Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Age of awe, age of memory

It is difficult to avoid
namedropping in times of
epistolary stress, invok-
ing others to sustain a
matter to be personally
confessed. It revolts us
to observe that habit ad-
opted as a fetish, in-
famous among disciples
of William Buckley. Yet
even low church patriots 
were taken into schools,
where the catechism ad-
mitted their memory for
just such times as ours.
Sometimes the ages wink.

Has anyone ever seen a
caricature of such im-
becility as now is giv-
en us every day, by the
most dangerous man on
Earth? Yes, at least in
the last 300 years.

And the hell of it is,
it's easy to remember.

             High on a gorgeous seat, that far outshone
             Henley's gilt Tub, or Fleckno's Irish Throne,
             Or that, where on her Curlls, the Public pours
             All-bounteous, fragrant grains, and golden showers;
             Great Tibbald sate: The proud Parnassian sneer,
             The conscious simper, and the jealous leer,
             Mix on his look. All eyes direct their rays
             On him, and crowds grow foolish as they gaze,
             Not with more glee, by hands Pontific crown'd,
             With scarlet hats, wide waving, circled round,
             Rome in her Capitol saw Querno sit,
             Thron'd on sev'n hills, the Antichrist of Wit.


Under these variations
of acute mental complex-
ity, we do not know, at
any given hour, what pon-
tification to expect of
our exalted idiot. As of
the moment, Nazis were
back in vogue, and the
gentle art of public as-
sembly was being upheld
as their right against
dissidents of violence.

is bound to be revised,
pending its recital anew,
in future moments of in-
vincible rapture in fury.

Our Tibbald has vowed it.
Let's just keep the lan-
guage open, to illuminate
his wondrous manuscript.

Alexander Pope
The Dunciad Variorum
  Book the Second
John Butt
The Poems of
  Alexander Pope

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Wagtail at the dam

As much as I respect the in-
centives and the challenges
of pruning one's shelves of
volumes of no foreseeable
further use, not to mention
enjoying the false compas-
sion of palming the stuff
off on the nearest charity
or shut-in, I have to count
myself among the many who
suffer for that lapse of vi-
sion. Only the other day, I
found myself pining, out of
thin air, for a book I pick-
ed up in the '70s, the way
we all used to do back then,
on a speculative browse in a
well-worn, trusted bookshop, 
deep among spines of note.

Provenance is always a part
of things, I admit, but it
was for its content that I
felt myself rather wounded,
and the airy designer maxim
of editing the habitat felt,
I have to confess, an irrit-
ating poultice. By all means
it is the worst, for no one
else to blame, such as an ef-
ficient parent, disposing of
an unhandsomely worn address
book in calf, marred by au-
tographs of every baseball
great in the National League
in one's childhood. Who'd im-
agine re-reading the signature
of Sandy Koufax, some quiet af-
ternoon in Summer, somewhere?

From time to time an available
vengeance seizes the better of
anyone in this predicament, and
the search goes forth at the u-
sual sites, to retrieve a fac-
simile of the original. I was
prompted in this way, not long
ago, to track down a volume I
missed acutely, compiling no-
thing more than Letters to the
Editor of The Times (London),
from the first 75 years of the 
previous century.

The spirit of observation, now
desolatingly lacking from pub-
lic comment, to say nothing of 
an élan of disputation, equally
moribund, merge in these letters
with an aspect of responsibility
to community which, to our ears,
enriches familiar vanity with its
inherent grace note, of comedy.
But perhaps I merely recite, in
this way, the qualities of the
English Cocker Spaniel.

I give you, for example, a modest
intervention from the Chancellor
of the Exchequer, soon to become
more eminent in another Ministry -

               January 24, 1933

               It may be of interest to record that,
               in walking through St James's Park to-
               day, I noticed a grey wagtail running
               about on the now temporarily dry bed of
               the lake, near the dam below the bridge,
               and occasionally picking small insects
               out of the cracks in the dam.
               Probably the occurrence of this bird in
               the heart of London has been recorded 
               before, but I have not previously noted
               it in the Park.

                    I am your obedient servant,
                         Neville Chamberlain

Kenneth Gregory
Your Obedient Servant
  A selection of the most witty,
  amusing and memorable let-
  ters to The Times of London,
Methuen, 1976©

Nicolas de Staël
Voiliers à Antibes

Monday, August 14, 2017

All travesty is local

I purchase my wines from one of two
shops, each no more than a hundred
yards from where Donald Trump's fol-
lowers murdered a resident of Char-
lottesville on Saturday. Not two
hundred yards away, is the bookshop
where I purchase poetry, Wodehouse,
and the occasional history. I host
my friends at an al fresco French
restaurant, down that very street,
on the premise that to dine out-
side, is not, technically, a vio-
lation of the masthead's dark view
of such conduct. I happen not to
believe, that a gentleman dines in
restaurants, but less contentious-
ly, until the present government,
I have always believed the nation
is constituted against mob rule.

Now one finds, the daily life of
discrete discretions that Char-
lottesville supports is, to the
menace of Trump, what an assump-
tion of immunity is to a virus:
an almost aggravated assault. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

His Katrina moment

         August 12, 2017


Willy Vanderperre

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Summer negatives

                   A man, of no particular interest,
                   in seeing civilization inherited, 
                   can ill be trusted to see that it

ii  Ernst Haas

iv  Josef Sudek

Friday, August 11, 2017

He's come alive

     Who can forget Michael Corleone's
     pride, promising his father that
     he'd be able to handle the blood-
     bath they had planned when he took
     power, that 3-year-old Anthony is
     already reading the funny papers?
     But even he does not rest his case
     on the oxymoron, military solutions.

     We'll get there, Pop.
     We'll get there.

Francis Ford Coppola
Mario Puzo and
  Francis Ford Coppola
The Godfather
Paramount, 1972©

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Exhausted stars

The columnist David Brooks confided to his nearest and dearest hundred thousand in The Times (NY) today, that he has joined that cadre of seers whose spirit is drained of respect at last, for the task of resisting the new government. Much better, he avers, to turn one's specula-tions on the likely extent of the wreckage as its eventual legacy; and, far from expecting any restorations, to build the new expression of a national value system, from what one may find.

I hope one joins the field of gravity in the Letters, excusing him from further illuminations.

Cy Twombly
Note 1

Otto Lotz

Monday, August 7, 2017

Expected somewhere?

Let us strive together to part
with time more reluctantly, to
watch the pinions of the fleet-
ing moment until they are dim
in the distance & the new com-
ing moment claims our attention.

Emily Dickinson
8 September 1846

Peter Shear

Josh Olins
Tim Schuhmacher