Sunday, December 2, 2012

It Is Necessary to Write about the Same Things Over and Over for Love to Continue and Be Gradually Different

Today's moment of Ishiguro, from Remains of the Day:

As I remember, Giffen's appeared at the beginning of the twenties, and I'm sure I am not alone in closely associating its emergence with that change of mood within our profession - that change which came to push the polishing of silver to the position of central importance it still by and large maintains today. This shift was, I believe, like so many other major shifts around this period, a generational matter; it was during these years that our generation of butlers 'came of age', and figures like Mr Marshall, in particular, played a crucial part in making silver-polishing so central. This is not to suggest, of course, that the polishing of silver - particularly those items that would appear at table - was not always regarded a serious duty. But it would not be unfair to say that butlers of, say, my father's generation did not consider the matter such a key one, and this is evidenced by the fact that in those days, the butler of a household rarely supervised the polishing of silver directly, being content to leave it to, say, the under-butler's whims, carrying out inspections only intermittently. It was Mr Marshall, it is generally agreed, who was the first to recognize the full significance of silver - namely, that no other objects in the house were likely to come under such intimate scrutiny from outsiders as what silver during a meal, and as such, it served as a public index of a house's standards. And Mr Marshall it was who first caused stupefaction amongst ladies and gentlemen visiting Charleville House with displays of silver polished to previously unimagined standards. Very soon, naturally, butlers up and down the country, under pressure from employers, were focusing their minds on the question of silver-polishing. There quickly sprang up, I recall, various butlers, each claiming to have discovered methods by which they could surpass Mr Marshall - methods they made a great show of keeping secret, as though they were French chefs guarding their recipes. But I am confidant - as I was then - that the sorts of elaborate and mysterious processes performed by someone like Mr Jack Neighbours had little or no discernible effect on the end result. As far as I was concerned, it was a simple enough matter: one used good polish, and one supervised closely. Giffen's was the polish ordered by all discerning butlers of the time, and if this product was used correctly, one had no fear of one's silver being second best to anyone's.

SeatSix, who I love like a brother, sends a lengthy The Church playlist. Thanks! Reptile, June, You're Still Beautiful, Paradox, Antenna, Under the Milky Way, All the Young Dudes, Tear It All the Way (>>deleted snotty thing re: Weryl Chaters, who took Zevee Stooms job at EXPKAY and wouldn't play Captain Beefheart in days after Beefheart's death, all of which I serendipitously I thought about yesterday when I saw Zevee Stoom's Best of 2012 list. All for the best. WFMU gets my $$$.<<). How did I not know The Church did this Kate Bush cover?


John Ashbery

Alone with our madness and favorite flower
We see that there really is nothing left to write about.
Or rather, it is necessary to write about the same old things
In the same way, repeating the same things over and over
For love to continue and be gradually different.

Beehives and ants have to be re-examined eternally
And the color of the day put in
Hundreds of times and varied from summer to winter
For it to get slowed down to the pace of an authentic
Saraband and huddle there, alive and resting.

Only then can the chronic inattention
Of our lives drape itself around us, conciliatory
And with one eye on those long tan plush shadows
That speak so deeply into our unprepared knowledge
Of ourselves, the talking engines of our day.


  1. Re: 5 Good Books of 2012

    One of the reviews was off its ethical rocker. It disgraced itself with an autobiographical fallacy (inscribing in the review a kind of premeditated temporary insanity plea), and grew ever more lethal from there with its unfounded slur of "agitprop"--bitterly strange fruit from the same writer of high quality essays such as "Heir to a Prodigious Fertility," for instance. Should've recused himself; just my informed opinion, as the warm crowbar flies. Fortunately in this instance few people will follow the links, they'll just take note of the list. So maybe the list's existence--a first for that blog--is an apology of some kind. Doesn't exactly undo what was a minor literary travesty, but its something.

  2. And some poetry from me ...

  3. Thanks much. Next regular post. More, anytime.

  4. When did your mother lose her hair and go to a Yo La Tengo show?

    And drop acid?

  5. Heh! When I happily honored a lost bet at agreed terms!

    There. Are. Five. Comments.

  6. Commentary on our relentless transformation into our parents aside (really, people there's a reason you don't see pictures of my ears, which could only elide precisely the same response as the above), it's really pretty astonishing that it's news to people that Jefferson was a racist--and one who should have known better--who set out a well-designed and purposefully conceived political order to institutionalize racism. And even more astonishing that people want to argue with the damning prima facie evidence to that effect, the best of which Corey Robin captures. That Volokh guy's "So what?" is one of the most glib, facile, and tautological historical arguments I've ever seen. It doesn't take a brilliant mind to see that Jefferson was a remarkable fraud.

  7. Hastening to add that I got the ears from my father, not my mother, whose ears are as pure as the driven snow and as angelic as anything painted by Botticelli.

  8. Agree with Frances re: 5 good books, though maybe not quite as harshly. The "autobiographical" claim was odd, considering the source; alas, the "agitprop" claim was not at all odd considering the source, and far worse. Still, it was clear he liked the book and he was one of the few to review it at all, so there's that.

  9. Have you read it yet, Richard? I find myself coming back to it time and again. I wish you would review it; I remember your essay on Bolano with great affection.

  10. I have read it, Frances. I think it's fucking brilliant, and very funny. I haven't quite come back to it again and again, yet, though I expect to... I have, however, read the final chapter a couple of times, and it's astonishing. I'm working slowly on a post about it, can't promise when it will appear though!

    (Thanks for the kind words, re: my Bolano piece.)