Daily Office:


Matins: Alex Williams’ cheeky piece, “Bad Economy? Good Excuse,” seems to me to capture something about the Zeitgeist that is being overlooked. Isn’t it possible that a good deal of downsizing going on throughout the markets is motivated not by panic or uncertainty but by a desire to pass a lot of the gas that the economy has been building up for fifteen or twenty years (or more)?

Lauds: Regular readers will know that Lauds is for the arts that are not literary — but even so, Laura Cahill’s “readable furniture” seems closer to the library than to the gallery. (via Survival of the Book)

Prime: You know how people have their pictures taken by the Campanile in Pisa, so that it looks as if they’re holding it up, ha-ha. Pseudo Jeff at Ads Are Boring snapped photos of people while they were posing, but the posing is all that you see in his images, not the “joke.” Don’t they look silly!

Tierce: I’ve kicked off yet another category of blog entries: Capital Sins. This will be the rubric for the various manifestations of American anti-humanism, much of which appears to be one kind of racism or another. With its bloated prisons, the United States is clearly going about crime & punishment in a very bad way. Illegal mmigration is another matter that, try as they might, critics can never persuasively sell as a merely economic problem. An editorial in yesterday’s Times shows why.

Sext: The funniest thing that I’ve read in these unfunny times is Gideon Lewis-Kraus’s Letter from Frankfurt in the current issue of Harper’s, The Last Book Party.” The piece is funny even before the reporter gets to the Messe.  

That is, contemporary late-corporate publishing is a fallen world in which Lauren Weisberger, author of The Devil Wears Prada, gets really rich, while Richard Ford, one of the indisputably important novelists of our time, the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Independence Day and The Sportswriter, gets slightly less rich. None of the elegists say: What is coming to an end is the idea that Richard Ford is going to be richer than Lauren Weisberger. None of them say: What is coming to an end is the wishful insistence — for it is, ultimately, a wish, deeply felt, by a lot of people—that Richard Ford is going to be rich at all.

Nones: The highest court in France has acknowledged the state’s responsibility in the deportation of 76,000 Jews to prison (and death) between 1942 and 1944.

Vespers: At Emdashes, Martin Schneider writes about that singular anomaly, the smart person who “hates” The New Yorker. Matthew Yglesias, it turns out, is one such — although he has “caved.”

Compline: You just know that a 4% sales tax is going to chill purchases of online porn. Mean old Governor Paterson! (Thanks, Joe.)


§ Matins. And perhaps, behind that, there’s an overdue societal shift from “grow” to “sustain”? Doubtless I’m reading too much into the froth.  

One woman who lives in Queens said she and her boyfriend recently used the economy as an excuse to extricate themselves from a trip to Disney World with his family.

“When we travel, we like visiting international cities, going to museums, cafes, sitting in parks, so this really wasn’t our kind of trip to begin with,” she explained. “And as it turns out, you can basically spend a week in Europe for the same price as visiting Disney World during a school vacation week.”

Results of their approach were mixed. The family wondered why they could afford Europe in the fall, but not Florida in the spring. Some family members suggested they go along and just stay in a tent.

§ Lauds. Pretty clever, those vases — no? As for readability, though…

§ Prime. When d’you suppose the first joke picture was taken? In Pisa, I mean. Now the joke is a genu-ine meme.

No need to go all the way to Italy, btw.

§ Tierce. I do not mean to be a scold. The more I look at my country, though, the more its various failings — and every nation has failings — seem always to emanate from the same Anglophone xenophobia. How ironic that the world’s lingua franca is a tiny island’s language, embedding some very provincial prejudices.

§ Sext. One can look forward to happier days to come:

At a certain point it’s maybe around three-thirty and the crowd is thinning and there’s a faint sad subduedness and Simon Prosser is saying something about Jamie’s wedding a few years ago, to the Curtis Brown power-agent Elizabeth Sheinkman, and Simon is saying how beautiful the ceremony was, in an English field ringed with high trees, and how Jamie and Elizabeth were standing together under that thing— what was that thing called? And Jamie leans over and carefully articulates the Hebrew word chuppah, the Jewish wedding canopy, and Simon slowly and carefully repeats chuppah, and here it is, this is it, a future for publishing, the promise that somehow it might resist the sober profit-and-loss accounts of the Australo-Hessian mentality: a landed gentleman joined under a chuppah to a brassy agentess. Damien Hirst and Nick Cave raise their glasses high in tribute. And those there begat will lead a new jackal cavalry against the technocratic sportscasters and the plinking pocket-calculator Huns. That rough new ignorant army may prove to be publishing’s redemption, the belated return of its class. For if in the end the money disappears, and, sadly, it probably will, then so be it: there will still be a party, and maybe that party won’t be in New York or in the displaced New York that is Frankfurt, but neither will the Rieslings cost 12 euros.

And we will all laugh at the idea that gross corporations ever took an interest in publishing.

§ Nones. Well, duh-uh, you say. But acknowledgments of this kind have been as forthcoming, in the past, as raspberries in winter; modern states, like the monarchies that preceded them, preferred to operate on the theory that they can do no wrong. If wrong was done in the past, then someone else must have been in charge. The French decision is a very important symbolic milestone.

§ Vespers. I may come from a privileged background, but I shall never live down the shame of growing up in a home that did not receive The New Yorker.

§ Compline. I can see it from here.

SCENE: Suburban study.

TIME: Late at night.

CLOSE-UP (Guy in Bathrobe): WTF! If they’re going to slap on a four percent tax, I’ll just go without. Harumph!

3 Responses to “Daily Office:

  1. Fossil Darling says:

    Matins : Paul Krugman’s piece this morning was a sobering one and I think the downsizing is both out of panic because no one can tell where the bottom is of this economy (look at Japan’s catastrophic numbers out today), and a genuine attempt to reassess a particular business and the way it is conducted. And we have seen, on Wall Street, that panic takes over during retrenchment, and then the economy turns and oops, key businesses are understaffed. I am worried that, with our ADD national psyche, that when the Obama Plan does not work immediately, and it likely take time, that there will be a great deal of panic from consumers and from employers.

    I truly hope I am wrong but nothing I read leads me to think that this is going to be other than a protracted period of recession, and that the hardships for many will not have been seen since the Depression.

  2. admin says:

    How wonderful it would be if we could all take a deep breath and resolve to see what’s coming as a “reassessment” instead of a “recession.” We do not ever want to go back to the kind of economy that has just collapsed; nor, however, do we want to flirt, as so many bright people did during the Depression, with radical restructurings (ie – Communism).

    My good friend Nom de Plume has many great thoughts about all of this, some even more positive than I can quite grasp, and I hope that she will begin sharing them soon.

  3. Quatorze says:

    Knee jerk responses are almost always bad, especially regarding how to deal with a shaky economy. I, for one, will not miss the vulgar excesses that masqueraded as the “good life”.

    France’s admission of guilt: perhaps the Camondo wil now be a shrine to the lost Jews of WWII as well as to the lost world of the “Ancien Regime”.

    Readable books: back to the Sixties and its cardboard seating. As Art Deco forms which revived ancient motifs from Assyria, Mesopotamia, Egypt and the pre-Columbian Central and South American societies show, there is nothing new under the sun, just creative retreads…