Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Absolving human nature: Writing Like a Man

 “Nobody will ever induce me to absolve human nature  because I know myself.” Johnson’s vision is binocular. Without neglecting the commonplace and close-at-hand, he sees things sub specie aeternitatis. Consider The Rambler #68, published on this date, Nov. 10, in 1750:

“The main of life is, indeed, composed of small incidents, and petty occurrences; of wishes for objects not remote, and grief for disappointments of no fatal consequence; of insect vexations which sting us and fly away, impertinencies which buzz a while about us, and are heard no more; of meteorous pleasures which dance before us and are dissipated; of compliments which glide off the soul like other musick, and are forgotten by him that gave and him that received them.” 

Humor shrivels, dries up and blows away like a mushroom in a drought. Few human gifts are so time-and-place-dependent. Much of Mark Twain is heavy going and Rabelais has never made me laugh. The same is true for other renowned jokesters. The first bookish genre I felt enthusiasm for while crossing the border from children’s books into adult fare was humor, the twentieth-century American variety, especially Thurber, Perelman and Benchley, all associated with The New Yorker. The wittiest writer ever to work for that magazine was A.J. Liebling, a mere journalist. In contrast, the putative humorists have aged poorly. Growing Young Again

“Our past already had such distances! Already in that fragrance we could sense
the end of childhood, where remembrance stands.” If only recollection could cohere cold rivers

“A writer should know that only a few of those who look at him will actually see him.” 
Few look at Nicolás Gómez Dávila – Don Colacho -- and fewer see him. Among the latter is a young writer new to me, Chris R. Morgan, who has written a stylish tribute to the Colombian master aphorist (1913-1994). How pleasing to see a young writer with sufficient maturity to recognize Don Colacho’s worth: “On the surface, these aphorisms seem like throwaways. Yet Gómez Dávila’s mind was not wired for frivolity. In spite of their brevity, each escolio has a sculpted composition, fashioned to conform to an overriding vision that is as rigid in its consistency as it was free from ideological conventions.”  The side that has already lost

Poppy by Van Cleef & Arpels (2008)

Floral jewels

Craftsmen have long been captivated by the botanical world. Carol Woolton picks the world’s most beautiful blooms