Essays in Idleness


Month: February, 2014

Céline as something else

I would not have read through the novels of Louis-Ferdinand Céline had I not found them entertaining. They are supposed to be “difficult”; they are so only until one gets the hang of the technique and style. It is the opposite of Proustian (and Céline hated Proust with all his demonic passion, called him “the […]

Céline as moral agent

The most disturbing thing about Louis-Ferdinand Céline was not the monstrous aspect, in his writings, but an odd saintly quality in his private life. This was most evident in his private practice as a medical doctor in the Paris slums; but there seem hints of it in almost every passing anecdote I have heard about […]

Signs & wonders

A lady in Canada’s far east, who shares my taste in Spanish mystics, writes something so apposite to and summarizing of my recent apocalyptic effusions (here and at the Catholic Thing), that I will just quote her: “As far as signs and portents, … it is once again St John of the Cross who grounded […]


With each passing day, I find myself more willing to consider a shocking, unexpected, counter-intuitive possibility. Gentle reader must indulge me on this point. Incredible as this may seem, reckless as I may sound, we should review the matter calmly. The evidence, for all we know, may be all around us. Consider, for example, this […]

Breeding instructions, revisited

Samastipur is a small city and railway junction in the north Indian state of Bihar. Forty-two years have passed since I switched trains at that station. I had been rolling for seventeen hours northwest from Howrah (across the Hoogly River from Calcutta). Certainly in those days, probably in these, you don’t travel third class on […]

Corned mutton

There was a crisis in Toronto eighteen years ago. Few were privy to the story. I may have been the only journalist fully aware of it at the time. For many weeks, perhaps several months, the city was entirely without a commercial supply of corned mutton. I had searched everywhere: through all the shops in […]


Up here in the High Doganate, things are constantly falling out of books: bookmarks, clippings, author photos, Mass cards, old letters. … The names and field positions for a casual cricket team I once captained that called itself “Famous English Murderers.” … Pressed leaves and flowers. … A recipe from Mrs Balbir Singh. … Picture […]

Everyday sinning

It is a little known fact, that the world is full of sinners. In the past, this was better understood. One of the strangest things I encounter, is my “secular” friends. Knowing me for a religious nutjob, and themselves often vaguely conscious of being what is called “lapsed,” they start speaking to me as if […]

Ordinary time

The world of Power will vex and desolate, how could it not? But nothing compared to the hell in which so many live their fine and private lives: the hell, so often, of insatiable demands, of greed and ingratitude, when not actual rapine; the nightmare of looking every gifthorse in the mouth; the pain of […]

Ambiguous non-participation

My piece today over at Catholic Thing, suggesting the Church should get the hell out of the United Nations, rather than continue trying to get the United Nations out of hell, was written in superficial opposition to almost everyone else who writes there. Needful to say, I have a very high regard for those people: […]

Moreover …

On marriage, and its regulation by the state, I observe, that after we have reduced the state once again to its natural functions, and therefore its entitlement programmes to zero, and therefore its taxes to something people might voluntarily pay, we won’t have quite so many problems in family law. For in the absence of […]

Not request but demand

In this vexed and painful fight over the “definition of marriage,” perhaps the most difficult task is to convince not only the proponents, but also most of the opponents of any “re-definition of marriage” that it is not in their power. Most nation states long ago passed legislation in support of marriage, as they understood […]

Nothing to debate

In this world that comes after the Candle Mass, I want to change my ways slightly. From a fairly good start in this anti-blog — my first posts were more numerous and often quite short — I have drifted by lugubrious habit into fewer, and longer. This would constitute a sin against Idleness. The long […]