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Archives for December 2013

Mr. White?


… h/t to my wife whose attention was wandering during the homily.

Don’t let Dappled Things become the dappled dodo.


A perhaps thirty-year-old Walker Percy (full head of brown hair) is standing on the grass of a public park on a fine summer’s day. The location could be Seattle or New Orleans or Heaven. A small audience of bookstore patrons and suchlike (including myself) is gathered. Cut to a newspaper article about Percy. From the text of the article, the Kiergegaard quotation that serves as epigraph to The Moviegoer jumps out at me, but it is formatted as a dictionary definition of despair. The original epigraph (as I recall it) has two numbered definitions, but here Percy (or the author of the article) has added a whimsically humorous third definition. Cut back to Walker standing there. He’s wearing a short-sleeved button-up shirt with a green cross-hatched weave, tucked in.

Walker introduces a semi-famous country singer who sits astride a bicycle (beach cruiser style) at the edge of the crowd and now commences to ride down the gentle grassy slope towards Walker. The country singer croons a couple of verses of a song that is loosely apropos to the occasion as he pedals in a wide arc around Walker. It is an odd spectacle, and Walker seems pleased but slightly abashed about it. He speaks to the audience for a short while and then concludes. The crowd disperses and Walker turns to walk away as well. It occurs to me I should say something to him while I have the chance, so I approach him from the side. Now he’s wearing a dark brown pullover and I grab the sleeve to get his attention.

“I just wanted to say your work has meant a lot to me,” I say.

“Well, all right.” Walker says, smiling cordially.

I let go of his sleeve. We both nod and smile and part ways.

I’m walking down the sidewalk away from the park. I burst into tears.

I wake up crying.

‘Get me rewrite!’ ‘The Man Comes Around’ edition

When out on the lawn, there arose such a clatter
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter…
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh….

There’s a man looking ’round judging souls,
And he decides who gets toys and who gets coal.
Everybody can be seen from the North Pole.
You will hear the hooves of reindeer touching down
When the man comes around.

You’ll listen from your bed, as cold as ice,
To the tally of each virtue and of each vice.
Will your name be set down among the ‘Nice’,
Or will you shout or pout or cry or frown
When the man comes around?


Hear the jingle, hear the jangle;
One hundred silver bells a-ringing;
Girls and boys are rising as the twelve drummers drum:
Some are ivy and some are holly,
Some are jaded and some are jolly,
The hour of the Man in Red is come.

And the stockings hang by the chimney!
(The children are all trimming their tree.)
The stockings hang by the chimney!
(No sugar-plums will dance that night for thee.)

Until the daybreak, Pedro Negro, Peter Black,
Or the Krampus crams bad children in his sack,
And carries them away upon his back
To beat them, eat them, or to see them drowned
When the man comes around.

Whoever is naughty, let him be naughty still.
Whoever is joyous, let him be joyous still.
Whoever is toyless, let him be toyless still.
The twice-checked list at last shall be unwound
When the man comes around.


A trick on kids, or something more profound,
When the man comes around?

… And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
‘Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night’….

La Grande Bellezza

First of all, it isn’t La Dolce Vita all over again, as I thought it might be when I first saw the trailer a month or so ago. As the director Paolo Sorrentino says in an interview, Fellini’s movie is a true masterpiece, but I don’t think that is the distinction that needs to be made. It isn’t La Dolce Vita because, despite the long orgy sequence at the beginning, it is downright melancholy in tone. Which isn’t to say that it isn’t fun and in many places even funny. It’s just that it’s now fifty years on, and what was sweet and charming in a decadent sort of way has grown a little stale. A lot stale. Chic Marxist politics, if it ever was anything other than a tired cliché, is here shown to have grown very stale indeed. Performance Art, pretending to be cutting edge drama, fails even to rise to the level of nihilistic and ends up laughable. If the beauty of young women in cocktail dresses wandering amidst the fountains of the eternal city was a sign of all that was possible in 1960, middle-aged satyrs and hags at a botox party is an even bigger sign for just how far we’ve fallen. This is Italy in the death spiral the demographers keep telling us about. If Beauty will save the world, it isn’t merely for being beautiful—it’s for showing in high relief just how ugly our world has become. That’s the story of The Great Beauty.

What The Korrektiv Did for Its October Vacation

Perhaps Percy’s most intriguing work, Lost in the Cosmos is a weird yet satisfying book – a hybrid of philosophical inquiry, satire, cultural analysis, multiple choice questions, thought experiments and (“What the hell, why not?” you can hear Percy say) even fiction. Perhaps the book most closely resembles Melville’s own loose but not-so-baggy monster, Moby Dick. But Lost in the Cosmos stands well on its own. The quality and quantity of presenters at the conference attested to its enduring worth—with more than 40 papers covering everything from liturgy to pornography to interstellar exploration to mimetic theory to Marshall McLuhan.

From Korrektiv’s Hirsute Hits of Haustralia Kollektion

This one goes out to all the Jonathan Potters of the world – Wear your grow and wear it proud!

H/T Number One Niece from Down Under Beth G.

Burning My Fire in the Sun

Bonus feature.


cf. House of Words, p. 44

Hey, Darwins…

…or any of you other smart people…

Would you mind taking a look at this? There’s some unpleasant smarm, but there’s also some clarity about the problem. And Lord help me, I’m not that bright.

Middle-age whimsy


Forty is when you tell your wife you’re not going to get new glasses because “I’m a fat slug and I don’t deserve nice things,” and she laughs and you laugh and later on you realize, “Yeah, I pretty much meant that.”

Forty is when you wake from a dream in which you cry, “I never thought I’d become a slave to a symbol” and then drive a carving knife into your own chest and think, “Well, that might be from some psychological crap I’m stirring up with this piece I’m working on, or it might be the devil,” but you don’t think, “Holy crap, I just committed suicide in my own dream.”