Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Know Your Necessities

"Take care of the luxuries, and the necessities will take care of themselves," a certain, fey friend told me once. She also spoke of the "conspiracy of the weak over the strong." I'll lead it to you to ferret out her alleged source of those quotes and determine if you agree.

All I can say as that one of the obvious, positive balancing acts that comes with the passage of a certain number of years is the reversal of defined and attainable and valued necessities. Booze, boys, fast cars and other fleeting pleasures seem to be replaced by increasingly extravagances that were once defined as bland and assumed presences that now have greater nuance and price tags -- shelter, clothing, food, even water that comes in its many variations.

Shelter, in fact, can take on such a starring role as I've enjoyed Alain de Botton describe in his book The Architecture of Happiness, its title suggesting that design and form extend to far more abstract and defining aspects of life than just four walls and a roof.

He takes time to wax poetic on Casa Malaparte in Capri, a structure that in Godard's Contempt some might argue upstaged Bardot who is now a 70-something, wrinkled, hobbling racist while the villa has far outlived its Fascist creator, Curzio Malaparte. It stands today, looking ever youthful and pristine, apolitical and in harmony with the Meditteranean.

As Botton explains:

With its proud isolation, its juxtapositioning of ruggedness and refinement its unblinking, hardy defiance of the elements, and the aesthetic debt it owed to Ancient Rome on the one hand and Italian modernism on the other, the house did indeed pick up on key traits of Malaparte's character. Fortunately for visitors, however, it turned out not to be a slavishly faithful portait of its owner in all of his faces -- a difficult prospect for any house, certainly, but particularly so in Malaparte's case, for that would have necessitated the inclusion of pretentious furnishings, dead-end corridors, perhaps a shooting range (he was a Facisct until 1943) and a few broken windows (he liekd a drink and then a fight). Rather than reflecting the author's many foibles, Casa Malaparte, like all effective works of idealisation, assisted its gifted yet flawed proprietor in orienting himself towards the noblest sides of his personality."

Is it telling that I live in a long, skinny Edwardian with rich-hued rooms filled with remnants of travels and past lives in other parts of the world, anchored by two rooms with a wall of curving windows as their centerpieces -- one looking out on the bustling, sometimes tawdry corner of urban life, the other glimpsing onto a pristine garden filled with lilies, sterling silver roses and succulents.

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At 11:03 PM, Blogger Bryce Digdug said...

Thank you for your parte in documenting the Casa Malaparte.

At 8:52 AM, Anonymous Huntington said...

I don't want to think what my living quarters says about me.

I knew I should've given Contempt another try when it was at the Castro. When I saw it for the first and so far only time more than ten years ago, I was bored and a bit contemptuous. But that was me in my late 20s, and the point of your post is that tastes change, n'est-ce pas?

At 8:57 AM, Anonymous Huntington said...

Oh, and as far as the quotes go, I thought I recognized the first one as being Robert A. Heinlein, but then I remembered his line was something like "In a marriage, budget the luxuries first." That's always struck me as good advice.

The second sounds awfully Ayn-Randian. In any event, they're both anti-Christian in a way that I dislike in my agnostic way.

At 9:06 AM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Bryce - Once I find a groom, I plan to have my honeymoon there.

Huntington - Contempt for "Contempt"? Oh, I think that would please Godard to some degree. You have to be at the right place in order to enjoy it.

At 12:02 PM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Bryce - Last time I was there, I saw Mr. Peabody dog paddling in the Mediterranean while Sherman put a copy of Proust's "Time Regained" on his bare bottom.


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