Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Another Country--Part 2Book I, Chap. 3: "'Look like you people done got serious about your drinking too,' she said, in a raucous, whiskey voice. 'Let me have a taste of that there Cutty Sark.'" Now that's something I haven't had in a long time. Maybe that will be the spark I have been looking for to propel me back somewhat closer to bohemian writer mode.

"'My novel's about Brooklyn'...'That's quite an assignment. And if you don't mind my saying so, it sounds just a little bit old-fashioned... Brooklyn's been done. And done.'" They were already saying this in 1960 apparently.

Book II, Chap. 1. The action has moved to France. "Yves was not very fond of Americans, but he liked their clothes." That's a new one for me.

"Ah, les americains avec leurs drinks! I will surely become an alcholic in New York." The French love us!

"Yves did not like showers, he preferred long, scalding baths, with newspapers, cigarettes, and whiskey on a chair next to the bathtub..." This vision of the bathtub as a logical extension of bar and cafe life was a popular theme in films of the 60s, especially the early part of it, and especially in France (I have never seen Mad Men, but they haven't incorporated a scene like this into it by now, you know they really don't have a feel for the era). Personally I have always been too tall to loll comfortably in the standard bathtub. Either I have to sit way up or my knees are up or my feet have to be left hanging over the other end or propped on the wall above the faucets. The French tend to be shorter though, so it's a more natural proposition for them.

"'People who go to America,' said Madame Belet, 'never come back.'"

"Contrary to its legend, Paris does not offer many distractions; or, those distractions that it offers are like French pastry, vivid and insubstantial, sweet on the tongue and sour in the belly." I feel like I am being warned away from coming, or even desiring to come, just as when I was young the experienced and hardened drug users and sex indulgers used to tell me which hallucinigens and techniques they considered would be too intense for my delicate psyche to handle, and almost demanded that I not even think about or make reference to their existence. People feel the same way about Paris, that it is a place that quickly exposes the weak, the second-rate, and the failed, and having in some cases gotten a taste of this themselves and not liked it consider that anyone they consider weaker than themselves will be so far out of their depth even in speaking about it as to cause a needless and embarrassing spectacle. They are probably right, but it gives me a great deal of illusionary pleasure to write about it, so I am going to continue to do so until the urge is driven out of me through, most likely through some extreme humiliation or other.

Then went to Chartres. "All of the beauty of the town, all the energy of the plains, and all the power and dignity of the people seemed to have been sucked out of them by the cathedral...the people...seemed stunted and misshapen...even the children seem to have been hatched in a cellar...It was a town...frozen in its history as Lot's wife was trapped in salt.." There seem to have been a lot of tourists there too--Baldwin notes 2 accessories, 5 types of gauche clothing, 3 varieties of children, 7 behaviors indicative of inferior education/breeding, 2 modes of obnoxious transport, 4 nationalities, 2 varieties of unattractive body parts, and 1 military contigent (I'll let you guess where they came from).

"This sex dominated the long landscape of his life as the cathedral towers dominated the plains." Oh! No!

Book II, Chap.2. Back in New York. "So superbly was it in the present that it seemed to have nothing to do with the passage of time..." I have never gotten this feeling myself, but he is the one who lived there most of his life, not I. "This note of despair, of buried despair, was insistently, constantly struck." That sounds like my kind of town.

By the way, what is up with the phenomenon of primarily gay males having numerous girlfriends who they also sleep with if there is nothing else to do? Why is the typical straight bookish type seemingly less sexually desirable to beautiful art girls than guys who, all things being equal, would rather be sodomizing a teenage boy? And what, if anything, can be done about this sorry state of affairs?
"...As though there were an incipient war going on between himself and the musicians, having to do with rank and color and authority." At the jazz club. I never liked going to concerts much either, for similar reasons.

On folk singers: "The singers, male and female, wore blue jeans and long hair and had more zest than talent. Yet, there was something very winning, very moving, about their unscrubbed, unlined faces, and their blankly shining, infantile eyes, and their untried, hypocritical voices. They sang as though, by singing, they could bring about the codification and the immortality of innocence." I would have loved the chicks in this scene.

"So long, genius. I'm sorry you don't like me. Maybe one of these days you ought to ask yourself why. It's no good blaming me, you know, if you don't know how to hold on to what you want." The speaker is a guy who produces television shows. He's dynamic, confident, rich, is in a cutting edge field and is perhaps supposed to be shallow, but who cares about that? The addressed is a floundering, and soon to be failed would-be novelist. I think we all see where this is going.

"Everything was for the first time; at fifteen or sixteen; and what was her name? Zelda. Could that possibly be right? On the roof, in the summertime, under the dirty city stars." Why am I including this? Because it is the kind of thing that is reality, the stuff of life itself, for a great many people, and that fascinates me.

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