Daily Office:


Matins: Setting aside, for the nonce, dreams of Camelot restored, let us peer deeper into history, with Russell Baker as our guide.

The blooming of literature about the Hundred Days probably has a lot to do with Barack Obama’s assuming the presidency at a moment of economic breakdown just as Roosevelt did seventy-six years ago. Parallels like this are hard for historians and journalists to resist. Could history be repeating itself? It never does, of course. Still, there are similarities too interesting to be discarded without a glance.

Lauds: Carnegie Hall announces its first “recessional” season.
The Kronos Quartet, China, Papa Haydn, Louis Andriessen, and a Polish double bill: the Chopin bicentennial and a Szymanowski festival. Interesting!

Prime: A young man who used to live in Chinatown — I knew him then — has relocated to a great university in the West, where the ghosts of Mmes Child and Fisher have inspired him (apparently) to take up cooking. I shall refer to him as “Deipnosophistos” — the Learned Banqueter — in honor of his new Web log, which demonstrates that classics scholars may indeed know more about leftovers than the rest of us. We’ll call him “Deep” for short.

Tierce: Will Richard Parsons be as good for Citigroup as he was for TimeWarner? Let’s hope so. For starters, he looks like the best possible choice.

Sext: Alexander Chee’s extensive quotation from the Goncourt diaries at Koreanish today makes me resolve to be a better person by remembering who the hell Princesse Mathilde was!

Nones: Inevitable, I suppose: In the wake of the success of Slumdog Millionaire, an organization called Realty Tours & Travel offers 4½ hour, £12 tours of Dharavi, “the biggest slum in Asia,” on the north side of Mumbai. Nigel Richardson reports in the Telegraph.  

Vespers: Yet another story about changes in publishing, this one, augustly, from Time.

Compline: Can you believe it? They’re still arguing about textbook evolution in Texas.


§ Matins. The principal difference between FDR and BHO so far is that the current President won’t be consulting outliers like FDR’s “Brain Trust.” That’s not to say, though, that the people with whom he does consult won’t, in their turn, be reaching out to rigorously imaginative minds. (Imaginatively rigorous?)

§ Lauds. The Kronos Quartet’s Perspectives season alone will fill Carnegie’s halls with all the bright young New Yorkers who can buy a ticket. Bravo!

§ Prime. Deep writes,

The most discouraging thing about learning how to cook is purchasing ingredients you most likely won’t need again in the near future.

You see what a natural he is. For most tyros, the most discouraging thing about learning how to cook is the soufflé that doesn’t rise.

§ Tierce. Actually, he looks like a one-man stealth nationalization. Mr Parsons served on the Obama transition team, and is well-known as a charismatic diplomat. He has “experience in running companies under the federal government’s microscope.” He may not be able to lift the conglomerate’s share price directly, but simply getting the company to work, in however many pieces, is what’s really wanted at the moment — because (Memo to Wall Street!) jobs are more important right now than investors’ returns. (If we’ve learned anything from the late collapse, it’s that investors cannot be counted upon to promote sound ventures.)

Records suggest that Citigroup’s Prometheus, Sanford Weill, was never very interested in making his creation tick.

§ Sext. She was Napoleon’s niece, with interesting Russian connections on her mother’s side. She married a Prince Demidoff — isn’t there a dish named after him in  Babette’s Feast? She appears somewhere in Proust, who knew her. A contemporary photographer — I forget which French pioneer it was — took a haunting photograph of her summer house, closed up for the winter; it was on exhibit at the Museum last year, and the more I looked at the more I heard the echoes of summery chatter. Is that a painting by Winterhalter on her Wikipedia page?

§ Nones. Mr Richardson sounds ever so slightly Victorian about his visit, possibly because, two hundred years ago, he could have seen much the same sights without leaving London.

§ Vespers. And the reason for pointing out this particular story is here:

When Genova had reached the end of her unsuccessful search, she told the last literary agent who rejected her, “I’ve had enough of this. I’m going to go self-publish it.” “That was by e-mail,” she says. “He picked up the phone and called me within five minutes and said, ‘Don’t do that. You will kill your writing career before it starts.'”

It’s true: saying you were a self-published author used to be like saying you were a self-taught brain surgeon. But over the past couple of years, vanity publishing has become practically respectable. As the technical challenges have decreased–you can turn a Word document on your hard drive into a self-published novel on Amazon’s Kindle store in about five minutes–so has the stigma. Giga-selling fantasist Christopher Paolini started as a self-published author. After Brunonia Barry self-published her novel The Lace Reader in 2007, William Morrow picked it up and gave her a two-book deal worth $2 million. The fact that William P. Young’s The Shack was initially self-published hasn’t stopped it from spending 34 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list.

Remember when movie actors would hang it up before they’d do television? Something similar seems to be happening with books. Another collapse of patriarchal hierarchies, probably.

§ Compline. If the ‘Civil War’ had really freed the slaves, I’d say it was worth it. But it didn’t. We ought to have cut the South loose.

One Response to “Daily Office:

  1. Fossil Darling says:

    Tierce : Mr. Parsons.

    My only observation is that he has been on the Board during this time of the Bank’s collapse. I hope — fervently — he is the right choice and it recovers.