Monday 30 August 2010

made whole again (last judgment)

On holiday, reading an essay by Luc Sante, 'Our Friend The Cigarette':

'I picture a tableau from some secondary Last Judgment, when all the cigarettes I have smoked shall be made whole again, all of them piled up like cordwood in a space the size of a hangar. Let's see, thirty years approximately, an average of two packs a day, that would be four hundred thirty-eight thousand, give or take a few thousand. Nearly half a million, filtered and unfiltered, more than half of them hand-rolled, all but a handful white-papered.

All of them passed through my mouth, my throat, my lungs. Smoked in every possible circumstance and setting. All of them utterly eradicated by fire. But now they have returned, in their original form, with their biographies appended:

This Marlboro consumed outside the head shop in 1967 and immediately followed by a breath mint - I was barely adolescent.

This Gauloise with filter of tightly-rolled paper smoked while waiting to buy a ticket to 2001: A Space Odyssey, on its original release.

This Newport bummed from a friend, sucked in despair after the collapse of a crush that then seemed mountainous.

This hand-rolled Samson, wobbly and uncylindrical, representing an effort to learn to roll made in response to Scandinavian cigarette prices - so bumped up by taxes even thirty years ago that they cost four times what they did in America.

This nameless evil-smelling thing made by rolling up the contents of butts harvested from ashtrays the day after a wild party.

This Merit offered by a well-meaning friend but almost immediately stubbed out in horrified disgust - it tasted like burning fiberglass insulation.

This American Spirit, the last bit of recidivism after quitting'.

Luc Sante, Kill All Your Darlings: Pieces, 1990-2005, Portland, Oregon: Verse Chorus Press, 2007, 91-2. See also his brilliant essays on Bob Dylan's Chronicles, 'I Is Somebody Else', 142-64; and 'The Invention of the Blues', 177-206

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