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Saturday April 19, 2014

Honoré de Balzac in Le Père Goriot (1835) is seemingly cruder in his characterization than is Gustave Flaubert in his L'Éducation sentimental (1869)—the closeness and the humanness (rather than the difference or the distance of a personage drawn by Balzac) of Frédéric Moreau bind one to him—and superior to a difference, or perhaps to a fault, in the Henry James' Portrait of a Lady (1881) where all the characters are tiresomely witty, even the simpler ones.

I'm sure I'll change my views the more I read.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
4/15/2014 8:14 pm
Labels: Balzac, Flaubert, James

Flaubert has a character, Charles Deslauriers—a friend of the protagonist Frédéric Moreau—mention a character drawn by Balzac in the Le Pere Goriot, (La Comédie Humaine), Eugene Rastignac: 'It worked well for Rastignac, it might well work for you,' he seems to say.

It gave rise to the French expression "Rastignac", a social climber willing to use any means to better his situation.

"...There's nothing so useful as to be a visitor at a rich man's house. Since you have a black coat and white gloves, make use of them. You must mix in that set. You can introduce me into it later. Just think!—a man worth millions! Do all you can to make him like you, and his wife, too. Become her lover!"

Frédéric uttered an exclamation by way of protest.

"Why, I can quote classical examples for you on that point, I rather think! Remember Rastignac in the Comédie Humaine. You will succeed, I have no doubt."

L'Éducation sentimentale 1869 Gustave Flaubert

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
4/14/2014 1:57 pm

A current of fresh air swept past them, and Madame Arnoux gazed vaguely into the distance. When the music stopped, she moved her eyes several times as if she were starting out of a dream.

The harpist approached them with an air of humility. While Monsieur Arnoux was searching his pockets for money, Frederick stretched out towards the cap his closed hand, and then, opening it in a discreet manner, he deposited in it a louis d'or. It was not vanity that had prompted him to bestow this alms in her presence, but the idea of a blessing in which he thought she might share—an almost religious impulse of the heart.

L'Éducation sentimentale 1869 Gustave Flaubert (my bold face type)

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
4/13/2014 8:20 pm

Another well known line of Le Père Goriot (1835) by Balzac is when M. Vautrin tells Eugene Rastignac,

In that case I will make you an offer that no one would decline. (Dans ces conjonctures, je vais vous faire une proposition que personne ne refuserait.)

This has been reworked by Mario Puzo in the novel The Godfather (1969) and its film adaptation (1972);

I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse.

It was ranked as the second most significant cinematic quote in AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes (2005) by the American Film Institute.


Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
4/10/2014 6:24 pm
Labels: Honore Balzac

England was a revelation ... (she has just arrived with her aunt from America)

Her uncle's house seemed a picture made real; no refinement of the agreeable was lost upon Isabel; the rich perfection of Gardencourt at once revealed a world and gratified a need. The large, low rooms, with brown ceilings and dusky corners, the deep embrasures and curious casements, the quiet light on dark, polished panels, the deep greenness outside, that seemed always peeping in, the sense of well-ordered privacy in the centre of a "property"—a place where sounds were felicitously accidental, where the tread was muffed by the earth itself and in the thick mild air all friction dropped out of contact and all shrillness out of talk—these things were much to the taste of our young lady, whose taste played a considerable part in her emotions.

Portrait Of A Lady 1881, Henry James, page 141.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
3/21/2014 4:37 pm
Labels: Henry James

John Ruskin in Modern Painters II 1846 quotes theologian Richard Hooker (1554 – 1600),

All things … receive externally some perfection from other things.

Immediately after Ruskin continues,

Hence the appearance of separation or isolation in anything, and of self-dependence, is an appearance of imperfection: and all appearances of connection and brotherhood are pleasant and right, both as significative of perfection in the things united, and as typical of that Unity ...

Location 1535 of 4714 in the Kindle copy.

Richard Hooker is as true today about the environment as he was in the 16th century about Nature, but John Ruskin takes it further—he interprets—and Susan Sontag says in Against Interpretation 1964,

To interpret is to impoverish, to deplete the world - in order to set up a shadow world of "meanings". 

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
3/20/2014 6:40 pm

John Ruskin's views on art, wrote Kenneth Clark, "cannot be made to form a logical system, and perhaps owe to this fact a part of their value."

About a critic in the journal Blackwood, October of 1843,

... still more utterly discomfited, is reduced to a still more remarkable line of defence. "It is not," he says, "what things in all respects really are, but how they are convertible by the mind into what they are not, that we have to consider." ... I leave therefore the reader to choose whether, with Blackwood and his fellows, he will proceed to consider how things are convertible by the mind into what they are not, or whether, with me, he will undergo the harder, but perhaps on the whole more useful, labor of ascertaining—What they are.

But before that,

The artist has done nothing till he has concealed himself,—the art is imperfect which is visible, … We see as he sees, but we see not him. We become part of him, feel with him, judge, behold with him; but we think of him as little as of ourselves. (my underlining)

Modern Painters 1843, John Ruskin from the second preface.

Contrasting, whether logical or not, these two utterances makes a comparative sense to me, another one; but no matter how I take John Ruskin's statements, as opposed to what he meant by them, I find reading him of value for this same contradictory aspect; his writing is art although he probably would not agree with me in his, real or postured, Victorian humility.  

With the publication of Modern Painters,

Suddenly Ruskin had found his métier, and in one leap helped redefine the genre of art criticism, mixing a discourse of polemic with aesthetics, scientific observation and ethics.

From Wikipedia.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
3/17/2014 7:08 pm

Thenceforward the flower is to him a living creature, with histories written on its leaves, and passions breathing in its motion. Its occurrence in his picture is no mere point of color, no meaningless spark of light. It is a voice rising from the earth,—a new chord of the mind's music,—a necessary note in the harmony of his picture, contributing alike to its tenderness and its dignity, nor less to its loveliness than its truth.

Modern Painters 1843, John Ruskin from the second preface.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
3/16/2014 8:52 pm

As Marcel Proust says in À la recherche du temps perdu, one of the first things one reads is the preface to a book but it was always written last and done after the work was finished. 

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
3/16/2014 8:50 pm
Labels: Prefaces, Proust

In addition to Rosemary lamb sausages, which Rebecca grills to sample at the Union Square Greenmarket, we bring out a newly seasoned lamb sausage every couple of weeks.

One of our latest was a Scallion Coriander lamb sausage which of course has scallions, coriander, salt and a small amount of garlic that we grew on the farm. Our sausages are 100% local lamb; they have a lamb casing and never have any synthetic preservatives in them. Our lamb contains what the label on it says.

You can choose lamb sausages from: Merguez, Mergueza, Curry-Pomegranite, Garlic-Fennel, Red Pepper & Fennel, Sage, Maqaniq, Apple Maple, Garlic Merlot, Sun Dried Tomato & Caper, Apricot Merlot, Roasted Garlic & Tomato, Mint & Onion and more.  And when our garlic sprouts in April, you can have a Spring Garlic lamb sausage made with the garlic greens from "volunteers", garlic that was overlooked at last year's harvest, overwintered in the field and sprouted again.

Free of synthetic preservatives, we also have Lamb Bacon, Lamb Pastrami, Lamb Liverwurst and Lamb Jerky to please your palate along with the wholesome and traditional chops and roasts that are available every Saturday at Greenmarket and from our Lamb Store online.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
3/16/2014 10:22 am
Labels: Lamb Sausage

I don't like being negative in print but you've got to call a spade a spade.


After several years of not smoking cigarettes, last year I thought I'd have the best of both worlds: a nicotine feeling and the safety from smoking a pipe by not inhaling the smoke. I was wrong; I got my nicotine alright but I started coughing, not from the direct inhalation but who is closer to secondhand smoke than a pipe smoker. I was inches away from it and a cloud of tobacco smoke was before my mouth and nose as I puffed my pipe. Many people told me burning pipe tobacco smelled good and it wasn't as objectionable as sour cigarette smoke was—I liked smoking Solani Silver Flake, a "ripe red Virginia and spicy dark fired Kentucky" blended by the pipe tobacco masters of Denmark—and, what I liked, was that it was not from Big Tobacco (Philip Morris, Reynolds, and Lorillard); pipe tobacco is a crop from small farms and it has been artisanally blended for 100's of years. Nevertheless I coughed, pipe smoking wasn't safe or healthy; I had to quit it but I did like the feeling of nicotine.

On my computer I searched for "chewing tobacco", a smokeless tobacco that one puts in your mouth between the lower gum and lip. The problem was you had to expectorate the tobacco juice from time to time. I thought of Lenny Dyksrta, a baseball player who chewed tobacco, the Met's centerfielder in the 80's, upon the inning change, an opposing centerfielder remarked that centerfield was a "toxic wasteland" when he had to inhabit it after an inning of Dyskstra being there. I thought of Leman Robbin's father in Fresno, a farm labor contractor, when I was 15 and his new cream yellow 1958 Ford Fairlane of which the front and rear doors were streaked with a dried, brownish-green tobacco juice as he spit out the window driving to a peach orchard at 60 MPH in the hot San Joaquin Valley. It looked like he'd gotten sick. I didn't want to spit.

I read on and I came to Snus (pronounced "snoose"), a smokeless tobacco from Sweden, and because it didn't make you salivate, you didn't have to spit. You put the tobacco between the upper gum and lip; one Swedish company has been making Snus since 1822; users said it wouldn't hurt you; but, as for almost everything else, naysayers said that Snus wasn't good for you, that it would cause cancer, etc. You could only order it from Sweden. I was intrigued and continued reading.

Let me interrupt my little tobacco narrative and talk about what's good for you from the point of view of a grower and provider of small food and tell you what I believe and what some of my customers believe too. Belief is a good word to describe what one deems healthy to eat in America; before 1940 food was from pure soil and from animals grazing it; since then the soil has been adulterated with chemicals and the food modernizations (made for corporate profit and not for health), coming year after year, have been silent or tacitly agreed to by the consumer who says about the food that corporations produce, "it's bigger, it's prettier, it's fresher, it's cheaper..." not knowing how their produce got that way or caring that the cheap cost of nutrition is damage to their collective selves. There was little scientific evidence about food growing and that continues today; part of the reason for this information vacuum is that Big Food (McDonalds, Frito-Lay Cargill, Monsanto and including many other food producers and marketeers) wants an uninformed consumer (look at what they spend to ban labeling) as food corporations make more money feeding our blind beliefs rather than by disclosing the facts of how they produce their products; their practices (sanctioned by the USDA and FDA) may make us ill, and certainly, the way they farm and distribute their products will continue to make our environment unsuitable to support the complex web of life.

Historically the human is an omnivore; a feast in 800 BC (Homer's time) was eating a fire roasted leg of lamb and drinking mulled wine as one listened to a bard play a lyre and sing sweetly of the gods. There is little mention in The Odyssey of fruit and vegetables but they have been eaten since before history was recorded even, and of course you know the biblical story that Eve gave Adam an apple to bite into...

My father was obese for all the eating reasons and my mother smoked cigarettes. Both died at the age of their parents who were not excessive in the same way. Within reason, longevity and health have genetic causes rather than being caused by the food we eat, or so I believe. Insurance and medical corporations statistically think this too; you will be asked on a form in the doctor's office, at what age did your parents die and from what? 

Yes, eating well is the best revenge and there are caveats (nurture cautions) to this genetic interpolation of eating, good health and longevity; I believe in labeling and in my good awareness to choose no synthetics in my food, no herbicides or pesticides used in it, no unlabeled GMO's, no antibiotics in livestock feed, no high fructose corn syrups as I don't want to eat food (healthy or not) treated in this way. Or in other words NO Big Food as food corporations have been the perpetrators of producing, what I call, a tainted food.

Corporations, big and small, are chartered to make money—they won't go away unless the money goes away—they are rather dumb entities (and annoying like stink bugs) even though they employ smart people. Corporations follow the money, as Deep Throat said to The Washington Post about exposing those responsible for the Watergate burglary. But you can change corporate direction by how you spend your money.

Day-to-day, you should eat what you want and spend accordingly, you buy what you're hungry for, but you eat for your own health (my recommendation is to eat food the way it was produced for your grandparents)—listen to your body and trust it because it's hungry for what it needs—not something as falsely patriotic as the financial health of Big Food or The American Way or jobs and tax paying or some other metaphorical sugar-substitute mouthed by elected officials. 

As Ben Franklin stated, 'Moderation in all things for a virtuous life' and that means in all things including moderation in what you eat. Michael Pollan ("The Godfather of Good Eating," as someone described him to me) confessed a love for Cracker Jacks—what absolute food crap Cracker Jacks are: now made by Frito-Lay, they contain GE corn and peanuts, are raised with herbicides and pesticides and have a high-fructose sweetener (but "molasses-flavored") sprayed on them, etc.—but Michael Pollan enjoys Cracker Jacks. And that is very good.

The point is that he generally eats well such that on occasion, and on many occasions too, he can eat poorly without becoming obese or making Big Food richer, or if you believe, without making himself sick. He eats in moderation, he says. And eating Cracker Jacks do moderate his good eating habits as eating bad food is a win-win for an omnivore—and he seems to be a virtuous man. Anyway, he is a food champion and I might remind myself that this morceau is about eating and not about virtue.

Call this my rationale of synthetic additives, if you will, and Michael Pollan might smile too—but Snus has a small measure of propylene glycol in it to maintain a moisture which obviates wetting the tobacco with saliva and the spitting one finds with American smokeless tobaccos—I call this a moderation.

Another thing that won me over to Snus, like being banned in Boston, it is banned in the EU. Why, I don't know. I am not endorsing Snus as you must be over 18 years of age to read me. I like the feel of nicotine and I like a way to ingest it without having smoke in my lungs and I like the absence of the oral ritual—the habit—of smoking. It's been over 30 days since I've smoked my pipe; I seldom miss it and certainly don't miss the coughing and the shortness of breath that went along with inhaling the smoke, even inadvertantly. I'll probably continue Snus through April until I start riding my bike in warmer weather, but who knows. Moderation in all things, even in health.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
3/12/2014 9:41 am
Labels: Pipe Smoking, Snus

After shearing, I truck the wool in shearing bags to Adamstown, Pennsylvania, to the Bollman Hat Company where until 10 years ago they custom scoured the wool having a scouring train that was put in their factory in 1941. It's become unprofitable to scour there now; instead, I have it compressed and baled to truck by common carrier to San Angelo, Texas where Bollman has their new, higher-capacity scouring train.

Yesterday I rented a diesel truck from Budget with a 26 foot bed and filled it with 49 wool bags of Saxon Merino lamb's wool: 17 micron, Saxon Merino sheep's wool: 18 micron and crossbred lamb's wool: 22 micron, sired by Corriedale rams bred to Saxon Merino ewes.

Next: the scouring in Texas, the trucking to Vermont for spinning at Green Mountain before it appears at the stand for sale in the Union Square Greenmarket on Saturday.

I forgot the ear buds to my iPhone, I couldn't listen to a recorded book as I usually do on these hour long drives and that was a good thing; as even though the truck was new, it was hard-riding and bouncy plus it slowed considerably on inclines, full or empty—it required attention and sometimes anticipation while driving.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
3/12/2014 7:37 am
Labels: Wool

I always have a hard time finishing one book and starting another—what should I read now—now that I've finished a tandem read of The Odessey by Homer and Ulysses by Joyce? I tend to gravitate to things I've read before and read them again...the comfort of ending one author's style and beginning another way of writing—at first seemingly foreign—is, if not traumatic, certainly somewhat immobilizing in the beginning of a new novel.

One passage that I remember from Marcel Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu is the party at the Marquise de Saint-Euverte's in Swann In Love from Swann's Way and I wanted to visit it again.

Where the lovelorn Swann climbs the staircase of the Marquise to attend the party, is repulsed by the stupidity of the society people there, sees his witty friend the Princess de Laumes and hears Vinteuil's sonata again. Vinteuil's sonata contains la petite phrase which so enraptured him when he'd first heard it with Odette and hearing it again he is reminded of the futility of his love for her.

I thought of art, I thought of Diane R. Leonard's Ruskin and the Cathedral of Lost Souls in The Cambridge Companion to Proust, 2001 edited by Richard Bales where she talks of impressions as a way to appreciate art and of Susan Sontag, Against Interpretation1964. 

I saw Susan Sontag in the 1980's exiting the movie I had just seen, Floating Weeds, 1959 by Yasujiro Ozu. Yoko, a friend and painter, pointed her out to me heading toward First Avenue in the company of a young man: she had the shock of a gray forelock in her dark hair—God, she was beautiful—or that was my interpretation.

Or was that my impression? Things get murky with some definitions: they have a tendency to overlap their meanings depending on who you read.

A Susan Sontag disclaimer to focus what she says,

Of course, I don't mean interpretation in the broadest sense, the sense in which Nietzsche (rightly) says, "There are no facts, only interpretations." By interpretation, I mean here a conscious act of the mind which illustrates a certain code, certain "rules" of interpretation.

And Diane R. Leonard says,

Ironically, Proust himself is in a similar situation here: despite the fact that he is reading (Stones Of Venice) inside St Mark's, he is reading the text of Ruskin (interpreting), rather than the figural language of the mosaics. Moreover, the inscriptions on the mosaics prevent him from having that innocence of the eye indispensable to the truth of impression.

Both Sontag and Leonard want that innocence of the eye indispensable to the truth of impression when approaching a work of art. A 3rd grader has that eye but one must school one's self into it if one is an adult or even a learned scholar and unlearn a little.

Art dealer Michael Findlay in The Value of Art: Money, Power, Beauty, 2012 cries out vociferously in his book against the audio guides in museums and the people who are consuming a curator's interpretation rather than looking at art with an innocent eye and forming their own impressions.

But what about Swann, Proust's character, when he hears the sonata again? Why do I like this passage? Part of the answer is I like Swann; he is who I'd like to be, if one can so wish of a fictional creation. He is wealthy, he gets all the girls, he is socially accepted by the most "fashionable" in Parisian society, he is knowledgeable about art and is writing a piece on Vermeer and he falls in love; he is a sensuous man.

Part of the answer too is that Proust writes about art, about Swann's views of Vinteuil's sonata, about la petite phrase, and that interests me. Another part of the answer is that Swann is flawed and flawed about his considerations of art. He compares people he meets to paintings, he doesn't take his acquaintances as they are. He interprets them. In this respect, as much as I wouldn't like to be Swann, to Proust's credit, he's real.

And another part of the answer is I don't know why I like this passage—perhaps it's the silence of it—that I will always think of it is to Proust's credit too.

And Diane R. Leonard again,

"(Proust) thus puts into practice an idea that (John) Ruskin himself had elaborated in Sesame and Lilies:

And be sure also, if the author is worth anything, that you will not get at his meaning all at once ... Not that he does not say what he means, and in strong words too; but he cannot say it all; and what is more strange, will not, but in a hidden way and in parables ... I cannot quite see the reason of this, nor analyse that cruel reticence in the breasts of wise men which makes them always hide their deeper thought. They do not give it you by way of help, but of reward; and will make themselves sure that you deserve it before they allow you to reach it ... 

Apparently Proust was struck by this passage, for he comments on it in a footnote, observing that a beautiful book is characterised by ' ... sa noble atmosphere de silence, ce merveilleux vernis qui brille du sacrifice de tout ce qu'on n'a pas dit ... '(Sesame, p. 85, n. i) ' ... its noble atmosphere of silence, that marvellous varnish which shines with the sacrifice of all that has not been said ...'"

Notwithstanding, I like what I see. Overall I like Proust's style; I like his long sinuous sentences. I like his freshness of figural language but I'm a little bored with his numerous people in sickness similes; one knows Proust was ill and because of that he makes use of illness to make a reader see; however, this fault becomes a method of seeing, by contrast, what one likes in À la recherche du temps perdu: Swann listening to Vinteuil's sonata at the Marquise de Saint-Euverte's party,

As though the musicians were not nearly so much playing the little phrase as performing the rites on which it insisted before it would consent to appear, as proceeding to utter the incantations necessary to procure, and to prolong for a few moments, the miracle of its apparition, Swann, who was no more able now to see it than if it had belonged to a world of ultra-violet light, who experienced something like the refreshing sense of a metamorphosis in the momentary blindness with which he had been struck as he approached it, Swann felt that it was present, like a protective goddess, a confidant of his love, who, so as to be able to come to him through the crowd, and to draw him aside to speak to him, had disguised herself in this sweeping cloak of sound.

Marcel Proust translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
3/9/2014 11:31 am
Labels: Leonard, Proust, Sontag, Swann

Now Dominique has a week to ready the barn for our scheduled lambing and the slew of babies coming; almost all the ewes are expecting.

I'm in New York at the Union Square Greenmarket and will break the market day at the Met seeing 19th century French photographs of Paris in the early afternoon.

For her break, Dominique will coddle the dozen or so unexpected lambs that arrived last week sired by a Saxon Merino ram who jumped the fence and was with the ewes for less than a day.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
3/8/2014 7:51 am

Quiet :)

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
3/7/2014 7:06 am