Korrektiv Presents: Great Moments in the History of Embarrassment

chestertonhenry james


Henry James had a name for being subtle; but I think that situation was too subtle for him. I doubt to this day whether he, of all men, did not miss the irony of the best comedy in which he ever played a part. He had left America because he loved Europe, and all that was meant by England or France; the gentry, the gallantry, the traditions of lineage and locality, the life that had been lived beneath old portraits in oak-panelled rooms. And there, on the other side of the tea-table, was Europe, was the old thing that made France and England, the posterity of the English squires and the French soldiers; ragged, unshaven, shouting for beer, shameless above all shades of poverty and wealth; sprawling, indifferent, secure. And what looked across at it was still the Puritan refinement of Boston; and the space it looked across was wider than the Atlantic.


  1. Thank you for today’s backward glance JOB! btw, Matt, Angelico, “Wit,” and anyone else interested, here’s my draft for my Metropolitan review. You may comment if you so choose. I’d accept any criticism you have to offer. Be brutal!

    I wonder if I doth quote too much… previous “fear of film” articles were heavier on the analysis but Stillman is immensely quotable so I couldn’t resist. I’m also quoting Chesterton at a few points as well. I’m thinking less quotes and more explanation of how the themes of tradition and decadence are manifested.

    My brother suggests my theme appears to be “Stillman as Chestertonian… whether or not he realizes it yet.”
    (and yes I did ask him on Twitter today whether he has come across GKC)

    • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says


      Thanks for sharing this draft! I’ve read it once. I’ll read it one more time, and then comment/critique — by Thursday night or Friday, if possible.

      • That would be wonderful. I’d like to send it out before the week’s end. Btw, I just saw this which conclusively answers the question whether Whit Stillman has read Chesterton.

        • curses! Here it is.

          • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

            The eye of [a benign, preppy] Sauron is upon you.

            • Sooo I trimmed it down to under 900 words and it’s basically done.
              I’m just not 100% on the theme whether the theme I see is more “tradition vs decadence,” “tradition in decline” or if there is one theme that takes different forms in his 4 films.
              Metro and Damsels seem more focused on preserving/creating the good. Disco seems more of a cultural analysis of society after the fall from Metro. Barcelona has Fred’s pride in Navy tradition vs Ted’s weird self-made quasi-protestant life which consists of learning new traditions whether through sales, or spanish culture.
              If you read the first paragraph you’ll see what I mean.

              • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says


                I have thoughts, but no time to set them down until tomorrow (Saturday) morning. If you can wait, I will provide notes. If not, best of luck with the submission. Either way, please let me know what you decide. Thanks!

                • hurm… Saturday morning, which would be approaching midday here on the East coast.
                  OK, I will await your thoughts!

                  • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

                    Very good!

                    What you have is basically sound, so all I’ll propose are a few bits of fine-tuning. Thanks again for sharing this draft.

                  • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

                    All right, amigo, you’ll find my comments right there in the Google Doc. Take ’em or leave ’em; no hard feelings if you don’t go for them.

                    Good luck — in introducing some Chestertonians to Stillman, and, just maybe, in introducing Mr Stillman to Chesterton!

                    • Thank you. I had a few suggestions come my way but as you know the film, yours have been the most helpful!
                      By the way I actually looked up the Lionel Trilling article online earlier this week and he makes a somewhat suprising point about how we “moderns” would prefer a St. Augustine who had fallen and then risen to sainthood to the protagonist of Mansfield Park who is perfect in every way, a point which Tom has conveniently forgotten. So it is not so much virtue under attack but whether you have a cardboard image of virtue vs a living breathing person. This analysis could be wrong of course as I’ve never read this novel… I’ve only read Pride and Predjudice!
                      I’m mentioning this here because I dont think it will make it into the piece itself. Regardless of these nuances, the point of having Tom and Audrey have the discussion is still as strong as ever.

                    • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says


                      Thanks for taking the time to give this follow-up!

                      FWIW, I’ve only read Pride and Prejudice, as well. Never did read Trilling or Mansfield Park, since I prefer listening to movie characters gloss Trilling’s reading of the novel, etc., etc., etc…. But it does sound like Tom oversimplified Trilling, which, actually, would be characteristic of the prejudiced early Tom. That’s characterization!

                    • Final follow-up… Just went to a meeting of the NYC Chesterton Society upstairs at the Old Town Bar. I found an article on the wall about Last Days of Disco…
                      I didn’t realize it at the time but Stillman filmed there. I guess it is Des’ favorite, “Rex’s.”

                    • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says


                      [Chesterton + Stillman + Whedon] sounds like a great evening.

                      (Incidentally — and speaking of Percy’s concept of ‘certification’ — did you know that Lickona interviewed Whedon recently? It’s true, it’s true.)

                      Lastly, I note with interest Stillman’s reference to Max Beerbohm in yall’s Twitter conversation. Have you read any Beerbohm? If not, I know just the place to start — and it might also serve as a good intro to Chesterton for Stillman:

                      In 1912, Beerbohm published a book called A Christmas Garland — a series of essays, all on the topic of Christmas, but each written as a parody of a different writer. You get parodies of Kipling and Conrad, Wells and Shaw and Belloc, and, yes, jolly old GK.

                      Here’s a direct link to Beerbohm’s parody of Chesterton, ‘Some Damnable Errors about Christmas’, which is, in my humble opinion, delightfully dead-on.

                      And here’s Project Gutenberg’s page for A Christmas Garland as a whole.

                    • Nope I haven’t read Beerbohm but I certainly intend to read him now. Thanks for the links!
                      Yep I’ve been a devoted reader of his at the big screen blog for a little while now. I’ll bet that was the only interview that challenged him on the concept of virginity like that.

            • Angelico, et al:
              Thanks again for the commentary and editing. At long last, my year of persistent widowhood paid off and I’ve been published in Gilbert Magazine!

    • Paul,

      Good review.

      Did you ever see this book?


      Don’t know how much it can help, but it can’t hurt. I enjoyed reading it – and even wrote a review of it for my day job.


      • I had not but I will have to read it now! If this review is accepted I may just draw upon that for the rest of his movies.
        If you look at his films in order Damsels seems to be centered on the rebuilding of some of what was lost. I can only anticipate his fifth!

  2. I dunno, but rumor is their women don’t shave their legs.

  3. Ever had a Royale with Cheese?

  4. Great post.

  5. Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

    Great katch.

    GK’s vivid description of ‘the posterity of the English squires and the French soldiers’, bellowing for bacon and beer, reminded me of a nastier variation on the same, or a similar, theme: Evelyn Waugh’s description, at the start of Decline and Fall, of the members of the aristocratic Oxonian Bollinger Club (a parody of the real-life Bullingdon Club), screeching unearthlily as they begin a night of destruction:

    [A]ny who have heard that sound will shrink at the recollection of it; it is the sound of the English county families baying for broken glass.

    As I prepared to write the present comment, I entered the phrase ‘baying for broken glass’ into my search engine of choice, to be sure I got the whole quotation right — only to find the whole joke brought back full circle to bacon-bellowing Belloc himself! My search brought up a link to the Autumn 2007 Evelyn Waugh Newsletter and Studies, which includes the following:

    On the Origins of Broken Glass
    In his Cautionary Tales for Children, originally published in 1907, Hilaire Belloc writes:

    John Vavasour de Quentin Jones
    Was very fond of throwing stones …
    Like many of the Upper Class
    He liked the Sound of Broken Glass

    A thing like that!

  6. It’s probably just as well. My whole “Tarts for Tartt” menu was going over like a fart in church. I half expected Ms. Tartt to say something about having just remembered that she had a novel she needed to write and beat a hasty retreat. JOB’s Sebastianian entrance at least served to change the subject

    • Right! I don’t remember much about it, but from what I understand you both took me home and put me in bed.

      And from what I remember you telling me that was the night you stayed up all night talking to her about an idea you had for a novel about a small liberal arts college on the West Coast which serves as a sort of intellectual Arcadia for a group of students. Then this group goes out and starts a land-locked yachting club (no yacht, no water, just booze) and one night they drink to bacchanalian excess and commit a murder…


  7. Since 2011 Mr Palumbo has donated over 643,000 to the Liberal Democrats in cash, staffing costs and premises. Mr Palumbo is a friend of Nick Clegg and has dined with the Deputy Prime Minister at Chevening. In the last London mayoral campaign he allowed his nightclub to be used as its headquarters.

Speak Your Mind