Thistles for Wieseltier


24 March 2010, 2.42 CET

Leon Wieseltier, who I generally admire and am often amused by, sings of his days with the desperate, book-drowned lungs of a nineteenth-century student, but what emerges is the wearied warble of a late-twentieth-century professor.


When I turned around, I saw a hideously mutilated man. He was tall and thin, with a dancer’s body, and dressed in jeans and a red sweater; but there was a crater where his nose would have been, and his upper lip was ripped and pulled and seemed to have been soldered to his cheek. The skin on his face was twisted and flattened, like a mask gone horribly wrong. And he was blind. The deformed man immediately emptied my mind. All my contentment was banished by the shock. For a few moments, he was everything I knew. I am embarrassed to say that pity gave way to fear. It was suddenly an uglier universe. The image of this devastation filled me with a sense of all possible horror.


As I glided by the parked cars I watched them glide by me, as if I were standing still and they were in motion, and in the steady wafting procession—like the quietly turning pages of those wall calendars in the old movies, or the cherry blossoms loosened by the teasing breezes and floating into the Tidal Basin in early spring——in a sweet moment of indefinite suspension—I had a glimpse of the flow, an intuition of perfect evanescence.


There is no longer any dignity in loss: if you lose a fight for a just cause, you are merely a loser. It is an alienating spectacle; and it leaves me in the company of the Americans who “hate politicians,” and pining for private experience, and preferring the worst poet to the best pundit.

Mirror, meet thy knave.