14 May, 2007


And finally, the wanderings of this boy in divers places, and his servile ministeries, together with the expiatory sacrifices and ceremonies about Tempe, move suspicion that there should be represented thereby some notorious outrage, and audacious fact perpetrated there in old time.
So remarks Plutarch, by way of Philemon Holland, in one of his treatises on the Delphic Oracle. And indeed, my wanderings in divers places, and my servile ministeries at the library, closeted in the cold in the hold under the ground, peering at all those pleonastic rows of reasonings—and the many other sacrifices and ceremonies I have undertaken in this arid sprawl named Tempe, Arizona—are now at an end. Has there been any notorious outrage? Any perpetration? A few, possibly. In old time.

We board our flight home on Tuesday, and will to the woods malls no more. One by one, all of our lamps have been given away. Books have been judiciously trashed, clothes and cookware, oversized martini-glasses with gold highlights, velvet hats once fashionable for a brief flicker in the mid-90s, and velvet gloves too, pseudo-oriental glass candybottles, anything and everything with a butterfly design, all my wife's, ruthlessly disseminated. And so, stripped down to a few boxes and four shouldersworth of baggage, we depart.


We will be in limbo for fifteen days, enjoying suburban Virginia. There will be things here for you to read during that time—things of all varieties—and with any luck, you'll like them better than my recent posts. I've been collecting material for a lengthy meditation on one of my favourite books, a book you may regret never having heard of, soon enough.

But not until June, back in the Old Wen, shall I be able, finally, to relax my lungs. I hope to write more about the city I love, and moreover to live as I write—with the contentedness, and the wholeness, that comes with being home.


Languagehat said...

OK, I give up. All my reference sources have failed to elucidate "the Old Wen." Despite Mr. Eliot's "Oh do not ask what is it," I am asking.

Anonymous said...

"Old Wen" leaves me in the dark, too. Buon viaggio to you and yours.

Anonymous said...

If London, we shall be near neighbors.

Conrad H. Roth said...

LH: variant of "Great Wen".

Amanda: thanks, yes. Mrs. Roth can't wait to go to Florence.

Languagehat said...

Ah, I am much obliged to you. And had I not fixated on the "old," I would have found the answer in the OED:

1.f. transf. and fig.
Sometimes applied spec. to London: cf. quots. 1783, 1821.
1783 TUCKER Four Lett. Nat. Subj. iii. 45 If.. the Increase of Building [in London].. was looked upon to be no better than a Wen, or Excrescence, in the Body Politic. 1821 COBBETT Rural Rides I. 52 But what is to be the fate of the great wen of all? The monster, called.. ‘the metropolis of the empire’?

John B. said...

Safe travels to you and the Mrs.

Mencius Moldbug said...

Best of travels as well.

However, I confess that - having some experience of the place - there are three words in your piece that I have never in my life heard or considered uttering. And they're not "Holy Roman Empire."

Whatever you do, stay out of Fairfax County. Fairfax County is the worst. Falls Church - Annandale - pure poison and death. Chain-link fences and grown men named "Dwayne." Unless it's changed in the last 25 years, but why should the Devil neglect his own?

Conrad H. Roth said...

We arrived safely; though my joints are all aching from the load, and my hands are in shreds.

Mencius, I assume you mean "enjoying suburban Virginia"! Yes, well sadly we are in Fairfax County, with my wife's parents. After Tempe, this is a dream. Remember: first Inferno, then Purgatorio, then Paradiso.

Mencius Moldbug said...

My only Arizona experience is couple of days in Tucson once, when they were trying to convince me to go to grad school there. It seemed quite nice. I would take Tucson over Annandale any day.

(Tucson is also the setting of the best book on heroin ever written, Scott Frank's Tales from the Geronimo - not to be missed.)

But Tempe, I gather, is not Tucson. And May in Virginia is not so bad. Especially if you see Virginia proper and not Fairfax County, which is Virginia the way lung cancer is lung. Try a drive to the Blue Ridge or the Shenandoah if you get a chance.

Anonymous said...

Any place is better than the one which is always under one's eyes.

Conrad H. Roth said...

MM: Tucson is better than Tempe, but still not great. (Bizarrely, though, it has one of the best second-hand bookstores that I've been to in America.) I might take your advice about seeing VA.

May: for me the more accurate generalisation would be "Any place is worse than London."