The agreeable eye

an eudæmonistarchives

January 2002

7.01.02 – Monday

7 January 2002, around 17.16.

Have spent much of the weekend in bed with a cold and only now have the inclination to write even a little bit. Watched the DVD of Jan Svankmajer’s Alice (1988) this morning. It’s a strange film, all ominous puppetry and dark innocence.

It started snowing last night and is now snowing again, big, heavy flakes flying in all directions.

More of my garlic has sprouted; this was not intentional. Which troubles me.

8.01.02 – Tuesday

8 January 2002, around 17.17.

Went last night to the Pleasant St. Theater and saw The Royal Tenenbaums on M’s recommendation. Anyway, it was enjoyable, much as reading Sartre or Pound in a bus station with the cold smell of dirt, stale coffee, and old cigarettes is fun, I suppose. It was uplifting, a tale of redemption, &c.

Walked home amid snow flurries, past the yellowish, much-coveted Metropolis poster (ein Film von Fritz Lang), across the iridescence and cornstarch creaking of dry snow, and was lazy enough to take the elevator instead of the stairs. Then I fell asleep over The Banquet Years (on pre-WWI France), which my mother has been politely encouraging me to read for the past five years, though only now have I been able to find a copy…

10.01.02 – Thursday

10 January 2002, around 17.18.

I wonder if it isn’t just a certain arrogance, quaedam insolentia, that marks the difference. There’s a nuance to that – it’s not just an overweening sense of superiority, it’s also an innocence, an ignorance, an inexperience. Yes, I suppose.

14.01.02 – Monday

14 January 2002, around 17.19.

Returned some few books to the library, thank heavens, and read a few articles I’d meant to peruse in November. Still feel vastly, horribly behind – only the cruelty of my own ambition forces me on (which can be a good or a bad thing, as you will).

Speaking of ambition – St. Augustine: hmmm. Manners maketh man and all that. Are you elect? But always just a tinge of insecurity, the taint of, well, ‘brutishness’ – alas.

Also reading Alfred Russel Wallace’s A Narrative of Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro, e.g. (p.3):

My previous wanderings had been confined to England and a short trip on the Continent, so that everything here had the charm of perfect novelty. Nevertheless, on the whole I was disappointed. The weather was not so hot, the people were not so peculiar, the vegetation was not so striking, as the glowing picture I had conjured up in my imagination, and had been brooding over during the tedium of the sea-voyage.

His style reminds my of Gissing, while his descriptions of people are unutterably European, with that unconscious, worrisome sense of his own ability as an observer of ‘other’ things. (This is palpable, in slightly altered form, in Brown’s biography of Augustine, which makes rather too many points about ‘Africanness’ – in my own ignorance of the particulars, I cannot tell if he is following his prejudice or is making a valid historical point.)

18.01.02 – Friday

18 January 2002, around 17.20.

With continuing secularity: watched Psycho (1960) for the first time (ever) yesterday; it was better than its reputation would have one believe. J. Leigh was satisfactory, but really, Anthony Perkins… need I say more? I would imagine it would be great fun to watch with Jules Dassin’s Phaedra (1962), in which he plays another troubled son (remembering, of course, the myth of Hippolytos) and which contains, moreover, the ironic image of Melina Mercouri in the Parthenon Gallery at the British Museum (one will naturally remember that before her death she was the Greek minister of something-or-other whose main activity was to crusade for the return of those well-scrubbed bits of marble).

19.01.02 – Saturday

19 January 2002, around 17.22.

It seems a great pity to me that more people do not use proper handkerchiefs – as, for instance, the old man sneezing into the shrubberies.

Went for a long walk through the snowfall this evening, with the sole intent of ambling once the videos were returned. Snow accumulated quickly in my communist shoes.

I was advised by an unknown pedestrian to find a scarf, for my neck, you see, so I wouldn’t catch cold. For this unsolicited concern I expressed thanks, but felt no inclination to follow such wise instruction, and walked for a goodish while un-scarved. As I approached the apartment block, half watching the shadows of the drifting snowflakes, a few lines ran through my head: ‘I like a look of Agony, | Because I know it’s true…’ And to think, even now, that this quaint and unknowable versifier is just a few miles up the road.

22.01.02 – Tuesday

22 January 2002, around 17.24.

Have been thinking about that biography of St. Augustine, particularly such few paragraphs as I marked out for future reference, e.g.:

Augustine was a great intellect, with a healthy respect for the achievements of human reason. Yet he was obsessed by the difficulties of thought, and by the long, coercive processes, reaching back into the horrors of his own schooldays, that had made this intellectual activity possible; so ‘ready to lie down’ was the fallen human mind. He said he would rather die than become a child again (p. 238).

The passage continues in this vein, then speaks of the ‘sweet taste of sinning’ with which Augustine was rather more familiar than one would expect for a bishop, even in the northern Africa of late antiquity just before the Vandals arrived. What, though, does sinning taste like – the isolated and uneaten savor of stolen pears?

30.01.02 – Wednesday

30 January 2002, around 17.25.

Vergil is a hack.1 Homer (being collective) had it right; I don’t care if Iuno foments mishap for that man so blatantly remarkable for pietas (face it, Aeneas is a square – that’s what having a destiny does to people). I’d rather spend time with some πολύτροπος ἄνηρ.

However. ‘Borders are two-dimensional, permeable planes intersecting the earth’s surface at negotiated or disputed points – a country is anything contained by borders.’ – Intriguing the first time around; the second time, though, it’s more than a little trite (especially when a sound disparagement of the Roman Empire and a thorough boosting of the Mongol Empire is involved – comparative history is overrated and easily abused, if you ask me).

What is it with geography and history anyway? I know it’s all just ‘a conspiracy of cartographers’ but why make a virtue of furiously stating the obvious?

Or is rage all that’s left of inquiry? What an outrage.

  1. 27 Nov. 2010: I’m still not fond of Vergil, but this is perhaps a slight exaggeration. []

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