Friday, January 18, 2008

new haven, ct and the return of the homocidal wife

Again with the sensational retrospective suspicion that the feminine half of the economic and creative partnership murdered the masculine half. An act for which Wikipedia has no word. But surely there is one, right? Or maybe there's just a word for this recurring paranoia I've read so much about. In the New Yorker.

Anyway, this time it is Mrs. Thomas Ince, otherwise known as Eleanor Kershaw. A passing reference in Dana Goodyear's "Chateau Scientology." Or maybe she just connived (Eleanor, not Dana).

But what about New Haven? Hotbed of lost or soon to be almost lost artifacts.

Cynthia Zarin, in the olde Oct 15 issue reports on a miniature that might or might not be of Lady Jane Grey and is now in the possession of the Yale Center for British Art. I would have liked it if Zarin had spent less time on the pop culture references and more time on the part where "her father (Jane's) sold her guardianship, for two thousand pounds, to Lord Thomas Seymour." So does that make her a bargain or a hot commodity?

And Burkhardt Bilger's heroic Alan Solomon, of "Mystery on Pearl Street" (Jan 7) finds himself staring at a portrait of architect Ithiel Town, hanging in the church on the New Haven green, as he (Alan) tries to interpret the significance of a heap o' bricks of uncertain provenance. Now avail as abstract and podcast.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

luc sante is just brilliant

As everyone who cares surely knows by now, Facebook has elmininated the "is." I'm one of the people that likes this, and I now offer friends and family long, active, vaguely 19th C descriptions of my life and times. Indeed, almost all of my status updates include dated cliches.

Which brings me to Luc Sante, in the NYRB, away back in the October 25 issue. On the publication, in English, of the collected faits-divers of anarchist and writer Félix Fénéon. This biographical review is lovely. When Mr. Sante compares the pre-Fénéon items in Le Matin with the the author's, I actually get it.

"'In Brignoles, Mme. S., who had recently given birth, killed herself yesterday by jumping out a window, during a bout of fever.[15]'

The inertness and complacency of these sentences is immediately evident when they are compared to Fénéon's:

'Again and again Mme Couderc, of Saint-Ouen, was prevented from hanging herself from her window bolt. Exasperated, she fled across the fields.'"

But what does it all mean?

"If each item is a miniature clockwork of language and event, the full thousand-and-some put together make a mosaic panorama. They represent the year 1906 in France, and they are charged with the essence of that time and place in a way that is routinely available to artifacts and impersonal documents while often remaining outside the grasp of literature. They testify to the growing importance and menace of the automobile, the medieval conditions that still prevailed in agriculture and country life, the often fortunate inefficiency of firearms, the vulnerability of rural populations to epidemic disease, the unflagging pomposity of the military establishment, the mutual suspicion and profound lack of understanding between the French and their colonial subjects, the increasing number of strikes and the unchangingly brutal state of factory labor, the continuing panic over the threat of anarchist bombs (twelve years of relative calm had gone by, while the next wave of anarchist violence, spearheaded by the Bonnot gang, lay five years in the future)."

Sante makes no mention of the relevance of this kind of writing to the, um, poetics of new media. But it's all there for the taking, subtle, dark, perfect.