le beau sejour de commun jour

“But if you look long enough to understand it, to conceive its sentiment, you will find that these wanton lines have a spirit guiding their caprices. For there is style there; one temper has shaded the whole; and everything that has style, that has been done as no other man or age could have done it, as it could never, for all our trying, be done again, has its true value and interest.”
—Walter Pater, The Renaissance, Fontana Library, 2nd imp., 1964, pp.170-71

Pater knows and declares that the Pléiade were nostalgists rather than modernists; making not a people’s art, but the poetry and prose of and for a courtly few and a vanishing culture, “the losing side, the forlorn hope”… And yet they were the first to see modern (meaning 16th century) French as the language of subtler expression, at once flippant and melancholy, helping dethrone a millennium’s uncritical reverence for classical Greek or Latin as the only tongues of literature and scholarship and wisdom — and they also began gently to set out the argument for the here-and-now as the better time to treasure, rather than eternity to come: “their dejection at the thought of leaving this fair abode of our common day…”

As established realism in the early 16th century this last perhaps only had unimpeachable appeal to a privileged few, but as a call to arms, is life is short so seize the day — despite its counterintuitive and unpromising provenance here — ever in the end anything but a call to a radical democracy?

did you once see shelley er plain? (look it up) (<-- comedy meme)

“I’ve just remembered the high point of my career. At the Cities In The Park Festival I was backstage wearing a pinwheel hat (look it up). I was obsessed with pinwheel hats, you see, and had written a piece for Punch about trying to buy a pinwheel hat in New York. As I strolled about, one of De La Soul suddenly gave out an mighty cry and ran up and embraced me. He was, perhaps needless to say, also wearing a pinwheel hat.”

Alternative headline: “I refute it thus” (bah, yes, look that up too).

political discussion as defence against experience: worse than ever

“And the question to be asked is not: What is my opinion of all this? That question is easily answered, but those who ask only that have fallen into the trap, for it is precisely the greatest error of our intellectual life to assume that the most effective way of dealing with any phenomenon is to have an opinion about it. The real question is: What is my relation to all this?”

Not just “my” relation, surely? Josh quotes Warshow: who I should read, of course. Influence doesn’t exist, but the sky on my planet is still that shade of yellow some days (today, for example). Hi Josh.

do not read if you hate subjective maps of the unconscious

When I was tidying up my CV a few months ago, a colleague suggested that the “complete” version should list every piece I ever wrote, and every dream I ever logged. I do kind of like this idea — if only for its obnoxious self-absorbed uselessness — but it will take a little work to go back and get the tags inserted. You can quite easily skip it, now and forever.

lost worlds

Tom links to a blog about Kit Williams’s Masquerade: a book that was published (1979) just as I was at my most judgmentally teenage and unimpressable. I didn’t like the art and I didn’t like the idea — and yet as a kid, I’d often spent hours poring over record sleeves or illustrations in books, the kind that seem to be nothing but detail, to piece together the implied totality of the secret. The 1954 Argo Under Milk Wood (feat.Richard Burton), for example (see below the cut); or the climactic humiliation scene from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (ditto), drawn by Pauline Baynes as if to encompass the entire lurid netherworld. Looking again at this images I don’t even know how my young eyes took in so much — so fuzzy and confused they seem now, and it’s not just my poor scanning, because what I do make out is nothing I don’t already know in my bones. Continue reading “lost worlds”

blue notes on the modern bürgerliches trauerspiel

As much as anything as an act of expiation, grief and guilt from safe exile — as if to say ‘Wish you were here’ — Adorno begins his Philosophy of Modern Music (1948) with a long crabbed mouthful of a quote from his dead friend Walter Benjamin, on the history of philosophy “viewed as the science of origins”, as being “that process which, from opposing extremes, and from the apparent excesses of development, permits the emergence of the configuration of an idea as a totality… ” The book that follows unfortunately merely juxtaposes Schoenberg and Stravinsky, only the extremes of development of “modern music” if your view is really quite intellectually parochial — certainly it’s hard to envisage Adorno writing well about (say) Jelly Roll Morton or Bessie Smith, but there you go. Still, the idea of attempting to juxtapose extremes — at least as a technique or habit — is pretty good critical practice, I think.  Continue reading “blue notes on the modern bürgerliches trauerspiel”