Hot, Cold, and Tepid

Letter From Venice

The only substantive change to my character that I have observed over time is in the workings of the spleen, the abdominal organ once regarded as the seat of what are now called the negative emotions.  When I was young, the objects of my hate were precious few, though, of course, I used to fulminate against them at the top of my voice; nowadays, I seem to loathe just about everybody and everything, while saying little or nothing about it.  This must be why we tend to imagine death as a kind of engulfing stillness, because, by the time it comes, we have grown to despise the world so perfectly and completely that silent rage is the only commentary really suited to the occasion.  Sometimes I think that, if everybody’s spleens functioned as well as mine, running like trains under Mussolini, we would all be living and dying in a more enlightened Christian way.

Overheard in Piazza S. Marco the other evening, as the band in the middle distance, probably Florian’s, let flow the tears for the vanquished in “The Hills of Manchuria,” a microwave-quick female voice from a group of married couples, walking back to their hotel in Riva degli Schiavoni after a day of sightseeing: “Moe, Curly, and wass dee udder’n?”  The creakier voice of a somewhat older woman, waddling excitedly beside the life of the party: “Leh-ah-rrry!”

The life of the party, flirtatiously, to...

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