Tuesday, January 6, 2015

with a string of pearls

Ruskin writes in his Ariadne Florentina, "Do you suppose I could rightly explain to you the value of a single touch on brass by Finiguerra, or on box by Bewick, unless I had grasp of the great laws of climate and country; and could trace the inherited sirocco or tramontana of thought to which the souls and bodies of the men owed their existence?" -- as if each object, box or touch, was a marshalling of chaos, and by approaching it you approach a universal nexus point, and as if, by knowing enough, you could comprehend, absolutely, the various phenomena united there; and once you believe that you will believe that any bit of information is useful, the author himself remembering, in the Harbours of England, how he once spent his time after a meal at an inn outside London measuring the dining room. "I found it exactly twice and a quarter the height of my umbrella." Not wasted.

"Great laws" are not flowing into the nexus point calmly, and resting there; this is what I think when I remember the way that the younger Hamsun makes parts of Overgrown Paths seem dubious, though the older Hamsun, who is writing them, says that he wants to be plain. When I say "the younger Hamsun" I mean the mode of writing that he represents, hysteria, provocation, and dry ludicrosity, which appears, for example, in a memory of the memoirist in "the days of my youth" giving up his seat to a woman on a tram while he was in France visiting Versailles.

She was a handsome old lady in a widow's veil and with a string of pearls around her neck, perhaps a duchess of the blood, forsooth -- she could have adopted me. Anyway, I gave those gentlemen, those Frenchmen, a lesson in courtesy which they won't forget, I was first.

"Perhaps a duchess of the blood," he says, and, "she could have adopted me," and with that he is larger than the event; he is the agent of disproportion. A nexus-point showing its influences is also infected by them. Ruskin writes, in the Poetry of Architecture, "It is always to be remembered, that he who prefers neatness to beauty, and who would have sharp angles and clean surfaces, in preference to curved outlines and lichenous color, has no business to live among hills." There's a vision of responsibility, not-infection, and cleannness.

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