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Archive for March 27th, 2009

lotta lotta money

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From a feature in the Independent today on Alain de Botton:

He is unusual, among writers, in not having to worry about working at all. His father, Gilbert de Botton, moved to Switzerland from Egypt as head of Rothschild Bank, and then founded Global Asset Management in 1983. He sold it in 1999 for £420m, leaving young Alain (who turns 40 this year) a trust fund of £200m. He doesn’t use the money, preferring to live by his writing – but he admits that the soul-sapping tedium of the modern workplace is not something he really understands. His first book, Essays in Love, was published when he was 23 and still “pretending to do a PhD”. His books are successful enough that fish packing has never beckoned.

Not sure, but I’m guessing that this might just make AdB the richest writer in the history of the world. There are exchange rate issues to figure out, but can you think of another candidate?

BTW, seems ever more clear that IT basically framed the reception of this book with her early post on it.

Written by adswithoutproducts

March 27, 2009 at 12:43 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

constrained time

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busdriver reading at finsbury park

So I’m going to be writing a piece this summer for a very nice collection indeed (I’ll be the guy readers are like “who the fuck?” when they check the table of contents) on the theme of, well, urban waiting, on the sort of waiting that happens in cities. So, yes, Lefebvre-type constrained time, definitely: bus stops, underground trips, the walk to work. But not just that, not just that at all, as that’s been worked over quite a lot and there’s probably more interesting forms of waiting out there to discuss.

(Oh, and it’s supposed to be a personal essay cum lit crit and history type paper. Yum. Maybe even with photographs. Double yum. There’s a question in this regard at the very bottom of my post, so if you’d rather not read, would rather write, skip to the very bottom…)

For instance, there’s the implicit waiting that is the flipside of the shock, the event, in Baudelaire’s “A une passante,” the waiting that’s condensed in the imparfaitness of the first line: La rue assourdissante autour de moi hurlait. How long has he been standing there? How long as the street been roaring? How long do you have to stand around on a street corner before you get an un éclair? That sort of thing.

“Un éclair… puis la nuit!” The evental moment passes so quickly that there’s not even time for verbs. All the rest is waiting, compositional and retrospective waiting.

And then there’s my absolute favorite moment of literary urban waiting. Forgive me, a long quotation from a shady on-line translation is coming. It’s the bit of Flaubert’s L’Education Sentimentale when Frederic is waiting for Madame Arnoux to show up while at the same time the revolution of 1848 is starting up just around the corner.

It was the students’ column which had just arrived on the scene. They marched at an ordinary walking pace, in double file and in good order, with angry faces, bare hands, and all shouting at intervals :

” Long live Reform ! Down with Guizot ! ”

Frederick’s friends were there, sure enough. They would have seen him and dragged him along with them. He quickly sought refuge in the Rue de l’Arcade.

When the students had taken two turns round the Madeleine, they went in the direction of the Place de la Concorde. It was full of people ; and, at a distance, the crowd pressed close together, had the appearance of a field of dark ears of corn swaying to and fro.

At the same moment, some soldiers of the line ranged themselves in battle-array at the left-hand side of the church.

The groups remained standing there, however. In order to scatter them, some police-officers in civilian dress seized the most riotous in a brutal fashion, and carried them off to the guard-house. Frederic, in spite of his indignation, remained silent ; he feared being arrested along with the others, and thus missing Madame Arnoux.

A little while afterward the helmets of the Municipal Guards appeared. They kept striking about them with the flat side of their sabres. A horse fell. The people made a rush forward to save him, and as soon as the rider was in the saddle, they all ran away.

Then there was a great silence. The thin rain, which had moistened the asphalt, was no longer fall- ing. Clouds floated past, gently swept on by the wind.

Frederic began running through the Rue Tronchet. looking before and behind him*

At length it struck two o’clock.

” Ha ! now is the time ! ” said he to himself. ” She is leaving her house; she is approaching,” and a minute after, ” she has had plenty of time to be here.”

Up to three he tried to keep quiet. ” No, she is not going to be late a little patience ! ”

And for want of something to do he examined the most interesting shops that he passed a bookseller’s, a saddler’s and a mourning ware-house. Soon he knew the names of the different books, the various kinds of harness, and every sort of material. The persons who were in attendance in these establishments, from seeing him continually going to and fro, were at first surprised, and then alarmed, and finally they closed up their shop-fronts.

No doubt she had met with some obstacle, and must be enduring pain at the delay. But what de- light would be afforded in a very short time ! For she would come that was certain. ” She has given me her promise ! ” In the meantime an intolerable feeling of anxiety was gradually seizing hold of him. Impelled by an absurd idea, he returned to his hotel, as if he expected to find her there. At the same mo- ment, she might have reached the street in which their meeting was to take place. He rushed out. There was no one. And he resumed his tramp up and down the footpath.

He stared at the gaps in the pavement, the mouths of the gutters, the candelabra, and the numbers above the doors. The most trifling objects became for him companions, or rather, ironical spectators, and the uniform fronts of the houses seemed to him to have a pitiless aspect. He was suffering from cold feet. He felt as if he were about to succumb to the dejection which was crushing: him. The reverberation of his footsteps vibrated through his brain as he tramped to and fro.

When he saw by his watch that it was four o’clock, he experienced, as it were, a sense of vertigo, a feeling of despair. He tried to repeat some verses to him- self, to make a calculation, no matter of what sort, to invent some kind of story. Impossible ! He was beset by the image of Madame Arnoux ; he felt a longing to run in order to meet her. But what road ought he to take so that they might not pass each other?

He went up to a messenger, put five francs into his hand, and told him to go to the Rue de Paradis to Jacques Arnoux’s residence and inquire ” if Madame were at home.” Then he took up his post at the corner of the Rue de la Ferme and of the Rue Tronchet, so as to be able to look down both of them at the same time. On the boulevard, in the background of the scene before him, confused masses of people were gliding past. He could distinguish, every now and then, the aigrette of a dragoon or a woman’s hat ; and he strained his eyes in an effort to recognise the wearer. A child in rags, exhibiting a jack-in-the-box, asked him, with a smile, for alms.

The man with the velvet vest reappeared. ” The porter had not seen her going out.” What had kept her in? If she were ill he would have been told about it. Was it a visitor? Nothing was easier than to say that she was not at home. He struck his forehead.

” Ah ! I am stupid ! Of course, this political outbreak prevented her from coming ! “

Mmmm. Yes. I was going to attend the G-20 festival of media-anticipated ultraviolence next week until I remembered that I might be having a kid, any day now, and my services could well be required at home.

But here’s the big question for all of you: do you have a favorite episode of literary or filmic urban waiting? I think, per the Flaubert, I am most (but not exclusively) interested in scenes of waiting that are bound up with sexual or romantic frustration: waiting for the lover, waiting because there’s no venue for love, that sort of thing. Or perhaps scenes of waiting, like those that I’ve described above, that seem to undercut or satirize the political event.

Written by adswithoutproducts

March 27, 2009 at 12:01 am

Posted in cities, waiting