the state of beauty

selections from the screwtape letters (screwtape is a senior devil writing to a junior devil. God is referred to as the Enemy.)

…in a rough and ready way, of course, this matter is decided for us by spirits far deeper down in the Lowerarchy than you and i. it is the business of these great masters to produce in every age a general misdirection of what may be called sexual ‘taste’. this they do by working through the small circle of popular artists, dressmakers, actresses, and advertisers who determine the fashionable type. the aim is to guide each sex away from those members of the other with whom spiritually helpful, happy, and fertile marriages are most likely.

at one time we have directed (the male taste) to the statuesque and aristocratic type of beauty, mixing men’s vanity with their desires and encouraging the race to breed chiefly from the most arrogant and prodigal women. at another, we have selected an exaggeratedly feminine type, faint and languishing, so that folly and cowardice, and all the general falseness and littleness of mind which go with them, shall be at a premium. at present we are on the opposite track. the age of jazz has succeeded the age of the waltz, and we now teach men to like women whose bodies are scarcely distinguishable from those of boys. since this is a kind of beauty even more transitory than most, we thus aggravate the female’s chronic horror of growing old and render her less willing and less able to bear children.

you will find, if you look into any man’s heart, that he is haunted by at least two imaginary women – a terrestrial and an infernal venus, and that his desire differs qualitatively according to its object. there is one type for which his desire is such as to be naturally amenable to the Enemy- readily mixed with charity, readily obedient to marriage, coloured all through with that golden light of reverence and naturalness which we detest; there is another type which he desires brutally, and desires to desire brutally, a type best used to draw him away from marriage altogether but which, even within marriage, he would tend to treat as a slave, an idol, or an accomplice….it is that ‘tang’ in the flavour which he is after. in the face, it is the visible animality, or sulkiness, or craft, or cruelty which he likes, and in the body, something quite different from what he ordinarily calls Beauty, something he may even, in a sane hour, describe as ugliness, but which, by our art, can be made to play on the raw nerve of his private obsession.

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memories, dreams, reflections…from jude

from july, 2009:

Jude has a concept of himself that is other than his physical being. When we discuss his nighttime dreaming, he describes it as going up and out into his dreams, and then back into his heart, or what he’s also called “coming back to my house,” referring to himself, touching his chest, as he says it. This hits me like a bucket of lead. For all of the talking we grown ups do, for all of the books we write and deep shit we like to think we get into, there it is. For me, lying there next to my son at bed time, there it is. The reals, yo. The reals.

A couple of months from five years-old now, my son talks about his dreams to me. They’re the usual. They integrate movie characters, like Eva from WALLE, who was keeping Jude from climbing down from his cousin’s bunk bed in one somnambulant excursion. He theorizes what his dreams will be tonight. “Maybe I’ll go into the woods and shoot all of the animals so they won’t eat me.” “Maybe I’ll go up off the planet and into space and see my friends there.” He seems a little uneasy about some of these, and I tell him that dreams are an adventure, and that no matter what, he’ll always come right back and wake up and be safe. I tell him it’s like he’s in a little egg while he’s dreaming, flying around, going from one place to the next, always safe, always to return. But he’s already gotten that sense, he doesn’t need me to come up with some half-cocked metaphor. The kid already knows.

It makes me rethink our whole idea of identity, laying there and watching him in the fading light of the bedroom. His eyes sparkle and he looks up into the room, toward some interior landscape. His sense of himself is his name. He can respond to it, say it, spell it. But that’s not it. He knows his body. He knows his brain, his heart, his peepee – all the important parts. And that’s not it. I get this distinct, intangible sense of his sense as we’re talking. It comes to me in a feeling, in a wave. He really has this kind of incorporeal sense of himself. He recognizes some sort of quintessence, something without form we can understand, or name, but only through concept, and with the kind of accepting immediacy of a child. Of an unfettered mind. “I’ll go up into my dreams,” he says, referring, as it see it, to the Unconscious, to Atman, Brahmin, and even more still – “I’ll go up and into my dreams and have abentures (how he pronounces “adventures”) and then I’ll come back down into my house.” And his small, creampuff hand comes down on his chest, and his eyes sparkle.

“Yes,” I say to him, “that’s exactly right.” And because I can’t resist, I tell him, “and you’ll be safe the whole time, because all the angels will be watching you.”

It doesn’t feel to me like I’m filling his head with nonsense. It doesn’t feel like I’m a priest telling fairy tales to superstitious old ladies. He turns to look at me in the gloom and it feels just right. He doesn’t say anything, and I tell him goodnight, and kiss him for the thousandth time.

This is my life. More importantly, I have to keep reminding myself, this is his life.

Off you go, Jude. Off you go to fly into your dreams, and when you come back to your house, I’ll be waiting nearby.

two to join the parade

Surf variety. Breckenridge cowboys. Alert the media – the fast moving floats with hayseed cilia are coming down the pike. Maintain the structure. All the bronze muscled bodies march, holding up the giant iron pipe, the threads at the end dripping the cautelous water, drip-smack on the macadam, drip-smack on the paving stones; they’re marching into the town hall, favored ghosts are moving, coughing up bits of smoke from the portraiture. Ken Hayes runs for mayor of tinsel town. Variety smokes. Ten tons of Sam Templeton, his opposition. Break out the golden gloves, this one goes nine rounds, the sweat drip-smacks the canvas as the men circle one another, and the Crowd, a panoply of technicolor heads, peppered with the Ex-heads, stippled with the aphrodites, ROARS with approval.

Tick, tick, the tickertape peals out over the brass fixture and spills like honeypaper down onto the dryboard floor. Martha’s making meringue on the telly – but that’s all the soft stuff. The soft stuff comes out of his aching head in the forest room. He stuffs the broken bough of needles into his mouth to stifle the scream. He rakes the edge of the conifers down his arms to draw the blood, he makes a fire with his plans, he cracks the tomb with his eyeballed fists. She peels herself like an onion. Form after form falls away, redirected by signs and insignia, she stumbles along the wide path until the bright woods are cloaked with iridescent mist, sending her into oblivion, where she now stands, eyes like iron fire, pouring out her mouth the blue azalea dream she had since she was a girl, fixing to be by her MAN, loving the sound tradition cakes into the fissures along the barks of the father god trees. EMBALMED they all want to be; sanctified, each looking for sex in their death, each to remove the tenterhooks of this immortal dream, playing cockeyed on its side, the battered television brays.

They move, they march, each of them smaller and wise. They come into the street with golden pots. The ravens dart over head, the streelights pop off and on, the whole show is back underway. More minions line the streets under the mullions, the cherubim in the architraves, the carved angels in the cymatium. The double oak doors open, the blast from inside pours out the heart, onto the street, babbling and faceless and freed, and the mothers smile through their wrinkles at the stars which shine back down upon them.

“rehabilitation” – a testimonial

by david press

I should start right off by saying that Tim Brearton is one of my closest friends. I wouldn’t be a particularly good critic if I didn’t say that I’ve been his friend going on ten years now, and now that you’ve read that you probably think this review isn’t meritorious. That’s okay; I’m going to take it in another direction. This essay is better thought of as an introduction to him, and to his writing. I’m a big believer in knowing a writer’s style is also knowing them personally, and Tim is a writer I’ve known for a long time.

I met him when I was a tender 20 years-old reporting for duty as the Lake Placid Film Forum’s intern. He was head of the Volunteer Department, and was (still is) someone who wouldn’t be satisfied if he wasn’t running around doing a million things at once. That’s not to say he has no focus, but he likes being busy and is especially busy in his head. Tim may be the greatest deliberator I know, because what may take you and I two minutes to analyze the possibilities of, Tim has thought of every angle you and I could think of in half a minute. That is easily the best personality trait of his that comes through in his protaganist, Jack Aiello, in this book you have in your hands. It allows you, the reader, to get inside his character’s head, and that for me is a writer’s number one objective; to make you feel like you’re a part of that character’s psyche.

I became Tim’s right hand man that year at the Film Forum. Running the mail, making copies, hanging fliers, and making sure all the parties had the appropriate amount of booze. Things that interns do. Since then I’ve been along Tim’s journey from Burlington, Vermont, to when he quit drinking, to when he started writing full time shortly after his son’s birth. Jude Russell Brearton, Tim’s son, is easily the greatest work of art Tim will ever do.

So, I ask you to take part in Tim’s art with this exceptionally personal novel about a Brooklyn strong-arm named Jack Aiello and his journey to rehabilitation. Rehabilitation from fighting, from drinking, and from the women he’s lost. This is Tim’s personal statement on issues such as substance abuse, single-parenthood, and gene manipulation, wrapped in the cover of a private eye story. Aiello transforms from amateur private dick to someone not fighting for a cause, like the Naturalists he encounters, or fighting for a better world like the gene manipulators of the Utopia Corporation, but fighting for his family.

You see, in this world, everyone is fighting for something. Whether you are President Obama fighting for health care, or fighting for gay rights, very few books are about fighting to get better for your child, and generally those books become classics. (See Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections.) And that’s why this book is a classic not just for tackling hot-button issues, but personal issues that everyone struggles with. In the end it’s about children, and knowing Tim and seeing his son Jude grow up, I can’t help but smile knowing that this book, this work of art on Tim’s part, is for his greatest work of art—his son Jude. It’s a present from father to son.

So, go on, enjoy. You’ll be rehabilitated for it.

David Press

New York City

Saturday, October 10, 2009

click here for the book