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How work sustains us

A cheerful reflection to brighten your day, from one of Philip Larkin’s letters:

“One wakes up wanting to cut one’s throat; one goes to work, & in 15 minutes one wants to cut someone else’s—complete cure!”



Posted by John McIntyre at 12:25 PM | | Comments (8)



Isn't displaced anger a beautiful thing?

(I think old Sigmund Freud had a lot to say about that, although I don't believe he had much to offer re/ 'make-up sex'. That was perhaps more Carl Jung's territory, as I recall. Anima/ animus, and all those groovy archetypes.)

Nonetheless, the surefire workplace antidote for (figurative) self-flagellation, and inward-turned abuse, I'd say.

Since retiring, some years back, from 'the daily grind' w/ no actual communal workplace at which to kevetch, vent one's spleen, or I dare say, cut fellow employees throats, I really have no one to blame but myself. But I must say I've proven to be my best-worst-enemy in this regard, and rarely let any anger fester within, for too long a stretch.

Moving right along------Picky, old lad, I gather that this coming Feb. 7th, 2012, will mark the momentous 200th anniversary of the brilliant, and almost universally beloved Brit scribe, Charles Dickens' birth, and all of Great Britain (at least the legions of ardent Dickens-phyles) will be joyously celebrating over this entire year, all-things-Dickens, w/ planned commemorative gala events, museum exhibits, film screenings, and learned lectures happening in his honor throughout the U.K.

Actually I understand the celebrations technically began in your fair city slightly prior to the upcoming official anniversary date, namely at The Museum of London this past Dec. 9th, 2011, w/ the opening of a reportedly superb Dickens show running thru this spring till June, 2012.

Some of his actual original manuscripts, obviously in his hand, are on display, as well as sundry utilitarian objects from the London town of Dickens' gritty mid-19th century era that directly relate to particular aspects of his so-true-to-life novels. I understand there is even a part of the real gaol iron gate from a specific prison that he chronicled in one of his tomes. Even the very chair in which he penned his Tale of Two Cities is included in the exhibition.

Well I've managed to pulloff yet another deft segue, w/ that little unabashed plug for your great man-of-letters, Sir Charles. I think it was worth the detour, no?

Picky, trust you are doing well, old chap. Always so refreshing to hear your voice and partake of your pearls of wisdom and wit on this site.

Ta! Ta! for now,


P.S.: -------Read a recent Vanity Fair magazine Chris Hitchens' piece on Dickens which was predictably hardly neutral re/ the man and his oeuvre. Among several provocative observations, one that i found rather upsetting was that Dickens apparently was not too fond of America, or "Yanks", even though on his reading tours of the U.S. he was totally embraced by the American public and seemingly as lionized, and feted on this side of The Great Pond, as on his home turf. As Dickens perhaps mellowed a tad over the years, and as his legend grew, I believe he may have eased up on his antipathy for America.

Hitchens argued that Dickens, the man, presented a barrel full of odd contradictions (kind of the pot calling the kettle black, I'd say HA!), offering that he wasn't entirely the man-of-the-people, or on the vanguard of noble causes that at-face-value he appeared to be.

Hmm.......well I guess, to be fair, we shouldn't speak ill of the dead........... the dearly departed Hitchens, or Dickens........ and leave it at that....... for now.

I didn't know about the Dickens anniversary, Alex. That sounds like a wonderful celebration, though I imagine by the end it could wind up seeming like a handful of dust.

Full marks, Laura Lee.

Personally, I've never forgiven Dickens for the way he treated his wife--but I could say the same of many artists and writers, I'm afraid.

With all due respect:

Ashes to ashes
Dust to dust
Go mock olde Charles' legacy
If you must

But perchance that aforemetioned
Handful of dust of which you so cavalierly speak
Are enduring flecks of resplendent literary gold,
Panned precious prose
For all mankind 'er to reap.

Hopefully, this year's grand celebration of this exceptional 19th century British man-of-letters will amount to more than merely a superficial, soon-to-be-forgotten, commercially motivated, mad rush through a kind of ad hoc collective Dickensian curiosity shoppe of dated, musty artifacts for casual mass perusal, and as your earlier ominous portend, Laura Lee, suggests, his great written works, and literary legacy all sadly relegated to the dustbin of forgotten dreams.

IMHO, great art, in whatever medium, survives all ages of man's cultural evolution, and creative expression, through time. From the voluptuous, tiny Venus of Willendorf, to the ancient, yet sophisticated neolithic animal cave drawings/ paintings of Lascaux and Altimira, to Michelangelo's David and Pieta sculptures, to Da Vinci's Il Giaconda (Mona Lisa), to Dante's Divine Comedy, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Melville's Moby Dick, or Picasso's Guernica......... the list is never-ending.

For me, Charles Dickens falls well within that aforementioned brief pantheon of those unforgettable artistic, and literary giants, (dare I say geniuses), of all time.

@Dahlink. I don't know enough about Dickens' private, or personal life to comment on how he treated his wife, but I assume he was unfaithful and perhaps carried on illicit affairs, which I'm sure damaged the integrity, and happiness of their union. That would have been unfortunate, and painful for his wife, no doubt.

Artists and writers are no more moral, ethical, or high-minded, or the converse, than the next guy, in my view. Just off the top of my head I can immediately recall three rather eminent artist's of their day-----Charles Eames, Frank Llyod Wright, and Diego Rivera------ who were hardly exemplars of lasting marital fidelity.

It's well documented that the great mid-century design whiz, Charles Eames had several extra-marital affairs, even though I don't believe his equally creative, diminutive-in-stature, wife, Ray, ever sued him for divorce. They were a devoted, highly productive creative team thru thick and thin, putting their indelible, most recognizable mark on populist American design in the 20th century.

American architectural icon, Frank Lloyd Wright was three-times-married and fathered a slew of kids, but was known throughout his entire adult life to have a keen, roving eye for the ladies. He was particular negligent of his first wife "Kiity" (nee Tobin) who bore him at least four children before their marriage was even a decade old. He was so immersed in the ongoing task of making a career, and a name for himself in architecture, that he had little energy, extraneous time, or innate empathy to be a good husband and father to his growing family. Eventually Wright's roving eye cast upon another fair maiden (well more like matron HA!), after long drawn out divorce proceeding w/ his first wife, resulting in his second marriage.

Sadly, his second wife and some of their young children were brutally murdered by their crazed male West indian servant while fleeing their burning home, which had intentionally been set ablaze by this deranged house-worker. They were all hacked to death by machete while rushing from the blazing structure. (Ugh!)

Eventually Wright found the true love of his life, Olga, a rather vivacious, self-actualized, worldly, Russian-born woman who basically helped her new husband reinvigorate a career that in Wright's mid-sixties had stagnated, creatively and financially; but w/ Olga's skills at organization and her abiding devotion to the much older Wright, rose figuratively like the phoenix, and literally not far from Phoenix, Arizona at his Taliesan West studios. It was in the stark beauty, serenity, and wide sweeping low slung vistas, and austere landscape of the American southwest that Wright would ironically have his most creatively robust and successful years, and essentially seal his legacy as one of America's preeminent architects and visionaries of the modern age.

Polymathic artist, Diego Rivera was an unabashed womenizer from his youth, and even though Frida Kahlo often referred to her Diego as her "little frog", w/ his outsized lips, slightly bulging, coal-black eyes, and huge girth (froggish traits, indeed), evidently Rivera possessed a special charm and magnetic sensual charisma that was apparently irresistible to the beautiful women of his day. Diego clearly got many offers of sexual delights that he just could not refuse.

Frida knew of his various extramarital dalliances, and generally tolerated them to a point, but eventually became so fed up w/ Diego's straying ways at one juncture that she officially divorced him, only to remarry her "little frog" yet another time, when sadly she was losing her battle w/ merely staying alive.

Kalho endured tremendous physical and psychic pain throughout much of her adult life after the tragic trolly accident that resulted in her being impaled through the lower pelvis by a displaced metal bar from the crumpled bus. She survived the initial trauma of that life-changing event, but a life of great suffering and anguish followed. Much of her personal angst. both physical and emotional, was expressed in her surreal, self-revelatory paintings.

But who is to judge whether the emotional pain of living in the shadow of this giant of Mexican art, w/ all his roaming tendencies, and unfaithfulness wasn't equally as difficult to cope with, as her bodily maladies?

There was also a lot of genuine love, warmth, and shared passions between these two seemingly bigger-than-life figures. It was hardly all negative.

Perhaps there was just too much of this huge character, Diego Rivera, to go around. Everyone appeared to want a piece of Frida's "little frog", whatever their personal motivation, or intent.

Dahlink girl, you really got me goin' there. Oh well.


P.S.: ----Folks, I read a somewhat provocative article in today's L.A. Times Arts & Books section written by 'guest' traveller writer Pico iyer, for The Times----THE WRITING LIFE--- column.The header reads, "Why we need long sentences".

Finally!--- A man after my own heart re/ the merits of the occasion use of long, run-on, connected-by-commas (and semi-colons), sentences. There is a GOD!

As one who has, on occasion, been admonished for writing extremely long and convoluted sentences on this very site, I think you may find some compelling argument(s) within this essay, in defense of using lengthly sentence structure.

In this wacko techno-crazed, fast-paced world of today, where instant-messaging, tweets, text-messaging, sound bites, and such are becoming the norm, perhaps meaty, textured, info-packed, descriptive flowing sentences might actually be advantageous to healthy brain function, and increased depth of thought. (More engaged synapses and axons, as it were.)

At any rate, here's the Iyer's essay, below. YOU folks be the judge.,0,2137466.story

Philip Larkin was right.

It's always fun when you're here, LL!

Why thank you, Eve! It's fun to be back. Although it does rather look like I signed up for my digital subscription just as this blog is ready to cross over to the Format of Oblivion.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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