"Whereas before Kant morality was still expressed in terms of virtues (and immorality in terms of vices), Giovanni Della Casa, the Italian author of a conduct manual titled Galateo (1558), translated into French under the title Galatee (1562), had already speculated about the moral status of politeness. Is it proper to count politeness among the classical (theological, cardinal) virtues, and can one brave the authority of Aristotle and Saint Thomas so as to open the canonical catalogue to a new category of virtues that we might today call sociable or even social?" This is the opening of an essay Politeness and Sincerity in a collection of essays by Harald Weinrich entitled THE LINGUISTICS OF LYING. I had come to this book of Weinrich's by way of his LETHE The Art and Critique of Forgetting.
Being in bed after the minor surgery of a few days ago I was struck by how unprepared I am for such a sentence. Like all Americans I did not study philosophy in high school unlike French lycee students who are required to study philosophy through their entire secondary education. Of course in my primary school education at St Francis de Sales School in Patchogue I had religion classes and while they were not formally philosophical they could be seen as my introduction to the discipline of theology and as such can serve as an introduction to all that it is not immediately available. Such classes are looked down upon by many but now they seem to have been the most lasting as they were finally concerned with what philosophy has always been concerned with: what and why.
Weinrich's essay then went on to a discussion of MY FAUST by Paul Valery and that is what I have been reading. Written in 1940 midst the French collapse it is a humourous version of Faust and one in which both Faust and Mephisto are aware of all the previous versions of their appearances on the world's stage and one might suggest they are aware of the versions to come... in this version Faust wants to write a book to end all books: the book in the sense Mallarme used, in the only sense that really matters--- a book that has not been written before and which ends the need to write another book.
If only writers would ask themselves: does anyone really need to read the book I am about to write, hasn't this book been written before, how many books will the book I am writing replace or shove to the side.
In the mail a summer catalogue: celebrity and journalistic efforts by Barbara Walters, Arianna Huffington, Martin Amis, Rick Bragg, David Price, Robert Kagan, David Gutterson, Bill Clinton and Linn Ullmann. And A NOVEL: already an enormous success, an astonishing invention of stunning economy in the most confounding precincts of the human heart returning to the fairways stunningly inventive debut from the slums of Columbia to the still mysterious 1988 plane crash back with a razor sharp novel opens eleven year old Isabelle hasn't spoken in eight months into the fragmented lives of two sisters a wannabe Texas princess, the fiercely intelligent ambitious MI5 officer in a crowded residential suburb that wreaks havoc widespread havoc of that awful summer and its ultimately unavoidable dangers
I turned from the review in the NY SUN of the new Poussin show at the Met where Lance Esplund reports of a nymph, "In her orgasmic shudder, she rises off the ground to their gaze, as if she were a floating cloud. The satyre's nipple burns red hot..."
to the actual catalogue of the show published by Yale University Press and look again at my favorite Poussin, last seen in the National Gallery in London, LANDSCAPE WITH TRAVELERS RESTING--- those three men who I have been writing about while trying to imagine a further place for them in the world
"I'm the character of an unwritten novel, wafting in the air, dispersed without ever having been, among the dreams of someone who didn't know how to complete me."
(262 The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa)
"Travel is the traveller. What we see isn't what we see but what we are."