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ARCHIVED ENTRIES FOR NOVEMBER 2013

November 30,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

"What makes him so winning?  He's a doomed man.  I think he'll end badly.  He'll pay for the evil he's brought about.  The arbitrariness of the revolutionaries is terrible not because they're villains, but because it's a mechanism out of control, like a machine that's gone off the rails.  Strelnikov is as mad as they are, but he went crazy not from books, but from something he lived through.  I don't know his secret, but I'm certain he has one.  His alliance with the Bolsheviks is accidental.  As long as they need him, they'll tolerate him, they're going the same way.  But the moment that need passes, they'll cast him aside with no regret and trample on him, like so many military specialists before him."

--Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak (tr. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky)

November 29,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

"It's good when a man deceives your expectations, when he doesn't correspond to the preconceived notion of him.  To belong to a type is the end of a man, his condemnation.  If he doesn't fall under any category, if he's not representative, half of what's demanded of him is there.  He's free of himself, he has achieved a grain of immortality."

--Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak (tr. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky)

November 28,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

"We've been lucky.  The autumn happened to be dry and warm.  We managed to dig the potatoes before the rain and cold set in.  Minus what we owed and returned to the Mikulitsyns, we have up to twenty sacks, and it is all in the main bin of the cellar, covered above, over the floor, with straw and old, torn blankets.  Down there, under the floor, we also put two barrels of Tonya's salted cucumbers and another two of cabbage she has pickled.  The fresh cabbage is hung from the crossbeams, head to head, tied in pairs.  The supply of carrots is buried in dry sand.  As is a sufficient amount of harvested black radishes, beets, and turnips, and upstairs in the house there is a quantity of peas and beans.  The firewood stored up in the shed will last till spring.  I like the warm smell of the underground in winter, which hits your nose with roots, earth, and snow as soon as you lift the trapdoor of the cellar, at an early hour, before the winter dawn, with a weak, ready to go out, barely luminous light in your hand.

--Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak (tr. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky)

November 27,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Marxism and science?  To argue about that with a man I hardly know is imprudent, to say the least.  But come what may.  Marxism has too little control of itself to be a science.  Sciences are better balanced.  Marxism and objectivity?  I don't know of a movement more isolated within itself and further from the facts than Marxism.  Each of us is concerned with testing himself by experience, but people in power, for the sake of the fable of their own infallibility, turn away from the truth with all their might.  Politics says nothing to me.  I don't like people who are indifferent to truth."

--Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak (tr. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky)

November 26,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

There was a roll of thunder, like a plow drawing a furrow across the whole of the sky, and everything grew still.  But then four resounding belated booms rang out, like big potatoes dumped from a shovelful of loose soil in autumn.

--Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak (tr. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky)

November 25,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

While busy with that, she lost sight of the fact that she had guests, ceased to hear them, but they suddenly reminded her of themselves with a particularly loud burst of chatter behind the partition, and then Lara reflected on the diligence with which drunk people always like to imitate drunk people, and with all the more giftless and amateurish deliberateness the drunker they are.

--Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak (tr. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky)

November 24,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

"You'll find, son, that the world thinks more of a man who makes a mistake because he believes in it than of one who does the right thing because it comes easy, and without belief."

--The Time It Never Rained by Elmer Kelton

November 23,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Busy on the other side of the rig.  Teofilo had missed the ruckus.  Now he came around, and Charlie pointedly told him he didn't want any more kids butchering up his sheep.

Teofilo looked away and said quietly, "He is a boy, Mister Charlie.  A boy has to learn."

"be damned if he has to learn on my sheep!"

--The Time It Never Rained by Elmer Kelton

[N.B.:  And that, dear hearts, is why in-house general counsels don't want associates from Big Law working on their matters.  They'll be damned if those associates have to learn on their work.]

November 22,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Time and memories--so many good things and so many bad--but strange how the bad things seemed to fade so that you remembered mostly the good.  Maybe that was one of life's main compensations, having those memories with the rough edges blunted down and the bright parts polished to a diamond gleam.

--The Time It Never Rained by Elmer Kelton

November 21,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Tradition, Charlie.  Tradition's fine as long as a man can afford it.  You can't."

--The Time It Never Rained by Elmer Kelton

November 20,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Charlie frowned.  "And you found I made some mistakes?"

"A year like this one, anything you do is a mistake.  Just bein' a rancher is a mistake.  Only real difference I see between ranchin' and poker is, with poker you got some chance."

--The Time It Never Rained by Elmer Kelton

November 19,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

A sheep perpetually courted disaster just by being a sheep.

--The Time It Never Rained by Elmer Kelton

November 18,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Coyote's a romantic animal, I reckon, if you ain't had to contend with it.  There's lovable animals, and there's unlovable animals.  Hell, I always liked a coyote myself, in his proper place.  But his proper place ain't in my sheep pasture.  People that never saw one of their own lambs with its guts ripped out don't know how unlovable a coyote can be.  I guess everybody sees what he wants to and overlooks what he don't care to see.  Other people look at the dead coyote and pity him.  Me, I look at the dead sheep."

--The Time It Never Rained by Elmer Kelton

November 17,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Other places might have several drouths in a single summer.  Texas was more likely to have several summers in a single drouth.  Drouth here did not mean a complete absence of rain.  It meant extended periods of deficient rainfall, when the effects of one rain wore off long before the next one came so that there was no carryover of benefits, no continuity.

--The Time It Never Rained by Elmer Kelton

[N.B.:  And that, dear friends, is where Texas be now.]

November 16,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Charlie's philosophy, though he did not fully realize he had one, was simply "live and let live."  He took it as unquestioned fact that Mexican people in general possessed a different outlook, a different set of values.  They were of a culture most Anglos never understood or seriously tried to understand.  The most common charge was that Mexicans were improvident, that they lacked the Anglos' drive for success.  Yet often Charlie envied the Mexican for not always being caught up in a constant blind rush, for placing less value upon accumulated dollars than upon the enjoyment of life's simple pleasures, for not wasting today worrying about tomorrow and more accumulation.  Pinned down, Charlie would not have said this was inferiority.  For all he know or gave a damn, they were right.

--The Time It Never Rained by Elmer Kelton

November 15,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Stubbornly Charlie said, "That ain't the way I was brought up, or you either.  We was taught that every man starts with an even chance.  We was taught to believe in a man rustlin' for himself as long as he's able.  If you get to dependin' on the government, the day'll come when the damn federales will dictate everything you do.  Some desk clerk in Washingotn will decide where you live and where you work and what color toilet paper you wipe yourself with.  And you'll be scared to say anything because thy might cut you off of the tit."

--The Time It Never Rained by Elmer Kelton

[N.B.:  Hello, Obamacare.  Got cancer?  Sorry, the website is down right now but check back with us in another month . . . or three.]

November 14,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Page looked dourly at his cup.  "Damn if I know why I'm sittin' here wastin' time.  I got a dozen places to be."

"If you don't slow down you'll take a heart seizure one of these days, and then we'll always know where you're at."

"A man'll rust out before he wears out."

--The Time It Never Rained by Elmer Kelton

November 13,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Some people you can't change; you just have to outlive them."

--The Time It Never Rained by Elmer Kelton

November 12,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

During the course of Faraday's adult life the postal system underwent a huge change.  Faraday and Abbott would have exchanged their letters by hand as the postal charges were far beyond the finances of a bookbinder's apprentice and a clerk.  By the time Faraday died, however, the improved postal system initiated by Rowland Hill had been in operation for a little over a quarter of a century, resulting in a four-fold increase in the number of letters sent--from about 196 million in 1840 to some 775 million in 1867.  This latter figure corresponded to an average of twenty-six items received by every person in the country, and more than twice that number by each inhabitant of London.  As one contemporary noted, with the introduction of the penny post, "letter-writing, which had been rather a luxury", now became "an universal necessity".  Those living within three miles of the General Post Office could enjoy twelve deliveries a day - nowadays an unimaginable level of service and even then much admired by Parisians and New Yorkers.  Hence a Londoner could easily receive a reply "by return of post" within a day when the correspondent was located at an address within the metropolis.

--Magnets and Sandemanians by Geoffrey Cantor reviewing The Correspondence of Michael Faraday by Michael Faraday in The Times Literary Supplement (Nov. 16, 2012)

[N.B.:  No, Virginia, civilization does not move in an uninterrupted, upward progression.  See the space program.]

November 11,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

During the long Texas drouth of the 1950s a joke--probably already as old as the state--was told again and again about a man who bet several of his friends that it never would rain again, and collected from two of them.

--The Time It Never Rained by Elmer Kelton

November 10,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

"My thoughts had been running on the connection between gardening and more general patterns of aesthetic ideology,"  I said in my twinkly-donnish-but-with-an-edge-of-sexual-danger way.  "The idea of the garden is to create an image of nature through the highest possible level of art, while at the same time only permitting a partial awareness of the presence of that art.  Similarly, the rock garden in the Zen temple at Kyoto gains its effect by the intensity of its absences--it is itself by virtue of what it is not.  It's not so much that 'less is more'--if you will forgive my ironic waggling fingers--but that less is more, a maximalization of omission."

--The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester

November 9,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

His problematic teetotalism, with its paradoxical high spirits, was a sort of backlash against the way he might have been if he was drunk; since, to any really committed career drinker, drunkenness is normality and undrunkenness is exceptional, his sobriety was a way of being, in that all too accurate phrase, "out of his head."

--The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester

November 8,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

As a young friend of mine remarked, à propos her reluctance to take up a lucrative academic position in Southern California:  "Two hundred and fifty days of sunshine a year--what if you still felt miserable?"  Perhaps this is only to say that, as the demotic American maxim has it, show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser--and spring is the time when losers are brought face to face with their loserdom, their loserhood.

--The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester

November 7,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Spring, optimum time of the year for suicides, is also an excellent season for the cook.  Though I must say that I have often wondered whether, just as Turner invented sunsets, T. S. Eliot may have invented the seasonal surge in the incidence of people attempting to do away with themselves, and whether, before the publication of The Waste Land, April, if it didn't used to be the cruelest month, certainly is now--and empirical confirmation of the seasonally adjusted suicide rate was provided by Mary-Theresa's apparently guilt-maddened action in precipitating herself off the Pont-Neuf one crisp Paschal morning immediately following her exposure.  Her body was so heavily weighted with stones (paving stones, stolen or borrowed from a street under repair near the Saint-Chapelle on the Ile de la Cité) that the policemen who broke the news, two fit young gendarmes, unpuffed themselves by the four-storey walk up to our flat, were impressed by her ability to carry herself as far as the famous bridge with the stones in a bag she subsequently attached to herself, let alone her then managing to heave herself and her burden over the side.  Sturdy peasant stock, as my father, not often wrong about people, had observed when initially employing her.

--The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester

November 6,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

. . .  the equally coddy Basque ttoro, its origin betrayed by its telltale unpronounceability (my brother was fond of speculating whether values were reversed in Basque versions of the game Scrabble, so that players only won a single point for using letters such as q and x); . . . .

--The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester

November 5,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Cheese is philosophically interesting as a food whose qualities depend on the action of bacteria--it is, as James Joyce remarked, "the corpse of milk."  Dead milk, live bacteria.  A similar process of controlled spoilage is apparent in the process of hanging game, where some degree of rotting helps to make the meat tender and flavorsome--even if one no longer entirely subscribes to the nineteenth-century dictum that a hung pheasant is only ready for eating when the first maggot drops onto the larder floor.  With meat and game, the bacterial action is a desideratum rather than a necessity, which it is in the case of cheese--a point grasped even in Old Testament times, as Job reveals in his interrogation of the Lord: "Hast thou not poured me out as milk, and curdled me like cheese?"  The process of ripening in cheese is a little like the human acquisition of wisdom and maturity: both processes involve a recognition, or incorporation, of the fact that life is an incurable disease with a hundred percent mortality rate--a slow variety of death. 

--The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester

November 4,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Make a vinaigrette.  My preferred portions are a controversial seven parts olive oil to one part balsamic vinegar; the same proportions as in the ideal dry martini.  In what I subsequently came to think of as my aesthetic period, during my early and mid-twenties, I used to serve a seven-to-one martini of Beefeater gin and Noilly Prat vermouth, stirred with large ice cubes and then poured into chilled cocktail glasses; twist of lemon on top, releasing a fine invisible spray of citric juices.  As a subsequent refinement I borrowed W. H. Auden's technique of mixing the vermouth and gin at lunchtime (though the great poet himself used vodka) and leaving the mixture in the freezer to attain that wonderful jellified texture of alcohol chilled to below the point at which water freezes.  The absence of ice means that the Auden martini is not diluted in any way, and thus truly earns the drink its sobriquet "the silver bullet."  In his autobiography, the Spanish film director Luis Buñuel says that the correct way to make a martini is simply to allow the light to pass through the vermouth on the way to striking the gin, in a method analogous to the Immaculate Conception. (He means the Virgin Birth--a common mistake.)  I have to admit to never having found that particular vein of intensely Catholic irreligiosity at all amusing.

--The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester

November 3,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

We then sat down to a meal which Dante would have hesitated to invent.  I was seated opposite my parents, between a spherical house-matron and a silent French assistant.  The first course was a soup in which pieces of undisguised and unabashed gristle floated in a mud-colored sauce whose texture and temperature were powerfully reminiscent of mucus.  Then a steaming vat was placed in the middle of the table, where the jowly, watch-chained headmaster presided.  He plunged his serving arm into the vessel and emerged with a ladleful of hot food, steaming like fresh horse dung on a cold morning.  For a heady moment I thought I was going to be sick.  A plate of soi-distant cottage pie--the mince gray, the potato beige--was set in front of me.

"The boys call this 'mystery meat,'" confided the matron happily.  I felt the assistant flinch.  Other than that I don't remember (I can imagine) what we talked about, and over the rest of the mal--as Swinburne's biographer remarked, à propos an occasion when his subject has misbehaved during a lecture on the subject of Roman sewage systems--"the Muse of history must draw her veil."

--The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester

[N.B.:  Lanchester understands that even though one can be blatant in one's exposure of the unsavory, a veil, "historic" or otherwise, is a much more effective form of titillation--even if all it is concealing is a matron's predilection for all things French.]

November 2,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Winston Churchill was fond of saying that the Chinese ideogram for "crisis" is composed of the two characters which separately mean "danger" and "opportunity."

Winter presents the cook with a similar combination of threat and chance.  It is, perhaps, winter which is responsible for a certain brutalization of the British national palate, and a concomitant affection for riotous sweet-and-sour combinations, aggressive pickles, pungent sauces, and ketchups.  More on this later.  But the threat of winter is also, put simply, that of an overreliance on stodge.

--The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester

November 1,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

We are all familiar with the after-the-fact tone--weary, self-justificatory, aggrieved, apologetic--shared by ship captains appearing before boards of inquiry to explain how they came to run their vessels aground, and by authors composing forewords.

--The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester