Friday, January 25, 2013

I have made a damn fool of myself all over town. Missing appointments for the grand job. Bumming smokes. Letting ladies pick up the tab. The thing is, I have for decades  been running for the Grand Genius sweepstakes--while writing like  sausage.
 Why can't I write like Borges?
On the burning February morning Beatriz Viterbo died, after braving an agony that never for a single moment gave way to self-pity or fear, I noticed that the sidewalk billboards around Constitution Plaza were advertising some new brand or other of American cigarettes. The fact pained me, for I realised that the wide and ceaseless universe was already slipping away from her and that this slight change was the first of an endless series. The universe may change but not me, I thought with a certain sad vanity. I knew that at times my fruitless devotion had annoyed her; now that she was dead, I could devote myself to her memory, without hope but also without humiliation. I recalled that the thirtieth of April was her birthday; on that day to visit her house on Garay Street and pay my respects to her father and to Carlos Argentino Daneri, her first cousin, would be an irreproachable and perhaps unavoidable act of politeness. Once again I would wait in the twilight of the small, cluttered drawing room, once again I would study the details of her many photographs: Beatriz Viterbo in profile and in full colour; Beatriz wearing a mask, during the Carnival of 1921; Beatriz at her First Communion; Beatriz on the day of her wedding to Roberto Alessandri; Beatriz soon after her divorce, at a luncheon at the Turf Club; Beatriz at a seaside resort in Quilmes with Delia San Marco Porcel and Carlos Argentino; Beatriz with the Pekingese lapdog given her by Villegas Haedo; Beatriz, front and three-quarter views, smiling, hand on her chin... I would not be forced, as in the past, to justify my presence with modest offerings of books -- books whose pages I finally learned to cut beforehand, so as not to find out, months later, that they lay around unopened.
Beatriz Viterbo died in 1929. From that time on, I never let a thirtieth of April go by without a visit to her house. I used to make my appearance at seven-fifteen sharp and stay on for some twenty-five minutes. Each year, I arrived a little later and stay a little longer. In 1933, a torrential downpour coming to my aid, they were obliged to ask me for dinner. Naturally, I took advantage of that lucky precedent. In 1934, I arrived, just after eight, with one of those large Santa Fe sugared cakes, and quite matter-of-factly I stayed to dinner. It was in this way, on these melancholy and vainly erotic anniversaries, that I came into the gradual confidences of Carlos Argentino Daneri.
Beatriz had been tall, frail, slightly stooped; in her walk there was (if the oxymoron may be allowed) a kind of uncertain grace, a hint of expectancy. Carlos Argentino was pink-faced, overweight, gray-haired, fine-featured. He held a minor position in an unreadable library out on the edge of the Southside of Buenos Aires. He was authoritarian but also unimpressive. Until only recently, he took advantage of his nights and holidays to stay at home. At a remove of two generations, the Italian "S" and demonstrative Italian gestures still survived in him. His mental activity was continuous, deeply felt, far-ranging, and -- all in all -- meaningless. He dealt in pointless analogies and in trivial scruples. He had (as did Beatriz) large, beautiful, finely shaped hands. For several months he seemed to be obsessed with Paul Fort -- less with his ballads than with the idea of a towering reputation. "He is the Prince of poets," Daneri would repeat fatuously. "You will belittle him in vain -- but no, not even the most venomous of your shafts will graze him."
On the thirtieth of April, 1941, along with the sugared cake I allowed myself to add a bottle of Argentine cognac. Carlos Argentino tasted it, pronounced it "interesting," and, after a few drinks, launched into a glorification of modern man.
"I view him," he said with a certain unaccountable excitement, "in his inner sanctum..."


Charles Gramlich said...

If you haven't made a fool of yourself on occasion, you haven't lived. said...

Thanks, Charles.

Unlike the genius playwright Jacques Brehl,

I can indeed "make a fool of myself
in a silly-ass way."

ivan said...

Hi folks,

In case you didn't get a chance to hear my radio doc on forestry in NS on CBC last weekend, it is now online. Listen at

And a short news story in The Coast about concerns that maybe the reason Halifax is reviewing its world-renowned solid waste management system is to save money. Could that mean cutting the very environmental features that make it both world-class and expensive? That's at


Chris Benjamin is a freelance journalist, fiction writer, CBC News web writer/editor and columnist. He is the author of Eco-Innovators: Sustainability in Atlantic Canada, winner of the 2012 APMA Best Atlantic-Published Book Award and finalist for the Richardson Non-Fiction Prize, and the critically-acclaimed novel, Drive-by Saviours, winner of the H.R. Percy Prize and shortlisted for Canada Reads 2011 and a ReLit Prize. In 2006/2007 he worked as a journalist in Ghana. He shared an honourable mention in the 2009 Canadian National Magazine Awards. Chris has also written for The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Chronicle Herald, VoicePrint Canada, This Magazine, Now Magazine, Canadian Dimension, Halifax Magazine, Descant, OpenFile, Arts East, East Coast Kitchen Party, Third Person Press, Nashwaak Review, Pottersfield Press, Rattling Books, The Society, University of Waterloo Press, Z Magazine, Briarpatch Magazine, Coastlands, Progress Magazine, Rural Delivery and many others.

ivan said...


I goofed.

That was from Chris Benjamin, prolific published writer.

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