November 1, 2015


A Hudson River Eclogue : What's better than 'a few days in an American October'? (Paul Berman, October 29, 2015, Tablet)

[I] happen to be reading the English Note-Books on a bench in a capacious backyard in the delightful Hudson River village of Kinderhook in late October, which I take to be the very perfection of an American October. And I see that Hawthorne was right to reserve an exceptional place for the American few days, which are better than in any other country, or, I should add, planet.

It is not merely because of the colors. The scents and odors are a balm. You do not walk amid such odors. Sweetness is buoyant. You float. There appear to be no breezes, and yet the odors waft about, now fresher, now more pungent, according to exhalations of the trees. Or maybe there is, after all, a feeble breeze, to judge from the wavering of the top-most leaves. The colors, too, waver. The color-field artists used to paint huge canvases in which different shades placed next to one another appear to vibrate, and I am guessing the artists picked up the idea of color vibrations from the yellows and greens and orange hues of the October leaves, which appear to be in chaotic motion, even when they are entirely still.

On days like these, whenever my thoughts turn to political questions, I find myself wondering if American isolationism isn't the soul of sanity. Since our Octobers are perfect, why should we trouble ourselves about anything else? I spent an hour of the morning at the village bagel shop with the New York Times, which reminded me of sorrows across half the world. A large number of Palestinians have gone mad, and a few Israelis, too, and Benjamin Netanyahu has just made an intelligent comment about 20th-century history, except that he has bungled the comment by exaggerating one point, which has brought down upon his head a world of condemnation. This is the sort of thing that ought normally to stir in me my political instinct, which is the urge to correct--to rebuke the prime minister and his critics and his enemies. But I cannot be bothered.


Posted by at November 1, 2015 10:40 AM