Thursday, August 24, 2006

A paterian prince of a man


My determination to stay in the kiddie pool for the duration of this silly month is being nicely aided and abetted by newsreaders, Editrice and Shadow in Hiding himself.

On this, the dismal side, of the pond, the airwaves have spent most of their time following the footsteps, words and facial expressions of a pasty faced little oddity who appears to have somehow managed to engage the western world in his own dismal decomposition.

Lots of reasons for this obsession, of course. After all, it feels like an international interactive suspense novel of the more tawdry sort, perfect for armchair detecting or semi-sublimated voyeurism.

But then I thought of Lewis Carroll, with his similarly delicate features, diminutive figure and tiny obsessions. One senses, in both, a desire to escape, back to the certainties, simplicity and beauty of childhood.

Like others of similar bent they seem centered on their own fragility, feeding it even, as if to emphasize how impossible it is for them to traverse, let alone survive, this world, the real, the “grown-up” one. And, again, their need to flee, to find comfort in childish things.

One can sympathize with the impulse, understand the desire for flight, for imposing innocence and utopia once again. But even so, there are paths and then there are other paths.

Oscar Wilde, in his own way, writing delightful children’s tales and playing dress-up, but still managing to negotiate the real world. His tools, of course, were wit, elegance and sartorial excellence, the consummate paterian aesthete and self-described anarchist.

I like the combination, of course: a gentleman equally devoted to foppery and politics, who happily penned fairy tales and Swiftean tract. The hardest path of all, perhaps. Not back to dimly remembered garden, but rather firmly planted in the moral present. Flowers and all.

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