Wednesday, November 28, 2012

And Certain Records that One Can't Hear without Breaking into a Smile I Refused to Listen in Order to Find Out What It Would Be Like to Be Cleansed of Enthusiasm, to Learn to Honor My Emptiness

The hehhing. My apologies about the recent melodramatic gazing navel and bleggal, not that it may stop, I'll see. I resort to what I always do when blocked on reading, listening, thinking fronts, turn to a Kazuo Ishiguro novel, this time bumping up the scheduled biennual rereading of Remains of the Day by six months:

I hope you will agree that in these two instances I have cited from his career - both of which I have had corroborated and believe to be accurate - my father not only manifests, but comes close to being the personification itself, of what the Hayes Society terms 'dignity in keeping with his position'. If one considers the difference between my father at such moments and a figure such as Mr Jack Neighbours even with the best of his technical flourishes, I believe one may begin to distinguish what it is that separates a 'great' butler from a merely competent one. We may now understand better, too, why my father was so fond of the story of the butler who failed to panic on discovering a tiger under the dining room table; it was because he knew instinctively that somewhere in this story lay the kernel of what true 'dignity' is. And let me now posit this: 'dignity' has to do crucially with a butler's ability not to abandon the profession he inhabits. Lesser butlers will abandon their professional being for the private one at the least provocation. For such person, being a butler is like playing some pantomime role; a small push, a slight stumble, and the facade will drop off to reveal the actor underneath. The great butlers are great by virtue of their ability to inhabit their professional role and inhabit it to the utmost; they will not be shaken out by external events, however surprising, alarming or vexing. They wear their profession as a decent gentleman will wear his suit: he will not let ruffians or circumstances tear if off him in the public gaze; he will discard it when, and only when, he wills it to do so, and this will invariably be when he is entirely alone. It is, as I say, a matter of 'dignity'.

Ah, better, a least a bit. Quotes daily until I finish the novel. I ask this on twitter every couple of months, I'll ask here, has anyone heard of anything about Ishiguro and a new novel? I read an interview he gave ten or more years ago in which he expressed fear that he'd be out of great novels by forty, out of novels by fifty, he's fifty-eight now. In any case, his meticulously crafted and mysteriously calm portrayals of the absurdity of one's self-definitions and one's self-serving relationships to one's self-deluding perceptions of an absurd world mesmerize me as well as unlock blocks, blocks caused no doubt by the absurdity of my self-definitions and their self-serving relationships to my self-deluding perceptions of an absurd world.


Philip Lopate

I have not felt a thing for weeks.
But getting up and going to work on time
I did what needed to be done, then rushed home.
And even the main streets, those ancient charmers,
Failed to amuse me, and the fight between
The upstairs couple was nothing but loud noise.
None of it touched me, except as an irritation,
And though I knew I could stop
And enjoy if I wanted to
The karate excitement and the crowd
That often gathers in front of funeral homes,
I denied myself these dependable pleasures,
The tricks of anti-depression
That had taken me so long to learn,
By now worn smooth with use, like bowling alleys in my soul.
And certain records that one can't hear without
Breaking into a smile, I refused to listen to
In order to find out what it would be like
To be cleansed of enthusiasm,
And to learn to honor my emptiness,
My indifference, myself at zero degrees.

More than any desire to indulge the numbness I wanted to be free of the bullying urge to feel, Or to care, or to sympathize. I have always dreaded admitting I was unfeeling From the time my father called me ‘a cold fish,' And I thought he might be right, at nine years old And ever since I have run around convincing everyone What a passionate, sympathetic person I am.

I would have said no poetry can come From a lack of enthusiasm; yet how much of my life, Of anyone's life, is spent in neutral gear? The economics of emotions demand it. Those rare intensities of love and anguish Are cheapened when you swamp them with souped-up ebulliences, A professional liveliness that wears so thin. There must be a poetry for that other state When I am feeling precisely nothing, there must Be an interesting way to write about it. There are continents of numbness to discover If I could have the patience or the courage.

But supposing numbness were only a disguised disappointment? A veil for anger? Then it would have no right to attention In and of itself, and one would always have to push on, Push on, to the real source of the trouble— Which means, back to melodrama. Is the neutral state a cover for unhappiness, Or do I make myself impatient and unhappy To avoid my basic nature, which is passive and low-key? And if I knew the answer, Would it make any difference in my life? At bottom I feel something stubborn as ice fields, Like sorrow or endurance, propelling me


  1. Floating blog rolls are working for me in Firefix, both here and at my place.

  2. Yeah, they're back here too. Winks in and out, mostly in, occasionally out. The way blaager eats code pisses me off more.

  3. "They can't drone our pledges. Only we can drone our pledges!"

    Blooger is indeed crap, though I seem to have fewer issues than you folks, though now The Google is fucked up and my reader is reading, reading everywhere and not a feed to load.

  4. last Great Outage Outrage, I moved my blog to FYWP. It's more powerful, and moving it had the added attraction of irritating a lot of people.

  5. I started on blaager, went to typepad which descended into uselessness, then had to choose between WP or blaager. It wasn't a huge deal to move then but I don't have the energy to move again or the desire to ask people to move with me again. I remember people telling me wordpress was the better program but blaager had the better networking, so I chose sluttery (and at the time blaager had that vaguely tumblr like thingee that beat the shit out of google plus now).

    Actually, now that I think about it, the read selling point on blaager was the self-updating blogrolls, which I dig when it works b/c I use them as my bookmarks. Did WP ever enable that functionality?