Riffing on Relevance

Like constructing a sundae

M. Thomas' book is as full of good things as a plum pudding, but in this particular case his observations are not arguments, they are impertinences. M. Thomas who, like nearly all Frenchmen, is an admirable writer, is here quite calmly telling two of he very greatest artists in prose, Tacitus and Petronius, how to write history, and how to write novels. He joins those critics, ancient and modern, who blame Jane Austen for not depicting English sentiment during the Napoleonic Wars, Charles Dickens for dealing with "low" life, and Rudyard Kipling for ignoring the struggles of Indian nationalism. A great artist has the right to make his own rules of relevance. It is obvious that all ancient historians, Polybius not excluded, had very different ideas from modern historians on what was relevant. No doubt a modern historian, with his academic career in mind, would, in the text and in the footnotes, have given us a complete biography of Petronius, the exact date of his birth, his full cursus honorum and list of works, with dates, places of publication, and variant editions. It would all be extremely useful and valuable; but how dull!
The M. Thomas in question is Émile Thomas and his book is Pétrone — l'envers de la société romaine. And the lovely passage above is by Gilbert Bagnani (Arbiter of Elegance: A Study of the Life & Works of C Petronius).

And so for day 1643
13.06.2011

De Sade and "de gustibus non est disputandum"

Mark Crick's pastiches in Kafka's Soup are smart. I particularly like the beginning of the "Boned stuffed poussains à la Marquis de Sade"

Should not the supreme aim of gastronomy be to untangle the confusion of ideas that confront mankind, and to provide this unfortunate biped with some guidance on how he should conduct himself and his appetites?
The best illustration accompanies the recipe for "Mushroom Risotto à la John Steinbeck"

Porcini waiting to be rehydrated, lying like dry soil in open hands, an iconic image for the Dust Bowl and yet unmistakable shards of wondrous flavour.

And so for day 1642
12.06.2011

The End is Nigh

Di Brandt does the apocalyptic tone so well and in such tiny space.

Diamond rivers, uranium valleys,
petroleum oceans.

         from Dog days in Maribor / Anti (electric) ghazals
Night and day, season after season, the predatory universe
exercises its tender heart: eating and being eaten, each with its
particular grace. The beaver becoming pond, the field mouse
becoming sky.

         from Horizon on fire
Both from Now You Care

And so for day 1641
11.06.2011

Chronos & Domus

What we carry with us is what sees us through

It occurs to me only now that perhaps that curious business of our time-reckoning system, as well as many other apparently irrational things we did, were done in part to save our faculties of adaptation for necessities. I still don't know whether it was inherent weakness or instinctive wisdom. It doesn't matter, really, and I see I'm digressing again. I am getting older. But I can still remember being very scornful of the same sentimental clinging to a calendar, when I was a child on Pluto — and here they'd had more excuse. Pluto doesn't rotate at all; it has no natural day. And its year is hundreds of Earth-years long. So for a system of time-reckoning that applied to human values, the old one was as good as any other there, except in terms of arithmetical efficiency.

Here it was another matter altogether: we forced an old system to fit new circumstance; why? Because we were human, and each of us had grown up somewhere. Because we had been children back there, and some part of each of us was still a child there, and needed a safe familiar handle of some sort to cling to. In space, we were completely set apart from 'home'. Time was our handle.
Judith Merril
Daughters of Earth

And so for day 1640
10.06.2011

Les Os Qui Dancent

"St. Norbert in July"
The poem is dedicated to Louise Halfe also know as Sky Dancer.

What is captivating is the litany of different dances all stepping to a final image

I Thirst Dance,
Ghost Dance,
I Give-Away Dance,
Beg Dance.
'Shot our children
as they gathered
wood.'

Skull Dance
'A mountain of bones.'
Di Brandt Now You Care

And so for day 1639
09.06.2011

Basics

She extols the basics under the rubric "Earthlings".

Basics are what gardening is all about, though there has been a dangerous tendency over the last couple of years for basics to be delicately, superciliously stifled by aesthetics. First you need to know what makes plants grow. After that you can enjoy the agony of deciding which plants they are to be be. If you do it the other way around, you find the garden littered with corpses. This is expensive for the gardener. Pretty sad for the plants too.
Anna Pavord. The Curious Gardener: A Year in the Garden.

And so for day 1638
08.06.2011

Reparations, Reconstruction and Revitalization

The Survivors acted with courage and determination. We should do no less. It is time to commit to a process or reconciliation. By establishing a new and respectful relationship, we restore what must be restored, repair what must be repaired, and return what what must be returned.
Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

And so for day 1637
07.06.2011

C-section Remedy

Judith Merril "Project Nursemaid"

The psychologist muses about the case before him.

But this girl with her tremulous smile and her frightened eyes and her unweathered skin — this girl had not yet realized even that it was a human life she carried inside herself; so far, she understood only that she had done something foolish, and that there was a slim chance she might be able to remedy the error without total disaster or too much dishonour.
This novella appears in a selection of three under the title Daughters of Earth

And so for day 1636
06.06.2011

O-U-A-T

Rifting on

Phil Hall
The Little Seamstress
"Blur"

  Once ruptures
hoisting continents riddled with guilt

  but Upon recites at bedtime
a protection-song very fast like maresy doats

  weaving us into only sound vestments
To arrive at
Once Upon A Time = it's almost (with silent E) = "OUATE" - cotton balls stuffed in ears to hear better the beating of the heart

And so for day 1635
05.06.2011

High Praise for Tulips

Anna Pavord.
The Curious Gardener: A Year in the Garden.

As far as I am concerned, these are the best, indeed the only flowers to send or receive on Valentine's Day. Wild, irrepressible, wayward, unpredictable, strange, subtle, generous, elegant, tulips are everything you would wish for in a lover. Best of all are the crazy parrot tulips such as 'Rococco' with red and pink petals feathered and flamed in crinkly lime-green. 'When a young man presents a tulip to his mistress,' wrote Sir John Chardin (Travels in Persia, 1686), 'he gives her to understand by the general red colour of the flower, that he is on fire with her beauty, and by the black base, that his heart is burned to coal.' That's the way to do it.
And so for day 1634
04.06.2011