california

Above All, Foreign.

"Meanwhile, he stands there. Slowly, deliberately, like a magician, he takes a single book out of his briefcase and places it on the reading-desk. As he does this, his eyes move over the faces of the class. His lips curve in a faint but bold smile. Some of them smile back at him. George finds this frank confrontation extraordinarily exhilarating. He draws strength from these smiles, these bright young eyes. For him, this is one of the peak moments of the day. he feels brilliant, vital, challenging, slightly mysterious and, above all, foreign. 

Professors Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (Ram Dass), 1960s. From  Harvard Psych Dept. website .

Professors Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (Ram Dass), 1960s. From Harvard Psych Dept. website.

His neat dark clothes, his white dress shirt and tie (the only tie in the room) are uncompromisingly alien from the aggressively virile informality of the young male students. Most of these wear sneakers and garterless white wool socks; jeans in cold weather and in warm weather shorts (the thigh-clinging Bermuda type; the more becoming short ones aren't considered quite decent). If it is really warm, they'll roll up their sleeves and sometimes leave their shirts provocatively unbuttoned to show curly chest-hair and a Christopher medal. They look as if they were ready at any minute to switch from studying to ditch-digging or gang-fighting. They seem like mere clumsy kids in contrast with the girls; for these have all outgrown their teenage phase of Capri pants, sloppy shirts and giant heads of teased-up hair. They are mature women, and they come to class as if dressed for a highly respectable party." (46)

 

Isherwood, Christopher. A Single Man. London: Meuthen & Co., Ltd, 1964.

 

Kids these days! A thoughtful and scornful observation of early '60s students. Made me think of Take Ivy, the highly idealized style book by Teruyoshi Hayashida. The distinction between professor and student is the pearl in the oyster here, reinforcing our nostalgic ideas about Berkeley, the American '60s, etc. Also: the word "garterless."

The Whole George

"Staring and staring into the mirror, it sees many faces within its face--the face of the child, the boy, the young man, the not-so-young man--all present still, preserved like fossils on superimposed layers, and, like fossils, dead. Their message to this live dying creature is: Look at us--we have died--what is there to be afraid of?

Isherwood portrait, 1950s (?). Photographer unknown. Lifted from the  Book Drunk  blog.

Isherwood portrait, 1950s (?). Photographer unknown. Lifted from the Book Drunk blog.

...

It stares and stares. Its lips part. It starts to breathe through its mouth. Until the cortex orders it impatiently to wash, to shave, to brush its hair. Its nakedness has to be covered. It must be dressed up in clothes because it is going outside, into the world of the other people; and these others must be able to identify it. Its behavior must be acceptable to them.

...

By the time it has gotten dressed: it has become he; has become already more or less George--though still not the whole George they demanded and are prepared to recognize. Those who call him on the phone at this hour of the morning would be bewildered, maybe even scared, if they could realize what this three-quarters-human thing is that they are talking to. But, of course, they never could--its voice's mimicry of their George is nearly perfect." (8)

 

Isherwood, Christopher. A Single Man. London: Meuthen & Co., Ltd, 1964.

 

Writers on fashion theory: dress as identity, identifier.