Saturday, July 14, 2012


Henry Green (1905-1973), the English novelist, is one of my favorite authors and I have referred to and excerpted portions of his writings many times on ACravan.  For me, at least, his novels reflect reality in all of its obliqueness, abstractions, sideways glances, miscues, missteps, face and mind-slaps, body blows and depredations.

Most of Green’s novels have gerund-form titles  (Living, Party Going, Loving, Concluding, Nothing and Doting), simultaneously conveying steady-state frameworks  and evolving actions and outlooks (process).  It’s a profound device, which I have occasionally (for my own amusement because I lack Green’s wit and wisdom) tried to emulate in certain titles here here with mixed results (e.g., Sandwiching; Verging; Walking).

I called today’s post Incoming because I have recently felt myself under various forms of attack.  Being raised (in a better, healthier and less pretentious cinema world) on a steady diet of World War II movies, later supplanted by nuclear holocaust dramas and comedies, I always loved the dialogue moments where an actor urgently and at increased volume and intensity intoned the word “incoming” to denote the imminent arrival of attack missiles.  Incoming also suggested  professional endeavors and the pursuit of commercial gain:  necessary, important and so often frustrating  these days, and which like rocket attacks sometimes seems to call for prayer or taking evasive action.  So the title seemed possibly clever and artful, a two-in-one exercise in creative expression.

Sitting at home a few evenings ago, where things should be safe,  missiles rained down on me as I drank wine and served dinner.  I thought I saw troubling signs on my inner radar earlier that day, but after polishing my screen I decided the abnormalities were only dust motes. 

Unfortunately, I was gravely mistaken.   I am a quiet person. I assiduously avoid engaging in pointless, unnecessary arguments  about non-germane controversial questions  in social and business situations.  Partly this is  based on past mistakes.  Once, long ago, I think I greatly offended a very nice man (and an important company customer) by commenting on religion when I simply should have kept silent.  Politics and religion really ARE subjects to try to avoid in company you’d like to keep polite, if you can.

I rebuffed the first attack (which took the form of a guest making an  ad hominem, non-sequitur jibe at a political candidate whom  she suspected I supported) simply by ignoring it and continuing along the straight path of narrative explanation which, thank heaven, was still available to me.  (I had been in the process of answering a question about the geography of my daughter’s summer camp when the missile whistled in.)

But Round 1 was simply to calibrate aim and strafe.  Round 2 was The Main Event and I suddenly found myself in mid-bombardment figuring as proxy for the disfavored politician, being asked to justify myself regarding  some serious (but hypothetical and disputed) faults my doppelganger and I supposedly shared.   

I joined issue briefly and I think successfully, but I really wish I hadn’t responded at all.  You just don’t do that sort of thing at other people’s houses.  Accepting a dinner invitation isn’t “war by other means.”  Treating it as such is Madness.

Late in his life, Henry Green said a couple of memorable things about the dangers inherent in leaving the house,  recommending  the “oblique approach in middle age.”  He also added wisely that one should love one’s wife and one’s cats.  

I believe he felt safe at home, however, as we all should.

I still like the sound of “incoming” in war pictures.  That’s because it’s only a movie.


  1. Leaving home is always dangerous, but being only at home can be dangerous also, at least for me. Lately, I've been acutely focused on trying to feel safer away from home with some success.

    I also have found discussions about politics and religion are very frequently accompanied by incoming fire, and one of my oldest friends and I don't agree on such things. But when Sam died, I reflexively called her for comfort. I wailed, "Eileen, Sam died." We spent over an hour on the phone. Politics and religion never came up. The "ties that bind" can overcome great divides.

    Terrific song.

  2. Of course there are a few assumptions (welcome ones -- such as there being ties that bind) in what you say. Some people are just .... feral. (In the commonly used negative sense; some of my best friends are classified as feral and they all have excellent manners and reserved dispositions.) I'm glad you like the song. If you don't know it, it's the lead-off track on the important early country-rock record by The International Submarine Band, Gram Parsons' pre-Byrds outfit that migrated from Cambridge, MA to the Bronx to Hollywood many years ago and wound up on Lee Hazlewood's LHI label. Glen Campbell (who I believe played some on the record) wrote the very complimentary liner note appreciation. It is a HIGHLY enjoyable album that signaled the arrival of a major new talent. Curtis