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ARCHIVED ENTRIES FOR SEPTEMBER 2013

September  30,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

"I've never felt loyalty to any organizations, Skip.  Just to my comrades-in-arms.  You fight for that guy on your right and that guy on your left.  It's a cliché, but clichés are mostly true.

--Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson

September  24,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

"The Buddha describes four truths: Dukkha, Samudaya, Nirodha, Magga.  Life is suffering.  Suffering comes from grasping.  Grasping can be relinquished.  The Eightfold Path leads to this relinquishment."

"You believe it?"

"Not all of it.  I can only tell you my experience.  I know from experience that life is suffering, and that suffering comes from clinging to things that won't stay."

--Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson

September  23,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

"In Vietnam," Trung said, "we have the Confucian mode for times of stability--for wisdom, social conduct, and so on.  We have the Buddhist mode for times of tragedy and war--for acceptance of the facts, and for keeping the mind single."

--Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson

September  18,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

[Talleyrand] interrupted her with the words: 'In truth, there is nothing less aristocratic than unbelief.'

These words should be borne in mind, when reading the account of what followed.  A great change had come over the attitude of the upper classes towards religion since the French Revolution.  Doubt had proved to be the friend of disorder, and atheism the parent of anarchy.  The Holy Alliance had not been merely a fantasy of Alexander's ill-ordered brain.  Everywhere those who desired the maintenance of the existing order turned to the faith of their fathers as the safest guarantee for the future.  Ethical convictions, none the less firmly held because of their political origin, appeared on the surface as a change in manners and a new tone in society.  To be sceptical was no longer the fashion, and Talleyrand had been a man of fashion all his life.

--Talleyrand by Duff Cooper

September  17,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

The French have long memories; for them politics are the continuation of history.  Royalist, Bonapartist, Republican--most French writers belong to one of these categories.  Talleyrand belonged to none of them and has therefore never found his defender in France.  Yet it is not for the French to decry him, for every change of allegiance that he made was made by France.  Not without reason did he claim that he never conspired except when the majority of his countrymen were involved in the conspiracy.

--Talleyrand by Duff Cooper

September  16,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Then followed a description of the perfect Minister for Foreign Affairs.  'A sort of instinct, always prompting him, should prevent him from compromising himself in any discussion.  He must have the faculty of appearing open, while remaining impenetrable; of masking reserve with the manner of careless abandon; of showing talent even in the choice of his amusements.  His conversation should be simple, varied, unexpected, always natural and sometimes naive; in a word, he should never cease for an instant during the twenty-four hours to be a Minister of Foreign Affairs.'

--Talleyrand by Duff Cooper

[N.B.:  It's as if Talleyrand could see into the future and saw windsurfing Kerry tossing off bon mots about being "unbelievably small" as he deftly negotiated the shoals of global politics.]

September  15,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

In the most famous passage of his speech he used words strangely suggestive of those that an American President was to use long afterwards and make famous.  'In our time it is not easy to deceive for long.'  Forty years later Abraham Lincoln discovered that one could not fool all the people all the time.  'There is someone,' Talleyrand went on, 'who is cleverer than Voltaire, cleverer than Bonaparte, cleverer than any of the Directors, than any Minister in the past or in the future; and that person is everybody (tout le monde).  To engage, or at least to persist, in a struggle in which you may find everybody interested on the other side is a mistake, and nowadays all political mistakes are dangerous.'

--Talleyrand by Duff Cooper

[N.B.:  With apologies to the Great Cham, I refute it thus: Kerry (solider than any kicked stone).]

September  14,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Against the wiles of the subtlest intriguer there is no weapon so effective as impenetrable stupidity.

--Talleyrand by Duff Cooper

[N.B.:  Once again, one may as well, as put in Acts, "kick against the pricks," as kick against Kerry.  He will not be moved.]

September  13,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

In normal times a statesman may have doubts and hesitations, but when the crucial moment arrives he must know his own mind and be prepared to force his opinion upon others.

--Talleyrand by Duff Cooper

[N.B.:  Who knew Kerry was the modern Talleyrand?  Even his unintended, off-the-cuff remarks he can force upon the head of our most powerful rival.]

September  12,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

There is a curious parallel between the position of the emperor Alexander at this time and that occupied a century later by President Wilson.  Both represented enormously powerful nations called upon for the first time to play decisive parts in the settlement of Europe.  Both had been nurtured in liberal principles and were actuated by generous sentiments.  Vague aspirations played a larger part in their mental equipment than practical experience.  They believed that every nation should be given the government that it desired, and they hoped, the one by means of a Holy Alliance and the other by a League of Nations, to secure the future peace of the world.  Both these men of brilliant attainments seemed for a short period to dominate the world; bot of them a few years after their moment of triumph, ended their careers prematurely in an atmosphere of tragedy and failure.

--Talleyrand by Duff Cooper

September  11,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

'Nobody can talk like M. de Talleyrand in a library; he takes up a book and puts it down again, contradicts it, leaves it and returns to it, questions it as though it were a living being, and this procedure both enriches his conversation with the profundity and the experience of the ages and gives to the works in question a grace which their authors often lacked.'  It is curious that Aimée de Coigny and Anna Potocka, who possibly never met, and certainly never read one another's reminiscences, should have both been struck by the same quality in Talleyrand and should have both recorded it.

--Talleyrand by Duff Cooper

September  10,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

'M. de Talleyrand did me the honours of his collection; it was natural that so wealthy a connoisseur should have collected the most beautiful and the rarest editions, but the charming manner in which he showed me his books was beyond comparison; he never told one anything that one could know already, nor anything that other people has already said or written; he talked very little about himself and a great deal about the distinguished people with whom he had come in contact.  In a word he was as well educated as it is possible for a great nobleman to be if he devotes a lot of time to pleasure.  To complete this flattering portrait, which is not that of a flatterer, I will say that M. de Talleyrand possessed a marvellous art of making one forget his past when he talked about the present.'

--Talleyrand by Duff Cooper

[N.B.:  So says the Countess Potocka, who otherwise thoroughly disliked and disapproved of Talleyrand.  So now you know the secret of winning over your enemies through conversation: merely amuse them with stories about the great personages who are your acquaintances and never repeat something written or said by others.]

September  9,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

A master who will not trust his own servants is the more likely to be deceived by them.

--Talleyrand by Duff Cooper

September  8,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

The commander, not a young man, said, "We've been worried about you for some time.  You cannot ask a man to do something you can't do yourself.  Shoot.  Now."

And the figure who had been trembling in and out of the gunsight half spun to one side, as though he had been dealt a heavy blow, and then fell on the path on the slope.

The squad commander said to the shocked villager, "You see.  That's all there is to it."

When his blood cooled, Willie thought, "I am among absolute maniacs."

A little later he thought, "That was my first idea, in the camp in the teak forest.  I allowed the idea to be buried.  I had to do that, so that I could live with the people I found myself among.  Now that idea has resurfaced, to punish me.  I have become a maniac myself.  I must get away while I still have time to return to myself.  I know I have that time."

--Magic Seeds by V. S. Naipaul

[N.B.:  Why is Naipaul the one living writer guaranteed to join the ranks of the Literary Tradition?  Because he writes simply about the modern condition and with absolute clarity--both as to style and truth (indeed, truth, like trout, cannot live in clogged pools whether they be of cant or muck, but only in the quicksilver streams of pure, refreshing prose or rainwater--all comes from above).]

September  7,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Now there came the order for the squad to get villagers to kill better-off farmers.  This was no longer optional, a goal that might be reached one day when conditions were suitable.  This was an order, like a retail chain ordering its managers to improve sales.  The council wanted figures.

--Magic Seeds by V. S. Naipaul

September  6,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

It's always easy to see the other man's strangeness.  We can see the madness of those villagers who wanted us to kill people for them.  Those men with the badly made, twisted faces, as though they had literally had a terrible time being born.  We can't see our own strangeness.  Though I have begun to feel my own."

--Magic Seeds by V. S. Naipaul

September  5,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Willie remembered one of the things Ramachandra used to say: "We must give up the idea of remaking everybody.  Too many people are too far gone for that.  We have to wait for this generation to die out.  This generation and the next.  We must plan for the generation after that."

--Magic Seeds by V. S. Naipaul

September  4,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

I began to feel that because of my insecurity--the insecurity I had been born into, like you--I had yielded too often to accidents, and that these accidents had taken me further and further away from myself.  When I told my wife I was leaving her because I was tired of living her life, she said something very strange.  She said it wasn't really her life.  I have been thinking of that in the past two years, and I believe now that what my wife was saying was that her life was as much a series of accidents as I thought mine was.

--Magic Seeds by V. S. Naipaul

September  3,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

He said, "What books did you read when you were young?"

Willie said, "I tried reading The Vicar of Wakefield.  I didn't understand it.  I didn't know who those people were, or why I was reading about them.  I couldn't relate it to anything I knew.  Hemingway, Dickens, Marie Corelli, The Sorrows of Satan--I had the same trouble with them and all the others.  In the end I had the courage to stop reading them.  The only things I understood and liked were fairy stories.  Grimm, Hans Andersen.  But I didn't have the courage to tell my teachers or my friends."

--Magic Seeds by V. S. Naipaul

September  1,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Willie said, "What does a courier do?"

"He takes messages from one area to another, passes on instructions.  He's not a fighter, he never knows the whole situation, but he's important.  He might do other things as well, depending on the situation.  He might ferry arms from point A to point B.  The point about a good courier is that he has to look OK everywhere.  He must never stand out.  and you do that very well, Willie.  Have you ever watched a street?  I have, watching for policemen in disguise, and it doesn't take long to spot the people in a street who don't belong.  Even trained people.  They can't help it.  They give themselves away in twenty ways.  But for some reason Willie looks at home everywhere.  Even in the bagasse yard he looked at home."

Willie said, "It's the one thing I have worked at all my life: not being at home anywhere, but looking at home."

--Magic Seeds by V. S. Naipaul