Ephemeris is updated every few days, then archived at the end of each month 





September 23, 2023: Done. That is to say I have finished Swann’s Way, and I had intended to take a break from being ‘Proustian’ (one becomes that merely by reading the man, endless semi-clauses the culprit), only I found myself almost immediately getting on the next Proustian train or: Within a Budding Grove, part one. Will there be a bar car on this train? Can one get something to eat other than powdered chicken soup? Shall we count the ways by which our civilization becomes gradually and even precipitously less civilized? Powdered chicken soup… Stale crisps… Them there Masters of the Universe… you squeeze for yourself a profit and then, super yacht-wise, you flee the civilization, the monster you created, Proust or no Proust, fresh sage or not for one’s sausage rolls…

In any case, Within a Budding Grove is novel number two in the seven volume opus Proust wrote called À la recherche du temps perdu, a title which I am getting rather tired of typing out, just that, should you be a first time reader landed on these posts, you will not otherwise know what I am on about. Me, I figure that if a fellow shut himself up in a cork-lined room for ten years and blacked out all distractions and plopped himself on a bed and wrote – in some kind of continuous fashion, well, I am almost obliged to read the result, seeing as Proust, for one, took all that trouble…. These days, however, he could have hit a button and let some high tech wizardry do the driving… Venal remark on my part, I know, but you know, we are, in fact, being stampeded that way, and what is with that corral up ahead?

So, Swann’s Way winding down, and all the natural laws of the universe are crashing down on Swann’s head, Swann’s love of Odette revealed for what it was: egoism with a bit of an erotic kick. The law of averages is what it is: over time things even out, and Swann finds himself in the rather ridiculous position of having to admit he has not even liked the woman who has so obsessed him. But what’s that to us, says the joker to the pastry chef? Well, everything and nothing. Cornelius W Drake will write me from Champagne-Urbana to say that evil, what comprises evil, is that it is the flavour of the month, or that what Christians thought about slavery around the time of Christ and what they thought about it a thousand years later, and given what we are thinking now – oh, look – sex trafficking, sweatshops, and my, that piece of apparel is coercion-free… surely, you get the idea: it is a matter of opinion, and opinions change….

Odette had to survive, of course, eat and pay the mortgage, and men were her means, Swann almost the last one to know, he going about in a bubble self-made. That business with Vinteuil’s sonata (silly me, I had always thought the fictional Vinteuil was the real-life Debussy, but no, not true); a certain phrase in the music which served as a lens through which Swann viewed Odette (oh dear, this is getting thick) – but that either the music grounded Swann in the only reality there is qua reality or it swelled the bubble in which Swann housed himself to grotesque proportions… A sidebar to the immediately above is to ask whether, in fact, ‘democracy’ is, like romantic love, an illusion, and whether Trump is a kind of messenger for saying so? Ask me, I would answer that I despise the man and what he has managed to bring about. That he is a serious impediment to the savouring of one’s rumpot vintage and viewing the lake from one’s Peachland (B.C.) verandah like a civilized mensch. (The Comptroller of the Universe happens to be out there just now visiting old pals. She will endeavour to suppress all mention of the man in the interests of not casting a pall on the pleasures, but just as there is, of late, the wildfire smoke in the area, so there is that other thing – man-brat, the ubiquity of.)

Someone is composing a violin concerto to be dedicated to Lunar. Christ, what else does he need? But seeing as the composer is a talented one, and that mention of this intent followed upon Lunar’s mention of some ‘remarkable’ bluegrass music to be heard in a flick called Spring Night, Summer Night (1967, and it was as if De Sica & Co. had lived and worked up some neorealismo in Ohio, and on the slimmest of budgets), and I should imagine that music needs no excuses to be excellent, merely good, or outright indifferent. I have seen the movie here in question, and, as it was for Lunar, it was familiar territory – with or without the booze, and as when one wonders about certain bloodlines in certain counties… Ohio? Lunar hides away in Hammersmith (London) which has the Apollo (a theatre) and a bridge. Some high-end shopping, too…

One thing I have not seen in person, as it were: ‘The Tomb of the Diver’ in Paestum. It is quite the image, that one of a diver ‘representing the passage from life to the death of the soul’ as per Lunar, and as per anyone else he got those words from, and the way the image works on the eyes, it would seem the passage is a lark and is not at all as laborious a business as Italian bureaucracy. Otherwise, otherwise…

Postscript I:
Nothing, today, from Talking Avocado. He has nothing to say as to whether a woman wrote The Odyssey or if it was written by a hot dog vendor in Knossos. Sometimes he regards culture as the only thing that makes life worthwhile living. Sometimes he regards culture as unmitigated hell, as there are so many people who keep trying to invent the thing as opposed to letting it happen. But then there are ‘cultures’ such as locker room culture or the ‘culture of a certain office space’ or a certain police force &c (or shall we just say Alabama, the 60s et al?), and all of it connotates negativities, that they are in play over and above what is civil. At this point, Talking Avocado will say his head hurts and he wishes to sign off from the so-called human race, ‘human race’ being a pair of words which some who are accustomed to their solitariness will employ when they are embarrassed for the rest of us. “You want me to come out and play? Sample, perhaps, some macarons? Sure, but only if you promise not to let the word ‘culture’ bounce off your lips in my direction.”

Postscript II: I do not really believe that Cornelius W Drake, frequently made mention of in these posts, is a relativist at heart, but that he had to peddle his arse for a degree, and he has a living to make, and he has an audience to court that insists on situational ethics. Which is fine, so far as that goes. Just that, in life, there is a great deal that goes further than the 'situation', and once certain lines have been crossed, the reach of redemption diminishes exponentially.

Postscript III, Existential Department:

Wee, sleekit, cow’rin’, tim’rous beastie,/O what a panic’s in thy breastie!

From A Mouse, Robert Burns, 1785, in light of a few Dems and Trump. Or this:

Shrewdness, which belongs to the intellect, is employed most often to make up for a scarcity of intellect, and to overcome a greater abundance of intellect in others.

From Pensieri, Giacomo Leopardi (d. 1837). According to some introductory remarks to the edition of the Pensieri I have, Leopardi never ‘adapted’; he was something of an absolutist, or that there are certain principles one does not compromise, ever. Which made of him a fool. And it is why certain fools, rather than most intellectuals, keep us honest.

September 18, 2023: Can one write a critique of Proust that plows as deep as his prose? Is the snow on Neptune truly blue? I am more than halfway through Swann’s Way. I have been bored in stretches, but I have so far never doubted that Proust had mastery of his intentions, one of which is that you – the reader – feel the disgust that comes of realizing one has lied to oneself with respect to people one has pretended to admire but at bottom did not. Or that Swann’s love of Odette may or may not have been real, but it is looking like he is going to ask himself soon enough whatever did he see in the woman, and he is going to feel exhausted from his jealousy and irritated with his own venality, and then, good God, he is going to marry her?

I have been saying for the past three posts that I have begun rereading À la recherche du temps perdu, a series of novels (published roughly a century ago), of which Swann’s Way was the first installment, and I aim to read all seven volumes so long as I can find copies of them in the local bookstores; I will not order from Amazon. If I have to comb the entire city, or, like Attila, raid it… In any case, to answer the question that kicks off this post, I will resort to my favourite if hackneyed metaphor, or that, clap your eyes to a tree, especially a maple at high summer, and try, in a word or two, to sum up all its shades of green and shadow, its textures, a breeze blowing or not, and irrespective of how the sun strikes it, and irrespective of the mood you are in, and you have got yourself a book of Proust. You can’t really sum the sucker up and say anything worthwhile in the summation

And the fact that I switched translators almost, as it were, in mid-stream, from Lydia Davis to C K Scott Montcrieff (who wrote the first translation of the French into English, or very nearly the first), and that I did not sense that there was a whole lot of difference between the two – shall we dicker over prepositions? – although the Davis translation seems a touch more – how shall we say – emphatic, as if it would say, “Of course, this is the way of it, of reality and how it works, all else is supposition”… but that I am reading Swann’s Way against the backdrop of American politics, and if one is looking for tea leaves, I suppose one can find them anywhere – in Swann’s disillusionment?

One ought to avoid what makes one small – in mind and character, but I have neither heroic nor saintly bones in me, or rather I lack the urge to live outside the culture I happen to find myself in, no matter how tempting it has been to do just that – repair to a desert island or a monastery and shut my trap. No, what I have done is to move house, as it were, from rooms on the fourth floor of an apartment building to the ground floor, finding myself of a sudden ‘in the world’ because on the street, my new neighbour complaining that there have been people smoking crack at the entrance: the security camera proves it. So much for an eyrie above it all. And why the pervading sense that everything is falling apart? Whether or not it is all going to hell, a number of people have expressed their alarm to me of late (and for the past few years, if not decades) that things are going, you bet, to hell, and at an accelerating pace, no matter all the TV ads testifying to the little salvations that technology and pills bring (and perhaps some sizable bailouts), people who do not necessarily know one another? I know enough not to succumb and run around shouting, “It’s over”, but there are days…

And were it not for the fact of ‘moving house’, I would never have picked up an early publication of mine and scrutinized; seen in it not a stranger so much as a progenitor, seen the seeds of what I am thinking at this very moment in those words however awkwardly phrased and tentative. Things were falling apart even then. The obvious question attends: when have they not been falling apart? Still, that does not change the fact that things do fall apart now and then, and very likely it is happening now, never mind the law. It is‘unwritten laws’ that are now routinely trashed. And I suppose it can well be argued that there are certain unwritten laws that always needed trashing, say those that pertain to who may drink from this or that fountain and who may not, but nonetheless, when certain political forces would override the basic tenets of a ‘Constitution’ for the sake of power-mongering, then we all go down the rabbit hole without a lot of hope that we might claw our way back to the light of day.

Certain political forces… Old play-option in an old playbook: blow it all to smithereens and then come on like the calvary to the rescue. Suits all persuasions….

Postscript I: Perhaps it is worth noting that since Cornelius W Drake of Champaign-Urbana took to feeding lines to P M Carpenter of the Carpentariat by way of a pen and a bar napkin, Mr Carpenter’s posts have gotten darker, thinking the unthinkable, if you get my drift, and one might start breathing the air of a Karl Kraus or, for that matter, a William Shirer, and if you do not know who these men were there has been something wrong with your education.

Postscript II: Whereas Talking Avocado: “Hey, Sibum, I was at my local recycling centre the other day, and I rescued a copy of The Voyage of Argo, The Argonautica, as brought to the world by one Apollonius of Rhodes, 3rd century BC, and then there was a dust-up between him and Callimachus as to whether, writing-wise, it was best to go short or long, and Apollonius, of course went long. I read the first page, prose translation, and I realized I’d read the page before, but when? Still, I’m not going to let that stop me. And at the start, as the poet goes about naming each and every argonaut who’d make the voyage to Colchis and elsewhere and then some, and as some friction between various members flares up, one might be reading about a biker gang, but never mind… Otherwise, how are you, he asked, somewhat disingenuously, seeing as, you and I, we’re in fairly frequent communication in any case; seeing as I’m an islander and you’re most decidedly not, though you walk about like a John Donne poem even in denims. No man is an island, get it? Oh boy, I’m just full of literary p&v today, are I not? I had a gander at your Mr Carpenter and his posts, and I’d suggest to him that either he takes up cognitive behavioural therapy a la the Roman stoics or he chugs back some valerian. Over and out.”

Make of it What You Will Department: … …. In such a case they talk in tropes,/And, by their fears express their hopes:/Some great misfortune to portend,/No enemy can match a friend… Jonathan Swift, 1731. Comedy-drama-romance-fantasy as per a movie listing?

Another Make of it What You Will Department: No one becomes a man before he has had considerable experience of himself which, revealing himself to himself, and determining his own opinion of himself, in some ways determines his fortune and his state in life. For this great experience, before which no one in the world is much more than a child, life in ancient times provided infinite available material, but today private life is so poor in incident, and of such a nature for everyone, that, for lack of opportunity, many men die before the experience I speak of, and so are like babies, little more than if they had not been born. From Pensieri or Thoughts, Giacomo Leopardi, 1845. The romanticism of inexperience? The unavailability, at the time, of NetFlix or Gatorade or football with four downs?

Postscript III: Whereas Lunar: ‘Yesterday we went to the Crazy Event of the Year, the Tabletop Museum exhibition, nutter with collections of stair banisters, sole(s) of shoes found while mud larking, and maybe the best of all a collection of toilet paper taken from various museums around the world, just a couple of sheets of each all beautifully displayed, a surprisingly large number from Poland. Italian Girl #1 displayed the miniature booklets she makes, which begs the question: can one collect oneself? Was her presence entirely kosher despite being entirely welcome (?). The one I liked best was a woman who collected "things" within a single square mile of Orkney. You have got to admire these people.’

September 13, 2023: Apart from an occasional need to poke my consciousness into some semblance of a response, and I can then say, gadzooks, the damn thing works; and that moving house is a young person’s game (and we are ‘moved’, me and the Comptroller of the Universe); and while I am not as old as President Joe Biden but getting there, and he does seem sharp enough when he needs to be; whereas the other fellow, the one known in certain circles as the ‘previous guy’, and once again a presidential contender, is but throwing loose brain matter around when he opens his mouth and a thought escapes and seeks sanctuary; and now that I have three or so non-sequiturs sounding off in a row here and may go for more, I seem to be doing alright, thanks very much for asking. I have put a question to myself.

What do The Thin Red Line and Roman Holiday, Swann’s Way, and C M Bowra’s last book, the one to do with Homer called Homer, have in common, besides their near random association, one with the other? (By the way, after liking my first two encounters with his novels, I have tried reading R K Narayan’s A Tiger for Malgudi, but could not get very far into it, coming up against some internal resistance on my part to fantasy…) But in any case, to answer the question posited above: there is no common ground as such, but each of the items mentioned are artifacts of sorts, and their association – one with the other – bespeaks no pyramid scheme or conspiracy.

That two of the items are films, which I watched yesterday, exhausted from moving house. I was overwhelmed by The Thin Red Line, too tired to put up any resistance to it, so I wept. While the other flick, having not that much to say, charmed me even so, like a balm might for sore, overused muscles...

The other two items are books. I have been, as reported in other posts, slowly rereading my way through Swann’s Way, it being Marcel Proust’s novel; it being the first volume of a seven volume work entitled À la recherche du temps perdu. Something about lost time. The other item is a book of criticism.

And, as a book of criticism, as a down-to-earth discussion, as a no-frills appreciation, it treats with the nature of The Iliad as opposed to that of The Odyssey. For a long, long time I have had an argument with Lunar as to which of the two poems is the greater poem, and he always answers: ‘The Iliad’, as if it were a hands-down, no-brainer retort to my temerity, and I, just to be perverse, always stump for The Odyssey whereby the Homer poet tried out a few new tricks. (Just now Lunar writes that The Thin Red Line is indeed a fine film, but that the seeds of what marred Terence Malick’s subsequent films are already apparent in it. ‘Spurious spirituality’? Man, but the guy sure knows how to deflate a balloon, and there is no joy in Mudville, anytime, anyhow.)

The Odyssey is a ‘less exalted’ poem compared to The Iliad; it has a greater element of domesticity in it, including the business with the slaughter of the Suitors, as if to say that the flipside of the domestic coin is out and out homicidal fury. There is a recognition scene of a kind in which Odysseus makes mention of the unique property of the bed that he and Penelope shared in their married past. This tells Penelope that Odysseus really is the man he claims to be, i.e., her long lost husband-lover. (The bed was secured to a tree of olives, don’cha know, one that centred the bedchamber, a domestic detail husband and wife were privy to, the sort of detail that those happily married will not let the world get its filthy mitts on and so, besmirch.) One wonders if the husband-and-wife love-making scenes in The Thin Red Line which happen as flashbacks in the mind of a soldier in a combat situation came straight out of the poem.

And one might wonder about Odysseus, stranded on Calypso’s island, and there he is making time on her pallet all the while he is hearkening back to Penelope in Ithaca, Penelope who is strictly mortal, Calypso a goddess and not subject to ‘natural laws’… One might wonder if Odysseus was in his right mind, opting for his own mortality when Calypso had suggested that he could be forever young were he to hang around and attend to her. One wonders if he appreciated the irony of his situation. One wonders if his true right mind lay in keeping with the fact that Penelope, even as a mortal, was so much less ‘high maintenance’ than a goddess with demands. The sort of calculation that ordinary folk, as opposed to heroes, make all the time…

In contradistinction to The Iliad, The Odyssey is more a patchwork of folk tales that the Homer poet spliced together, though, as Bowra claims, the scene in which Argus recognizes Odysseus come back after his twenty year sail-about disguised as a beggar, and then the dog ups and dies – this scene is very likely Homer’s rather than the property of a tradition. One might say that the capacity for sentiment in human beings (and perhaps dogs) is at least older than American sit-coms. And yet it is The Iliad that is episodic, The Odyssey maintaining ‘a single line of development’ once the Homer poet gets Odysseus back to Ithaca after his having been away. This is something ‘new’, so says Bowra.

And though there is the fantastical in The Odyssey, Scylla the monster, for instance, Circe’s witchery, and various divine interventions, there is, as Bowra again claims, the poem’s controlling realism working at a level that is equal to that of The Iliad. In both poems the Homer poet has firmly in hand what he figures the audience needs to know so as to best follow the narrative, and what the audience would very likely consider distracting: too many facts and explanations. A shout out here to all those curious lapses in the plotlines. But so long as a certain logic is established and rolling along, and we are not at the mercy of a lunatic with gaping chasms in his synapses, we have enough on hand by which we might keep rolling along, come hell or high water and divine interventions. (Poems that came out of an oral tradition had very much to do with an audience and its ability to stay interested. God help us with our attention-span deficits.)

‘Homer has an effortless grasp of most elementary human states,’ Bowra wrote, and then suggests that heroic poets otherwise did not concern themselves with such; their only focus were certain ‘high moments’ of drama, and that’s all she wrote.

Homer’s chief rival – Virgil – in Bowra’s estimation, was a neurotic in the way that Romans were neurotic. They were neurotic in ways that Americans might understand should they have a mind to. In any case, Virgil was too unsure of his beliefs to hold a candle to Homer in the realm of epic poetry. (The canker that is doubt… Easy understanding is what Trump offers the hoi polloi and readers of The New York Review of Books, and it is a chimera, and the middle part of any chimera is a goat.) Last night, as I began rewatching the HBO series Rome, second season for the nth time, I saw in the show’s characterization of Brutus something of Virgil, the idealist caught up in the power games of the city and the gathering empire. For Virgil was not easy in mind about his great epic. And Brutus was not easy in mind subsequent upon being the last man to inflict a wound on Caesar and so, now he is open to the charge of cowardice.

And then there was Cicero, a man who might easily have appreciated what Bowra got on about two thousand years after him when it comes to Homer, Cicero ensnared in the Mother of All Political Situations, which is when politics is intrinsically lethal, only that you have thought yourself well-insulated, but then the scales fall from your eyes, and now you see that perhaps you were a player only in your own eyes. Crude, brutish, wine and sex besotted Mark Antony has had a better sense of the realities, a sense bettered only by the young Octavian. In Swann’s Way, Proust provides a picture of a Monsieur Swann more and more lost to the throes of his passion for Odette, and how it is that the maintenance of one illusion – love perhaps – requires the maintenance of a great many more….

Hector is perhaps our man. Says Bowra: ‘… Hector is a little too human to be a hero of the highest class’ as per, say, Achilles who is willing to sacrifice his humanity (and his own life) in the pursuit of honour, which is what heroes did, pursue honour as opposed to ‘keeping on living’. Achilles ruefully acknowledged that he had been a sap, once his shade had slipped down to Hades. When Odysseus showed up, passing through, Achilles gave out that, rather than come it the hero in hell, life as a slave on earth was preferable. He at least had had feelings, deep ones, for Patroclus and Briseis, and he could see his way to allowing Priam to mourn and properly bury his son Hector whom he, Achilles, had killed and defiled. ….

But the single greatest outburst of affection for one human being to another in Homer’s work (according to Bowra) is Anticlea’s love for her son (who happened to be Odysseus), as when they meet up again but in Hades getting to be Grand Central Station, and she explains to him that her death came about because he had been away from home too long. She died, as it were, of a broken heart. Bowra also points out that Homer recited for the upper percenters of his day; they were, most likely, his sole audience, whereas Hesiod, who had no love of kings, wrote with the commoners in mind, most of whom were small stakes farmers at the mercy of the weather and crooked magistrates. Apollonius of Rhodes? By the time that man got around to write his epic of the Argo and its journeys, Homer was but one literary gambit as opposed to another, and Alexandria was one of those places where a whole lot of gambit-ing was going on. In other words, poets were now writers, not bards.

Postscript I: Crooked magistrates… In light of which, I hear that Cornelius W Drake of Champaign-Urbana has been feeding P M Carpenter (of The Carpentariat, on-line political commentary) lines by way of a bar and bar napkins. Perhaps this is why there has been some alarm in a couple of recent Carpentariat posts as to the danger that will come to a great many people should Trump succeed to the presidency. In addition to that reality of ‘red-hatted brown-shirtedness’, Drake has written me to say that the other day, as he was subbing in a high school, some boy wandered into his classroom apparelled in his mother’s bathrobe. What was I to make of that? “A new standard of louche,” I answered, Dantean eye screwed into place, as in, cast a cold eye and pass on.

Postscript II: Talking Avocado has no idea if Proust was a ‘creep’, but he tells me that, according to James Boswell, Richard Sheridan certainly was whom I quoted in the post previous. It was Lunar who brought onboard the ‘creep factor’ in literature, and, at the moment, I am almost sorry I have, but never mind…

Postscript III: … …. All this with indignation have I hurl’d,/At the pretending part of the proud World,/Who swolne with selfish vanity, devise,/False freedoms, holy Cheats, and formal Lyes/Over the fellow slaves to tyrannize… …. From A Satyr Against Mankind, John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, 1675, for whom I have a soft spot.

Received and Read and Appreciated: Homer, by C M Bowra, Gerald Duckworth & Company Limited, 1972.

September 3, 2023: From my high school doubles partner, out of the blue, I received a message in which he asked me, ‘Can you even imagine rushing the net and smashing a return volley?’ I answered that, no, I could not, unless the ball being smashed were a certain politician’s head. I will leave you to imagine which head. A hint: it is one germane to the condition of a certain nation state to the south of here, one which puts me in mind of a pate exploding with serpents, such as one sees in the opening credits of a TV show called Rome circa 2005, nestled in and amongst Roman brothel imagery.

Which brings to mind Lunar and his appraisal of Joaquin Phoenix the film actor, and how the man does not know how to rein in emotion: he overly emotes. I recall JP as Commodus the depraved emperor in Gladiator, and I say to myself, “Seems to me the man’s acting is rather restrained in this flick, and the portrait he renders is a convincing one.” As for his portrayals of dimwits and misfits and druggies and pervs and all the flotsam and jetsam of American life, he seems to have an affinity for those sorts of roles, so far as I can recall, and it raises questions, among them this: was Proust a creep?

I suppose the immediately above, what with Joaquin Phoenix the actor and Marcel Proust the author, is a caroming segue that slipped on a banana peel, but as for the ‘creep factor’ I am not the one to first raise the question; it came to me by way of Lunar, and it came to him by way of some people he knows and whose aesthetic judgments he respects, and what is an aesthetic judgment that is entirely separate from any moral consideration? Beats me. Popcorn, you?

Just that, in Swann in Love, which is Part II of Swann’s Way, which is volume the first of Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu, and we have another one of those extended Proustian discussions, and in it, Proust is on thin ice, to go by our standards, be they enlightened or not. Whereby Swann’s attraction to Odette seems to consist of the fact that he has found her likeness in a painting by Botticelli, or that he has the found the painting’s subject in the young woman whom he met in an arty salon and continues to meet there, all the while he is brought to said arty salon in his coach, a female commoner at his side keeping him company, distracting him – what? – from worldly cares, and… and what? Well, I read Swann’s Way some 50 years ago. I do not recall where all this is headed, but is the man going to love this woman or is he going to rack up a trophy? Or one might ask: what does love justify, if anything? The pursuit of pleasure for its own sake? I do not entirely understand this pursuit, if at all, though I am not adverse to pleasure, the more the merrier, but if it ain’t mutual, it ain’t anything. (I suppose I am a moralist. I've been wondering.) But did Franco protect Jews against Hitler? May one suggest that to say that the Spanish Inquisition did a lot of good is a rich, Monty Python moment?

I was thinking to myself the other day: what a time to be reading Proust again in light of the American culture wars, and with respect to what were French politics in his day: the Third Republic, the ‘Dreyfus Affair’, antisemitism, anti-clericalism and so forth and so on, and Proust’s own liberal attitudes (that he apparently got from his mother) as opposed to the ‘dumb’ reactionaries of the hour. I told myself when I started in on my reread of Proust’s opus, that I was not going to get caught up in the details of the man’s life, as I wanted to read the work unfiltered, but I suppose one cannot entirely ignore the fact that many of Proust’s friends described him as a sexual adventurer, whereas we might pejoratively equate this ‘adventuring’ behaviour with predatory behaviour and then cancel his membership in the Prose Hall of Fame. Or perhaps one might sidestep all these issues and wonder if our lover boy was not over-civilized, and could the Nazis be far off? “Balance,” I always say, like some machine spewing tickets at the entrance to a parking lot, “balance.” Nature is messy, but still there is equilibrium in it, and there is catastrophe when that equilibrium is ‘messed’ with. Human society is not a machine, be it well-oiled or not, but even in it, some measure of equilibrium has to obtain, or life is a-whole-lot-of-shakin’-going-on on thin ice. What, did I just come off like an unshaven bass player?

Postscript I: Talking Avocado to Sibum: “Look, Sibum, I thought I told you I was done with Two and a Half Men and its puerilities, but to be asked to compare Proust’s Parisian Swann with Charlie Harper the Malibu Beach womanizer – a bit over the top, don’t you think? Kind of pushing it, hey, buddy? You mention Botticelli. Alright then, it was Proust who mentioned Botticelli, but anyway, what could Botticelli possibly be to Charlie Harper who, in the show, writes jingles for a living, quite a decent living at that… Alright then, men who live for pleasure, and are refined as they go about it… what’s refined about Charlie? That he knows of the best brands of cigars and pop up pizzas? And as if there aren’t women who don’t live for pleasure but that, maybe, that’s quite another discussion. (One might mention Charlie’s mother who does live a great deal of her life in the pursuit of pleasure, at the expense of her children, so it is hinted, but that she is not altogether insensible to the notion that a life without love is perhaps not worth living.) Could we here be discussing realities that have been in effect since the days of Uruk, and Uruk had art, and, presumably grain silos, if no live streaming? How about this for them apples? ... .... "borracho melancolico / gitarrista lunatico, poeta, / y pobre hombre en suenos, / siempre buscando a Dios entre la niebla." So you don’t know what it means either. But whatever it means, melancholy drunks, crazy guitarists, poets and God and fog have to figure. Go figure. Now leave me alone.”

Postscript II: Cornelius W Drake (of Champaign-Urbana) tells me he has never frozen broccoli.

Postscript III: Whereas a friend of mine, long time resident of Jerusalem, and sometime poet, writes me that, despite the appearances, what with all the demonstrations and such, Israel is in its death-throes, if by death-throes one means the substitution of certain liberal values, the sense of a republic, with the boot and all its niceties.

Postscript IV: Let her locks be the reddest that ever were seen,/And her eyes may be e’en any colour but green;/For in eyes, though so various in lustre and hue,/I swear I’ve no choice – only let her have two. From The Duenna, Richard Sheridan, 1775.

Postscript V: Just to say that the next couple of weeks are going to be bound up with moving house and disconnection from the internet, but that eventually things will settle down.