Friday Commonplace:
10 August 2012

From just about the last page of The Receptionist: An Education at The New Yorker, by Janet Groth:

Did that make me a victim? Or a beneficiary? It seems to me a two-way street. When the Newspaper Guild reps looked up my salary record ($80 a week to start and $163 to finish), they were incensed, and much was said about the way the magazine was exploiting me. However, as I look back on the eight trips to Europe the magazine underwrote (by way of lengthy vacations in the summer, two of which stretched to eight weeks away or more, four of them with pay); my twelve years of graduate school; ten years of expensive psychoanalysis with a top Manhattan analyst (if the magazine chose to exploit my passive dependency, they paid handsomely to rid me of it); coverage of my desk to permit a Thursday-Friday trip up to Poughkeepsie to teach a course at Vassar; as well as the many intangibles that came to me in the way of invitations to share the cultural, social, and literary life of the city, and, by extension, the wider world, it is not clear to me who was exploiting whom.


From Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future, by Tom Scocca:

And with only a few exceptions, they were Chinese. High-minded Westerners tend to think of tourism — swarming, grasping tourism — as a vice we carry with us. It is a mobile gravitational force surrounding white people, warping the pure and genuine local culture into a caricature of itself.

But there was no place for Western anxiety or guilt at Badaling. All the available room, psychological and otherwise, was filled by Chinese people — Chinese vendors selling Chinese-made kitsch to Chinese sightseers, all bundled in their clear blue Chinese ponchos. The Great Wall undulated along the ridgeline, softly framed by the mists, and an unbroken mass of blue ponchos undulated right with it, along the top, up and down the wet stone course, and steeply up again, toward the clouds. It could have been a scroll paiting.


From “The Prodigal,” by Elizabeth Bishop:

The brown enormous odor he lived by
was too close, with its breathing and thick hair,
for him to judge. The floor was rotten, the sty
was plastered halfway up with glass-smooth dung.


From The Great Man: Sir Robert Walpole: Scoundrel, Genius and Britian’s First Prime Minister, by Edward Pearce:

Walpole’s best judgment would be directed to avoiding the futilities of war. But representing sense as cowardice is an easy tactic, most wars being popular before they happen.