Friday, May 21, 2010

Do You Kipple?


I've been away from the blog, playing hooky.  Doing what, you ask?  I thought you'd never give me the opening.

Check out the photo above, taken the day before yesterday.  That's me playing billiards in Naulakha's game room.  Naulakha is the house Rudyard Kipling built near Brattleboro, Vermont, and lived in for several years before moving restlessly onward.  A friend rented it from the Landmark Trust for a week and invited Marianne and me to come visit.  So we did. 

Kipling wasn't particularly happy with his American neighbors or, ultimately, with his life in Vermont.  But while he was living in Naulakha, he wrote both Captains Courageous and The Jungle Book

So I got to sit in Rudy's writing room at his desk, writing.  You can imagine how happy I was.

Unfortunately, Neil Gaiman's already written The Graveyard Book, so the obvious opportunity to slingshot off of the man's greatness has been taken.  But I was contented anyway.  And I still am.



Matthew Brandi said...

Pool? I had Kipling figured for a billiards player.

I may be a philistine, but I value him most for the rhythms of his poetry--rhythms which consistently trip me up.

Was Alf Garnett's appearance based on Kipling's, do you suppose?

Michael Swanwick said...

Correction made. I was more tired than I thought last night.

I don't think the Alf Garnett sitcoms have made it to Philadelphia yet. But I gather there's still a lot of residual racism in certain tidal backwaters in Britain. (I still haven't gotten over the golliwog candies.)

Matthew Brandi said...

Apologies: I wasn't trying to correct you; I believed you were playing pool ...

You've not missed anything important in missing out on Alf Garnett, IMO. Anyway, you have Archie Bunker, though I'm guessing he doesn't look like Kipling.

Racism in the UK's not just in the backwaters, unfortunately, but as a chirpy cockney sparrow myself, I like to think the capital is better: we have a deeper gene pool, continually replenished! The greatest venom seems to be reserved for immigrants from the newer members of the EU, and of course--as always--for all kinds of travelling people.

Golliwog sweets? Do we still have those, or was that the 1970s? I very much hope it was the latter, but it is the kind of thing which sticks with one, I know. I grew up in the period of phasing out golliwogs (even including the use of blonde, 'white' golliwogs by the jam company!) and minstrelsy. I suppose that if I'd been just a few years older, I might have been one of those who resisted their passing--moral luck!

When I was in Melbourne last year, I saw golliwog dolls in shop windows, and was shocked, but the Australians didn't seem to think it worthy of comment. Every other news story seemed to be 'Indian student attacked in Victoria' (though the rest of Australia is worse, one was assured), and one worries that there is a connection--that these things are tools of dehumanisation, rather than merely symptoms of a lack of basic human sympathy.

Michael Swanwick said...

It was the 1990s when I saw the candies. But I did see golliwog dolls in a shop window in York a year ago.

The end of racism lies somewhere on the horizon, I fear . . . it never seems to be getting any closer. But we don't have to look far back to appreciate how much worse things used to be.

Matthew Brandi said...

"1990s ... a year ago ..." I am officially depressed.

Bookmama said...

Just got back from the same place. I had the fun of reading the Jungle Books in the same house, hearing the same sounds (plus traffic) that the author heard when he wrote it.

Michael Swanwick said...

You New Englanders are so spoiled! I heard nothing but the purest and most absolute silence I'd been privileged to experience for years.

Here in Philadelphia, on a quiet summer night, one can have the door open and hear the crickets and incidental traffic or close it and hear oneself think.

Matthew Brandi said...

"Open the window. Remember that the noise of the street is not mere noise, but it is made by man."

That's Hanns Eisler, who--in the words of Dagmar Krause--set the pace for the fight against stupidity in music.