Wednesday, December 31, 2014

the huge, unrecorded hum of implication

Some of the charm of the past consists of the quiet -- the great distracting buzz of implication has stopped and we are left only with what has been fully phrased and precisely stated. And part of the melancholy of the past comes from our knowledge that the huge, unrecorded hum of implication was once there and left no trace -- we feel that because it is evanescent it is especially human. We feel, too, that the truth of the great preserved monuments of the past does not fully appear without it.

Lionel Trilling, Manners, Morals and the Novel, from The Liberal Imagination (1950))

The fact that there is a word for silence is an aesthetic creation.

(Jorge Luis Borges, Poetry, from Seven Nights, tr Eliot Weinberger (1984))


  1. These pairings have all been good, but this one it truly excellent.

    I don't know why Trilling thought that the past we inherit as history or art "has been fully phrased and precisely stated." It just looks clear now that the hum has all died away, yes?

    I wonder about people like, say, the Viennese tourists overrunning Venice while Ruskin was working on Stones, who looked at St Mark's and saw only a lump of golden domes, a thing wholly contained by their Viennese tourist present, a backdrop to the brass bands and tobacco salesmen. Ruskin heard, I think, the hum of the great Venetian past. But there might actually be plenty of silence in their lives, people like those tourists.

    I actually just meant to say: these pairings have been great!

    1. So it does look like they go together then? Good, good.

      "Clear" is a bit more modest, honest, and less aspirational than his "precisely;" what I think we need is anything that forms a shape, so that we can see it.

      Ruskin is so careful, so delicate, so attentive, with Venice and the Alps (and condemns the lumberers) that I'm curious whenever I come across one of those areas where he himself is, how would you say it, visionally dead? When he claps down on Indian sculpture (we don't need to know the date of this stone bull, he says: it is too evil; and you suspect that he would wipe it off the face of the earth if he could), I wonder, will he ever have an inkling that he might be like those people, or that those people might be like him? The answer is no, the author Ruskin never thinks that way. Intense focus and intense blindness, in patches, that man.

  2. Trilling touches upon what I consider the damnable persistence of the past -- perhaps it is the same for too many of us -- and Borges touches upon the seductive simplicity of silence . . . and I I wish my past would remain silent. I say all of this even as I re-imagine what the future might bring as a way of silencing the past. In any case, setting aside my absurd unaesthetic ramblings, I have stopped by simply to wish you Happy New Year . . . (and, please note, Beyond Eastrod has arisen from the ashes like the phoenix, and I hope you will not be stranger when the phoenix resumes it flight) . . .

    1. Happy New Year (I don't know if the past ever shuts up; it hums, it has hummed, and we ride along in the reverb). I was an uncommenting reader in the days when Beyond Eastrod was operational, so I'll be coming back, even if I still stay quiet.