Saturday, January 19, 2019

What It’s Like When *You* Own The Wall Banksy Spray-Painted

The English once had a patent on eccentricity, though we Americans evolved our own homegrown strain. The identifying mark of an eccentric is blissful indifference to the tyranny of opinion, an enviable state. Quoting Nabokov’s poem “To My Soul” (now translated as “In Paradise”), an interviewer in 1965 asks him, “Do you feel that you are ‘an eccentric lost in paradise’?” Nabokov replies:

“An eccentric is a person whose mind and senses are excited by things that the average citizen does not even notice. And,per contra, the average eccentric--for there are many of us, of different waters and magnitudes--is utterly baffled and bored by the adjacent tourist who boasts of his business connections. In that sense, I often feel lost; but then, other people feel lost in my presence too. And I also know, as a good eccentric should, that the dreary old fellow who has been telling me all about the rise of mortgage interest rates may suddenly turn out to be the greatest living authority on springtails or tumblebugs.”

“If any question why we died,

Tell them, because our fathers lied.”

Fewer bees will mean fewer plants and therefore less to eat and less Oxygen to breathe via LM at Economist

Watch: Massive, Moving Ice Disk Takes Center Stage, Mesmerizing

What It’s Like When *You* Own The Wall Banksy Spray-Painted

“After a Banksy muralappeared on his Port Talbot garage last month, Ian Lewis found himself facing a ‘very, very stressful’ battle to protect the artwork from thieves and vandals. Here, four people share their own, very different experiences of being ‘Banskied’.” — The Guardian

I happened on an attractive thought attributed to W.H. Auden: “Art is our chief means of breaking bread with the dead.” Because I found it online and no source was cited, I was skeptical. Fake, distorted and misattributed quotations blow across the internet like so many snowflakes. A brief search disclosed what seems to be the source, a 1971 story about Auden in the New York Times. Here, quoting Auden, is the fuller context:

“Nothing I wrote saved a single Jew from being gassed . . . it’s perfectly all right to be an engagé writer as long as you don’t think you’re changing things. Art is our chief means of breaking bread with the dead . . . but the social and political history of Europe would be exactly the same if Dante and Shakespeare and Mozart had never lived.”

Auden is almost restating his commonsensical and much-debated line from “In Memory of W.B. Yeats,” that “poetry makes nothing happen.” Colloquially, “breaking bread” means sharing a meal but with Auden as speaker it might also suggest fractio panis and the Eucharist. Either way, the phrase implies an intimate, friendly occasion, a dinner party for two. It also implies an ease of conversation, just you and one of your deceased forebears – say, Montaigne -- in a cozy little nook. That’s a fine metaphor for serious reading. It also reminds me of something written by another of those forebears, Charles Lamb. He writes in a letter to Coleridge, his childhood friend, on Dec. 10, 1796: “I can only converse with you by letter, and with the dead in their books.” A month later he writes again to Coleridge: “Books are to me instead of friends.”