À mon chevet is a series of posts featuring a quote from whatever book is on my nightstand at the moment.
We lived in La Florida, one of the original suburbs, which was considered a little too close to the center of Caracas to be truly fashionable. It was also integrated -- mansions and shingle-board shacks might share the same block. Storrs was virtually all white in those days, and I fear that I arrived in Caracas something of a bigot, a deplorable state that lasted until I actually met a couple of black people. By the end of the year, I was immersed in Afro-Caribbean culture, especially the wild, tranced salsa music that blasted from pulsating speakers in the corners of cantinas, which makes me happy to this day. I also learned that I loved cities, and I'm still more comfortable in any sort of urban environment, however unfashionable -- Detroit, St. Louis, Cleveland, even Atlantic City -- than I am in the poshest depopulated enclaves. Somewhere Charles Baudelaire wrote about the joys of taking a bath in crowds, and I continue to find deep exhilaration in moving anonymously through unfamiliar throngs.You may recall the remarkable article that Tim Page, the former classical music critic of the Washington Post, wrote for The New Yorker. The book-length memoir of Page's life was published last month and has been absorbing reading chez Ionarts for the past several weeks. I am not interested in offering a review of this book, but I admire Tim Page's courage in writing about some of the most personal details of his life in the attempt to explain the condition he suffered from without knowing what it was. The Baudelaire that Tim is referring to in this passage is from Les Foules, in Le Spleen de Paris, which opens:
-- Tim Page, Parallel Play: Growing Up with Undiagnosed Asperger's, pp. 79-80
Il n'est pas donné à chacun de prendre un bain de multitude: jouir de la foule est un art. [...] Multitude, solitude: deux termes égaux et convertibles pour le poëte actif et fécond. Qui ne sait pas peupler sa solitude, ne sait pas non plus être seul dans une foule affairée. Not everyone has the gift of taking a bath in the multitude: taking pleasure in a crowd is an art. [...] Multitude, solitude: two equal and interchangeable terms for the active and fecund poet. He who does not know how to populate his solitude will also not know how to be alone in a bustling crowd.