Tuesday, 12 July 2011

...of dignity

MAY 5 All are agreed that our progress has been good.
A boy of twelve has joined us. He is large, with big, loose hands which are steady on arms made heavy by hard work. His shoes are in fair condition, though his clothing is little better than rags. I asked him about himself; he was silent - not out of suspicion, I think - silence was his way of showing dignity. Poor kid, he has little else left. His shoes are stiff with sweat; his feet have obviously done many miles in them. But he was unwilling to say where his home had been. Jetter began by calling him Jack, and, since we know other name for him, Jack it will be.

[The Journal of Albion Moonlight, Patchen, K.]

...of inconvenient truths

"As far as I can see," said the doctor, looking at us closely, "you can't say that anyone in particular was to blame. It was a bloody business what with guerilla warfare and illegality. Probably these two were really spies…But," he went on, raising his voice above the discussion that was beginning again, "who formed the first bands? Who wanted civil war? Who gave the Germans and the others such provocation? The communists. Always the communists. They're responsible. They're the assassins. It's an honour which we Italians grant them willingly…"
His conclusion pleased everyone. Then I said I didn't agree with him. He asked me why. The year you spoke of, I said, I was still in America. (Silence.) And in America I was interned. (Silence.) In America, which is America after all, I said, the papers had carried a proclamation by the King and Badoglio which ordered all Italians to take to the hills, to engage in guerilla warfare, to attack the Germans and fascists in the rear. (Silence.) No one remembered about it now. They began to argue again.

[The Moon and The Bonfire, Pavese, C.]

...of complicity

Valino didn't ask me to come up to the house with him and have a glass of wine. He picked up the bundle of withies again and asked Cinto if he had cut the green stuff for the rabbits. Cinto moved away and looked down without replying. Then Valino stepped forward and with his free hand took a cut at him with a willow branch. Cinto leapt away and Valino stumbled and got his footing again. Cinto, back in the gully, was looking at him now. Without speaking he set off up the side of the hill, the withies in his arms. He didn't turn round even when he was at the top. I felt like a boy come to play with Cinto - the old man had lifted his hand to him because he couldn't do it to me. Cinto and I looked at one another and laughed without speaking.

[The Moon and The Bonfire, Pavese, C.]

...of playing Pong

For those not lucky enough to have experienced this old world home entertainment concept, it amounted to a reductio ad absurdum of all that is suggested by today's video age. Each of two players controlled a small white oblong parallelogram on a vertical axis of the black television screen. Each attempted to hit a small white square with his vertically scrolling parallelogram so that it would carom back at the other guy. If one player missed and the square travelled to the edge of the screen, he lost. Very simple. This particular match, taking place between two silent guys on the couch, had been going on at great length, perhaps since puberty. The square, the metaphoric tennis ball, went back and forth between the guys on the couch, neither of them acknowledging one another, neither of them acknowledging Foster's old man, as he hypothesised: The decision to pardon the former president was a dramatic misstep, because the former president needed to stay and fight the charges against him, in order to vanquish the resistance of our American youth: the circular imperatives of Mr. Foster's soliloquy were ordered and ratified by the movement of the square back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and back and forth.

[The Carnival Tradition, Moody, R.]

...of an art gallery

It took a few moments to sink in. They were huddled in the doorway, in the glare of interior light, her guests. Two or three of them squeezed into the doorway, like Keystone Kops hastening into a comic interior. The paint job was semigloss. The bright illumination of track lighting and the spots that Gerry had erected around the ducts on the ceiling ricocheted from these blank walls. Across the space, into corners, back into the space, the glare of it. Blank walls. Exactly blank. Completely blank. Blank without interruption. As the first two guests lurched into the space, more were just behind, crowding behind them. It wasn't like every corner had been swept clean. M.J. could see that colony of dust bunnies, making its way, as always, from the heating register under the bay window into the centre of the floor. But it was the walls that arrested everyone. Whiteness of the white walls, absolute blankness of the display, absolute poverty of ideas contained within it, M.J. could feel it even where she stood, the moment where each of the guests tried to evaluate whether or not they should consider themselves suckered by the gallery interior. By the implicit privation of the space. There was no exhibition. Or, at least: no art. The art at the Mad Son Electric Gallery was the gallery, was the fact of its presentation, was its concept, was its appearance, was its history, was its ambition. There was a discouraging silence, while each of them made his or her way past each of the dividers that separated the exhibition space, looking, making sure there wasn't some tiny, postage-stamp-sized statement somewhere that might account for what they were not seeing.

[The Carnival Tradition, Moody, R.]

...of vacancy

One thing I always loved about the Mansion on the Hill was its emptiness, its vacancy. Sure, the Niagra Room, when filled with five-thousand-dollar gowns and heirloom tuxedos, when serenaded by Toots Wilcox's big band, was a great place, a sort of gold standard of reception halls, but as much as I always loved both the celebrations and the network of relationships and associations that went with our business at the Mansion, I always felt best in the empty halls of the Mansion on the Hill, cleansed of their accumulation of sentiment, utterly silent, patiently awaiting the possibility of matrimony. It was onto this clean slate that I had routinely projected my foolish hopes. But after Brice strutted through my place of employment, after his marriage began to overshadow every other, I found instead a different message inscribed on these walls: Every death implies a guilty party.

[The Mansion on the Hill, Moody, R.]

...of hiatus

Okay, to get back to Glenda Manzini. Linda Pietrzsyk didn't write me off after our failed embraces, but she gave me more room. She was out the door at 5:01 for several weeks, without asking after me, without a kind word for anyone, and I didn't blame her. But in the end who else was there to talk to? To Marie O'Neill, the accountant? To Paul Avakian, the human resources and insurance guy and petty-cash manager? To Rachel Levy, the head chef? Maybe it was more than this. Maybe the bond that forms between people doesn't get unmade so easily. Maybe it leaves its mark for a long time. Soon Linda and I ate our bagged lunches together again, trading varieties of puddings, often in total silence; at least this was the habit until we found a new area of common interest in our reservations about Glenda Manzini's management techniques. This happened to be when Glenda took a week off. What a miracle. I'd been employed at the Mansion six months. The staff was in a fine mood about Glenda's hiatus. There was a carnival atmosphere. Dorcas Gilbey had been stockpiling leftover ales for an office shindig featuring dancing and the recitation of really bad marital vows we'd heard. Linda and I went along with the festivities, but we were also formulating a strategy.

[The Mansion on the Hill, Moody, R.]

...of collective disgust

Remember that footage, so often on contemporary reality-based programming during the dead first half-hour of prime time, of the guy who vomited at his own wedding? I was at that wedding. You know when he says, Aw, Honey, I'm really sorry, and leans over and flash floods this amber stuff on her train? You know, the shock of disgust as it crosses her face? The look of horror in the eyes of the minister? I saw it all. No one who was there thought it was funny, though, except Linda's friends. That's the truth. I thought it was really sad. But I was sitting next to a fellow actually named Cheese (when I asked what kind of cheese, he seemed perplexed), and Cheese looked as though he had a hernia or something, he thought this was so funny. Elsewhere in the Chestnut Suite there was grievous silence.

[The Mansion on the Hill, Moody, R.]