Friday, December 31, 2010

The year is dead! Long live the year!

{Photo by rocketlass.}

I can never decide whether I find myself thinking of D. J. Enright each New Year's Eve because I know that he died on one--December 31, 2002--or because his thought and writing seem so right for the mix of endings and beginnings the day represents. Flipping through Interplay: A Kind of Commonplace Book (1995), one of his three indispensable volumes of musings, meditations, and jottings, I find many thoughts that seem worth carrying out into this night of deadlined revelry.

Here, for example, is a bracer of sorts for those who, like me, tend to be reluctant to abandon couch and book for the often questionable pleasures of a party:
One advantage of company, not the only one but considerable . . . It's pleasanter to agree with other people and exchange harmless little lies than to quarrel with oneself and exchange large hurtful truths.
Nonetheless, Enright remains as skeptical of parties as of most occasions that tempt us to perform, rather than live, our selves:
Often heard at parties: "Nothing shocks me any more." Who wants to be thought the kind of simpleton who can go on being shocked? But in truth everybody has something--needs something--to be shocked by. Baudelaire tells of taking a "five-fran whore" to the Louvre, which she had never visited before. As they passed the paintings and statues, she blushed and hid her face in her hands. Tugging at his sleeve, she kept asking how such indecencies could be displayed publicly.

"Nothing shocks me anymore": the sort of gesture proper to social gatherings,, bold fearful, and futile.
But as it's time, surely, for you to be tying your bow tie, buttoning your waistcoast, and haring off in pursuit of fizz and fuss, I'll leave you with this, a more general reflection that seems to suit the night:
It's not so much that one is out of sympathy with the age, it's the only age one has, as that the age is out of sympathy with one.

But then, the age is out of sympathy with itself.

Still, once everybody is alienated, nobody will be alienated.

"Unsettling": another favorite fiction-reviewing epithet. As if we were nicely settled before we opened the book.
Happy New Year's, folks. May your 2011 reading be grand.


  1. Happy New Year to you too!
    (I enjoyed my mimosas at home being "unsettled" by Dickens!)

  2. And happy new year to you!

    Enright's 'Injury Time' is a lovely book. I return to that every now and then. I need to try his novel, 'Academic Year'.