[lit-ideas] Re: Rent

  • From: Eric Yost <mr.eric.yost@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 03 Mar 2008 02:26:37 -0500

John: Ah, to be remembered. What joy, what joy.

Eric: Certainly a joy when remembering your writing, less a joy when remembering some of my unfortunate chili recipes. (Can still taste that mordant avalanche of cinnamon digging in to the soft palate and sending flames up the sinuses...)

John: That said, I'm not at all sure that commercial/non-commercial is the right distinction. After all, so much of the city's variety is rooted in commercial activity, from buskers and street-side vendors to theater, museums, and, of course, architectural experiments deliberately experimental in search of differentiation.

Eric: I qualified "alternative to commercial activity" with an inter alia substitution, "that puts commerce side-by-side with non-commerce."

There's a Franzen essay on New York City that evokes Gotham as an earlier form of capitalism, pre-Galleria, where merchant and citizen coexist. Franzen also cites Jane Jacobs describing cities as places "where personal responsibility is learned on the sidewalks." There's an ad hoc cohesion to NYC that almost thwarts description.

Your stroll with your spouse captures that sense perfectly, also adding what I had hoped to express by my Pigeon anecdote ... the strange and unexpected. (For an Appalachian Trail hiker or rural rambler, the unexpected or strange can often be a disaster, like a coiled snake or hungry bear.)

So to advance the discussion, "commerce side-by-side with non-commerce" + "the strange and unexpected" + "freedom from marketed standards of dress and decorum" + "mass transit" = "bohemia" minus the Maynard G. Krebs goatee, the landlord knocking, and the candles guttering in the garret?
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