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From a first New Yorker in Florence...

There is the cocoonish hustle of Paul Sevigny's Beatrice Inn, and this conversation (served up so you know to hold on to your ticket, when checking items downstairs):

Recently, a woman was howling at the attendant, “Itís the black mink coat! Itís probably the only real mink there.” To which the response came: “We got a lot of black mink back here.”

*

There is the fact that Martin Luther King Jr Day was not fully recognized in all the states until 1999, that New Hampshire was the last state to recognize the day, and that, in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi, King Day is also the day on which they celebrate the birth of another historical figure: Robert E. Lee.

*

There is Silas Farley, who tells us, in the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum, that one of his favorite things to do with my friends is reŽnact the poses of sculptures.  He also tells us this:

“Classical ballet is this elevating form—you have to rise to meet it, whether you are the dancer or the audience,” he said.  “The thing is, the audience possesses the same instrument. The audience members have the same body.  Itís like a cello playing for an audience of cellos.”

*

There is the idea of a charismatic religion.  (Even as the pastor preached, the organ would honk, or a cymbal would crash, or someone in the congregation would open her mouth and let fly a stream of Spirit-given tongues.)  The idea of bringing the world into the church.  The idea of Jesus with an 808.  The idea that you can do life with someone (the idea that you can do life, at all).  The idea that you can shed music's religious content while retaining its fervor.  (What if you can do that with things other than music?)

There are words like hymnody and melismatic and analysand.

*

There is this, from a novel by Amos Oz (about nineteen-sixties Jerusalem, Zionists, and Israeli statehood):

“All the power in the world cannot transform someone who hates you into someone who likes you.”

*

There is the contention that our inner lives are double, that all emotions are mixed, and that all conclusions are inconclusive.  That having two emotions at once is better than having one emotion repeatedly.

There is the idea of an inner human whose contradictions are identical with his conscience.  (“If I speak diversely of myself, it is because I look diversely upon myself...”)

There is the question of how to preserve our inborn clear-mindedness in front of all the threats and dangers of fanaticism.

(And maybe there are some answers?  Montaigne is present now in the things he feels and the way he sounds, and that is like a complete human being.  Heís funny, heís touching, heís strange, heís inconclusive.  Ironic self-mockery, muted egotism, a knowledge of oneís own absurdity that doesnít diminish the importance of oneís witness, a determinedly anti-heroic stance that remains clearly ethical...  Maybe.)

There is, in thinking of the essay (and in particular, of the Montaigne essay), the idea that each written form creates its own reader.

And finally, there is an idea of what the best of such forms, might do: Good critics and scholars can teach us how to listen.  Only writers show us how to speak.


[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Santo Spirito, Firenze]
[lunedž 30 gennaio 2017 ore 17:04:13] []

We are still in the middle of the crossing, and literature makes do however it can.

Some things I think about, from an exchange between Sheila Heti and Elena Ferrante over at Hazlitt, via Jeannie:

*

The idea that what is written while smoking seems better than that which fears for its health.

*

How the satisfaction of many nineteenth-century novels may come from a sense of the writer not living in a landscape of busily competing media, but rather writing in a world where the quiet of readers can be taken for granted.

This gets me thinking of Anna Karenina and Middlemarch, but also, unhelpfully (in that it's most definitely not a nineteenth-century novel), of My Struggle.

(And look, here it is again, the making of links between Ferrante and Karl Ove Knausgaard.  Ha.)

*

What it might mean to collapse the gap between the sort of books that writers feel awe for and that the reading public canít get enough of—the rarest thing.

I think of a Twitter survey that AWP ran last month, in which members were asked, “What's one piece of writing you wish you'd written?” Among mentions of The Catcher in the Rye and The French Lieutenant's Woman, To Kill a Mockingbird, and even “Donald Hall's latest essay in @NewYorker.  A masterpiece.” — among all that, there's someone named Matt Hoskison, who says, “Given how lucrative it's been ...  Harry Potter.”

(And yes, that Donald Hall essay is a masterpiece.  Though maybe this one is better.)

*

The idea that imagination is not a function of memory, but rather a function of nostalgia.

*

What this says about revision:

So letís say that, pulled this way and that by countless readings, by varied layers of taste, by inclinations and idiosyncrasies, I generally aim at what seems to me perfection.  Then, however, perfection suddenly seems an insane excess of refinement and I return to versions that seem effective precisely because they are imperfect.

(And maybe about other things too.)

*

Also.  How this:

Itís only by reflecting on myself with attention and care that I can reflect on the world.  Itís only by turning my gaze on myself that I can understand others, feel them as my kin.  On the other hand itís only by assiduously watching myself that I can take control and train myself to give the best of myself.  The woman who practises surveillance on herself without letting herself be the object of surveillance is the great innovation of our times.

...reminds me of this:

Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.

*

And lastly, this idea that a distinctly female point of view [is] the point of view not of the natural victor but of one who has to fight for the right to observe.

I think about that.

I think especially, about how this conversation happened over the summer of 2016, several months before some Italian guy behaved, as Dan Piepenbring put it, so very Italianly in The New York Review of Books.

About how itís difficult to read a manís attempt to Ďoutí a writer who has said she would stop writing if she were ever identified, as anything but an attempt to make her stop writing.

I think also, about the question of an authorís right not to be known, and the particular resonance of that question when the author concerned is, presumably, female.

About how a man may believe that he can obtain power over a great writer by exposing her, not for the purpose of interpretation or greater understanding but simply for the sake of being the first to do it.

And I think finally, because how can you not, with all this talk of victors and power and exposure, about other things, again.


[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Giulio Cesare, Santa Marinella]
[martedž 24 gennaio 2017 ore 20:02:20] []