Ephemeris by Norm Sibum

For the past week or so, London Lunar has not been at his most reliable, his wits turned by the Wagner fest taking place in his neck of the woods. Siegfried the dragon-slayer? Species extinction? Are the questions, the one piggy-backing on the other, what now occasions giggles in one’s box seat? Whereas Mr P.M. Carpenter, Distinguished Political Commentator to the south of here, he seems to be the only fellow around who considers that Current President did not lose his debate with Mr R, Oily Man of the Hour, as Current President was too busy being human as opposed to being predatory in a game of parry and thrust and sell. Mr Carpenter himself is too busy castigating the so-called undecided voter for being undecided at this late stage of the electoral campaign to wonder if a lost debate has rather distressing implications. Anyway, what is there to be undecided about? Distinguished political commentators to his left suggest that the whole business is to be sidestepped, in any case, as so much smoke and mirrors foisted by the one per centers on a sullen electorate. The Moesian tells me the Very Rich are not like us; it is not so much the money thing but the sex thing, and it is front and centre in their minds – the sex thing, that is, and the more Cronenberg the better. Designer electrodes for those genital portions of one’s bod, the physical integrity of which parts have been maintained via jogging and scientific dieting and timely pleasuring? Whatever the truth of it, the Moesian is in error: we are not so very different from the Very Rich, we are just out of pocket and not quite so entitled to the luxury of feeling we are owed, lesser minds and hearts the owe-ees. The greatest sex scene ever in cinema occurs in Fellini’s Casanova between the Venetian Casanova – as portrayed by Donald Sutherland – and a mechanical doll named Rosalba, she of German provenance, perhaps. Has desire ever been better articulated, the absurdity inherent in it all dissolving in some bittersweet alchemy of longing? Good God, who longs anymore? Or is it that longing was never anything but a disease brought on by any and all romanticisms? Apparently, Fellini wished to give the Casanova of history the gears for his soulless and perhaps vicious foppery, but wound up sympathizing with the man’s, quote, inability to experience appropriate emotion, let alone love some babe. As for the innate capacity for wonder that will either find its expression in art or science or both, when I consider on that capacity, the word ‘packaged’ keeps popping up in my mind, and I keep trying to slap it down. Get down, d—n it!—the language of spontaneous human virtue, the language of awakening—Was it not for this very language for which Orpheus has striven when, in search of Eurydice, he made ready for the descent into the realm of the shades? Was he not also in despair, one who perceived the impotence of the artist in his discharge of human duty? Oh, when fate has thrown one into the prison of art, he may nevermore escape it; he remains confined within the unsurpassable boundary on which the transported and the beautiful occurrence takes place, and if he is incompetent he becomes a vain dreamer within this enclosure, an ambitious trifler with un-art; if, however, he is a real artist he becomes despairing, for he hears the call beyond the border, and all he may do is to capture it in the poem but not to follow it, paralyzed by injunction and bound to the spot, a scrivener this side of the border, although he has taken on the vocation of the sybil and, piously like Aeneas, has touched the high altar of the priestess, thus accepting the pledge—from The Death of Virgil, Herman Broch. Words which are not as easily dismissible as might appear, for all their air of emanating from a precious salon. Words, however, that are easily enough dismissible if one thinks being a poet is somehow the equivalence of bobsledding or talk show hosting or donning a judge’s powdered wig. Un-art. What a word, eh, kemo sabe? —although he had never dared face this truth—his poetry could no longer be called art, since, devoid of all renewal and development, it had been nothing but an unchaste production of beauty without real creativity, and from beginning to end, from the Aetna Song to the Aeneid, it had been a mere indulgence of beauty, self-sufficiently limited to the embellishment of things long conceived, formed, and known, without any real progress in itself, aside from an increasing extravagance and sumptuousness, an un-art which was never able to master existence and exalt it to a veritable symbol—Or further on: he had pursued a wretched, literary life, not a whit better than that of a Bavius or a Mavius or others of their sort whom he had despised as mere phrase-makers, and although such an admission might reveal again that all contempt contains some self-contempt, now as this rose up in him so disturbinglyand so forth and so on. Likewise from H Broch’s The Death of Virgil. Or from the pages of the TLS? Even so, who trucks with beauty anymore, so much so, it becomes a fly-trap for the unwary artist? My storekeeping correspondent in the vale (Eastern Townships) informs me that her customers are – what? – not exactly assiduous readers of the Globe and Mail and Le Devoir, but that she routinely sells out those gazettes to weekend cottagers; and it is as if Quebeckers are, on the whole, better up on things than their counterparts elsewhere in this fair nation-state; only that my correspondent figures it cannot be true. Even so, Labrosse, in his new life in Carignan living like Lot with his daughters, still insists on sending me learned articles to do with the state of the economy in lieu of the conversations we used to have in Nikas of an evening with the wine cow. E, who used to waitress in Nikas but is now respectable, says she would like to ‘hang’ with me soon, that is, have at her beck and call my company for an hour or so, and we will both of us pretend we are still out there ahead of some curve or other in life’s sweepstakes—