Just one good smack

The Bronx is a borough of New York City which houses, as we say in India, 14 lakh inhabitants. (A lakh is 10 to the 5th, written 1,00,000.) This is a large number, according to me. For most of the known planetary history, that would make it the world’s biggest city. I am including several conurbations that came and went from eastern Asia, leaving considerable ruins; and of course old Rome, and Alexandria, the great megapoleis of the pagan West, which at their largest probably did not clear one million.

I make these comparisons because I think we sometimes fail to be appropriately gobsmacked by the demographic scales; the sheer number of enfleshed human souls at this time, who wake each morning as you or I, gentle reader, not wishing for a violent or painful death, but instead seeking breakfast. Many want coffee.

My information this morning comes via the Beeb. I’m told that not one bookstore survives in the Bronx. Some enterprising lady proposes to spoil this unique achievement, however, by opening one in the fall. Her name is Noelle Santos, and she is no fool, for her shop (to sell books on “race” and “gender”) will double as a wine bar.

Among the reasons I would time-plane if I could — to Rome, to Alexandria, to Antioch, Pergamon, Byzantium, Athens — is to visit the booksellers. I should probably find papyrus rolls vexing, I’m more of a vellum and codex kind of guy (call me hyper-modern). But I’d surely return with a capsa (cylindrical like an old hat-box) full of scrolls and sillybi, plus inkpots and styli stuffed in my equipage.

Of course there would be problems at Customs, as I’ve found when previously trying to import non-paperback books into Canada. We have agents who’ve never seen such things, and don’t know how to tax them.

Cui dono lepidum novum libellum
arido modo pumice expolitum?

These lines were at the opening of the Veronensis Liber — found corking up a wine jar in an ancient monastery somewhere in the Italian mountains. (“To whom shall I present my pretty new book, freshly smoothed with dry pumice?”) It was also the beginning of my own love for Catullus, which continues to the present day. I found that, from the Latin words, I could smell the volume; as I could touch the Loeb, first handled at Ferozsons, along the Mall in Lahore.

Actually, this Idlepost wasn’t meant to be about books directly, rather about propositions. (Every proposition in Catullus is sharp.)

I direct gentle reader to the series Father Hunwicke is uploading to his Mutual Enrichment blogue. (“Is the Pope a heretic?”) Or to Mrs Mullarkey’s Studio Matters: her items on the Saint Faustina imposture. Or to the Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae, which contains the latest statistics on the sudden fall of vocations (especially female vocations) in the Roman Church. Or to the announcement of the latest batch of liberal, progressive Cardinals, with whom Bergoglio has been stacking the Conclave that will choose his successor. Or to several other places I have bookmarked in my little machine here, freshly wiped with an alcohol-dampened cloth.

For all these strands wind into the rope from which we dangle, in a world that is losing its ability to reason, and in a Church under the rule of a captain who buys into the void with both feet. But no heretic.

As Father Hunwicke says, it isn’t heresy until one constructs a sentence which contains an intelligible proposition. (And let me add, there is no heresy in Parkdale, or the Bronx.)

O Lord come soon and smack us all upside the head.