Uit: Corelli’s Mandolin
„Dr Iannis had enjoyed a satisfactory day in which none of his patients had died or got any worse. He had attended a surprisingly easy calving, lanced one abscess, extracted a molar, dosed one lady of easy virtue with Salvarsan, performed an unpleasant but spectacularly fruitful enema, and had produced a miracle by a feat of medical prestidigitation.
He chuckled to himself, for no doubt this miracle was already being touted as worthy of St Gerasimos himself. He had gone to old man Stamatis’ house, having been summoned to deal with an earache, and had found himself gazing down into an aural orifice more dank, be-lichened, and stalagmitic even than the Drogarati cave. He had set about cleaning the lichen away with the aid of a little cotton, soaked in alcohol, and wrapped about the end of a long matchstick. He was aware that old man Stamatis had been deaf in that ear since childhood, and that it had been a constant source of pain, but was nonetheless surprised when, deep in that hairy recess, the tip of his matchstick seemed to encounter something hard and unyielding; something, that is to say, which had no physiological or anatomical excuse for its presence. He took the old man over to the window, threw open the shutters, and an explosion of midday heat and light instantaneously threw the room into an effulgent dazzle, as though some importunate and unduly luminous angel had misguidedly picked that place for an epiphany. Old Stamatis’ wife tutted; it was simply bad housekeeping to allow that much light into the house at such an hour. She was sure that it stirred up the dust; she could clearly see the motes rising up from the surfaces.
Dr Iannis tilted the old man’s head and peered into the ear. With his long matchstick he pressed aside the undergrowth of stiff grey hairs embellished with flakes of exfoliated scurf. There was something spherical within. He scraped its surface to remove the hard brown cankerous coating of wax, and beheld a pea. It was undoubtedly a pea; it was light green, its surface was slightly wrinkled, and there could not be any doubt in the matter. ‘Have you ever stuck anything down your ear?’ he demanded.”
Louis de Bernières (Londen, 8 december 1954)
Uit: Circling My Mother
„In the year 1908, Pierre Bonnard painted The Bathroom and my mother was born. The posture of the young woman in the painting is that of someone enraptured by the miracle of light. The light is filtered through the lace curtains, and its patterning is reflected in the water that fills the tub into which she is about to step. Even the floral spread on the divan from which she has just risen is an emblem of prosperity and joy. Bonnard is famous for painting bathing women; in all her life my mother has never taken a bath. At three, she was stricken with polio, and she never had the agility to get in or out of a bathtub. She told me that once, after I was born, my father tried to lift her into a bath, but it made them both too nervous.
Ninety years after the painting of The Bathroom, ten days before my mother’s ninetieth birthday, I am looking at the works of Bonnard at the Museum of Modern Art, a show I’ve been waiting for with the excitement of a teenager waiting for a rock concert. I was not brought to museums as a child; going to museums wasn’t, as my mother would have said, “the kind of thing we went in for.” It is very possible that my mother has never been inside a museum in her life. As a family we were pious, talkative, and fond of stories and the law. Our preference was for the invisible.
I can no longer remember how looking at art became such a source of solace and refreshment for me. Art history wasn’t anything I studied formally. I think I must have begun going to museums as a place to meet friends. However and wherever it happened, a fully realized painterly vision that testifies in its fullness to the goodness of life has become for me a repository of faith and hope, two of the three theological virtues I was brought up to believe were at the center of things. It is no accident, I suppose, though at the time I might have said it was, that I’ve arranged to meet two friends at the Bonnard show at the same time that I’m meant to phone the recreation therapist at my mother’s nursing home to plan her birthday party. Fifteen minutes after I arrive, I’ll have to leave the show. The therapist will be available only for a specific half-hour; after that, she’s leaving for vacation.“
Mary Gordon (Far Rockaway, 8 december 1949)
De Amerikaanse schrijver Bill Bryson werd geboren in Des Moines (Iowa) op 8 december 1951. Zie ook mijn blog van 8 december 2007 en ook mijn blog van 8 december 2008 en ook mijn blog van 8 december 2009.
Uit: African Diary
„In the late 1940s and early 1950s after he became a little too saggy to fit into a Tarzan loincloth without depressing popcorn sales among cinema audiences, the great Johnny Weissmuller filled the twilight years of his acting career with a series of low-budget adventure movies with titles like Devil Goddess and Jungle Moon Men, all built around a character called Jungle Jim. These modest epics are largely forgotten now, which is a pity because they were possibly the most cherishably terrible movies ever made. The plots seldom got anywhere near coherence. My own favorite, called Pygmy Island, involved a lost tribe of white midgets and a strange but valiant fight against the spread
of Communism. But the narrative possibilities were practically infinite since each Jungle Jim feature consisted in large measure of scenes taken from other, wholly unrelated adventure movies. Whatever footage was available—train crashes, volcanic eruptions, rhino charges, panic scenes involving large crowds of Japanese—would be snipped from the original and woven into Jungle Jim’s wondrously accommodating story lines. From time to time, the ever-more-fleshy Weissmuller would appear on the
scene to wrestle the life out of a curiously rigid and unresisting crocodile or chase some cannibals into the woods, but these intrusions were generally brief and seldom entirely explained.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that no more than four people at a time ever paid money to watch a Jungle Jim movie. The series might well have escaped my own attention except that in about 1959 WOI-TV, a television station well known in central Iowa for its tireless commitment to mediocrity, acquired the complete Jungle Jim oeuvre and for the next dozen or so years showed two of them back to back late every Friday night. What is especially tragic about all this is that I not only watched these movies with unaccountable devotion, but was indelibly influenced by them. In fact, were it not for some scattered viewings of the 1952 classic Bwana Devil and a trip on the Jungle Safari ride at Disneyland in 1961, my knowledge of African life, I regret to say, would be entirely dependent on Jungle Jim movies.“
Bill Bryson (Des Moines, 8 december 1951)
Archaic Bust Of Apollo
We cannot know the indescribable face
Where the eyes like apples ripened. Even so,
His torso has a candelabra’s glow,
His gaze, contained as in a mirror’s grace,
Shines within it. Otherwise his breast
Would not be dazzling. Nor would you recognize
The smile that moves along his curving thighs,
There where love’s strength is caught within its nest.
This stone would not be broken, but intact
Beneath the shoulders’ flowing cataract,
Nor would it glisten like a stallion’s hide,
Brimming with radiance from every side
As a star sparkles. Now it is dawn once more.
All places scrutinize you. You must be reborn.
Cambridge, Spring 1937
At last the air fragrant, the bird’s bubbling whistle
Succinct in the unknown unsettled trees:
O little Charles, beside the Georgian colleges
And milltown New England; at last the wind soft,
The sky unmoving, and the dead look
Of factory windows separate, at last,
From windows gray and wet:
for now the sunlight
Thrashes its wet shellac on brickwalk and gutter,
White splinters streak midmorning and doorstep,
Winter passes as the lighted streetcar
Moves at midnight, one scene of the past,
Droll and unreal, stiff, stilted and hooded.
Sonnet: O City, City
To live between terms, to live where death
has his loud picture in the subway ride,
Being amid six million souls, their breath
An empty song suppressed on every side,
Where the sliding auto’s catastrophe
Is a gust past the curb, where numb and high
The office building rises to its tyranny,
Is our anguished diminution until we die.
Whence, if ever, shall come the actuality
Of a voice speaking the mind’s knowing,
The sunlight bright on the green windowshade,
And the self articulate, affectionate, and flowing,
Ease, warmth, light, the utter showing,
When in the white bed all things are made.
Delmore Schwartz (8 december 1913 – 11 juli 1966)