Of Pugs and Proust

Gratuitous puppy pictureFor years I resisted the idea of pugs, thinking them fat and smelly. When I was finally shamed into relenting I found myself unexpectedly charmed by a delightful puppy who was nothing like what I’d been expecting. Just as when I was in San Francisco the ringing of the cables under the streets came as a complete surprise, so did the pug puppy’s companionable stream of snuffles, wheezes, and chunterings.

The other day I came across an interview, translated from the French, with Stephen Breyer, ex-Supreme. I don’t know about you but to me he was only ever a function. So the interview charmed me in the same way as did the pug’s unexpected snores. He describes reading À la recherche as a young man living in Paris and teaching himself to read and speak French in the process. One infers from it a period of loneliness – he read the damn thing twice – and a warm and ardent approach to literature that public figures seldom admit to these days, at least in print. Well worth a read. He exemplifies the ideal of a liberal arts education, the aristocracy of a republic earned by reading, and how literature opens windows on the world.

Full disclosure: one is not a fan of the endless recycling around characters who smack one in the face with their endlessly hateful lives. I feel about it as if Perez Hilton wrote a multi-volume novel about the Kardashians and their world.  I understand – and apologize in advance – for the extreme ignorance of this POV. Does it help that I found a gaping hole in the plot when Elstir appeared? Perhaps if I read French I’d understand the need for quite so many subordinate clauses in a sentence but you know what? I read Tolstoy and his people come miraculously alive. True of Nabokov. Etc. But… I’m touched by the ex-jurist and hope he found a gay bartabac.

30 comments:

8:39 pm • Wednesday • September 10, 2014

Breyer is still on the Court, thankfully. I saw him speak once, circa 2007, and he was sharp but quite prickly. In terms of former Supremes, you may be thinking of Souter, who is rumored to have the ghey. I ran into him once, years ago, outside the Library of Congress. We chatted a bit, and he seemed impressed that a 19-year-old both knew who he was and was so excited to meet him.

9:22 pm • Wednesday • September 10, 2014

@mellbell: No, I’m ignorant. Read the piece. It’s grand.

9:43 pm • Wednesday • September 10, 2014

@mellbell: toured his office once when I was in law school. Little known fact – if you’re on the S.Ct., and there’s a painting in the National Gallery that’s not hung, you can have it in your office.

9:46 am • Thursday • September 11, 2014

I’ll be the first here to confess that I’ve never read anything by Proust.

12:10 pm • Thursday • September 11, 2014

@SanFranLefty: Tried once or twice. Decided I don’t need to be responsible for carrying all culture to the next generation.

1:01 pm • Thursday • September 11, 2014

Let the Middle East Fight Its Own War on ISIS

If the US had a real strategy for national success, we would let the Middle East face and resolve its own crises, and demand a UN framework for action. We would team up not with NATO, but with the UN Security Council, and put others (for once!) into the lead. We would actually mobilize to solve the real problems facing the region: poverty, hunger, drought, and unemployment. Those are the crises that at the end of the day cause men and boys to fling their lives into useless and suicidal slaughter. If just once in our times US politicians had the bravery to build coalitions to improve the lives of the people through development rather than through bombs, the US public would be amazed to see how much agreement and goodwill could quickly generate. Instead we head to war.

Trigger warning: Huffington Post

1:02 pm • Thursday • September 11, 2014

It’d be a far better use of our time and munnies to bomb the psychopathic, sadistic, greed-crazed RepubliKKKan CONgress instead. They’ve killed millions and are hell-bent on destroying our country.

3:04 pm • Thursday • September 11, 2014

@SanFranLefty: I’ve read the first three volumes of À la recherche (loved The Guermantes Way, but I got bogged down in Sodom and Gomorrah (as one does) and never finished it. I keep meaning to go back but haven’t done it yet. As an inveterate snob (like Marcel), I adore reading about the upper classes and their misadventures. It’s books about white trash that I can’t stand, thus my problems getting through Faulkner.

6:24 pm • Thursday • September 11, 2014

@Mistress Cynica: Speaking of impenetrable prose, this piece in the Times about the death of adulthood could have used an editor or three.

4:00 am • Friday • September 12, 2014

@nojo: w/r/t Tweet of the Day and phones used to get smaller – I think one of the most underrated comedies is Zoolander, which did not do well at the box office since it had the misfortune of opening on Friday September 14, 2001. But that movie perfectly captured the absurdity of the ever shrinking phones, and I can tell you that as I enter my fifth decade of life, I like things bigger so I can see them. Our office admin person was futzing on my computer today when it went fakaka and she said “Do you really want all the icons and font that large on your screen?” to which my answer was “Is there a way to make them bigger.”

OTOH, having lost yet another family member to cancer (FUCK CANCER!) this week, I suppose failing eyesight due to getting older is better than the alternative. Oh yeah, I was diagnosed with arthritis in my knees this week, too.

/get off my xeriscaped lawn, kids!

4:04 am • Friday • September 12, 2014

MEANWHILE, nobody else heard about Sarah Plain and Dumb drama at the snowmobile party?

This story has it all. Stretch Hummers. Booze. A right hook. And a former vice presidential candidate screaming, “Do you know who I am?”

Just another Saturday night in Anchorage with the Palins?

Several Alaska bloggers reported a brawl at a house party over the weekend for the Iron Dog snowmobile race (that Todd Palin has won four times). And it allegedly involved the former first family of Alaska.

[…]
Here’s the salacious scoop from Alaska political blogger Amanda Coyne:

“A nice, mellow party, until the Palin’s show up. There’s beer, of course, and maybe other things. Which is all fine, but just about the time when some people might have had one too many, a Track Palin stumbles out of a stretch Hummer, and immediately spots an ex-boyfriend of Willow’s. Track isn’t happy with this guy, the story goes. There’s words, and more. The owner of the house gets involved, and he probably wished he hadn’t. At this point, he’s up against nearly the whole Palin tribe: Palin women screaming. Palin men thumping their chests. Word is that Bristol has a particularly strong right hook, which she employed repeatedly, and it’s something to hear when Sarah screams, “Don’t you know who I am!” And it was particularly wonderful when someone in the crowd screamed back, “This isn’t some damned Hillbilly reality show!” No, it’s what happens when the former First Family of Alaska comes knocking. As people were leaving in a cab, Track was seen on the street, shirtless, flipping people off, with Sarah right behind him, and Todd somewhere in the foreground, tending to his bloody nose.”

8:44 am • Friday • September 12, 2014

@SanFranLefty: To the Palin’s, a “stretch hummer” is ____________ [insert suitably white trash and/or ribald].

What a way to be welcomed back to these pages. Don’t tell me it’s Coctober soon, I’m still getting over my stretched hummer/summer…

/showing myself out the door/

4:40 pm • Friday • September 12, 2014

We visited the Queen Mum’s Memorial Garden today at the Edinburgh Botanical Gardens but there were no gin bushes.

10:11 pm • Friday • September 12, 2014

@Dodgerblue: Have you found a place to watch the Uklah v. Texas cows American football game tomorrow?

Speaking of Sport, I wonder if the NFL will take child abuse more seriously than domestic abuse, or is it only a 3 week suspension versus a year for smoking weed?

10:51 pm • Friday • September 12, 2014
9:26 am • Saturday • September 13, 2014

@SanFranLefty: Almost feel sympathy for the guy because, well, “love” but mostly Argentinian, but then the icky cheating, lying etc. comes back.

He could probably start in Maine and still finish the AT before he gets too frosty come December/January.

10:53 pm • Saturday • September 13, 2014

@SanFranLefty: I will be very interested to see how this is handled. The photos are appalling and the texts demonstrate utter cluelessness.
As for that lying worm Sanford–grow the fuck up. You sound like a whiny high school boy. You were stupid enough to cheat on a woman with the funds and the balls to make. you. pay. Deal with it.

4:08 pm • Monday • September 15, 2014

@Mistress Cynica: Vikings cleared him to rejoin the team this week and for their next game, because he was trying to teach his son “wrong from right” and discipline him. Nevermind he first stuffed the 4-year-old’s mouth full of leaves, made him get naked, and whipped the child’s entire body with the tree branch, and hit him in the face with his hand for good measure.

Too bad there wasn’t a video.

4:24 pm • Monday • September 15, 2014

@SanFranLefty: No, but the Olbermann Rant should be coming up in about 35 minutes.

11:14 pm • Monday • September 15, 2014

@SanFranLefty: Are you fucking kidding me?? I look forward to Cris Carter’s next rant. The first was almost Keith-level.

11:07 am • Tuesday • September 16, 2014

@nojo: Here’s Keef. And part two. He’s en fuego.

@Mistress Cynica: He apparently beat another four year old son (by a different baby mama).

3:36 pm • Tuesday • September 16, 2014

@SanFranLefty: I’m not sorry to have missed this. On to the Isle of Skye tomorrow; I’ll be there for the referendum.

6:54 pm • Tuesday • September 16, 2014

@Dodgerblue: You must report on the revelry if it passes, it will be both amazing and frightening. I would use the word “awesome” but, alas, that word no longer means much at all.

9:36 am • Wednesday • September 17, 2014

The younger members of my family in the auld country seem very pro independence. As I think I would be if I lived there. Niall Fergusson had an absurd recap of Anglo-Celt history leaving out any mention of the enclosures or recurring rebellions. It seems that the pro case is being very sloppily reported here in the States: shocking, I know.

@Dodgerblue: try to stay dry.

4:00 pm • Wednesday • September 17, 2014

My (very liberal) Scot friends are voting yes. I just saw that Shetland may decide to leave Scotland if the yes vote passes. In their position, I’d be asking Norway to take me back–better economy and social welfare programs than either Scotland or the UK.

ETA: If there’s to be any hope of Scotland staying in the UK, David Cameron needs to shut the fuck up.

3:46 am • Thursday • September 18, 2014

‘Tis a foggy morning on the Isle of Skye for referendum day. The locals are quite busy making money — no vacancies in Portree and the restaurants are full. One sees many “Yes” posters and few “No” but I don’t know what that means. The local whiskey and ale are excellent. i talked to a volunteer at a “Yes” booth on the mainland yesterday who told me that his side is expecting to win with a 60 pct majority; according to all the public polling, he is in the land o’the faeries.

2:21 am • Friday • September 19, 2014

Scotland votes to stay in the U.K. 55-45 pct. The vote by council district was even more pro-union.

3:12 am • Friday • September 19, 2014

@Dodgerblue: Got caught up watching Sky news — first time since That Car Crash.

Setting aside questions of Identity and Nation, I think all the practical questions were insurmountable — how do you disentangle the pound, pensions, passports, and everything else involved in a highly integrated society?

What they’re calling Devo Max is the more reasonable solution: More local government throughout the UK. The real problem is the thorough concentration of power in Westminster.

3:15 am • Friday • September 19, 2014

@Dodgerblue: @nojo: The silent majority speaks.

5:13 am • Friday • September 19, 2014

@nojo:
This is the same roadblock to Quebec independence. Despite a different culture and history (much like Scotland), the separation of powers, debt and other ties would be too much.

Also had to deal with some separatist bullshit about how Quebec bankrolled the RoC aka Rest of Canada when in actual fact that it was the RoC that bankrolled Quebec.

Add a comment