10 May 2006
Melville and the magazines
When I try to escape America I, of course, get further into it. I sometimes tell European students it’s my job to know the place; it is helpful to break it down to its constituent parts.
All the empty buildings in Pittsfield, and no exhibition of Melville’s print collection!
Stravinsky has a quote in a book somewhere where he talks with adoration about how Ortega y Gasset ‘really knows’ America, ‘not just Melville and the magazines,’ and can prove this by producing his wallet photo of Jose posing with Gary Cooper.
‘Melville and the magazines’ becomes for me a sort of unattainable distance: Maupassant said he would lunch on mediocre food in the Eiffel Tower so that he wouldn’t have to look at it. Stravinsky’s arrangement of the national anthem is wonderful to sing if you will play at two notes at once; I get compliments at the ballpark.
This all comes to mind because I saw a headline that said “Hawaiian waters grow crowded with whales” and I thought it said “Hawaiian waiters grow crowded with whales”: 'Uncle Jim’s deep-fired, all-fat, real-gone/ whale steaks’ in heavy demand, or heavy supply.