Tuesday 26 January 2016

#AMREADING EDITH WHARTON, THE REEF. Americans in Paris, 1912.
Edith Wharton
An American in Paris: It’s not quite clear whether he lives in Europe in order to cultivate an art, or cultivates an art as a pretext for living in Europe.

Being ladylike: What were all her reticences and evasions but the result of the deadening process of forming a lady? Passion was completely absent. She was sure that if anything of the kind had occurred in her immediate circle, her mother would have consulted the family clergyman.

Getting used to beauty: He was wondering whether to a really fine taste the exceptional thing could ever become indifferent through habit, whether the appetite for beauty was soon dulled and could be kept alive only by privation.

The company of a good-looking woman: He knew the primitive complacency of the man at whose companion other men stare. She had a responsive temperament, and he felt a fleeting desire to make its chords vibrate for his own amusement.

Unhappiness: She had been unhappy before, and the vision of old miseries flocked like hungry ghosts about her fresh pain.

A stolid friend: She found refuge from unhappiness in her friend’s unawareness. She guessed no more than one chose, and yet acted astutely on such hints one vouchsafed her. She was like a well-trained retriever whose interest in his prey ceases when he lays it at his master’s feet.

(Image: newyorker.com)

Sunday 17 January 2016


Los Angeles from the Griffith Park Observatory

Taking the Universal tour  and visiting Disneyland –a sequence of habitable fantasies, the set for a film that was never ever going to be made except in the mind of the visitor.

Westwood and UCLA campus. Because academics apparently drive much less than most Angelenos, there seems to be a solid and insatiable demand for certain middle-class accommodation that make the area pretty well stable socially.

The shopping mall: a crucial type of pedestrian precinct, like Oliveira Street. What began as a civic gesture is now little more than a tourist trap, but a very good and colourful tourist trap.

The flatland of Los Angeles from the Griffith Park Observatory – one of the world’s great urban vistas for its sheer size and sheer lack of quality.

Dingbat – a type of idiot? Yes, and also a type of two-story walkup apartment building from the 50s still common in L.A. The dingbat is the true symptom of Los Angeles’ urban Id trying to cope with the unprecedented appearance of residential densities too high to be subsumed within the illusions of homestead living.
Dingbat apartment in L. A.

Tuesday 12 January 2016


I am in Los Angeles. What better place to read Reyner Banham’s classic Los Angeles.The Architecture of Four Ecologies. Some memorable phrases:
Brown Derby. martinturnbull.files. 
  • In 1925 Santa Monica used more pianos than any other city of its size. Meaning? It was no longer a resort. It had become a home city.
  • The Pacific Coast Highway is lined with oil pumps, their orange-painted heads nodding tirelessly and always out of synchronization with each other.
  • Lee Shippey’s list of Californian tradition is to speak in superlatives, to live out-of-doors, to tell tall tales, to deal in real estate, to believe what isn’t true, to throw dignity out the window, to dress dramatically, and to tackle the impossible. Unlike the Arts and Crafts houses, Greene’s wooden houses are perfect in visible spaces, but in hidden spaces it’s the usual old US carpenter’s crudwork.
  • Mountain cropping to provide flat space for a housing development proposes a new kind of ecological disturbance. Such large-scale trifling with an earthquake prone land is more than a lost ecological amenity.
  • The hamburger – a pretty well-balanced meal ..that one can eat with one hand—has achieved a kind of symbolic apotheosis in Los Angeles. Like the hamburger, the architecture of the hamburger hut is something fantastic, a symbolic assemblage, its functions repackaged in a Hansel-and-Gretel image.
  • The Tahitian Village Restaurant, especially, strikingly and lovingly ridiculous…sums up a general phenomenon of US life.
    Tahitian Village Restaurant. tikiroom.com

Saturday 9 January 2016


                                 NOT YOUR TYPICAL NEIGHBOUR AT THE PUMPS



Tuesday 5 January 2016


The house: Opening a heavy, smooth-swinging, mahogany door, he led me into a darkened hall. Light streamed through the cracks in the shutters. Sebastian unbarred one, and folded it back; the mellow afternoon sun flooded in, over the bare floor, the vast, twin fireplaces of sculptured marble, the coved ceiling frescoed with classic deities and heroes, the gilt mirrors and scagliola pilasters, the islands of sheeted furniture. Then Sebastian quickly shut out the sun. “You see,’ he said; ‘it’s like this.”

After too much drinking: Within an hour of tumbling drowsily to bed I was awake again, thirsty, restless, hot and cold by turns, and unnaturally excited. … I sat at the open window. Everything was black and dead-still in the quadrangle; only at the quarter-hours the bel awoke and sang over the gables. I drank soda water and smoked and fretted, until light began to break and the rustle of a rising breeze turned me back to my bed.

Lady Marchmain: I was as untouched by her faith, as I was by her charm: of, rather, I was touched by both alike. I had no mind then for anything except Sebastian, and I saw him already as being threatened, though I did not yet know how black was the threat. His constant, despairing prayer was to be let alone. By the blue waters and rustling palms of his own mind he was happy and harmless as a Polynesian

Rex, in his early forties, had grown heavy and ruddy; he had lost his Canadian accent and acquired instead the hoarse, loud tone that was common to all his friends, as though their voices were perpetually strained to make themselves heard above a crowd, as though, with youth forsaking them, there was no time to wait the opportunity to speak, no time to listen, no time to reply; time for a laugh—a throaty mirthless laugh, the base currency of goodwill.

The memories are my life – for we possess nothing certainly except the past – were always with me. Like the pigeons of St. Mark’s, they were everywhere, under my feet, singly, in pairs, in little honey-voiced congregations, nodding, strutting, winking, rolling the tender feathers of their necks, perching sometimes, if I stood still, on my shoulder; until, suddenly, the noon gun boomed and in a moment, with a flutter and sweep of wings, the pavement was bare and the whole sky above dark with a tumult of fowl. Thus it was that morning.