|About the Book|
On “Black Friday” I hardly stirred from bed – but if I did not stamp on an old lady’s face to reach that big TV, I did manage to prop myself on the pillows and drowsily order La Fanfarlo, once alerted to the 50% discount Melville House was offering. The slim pamphlet-like paperback arrived this Monday morning, just as I was stepping off into the snowfall of the weekend blizzard and a 10-degree wind. I backed into the living room, ground and brewed more coffee, and sat out the day among my books.Baudelaire the prose fictionist has a winning, Pushkin-like way of lampooning Romantic types and tropes even as he deploys them. Don’t scorn the template of your times. Note your brothers, your semblances- the humus of your conceit – “One of Samuel’s most natural failings was too deem himself the equal of those he could admire…”La Fanfarlo is less a story than a gallery of Baudelaire’s fetishes, an eternal situation (Calasso) rather than a developing narrative: one of the dandies (“the indecisive, intellectual sex” said Barbey d’Aurevilly) falls in love with, or is at least prompted to comprehensive reverie by, an Amazon of muscular grace, the athletic star of burlesques and pantomimes, a strenuous epitome of the feminine – hard gymnastic thighs tied up in fishnet. I think it was Manet who noted the abnormally developed pectorals of Jeanne Duval, Baudelaire’s Haitian mulatto mistress of two decades. Baudelaire’s own drawings of her look like me in drag.No matter the form Baudelaire is a richness of apercus:You celebrate the beauty of mothers in a style that might deprive you of their daughters’ approval....an easygoing philosophy is able to find consolations in apparently the most unworthy objects....the soul is more tender and open to divine hope, the more it finds reason to love others, as stained as they may be......that absolute materialism was not far from the purest idealism....that mystical language, spangled with enormous impurities and coarseness.Samuel had the habit of saying that a glass of real wine should be like a bunch of grapes, that it provided as much to eat in it as to drink.