THINGS USED TO BE SO MUCH BETTER...
From the journal of the brothers Goncourt
2nd January 1867
A sign of the times: there are no longer any chairs in the bookshops along the embankments. France was the last bookseller who provided chairs where you could sit down and chat and waste a little time between sales. Nowadays books are bought standing. A request for a book and the naming of the price: that is the sort of transaction to which the all-devouring activity of modern trade has reduced bookselling, which used to be a matter for dawdling, idling and chatty, friendly browsing.
This feeling that things are going to the dogs is always with us. From a conversation between Philip Roth and Milan Kundera
, different species, same genus:
Roth: Do you think the destruction of the world is coming soon?
Kundera: That depends on what you mean by the word soon.
Roth: Tomorrow or the day after.
Kundera: The feeling that the world is rushing to ruin is an ancient one.
Roth: So then we have nothing to worry about.
Kundera: On the contrary. If a fear has been present in the human mind for ages, there must be something to it.
I read Ignorance
by Kundera earlier this year and thoroughly enjoyed it, which I found surprising given that I got very little out of The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
. Also read parts of American Pastoral
, my first contact with Roth's fiction, and while I didn't enjoy the novel much, I though the writing was amazing.
From the Goncourt journal again:
16th March 1867
The opening night of Les Idees de Madame Aubray, the first play by Dumas fils I have seen since La Dame aux Camelias. A special audience, of a kind which I have never come across anywhere else. It is not a play that is being performed, it is a kind of mass being celebrated before a pious congregation. There is a claque which seems to be officiating, while the audience writhes with ecstacy, swoons with pleasure, and utters cries of 'Adorable!' at every line. The author writes: 'Love is the springtime, it is not the whole year', and there is a salvo of applause. He goes on, working the idea to death: 'It is not the fruit, it is the flower', and the audience claps more than ever. And so it goes on. Nothing is judged, nothing is appreciated; everything is applauded with an enthusiasm brought along in advance and impatient to express itself.
Dumas has a great gift: he knows how to appeal to his public, this first-night public of whores, speculators, and depraved society-women. He is their poet, and he ladles out to them, in a language they can understand, the ideal of their commonplace emotions.
Dictionary.com defines claque
|1.||a group of persons hired to applaud an act or performer. |