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ARCHIVED ENTRIES FOR OCTOBER 2010

October  31,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Superstitious beliefs were fostered by a pamphlet literature in which every strange happening was immediately recorded and magnified.  Gruesome fears lingered even among the educated.  A distinguished scholar in Wrttemberg ascribed the death of his brother either to 'robbers or ghosts'.  A Prince of Anhalt, an intelligent and sober young man, recorded seeing of phantoms in his diary without a flicker of surprise or incredulity.  The Electoral family of Brandenburg believed firmly in the 'White Lady' who appeared to warn them of approaching death and who on one occasion had dealt such a box on the ear to an officious page who had incommoded her that he died soon after.  The Duke of Bavaria had his wife exorcized to lift the curse of sterility which he believed had been place upon her.

--The Thirty Years War by C.V. Wedgwood

[N.B.:  If only we could live in Europe in the sixteenth century where it was Halloween all year round!]

October  30,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

[T]heir kind of consciousness forces them to encounter the whole, self-consistent creative act as a series of successive events.  Why that creative act leaves room for their free will is the problem of problems, the secret behind the Enemy's nonsense about 'Love'.  How it does so is no problem at all; for the Enemy does not foresee the humans making their free contributions in a future, but sees them doing so in His unbounded Now.  And obviously to watch a man doing something is not to make him do it. 

--The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

October  29,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

The age of jazz has succeeded the age of the waltz, and we now teach men to like women whose bodies are scarcely distinguishable from those of boys.  Since this is a kind of beauty even more transitory than most, we thus aggravate the female's chronic horror of growing old (with many excellent results) and render her less willing and less able to bear children.  And that is not all.  We have engineered a great increase in the licence which society allows to the representation of the apparent nude (not the real nude) in art, and its exhibition on the stage or the bathing beach.  It is all a fake, of course; the figures in the popular art are falsely drawn; the real women in bathing suits or tights are actually pinched in and propped up to make them appear firmer and more slender and more boyish than nature allows a full-grown woman to be.  Yet at the same time, the modern world is taught to believe that it is being 'frank' and 'healthy' and getting back to nature.  As a result we are more and more directing the desires of men to something which does not exist - making the rle of the eye in sexuality more and more important and at the same time making its demands more and more impossible.

--The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

October  28,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

In the first place, humans who have not the gift of continence can be deterred from seeking marriage as a solution because they do not find themselves 'in love', and, thanks to us, the idea of marrying with any other motive seems to them low and cynical.  Yes, they think that.  They regard the intention of loyalty to a partnership for mutual help, for the preservation of chastity, and for the transmission of life, as something lower than a storm of emotion.  (Don't neglect to make your man think the marriage-service very offensive.)  In the second place any sexual infatuation whatever, so long as it intends marriage, will be regarded as 'Love', and 'Love' will be held to excuse a man from all the guilt, and to protect him from all the consequences, of marrying a heathen, a fool or a wanton.

--The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

October  27,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Our business is to get them away from the eternal, and from the Present.  With this in view, we sometimes tempt a human (say a widow or a scholar) to live in the Past.  But this is of limited value, for they have some real knowledge of the Past and it has a determinate nature and, to that extent, resembles eternity.  It is far better to make them live in the Future.  Biological necessity makes all their passions point in that direction already, so that thought about the Future inflames hope and fear.  Also, it is unknown to them, so that in making them think about it we make them think of unrealities.  In a word, the Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity.  It is the most completely temporal part of time - for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays.  Hence the encouragement we have given to all those schemes of thought such as Creative Evolution, Scientific Humanism or Communism, which fix men's affections on the Future, on the very core of temporality.  Hence nearly all vices are rooted in the Future.  Gratitude looks to the Past and love to the Present; fear, avarice, lust and ambition look ahead.  Do not think lust an exception.  When the present pleasure arrives, the sin (which alone interests us) is already over.  The pleasure is just the part of the process which we regret and would exclude if we could do so without losing the sin; it is the part contributed by the Enemy, and therefore experienced in a Present.  The sin, which is our contribution, looked forward.

--The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

October  26,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

All mortals tend to turn into the thing they are pretending to be.

--The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

October  25,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

You are much more likely to make your man a sound drunkard by pressing drink on him as an anodyne when he is dull and weary than by encouraging him to use it as a means of merriment among his friends when he is happy and expansive.  Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy's ground.  I know we have won many a soul through pleasure.  All the same, it is His invention, not ours.  He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one.  All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasure which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden.  Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable.  An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula.

--The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

October  24,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

The soul is the shadow cast by the flesh - or, more likely, the other way round.  The flesh is the shadow cast by the soul.  Yes.  I approve that definition.  Ergo, the mortal flesh being the shadow cast by the immortal part, the body being the mere extension or reflection of the soul, it follows that I have a possibly worthy, probably glorious, and certainly substantial soul, since I have something in the way of a mountain for a body.

--Falstaff by Robert Nye

October  23,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

I don't say the Irish are a wicked race, mind you.  Some of my best friends have been Irish.  But there is a certain - shall we say Irishness? - about them.

--Falstaff by Robert Nye

October  22,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

I like the philosophy of Democritus bet of all.  That laughing doctor, that dear droll of Abdera, he taught that Truth les at the bottom of a well.  A well of what?  Of memory perhaps.  Not just my memory, mark you, or your memory.  A common memory of more-than-us.  A river might make a better image than a well.  And truth there, in the river's flowing.  Never to be had, quite, because the moment you step into the river it is a different river.

Up Democritus, in any case!  That laughing philosopher is my friend and mentor.  He taught that the summum bonum is the maximum of pleasure with the minimum of pain, but did not make the vulgar mistake of supposing all pain antithetical to pleasure, or all pleasure identical with mere sensual enjoyment.  Laughter has its principle in the soul.

The soul laughs.  Being the root of all forms of vital activity.  A soul that could not laugh would be a dead soul, a stick, a devil.

--Falstaff by Robert Nye

October  21,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

'Oh it is hard enough to believe any of it,' I cried.  'God is a tall story.  The crucifixion and the resurrection - both tall stories.  But don't you see, that might well be because they are true?  If they were lies or fables they would look more plausible, they would suit us better.  As it is, they suit us only in the sense that we are a tall story too.  The world - the nature of man - our natural, actual, formal, and habitual sins.  All tall stories.'

--Falstaff by Robert Nye

October  20,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Old age is when it takes all night to do what you used to do all night.

--Falstaff by Robert Nye

October  19,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Friends are the enemies you're still just getting to know.

 

--Falstaff by Robert Nye

October  18,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Lydgate remembered the old days, visiting from Kenya only a few years before--wooden buildings, mud streets, the Caliph carried in a kind of litter, only a few European traders.  It was frightening, the speed with which you could build a modern state.  You could run the film back as quickly, but you didn't revert to the simple dignity of shacks on stilts with grass roofs.  Instead you got peeling stucco, a rusting telephone exchange, carious stone, unexpected craters in the main roads.  Five more years of uranium.  After that what?  An abdicating Caliph perhaps, well able to pay for his suite at Claridge's.  Emigration of the Chosen People to other parts of the continent.  Fishing and a little maize, the days of Cadillacs and Cinemascope stirred into the pudding of myth.

 

--Devil of a State by Anthony Burgess

 

[N.B.:  This was written in 1961, long before anyone realized that the actual reality would be quite a bit darker than that depicted by Burgess.  As for that side-swipe slur about the "Chosen People," in Africa it would much more likely be the Lebanese then, and the Chinese now, who would be emigrating.]

October  17,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Mr. Covendry, the State Irrigation Officer, keeping up his reputation as the town intellectual, spoke to Lydia of modern literature.  "J. B. Priestley," he was saying.  "A bit too advanced for me.  A bit too consciously clever.  You know, style and what not.  Give me Hugh Walpole any day.  Modern, but not too modern, if you see what I mean."

 

"Evelyn Waugh?" suggested Lydia.

 

"With all due deference," smiled Mr. Covendry, "I never really cared for women writers much."

 

--Devil of a State by Anthony Burgess

 

[N.B.:  J.B. Priestly was a middle-brow hack writer of what could be quaintly described as "problem" novels of contemporary society while Hugh Walpole was a quarter-brow printing press of best-selling Regency romances that might have been the precursors of modern-day "bodice rippers" except Walpole didn't know what a bodice looked like, let alone how to rip one.  "Covendry," by the bye, is an allusion to "Coventry" which, to the British, if you wind up there, is the equivalent of being sent to the ends of the earth.]

October  16,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Hast thou in thy wasted frame not one ounce, not one teaspoonful, not one drip off the spout of an oilcan of human tenderness?  Dost thou disdain to carry on thy back the burden that all but thee accept gladly, knowing it to be the inheritance of all mankind?  Not sin only, but the knowledge that taking involveth giving, that we are all members of one another, that the perfect round of man and woman in hardly contrived harmony is a shadow or figure of that heavenly round or harmony in which we are destined ultimately to merge our shrieking selfhood, becoming one with the one with the one with the one with the

 

Shut up, shut up, shut up.

 

--Devil of a State by Anthony Burgess

October  15,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

From ancient drains and sewers of the language (maritime inns and brothels, soldiers' tents of the days of the Empire's decline), from scrawls in the catacombs, graffiti dug up from beneath the preservative lava, from parodies of religious ritual, whoremasters' chapbooks, with slang of the craft, low terms of the byre and stable, the vocabulary of tavern brawls, with a richness of precise gesture and rudimentary dance they tore into each other.

 

--Devil of a State by Anthony Burgess

October  14,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

"It's not all right now.  I don't know what's come over them lately.  I mean, they've got plenty to occupy their time.  Schools and what-not.  Maize-planting.  We've given some of them battery-radios.  Some of them have got portable gramophones.  We're trying to civilise them."

 

"Perhaps they're bored," said Lydgte.  "That's what's wrong with civilisation.  It's boring."

 

"We got a bit of football going.  And then one day I found they weren't using a ball.  They were using----" Rowlandson began to shake furiously.

 

--Devil of a State by Anthony Burgess

October  13,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

George Lim said, "Elsewhere he is drinking.  He is sailing on a sea of drink in some haven.  You know the line of your great poet Leopardi? 'E docle naufragar in questo mare'."  Paolo nodded, his goat's mouth open.  "He will be shipwrecked some day but he will find the shipwreck sweet," said George Lim.  "Shipwrecked in a sea of"--(he laughed at the paradox)--"Lighthouse Beer."

 

--Devil of a State by Anthony Burgess

October  12,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

There's only one language those little merchants understand, an' that's a kind of morse spelled out with a belt on their backsides.

 

--Loving by Henry Green

October  11,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Well, what about the simple question, again, do I love her?

 

Depends what you mean by love.  When do you cross the dividing line?  When does je t' aime bien become je t'aime?  The easy answer is, you know when you're in love, because there's no way you can doubt it, any more than you can doubt when your house is on fire.  That's the trouble, though: try to describe the phenomenon and you get either a tautology or a metaphor.  Does anyone feel any more that they are walking on air?  Or do they merely feel as they think they would feel if they were walking on air?  Or do they merely think they ought to feel as if they are walking on air?

 

--Metroland by Julian Barnes

October  10,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

'It's as if everyone has a perfect age to which they aspire, and they're only truly at ease with themselves when they get there.  I suppose with most people it's between twenty-five and thirty-five, so the question doesn't really arise, or if it does it's in a disguised form: when they've passed thirty-five they assume their disgruntlement comes from being middle-aged and seeing senility and death on the way.  But it also comes from leaving behind their perfect age.' 

 

--Metroland by Julian Barnes

October  9,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

I walked to the Palais Royal feeling impressed with myself.  I sat on a bench in the courtyard and inhaled the warm night.  It felt as if everything was coming together, all at once.  The past was all around; I was the present; art was here, and history, and now the promise of something much like love or sex.  Over there in that corner was where Molire worked; across there, Cocteau, then Colette; there Blcher lost six million at roulette and for the rest of his life flew into a rage when the name of Paris was mentioned; there the first caf mcanique was opened; and there, over there, at a little cutler's in the Galerie de Valois, Charlotte Corday bought the knife with which she killed Marat.  And bringing it all together, ingesting it, making it mine, was me--fusing all the art and the history with what I might sonn, with luck, be calling the life. 

 

--Metroland by Julian Barnes

October  8,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

At twenty-one, I used to say I believed in the deferment of pleasure; I was usually misunderstood.  Deferment was the word, not rejection or repression or abandonment or all the other terms it automatically translated into.  I'm less sure now, though I do believe in the balanced, delicate leading-in of the individual to experience.  This isn't prescriptive; just sensible.  How many kids of twenty-one today are sentiently burnt out; or worse, find it chic to believe they are?  Isn't a diet of extremity senseless and, finally, comic?  Isn't the whole structure of experience built on contrast?

 

--Metroland by Julian Barnes

 

[N.B.:  Although Barnes, like most unthinking Englishmen nowadays, is an atheist and has little concern for theological matters, he inadvertently here touches on the solution to theodicy: why does sin exist?  It seems to me that sin is merely the absence of its opposite--for indeed, not just the structure of experience, but the structure of good will is "built on contrast."]

October  7,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

The evening was full of humiliating reminders that I was still a kid.  I didn't get wine with my dinner (I didn't like wine, but that was hardly the point) and my glass of orange squash mocked me unbearably.  I tried ignoring it at first, but found it grew louder and more contemptuous in colour as the meal progressed, until, by the time the matching orange pudding was brought in, it was practically flashing out I-M-M-A-T-U-R-E like an illuminated sign, and I gulped it down in one draught.  My attempts to assert bonds of adolescence with my brother went unanswered; my appeals to holidays, shared japes, my God even SF, were all rebuffed.  The culminating moment came when I turned to Nigel and began

 

'Do you remember when we ...'

 

but got no further as he broke in with a forcefully languid

 

'Can't say I do, kid.'

 

--Metroland by Julian Barnes

October  6,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

With a perspicacity beyond our years, we appreciated that merely rejecting or reversing the outlook and morality of one's parents was scarcely more than a coarse reflex response.  Just as blasphemy implies religion, we argued, so a blanket expungement of childhood impositions indicates some endorsement of them.  And we couldn't have that.  So, without in any way compromising our principles, we agreed to carry on living at home.

 

--Metroland by Julian Barnes

 

[N.B.:  Please see the above when trying to understand the juvenile motivations behind the recent spate of "Old Man God is Dead and I Helped Bury Him" books.]

October  5,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Elsewhere in the school, information was just as hard to come by, at least through official channels.  The article on family planning in the 'Home' volume of the big encyclopedia had been ripped out of the school library copy.  The only other source of knowledge was much too risky--the Headmaster's confirmation class.  This contained a brief session on marriage 'which you won't need just yet but won't do you any harm to know about.'  There was indeed no harm in it: the most exciting phrase used by the gaunt and suspicious ruler of our lives was 'mutual comfort and companionship'.  At the end of the session, he indicated a pile of booklets on the corner of his desk.

 

'Anyone who wants to know more can borrow one of these as he goes out.'

 

He might as well have said, 'Hands up those who abuse their bodies more than six times a day.'  I never saw anyone take a booklet.  I never knew anyone who'd taken one.  I never knew of anyone who knew of anyone who'd taken one.  In all probability, simple slowing down as you passed the Headmaster's desk was a beating offence.

 

--Metroland by Julian Barnes

October  4,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Setting his aim for truth where the fog of polemic has prevailed, he quotes the Cambridge historian E.H. Carr:  "It does not follow that because a mountain appears to take on different shapes from different angles of vision, it has objectively no shape at all or an infinity of shapes."

 

--Revealing 'Turkey's Hidden Past' by Roger Cohen reviewing Rebel Land: Unraveling the Riddle of History in a Turkish Town by Christopher de Bellaigue in the September 30, 2010 issue of the New York Review of Books

 

[N.B.:  This pithy quote, by the bye, serves handily as the epitaph for Derrida--and has anyone faded into obscurity so quickly after his death?  Even Freud's laughable system of psychoanalysis with its Oedipus Complex, Electra Complex and Split-Level Walk-In Complex took a few decades to slink off the world's intellectual stage after the Great Doctor's demise.]

October  3,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

"'Love,'" Rachel desperately replied, "is such an omnibus word."

 

Here was an irony of our continental separation (undertaken, remember, in the hope of clarification): it had made things less clear than ever.  By and large, we separators succeeded only in separating our feelings from any meaning we could give them.  That was my experience, if you want to talk about experience.  I had no way of knowing if what I felt, brooding in New York City, was love's abstract or love's miserable leftover.  The idea of love was itself separated from meaning.  Love?  Rachel had gotten it right.  Love was an omnibus thronged by a rabble.

 

--Netherland by Joseph O'Neill

October  2,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Rachel insisted on driving me to Heathrow.  We sat together in silence.  I did not think that it fell to me to talk.

 

Somewhere near Hounslow, she began to say things.  She gave assurances about my place in my son's life and about my place in her life.  She told me of the agony in which she, too, found herself.  She said something important about the need to reimagine our lives.  (What this meant, I had no idea.  How do you reimagine your life?)  Each of her soothing utterances battered me more grievously than the last--as if I were traveling in a perverse ambulance whose function was to collect a healthy man and steadily damage him in readiness for the hospital at which a final and terrible injury would be inflicted.

 

--Netherland by Joseph O'Neill

 

[N.B.:  Again, notice the placement of the adverb "grievously."]

October  1,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Gratifyingly, Rachel doesn't ask me what exactly transpired.  But in the taxi home, there's an epilogue of sorts: my wife, mooning out of the window at rainy Regent's Park, says, "God, do you remember those sirens?" and, still looking away, she reaches for my hand and squeezes it.

 

Strange, how such a moment grows in value over a marriage's course.  We gratefully pocket each of them, these sidewalk pennies, and run with them to the bank as if creditors were banging on the door.  Which they are, one comes to realize.

 

--Netherland by Joseph O'Neill

 

[N.B.:  By and large, O'Neill suffers from writer's workshop disease in terms of the overall design of his novel (that is, it lacks proportion and is as lumpy and uneven as a bowl of chilled oatmeal) but he is an impressive writer at the level of craft.  Second-rate writers such as Stephen King will instruct their acolytes not to use adverbs--and rightly so if one writes as poorly as Stephen King.  But note how O'Neill starts a paragraph with an adverb and it fits like a jewel in its slot on the crown.