Wednesday, October 7, 2015

the last book I ever read (Edmund White's The Beautiful Room is Empty, excerpt five)

from The Beautiful Room is Empty by Edmund White:

Ezra Pound was his true Penelope, and even Pound’s criminal politics and weird economics Lou was able to justify when it suited his mood. For Lou, Pound was strategic in any dismissal of Eliot’s absurdly English posturing, and both men rose serenely above the local American battle between the Beats and Academics. Lou couldn’t be an Academic. His fear and hatred of schools forbade that, as well as his contempt for sterile exercises. But the Beats, despite their appealing cult of drugs and Whitmanian sincerity, lacked the cool elegance Lou venerated. The values he really embraced were those of Negro jazz musicians who divided the world into what was square and what was cool. Things labeled cool were highly controlled if sometimes arbitrary and decorative, an expression of a narrow range of feelings: happy-guy exuberance, cerebral noodling, or a foggy but anxious melancholy.

Each of those few times Lou wanted to like someone over fifty, he repeated Pound’s phrase about “old men with beautiful manners.” Only twenty years later did I stumble across the line and realize Pound was mocking the statesmen who brought on World War I. Lou had no sense of irony or history and none of comedy save the grand guignol of his indignation. At about this time, a homosexual magazine, One, began to be published in California. Lou was appalled. “Why should a bunch of criminals be allowed to have a magazine, for chrissake. They might as well let thieves publish The Safecracker’s Quarterly. One, indeed …”

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