Degeneration, by Max Nordau. Adnotated. The Symptoms.
Let us follow in the traini frequenting the palaces of European capitals, the highways of fashionable watering-placesii, the receptions of the rich, and observe the figures of which it is composed.
Amongst the women, one wears her hair combed smoothly back and down like Rafael's Maddalena Doni in the Pitti at Florenceiii; another wears it drawn up high over the temples like Julia, daughter of Titus, or Plotina, wife of Trajan, in the busts in the Louvreiv; a third has hers cut short in front on the brow and long in the nape, waved and lightly puffed, after the fashion of the fifteenth century, as may be seen in the pages and young knights of Gentile Bellini, Botticelli and Mantegnav. Many have their hair dyed, and in such a fashion as to be startling in its revolt against the law of organic harmonyvi, and the effect of a studied discord, only to be resolved into the higher polyphony of the toiletvii taken as a whole. This swarthyviii, dark-eyed woman snaps her fingers at nature by framing the brown tones of her face in copper-red or golden-yellow; yonder blue-eyed fair, with a complexion of milk and roses, intensifies the brightness of her cheeks by a setting of artificially blue-black tresses. Here is one who covers her head with a huge heavy felt hat, an obvious imitation, in its brim turned up at the back, and its trimming of large plush balls, of the sombrero of the Spanish bull-fightersix, who were displaying their skill in Paris at the exhibition of 1889, and giving all kinds of motifs to modistes. There is another who has stuck on her hair the emerald-green or ruby-red biretta of the mediæval travelling studentx. The costume is in keeping with the bizarre coiffure. Here is a mantle reaching to the waist, slit up on one side, draping the breast like a portière, and trimmed round the hem with little silken bells, by the incessant clicking of which a sensitive spectator would in a very short time either be hypnotized or driven to take frantic fright.xi There is a Greek peplos, of which the tailors speak as glibly as any venerable philologist.xii Next to the stiff monumental trim of Catharine de Medicis, and the high ruff of Mary, Queen of Scots, goes the flowing white raiment of the angel of the Annunciation in Memling's pictures, and, by way of antithesis, that caricature of masculine array, the fitting cloth coat, with widely opened lapels, waistcoat, stiffened shirt-front, small stand-up collar, and necktie. The majority, anxious to be inconspicuous in unimaginative mediocrity, seems to have for its leading style a laboured rococo, with bewildering oblique lines, incomprehensible swellings, puffings, expansions and contractions, folds with irrational beginning and aimless ending, in which all the outlines of the human figure are lost, and which cause women's bodies to resemble now a beast of the Apocalypse, now an armchair, now a triptych, or some other ornament.xiii
The children, strolling beside their mothersxiv thus bedecked, are embodiments of one of the most afflicting aberrations into which the imagination of a spinster ever lapsed. They are living copies of the pictures of Kate Greenawayxv, whose love of children, diverted from its natural outlet, has sought gratification in the most affected style of drawing, wherein the sacredness of childhoodxvi is profaned under absurd disguises. Here is an imp dressed from head to foot in the blood-red costume of a mediæval executioner; there a four-year-old girl wears a cabriolet bonnet of her great-grandmother's days and sweeps after her a court mantle of loud-hued velvet. Another wee dot, just able to keep on her tottering legs, has been arrayed in the long dress of a lady of the First Empire, with puffed sleeves and short waist.xvii
The men complete the picture. They are preserved from excessive oddity through fear of the Philistine's laugh, or through some remains of sanity in taste, and, with the exception of the red dress-coat with metal buttons, and knee-breeches with silk stockings, with which some idiotsxviii in eye-glass and gardenia try to rival burlesque actors, present little deviation from the ruling canon of the masculine attire of the day.xix But fancy plays the more freely among their hair. One displays the short curls and the wavy double-pointed beard of Lucius Verus, another looks like the whiskered cat in a Japanese kakemono. His neighbour has the barbiche of Henri IV., another the fierce moustache of a lansquenet by F. Brun, or the chin-tuft of the city-watch in Rembrandt's 'Ronde de Nuit.'
The common feature in all these male specimens is that they do not express their real idiosyncrasies, but try to present something that they are not.xx They are not content to show their natural figure, nor even to supplement it by legitimatexxi accessories, in harmony with the type to which they approximatexxii, but they seek to model themselves after some artistic pattern which has no affinity with their own nature, or is even antithetical to it. Nor do they for the most part limit themselves to one pattern, but copy several at once, which jar one with another. Thus we get heads set on shoulders not belonging to them, costumes the elements of which are as disconnected as though they belonged to a dream, colours that seem to have been matched in the dark.xxiii The impression is that of a masked festival, where all are in disguises, and with heads too in character.xxiv There are several occasions, such as the varnishing day at the Paris Champs de Mars salon, or the opening of the Exhibition of the Royal Academy in London, where this impression is so weirdly intensified, that one seems to be moving amongst dummies patched together at haphazard, in a mythical mortuary, from fragments of bodies, heads, trunks, limbs, just as they came to hand, and which the designer, in heedless pell-mell, clothed at random in the garments of all epochs and countries. Every single figure strives visibly by some singularity in outline, set, cut, or colour, to startle attention violently, and imperiously to detain it. Each one wishes to create a strong nervous excitement, no matter whether agreeably or disagreeably. The fixed idea is to produce an effect at any price.xxv
Let us follow these folk in masquerade and with heads in character to their dwellings. Here are at once stage properties and lumber-rooms, rag-shops and museums. The study of the master of the house is a Gothic hall of chivalry, with cuirasses, shields and crusading banners on the walls; or the shop of an Oriental bazaar with Kurd carpets, Bedouin chests, Circassian narghilehs and Indian lacquered caskets. By the mirror on the mantelpiece are fierce or funny Japanese masks. Between the windows are staring trophies of swords, daggers, clubs and old wheel-trigger pistols. Daylight filters in through painted glass, where lean saints kneel in rapture. In the drawing-room the walls are either hung with worm-eaten Gobelin tapestry, discoloured by the sun of two centuries (or it may be by a deftly mixed chemical bath), or covered with Morris draperies, on which strange birds flit amongst crazily ramping branches, and blowzy flowers coquet with vain butterfliesxxvi. Amongst armchairs and padded seats, such as the cockered bodies of our contemporaries know and expectxxvii, there are Renaissance stools, the heart or shell-shaped bottoms of which would attract none butxxviii the toughened hide of a rough hero of the jousting listsxxix. Startling is the effect of a gilt-painted couch between buhl-work cabinets and a puckered Chinese table, next an inlaid writing-table of graceful rococo. On all the tables and in all the cabinets is a display of antiquities or articles of vertù, big or small, and for the most part warranted not genuine; a figure of Tanagra near a broken jade snuff-box, a Limoges plate beside a long-necked Persian waterpot of brass, a bonbonnière between a breviary bound in carved ivory, and snuffers of chiselled copper.xxx Pictures stand on easels draped with velvet, the frames made conspicuous by some oddity, such as a spider in her web, a metal bunch of thistle-heads, and the like. In a corner a sort of temple is erected to a squatting or a standing Buddha. The boudoir of the mistress of the house partakes of the nature of a chapel and of a harem. The toilet-table is designed and decorated like an altarxxxi, a prie-Dieuxxxii is a pledge for the piety of the inmate, and a broad divan, with an orgiastic abandon about the cushionsxxxiii, gives reassurance that things are not so bad.xxxiv In the dining-room the walls are hung with the whole stock-in-trade of a porcelain shopxxxv, costly silver is displayed in an old farmhouse dresser, and on the table bloom aristocratic orchids, and proud silver vessels shine between rustic stone-ware plates and ewers. In the evening, lamps of the stature of a man illumine these rooms with light both subdued and tinted by sprawling shades, red, yellow or green of hue, and even covered by black lace. Hence the inmates appear, now bathed in variegated diaphanous mist, now suffused with coloured radiance, while the corners and backgrounds are shrouded in depths of artfully-effected clair-obscur, and the furniture and bric-à-brac are dyed in unreal chords of colour. Unreal, too, are the studied postures, by assuming which the inmates are enabled to reproduce on their faces the light effects of Rembrandt or Schalckenxxxvi. Everything in these houses aims at exciting the nerves and dazzling the senses. The disconnected and antithetical effects in all arrangements, the constant contradiction between form and purposexxxvii, the outlandishness of most objects, is intended to be bewildering. There must be no sentiment of repose, such as is felt at any composition, the plan of which is easily taken inxxxviii, nor of the comfort attending a prompt comprehension of all the details of one's environment. He who enters here must not doze, but be thrilled. If the master of the house roams about these rooms clothed after the example of Balzac in a white monk's cowl, or after the model of Richepin in the red cloak of the robber-chieftain of an operetta, he only gives expression to the admission that in such a comedy theatre a clown is in place. All is discrepant, indiscriminate jumble. The unity of abiding by one definite historic style counts as old-fashioned, provincialxxxix, Philistine, and the time has not yet produced a style of its own. An approach is, perhaps, made to onexl in the furniture of Carabin, exhibited in the salon of the Champs de Mars. But these balusters, down which naked furies and possessed creatures are rolling in mad riot, these bookcases, where base and pilaster consist of a pile of guillotined heads, and even this table, representing a gigantic open book borne by gnomes, make up a style that is feverish and infernal. If the director-general of Dante's 'Inferno' had an audience-chamber, it might well be furnished with such as these. Carabin's creations may be intended to equip a house, but they are a nightmare.
We have seen how society dresses and where it dwells.xli We shall now observe how it enjoys itself, and where it seeks stimulation and distraction. In the art exhibition it crowds, with proper little cries of admiration, round Besnardxlii's women, with their grass-green hair, faces of sulphur-yellow or fiery-red, and arms spotted in violet and pink, dressed in a shining blue cloud resembling faintly a sort of nightdress; that is to say, it has a fondness for bold, revolutionary debauch of colour. But not exclusively so. Next to Besnard it worships with equal or greater rapture the works of Puvis de Chavannes, wan, and as though blotted out with a half-transparent wash of limexliii; or those of Carrière, suffused in a problematical vapour, reeking as if with a cloud of incense; or those of Roll, shimmering in a soft and silvery sheen. The purple of the Manet school, steeping the whole visible creation in bluish glamour, the half-tones, or, rather, phantom-colours of the 'Archaists,' that seem to have risen, faded and nebulous, out of some primeval tomb, and all these palettes of 'dead leaves,' 'old ivory,' evaporating yellows, smothered purple, attract on the whole more rapturous glances than the voluptuous 'orchestration' of the Besnard section. The subject of the picture leaves these select gazers apparently indifferent; it is only seamstresses and country-folk, the grateful clientèle of the chromo, who linger over the 'story.' And yet these as they pass stop by preference before Henry Martin's 'Every Man and his Chimæra,' in which bloated figures, in an atmosphere of yellow broth, are doing incomprehensible things that need profound explanation; or before Jean Béraud's 'Christ and the Adulteress,' where, in a Parisian dining-room, in the midst of a company in dress-coats, and before a woman in ball-dress, a Christ robed in correct Oriental gear, and with an orthodox halo, acts a scene out of the Gospel; or before Raffaelli's topers and cut-throats of the purlieus of Paris, drawn in high relief, but painted with ditch-water and dissolved clay. Steering in the wake of 'society' through a picture-gallery, one will be unalterably convinced that they turn up their eyes and fold their hands before pictures at which the commoner sort burst out laughing or pull the grimace of a man who believes he is made a fool of; and that they shrug their shoulders and hasten with scornful exchange of looks past such as the latter pause at in grateful enjoyment.
At opera and concert the rounded forms of ancient melody are coldly listened to. The translucent thematic treatment of classic masters, their conscientious observance of the laws of counterpoint, are reckoned flat and tedious. A coda graceful in cadence, serene in its 'dying fall,' a pedal-base with correct harmonization, provoke yawns. Applause and wreaths are reserved for Wagner's Tristan and Isolde, and especially the mystic Parsifal, for the religious music in Bruneau's Dream, or the symphonies of César Franck. Music in order to please must either counterfeit religious devotion, or agitate the mind by its form. The musical listener is accustomed involuntarily to develop a little in his mind every motive occurring in a piece. The mode in which the composer carries out his motif is bound, accordingly, to differ entirely from this anticipated development. It must not admit of being guessed.xliv A dissonant interval must appear where a consonant interval was expected; if the hearer is hoping that a phrase in what is an obvious final cadence will be spun out to its natural end, it must be sharply interrupted in the middle of a bar. Keys and pitch must change suddenly. In the orchestra a vigorous polyphony must summon the attention in several directions at once; particular instruments, or groups of instruments, must address the listener simultaneously without heeding each other, till he gets as nervously excited as the man who vainly endeavours to understand what is being said in the jangle of a dozen voices. The theme, even if in the first instance it has a distinct outline, must become ever more indefinite, ever more dissolving into a mist, in which the imagination can see any forms it likes, as in driving clouds of night. The tide of sound must flow on without any perceptible limit or goalxlv, surging up and down in endless chromatic passages of triplets. If now and then it delude the listener, borne along by it, and straining his eyes to see land with glimpses of a distant shore, this is soon discovered to be a fleeting mirage. The music must continually promise, but never perform; must seem about to tell some great secret, and grow dumb or break away ere to throbbing hearts it tells the word they wait for. The audience go to their concert-room in quest of Tantalus moods, and leave it with all the nervous exhaustion of a young pair of lovers, who for hours at the nightly tryst have sought to exchange caresses through a closely-barred window.xlvi
The books in which the public here depicted finds its delight or edification diffuse a curious perfume yielding distinguishable odours of incense, eau de Lubin and refuse, one or the other preponderating alternately. Mere sewage exhalations are played out. The filth of Zola's art and of his disciples in literary canal-dredging has been got over, and nothing remains for it but to turn to submerged peoples and social strata. The vanguard of civilization holds its nose at the pit of undiluted naturalism, and can only be brought to bend over it with sympathy and curiosity when, by cunning engineering, a drain from the boudoir and the sacristy has been turned into it. Mere sensuality passes as commonplace, and only finds admission when disguised as something unnatural and degenerate.xlvii Books treating of the relations between the sexes, with no matter how little reserve, seem too dully moral. Elegant titillation only begins where normal sexual relations leave off. Priapus has become a symbol of virtue. Vice looks to Sodom and Lesbos, to Bluebeard's castle and the servants' hall of the 'divine' Marquis de Sade's Justine, for its embodiments.xlviii
The book that would be fashionable must, above all, be obscure. The intelligible is cheap goods for the million only. It must further discourse in a certain pulpit tone -- mildly unctuous, not too insistent; and it must follow up risky scenes by tearful outpourings of love for the lowly and the suffering, or glowing transports of piety. Ghost-stories are very popular, but they must come on in scientific disguise, as hypnotism, telepathy, somnambulism. So are marionette-plays, in which seemingly naïve but knowing rogues make used-up old ballad dummies babble like babies or idiots. So are esoteric novels, in which the author hints that he could say a deal about magic, kabbala, fakirism, astrology and other white and black arts if he only chose. Readers intoxicate themselves in the hazy word-sequences of symbolic poetry.xlix Ibsen dethrones Goethe; Maeterlinck ranks with Shakespeare; Nietzsche is pronounced by German and even by French critics to be the leading German writer of the day; the Kreutzer Sonata is the Bible of ladies, who are amateurs in love, but bereft of loversl; dainty gentlemen find the street ballads and gaol-bird songs of Jules Jouyli, Bruant, MacNab and Xanroff very distingué on account of 'the warm sympathy pulsing in them,' as the stock phrase runs; and society persons, whose creed is limited to baccarat and the money market, make pilgrimages to the Oberammergau Passion-play, and wipe away a tear over Paul Verlaine's invocations to the Virgin.lii
But art exhibitions, concerts, plays and books, however extraordinary, do not suffice for the æsthetic needs of elegant society. Novel sensations alone can satisfy it. It demands more intense stimulus, and hopes for it in spectacles, where different arts strive in new combinations to affect all the senses at once. Poets and artists strain every nerve incessantly to satisfy this craving. A painter, who for that matter is less occupied with new impressions than with old puffs, paints a picture indifferently well of the dying Mozart working at his Requiem, and exhibits it of an evening in a darkened room, while a dazzling ray of skilfully directed electric light falls on the painting, and an invisible orchestra softly plays the Requiem.liii A musician goes one step further. Developing to the utmost a Bayreuth usage, he arranges a concert in a totally darkened hall, and thus delights those of the audience who find opportunity, by happily chosen juxtapositions, to augment their musical sensations by hidden enjoyment of another sort.liv Haraucourt, the poet, has his paraphrase of the Gospel, written in spirited verse, recited on the stage by Sarah Bernhardt, while, as in the old-fashioned melodrama, soft music in unending melody accompanies the actress. Even the nose, hitherto basely ignored by the fine arts, attracts the pioneers, and is by them invited to take part in æsthetic delights. A hose is set up in the theatre, by which the spectators are sprayed with perfumes. On the stage a poem in approximately dramatic form is recited. In every division, act, scene, or however the thing is called, a different vowel-sound is made to preponderate; during each the theatre is illuminated with a differently tinted light, the orchestra discourses music in a different key, and the jet gives out a different perfume. This idea of accompanying verses with odours was thrown out years ago, half in jest, by Ernest Eckstein. Paris has carried it out in sacred earnest. The new school fetch the puppet theatre out of the nursery, and enact pieces for adultslv which, with artificial simplicity, pretend to hide or reveal a profound meaning, and with great talent and ingenuity execute a magic-lantern of prettily drawn and painted figures moving across surprisingly luminous backgrounds; and these living pictures make visible the process of thought in the mind of the author who recites his accompanying poem, while a piano endeavours to illustrate the leading emotion. And to enjoy such exhibitions as these society crowds into a suburban circus, the loft of a back tenement, a second-hand costumier's shop, or a fantastic artist's restaurant, where the performances, in some room consecrated to beery potations, bring together the greasy habitué and the dainty aristocratic fledgling.
 'La Famille nevropathique,' Archives de Nevrologie, 1884, Nos. 19 et 20.
 See, on this subject, in particular, Krafft Ebing, Die Lehre vom moralischen Wahnsinn, 1871; H. Maudsley, Responsibility in Mental Disease, International Scientific Series; and Ch. Féré, Dégénérescence et Criminalité, Paris, 1888.
 J. Roubinovitch, Hystérie mâle et Dégénérescence; Paris, 1890, p. 62: 'The society which surrounds him (the degenerate) always remains strange to him. He knows nothing, and takes interest in nothing but himself.'
Legrain, Du Délire chez les Dégénérés; Paris, 1886, p. 10: 'The patient is ... the plaything of his passions; he is carried away by his impulses, and has only one care -- to satisfy his appetites.' P. 27: 'They are egoistical, arrogant, conceited, self-infatuated,' etc.
 Henry Colin, Essai sur l'État mental des Hystériques; Paris, 1890, p. 59: 'Two great facts control the being of the hereditary degenerate: obsession [the tyrannical domination of one thought from which a man cannot free himself; Westphal has created for this the good term 'Zwangs-Vorstellung,' i.e., coercive idea] and impulsion -- both irresistible.'
 Morel, 'Du Délire émotif,' Archives générales, 6 série, vol. vii., pp. 385 and 530. See also Roubinovitch, op. cit., p. 53.
 Morel, 'Du Délire panophobique des Aliénés gémisseurs,' Annales médico-psychologiques, 1871.
 Roubinovitch, op. cit., p. 28.
 Ibid., p. 37.———
- The term is here used in its original sense. Both "train" and "court" carry meaning long predating modernist appropriation, still reaching us nevertheless from such a time afore as when a land's best and brightest either followed their lord (mein König und Held, Wir schlügen den Teufel für dich aus der Welt!) when he walked (in which case they formed his train) or else sat around him when he sat (in which case, they formed his court). "Courting" and "courtship" are historically intermediate, idle flatteries purporting to indicate that (selected) cunts are fulfilling (more like, are being coerced into) the role of the sovereign in some rural contexts (itself such an insult as hardly could be found the equal, though perhaps "thinking with your guts" comes close).
For that matter, "progress" similarily discussed the moving of a sovereign through his domains, back in the days when the court sat wherever the king's bed -- le lit -- lay ; and, though it spent most of the nineteenth century being used synonymously with "evolution", nevertheless neither ever carried any connotation of improvement. This because there's no such thing as improvement possible in that context : either you're good (civilised, christian, whatever) or else stop being bad! The notion of work over time towards some sort of goal, and therefore the distinction between the part of the work already done and the part of the work yet to be done wasn't yet available to those minds, so far innocent of encounter with the urban crowd, or the factory (another appropriated term -- originally it denoted a warehouse, where materials in different stages of processing were stored), or any kind or manner of bootstrapping process.
Throughout human history up until the early 1800s technology improved slower than the generations succeeded each other, and therefore even if ploughs, for instance (as by far the most economically important and socially central tool for fifteen or more centuries) did in fact change pluriously and significantly since the early (wooden!) models the Celts deployed, nevertheless this change was never subjectively accessible. Eventually the pace of tool replacement compressed enough to be occuring within a lifetime, and the phenomena resulting will perhaps be best modelled by reference to velocity in fluids : for as long as an object moves slower than the speed of sound in that medium, things go a certain way ; but once that all-important (and naturally occuring!) inflexion point is reached, "all Hell breaks loose", so to speak : there's wavefronts and compression fronts and booms and what all else -- certainly vibration and mechanical strains etcetera.
Bootstrapping is the entirely novel concept (so new, in fact, you're not even familiar with it in a global scope) of deliberately diverting work from directly working on the goal towards improving the tools instead, so as to cause improvements in productivity such that the total workload is completed overal faster, diversions notwithstanding. If, for instance, an expedition with a view to permanence were planned towards some distant planet, the lander would include bootstrapping stages, whereby first it exploits some of the environment to build better exploiters, which in turn exploit some wider (and otherwise previously inaccessible) swaths of environment to build even better exploiters, and so on over cycles, much like your "downloading a game" might consist of downloading -- a downloader (that will in turn download the rest of the damned thing itself). The concept originates in computing, which happens to be the one field where human tooling is by farm most complex ; but it has universal domain irrespective of that humble origin.
Just as the notion that some work might be so extensive it's more efficient to stage it such that at first you don't even work towards your goal but towards the tools that'll allow faster approach is somewhat novel to you (though you recognize it in your environment, now that I've mentioned it), just so the notion that tool upgrades might occur at all was novel but recognoscible for the people about-to-be-enligthened. So naive was their self-representation (and of the world ; and of their place in it) that even the concept of work was unfamiliar -- much like the worst cut of womanhood today, people back in those days generally (and broadly, and disavowedly) identified work and existence, innured to any conception of doing what they must as counterdistinct from doing "what came naturally to them". Obviously enough this is also the deep font of all the "nostalgia", and the general impression of "better, happier days" held deep in the social subconscious, where the worst exponents pullulate : life sure as fuck was easier for them back then, in that it put much less demands upon their frail backs. That it was also insufferable for the best and highest -- well, that'd be no morloch concern, would it now. [↩]
- Have you seen Otto e mezzo ? Apparently I've not reviewed it, perhaps owing to the circumstance that I spent a year or so being reliably put to sleep by it, much to the harem's amusement ; but the "water cure" scene in there's not coincidental, not anymore than all the -bad terminated names of German towns. For a long while, back in the 1800s, the veheheheeery gingerly approach to female sexuality limited itself to... well, basically, "take them somewhere wet ; it should be good enough". I suppose they figured, like that jew a century later, that "they just appreciate it if you try something".
In any case, it was the hot core of (disavowed, of course!) eroticism and socially-acceptable perisexual activity for a long while, and riotously amusing in myriad little ways throughout. [↩]
- Possibly the least of a hairdo anyone could ever come up with. It's literally how the hair stands on a woman's head by itself (provided it's combed and washed occasionally). In any case it counted for superlatively modest (as fit for a daughter, as opposed to a whore -- these were expected to know shit) in Maddalena's own time ; I mean look at fucking Agnolo, he has five times more of a hairdo than her, with enough crazy thrown in there to give a longhaired dog a decent run for its money. [↩]
- Conceivably these bitches had long elegant necks, in which case putting the hair up's not even a bad idea. Nevertheless, there's substantial difference between Julia's usual style (which was, by and large, a period perm, and made her look very evenly top-heavy) and Plotina's (which is very much a high braid -- and it looked distinctively freakish-funny, too).
The styles have absolutely nothing in common (besides elevation) -- they don't look anything like each other, they're not produced in the same manner... hell, they don't even share symmetry axes, Plotina's very front-facing, rather an early Pompadour (proof, I suppose, that the statues in the Louvre didn't inspire generations of women for the first time in the late 1800s, huh). That the author seems to imply their equivalence, that he doesn't merely use them as if they were indistinctly interchangeable but does so deliberately and expressily, as if with a view to making the statement that they should be so used... I don't know, it rather makes me suspect he might not be very much privy to what it is he sees, at least when it comes to looking at women -- perhaps enough so and pronouncedly enough that it's becoming difficult to not think sexual frustration might actually play a much larger part in informing his thought processes and forming his mental stances than any other single ingredient. [↩]
- So a chick's got bangs ? Gimme a break, bangs are older than dirt. [↩]
- This alleged law would greatly benefit from formal statement. Does he mean something with a tendency to Lao Tzu's core value, "Organic Harmony" ? Because if so, blue-black hair to accentuate Northern marble cheek's not exactly offending, perhaps on the contrary. See, if the hair wanted to stand out on its own, at the expense of the cheek, then it'd be a violation ; but since it expresses itself such as to further another, distinct part, and together uplift the whole... I mean that's precisely what the dao's all about to begin with.
Or does he mean something rather along the strictures of "no woman should have hair of any color no other woman's had before, lest it upsets my narrowly conceived mental categories (which I fraudulently opt to misrepresent as 'the good of all-society')" ? Because... well, why hair ? Should any woman have any children no woman's ever had before ? If the concern here actually is that the woman's hair works too well with her cheek, and together uplift the whole too much, thereby upsetting Nordau's own notions of where her place is in the general machinery of Nordau's own cosmos... well, I mean, his problems aren't truly related to any sort of decay, it's just a simple matter of "how dare these luscious bitches live outside my dungeon, I wanna pork them all myself".
Which... seriously, a half-decent blowjob might well fix "the world", if this is how "the world" is "broken" in the first place. [↩]
- He does not mean what you think he means. Toilette, as a French word (meanwhile phonetically appropriated in English as "towelette", a small wet item of mostly female personal hygiene) originally meant outfit in French, especially for women ("manière dont une femme est vêtue et apprêtée"). The complicated needs of maintenance of the complicated accoutrements men's insecurity with the ever-wet slit between their legs forced upon women required a special room for adjustments, which itself took on metonymically the name of the thing it supposedly serviced, becoming the toilette, which was then imported into American to denote the little room (ie, cabinet) where shitting takes place ; and then as the English equivalents (WC aka water closet and then bathroom, as if) came in, the original French-ism was relegated to denote the actual bowl found in such a room.
So, rest assured there's no potty involved ; he just means dress. [↩]
- What a deliciously racial epithet! It means her skin's toasted by the Sun, to those delicious cocoa tones seen in some of the world's best whores. [↩]
- Sounds more like Georgiana, of Devonshire. Now that was a fin de siecle!
I can't be bothered to dig right now for the story of the successful career thief who stole her painting -- for purely aesthetic reasons, mind you -- and also lived with another man sharing a woman (that liked it well enough), but... oh, actually, here. [↩]
- You know, the funny pom-pom'd hat the Catholic priests used to wear. Anyways, the bitches these days... they wear jerseys and things, for the same purpose. It's a sexual practice, like the hedgehog's pasting on the face is an alimentary practice. [↩]
- That indeed sounds pretty annoying. Harem slaves aren't very fond of ankle bells for the very same reason -- it's the sort of thing that sounds like a cool idea in theory, but becomes very rapidly annoying in practice. Outside of some limited outdoors usage where the ambient noise levels are high enough, they're practically never seen.
Frankly I don't know how cows put up with it. [↩]
- That's nothing! Because of the enduring interest in imagological Antiquity, peplum lives on as a word, denoting a particular sort of low-effort cinematic re-enactions of "the period". Apparently there's something about this word making it immortal ; I personally suspect it's the (infrasexually satisfying) phonetic similarity to pula.
That aside, the vetment itself is necessarily immortal, owing to both its simplicity and its strong synnergy with the human body -- specifically the one human body of greatest social interest. [↩]
I'd never thought anyone'd complain about female variety, be it cacophonic or no (I mean, you do stick it in her poophole just as well, don't you). What exactly is to be gained if they're all dressed "harmoniously", perhaps like the cucks in "tuxedos", only the color of the misery passing for a tie changing (from white to black and back, lest they strain themselves) ? Would it give "non-standard beauties" more of a chance ? Would it give low-value males less of a headache ? What exactly is lost, if you let them knock themselves out ?
I confess I fail to see the argument, if indeed there's an argument in there ; though I do find the humour, and quite enjoy it assuch. For what it's worth, last we went to town (meaning, Saturday) Hannah wore a short, deep red, very ruffled skirt over her bare bottom, letting the top of her gartered stockings show now and again, and a white neckbanded top closely groping her tits, areolas quite discernible through the stretch ; while Nicole wore a red-blue-yellow-and-green floral print A-line coming just slightly above her buttline, legs bare atop eight inch slutplatforms. Now... what exactly's the problem with that ? I enjoyed their company, and everyone else neglected their WAGs something fierce. Should they've been dollied up "more harmoniously" ? Why ? [↩]
- Ew. [↩]
- Period Walmart card illustrator, did a lot of children decked in kitschy Queen Anne-ish stuff. She also did some kitchy Art Nouveau calques later in life. [↩]
- The what now ?!
How the fuck can anyone think in these terms, children are self-evidently about as sacral as maggots, what the hell.
Do they take pregnant nuns at the monastery, where this guy's from ? Because ascaris lumbricoides' not automatically a bar to admission. [↩]
- Really, anything's better than jeans-and-a-tshirt. Anything at all. [↩]
- Corydon demande pardon! [↩]
- Which is... what the fuck exactly ? The French hip-pivoted long coats with ruffled chest, maybe with overdone sleeve cuffs ? Or the English weird with the hat and the stick ? Maybe the generously buckled Dutch hats or the Hussar furcaps, why not. There's a caricature somewhere around here, showing a 1800s man in an extremely elaborate "military uniform" berating a woman for her extremely elaborate... feminitary uniform. I think it drives the point quite well ; and I also think Nordau's as perceptive as he thinks an old spinster would be. [↩]
- You mean, like Napoleon exactly ?
The curse of modernism, as an intellectual attempt, is precisely this "fake it, maybe you make it" thing. If the little Corsican who wasn't an Emperor could pretend like he were an emperor nevertheless, and thereby maybe one day become... well ? Modernism is modernism, it does what it does because it is what it is, having started as it has and so on. It didn't become anything else because there isn't such a thing as becoming, self-obviously enough, even if that happens to contradict what it's been pretending to. [↩]
- What legitimizes accessories ? It's not quite as idle a question as all that. [↩]
- One wonders, as an idle curiosity, how would computer programmers correctly dress, according to this fellow ; and moreover how exactly are types to exist at all, if they can't ever be formed. [↩]
- Now this alone is a pretty great dig. All colors go together in the dark. [↩]
- This has been the town ever since forever, really. [↩]
- No such thing as bad publicity, eh ? Now this is in fact and quite duly a symptom of social disintegration -- when publicity becomes necessary (or even productive), the social order is already undergoing dissolution (for were it functional, there'd be no need of push-notifications, the still-beating cultural heart of society doing all the work of informational circulation, as it must, as per the very definitions of culture -- if it loses its monopoly on information circulation therefore and thereby it also loses its claim to social organisation) ; but by the time ordering is lost to the point all publicity is equally useful, society's long dead and culture but a dimly remembered dream of yore. [↩]
- Even the butterflies are impugned ?!
I can't imagine they did anything to the century. Nor are they nearly as vain as the vain misperceive them to be. [↩]
- Come, come now. Who's going to furnish his livingroom with iron maidens because he's such an iron man he doesn't need armchairs or anything like them ? Dracula ?
The argument's beyond ridiculous, furniture was always designed to be comfortable, even pre-Greek/Roman Egyptian beds sport neckrests for crying out loud. [↩]
- Well... they apparently attracted a few Florentines, didn't they. [↩]
- This is such nonsense... jousting's not a kind of Western Fronteer-ing for crying out loud. It was very much a young man's game, I don't think there ever was a champion in any joust much older than about twenty-four. How exactly are adolescent asses going to be covered in toughened hides ? Toughened by what the fuck ?
This making up bullshit taylored to one's ignorant (but apparently very firmly held) notions and then turning around and trying to shape it into arguments... it really doesn't work, blergh. [↩]
- So basically people piled up all the stuff they could get their grubby paws on. Shocking! [↩]
- What the fuck does that mean ?! I expect it doesn't have a candlestick in the middle, for reason of having a mirror in the middle. What the fuck did this weirdo see on the make-up table of the (by all appearances single solitary) woman he ever visited ? A sacrificial bowl with kukri, what, did his church canons line up six dozen small bottles of nail polish on either sides of a corner of the altar like my slave's lined hers on the top of the stand next to her (standing, by the way, good whore habits die hard) maquillage station ? [↩]
- Kneeling station. [↩]
- What the fuck is an orgiastic abandon about the cushions. Like, the cushions are somehow fucking ? What the fuck! [↩]
- As in, she does it with other women (which is what an orgy is) ? Or with lots of dudes ? Or what the blazing hells is this dork yammering about.
Is he actually objecting to pillows ?! [↩]
- What the fuck should be on the walls, plain magenta wallpaper ? ANDNOTHINGELSE? [↩]
- But... but... isn't the very reason Rembrandt, or for that matter Schalcken I guess, even have a name such as we'd know it, specifically that they captured the real way in which light, and shadow, and so on, play on actual objects, really ? What, then, is the objection ? That reality wasn't retired with Rembrandt, leaving everyone bereft ?! Of fucking course light still falls the way he did it, since he did it right and it hasn't changed. What the fuck nonsense is this! [↩]
- The contention's not proven. Were the orgy slut above try fucking on the kneeler only, to the pointed exclusion of the recliner, where she only prayed ; and were she to stuff the ben-wa balls into her ears and attempt to masturbate herself with a knife through the belly button -- then yes, indeed, discord of form and purpose. But inasmuch as she prays on the kneeler and fucks on the divan, inasmuch as the pillows are under the neck rather than in between the legs (and even then!), inasmuch as the pots and pans are abouts the kitchen & dining room rathen than toilet bowl or outhouse... Really, the fuck's this pest's issue ? Besides some chromatic disagreements, which obviously can be troublesome, but then again we weren't there to observe and he's not exaclty built up his credit such that I feel much inclined to trust his inventories.
Moreover there's a lot to be said for "contradiction". For instance, I own an eager slut that's given me many blowjobs. She's excellent at it, pure delight ; yet one that I very clearly remembered occured many years ago, inside a metropolitan church, her nude (but for stockings) body covered in the wax I had dripped on her off a large candle. I can still see her ample breast, her rounded bottom, all covered in the yellow stains. She wasn't nearly as good at it back then, but, see, the contradiction... it proved most enjoyable nevertheless. Another eager fuckbunny I remember taking on the spur of the moment right in some hip-tall bushes of wiry, hearthy nettle. It's not generally the place you'd fuck a woman, but having her on her hands and knees, rubbing her bared belly into the liquid fire while I mounted her mercilessly from behind, the hostile vegetal growth pushing its way to bite cruely the insides of her oh so lovely rounded thighs, bare and exposed, time and again (and even touching my own scrotum once or twice)... twas utter delight. For what's more pleasant in a woman than her complete abandonment of herself ? And greatly magnified afterwards by the cataloguing of all the damage her carnation incurred in the proceedings, her bumped and corroded flesh yet still so firm, so deeply feminine underneath it all... true contradiction if there ever was such a thing. Yet another time, walking through a forest after a rain I asked the accompanying damsel if she'd sacrifice her flesh to insulate my suit from all the mud. She eagerly did, laying herself out, bare in the path, away from any grass or anything that'd shield to the faintest degree, just so I could fuck her cushioned, unsoiled, her hair matting and mixing with the thick dirth underneath as I had my pleasure of her. Then I stood up off her, untainted, and she walked her "shame" (such as it very much wasn't, for her, but I expect you're nowhere near that yourself) thenceforth, a contradiction font of the greatest enjoyment.
Because that's what contradiction is. And I... I could go on, too. [↩]
- The other word for this repose is boredom, which unfortunate circumstance leaves us rather in the lurch. Ah, if only Nordau didn't suck as a blogger. [↩]
- "Vois tu cette femme, avec ses seins enormes ?!"
"Peut-etre ca se porte encore, en Provence." [↩]
- The problem is the very capacity of producing anything like a style lay dead there. People becoming too self-important, too great in their own self-estimation to follow another, much too imperial in their isolated islets of impotence to submit to their betters necessarily yields a situation of dissolved nothingness (it's not like they're going to produce variety ; it's that they're going to produce much simpler forms than anything before seen, repeated ad nauseam -- hence the jeans and t-shirts).
It's how that great plague ruins and dissolves settled society : first exciting in the lowest an utterly unwarranted sense of equality with the very best, the more stubbornly perdurant as it is perfectly baseless ; then "expanding the franchise" to mix the worthless with the worthy "indistinguishably", as the fantasy goes, until the flood of low value "equals" brings down the average below the minimum value required to maintain structure ; then finally collapsing into the mud of the little that can in fact be supported on the negligible new average, for "efficiency" etcetera.
By having fifty billion know-nothings "putting forth their own take on style" the result isn't ever going to be anything like stylistic variety ; but always (and necessarily) a collapse in the forms of style to the narrowest, lowest common denominator, which is why the fixed topic of social competition is now "clever t-shirt scribblings". It's got to be t-shirts (two dollars worth of cotton and fifty-five cents worth of industrial processing) scribled upon (five to fifty cents worth of post-industrial "artisanal" nonsense) and nothing else because that's what the averge comes to : a shade under three bucks. To have kids dressed in Queen Anne costumes you need well over a hundred dollar's budget, and even if that existed isolatedly among the soup, the costs involved in selecting it far exceed economic capacity. There's uranium in seawater too ; nobody mines for it though.
Nor is this limited to dress. It's the universal process of pantsuitist decay, whereby removing "barriers to entry" exponentially (by the second power) destroys maximal compexity and (by the fifth power) actual utility. It's why open source is now the shit that it is, it's why Frankfurt is now the shit that it is, it's why everything around is not worth setting on fire even : universally and without possible exception inclusivity ruins whatever it's being applied to, and as such is the only bad thing known to life (which is not coincidentally why almost half of the total count of proteins made by the human body are dedicated to fighting inclusivity -- as propounded by the various pathogens all around).
That before giving blacks and women the vote being an American citizen was actually something to be proud of is no comment on either women or blacks, but on the process : every expanded franchise means an exponentially destroyed object. If today cubes are worth a thousand and tomorrow you double cube inclusivity, the only result worth the mention will be "cubes" (if you can still call them that) four times as dumb, worth slightly under four instead of yesterday's thousand. It's just what it is, and why Greek towns expanded like they did.
This then makes pantsuitism "stable", in the sense mud is stable : everything man-made eventually goes back to the dust it came from. Nor is this proposing that nothing should ever decay : obviously everything should decay that will ; bacteria have their useful role in dissolving corpses so new life can carry on. But, importantly, all new life ever will carry on against them, like all old life did too. In spite of them. The pantsuit is born to be despised, rejected, disdained and spat upon -- and don't ever forget it. [↩]
- Not hardly ; though the gnome book did sound interesting. [↩]
- Sort-of impressionist (not really, didn't like the realism, but did follow the technique), did the Sorbonne. He's really not that bad, I don't comprehend whence the ire. Certainly nothing like little miss Greenaway, nor the tiresome ilk that he'd have her stand for (not really all that warrantedly, either). [↩]
- For crying out loud, he's a murals specialist!
Not terrible either, sorta-kinda trying for Godward al fresco, I guess. Certainly way the fuck better than anything you've ever seen on a private wall. [↩]
- Hahaha, I expect this is actually very accurate period notation -- certainly a similar process followed popularization in all other fields ; and you can probably bear witness the inanely contorted "cleverness" of popular fiction driven by the very cause described. [↩]
- What could possibly be a goal ?! [↩]
- This is altogether pretty weird. For one thing, the natural mode of youthful sexuality is something quite akin that anyways, and always (and everywhere) has been. It's annoying enough, I confess, but also perennial enough to signify little. For the other that... well... they have the Internet now to do exactly that : continuously promise and never perform.
I'm entirely unsure what to make of this paragraph, especially because how's Tristan und Isolde fit in ?! Did this guy even listen to the god damned thing ? I mean, who knows, maybe my ear's so different from his we're bothered differently by different things, owing to the couple of centuries' worth of musical experimentations that separates us... I really can't call it either way. [↩]
- This, in fairness, has been a problem for a long time, and may be rather a property of the male outright than anything innovative. It was certainly known to the Spartans, and pretty much everyone hence. [↩]
- It is perhaps worth the mention that Justine wasn't born in 1880, nor in any other 18xx.
Anyways, since I suspect the author's quite as innocent of the work he discusses as the readersheep : the gist of Justine is that a stubbornly, stiffly "moral" character (Justine) ends up a convicted felon on her way to the guillotine because of it ; whereas her more feminine counterparts, that wisely do bend the knee and take it in to the hilt (only once all practicable alternatives are exhausted, but no later) end up on top of the social pile. It's altogether an anti-pantsuit infomercial of the late Kingdom, dealing transparently with the issues of "corruption" and "purity" as misunderstood by the average silly goose, and in that a very useful manual of ethical-moral behaviour. Justine herself, though... she's no Jezebel. Not even close. She's more like Carrie Careerwoman from the Wisconsin of 1780.
I further suspect the Bluebeard reference might only be found there because Bella Bartok was also Hungarian. [↩]
- Inasmuch as the brain is not a thinking machine, but a repetition machine, the argument might even find some purchase whereby putting disjointed garbage in's harmful. It stumbles on a matter of quantity, though : the brain that can't well handle small amounts of garbage is about as useful (and therefore -- likely to in practice be encountered) as the stomach that only functions in a vacuum. [↩]
- A retarded piece of the abstinence-only lobby, written as it happens by none other than Tolstoy. Nordau probably has a point, in that it would've made decent go-to for her, back then. [↩]
- "Loups de la Semaine Sanglante, sachez-le, l'agneau se souvient. Du peuple, la justice est lente, elle est lente, mais elle vient !" I mean... whatever. [↩]
- The insanity where the alpha males (by social position, as the term's defined for animals, and not by some sort of substance or intrinsic qualities, as the temptation's to redefine it for humans) opt to try and cater to the women herd, instead of demanding (and forcibly extracting!) individual performance out of them is indeed appaling idiocy ; and it did indeed start at some point in the recent past -- though which point exactly is difficult to ascertain, and not made any easier by the cucks' ubiquity. [↩]
- O look, the happening! As it happenes, happened before! And in similar socio-economical context! O woe! [↩]
- Honestly, that licking the rod was not all-but-mandatory practice at the period concert hall's a wonder inexplicable. If you can afford the substantial entrance fee, the comparatively lightweight offices of an orange girl or two can't possibly be out of reach ; and god knows by the time the other century was closing curtains even the proles had figured out as much. [↩]
- If not necessarily natural this evolution is nevertheless to be expected, and in any case quite unsurprising given the galons upon galons of single father ejaculate guzzled by period-accurate (ie remarkably pretty) nursery workers by that point. I'd be shocked if by the time 1890 rolled around you could fill a hall with patrons such that the preponderence didn't have some warm memories of ramming it into a nursery worker gingerly bent over the (functionally portable, but blessfuly hefty) puppetry case (such as, if you're unfamiliar, you might find depicted in La Fuggitiva, a 1941 misery I eschewed reviewing) moments prior to depositing the necessary byproduct in her kitten mouth (it's a specific face, she opens her mouth half-way and sticks the tongue out half-way ; ask a period girl sometime what Katzengesicht's like).
In any case, men of means stuck with small children they were socially expected & not expected to care for at the same time being rather common (owing to the better mortality figures), the production of young women to be "employed" to fuck & not fuck them while seeing to the children is unsurprising ; and that particular ambiguity in each respect itself the most modernist socioartifact of all. For what is Zuleika, the original, the attempt unresolved by my fierce hand into strong form ?
The cleaving, of everything from everything, and the resulting morass and ambiguity, "fertile", yes, but a fertility geared towards a very tritely repetitive baseness -- now that's the true substance of modernity. [↩]