Profane Liberty
. . .

The War on Seasonal Affective Disorder

Paul Kerschen forwards a greeting card for the fireplace:

by Anselm Dovetonsils

Christmas is-coming
Christmas is-coming
Christmas is-coming

In other holiday news, at the top of last night's Google search for "what to do after burglary" was this page from "":

Having sufficient home insurance can relieve the burden of a tricky circumstance but what steps should you hold out if a burglary takes place? Here is a fast guide.

1. Call the criminal be sure you make connection with the criminal as quickly as possible and do not key in a property if you actually suspect a burglar is even now inside.

2. Don\'t contact Don\'t contact anything at all in your home right up before the criminal have showed up as forensic proof may be needed.

3. Itemise your property Go by implies of every room phase by phase and itemise what has been stolen so you can pass these details on to both the insurer and as well police. be sure you notify the criminal of any notable signifies or security numbers on any of the property.

4. Let your bank know be sure you have any credit history bank cards or debit bank cards that might probably have been stolen inactivated as quickly as possible.

5. Get a crime survey number The criminal should provide a original reference number which you may be necessary to pass on to an insurer.

. . .

Saturnine by Rayner Heppenstall

Although the paper stock's pure 1943, page five warns us the text won't keep to AUTHORIZED ECONOMY STANDARDS:


Fragments of this narrative have appeared in Harper's Bazaar, Kingdom Come, The New English Weekly and Partisan Review. It is fiction. Outside pp. 130-134, all the characters are imaginary, and no further reference is made to a living or recently deceased person except Messrs. L. N. Fowler of Ludgate Circus, Dr. Pearson of the Middlesex Hospital, the Grand Duke Cyril of Russia, Lifar, de Basil, Balanchine, Nijinsky, Legat and Diaghilev of the Russian ballet, Lawrence of Arabia and D. H. Lawrence, Duke Ellington, the late Canon H. R. L. Sheppard, Jessie Matthews and Sonnie Hale, Isobel Baillie and Anna Wickham, Lady Astor, Henry Moore and Ben Nicholson, Gabo, Miró and Georges Bernanos, Gordon Craig, Heifetz and Rudolf Steiner, a number of all-in wrestlers and Joe E. Brown, Clark Gable and the Chinese naval attaché, Marshal Pétain, M. Stalin and Mr. Winston Churchill, the late Mr. Neville Chamberlain, the Hangman and the reigning house of this realm.

A slip is tipped in:

SATURNINE by Rayner Heppenstall
This First Edition is limited to 1,650 copies,
of which 1,600 copies are for sale in the
United Kingdom.
Erratum: p. 5, line 3, for "pp. 130-134" read
"pp. 124-128."

And yes, while the narrator observes perspectival and temporal bounds, his text otherwise strays. Phlegmy strands of narrative dissolve and re-emerge in a fashion difficult to capture in a short excerpt, but this paragraph incorporates a number of characteristic concerns:

At the age of fifteen, Caroline was physically mature and obstinately shy. This was the fault of her mother who still kept her in very brief, childish frocks, so that she had something of the perverse and rather horrible attraction of the principal boy in a pantomime. She was a large, handsome child, with clustering, fair hair and big, golden legs. Her face had the suggestively Jewish nose and short upper lip of a virgin sheep newly dipped. She was presumably born under Aries. I found her disturbing and was rather ashamed of the fact. Margaret said that I had no need to be, for the child was obviously of an age to be desired or she wouldn't be that shape.

(Margaret is the narrator's wife.)

Later experts reached to the nouveau roman for a parallel; myself, I was reminded more of Italo Svevo and Burroughs's Queer and Baron Corvo's certainty that all his vagaries were projected from heaven in letters of fiery gold Saturnine's most startling literary reference comes when the narrator considers naming his newborn daughter after the boy-toy-gondolier in The Desire and Pursuit of the Whole. (And in a startling biographical coincidence, Heppenstall's wife was also named "Margaret", and she also bore a daughter in 1940, and an unadvisably cumbersome name also seems to have been considered.)

All these comparisons are afterthoughts at best; the reading itself is an "inexplicable tumble." About two-thirds through, Heppenstall belatedly defends his technique in reviewer-friendly terms:

It seems as if I were telling four or five stories at once, but that is how it was. I can imagine this story divided up between four or five distinct novels. There would be the novel dealing with a business man who crashed and upon whom a hitherto suppressed romanticism thereafter took its revenge, causing him to suffer from delusions and eventually to lose his memory. There would be a novel dealing with the London of before the war and during the Sitzkrieg, its decadent intellectualism, its circles of vice, the disintegration of personality later to be remedied by a national risorgimento. There would be novels of simpler theme, the downfall of an erotophile, the errant husband and wife brought together by the birth of a child. More interesting perhaps than any of these, there would be a highly atmospheric novel dealing with experiences in a half-world of death and rebirth. But in actuality these and other potential themes were inextricable, and I cannot truthfully say what effect attached to what cause or indeed which was cause and which effect. Any attempt at all-embracing consistency would be dishonest (and I believe that it is always so in life and that all novel-writing is dishonest in its degree). I can but play upon the surface and hint at underlying depths wherever I am aware of them.

Nevertheless, I am certain that all things do cohere within a pattern, that anarchy and chaos are conditions not to be found in nature and that, if one were possessed of the necessary technique, the whole of a man and a man's life could be read clearly from a single hair of his head, as some claim to read it in the palm of his hand.

The reviewers of 1943 did not return his friendliness. But when we step back a bit, Saturnine's architectural scheme (if not its pattern) appears clear enough: four parts, chronologically arranged, each climbing a bluff of crumbling consciousness and ending on a cliffhanger. The first part might be a bit more obsessed with class hatred, the second with mysticism, and the third with sex I haven't run the stats; vague impressions seem truer to the material and the fourth detaches from an increasingly mobilized world.

In that fourth part we reach pp. 124-128 (not to be confused with pp. 130-134), a long and apparently essential (albeit fruitless) visit with unimaginary Oskar Kokoschka and his young lover, "Mom"; a Google Books snippet tells us that "Kokoschka and Croft also seemed to have had a major argument about Saturnine.... Kokoschka, who features in the book, had tried to persuade Heppenstall, a friend of his, to work Croft 'into the story.' Although in the end no reference was made to Croft in the book, Croft considered Saturnine 'in the very worst of taste.'"

That, at least, is undeniable. The Daily Express particularly didn't care to consider the stink of excrement and putrefaction which rises from the Queen of England and the little princesses "if you stick your nose in the appropriate place," and then there's the company of sailors and the lady sawn in half and the pro wrestling, the new recruit's micropenis and the more fabulous penis of Paradies, the narrator's worm and the Siamese kittens' worms, revulsion towards Christmas and sympathy for "the German cry against encirclement," and this maternity-ward farewell:

‘I expect they’ll start by shaving you,’ I said.

‘Darling,’ said Margaret. ‘They've shaved me already. Kiss me again, darling.’

The nurse went out.

Margaret said:

‘Darling, do you love me?’

‘Yes,’ I said. ‘At least, I think so.’

All accurate enough, we suppose, but in the very worst of taste. While we would never, ever presume the book was autobiographical ("it is fiction"), we do have to wonder just what his friends and lovers see in the narrator, no Adonis, and a self-iconoclast that destroys his own virtues underneath your eyes. It's small wonder that only 1650 copies of Saturnine were ever printed; the tasteful can thank infinite copyright extension for keeping it (and every other of Heppenstall's books) out of print. May the Guardian of the Threshold preserve us from pirates!

. . .

We regret any inconvenience.

Rosemund Tuve to William Empson, Valentine's Day 1953:

Obviously I've not been writing an 'answer' to that article you enclosed, in any usual sense. About the practical matter you mentioned... 'saying this had led to my altering my remarks' I don't imagine you'll want to alter them much of any. It's too hard to alter things. I'm so much more pleased that you'll take a stand on 'the reader ought to try to make out what the author...' (etc. p. 4, all of that sentence) than I am unpleased by what touches me, that that's worth the rest whether just or not, given present critical assumptions in many quarters. (Often unadmitted; just practised). I find that I don't care a hang (so I don't rootle them out here and argue) whether you say dreadful things about me that I don't think true, and so far as I can tell this is because you go at the poetry so hard. I would normally think we'd 'both look rather more sensible' if you took out some of the arguments From Character of Author; I believe they'll cause mirth to those who know me. Sometimes I laugh too. I'm just not the kind you envisage. Anyhow I can't seem to get angry about any of it, neither in 1950 or now. Maybe that's the kind of complacent you say the book is. Did you in your heart (or wherever you think these incautious things) think that? Then either long-practiced suspending judgement ruins the capacity of words to carry the tone of voice, or I'm George Herbert's greatest failure in that lesson, or it's you, and you're angrier than I think. You write excessive, but I don't think you are.

If we ever meet, which wouldn't be so odd, I'll find out. When you come to America again, stop in New London. It's no jump from N.Y., the Thames is handsome here, we'd get whomever you picked down from Yale, the whisky is good enough and the conversation provocative. Or serene; as you choose.


Sarang follows up.

. . .

Our Democratic Heritage

"'A Sacrifice on the Altar of Slavery':
Doughface Politics and Black Disenfranchisement in Pennsylvania, 1837-1838"
by Nicholas Wood, Journal of the Early Republic, 31.1, 2011

(in honor of MLK-EMI-Sony and Intellectual Rentier Day,
another thing behind the distributor paywall)

I knew that who's-the-real-victimizing, delusional Father Fundamentalism, and selective application of State Rights all had deep roots. But I didn't until now appreciate how much Northern Jim Crow also owed to triangulation and too-big-to-failure.

Democrat John J. M'Cahen admitted that free blacks were "civilized creatures, possessed of the same faculties, and capable of forming the same impressions as the whites." Nonetheless, "the peace, happiness, and prosperity of a community, sometimes depended on the adoption of measures, which bore somewhat harder on one portion of the people than on the other." Similarly, Charles Brown who had previously described the happy slaves in Virginia acknowledged that he "knew negroes living in the county of Philadelphia, who were fully as competent to exercise the right of voting as any man in the city or county of Philadelphia." Still, like M'Cahen, Brown supported disfranchisement. And although Brown denied that his actions were done purely to please the South, he equated black suffrage with abolitionism and disunion. The proponents of black suffrage "would have us put ourselves in an attitude of defiance to the southern states, instead of doing all that lay in our power to quiet the apprehensions and alarm which the mad schemes and conduct of northern abolitionists had created among them!" However, Brown trusted his fellow delegates would choose correctly "if the right of the negroes to vote was to be put in the scale against the union of these states."

. . .

Lazybones (1925)

This film is the world, really, in an hour and a half, in eighty minutes, it shows us the world. And manages the job without donkey torture.

In most other ways, though, Frank Borzage's titular saint anticipates Bresson's: patient, gentle, a bit obtuse, stubborn, and above all passive. What makes the difference isn't so much the leading man's species as the filmmaker's spirit. For all the catharsis he provides, Borzage is not in the least tragic. His waterworks run at full capacity in happy endings, and even in his unhappiest endings which can be very unhappy suffering's redeemed by a gain so vast that its loss still counts as treasure.

Lazybones, in particular, keeps to the cornball comic mode as closely as it can while circumventing a suicide attempt, casual cruelties, meticulous soul-crushing deceit, and the Great War. At least one writer associates that circuit with 1930s generic mélanges like Borzage's screwball-thriller-disaster-romance History Is Made at Night, but the tone isn't that much darker than the Americana of Will Rogers, or, later, The Strawberry Blonde and Meet Me in St. Louis, even if its final import seems more global.

Lacking the body-and-soul lust that propels Borzage's other transcendences, what power propels this one?

Not the characters or incidents or hoary gags of the script, certainly; types and tableaux wheeled atop and off the stage, they could have been drawn as stick figures, almost, in their unadorned familiarity.

The performers are wonderful, but never this wonderful with any other director. Dithering Zasu Pitts? Cowboy Buck Jones? (But then Borzage himself began as a movie cowboy.) Even the five-year-old engages us.

The conceptual audacity of centering a movie on a good, decent man has something to do it, but Borzage made other conceptually audacious movies kids invent fascism; Jesus harrows a prison break which never fully send us.

What makes Lazybones effective, for those affected by it, is all of the above: the unfussy performances, the drifty protagonist, and the parabolic simplicity they enable. Lacking the prefab Hollywood structure of goal and conflict and resolution, the film marks time by what marks it most forcefully in life: the growth of a child.

Young Agnes
Mature Agnes
... and Agnes
Distraught Ruth
Sick and distraught Ruth
... and Ruth
Mature Mrs. Fanning
Mother Fanning
Old Mrs. Fanning
... and Mother Fanning
Young Steve Tuttle
Veteran Steve Tuttle
... and Steve
Kit in infancy
Kit at five, comforting Uncle Steve
... and Kit

The only parental role accessible by Steve Tuttle is that of peer: a patient, gentle, and slightly obtuse peer.

Kit in her early teens
... and Kit

Understandably, if disturbingly, the pose deceives him more than her. There are reasonable limits to a child's playacting; to an adult's, none.

Kit all growed up
... and Kit

"Rip van Winkle" is mentioned in dialog only as an example of extreme age, but in retrospect the film embodies the sense of the tale itself, in its hero's life-long doze and occasional perplexing rouses, and in an audience who blinks across three decades into the sort of moments we recognize even at the time as memorable, instantly nostalgic or rueful or both. Moments which reduce us to points on a trite plotline. The moments we recognize we'll be left with.

. . .

What Else Frank Harris Did Not Say

As we shook hands, her eyes widened, her lips twitched, her skin flushed, her breath shortened, her pupils dilated, her palm moistened, her knee jerked, her hair curled, and a long flutter through her frame left her dangling like a desecrated flag. She was just my type.

* * *

I played her like a violin. I've never learned how to play the violin, and so it was all pretty embarrassing.

* * *

"Mr. Harris," she acclaimed, "you have quite spoiled me for other men."

"That would be the herpes," I assented.

. . .

A note on Eric Rohmer's "Comédies et Proverbes"

There are fourteen of these light and pleasant proverb-comedies in the volume. As their editor states, they were played in Parisian social circles fifty years ago, the idea being to guess the proverb from the stage representation and from the language of the actors.
- W. S. E., "Longfellow's First Volumes", The Literary World, Nov. 18, 1882
A dramatic proverb is a playlet, usually comic, intended to be performed in private homes, that illustrates a well-known proverb without using that proverb in the text.... it became enormously popular during the last third of the eighteenth century, and it achieved recognition as a serious literary form in the nineteenth century, thanks to the genius of Musset.
- Perry Gethner, "Catherine Durand: Proverbes dramatiques (1699)",
Writings by Pre-Revolutionary French Women: Volume 2

. . .

"Bottom to everything"

I'm relieved to see that John has finally put the lame one-eyed nag out of its misery. Wonderfully, perfectly, the last Valve comment I will ever receive is the following, entered July 2 2011 for a post from August 2005:

"This review is like a bad English paper."


Good riddance to bad rhetoric.

Well, to be fair, I thought it produced a few better things than, say, Stanford's vacuum-sealed mirror-lined Arcade. Man, Arcade! After a dozen years of meeting witty, adventurous grad students and untenured teachers, it's good to be reminded why I preferred the day-job route.

And the Valve contusions in memory yet keen my dud attempts at hackwork; the sit-com level debates; my confident exit through the plate-glass window were all, I know, my own damn fault.

No, the Valve's worst problem was always the gap between the "Current Authors" list and the authors bylining the actual posts, culminating in that interminable (until now) endgame with its single bishop shuffling to and fro across an empty chessboard.

Dear Sir/ Madam,

Nice to meet you.

We viewed your website and know that you deal valve.

My name is Liqun Mo from Shanghai Shunfu Die Casting Co., Ltd. we are professional manufacture for all kinds of aluminum & zinc die casting products include valve.

So we think we can cooperate well and establish long business relations in the future based on mutual bebifits.

Please send us youor drawings or sample to us, then we can quote you price.

Best regards,
Ms Liqun Mo

. . .

For All Intensive Purposes

... participants were instructed to move a line on the computer screen by use of a phony brain-computer interface. Line movements were actually controlled by computer program. Demonstrating the illusion to intend, participants reported more intentions to move the line when it moved frequently than when it moved infrequently. Consistent with ideomotor theory, the finding illuminates the intimate liaisons among ideomotor processing, the sense of agency, and action production.
- "Mind control? Creating illusory intentions through a phony brain-computer interface",
Margaret T. Lynn, Christopher C. Berger, Travis A. Riddle, & Ezequiel Morsella,
Consciousness and Cognition 19.4 (2010)

Although the authors dutifully list objections, they missed the most likely of alternative hypotheses: the intimate (dangerous, even) liaison between vagueness of agency and suggestion of agency.

With the obvious exception of latter-day Tom Cruise,1 human beings are not reliably driven by will power. Occasionally we notice that, or are forced to notice, and it bothers us; we invent "needing some down time," or divine intervention, or demonic temptation. We're so uncertain of our own minds that we'll even pay to be told them; we'll pay clairvoyants, we'll pay for bio-feedback, we'll pay for pop psychology texts and pro psychology analyses.

And perhaps the easiest way to retroactively determine intent is by results. The football team who lost "didn't want it enough." Wish hard enough and your dream will come true; ipso facto, should dream come true, wish was suitably firm.

I understand the experimenters' dilemma. If they'd made the task more involving a first-person shooter, say, against an army of ravening Tom Cruises subjects would have inundated them with reports that their shit was broken. But by choosing so bland and pointless a task, as bland and pointless as a day-job, they transformed their magically mind-controlled machine into a magical mind-monitor: "Did I mean to do that? Since only my intention could move the line, then by definition, yes, I must have meant to do that."

1   His every appearance in Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol delivered a shock of xenophobic revulsion. What had happened to that good-looking boy? He'd sunk a lifetime and a fortune into a quest to transform himself into his peculiar ideal of male beauty, and succeeded in replacing himself by a monstrously frozen mask. He's become the Michael Jackson of Game Face.


Travis A Riddle?!

. . .

"I Told You You Were Sick"

Peter Novick wrote three big books. The first historicized France's attempt to rub Vichy out into national unity, and impressed the French. The second historicized pretensions to historical objectivity, and impressed historians (and the odd free-range scholar). The third historicized the Holocaust's centrality in American Jewish identity, and impressed our paper of record, whose obituary gives That Noble Dream one mopping-up paragraph, mentions The Resistance Versus Vichy not at all, and devotes its remaining fifteen paragraphs of career survey to The Holocaust in American Life.

Peter Novick, Wrote Controversial Book on Holocaust, Dies at 77

. . . before . . .. . . after . . .