I was raised in a world of sedentary feats, in a cultural microcosm which deliberately undervalued experience. More than that, it treated experience as a kind of monstrous blemish upon the face of thought, a defect that was deemed the more ungainly for being the more noteworthy, unexpected, or rare
In summertime one eschews politics. The blazing sun doesn’t tolerate reflection; one is already plenty hot under the collar; and the wiles of politicians are as nothing when at last you plunge into the emerald sea. Still, out of the corner of your eye you note things from that other, autumnal world, promising yourself to think about them at greater length once the days get shorter.
The hotter it gets, the harder it is to write anything here. I am now back in Palermo, and it’s quite astonishing what a difference just a few graduations on Fahrenheit’s scale can make. In Pietrasanta, where as the gentle reader may remember I have just spent nearly two weeks, one can effortlessly ratiocinate – in the shade, if not in the sun.
If ever I had the temptation to shirk my duty as the gentle reader’s clarion and dulcimer, if ever I wanted to declare myself on holiday and beg off for just a single week, if ever nature triumphed over nurture to make a child’s chore of the fast approaching Wednesday, it is now. I am in Tuscany, where the other day it actually rained – that last word describing an atmospheric condition when condensed moisture falls from the sky in drops, see also snow. In July in Palermo, where it last snowed in 1956, leaving an air conditioned house to...
Curious people, these expats. I’ve met quite a number in my travels, mostly Brits, but also Americans and Germans, who aggregate in the south of Europe – Spain, Italy, Greece – drawn here by several very obvious lures. The sun and the sea are not among them. The main one is the cheapness of the alcohol, ranging from 96 proof spirit on offer in any supermarket to perfectly drinkable white wine for $1 a bottle.
I was here for a single weekend, most of it spent outside London at a friend’s house in Hampshire – gin-and-tonics on the lawn, roast lamb on Sunday, a parade of wellington boots in the room adjoining the kitchen, in short, English country life at its most recognizable – but an evening in London did the devil’s work of adumbrating the shape of evil
Like lead in the keel of a sailing vessel, which keeps it from capsizing, sloth is what has given our island its stability, its longevity, and its virtue. I never tire of pointing out to incredulous visitors that Sicily has more extant Greek antiquities than Greece because the people here were too lazy to break apart temples to make door jambs and pave patios.
At first glance there are simply too many exceptions to prove the rule. Take Emily Dickinson, a woman of transcendent genius who dreamed up a whole new language of English poetry, too advanced for our age to find any proper understanding or creative use. If anybody knows anything at all about Dickinson, it’s that she was a hermit, living at a remove from urban civilization and the cultural milieu it nourished.