye got any news?"  "Don't know as I have," says he; "have you?"  "No," says she, "except that my daughter by the husband that succeeded 'ee was married last month, which was a year after I was made a widow by him."  "Oh! Anything else?" he says.  "No," says she.  And there they sat, one on each side of the chimney-corner, and were found by the neighbours sound asleep in their chairs, not having known what to talk about at all.'

--The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy

November  17,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

And yet to every bad there is a worse.

--The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy

November  16,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

[S]he was determined to be loyal if he proved true; and the determination to love one's best will carry a heart a long way towards making that best an evergrowing thing.

--The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy

November  15,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

You should know that all the great lords who are of the lineage of Chinghiz Khan are conveyed for burial to a great mountain called Altai.  When one of them dies, even if it be at a distance of a hundred days' journey from this mountain, he must be brought here for burial.  And here is a remarkable fact: when the body of a Great Khan is being carried to this mountain--be it forty days' journey or more or less--all those who are encountered along the route by which the body is being conveyed are put to the sword by the attendants who are escorting it.  'Go!' they cry, 'and serve your lord in the next world.'  For they truly believe that all those whom they put to death must go and serve the Khan in the next world.  And they do the same thing with horses: when the Khan dies, they kill all his best horses, so that he may have them in the next world.  It is a fact that, when Mongu Khan died, more than 20,000 men were put to death, having encountered his body on the way to burial.

--The Travels of Marco Polo (tr. Ronald Latham)

November  14,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

Another province, also subject to the Great Khan, is Uighuristan.  It is a large province containing many cities and towns.  The chief city, which is called Kara Khoja, has many other cities and towns dependent on it.  The people are idolaters, but they include many Christians of the Nestorian sect and some Saracens.  The Christians often intermarry with the idolaters.  They declare that the king who originally ruled over them was not born of human stock, but arose from a sort of tuber generated by the sap of trees, which we call esca; and from him all the others descended.  The idolaters are very well versed in their own laws and traditions and are keen students of the liberal arts.  The land produces grain and excellent wine.  But in winter the cold here is more intense than is known in any other part of the world.

--The Travels of Marco Polo (tr. Ronald Latham)

November  13,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

In this country originate the precious stones called balass rubies, of great beauty and value.  They are dug out of rocks among the mountains by tunnelling to great depths, as is done by miners working a vein of silver.  They are found in one particular mountain called Sighinan.  And I would have you know that they are mined only for the king and by his orders; no one else could go to the mountain and dig for these gems without incurring instant death, and it is forbidden under pain of death and forfeiture to export them out of the kingdom.  The king sends them by his own men to other kings and princes and great lords, to some as tribute, to others as a token of amity; and some he barters for gold and silver.  This he does so that these balass rubies may retain their present rarity and value.  If he let other men mine them and export them throughout the world, there would be so many of them on the market that the price would fall and they would cease to be so precious.  That is why he has imposed such a heavy penalty on anyone exporting them without authority.

--The Travels of Marco Polo (tr. Ronald Latham)

[N.B.:  Although written at the beginning of the fourteenth century, this book might have been written today as it aptly describes the modern diamond trade.]

November  12,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

It is as Kevin said long ago: crime begins in egotism: inordinate vanity.  A normal girl, even an emotional adolescent, might be heart-broken that her adopted brother no longer considered her the most important thing in his life; but she would work it out in sobs, or sulks, or being difficult, or deciding that she was going to renounce the world and go into a convent, or half a dozen other methods that the adolescent uses in the process of adjustment.  But with an egotism like Betty Kane's there is no adjustment.  She expects the world to adjust to her.  The criminal always does, by the way.  There was never a criminal who didn't consider himself ill-done-by.'

--The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey

November  11,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

'But', someone had objected, 'there have been monsters of vanity and selfishness who were not criminal.'

'Only because they have victimised their wives instead of their bank,' Kevin pointed out.  'Tomes have been written trying to define the criminal, but it is a very simple definition after all.  The criminal is a person who makes the satisfaction of his own immediate personal wants the mainspring of his actions.  You can't cure him of his egotism, but you can make the indulgence of it not worth his while.  Or almost not worth his while.'

--The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey

November  10,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

For Robert, being old-fashioned, believed in retribution.  He might not go all the way with Moses - an eye was not always compensation for an eye - but he certainly agreed with Gilbert: the punishment should fit the crime.  He certainly did not believe that a few quiet talks with the chaplain and a promise to reform made a criminal into a respect-worthy citizen.  'Your true criminal,' he remembered Kevin saying one night, after a long discussion on penal reform, 'has two unvarying characteristics, and it is these two characteristics which make him a criminal.  Monstrous vanity and colossal selfishness.  And they are both integral, as ineradicable, as the texture of the skin.. You might as well talk of "reforming" the colour of one's eyes.'

--The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey

November  9,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

'Hooray!  More power to him.  I begin to like the boy.  You put a few wedges into that split, Rob - casual-like - and see that he marries some nice stupid English girl who will give him five children and give the rest of the neighbourhood tennis parties between showers on Saturday afternoons.  It's a much nicer kind of stupidity than standing up on platforms and holding forth on subjects you don't know the first thing about.'

--The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey

November  8,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

It is very hard to keep count of time in the Gate, and, besides, time doesn't matter to me.  I draw my sixty rupees fresh and fresh every month.  A very, very long while ago, when I used to be getting three hundred and fifty rupees a month, and pickings, on a big timber-contract at Calcutta, I had a wife of sorts.  But she's dead now.  People said that I killed her by taking to the Black Smoke.  Perhaps, I did, but it's so long since that it doesn't matter.  Sometimes when I first came to the Gate, I used to feel sorry for it; but that's all over and done with long ago, and I draw my sixty rupees fresh and fresh every month, and am quite happy.  Not drunk  happy, you know, but always quiet and soothed and contented.

--The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows  from Plain Tales from the Hills by Rudyard Kipling

November  7,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

It is a curious thing that, when a man hates or loves beyond reason, he is ready to go beyond reason to gratify his feelings; which he would not do for money or power merely.

--The Bisara of Pooree  from Plain Tales from the Hills by Rudyard Kipling

November  6,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

Bronckhorst was not nice in any way.  He had no respect for the pretty public and private lies that make life a little less nasty than it is.  His manner towards his wife was coarse.  There are many things--including actual assault with the clenched fist--that a wife will endure; but seldom a wife can bear--as Mrs Bronckhorst bore--with a long course of brutal, hard chaff, making light of her weaknesses, her headaches, her small fits of gaiety, her dresses, her queer little attempts to make herself attractive to her husband when she knows that she is not what she has been, and--worst of all--the love that she spends on her children.  That particular sort of heavy-handed jest was specially dear to Bronckhorst.  I suppose that he had first slipped into it, meaning no harm, in the honeymoon, when folk find heir ordinary stock of endearments run short, and so go to the other extreme to express their feelings.  A similar impulse makes a man say, 'Hutt, you old beast!' when a favourite horse nuzzles his coat-front.  Unluckily, when the reaction of marriage sets in, the form of speech remains, and, the tenderness having died out, hurts the wife more than she cares to say.  But Mrs Bronckhorst was devoted to her 'Teddy' as she called him.  Perhaps that was why he objected to her.  Perhaps--this is only a theory to account for his infamous behaviour later on--he gave way to the queer, savage feeling that sometimes takes by the throat a husband twenty years married, when he sees, across the table, the same, same face of his wedded wife, and knows that, as he has sat facing it, so must he continue to sit until the day of its death or his own.  Most men and all women know the spasm.

--The Bronckhorst Divorce-Case  from Plain Tales from the Hills by Rudyard Kipling

November  5,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

How he kept his oath, and what it cost him in the beginning nobody knows.  He certainly managed to compass the hardest thing that a man who has drunk heavily can do.  He took his peg and wine at dinner; but he never drank alone, and never let what he drank have the least hold on him.

--In Error  from Plain Tales from the Hills by Rudyard Kipling

November  4,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

We are a high-caste and enlightened race, and infant-marriage is very shocking, and the consequences are sometimes peculiar; but, nevertheless, the Hindu notion--which is the Continental notion, which is the aboriginal notion--of arranging marriages irrespective of the personal inclinations of the married, is sound.  Think for a minute, and you will see that it must be so; unless, of course, you believe in 'affinities.'  In which case you had better not read this tale.  How can a man who has never married, who cannot be trusted to pick up at sight a moderately sound horse, whose head is hot and upset with visions of domestic felicity, go about the choosing of a wife?  He cannot see straight or think straight if he tries; and the same disadvantages exist in the case of a girl's fancies.  But when mature, married, and discreet people arrange a match between a boy and a girl, they do it sensibly, with a view to the future, and the young couple live happily ever afterwards.  As everybody knows.

--Kidnapped from Plain Tales from the Hills by Rudyard Kipling

November  3,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

Inventors seem very much alike as a caste.  They talk loudly, especially about 'conspiracies of monopolists;' they beat upon the table with their fists; and they secrete fragments of their inventions about their persons.

--A Germ-Destroyer from Plain Tales from the Hills by Rudyard Kipling