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5 December 2006

Not as we know it

The English vice
Miki samples the
English vice
Not as we know it

Sleepless in Gloucestershire: I knew better than to drink coffee after dark. I’m typing after midnight in an overheated hotel room in Chipping Campden while wild wet weather off the Atlantic whips the trees on Sheep Street. I’m here courtesy of the Japanese magazine that has sent Miki to take photographs in the Cotswolds. I introduced her to zabaglione at dinner, and finished by introducing myself to Benedictine — and an espresso.

The Benedictine was a hit—Gammel Dansk drowned in honey—and it and I plan to meet again. How have we not met before? I’m reminded of the many other things I’ve neglected to try over the years, as if I’d been mustering a minimum set of pleasures to which to cling. Nurses talk about young infants ‘failing to thrive’; I’ve been failing to explore. Or suppressing a monastic vocation.

Left to ourselves, we Lake Wobegonians head straight for the small potatoes.
—Garrison Keillor

Music is one arena for this. We were burning along the M4 this morning to the sound of Robert Smith and The Cure. Miki’s 80s had been Cure-free, but then so had mine, apart from two or three hits such as “Love Cats”. How did I suppose I need not get and play the rest of their music?

So often one’s true life is the life one does not lead.
—Oscar Wilde

Playing it today having downloaded it—and other 80s music I missed— from iTunes a few weeks back. There’s not only so much to encounter, there’s so much to catch up on as well.

Another overdue is The Paris Review. Last week, decades after noticing that much poetry I liked in books had earlier appeared in this magazine, I took a copy from the LRB bookshop. Superb! The short story that begins the autumn issue hooked me on page one, and the first poem I saw made me laugh with pleasure with its opening stanza:

Just as Milton had to face
the problem of rain in paradise
I have to figure out what to do with you.

I’m remembering now Chip Delany and Marilyn Hacker explaining to me in 1974 how little contemporary American poetry crosses the Atlantic, and lending me an armful of it. I eventually returned it, most of it unopened.

It’s life Jim, but not as we know it.

Posted by SJT at December 5, 2006 10:22 PM


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