Agreeable eye.

an eudæmonistarchives

Archive for 2016

caresses and lullabies

And you have to realize that you cannot hope to console yourself for your grief by writing. You cannot deceive yourself by hoping for caresses and lullabies from your vocation. In my life there have been interminable, desolate empty Sundays in which I have desperately wanted to write something that would console me for my […]

indulge me

No one is telling me that I must like this book, and that is just as well because I do not. This book, Marguerite Duras’ Yann Andréa Steiner is not a bad book, but it is a self-indulgent one, and it approaches the reader with the watery over-familiarity of acknowledged eminence and suffering, for which […]

ennui ensues

Sunshine, from The Illustrated London News (1865) Peter Toohey’s Boredom: A Lively History is a competent bit of work, hitting the key surface points of the topic, from Aristotle to Heidegger, with an obligatory early twenty-first-century excursus on neuroscience. It is, as the acknowledgements give away, a commissioned book – an editor’s idea of something […]

Poe

a lyric elixir of death  embalms  the spindle spirits of your hour glass loves  on moon spun nights sets  icicled canopy  for corpses of poesy  with roses and northern lights  Where frozen nightingales in ilix aisles  sing burial rights – Mina Loy (Corpses and Geniuses, ‘Poe’)

Citation (53)

There is a legend about a prisoner sentenced to solitary confinement for life. He spent years scratching a boat on the wall with the handle of a prison spoon. One day, they brought him his water, bread, and gruel, as usual, but the cell was empty, and the wall was blank. He had climbed into […]

bettered novels (13)

Illustration from an 1802 edition of The Old English Baron.1 A first reading of Clara Reeve’s 1777 novel The Old English Baron did not leave much of an impression.2 In thinking back on it, I have a vague sense of a tedious simulacra of early modernity, somewhat less appealing than one of William Morris’s more […]

pragmatism

There are imperfections. A part of me would like to say that I have made a thing that is as perfect as possible, that the work’s flaws are entirely due to lack of technique or poor materials, but that is not the case: I have been lazy. I have made errors and, though I have […]

bettered novels (22.1)

First Impressions A walk in the country, ca. 1800 At the time I considered myself a great reader1 and East of Eden perhaps the greatest book ever written in English. So it is not a surprise that my first reading of Pride & Prejudice was not marked by any particular sympathy. It was recommended to […]

bettered novels (22.2)

Ampersand William Hogarth & Modern Morals. …more knowledge may be gained of a man’s real character, by a short conversation with one of his servants, than from a formal and studied narrative, begun with his pedigree, and ended with his funeral. – Samuel Johnson, quoted in Boswell’s The Life of Dr. Johnson (vol. 1, p. […]

Citation (54)

Pieter van der Borcht, engraving of a pelican from Sancti Epiphanii ad Physiologum (1588) Writing, that powerful myth. The highest degree of distinction; how can it happen? How can the eye become progressively sensitive to reading, how can it get into the rhythm, the music; how can it be hurt – as if the light […]

rather a chaos

From The Learned Lady in England I confess, there are many useless and superfluous books, and perchance mine will add to the number of them; especially it is to be observed, that there have been in this latter age, as many writers of natural philosophy, as in former ages there have been of moral philosophy; […]

Crambe repetita (43)

Danielle Dutton, Margaret the First.

springes

Forgot Easter is tomorrow. A gaggle of families carried four outsize crosses (not sturdy enough to bear human weight, but strong enough for faith I dare say) in the direction of the river. A few minutes later, a fifth cross scurried down the sidewalk to catch up. Or so it seemed from the coffee shop. […]

exchange

It cost too much, to begin with. I really had no excuse for buying it, except that I was feeling out of sorts and aphoristic philosophy seemed like a good choice at the time; it seemed to be a clean copy, too, which would go a little way to excusing the price. At home, however, […]

audax

A rather large spider has taken up residence in the living room. Well, it is not so much that the spider is large as that it has, shall we say, presence: one notices this spider. Indeed, it notices one right back, turning and glaring (if indeed spiders may be said to glare) when one comes […]

bears with swords

Plate with loversIn the same sense that The Need for Roots is primarily concerned with finding reasons for the fall of France and the Vichy government, Mavrogordato’s introduction to Digenes Akrites – while still an entertaining and enlightening excursion through the manuscript tradition and historical context of the poem – is less about Byzantine poetry […]

temptations

…one half of the road to temptation was already covered and it is only human in such situations that one should not stop half-way. For to tempt and to be tempted are closely allied; and in spite of all the finest moral maxims buried in the mind, when emotion interferes, when feeling makes its appearance, […]

Crambe repetita (44)

Poe, ‘The Philosophy of Furniture’.

self-as-character

Thomas Patch, self portrait (late 1760s) In our society the character one performs and one’s self are somewhat equated, and this self-as-character is usually seen as something housed in the body of its possessor, especially the upper parts thereof, being a nodule, somehow, in the psychobiology of personality.[….] In analysing the self, then, we are […]

spindrift

I grew weary of everything. In that state I re-acquired my love of reading, which I had long ago lost. The time for books I stole from my work, and that brought me fresh punishments. But, spurred on by opposition, this taste soon became a furious passion. […] Good or bad was alike to me. […]

Citation (55)

on the best society…

cavilling

Crambe repetita (45)

Gert Jonke, The System of Vienna.

non disputandum

One might be tempted to think this is merely the result of a false sort of conjugation, something along the lines of: ‘I have taste; you have preferences; s/he has an unfortunate partiality’; except I would be the first to admit that I have no real taste – it has been rarefied out of me […]

up to nature

Mirror Lake on an overcast day Ordinarily, I go to the woods alone, with not a single friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore unsuitable. [ . . . ] If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love you very much. –Mary Oliver, ‘How I go to […]

7 September 2016 – Paris

Day 1 (belated). Walked south and stopped in at the church of Saint-Séverin, built to honor a fifth century hermit. A Romanesque church was built on the site in the eleventh century, but the present structure is the accretion of centuries onto a thirteenth century building. There are some quite nice gargoyles on the outside, […]

8 September 2016 – Paris

Day 2. Walked north to Sacré-Cœur, because PF wanted to see inside before the crowds arrived. The last time we were in Paris (some six years ago) we sat outside on a step reading while a constant pulse of people took nearly 45 minutes to circulate through the building. I wish there had been a […]

9 September 2016 – Paris

Day 3. Headed west to go to Rodin museum, but spotted the late nineteenth century church of Saint-François-Xavier and stopped to look around. It appeared a suitable, sober, appropriate 19th century church and so, indeed, it proved. The lines were bright and clean, most of the artwork tasteful if mediocre – and I will admit […]

10 September 2016 – Paris

Day 4. Headed north and a bit east to the Picasso Museum – a lingering irritability about Rodin making us somewhat hesitant, especially knowing two floors of the museum are currently closed to prepare for a new exhibition. We needn’t have worried. The basement featured an exhibit by Spanish artist Miquel Barceló (one of his […]

11 September 2016 – Paris

Day 5. We have reached that portion of the vacation where we are no longer disposed to be pleased by anything – though we did make the obligatory pilgrimage to 12 Rue de l’Odeon while we waited for bookstores to open. After that, there was nothing to be done but retreat to the comfort of […]

12 September 2016 – Paris

Day 6. We decided to walk east along the Blvd. Saint-Germain until we got tired or could think of a destination. We stopped in at the late 17th-century church of Saint-Nicolas du Chardonnet, which had the eeriest sense of tension about it of any church I’ve been in. A priest patrolled the aisles, and such […]

13 September 2016 – Paris

Day 7. We went to Notre Dame first, thinking to climb the towers and admire the grotesques, but at opening time the guard estimated the line was already 45 minutes long – and to the unpracticed eye it certainly looked longer. So we decided to head to Père-Lachaise Cemetery (on which more anon) via the […]

14 September 2016 – Paris

Day 8. Took the Métro to the Balzac house museum – first time not venturing out on foot for these excursions. The Maison de Balzac is in the 16th arrondissement, just across the river from that dreadful iron tower. Like most house museums, it is an odd assortment of personal belongings and contextual clues – […]

15 September 2016 – Paris

Day 9. We intended to climb the towers at Notre Dame today, and waited in line in the rain for some twenty minutes to find out there was a strike and the towers were shut. So we went to the Centre Pompidou and found we had arrived forty minutes too early. We wandered away to […]

16 September 2016 – Crézan

Day 10. And at last we have arrived. It is autumn – the haws are ripening and the cyclamen are blooming. We’ve taken our country walk and are ready to curl up with a book.

17 September 2016 – Bibracte

Day 11. Our first real ‘excursion’ – to the Gaulish site of Bibracte on Mont Beuvray in Burgundy. Abandoned after the Roman conquest of Gaul (in favor of the town of Autun, which some scholars had believed to be the site of the battle of Bibracte – where Caesar defeated the Helvetii in 58 BCE), […]

19 September 2016 – Paris

Day 13. Reached saturation level for museums today. All the busts of Antinous merged at last into the unattainable; the funerary reliefs of society ladies looked at eternity with boredom; the sirens and sphinxes on red figure vases bemused and befuddled and bewildered. In short, it was worth the 45-minute wait in the mizzle. · […]

wellspring

Il y a de certaines choses dont la médiocrité est insupportable : la poésie, la musique, la peinture, le discours public. – La Bruyère (Les Caractères, I.7) * * * Words are not terms, and thus are not like buckets and kegs from which we scoop a content that is there. Words are wellsprings that are found […]

applicability

…of this I am sure, that if much writing be a disease, then the best philosophers, both moral and natural, as also the best divines, lawyers, physicians, poets, historians, orators, mathematicians, chemists, and many more have been grievously sick: and Seneca, Pliny, Aristotle, Cicero, Tacitus, Plutarch, Euclid, Homer, Virgil, Ovid, St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, Scotus, […]

tautologous (2)

These are by no means all of the books I read this year that I found enjoyable or good, but they are the ones that, when thinking back over the year, stood out to me as some of the better ones – or at least the ones that were the right books for me at […]

A view (46)

snow, Zigzag.

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