Monday, December 31, 2012

A time for toasts

To mix the proper spirit to carry us into New Year's, I turn first to the old standby, Anthony Powell. Every year around this time I find the opening sentence of this passage from The Acceptance World running through my head:
It was that prolonged, flat, cheerless week that follows Christmas. My own existence seemed infinitely stagnant, relieved only by work on another book. Those interminable latter days of the dying year create an interval, as it were, of moral suspension: one form of life already passed away before another has had time to assert some new, endemic characteristic. Imminent change of direction is for some reason often foreshadowed by such colourless patches of time.
E. B. White, late in life, was even more bleak about the winding down of the year. In a letter sent to friends in early January 1984, White called Christmas and New Year's "the two long loneliest holiday weekends of the year." But he had a way to get past their air of, in Powell's terms, "moral suspension":
The year is only a few days old but I am already in my thoughts careening toward summer and fall, awaiting the day when I can boost my canoe on top of the car and set out for the lake.
Anyone viewing straight-on the snowbanks of a New England January is likely to look to spring, and then on to summer, but it takes a special temperament to already be thinking, mere days into January, of the gentle, wistful wane into autumn.

Ah, but if you're going out tonight, let Amor Towles remind you that that the martini is the only drink, and should be treated as such:
Casper placed a napkin on top of a silver shaker and rattled it good. Then he carefully began to pour. First, he filled my glass to the brim. The liquor was so cold and pure it gave the impression of being more translucent than water. Next he filled Eve's glass. When he began filling Tinker's, the flow of alcohol from the shaker slowed noticeably. And then trickled. For a moment it seemed as if there wasn't going to be enough. But the gin kept trickling and the surface kept rising until with the very last drop Tinker's martini reached the brim. It was the sort of precision that gave one confidence.
And, should you down too many martinis, I'll supply you, from Dawn Powell's diary entry of October 28, 1939, with this unimpeachable defense:
Coby, drunk, tie awry, coat half wrong-side out, hair tousled, inspires a "Good God!" from group. Why? he wants to know. "Go to a mirror," they suggest. "Just take a look at yourself." He shakes his head complacently. "I look alright," he says. "My genitals are covered, aren't they?"
Happy New Year, folks.


  1. Happy new year! Your Powell quotation made me laugh, that is so much what I always feel about this week - this year, I am not even trying to finish a book, really, so feel even more than usually unmoored!

  2. andrea10:37 PM

    If E.B. White wrote that in 1984 (quick check of his dates: 1899-1985) he would have been 85. So that's pretty good, to be thinking of boosting a canoe up onto a car. I wonder if he managed it, maybe with some help.