Academic journal article Chicago Review

Remembering the '90S

Academic journal article Chicago Review

Remembering the '90S

Article excerpt

Beyond the light stand failure and remorse ...

- Philip Larkin, High Windows

The snow-man infants from the nursery school devised from the first fall of January stares back from a far comer of the square - a selfish giant made to freeze and rule the garden as if self-generated there, his abstract mien and cold, bituminous eye proclaiming a different order of reality from the bright children who gave rise to him. When they go there to play at mid-morning their primary colours seem to prefigure spring, the deliquescence of each rigorous thing; but the ex-child at the window watching them, specs on his nose and winter in his eyes, knows himself outcast from the continuum and draws his curtain against darkening skies ... A long time since the hearties and the aesthetes, imperious questors and saint-faced degenerates, old boys of Yeats's 'tragic' (pathetic) generation in cricketing blazers and inept bow-ties who ate the altar rails, pawned pride for drinks, who died of thirst aupres de la fontaine or tumbled from high stools in the Rose & Crown. Those desperate characters of the previous '90s, slaves of the Siren, consorts of the Sphinx like Dowson, Johnson, Symons and Le Gallienne were heroes, though, compared with our protagonist, a decadent who lived to tell the story, surviving even beyond the age of irony to the point where the old stuff comes round again; and this is the sin against the Holy Ghost, the cynicism that views with equanimity the enemies of promise, les amours jaunes, the organism dark with booze and nicotine. …

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