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ARCHIVED ENTRIES FOR SEPTEMBER 2012

September 30,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

It is highly undesirable, of course, that the time element in musical design should be put to the purposes of sentimental narrative, but the mere fact that it can be so used distinguishes it from plastic design.  The repetitions of a certain underlying curve in an abstract or representational picture have no dramatic content because they occur in the same movement of time--one's eye can choose which it looks at first, or take in the various statements of the same form simultaneously.  But the return of the first subject after the development in a symphonic movement has an inevitable touch of the dramatic, merely through the passage of time that has elapses since its first statement.  Time, in fact, is rather vulgarly dramatic; it is the sentimentalist of the dimensions, and small wonder that visuels, like Wyndham Lewis, feel that it is occupying too much space in our lives.

--Music Ho! by Constant Lambert

September 29,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

The word abstract has, of course, a certain definite significance when applied to painting, and it is a tenable hypotheses that the best modern paintings and sculptures have been abstract.  Even so it would be reasonable to point out that, by denying himself realism, the painter, though he thus avoids the pitfalls of anecdotage at the same time cuts himself off from the variety and significance of forms that intelligently used realism can provoke.  The modified realism of Cézanne can be of far greater interest from the purely formal point of view than the abstractions of Leger; but even though we may grant that the highest form of plastic art consists in a significant organization of shapes devoid of all purely representational sentiment and literary association, it by no means follows that this hasty and sweeping thesis holds good for music.  It is all very well to hammer out a theory, however mistaken, that applies to an art functioning in space: it is quite another matter to apply this to an art that functions in time.

--Music Ho! by Constant Lambert

September 28,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

As an example of Stravinsky's attitude towards reaction for its own sake I may quote an instance of his urging young composers to give their tunes to the violins and not to the trumpet on the grounds that too many people had been writing tunes for the trumpet in the last few years.  So might Patou and Poiret forecast the colours for the coming season.  It does not seem to have occurred to him that orchestration has any relation to the technical nature or expressive quality of a given theme, that one writes for the cor anglais because that is the tone colour one wants, and not because it happens to be a Tuesday.  Similarly Stravinsky's followers will say with all the withering self-satisfaction of those that have caught the last seat in a crowded bus, 'It's no use writing that sort of harmony now,' and will themselves admittedly falsify their originally conceived harmonies purely with a view to giving them a more strictly contemporary quality.

--Music Ho! by Constant Lambert

[N.B.:  Boulez is the Stravinsky of today--except he does not have a Diaghilev to save his early works from obscurity.]

September 27,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

"It's interesting about good works.  I am German so of course I know all about Martin Luther.  The problem is, no matter how much we try to be good, we cannot be good enough.  So Luther says you must be justified by faith.  But, hey, read some Nietzsche if you want to know about this idea.  Nietzsche thought Martin Luther was just making it easy on everybody.  Don't worry if you can't do good works, people.  Just believe.  Have faith.  Faith will justify you!  Right?  Maybe, maybe not.  Nietzsche wasn't against Christianity, as everybody thinks.  Nietzsche just thought there was only one Christian and that was Christ.  After him, it was finished.

--The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

[N.B.:  See yesterday's note.]

September 26,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

"I don't know, one day I was just sitting there," Mitchell went on, "and it hit me that almost every writer I was reading for my classes had believed in God.  Milton, for starters.  And George Herbert."  Did Professor Richter know George Herbert?  Professor Richter did.  "And Tolstoy.  I realize Tolstoy got a little excessive, near the end.  Rejecting Anna Karenina.  But how many writers turn against their own genius?  Maybe it was Tolstoy's obsession with truth that made him so great in the first place.  The fact that he was willing to give up his art was what made him a great artist.

--The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

[N.B.:  Ahh, these are the sort of middle-brow secularist musings that pass for elevated cocktail-party chatter nowadays.  God does have something going for Him and He can't be dismissed out of hand if even someone like Tolstoy believed in Him.  Eugenides could have been the next Irving Stone.  Pity, that.]

September 25,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

Reading a novel after reading semiotic theory was like jogging empty-handed after jogging with hand weights.  After getting out of Semiotics 211, Madeleine fled to the Rockefeller Library, down to B Level, where the stacks exuded a vivifying smell of mold, and grabbed something--anything, The House of Mirth, Daniel Deronda--to restore herself to sanity.  How wonderful it was when one sentence followed logically from the sentence before!  What exquisite guilt she felt, wickedly enjoying narrative!  Madeleine felt safe with a nineteenth-century novel.  There were going to be people in it.  Something was going to happen to them in a place resembling the world.

--The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

[N.B.:  The above passage is a fine example of how Eugenides had the makings of a decent middle-brow author in him along the lines of James Gould Cozzens or John Hersey.  Instead, he committed career suicide by using this novel as an opportunity to attack a cardboard-cutout caricature of David Foster Wallace.  He might as well have created a wicked cartoon based on George Eliot.  He has now made himself an acceptable target of negative literary criticism--without the compensating talents of a V. S. Naipaul or a Martin Amis to withstand such attacks.]

September 24,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

Even now, at bed-and-breakfasts or seaside hotels, a shelf full of forlorn books always cried out to Madeleine.  She ran her fingers over their salt-spotted covers.  She peeled apart pages made tacky by ocean air.  She had no sympathy for paperback thrillers and detective stories.  It was the abandoned hardback, the jacketless 1931 Dial Press edition ringed with many a coffee cup, that pierced Madeleine's heart.  Her friends might be calling her name on the beach, the clambake already under way, but Madeleine would sit down on the bed and read f or a little while to make the sad old book feel better.  She had read Longfellow's "Hiawatha" that way.  She'd read James Fenimore Cooper.  She'd read H. M. Pulham, Esquire by John P. Marquand.

--The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

September 23,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

Her cactus-collecting period was the most difficult and dangerous for all of us.  It culminated in a breathless escape from the state troopers when we fetched fifteen barrel cacti, ranging from cracker-barrel size to beer barrel, from the washes of southern California.  It came to light they frown on the removal of native cacti from their natural habitat (so, I might add, do I), but we were safe.  She saw to it that we stole them from private property.

--I Like What I Know by Vincent Price

[N.B.:  And yet another real horror story.  Not to worry though, VP deplores his own criminal activity and, in any event, it's king's x because he stole them from private property.  By the bye, this "cactus wrangling" is still a serious problem in the Southwest.]

September 22,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

That a piece of bone from the catacombs in Rome, which, being very tall, I stole from an upper tomb on my first trip to Europe and which for years I kept neatly and tenderly entombed in a tuft of cotton, cradled in a German-silver matchbox my mother had thrown away. j When I found it, it was badly dented but, I felt, a fitting home for my lost saint's bone, which I still revere--when I can find it.

--I Like What I Know by Vincent Price

[N.B.:  Now that's a real horror story for you--by the bye, the Roman authorities have since cleared away all the bones from the catacombs that are toured for precisely this reason.]

September 21,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

If you can define collecting, or what it does to you, it does this above all: inevitably, if you fall in love with something you want to possess it, or at least sample it.  I know there are many varieties of collectors, but the ones I trust most and who interest me most are the ones who just can't help it.  They are the "unfortunates" (and I say that lightly) to whom a casual glance in a museum or at an exhibition is not enough; they want to handle it, X-ray it with their mind's eye, feel it, if it is touchable.  They have to go to bed near it and wake next to it, and in the end, "marry it" by purchase, since borrowing does no good.  You can even play all sorts of tricks on yourself--like hiding it or walking down a different street--but eventually, it will burn its way through steel doors or drawers onto your walls and tables.

--I Like What I Know by Vincent Price

September 20,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

We came to some conclusions about the pictures [at the Barnes] that rather amazed us.  First, that Renoir, en masse, is pretty hard to take.  One hundred and fifty candy-box covers of pink and white ladies and children make you want to go on a sugar-free diet.  and our second summing up was that Cézanne is one of the big masters of all time.  Until you've seen those gem-like Cézannes in the Barnes Foundation, you haven't seen Cézanne.  I know I've worked the word to death, but they are GREAT.

--I Like What I Know by Vincent Price

September 19,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

We had both heard of the difficulties of getting into the Barnes collection from museum directors (who had been banished as a race by the irascible doctor) and from just plain John Q. Public, who had tried to no avail.  The doctor had died a couple of years before our proposed visit, but things hadn't eased up.  Ted Thomas, my ex-Yale roommate had lived in Philadelphia for fifteen years and tried desperately to get into it, but hadn't made it.  Only one friend of his had ever been there, and he had pulled a trick that had become legendary.  He had heard at his garden supply depot that a load of manure was being delivered to the Barnes estate, so he bribed the driver to let him deliver it.  Dressed in dirty overalls, he made his delivery, unloaded it, and then rang the bell, saying he'd heard there were some "pitchers" in this house.  The doctor welcomed him with open arms, and he spent a tenuous two hours, keeping his elegant Harvard accent from showing--but he saw the "pitchers."

--I Like What I Know by Vincent Price

[N.B.:  What a knee slapper!  Of course the joke is on old Dr. Barnes now that a court has broken his trust and the despised race of museum directors has appropriated the Barnes collection for the greater benefit of Philadelphia tourism.  So let that be a warning to any future "irascible" art collectors--I'm sure they won't do anything in spite to their collections and will willingly bow to their own fate as posthumous tourist attractions.]

September 18,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

[O]ne of art's greatest joys is that it allows  you to see through another's eyes, his mind, his heart.  But it isn't often that the genius of two men is blended so that the one can tell the story of the other with such distinction that the report is comparable to the act.  When it occurs, art reaches new heights.  Bellini has done it twice for me: once in his "Agony in the Garden" and in the Frick's "St. Francis in Ecstasy."  Sometimes you read a passage by a great writer, and you know what he says and how he says it will always be, for you, the only possible way it could be.  Less often a painter will describe an event in a way that fits into your interpretation of that event so perfectly that it becomes the event itself.  This is how it was, and where it was, when St. Francis had his triumphant ecstasy.  Perhaps it's only for me, but then, that is another joy of art . . . it is always personal.  No one can ever take from you your identification with a work of art.

--I Like What I Know by Vincent Price

September 17,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

When I say "so-called" primitive art, I mean the confusion in our minds about the word primitive.  We think of it as meaning "untrained," "simple," etc.  Well, most true primitive art is anything but untrained,  and far from simple.  Anthropologists define primitive art as the art of peoples without a written language, but their art is, in a sense, their language--hence the definition is invalid.  And it is almost always rigidly disciplined and rigorously appreciated.  The artists of the South Seas, Africa, the American Indian, all held the high regard of their society.  They were revered for their talent, much in the same way as we regard the priest as an interpreter--an envisioner of deity.  They alone could make visual the unseen thoughts about their gods.  What their people dreamed of their deities, they brought to conscious recognition.

--I Like What I Know by Vincent Price

September 16,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

'If a gentleman commits follies,' he said, 'if he keeps mistresses, if he treats his wife badly, even if he is guilty of serious injustices towards his friends, he will be blamed, no doubt, but if he is rich, powerful, and intelligent, society will still treat him with indulgence.  But if that man cheats at cards he will be immediately banished from decent society and never forgiven.'

--Talleyrand by Duff Cooper

September 15,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

[I]n the days of an autocracy every statesman must be a courtier too, just as under a democracy every statesman must be something of a demagogue.

--Talleyrand by Duff Cooper

September 14,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

As is often the case when the choice lies between two directly contradictory statements the whole truth will probably be found to rest with neither, but to consist of a judicious combination of both.

--Talleyrand by Duff Cooper

September 13,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

It is one of the gravest defects of autocracy as a system of government that it allows no room for legitimate opposition.  The individual who sincerely believes that his country is suffering, and will continue to suffer as the result of bad policy, has to choose between becoming either a passive spectator of his country's ruin or taking steps to prevent it which his enemies will denounce as disloyality.

--Talleyrand by Duff Cooper

September 12,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

On each occasion Austria had been defeated, on each occasion the royal Commander-in-Chief was being urged on by his own ambition and by the voices of all his staff and of every soldier in the field to further triumphs, on each occasion the solitary, mistrusted voice of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who alone could see in the defeated foe of today the potential ally of tomorrow, was raised in passionate pleading for moderation.

--Talleyrand by Duff Cooper

September 11,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

This love of idleness, partly natural and partly affected, he was prepared to defend as the wisest policy for a diplomatist.  He discouraged excessive zeal even in his subordinates, and when he relinquished the Ministry for Foreign Affaires he said, presenting the permanent officials to his successor: 'You will find them loyal, intelligent, accurate, and punctual, but, thanks to my training, not at all zealous.'  As M. de Champagny evinced some surprise, he continued, affecting a most serious manner: 'Yes, except for a few of the junior clerks who, I am afraid, close up their envelopes with a certain amount of precipitation, every one here maintains the greatest calm; hurry and bustle are unknown.'

This deliberate manner of conducting business was really of service to Napoleon, who, working with lightning rapidity himself, was often glad to find that instructions which he had given with too little consideration had not been acted upon several days later, when he was already prepared to cancel them.

--Talleyrand by Duff Cooper

September 10,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

Talleyrand did not share Napoleon's fondness for work.  Naturally lazy he pretended to be lazier than he was and made a principle of never performing any task himself that could possibly be delegated to another.  If a despatch was to be written, or a memorandum drawn up, he would hastily set down in an almost illegible handwriting all that he wished it to contain without paying any attention to form or order.  One of his subordinates, and the principal ones had worked with him so long that they could interpret his mind as well as decipher his handwriting, would then reduce these rough notes to the correct diplomatic shape and return it to to the chief, who would make numerous corrections, and it would then, perhaps, be discussed at length between the two before the document received tis final form.  There is a story how, upon one occasion, the head of one of the departments of the Ministry  asked the Minister to write a letter in his own hand, as the recipient was a ruling prince of Germany--'Must I write it myself?' he pleaded.  'Yes, to an Elector.'  'But to write and compose at the same time is really too much.  So I will write but you must dictate it!'

--Talleyrand by Duff Cooper

September 9,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

'Security for business doesn't give people the right to invade and kill their neighbours!' protested Matthew.

'My dear chap, I couldn't agree with you more.  But there comes a point where the justice of the matter becomes irrelevant.  You must look at the situation from the Japanese point of view.  For them it was a matter of life and death because while the Kuomintang was putting their investment in China at risk they were faced at home by the disastrous effects of the slump.  In 1929, forty per cent of Japan's total export trade was in raw silk.  It only needed the collapse of American prosperity and a consequent plunge in the demand for silk to bring the Japanese economy to catastrophe.  Raw silk exports were halved almost overnight.  Sales of cotton and manufactured goods joined the slide!  What were they expected to do?  Sit at home and starve?  Let's not be naive, my boy.  Justice is always bound to come a poor second to necessity.  Strong nations survive.  Weak nations go to the wall, that has always been the way of the world and always will be!  The point is, can one blame them for taking matters into their own hands?  From the business point of view they were in a pickle.  And now, mind you, with their assets frozen and their difficulties in getting raw materials their pickle is going from bad to worse.  I believe the Americans should give them the raw materials they need.  Otherwise what can they do but grab them by force?'  Noticing that the Commander-in-Chief was looking taken aback by this suggestion, Walter added tactfully: 'Not that they'd get very far in this part of the world.'

'The reason the Japs are so touchy and arrogant is that they eat too much fish,' said Brooke-Popham.  'It's scientific.  The iodine in their diet plays hell with their thryoids.  They can't help themselves.  So, no, I suppose one can't blame them.'

--The Singapore Grip by J.G. Farrell

September 8,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

For the truth was, he went on, that in the event of hostilities in the Pacific, Malaya could find her food supplies in jeopardy, at least in the long run, because the greater part of the country's rice had to be imported.  Ten years of effort (he himself had served on the Rice Cultivation committee set up in 1930) still had not induced the native smallholders to grow rice instead of rubber.  They were too idle.  What could you do with such people?

'I supposed they think that rubber is more profitable,' suggested Matthew.

'I suppose they do,' agreed Walter.

'And they're right, aren't they?'

'Oh, I wouldn't say that, exactly.'  Walter's tone was casual but he glanced sharply at Matthew as he spoke.  'There have been great variations in demand, of course, for rubber.  Point is they can't eat it in bad times.  Otherwise it would be the perfect crop for a country like this.  Rice involves too much hard work.  Anyway, there it is, we have to import it in vast quantities to feed the estate workers.'

'Perhaps the estates should grow rice . . .' murmured Matthew.  'It seems unfair to expect the smallholders to grow a less profitable crop simply to allow the estates to go on growing the more profitable crop . . .'

'Ah, but we haven't agreed the rice is less profitable.'

'In that case why do the estates . . . ?'

'Drat!' exclaimed Mrs Blackett, hearing a distant bell.  'They're arriving already and just as we were beginning to have a nice talk.'

--The Singapore Grip by J.G. Farrell

[N.B.:  And there, in a nutshell, is why formerly colonized peoples seem to be so unreasonably upset about being colonized--what with all the benefits of civilization and what not (not to mention demon rum).]

September 7,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

It was as if, looking into her mother's faded features, he was confronted by a simplified version of Joan's and could say to himself: 'So that's the sort of face it's supposed to be!'  It was a process not very different, he supposed, from thinking a girl was beautiful because she reminded you of a painting by Botticelli: if you had never seen the painting you would not have noticed her.

--The Singapore Grip by J.G. Farrell

September 6,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

The question of palm-oil, though, had lodged in Walter's mind like a coiled bamboo hair: insignificant at first, it was coming imperceptibly to irritate him.  Blackett and Webb should have become involved in palm-oil ten years ago.  A businessman must move with the times.  How often, recalling the fate of the fine-millers of rice in London ruined by the opening of the Suez Canal, had he not warned young men against thinking that a business could be maintained in a changing world without constant change!

--The Singapore Grip by J.G. Farrell

[N.B.:  Again: Who'd of thunk it?]

September 5,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

Fluctuating markets do not help producers because an artificial boom brings with it inevitably its dark shadow, a collapse.  And a collapse in prices brings far more difficulties for the producer than the boom earlier brought advantages.

--The Singapore Grip by J.G. Farrell

[N.B.:  Who'd of thunk it?]

September 4,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

One of the challenges of writing a novel about a novelist is that novel-writing is essentially a private, solitary and largely mental activity, whereas writing and producing plays is essentially collaborative and interactive - the stuff of fiction.

--The Year of Henry James: The Story of a Novel by David Lodge

[N.B.:  Hence the reason there are many more novels about the life of Shakespeare as opposed to other writers--oh, and there's that small matter that Shakespeare was the greatest of all writers too.]