I mean, ethical consumerism, activism, whatever. It’s Bastille Day. Just cut off an aristocrat’s head.
The NF, I said finally. What do you think about holding a party for the National Front?
It’s an honor, she said, now clearly understanding. It’s an honor and a privilege.
This surprised me.
So she explained. The Green Man, she said, prided itself on being the most racialist pub in England. That was her word: racialist. There were other racialist pubs, she said. In fact, there were two more in Bury. But none was as consistently racialist as the Green Man. The Green Man, she continued, had never served a colored person. No black or Paki had ever had a drink at the Green Man. And everyone who worked at the Green Man was proud of its record. It was also why everyone regarded it as a privilege to hold a party here for the National Front. They felt they had earned it.
No wogs, her partner behind the bar added, perhaps for clarification.
That’s right, she said. No colored people of any description.
I was surprised. I had not expected to hear racism expressed so explicitly by people working behind the bar of a pub—one owned by a brewery that was itself a public company. The fact was I hadn’t expected to hear racism expressed so explicitly by people I had only just met, regardless of where they worked.
Bill Buford, Among the Thugs
At the back of a garden, in earshot of river water,
In a corner walled off like the baths or bake-house
Of an unroofed abbey or broken-floored Roman villa,
They have planted their birch grove. Planted it recently only,
But already each morning it puts forth the sun
Like their own long grown-up selves, the white of the bark
As suffused and cool as the white of the satin nightdress
She bends and straightens up, pouring tea,
Sitting across from where he dandles a sandal
On his big time-keeping foot, as bare as an abbot’s.
Red brick and slate, plum tree and apple retain
Their credibility, a CD of Bach is making the rounds
Of the common or garden air. Above them a jet trail
Tapers and waves like a willow wand or taper.
"If art teaches us anything," he says, trumping life
With a quote, “it’s that the human condition is private.”
Seamus Heaney, “The Birch Grove”
I wasn’t going to read the blog. So much writing out there in the world and who wants to read it? Not me.
Rivka Galchen, “The Entire Northern Side Was Covered With Fire”
Edward St. Aubyn /// Mother’s Milk
Somewhat alarmed that the Patrick Melrose I most identify with is the fortysomething, father-of-two, alcoholic relapse edition.
Enrique Vila-Matas /// Bartleby & Co.
OK, blurbs, I’ll give you “seductive” this once.
"It’s not so funny," he said. "It was a narrow escape. I’ll show you pictures of it sometime. The humdrum glum carried to its sub-human level. Sunday night in the Methodist church. You won’t feel like laughing. You’ll cry your eyes out."
He tried to flip a cigarette nonchalantly into his mouth like what’s-his-name in the movies, but he missed. I didn’t feel like laughing. A shadow had fallen across us, like suddenly coming upon a hunchback in a hopefully colored tie or an unsuccessful actor with dyed bright hair in the middle of a sunny day.
"I feel like crying now," I said.
"Do you? Do you? Oh my darling!” He took my hand and kissed it. We looked at each other for a long, long time. “I know what,” he said. “I’ll give you two dollars if you can cry now. Two dollars if you can cry in one minute flat.”
"Fifteen seconds," he said, looking at his watch fifteen seconds later. "Not bad."
"Now you," I said.
"Look at me." He had tears in his eyes already.
Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado
"I was going to come into the office today but I’ve managed to lock myself in the apartment. Not even the first time."
"Not the last."
'Have a great one!' said Pete, a heavy-jawed blond beast in an apron, sliding the coffee across the counter.
Old enough to remember the arrival of ‘Have a nice day,’ Patrick could only look with alarm on the hyperinflation of ‘Have a great one.’ Where would this Weimar of bullying cheerfulness end? ‘You have a profound and meaningful day now,’ he simpered under his breath as he tottered across the room with his giant mug. ‘Have a blissful one,’ he snapped as he sat at a table. ‘You all make sure you have an all-body orgasm,’ he whispered in a Southern accent, ‘and make it last.’ Because you deserve it. Because you owe it to yourself. Because you’re a unique and special person. In the end, there was only so much you could expect from a cup of coffee and an uneatable muffin. If only Pete had confined himself to realistic achievements. ‘Have a cold shower,’ or ‘Try not to crash your car.’
Edward St. Aubyn, Mother’s Milk