Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Vignettes from Vermont: Of Poshlust and Nabokov

AGD holds his Italian marble bust
sculpted by Steph Davidson (1965-2003)

"The list is long, and, of course, everybody
has his bete noire, his black pet, in the series."

BENNINGTON -- Vladimir Nabokov, who said that, could write with the masters of the universe. His old Russian arrogance matched his talent.

From an enlightening Paris Review interview the author of "Lolita" explains poshlust:

"Poshlust" or in a better transliteration poshlost, has many nuances, and evidently I have not described them clearly enough in my little book on Gogol, if you think one can ask anybody if he is tempted by poshlost. Corny trash, vulgar cliches, Philistinism in all its phases, imitations of imitations, bogus profundities, crude, moronic and dishonest pseudo-literature -- these are obvious examples. Now, if we want to pin down poshlost in contemporary writing, we must look for it in Freudian symbolism, moth-eaten mythologies, social comment, humanistic messages, political allegories, over concern with class and race, and the journalistic generalities we all know.Poshlost speaks in such concepts as "America is no better than Russia" or "We all share in Germany's guilt". The flowers of poshlost bloom in such phrases and terms as "the moments of truth", "charisma", existential" (used seriously), "dialogue" (as applied to political talks between nations), and "vocabulary" (as applied to a dauber). Listen in one breath Auschwitz, Hiroshima, and Vietnam is a seditious poshlost. Belonging to a very select club (which sports one Jewish name -- that's of the treasurer) is genteel poshlust. Hack reviews are frequently poshlost, but it also lurks in certain highbrow essays. Poshlost calls Mr. Blank a great poet and Mr. Bluff a great novelist. One of the poshlost's favorite breeding place has always been Art Exhibition; there it is produced by so-called sculptors working with the tools of the wreckers, building crankshaft cretins of stainless steel, Zen stereos, polystyrene stinkbirds, objects trouves in latrines, cannonballs, canned balls. There we admire the gabinetti wall patterns of so-called abstract artists, Freudian surrealism, roric smudges, and Rorschach blots -- all of it corny in its own right as the academic "September Morns" and "Florentine Flowergirls" of half a century ago.

OK, Boris, how 'bout you go and chase some pretty butterflies now.

Now, then, with all the poshlust a dishonest pseudo-literary can muster ...

Tuesday morning sunshine burst through the North Street windows of Fiddlehead at Four Corners art gallery and made the glass Witch's Ball and Thanksgiving-themed glass bowl light up in the antique hexagon cabinet ...

On the second shelf are the soap rocks customers love so much ...

This sunny but April-cold Tuesday morning began to unfold about 10:30 when 18-year-old lovers from somewhere near Albany walked into the gallery and gave it a decent once-over, more curious than serious. Tatts covered his arms and the thinly dude looked like mustachioed Brad Pitt from the movie Inglourious Basterds only younger and fresher. 

She was young and clean and ripe, Lolita'esque but legal.

She wanted a soap rock. He acquiesced and bought one. They left.

The phone rang an hour later. Her soft voice on the other end of the line said his lunch was ready, and as Art Gallery Dude walked around the counter toward the door to retrieve the plate on the ledge in the hallway he looked at the antique hexagon cabinet and thought "That's all we're going to sell today, I bet, one soap." It was a quiet April-cold Tuesday that began with sunshine and then switched to flurries, then back to sunshine then cloudy.

And, quiet in the gallery.

Two seconds later the vestibule door swung open, which made the bell hanging from a ribbon ting-a-ling-a-ling. Into the gallery walked two middle-aged women from East Greenbush, southeast of Albany not too far down Route 20.

Minutes later a high school senior and her parents walked into the gallery, wouldn't you know it, so AGD knew the sour-cream-topped burrito and tater tots and cheese-topped nachos would be cold by the time he got to them again.

The middle-aged women, Linda and Cathy, were more serious than curious and long story short Linda really likes Renato Foti's Thanksgiving-themed bowl in the antique hexagon cabinet. Which is funny because no one likes Renato Foti's Thanksgiving-themed bowl that has been at Fiddlehead since 2004, maybe longer.

The original price was $180. It has dropped to $115.

Linda asked AGD if he might be able to do better. He said he'd sell it for a hundred bucks "plus no tax." Her eyes lit up. She asked him to hand her the bowl for closer inspection.

He put down the fork again. He tried to pull off one of the nacho chips ...

... but the melted cheese turned cold and congealed them all. That burrito wasn't getting any warmer, either.

AGD walked around the counter and pulled the Foti bowl from its stand on the top shelf, and he handed it to Linda. You could almost hear her coo. "My friend" -- Cathy -- "is here to warn me not to spend a lot of money but I want this. It matches the colors in my bedroom." Cathy appeared to warn Linda not to spent a lot of money so she handed the piece back to AGD who returned it to the stand on the top shelf of the antique hexagon cabinet.

All of a sudden the antique hexagon cabinet is the epicenter of activity. I mean, sure, the soap rocks sell like hotcakes but customers never congregate by the hexagon to drool over the Renato Foti bowl, so taking a picture of it all lit up by this morning's rising sun and then watching someone want it for the first time in years is an amusing coincidence.

Even Nabokov can see the humor in that, right? Right, Vlady?

No? Nu?

Eh, whatever, he's too busy jerking off to 14-year-old mistresses and butterflies wherever he's toiling over words in the great beyond.

AGD walked back to his spot around the corner ready to sneak a bite of the burrito ...

Nope. Linda had walked to the John DeAmicis wall and asked him if he could come over and reach up for the one she wanted. He tried to tear off a nacho but a crumb broke off instead. OK then. He walked over to pull the Thoreau-inspired litho ...

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams" is the saying DeAmicis used to accompany his drawing of a man who has walked up all sorts of stairs and ladders onto a roof then gets on the tip of his toes to reach, reach REACH! for that golden star of dreams.

Nabokov would've pissed all over that bolshy poshlust, no doubt.

Meanwhile ...

The high school senior took AGD's advice and chalked it up in the Graffiti Vault.

Dad taking a picture of daughter in the Graffiti Vault

Sarah Shames drew a tree with leaves.

She's in town looking at Bennington College. She'll also tour Hampshire, Skidmore, Bard and Tufts. Real artsy type who's into painting and graphic design. She's also into international relations. Then you go to her website and notice her inspiration ...

Henry David Thoreau.

So as we have it:

* AGD takes rare photo of antique hexagon cabinet with forgotten glass bowl
* East Greenbusher wants that forgotten glass bowl a few hours later
* East Greenbusher settles for DeAmicis litho based on Thoreau
* High schooler's artistic dreams inpsired by Thoreau

Her dad bought two pints of Vermont maple syrup from Corse Farm in Whitingham and then Sarah Shames left Fiddlehead with mom and dad. Then Linda paid for her DeAmicis piece and left but not before telling AGD she'd be back to buy the bowl. Linda Beback.

The gallery was empty for a few moments. AGD vowed to attack the cold burrito.

And then a vibrant redhead walked into the gallery with her parents.

Jesus Aitch Christ. I just want to eat my burrito.

AGD tells the cutie about the Graffiti Vault and his books about customers who Chalk It Up! and long story short the two gingers are in the vault together.

"Hi, I'm Joey."

"I'm Kieran."

"Like Kieran Culkin."

"Yeah, like Kieran Culkin."

"That's my last name, but I spell it with a K."

His eyes rolled over her. Her eyes rolled over Him. Our eyes rolled over we.

They rolled around the walls kissing like two mules fighting over an apple, their backs and arms and hair and butts becoming smeared with the pink and blue and yellow and green and white chalk dust of chalkers galore. He dragged his palms along a wall then smeared her face and kissed her on the mouth again. She backed him into the steel door of the vault and locked him in by clutching the bars -- then kissed his mouth, again.

What really happened between the gingers is this ...

Kieran, an MAU grad who goes to college in Manhattan, left with her mom and dad, Kerry, whose hands are big and thick like meathooks.

Art Gallery Dude returned to his seat behind the counter and did this ...

Two hours later Menneto and DeCicco walked into the gallery, again.

Who are Menneto and DeCicco? They're MAU girls and Graffiti Vault regulars who love to chalk it up, and they were featured in volume 2 ...

So they bought the book today ...

They'll be in "Chalk It Up 3!" too

... and told the author why they bought it.

Poshlust! Or something.

As it turns out, "Lolita" was featured in Fiddlehead's "Banned Books" shelf ...

AGD went to look for it then remembered a customer bought it months ago. 

But the placard detailing why it was challenged in Florida remains on the shelf: