March 17, 2011

From the Lamentation of Jeremiah…

…to Brideshead Revisited.

Quomodo sedet sola civitas… How doth the city sit solitary

“…the priest came in - I was there alone. I don’t think he saw me - and took out the altar stone and put it in his bag; then he burned the wads of wool with the holy oil on them and threw the ash outside; he emptied the holy-water stoop and blew out the lamp in the sanctuary, and left the tabernacle open, and empty, as though from now on it was always to be Good Friday. I suppose none of this makes any sense to you, Charles, poor agnostic. I stayed there ‘til he was gone, and then, suddenly, there wasn’t any chapel there any more, just an oddly decorated room. I can’t tell you what it felt like. You’ve never been to Tenebrae, I suppose?’


‘Well, if you had you’d know what the Jews felt about their temple. Quomodo sedet sola’s a beautiful chant. You ought to go once, just to hear it…’ ”

…”I thought: 'The builders did not know the uses to which their work would descend; they made a new house with the stones of the old castle; year by year, generation after generation, they enriched and extended it; year by year the great harvest of timber in the park grew to ripeness; until, in sudden frost, came the age of Hooper; the place was desolate and the work all brought to nothing; Quomodo sedet sola civitas. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity’…”

"My theme, says the narrator in Evelyn Waugh's book, this most carefully written and deeply felt novel, "is memory, that winged host." And, with that, the bright devastating satirist of England moved from one world to another. From the lunacy of a burlesqued Mayfair, to a world in which people credibly think and feel. For Mr. Waugh was very definitely an artist, with something like a genius for precision and clarity not surpassed by any novelists writing in English at that time.

It tells an absorbing story in imaginative terms. By indirection, it summarizes and comments upon a time and a society. It has an almost romantic sense of wonder, together with the provocative, personal point of view of a writer who saw life realistically. And, the moralist remained. For Mr. Waugh was, of course, a moralist after his fashion, and always would be; when you look even slightly beneath the hilarity of those Mayfair studies, you see that he is performing the satirist's ancient function: he is excoriating the morals and standards of a society. Needless to say, he was too much the artist-and too astute as an entertainer- ever to be didactic; but inevitably it is there, in the satirist's way with absurdity, including the absurdity of empty tradition; the moralist's hatred of injustice and his unspoken belief in the values of intelligence and simple decency.

“Quia fecisti nos ad te et inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te.” (Our hearts are restless ‘till they find rest in Thee.)

March 9, 2011

Mais oui Monsieur Inspecteur Poirot… ♪

…laissez-nous recharche les petites cellules grises.

Ash Wednesday. The need to re-charge. Just watched Cat Among the Pigeons from the Poirot series and realised that the screenwriter of this particular episode is none other than Mark Gatiss who starred (as Mycroft Holmes) and also co-wrote the new Sherlock series.

No wonder I'm enjoying this episode, same humor. This has been missing in most of the recent Poirot adaptations and was so much a part of the earlier ones with the rest of the cast Hastings, Japp and Miss Lemon. Oh, and there's another brilliant thing...the person responsible for the music decided to put back Christopher Gunning's Poirot theme in some parts of the episode. Ah, it feels like the good old days.

There was one amusing moment in the last episode of the first series (The Dream) where Poirot laments that his little grey cells might be deserting him:

Poirot: ...a sign that they are weakened by old age and the fast living.

Hastings: I wouldn't call your life exactly fast.

Poirot: Oh, not perhaps now, Hastings but in my youth?

Hastings stares at him in amazement.

Hastings [astounded]: Really? [Pause] Really?

Poirot shrugs.

Hastings [utterly disconcerted]: I say.

I say, old age and fast living, I love these characters.

I am reading...

  • scribble, scribble, scribble, Simon Schama
  • Julia's Cats, Patricia Barey and Therese Burson
  • London, Edward Rutherfurd
  • I'll Drink to That, Betty Halbreich