The Fourth Humour

Odilon Redon: Woman's Profile Under a Gothic Arch

Virginia Woolf wrote an essay (which I have not read) entitled "On Being Ill;" I'd like to do one "On Being Lazy."

I have a definite streak of lay-about in me--though it generally only manifests itself on rainy days or when a book is involved. When I used to work part-time at the espresso bar/bookshop, waking up at 5 am to open the shop on a Saturday, I would spend the rest of the day lounging and wandering from lunch to nap to sudoku to vintage clothes browsing. I would sometimes put on The Umbrellas of Cherbourg or Amelie and doze off to the sound of French voices.

This past weekend was happily expansive, quiet, and infinitely comfortable. I had tentatively planned to visit the Cervantes Institute with a friend (closed for the holiday); to purchase art supplies to begin my massive collaging project; and to take notes on the books that have made a colorful pile on my kitchen table. Instead, I found myself Connecticut-bound to visit friends and spend the weekend at house that was basically my surrogate home during college.

There were cocktails and wine (too much); dogs (just enough), gourmet brownies and homemade macaroons; Mystic Pizza; comfortable couches, a lot of rain, and a few pages of a few books.

I'm re-reading A Moveable Feast, and have turned to The Berlin Stories, but Christopher Isherwood (after
this post remedied an unfortunate gap in my reading). I've also recently completed William Trevor's Two Lives, three plays by August Strindberg, and quite a few essays out of Leopardi's Moral Tales. I'm finding them all delightful: Hemingway's and Isherwood's stories are just real enough for me to skim through the words, laughing lightly, imagining scenes and characters and encounters, but not becoming too caught up in making sense.

I love Hemingway's cold garret where the little skins of mandarines curl up on the frozen fire, popping a crackling and sending a charred-citrus-sugar scent into the air. Or his numbed fingers on cafe terraces; the white wine and oysters; the exhilaration of hunger in front of the Cezannes.

Isherwood's streets are grimier, the people more fantastic, less bright and shiny, but they're mesmerizing: kohl-rimmed eyes, emerald fingernails, screwed-on monocles. Their lies and deceptions are different, their vices lugubrious and half-accepted. I can finally see the world of Otto Dix and Georg Grosz and Kirchner. I can start to know those grotesque puffed-up faces, their contortions and their poses.

And there are just enough references to sanatoriums and cures, to winter sports and temperature charts for me to long for Hans and Settembrini and Naphta. In short; I will be embarking on a trip to the Magic Mountain once again; to the world of the ensorcelled, the seven-years-sleepers; the dissipated, irresponsible ill. Hunched shoulders and consumptive lungs; empty speeches and silenced passions. But the lovely music, the great, heavy book propped on my stomach as I recline; the visions of humanity and beauty and wonder; the slow awakening and return to vigor and strength and thought--its a powerful book, and my only copy is much too underlined!