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UD is...
"Salty." (Scott McLemee)
"Unvarnished." (Phi Beta Cons)
"Splendidly splenetic." (Culture Industry)
"Except for University Diaries, most academic blogs are tedious."
(Rate Your Students)
"I think of Soltan as the Maureen Dowd of the blogosphere,
except that Maureen Dowd is kind of a wrecking ball of a writer,
and Soltan isn't. For the life of me, I can't figure out her
politics, but she's pretty fabulous, so who gives a damn?"
(Tenured Radical)

Friday, August 10, 2007


Was it my parents' early travel with their children that made me a traveler? All my life I've had flashbacks of Venice when I was eight. Stepping off of a black boat into a loud city, sunlight pressing on my shoulders.

Plenty of sunlight this morning on the beach at Nusa Dua. That, plus the island wind, the warm ocean, and the curvature of the beach ending in a headland on which the waves crashed, created a sense of the world as surreally perfect. The surreality came from a funeral procession which suddenly appeared on the beach -- a scene out of Fellini. Men and women in yellow robes carried the long narrow banners of Bali, which curve up to a tight curl at the top.

A man chanted sadly as they moved along. Drummers beat a slow pulse. I looked up to see the moon out at midday over the ocean.

Topless Italian floozies on the beach pulled their bras to their chests to gawk. Rich hotel guests gawked at the Balinese and the Balinese gawked at the rich hotel guests.

Yesterday we visited the new Four Seasons Sayan hotel with Michael, who flew up from Melbourne to spend a few days with us. It's the most beautiful hotel I've ever seen. The setting along the Sayan Ridge opens up the river, fields, palms, and sky with more drama and generosity than I've seen anywhere else here. The architect built Monet ponds in midair, long curving light wood decks, and a dark green pool alongside the river that flows the way the river flows.

The place is stepped down a steep ridge, so there's lots of walking to get anywhere. The hotel provides little electric cars to move you from the river to your room, or from the restaurant to the pool.

Last night at the Kokokan's restaurant, Michael, a Polish Jew who moved in the 'fifties to Australia, talked to Ania and me about his history with the Soltan family. Karol's mother and her parents saved Michael's life [details below] during the war.

"I will always feel terrible about having lost touch with the Soltans over the years. I will never forgive myself for this, just as I will always be grateful that Joanna and Karol found me again. But one reason for it was that I always felt I was a very small person, and the Soltans very important people, and I hesitated to approach them."

"Well, Michael, you must know that with my American attitudes, I don't have much time for those feelings."

"But the Soltans were in fact very distinguished, Madzia. At Jerzy's father's funeral there were twelve bishops."


['State of Israel Honors Polish Family for Righteous Acts

Nearly 100 people gathered beside the Boston Holocaust Memorial on November 24 [1999] to join the State of Israel in honoring the late Michal and Zofia Borucinski and their daughter Hanna Soltan as Righteous Among the Nations, for risking their lives to save a Jewish child named Michael Lippman in Warsaw during the Holocaust.

Under a program created by law in 1953, the Righteous Among the Nations award is the "highest honor bestowed by the Jewish people, through the State of Israel, on non-Jews." The Borucinskis and Soltan have been added to the list of close to 15,000 people whose names grace the Wall of Honor in the Garden of the Righteous at Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust Memorial. Cambridge residents Joanna Soltan and her brother Karol Soltan accepted the award posthumously on behalf of their late grandparents; Jerzy Soltan accepted the award on behalf of his late wife, Hanna.

Lippman, 67, a retired mechanical engineer, traveled from his home in Australia to speak and express his gratitude to his second family. Thanks to a chance encounter on a train platform in Warsaw as he searched for his sister in August of 1942, Hanna Soltan nee Borucinska and her family became the instrument of his survival.

"There must have been some superior force that guided me, as a ten-year-old child, to sit next to Hanna on that train platform and reveal myself to her," Lippman said. "To tell her that I was Jewish and needed help."

At the beginning of the war, Lippman's father heard that Jewish men were to be taken, and fled east to Lvov. His sister, also named Hanna, had already been separated from the family. Lippman was living with his mother in the Otwock Ghetto, an hour train ride from Warsaw. In an attempt to survive and find his sister, he escaped the ghetto through the forest in search of homes where he was told he might hide. En route to people and places that would provide at least temporary shelter, Lippman went from house to house, but nothing worked out permanently.

After a few temporary respites from the ubiquitous danger, he believed that if he could only find his sister, everything would be fine. He went into a store and asked how he might go about looking for her, whether or not he should go to the police. The store owner warned against revealing himself to the authorities and recommended he go to the Warsaw Ghetto and inquire about her there. He went to the train station.

Since Lippman had heard horrific stories about the infamous area, he was uncomfortable with the idea of going, and unsure even where in Warsaw the ghetto stood. It was then on the train platform that he saw 31-year-old Hanna Borucinska. She told him to follow her onto the train and then to her family's apartment.

"She took me to her home and told her mother that she had brought home a little boy," Lippman said. "I no longer felt like a hunted animal. She always made me feel safe and protected. There is no doubt that I survived the war because of the courage and love and caring of Mrs. Borucinska."

According to Joanna Soltan, her grandparents' apartment had a number of rooms that made it possible to conceal the Jewish child in their care. But because of their involvement with and prominence in the Warsaw artistic community, they had many visitors from whom Lippman was required to remain hidden. Soltan said that her mother and grandparents did not set out to be heroes, but believed taking Michael in was "the obvious thing to do."

Michal Borucinski, (1885-1976) born in Siedlce, Poland, was a painter and professor at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts. ... Zofia Jackimowicz, (1883-1969), was born in Warsaw to a family of artists, scientists and writers and was a graduate of Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts. She married Michal in 1910. Their one child, Hanna (1911-1987) was born in Warsaw, graduated from Warsaw Polytechnic and became an architect. She married Jerzy Soltan by proxy in 1944 when he was in a Prisoner of War Camp in Germany.

The Borucinskis were one among many families and groups who chose to help people survive at great personal risk to themselves. But, they recognized that Lippman might not wish to stay, not having found who he was looking for. "At the beginning," Soltan said, "my grandmother asked Michael if he wanted to go and look for his sister in the ghetto. He said 'no'. And that was the end of that conversation."

Seven months after they took him in, in April of 1943, the Warsaw Ghetto uprising began. From their apartment, the family could see the flames from inside the walls. Lippman watched as he remained concealed, still unsure if his sister Hanna was inside. At one point, Lippman said that Mrs. Borucinska expressed to him that "what we are witnessing is a great tragedy and that the people in the ghetto are heroic."

As the situation in the ghetto worsened, the Borucinskis felt that Michael was no longer safe in their home and moved him to a house in the country where he remained hidden until the Soviets defeated the Nazi army over one year later.

According to Soltan, after the war, while inside a Holocaust Survivors Assistance Center in Poland, Lippman heard his family name uttered. Reportedly, when he turned around, he was miraculously reunited with his sister, who had also been hidden during the war. The two stayed in Poland for the next twelve years. Michael studied and earned a degree in engineering, married and had one son; Hanna married and had two children. At Hanna's encouragement, they all emigrated to Australia in 1957, where an uncle had moved before the war.

Lippman said that he and his family have been bound to the Borucinskis and Soltans by the strongest of ties. When asked what the passage "Whoever saves a single life it is as though he has saved the whole world" means to him, through the smiling eyes of a young child, he responded simply that "she saved me. The world is open to me because of her."']


Monday, July 30, 2007


Teatime by the Kokokan's rushing river. Got a deeper understanding of cultivation on our paddy trek today, particularly when I slipped and fell into sopping rice mud. Ania, who had felt harassed and unhappy during the hot afternoon, burst into laughter.

She'd been charmed by a bubble plant our guide showed us on the way to the paddies -- when you blow on it, its stem makes bubbles. He took us into a Balinese kitchen, equipped with a coconut milk churner, various crushing utensils, and an open stove.

The paddies appeared as a glorious opening out of a broad emerald valley. They glistened under the heavy sun. The channels held eels, roaches, ducks, and a pig carcass.

Every day dawns mild and bright. The climate calms. At Three Monkeys restaurant, they prepare an elaborate chai -- it takes ages to make, and comes with shaved brown sugar and honey so you can sweeten it even more.

I love the Kokokan Hotel. But when I return to Bali, it's Waka di Ume all the way.

The sweetness of Bali lies in a mix of warmth, softness, tranquility, landscape and skyscape that adds up to spiritual bliss. The soul is lighter here. It's distracted from its own weight by the profuse life of the place, the sheer number of things to notice. Bali takes hold of you, compels your attention, and produces a kind of selflessness. The island's fluid rhythms transcend you.

On the way to an elephant ride a couple of days ago (the elephants played harmonica) we encountered a cremation procession - men in black robes, women in blue with white sashes, a body held aloft on a pyre. After lengthy fussing (lotions, holy water), attendants rolled two black gas cylinders with long beige hoses under the pyre and the thing instantly flared. A small explosion broke around the corpse's head. Firecracker.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Late afternoon after a long morning in Ubud. We visited the Monkey Forest - a short walk from the Kokokan Hotel - and as is customary with me, I found the trees and walls and sculptures more intriguing than the wildlife. Plenty of ugly gray monkeys underfoot, slowly peeling little bananas and eyeing your hands for more. For me the big star in Bali is the flora - everything grows to a fantastic size, and when you range it about with fountains and altars and pools...

Sun or rain, the landscape is smudgy, like Ireland. Ireland and Bali share the greening of stone that's been wetted and stuck with bits of soil over many years. But Ireland's landscape is treeless, its hills smooth and shadowy, its feel minimalist. The vistas here are utter abundance, bottom to top: rushing narrow water channels, paddy paths, squares of waving rice, ducks, farmers, temples, scarecrows, people parading in the middle distance, palm trees, paper kites, and, farther away, the jagged black tops of volcanoes, their midriffs clouded. "Anyone at all in Bali, seated by the side of the road or elsewhere, who bothers simply to look at what passes before him," wrote an early visitor, "will begin to doubt the reality of what he sees. Everything is beautiful, perfectly beautiful."

I'm sitting on the soft long couch on our balcony at the Kokokan. The rooster's crowing, the gamelan's banging at the music school up the hill, water's hissing from rivers, channels, and ponds. It's only 5:30 and already it's getting dark.

But nothing feels ominous - the dark, the wet, the far from home, the brooding music, the palms overhanging everything, spiders and frogs and lizards and snakes at our feet. Nothing feels ominous.

I want to have the courage of Wilditch, the boy in Graham Greene's witchy tale, Under the Garden. He tunnels underground to find a mysterious old man who instructs him in roguishly eluding the claims of the world: "Have no loyalty. Tell no one your real name."

Karol is a few islands away, on East Timor. He's part of UNTAET, the United Nations Transitional Administration. Among the things he's done there which lie somewhat outside his primary job as a professor of political science at the University of Maryland is defuse conflicts between guerrillas and UN officials.

On his last R&R visit to us, he said: "If anything happens to me, I've written a letter -- I wrote it in Singapore -- for Ania. It's with my important documents in Timor. Give it to her."


Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Toured the north of the island in a Land Rover yesterday.

Frenzied activity everywhere - in the fields, under pavilion roofs, on the roads (two ceremonial parades), on scooters and trucks.

One particular stretch amazed me: a long wide valley of rice paddies and other crops (beans, coffee, cabbage, pineapple, peanuts -- everything grows here), tended by farmers in triangle hats. Hundreds of ducks congregated in the corners of brownish paddies being prepared for a new planting; ingenious scarecrows hung in the backgrounds near offering altars; men and women chatted to one another while squatting in the fields and eating a late breakfast. The scene felt calm and complete, a Corot canvas covering its space with just proportions of people, animals, plants, mountains, and sky.

Unlike the gated nothingness of many parts of America, Bali is visually accessible. As we drove further north, we saw two men bathing in a river beside the road. One stretched his body as we passed, and I said to my daughter You're getting an education and everyone in the Land Rover laughed.

Back at the Kokokan. I'm listening to Ella Fitzgerald sing Angel Eyes while I write this.

A song in a descending minor mode - a very marked minor - is always spiritually convoluted to me, unreachable in some sense. Under the calm top of it, there's depression, confusion, rage... In this sort of song, music seems to present itself as the only acceptable form of expression under grotesque circumstances.

The aggression in the words - the rage at the singer's betrayal by his lover (to me, it's clearly a man's song, and Fitzgerald rather sings it as a man), and his determination to track her and her new lover down - is creepy, as is the singer's description of being haunted by the woman.

But I can't, as I say, really locate the emotion of this song, which makes it all the more seductive. Most songs are extended elaborations of the obvious, but Angel Eyes stays enigmatic. Naturally I'll drag Purcell's Music for A While in here, which also combines formal clarity and muddy feeling. I suspect there's simply too much in these songs -- too much complexity and contradiction -- for us to be able to figure them out, which accounts for their long shelf life.



Night falls in Ubud, and again at the Kokokan there's the rush of riverwater, the flames of the torches along the paths of the hotel, and the cool island air. I can still see palm fronds, but I've lost sight of the ducks that move all day from lily pond to riverside and back. Earlier, they were jabbing their heads hard into the pondwater, cleaning or eating, I'm not sure which.

A couple of hours ago I was at the Kokokan restaurant, leaning over the second floor balcony and looking at the sheety rain lit up by pond lights, the orange fish in the pond scooting about in the rain, the frogs with their wiggling gorges, the stone steps that curve a path across the pond, the fountain spilling lines of water from its basin's edges. Near the basin, a lizard basked in the glow of a thatched light.

A peculiar gamelan piece the restaurant plays and replays every night crept tonally about my head.

I recalled Saul Bellow's comment about death -- "It's when the pictures will stop." -- and I thought: This is a picture; one of the pictures. I like the way it's fading to black. I want to practice the blackness at the end of the pictures.


Sunday, July 22, 2007


On the way back from snorkeling yesterday, driving the twisting, rutted, up and down, insanely overused mountain roads, it became clear that many Balinese were hurrying, on their thin, cheap-gas-puffing motorcycles, to a village ceremony.

The strange flying circus they made kept passing us in the opposite direction on the road: elaborately costumed men and women -- the men in brilliantly laundered white shirts and hats, the women in lacy orange blouses and long yellow skirts, the women's hair a carefully upswept bun with a pink flower set at its knot, their lips pinky red with lipstick and their cheeks sepia with makeup and their eyes a sexual black with mascara -- balanced with ease and agility on the narrow seat of the scooter.

In front, each man steered each tiny steed, threading it among foul lumbering trucks, sleeping dogs, wandering children, sudden herds of other scooters all going twice the man's speed, groups of crossing pedestrians, random piles of wood and construction equipment... In the back, the woman sat a loose, precarious sidesaddle because of her tight skirt, and she balanced on her head a tall fruit sculpture, and held in her lap a bamboo basket bulging with banners and streamers.

Or perhaps in her lap, or between the man's legs, sat a small child, happy and excited to be sitting up on the scooter with his parents as they just grazed a laundry truck bombing by them downhill at forty miles an hour...

This scene, which continued for ten riveting minutes, comes to me now as... as what? Why so compelling?

An eerie balletic defiance, let's say, in which the Balinese acknowledge modernity by placing their equilibrious asses upon our ugly engines and making them magical broomsticks. All my fear of the machine and my fear of mishap attended my observation of these preternaturally composed spirits, indifferent to choking fumes and speed and bumps, intent on the anticipated ceremony.

As I watched them, I had the following thought: They will fly through my dreams for the rest of my life.


Saturday, July 21, 2007


Kecak dance last night at the Kokokan. A mild smudgy sky with a clouded moon and a calm wind. La kid was lovely in her latest tailor-made dress from the little shop down the street. Her sun-lightened hair puffed out thick and chic. Pre-Raphaelite waves sat on top of the thickness, because that afternoon she'd loosened her braids.

At seven precisely the lights of the outdoor theater dimmed and sweaty men in loincloth appeared en masse, thumping in to the beat of their own voices: kakakakakakakak.

Syncopated. Monkey men.

Little boys also in tight checked loincloth brought in flaming torches. "Tres primitif!" I whispered to la kid, who gazed uncomprehending as I amused myself with my lame ironies.

The main monkey man, or the brother in the Ramayan story about slaying some giant in a cave, now leapt onto the stage, muttering and hissing; he and the fattish nasty giant, who spat in the audience's general direction, fell to fighting Three Stooges style. The audience didn't know whether to laugh or maintain its grim respect for native customs.

Apparently, though, this particular dance was choreographed not long ago by some Japanese, and was in any case for the most part the brainchild of modern European expatriates.

The mean giant now set to terrorizing one of the little boy monkeys, and did so good a job that the child impersonating the monkey began to cry for real, his eyes wide with fright. The good monkey brother lifted the child and consoled him, and the child went back to his monkey with a torch impersonation.

Meanwhile, clots of man monkeys hoisted the two combatants, who went at it extremely violently (the earnest American mother of three, who with her earnest hub is at the moment staying at the Kokokan, sat next to me totally appalled) -- it was really a human cockfight -- until the mean giant shuffled backwards off the stage, holding a reedy torch in front of his face to signal death. A few more celebratory poundings ensemble and the man monkeys were through.

I adored it. La kid was a bit scared.

I think I handled it sensitively: 'MEAN GIANT COMING TO SPIT ON YOU.'

ud's bali journal, summer 2000


Friday, July 20, 2007


"Every life is a special problem which is not yours but another's," wrote Henry James to Grace Norton in 1883. "Content yourself with the terrible algebra of your own."

I've always been too curious about other people for this approach.

Today, at my favorite internet cafe in Ubud, I idly read the private email of a man sitting near me. Had never done this before, and felt guilty doing it, but there you are.

The man had arrived at the cafe on a motorcycle; with his helmet on he looked rugged, though oldish: big, Australian or American, wearing an Indo skirt -- had the aspect of someone who's been up in them thar paddies quite awhile.

When he took off his helmet strands of oily blondish hair straggled down his back. Fossilized hippie.

He was answering an email that went something like this:

Enjoying the leafy beauty of Oregon. But full of sadness. I try to remember that at bottom all that matters is love, but things are difficult. Maybe next summer I'll visit you in your Bali paradise...

For some reason it reminded me of this passage, from Wallace Shawn's book, The Fever:

We were looking forward for so long to some wonderful night in some wonderful hotel, some wonderful breakfast set out on a tray - we were looking forward, like panting dogs slobbering on the rug - to how we would delight the ones we loved with our kisses in bed, how we would delight our parents with our great accomplishments, how we would delight our children with toys and surprises. But it was all wrong - it was never really right. The hotel, the breakfast, what happened in our bed, our parents, our children - and so, yes, we need solace. We need consolation - we need nice food, we need nice things to wear, we need beautiful paintings, movies, plays, drives in the country, bottles of wine. There's never enough solace, never enough consolation.

I go on and on about Purcell's song Music for A While as my all-time fave, the song of songs, but here in Bali, when I lean over my balcony to look at the paddies and the river, it's another Purcell I end up singing, a setting (Z. 379C -- one of three settings Purcell wrote) of If Music Be the Food of Love.

Why that one? Much less clouded than Music for A While. One line in particular thrills me every time I sing it, every time I arrive at its final word: Sing on, sing on; til I am filled with joy. To come to the end of that lengthy line with its complex runs is to be breathless with happiness. It's a euphoric release, finishing that difficult phrase on joy.

Found a gloss on my thoughts about Purcell reanimating himself in me, and I reanimating myself in Purcell. It's in The Unquiet Grave, by Cyril Connolly:

To construct from the mind and to colour with the imagination a work which the judgment of unborn arbiters will consider perfect is the one immortality of which we can be sure. When we read the books of a favourite writer together with all that has been written about him, then his personality will take shape and leave his work to materialize through our own. The page will liberate its author; he will rise from the dead and become our friend. So it is with Horace, Montaigne, Sainte-Beuve, with Flaubert and Henry James: they survive in us, as we increase through them.

Hm. I start and end today with James.

---summer, 2000---


Thursday, July 19, 2007


At ten to seven in the morning, the familiar waking sounds of the Kokokan Hotel relax me: the clink of teaspoons being set out on the tables by the swimming pool in preparation for breakfast, the doofus roosters, the plinking of water into ponds, the tubercular cough of scooters gearing up for today's demolition derby on the broken streets of Ubud. I've settled into the routine of life chez Kokokan - the breakfast ladies, the pool, the quiet shuttle drivers, the glorious churning river.

There's already gamelan music in the background, and birdsong, and throaty frogs in the stone fountain. Incense spices the air. As I walk outside our room, there's a constant breeze, and clear skies with wifty clouds, and the low murmur of the hotel staff sweeping porches. Butterflies are rampant: they're black, or yellow and black, or they're that shiny blue that's almost black. The massive spider web hung from the branches of three trees across the courtyard bounces in the wind, and the red and yellow hibiscus flowers on the bushes just up the hill sway. The hotel staff picks these flowers each morning and puts them in the mouths of Hindu statues.

The sun lights up the small bit of terraced rice paddy that our porch overlooks, across the river. The wind pokes at the thready streamers on top of bamboo poles in the paddies. Frondy palms shake. The world's alight and abounding: in the sky, the kites that Balinese children like to fly bump along.

I'm thinking about my Purcell songs. When I sing Purcell and feel both his odd antiquity and my entirely contemporary engagement with it, I feel confirmed in both an immediate and a distant world... which I suppose brings me back to the idea I wrote about before: the idea that beauty is for me in large part about consort with the dead. "Come back now and help me with these verses. / Whisper to me some beautiful secret that you remember from life," writes Donald Justice in an elegy for a friend of his who was also a poet. If I can be entirely inside a Purcell song, then his spirit reanimates itself in me. It's as if there's a core within some human beings that can't be extinguished by death, and that in consort with the consciousness of someone like Purcell I also reanimate myself.

---summer, 2000---


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Introducing a
New Feature on
University Diaries


Rent-A-Ruminant could be the name of this very blog, a place you go to watch someone ruminate not only on university issues, but also on Life Itself. And because it's the summer and university stories are a little less thick on the ground, and because UD lived on Bali in 2000 and kept a journal about Life Itself there, and to celebrate the fact that, as Reuters just reported, tourists are finally returning to Bali after a 2002 terrorist bomb emptied the island, UD inaugurates a summer feature on University Diaries -- Balinesia -- in which she offers excerpts from her Bali journals.

Go to her branch campus at Inside Higher Education for current university stories.


The Kokokan Hotel's setting is green and lush beyond belief. It lies along a fast-moving river and rice paddies. A dozen ducks live on the banks, and it's a pleasure to sit at a brookside table and listen to the water run and watch the ducks fuss, while in the background terraced rice grasses wave in the wind, and above them enormous palms do the same. A rooster stalks the grounds in the morning and keeps up a pompous racket for the rest of the day. Lizards lounge on our beach chairs, scuttling away when we approach from the pool.

A high wind ripples the rice plants, and oily brown water pours over the sluice below. The sun is marvelously out as the ducks, now in the lily ponds on the other side of the river, make their strange rounds. It's a landscape in perpetual motion and at the same time tranquil -- a cultivated and dynamic place.

I've taken a swim, and am now drinking tea riverside. The noise of the heavy river water is deafening, and yet I'm always drawn to it. Why do I love this covering noise? The tumult water makes when it's plentiful, and a sort of answering tumult in the rippling of the palms and the rice plants... Gaia visibly alive - her breath, her watery veins... The marvel of the water's ongoingness, the way nothing stops its flow. I can relax on my little overlook. The world's moving along just fine without me.

Three men work on the roof of the building under construction across the lily pond. They're hammering sheets of bamboo webbing. It looks slippery up there -- the men move laterally with great care. A woman appears nearby in the rice paddy just above the channel next to the river: she carries on her head with absolute ease a full laundry basket. She wears a light green sweater to match the rice plants, and a long brown batik skirt.

The late afternoon sun creates a blanket effect along the river - a generalized green, threaded with white rivulets pouring out from among ferns massed on the sides of the terraced paddies. Each rivulet is a secret water garden, hidden behind foliage. Women stand in the river wetting the webbing that the men will cover with wood beams. They're tightening the webbing, I suppose. Making it raintight.

Because no one else can hear me, and because I can't resist, I sing through all my Henry Purcell songs sitting here -- Fairest Isle, Music for a While, Altisidora's Song. Each song seems to fit the setting remarkably well. They're celebrations of loveliness, generosity, lack of covetousness, ease, and of places where all of these seem to come together. The long vocal runs (pleh-heh-heh-heh-heh-heh-sure...) trip nicely along with the riverrun, and things seem somehow in alignment, as they are supposed to be. Bali is a body of earth wearing its loose clothes well.

Do other people, I wonder, feel that their experience of pleasure of this transporting sort is in part for the sake of people who have died? (There's a sudden scent of incense as offerings to the gods are scattered about the hotel.) When I come to a place like this, I feel the spirit of the aesthetes whose work I love because they loved the world: Frank O'Hara, Paul Monette, James Agee, Thomas Wolfe, Albert Camus, Malcolm Lowry, Randall Jarrell, John Berryman. All of these men died young. I could swear they're lounging nearby, watching me experience for them the measure of bliss they missed.

Or, less sadly, they're applauding from the wings as another consciousness tries to maintain the sort of relationship to the world that was important to them.

Beauty calls us forth. It confirms our intimation of some aspect of immortality. We should attend to it, for ourselves and for the dead.