27 July 2011

Red Mug,Blue Linen: Life with Laurent

first of all,
move me, 
surprise me, 
rend my heart;
make me tremble, 
outrage me, 
delight my eyes,
afterwards, if you can.
whatever the art form, 
it is better to be extravagant than cold. -Denis Diderot

from Tassos

This year I fell in love-as is typical with women-as they mature-He is a younger man to be sure.
Some might call him a boy even, but aren't all men? 
He is a darling really- a flirt-maybe even wanton at times. 
He is titillating-yes,  such a sweet seraph-he makes me laugh. 
He can exhibit hauteur-but he has my undying devotion.
Is it hopeless? 
Probably---there is the age disparity and that is just one of the many hitches.
Don't despair. He's available. In fact I'm not the only one. I know he has other ardent admirers & a beau or two too.  
He is Laurent, and I met him at Red Mug Blue Linen.
His creator consented to a conversation about Laurent and about himself. Aren't we really all voyeurs whether we admit to it or not- come along -listen & look if you want.

Where does the name for your blog-Red Mug Blue Linen and the phrase- a gentleman doesn’t dine in restaurants originate?

rmbl: The blog title red mug blue linen comes from the discovery of a picture, occupying the masthead that I wasn't even looking for. In a sweet, edgy way, it instantly summarised for me a kind of ready first impression of what the blog would be like, and what I would like it to feel like.

It's a head-and-shoulders portrait of a smart young man in a blue linen shirt, raising a red mug with his back turned to us, gazing into a black blank field.

To this day, I find the serendipity of that discovery is a delightful spur, to filling in the field. A rough but easy contradiction between comparative privilege in the color and clothing, or his condition - blue - and comparative rebellion in the vessel of his taste - red - gave a very nice sense, for me, of his occupancy of both attitudes. Early in the blog's history, I adopted this portrait as that of Laurent, and have never considered changing it. I come to the page, there is Laurent, and he engages me immediately. 

 The original title of the blog, that catchphrase, a gentleman doesn't dine in restaurants. This was to have been the blog title, used sardonically but also plainly begging the question, well, then, where is he nourished, as you've been kind to see developed in the blogger profile box. 

I owe the francophile, Cocteau-like script of that banner to Ivan Terestchenko, and I owe to his blogroll the referral to you for further advice. Seeing what has happened, I guess your next question has to be, can't you really listen at all?

But of course-the real question is.
Who are you?

Perhaps love is the process of my leading you gently back to yourself. “
— Antoine de Saint-Exupé

rmbl: I am the fortunate friend of a fiction named Laurent; he is generous to embody as many elements of oneself as he can, in struggling for coherency at his blog, red mug blue linen. But I take your question respectfully, in saying this. 
It was a revelation to me, how much the adoption of a sobriquet will give sudden autonomy of form and content, to an antecedent one is investigating even as he investigates himself - hopefully with impertinence proportioned to his discoveries.

 What is “Laurent’s” origin?

photograph by Ivan Terestchenko

rmbl:For the name itself, and for setting the tone with which its figure would be deployed, I am indebted to Louis Malle's film, Souffle au coeur / Murmur of the Heart (1971), except that hilarity and endearment - its two salient qualities - are probably beyond any consistent emulation. The two Laurents are not intended to be the same figure in any case, just bemused acquaintances. 

 You write with a certain anonymity- however- there is a fixed autobiographical storyline running at rmbl. I think if one were to rearrange your entries there would be a clear “What's My Line?” episode that could easily be guessed. Is that intentional-or inevitable?

 Antonio Mancini self portrait 
It's intentional to be indirect, and inevitable to stay vulnerable to detection, as one cannot very well adhere to the maxim of writing about what one knows, without eventually marking out a recognisable pattern. Hence, you could say, the relief one recurringly claims, of writing for pure mirth, to say nothing of writing out of ignorance. But there are two other considerations. I happen not to be Laurent, and it is Laurent who is being defined. And the other, of course, is to inflict no complication in the affairs of one's associates.

I’m only guessing, but could some of this reluctance to complicate the affairs of associates reflect that habit of mind of the closet, which Laurent seems to have been spared?

rmbl:Oh, there is always some element of that in any pseudonymous posture, but what’s more important is to perceive the distorting effects of that mode, per se. This is why Laurent never challenges anyone who is ‘out’, who is not equally pseudonymous or fastidiously silent in his devotion to rmbl. Even then, he doesn’t challenge them to live up to their sexuality. He challenges them to live up to the privilege they celebrate. Laurent has never presented himself as insensitive to a diversified structure of affections, including the most notorious and indiscreet of them all, heterosexual delight. He has presented himself - sometimes abusively, I’m sorry to say - as aghast at the failure to share and press forth the blessings of a fortunate education, in an age of revolting pride in ignorance. And why would such an objection be expected of the unconforming male? Plainly, because of his attachment to those elements of his legacy which embrace his humanity. 

from the pages of rmbl

What are some of your nine lives? I am thinking there are at least half dozen under foot. Tell of Places you have lived? Ways you have earned your daily bread?

 rmbl:I’ve lived only in North America, in the jurisdiction of the United States; in New England, the mid-Atlantic, the South, and in California, high and low. These places have all been very pretty but also very sheltered. 

I have been paid for the same thing in every act of earning - behaving myself.
from the pages of rmbl
 My most satisfying ways of being paid have been for coming up with ways of expanding the definition of behaving myself.

from the pages of rmbl
You are- I think swimming in the uncharted waters of blogging- (which is a term I am less inclined to like as we go along). Some people wade- some swim-from there in deep waters- and so on to the shark infested ones. Where does this put rmbl in terms of the water ?

photograph by David Armstrong, 1977.
rmbl:Uncharted by Laurent and me, the character of the blog is still improvisatory and I hope it tends to stay that way. I don't care to make much now, of resistances it encountered, because they'd be expected on the basis of placing the reader in an insecure perspective. Of course, this is even my own rapport, with a figure of unfinished invention. 

How do you feel about the- blog modus operandi of expressing your thoughts?

rmbl:Laurent has explored more than one way of expressing thoughts in the only place where he can, rmbl. This interview, and Laurent’s occasional remarks at other blogs, represents the exception to a highly circumscribing rule, and it is for lending some recognition of this reality that I thank you, particularly, for offering this exchange. Laurent can appear nowhere else, which is a radicalising as well as a permissive constraint, intensified further by the limits of blogging, per se. You will have noticed, in particular, that there is no profession, no trade, no clique and no hobby for drawing a quorum for Laurent - speaking of uncharted waters. 
But it is the blog form's failure of memory, compared with the book, which subjects Laurent at every turn to renovation, in every handful of postings. This defines his nakedness and his autonomy. We all notice, critics of his autonomy are far more vociferous than those of his nakedness, because it's one thing to be intrigued, and another to be disoriented. I'll be exploring modes of indexing rmbl to facilitate a profile of Laurent, when he is ready.)

What years do you reflect on as the happiest of your Life?

from the pages of rmbl
rmbl:The happiest years? Undergraduate university years, grouped under the heading Enfants du paradis in the Matter list at rmbl; but broadly speaking, the subsequent years before the discovery of AIDS were in many ways even more developmental and satisfying. That said, the happy times are, as Ivan says, ahead.
The year with Laurent has not been without its happiness. I deeply admire his indifference to assumptions, and his practicing of dance on the steps of the museum. To me, he shoulders his share of debt to the gift of existence in that conduct, and yet to him this is only fundamentally necessary play.

You reflect this poignantly in your blog. If we dared to count the losses-whether deeply personal or to the world at large- it would be depressing. I don’t want to do that, but since this is my Home-I have lost friends, but embrace some futuristic survivors. 
Are you testifying in a sense?

No, I don't wish rmbl  to be a necrology, either, which I'd certainly not be competent or inspired to write. The seduction of boys into military delusion, the abandonment of citizens to suffering for electoral gain, and the wholesale deception of a nation by terror and bigotry, simply to abscond with its wealth and saddle it with an irresponsible oligarchy are not matters, however, which are behind us. Laurent does not understand why this is so, and he can be expected occasionally to ask.

from the pages of rmbl

 Early on in swapping some stories-behind the scene- You headed me off to a book-David Cecil Library Looking Glass, A Personal Anthology. I share it with my readers now-after a year of "keeping it to myself." I recently sent a copy to my 22 year old nephew. You have introduced this reader to so many writers I didn't know-I value that. Where did you study, and what? Does it ever end-educating oneself?

rmbl:I will allow you to pretend not to know my writers, if you will allow me to pretend to know yours. :)  No, you have to allow for Little Augury's breadth of learning and interest or you’d be refusing people one of the sources of their pleasure, your generosity. 
I studied in the place all animals do, infancy, to appraise one’s circumstances for the purpose of survival and to obtain happiness. In a way you could say I’ve been able to satisfy myself less than some others, with what I’ve discovered. So I go on.

courtesy of Marion et Philippe Jacquier,Lumière des Rosesmed via la lettre de la photographie

If I may, I'd say that what I studied was less formative than how one discovered to study, which is to say, with the broadest reasonable diversification of disciplines bearing on comprehending a subject. 

Educating oneself cannot end, but it is a regrettable reality that it seldom rises to a greater strain than one was trained to accept.

If one never did have to accept the truth about the American Civil War, the endless chanting of its ditties will hardly edify; if one never was called out on the cruelty of snobbery, one never can get enough of it. 

To my detriment, for example, my college opened a loophole against exploiting one of its most shining provinces, mathematics, but the discipline is not only gorgeous, it is priceless. What greater meaning has a youthful face, than its urgent entitlement to Virgil? And he doesn't let us doubt it. 

Show me the journey of stars through heaven, he writes, and goes on to chart it. 

photograph by André Kertész

Playing Favorites

photograph by Ivan Terestchenko
I want to be with those who know secret things or else alone.
-Rainer Maria Rilke

Your favorite writer? 
rmbl:William Shakespeare.

From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty's rose might never die,
But as the riper should by time decease,
His tender heir might bear his memory. Shakespeare, sonnet i

rmbl:Laurence Sterne's Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy. Bliss and skepticism, coinciding and chiding each other, written in the first person by a hero who isn't yet born? I don't think a man could ask for a more spirited and shrewd perspective.

Laurence Sterne by Louis Carrogis Carmontelle

rmbl:Here I assume you do not allow canine representation? I go with Denis Diderot, for a creative gift for exploiting the sociability of fiction, akin to Sterne’s, to present questions and arguments with Socratic répartée of insouciant, paradoxical vigor.

photograph by André Kertész

Our debt extends to the act of philosophy; he shows us how to share it in techniques of disarming delight. Indeed, Tristram Shandy is saturated in explicit awareness of Diderot's comic style, as well as his contemporary authorship of the Encyclopédie. We observe Diderot's method today - by no coincidence - in Tom Stoppard, whose Arcadia is directly in his debt, and certainly  both the Marquis de Sade's Philosophy in the Bedroom and Jean Genet's Prisoner of Love would have been unthinkable without Diderot, but so would have been Cole Porter, composer of Laurent's lullaby. Laurent lives with a very well-worn copy of Rameau's Nephew, and has already cited  D'Alembert's Dream in an entry imploring philosophical coherency in everyday discourse. Enormously distant from nihilism of any kind, a consciousness of Denis Diderot would have made this Tea Party thing absolutely impossible.


from the pages of rmbl

I appreciate your answer- but what about a favorite painter? & of course I must ask- photographer?

rmbl:For me a favourite painter would be the one with whose work I could live repeatedly throughout the day, on the walls of my house, and always restudy with delight and great edification. For this, and for mastering the diversity of purposes to which any room might be devoted, I'd very happily turn to Antoine Watteau.

Photographer? Instant answer, despite wonderful others. The guy who took the Leica, sat in his urban apartment year after year and made a world, right there. André Kertész. There are such things as bring us together, and his pictures do that.

photograph by André Kertész

Wine? Served with?
rmbl:You pose an ethical question, before a gastronomic one; and so the answer is quite plain and commonplace, the bottle that falls to hand, served with friendship. By oneself there is no satisfactory wine, just as it is intolerable to hear Beethoven through earphones. Living alone now for so many years, my favourite wines are those I give away to families.

from the pages of rmbl
Some time back, I posted a scan of wine label at rmbl. I can recount every occasion, when every bottle I owned of that vintage was shared; and each occasion reinforced the experience of the last. 

Never introduce a great wine to an occasion that is great enough as it is. Save it for every day, for the marveling and the gratitude the soul needs to experience.  The great wines are given to us, I happen to think, for demonstrating the glories of spontaneity and the unforgettability of ad hoc delight. To awaken in the morning in the anticipation of consuming one is to cast a shadow upon the preceding hours, and to cloak the rest with regret at something having been missed.

rmbl:Oh good god rowing, period, flat out, unambiguously. And for irony, golf.

from the pages of rmbl

Building in the States? at large? 

rmbl:Here I cannot say, one’s house, because that relates to other resonances. Monticello, then, because of its music, its scale, not its historic connotations. It truly is a sweet, modest aspiration, radiantly enveloping without the slightest hint of oppression. It shimmers, literally. If it comes on the market, snap it up.

At large? Katsura Villa, Ronchamp and the Parthenon, being taken? Then the surfer hut at Terestchenko’s beach.

What can you say about man's best friend?

 rmbl:Fair. Quite shining in this particular.


I know you are speaking of someone in particular. What is Whit's lineage & why did you choose the breed?

rmbl:I chose the English Cocker breed  for its panache, its merriment, and its radiance, and was blindsided by its sweetness and dignity. Whit traces his lineage some 3 centuries deeper than I've tracked my own. He is vigorously instinctive, thrilling to observe in exercise, yar in every parameter. But he has a passion for workmen in trucks, so one has to conceal their departure from him.

WHIT's ancestor, photographs by Laurent

What you see
 The most valuable things in a life are a man's memories. 
And they are priceless.
-André Kertész

Your photographer's eye -
rmbl:Underdeveloped. Too much informed by affection.

photograph by Laurent

That can’t be bad. When did you start taking photographs as a part of your own natural observation?
rmbl:It was in adolescence and it was in macro photography (working with objects or fields as small as 24 by 36 millimeters, the same size as the 35mm frame).I sought engrossment in concentrated exchange with the beautiful.

How do you choose photographs to narrate your prose? 

I choose them to impart the inherent lark, which I wish never to be absent from Laurent’s mode. 
Laurence Sterne (Tristram Shandy) sits on the editorial committee, along with Whitman. I admit, however, I decide, which explains their sometimes off-register correlation with Laurent. 
The pictures are his libretto, not his score; but Boito eventually gained Verdi’s confidence by anticipation of his tone. Sometimes ironic, sometimes bitter, Verdi wrote from love and sometimes almost waywardly, often tiresomely so. Laurent is only learning collaboration himself, and is teaching me.

from the pages of rmbl

Your Blog

I went off with fists in my torn
My coat was completely
I followed you, Muse,
where you led me,
Dreamed of loves --
ah -- so fine and so rare.
-Rimbaud,Ma Boheme


Something you wrote early in some behind the blog emails---
" I once heard a quite straightforwardly ignorant product of the region I now in habit, in this brief colloquy with a 2-yr-old boy, whom he was dandling on his lap as some adorable toy, looking at a child's "coloring set" --
 "Show me your favorite color -- ."
Silence, as the child points,  "THIS one!"
"Oh, NO!  That's pink, you can't like pink!  Pink is for girls.  Pick another."

 Tiepolo's pink

For Tiepolo, for Turner, for Gainsborough and for girls. 
This has remained for me a way of looking at the world from a different standpoint- not from gender- where we are conditioned to look from birth- but as MAN. It frames my fellowship at your blog.---

Can you follow up after a year of blogging on your challenge to redistribute the eye of anyone reading or passing by rmbl?

image from the pages of rmbl
rmbl:The posting to which you refer is the precursor of the Matter clustered under the phrase, “city of coffee,” but I’d like to say this argument emerges elsewhere, also. It is very Laurent, yet Laurent, too, has been steeped in infusions of gender typification. 

With very few exceptions, the best - meaning, the most innately gifted - readers of rmbl have been female and above the age of 30; or they have been male and engaged in creative work. An impulse of rmbl is to accept and project those models as compellingly conducive to the dignity of males. I notice it to be an incongruity I never expect Laurent to abandon, that he projects this argument with the telling passion, sometimes the inexcusable force, of the gender in whose distortion he was formed. But he knows this, and is willingly to let that be seen as undesirable. This was Diderot’s approach in Rameau’s Nephew.
I would rather Laurent portray a weakness than, concealing one, project it falsely -- or by abstracting himself, not be Laurent.

Virtue is praised, but hated.  
People run from it, for it is ice-cold and in this world you have to keep your feet warm. Diderot from Rameau's Nephew

In the early stage of your blog you wrote: 

RMBL clearly implies it will be about the formative aspect in the provenance of the things we value, and so I think that's my vantage point.
Can you say you've stayed on course with your blog's raison d'etre? 

 rmbl:I should have said - and so, the short answer, is no - that although we are captivated by the provenance of the things we value, we modify that provenance by extension in our captivity, sometimes to our peril. But I see this original disposition as fundamentally inspirational toward the investigation rmbl conducts. 

 Such as?
rmbl:I have to say, for example, that the posting called, “A letter home” (June 15th) is the most radical proof of the worth of that original disposition, that I have yet seen from Laurent. He is turning the hideously corrosive question of accountability for one’s way of love on its head, and showing the exemplifying power of love to be the guide of something originating in oneself. 

I think I have to let him proceed with his provenance. As Laurent says to his family, 
You see the provocateur, and you think, he leads us. 
No, no. You do, with your courage; the sweet, open courage of your wanting.

Some of your best-I think- writing is about your growing up years & your family-Do children really carry on the best stories of their parents? Or know them well enough to really do so. You write as Laurent-but clearly this is not Laurent’s childhood-it is your own.

rmbl:I appreciate that this is confusing, but as I've mentioned, I am not Laurent, although he is kind enough to embody as much of me as he can at his blog. Fragments of my youth are incorporated in Laurent to give him, after all, some derivation. To return to your primary observation, however, this is both astute and very kind. Gratitude is infinitely the surest guide of expression. 
In us all (I sense) this is a gathering and repeatedly strained extract of pure, if selective debt. All one can carry on is what one is given and can take, either by example or statement. The rest is a recombinancy, a refraction, conscious and not, expected and not; but clearly, no, Laurent and I are either ignorant of critical elements in the stories our parents possessed of themselves, or structurally incapable of assimilating them in the same way. 
But as much as we inquire, we are comfortable with those limitations. You certainly remember Ackerley's path breaking exercise, My Father and Myself. This is an imaginative work; I respect the temptation and admire the elegance of its result, but I do not trust it. 
 Laurent goes another way; his provenance will never be invoked to justify him.

photograph by Paolo Roversi

Can you as Laurent’s creator- rein him in when he goes off topic? I think reading rmbl is believing-I trust you to do so, though as you know I don’t always agree. 
rmbl:You are possibly asking more than one question, I think. Let me see if I can offer a sensible answer to all that’s being asked. It is my obligation to assist Laurent in rhetorical coherency, and it is correct to lay his inevitable lapses at my door. But he is unable to go off topic, any more than Sterne’s Tristram Shandy could, because Tristram was Tristram's topic
If anything, may I say, my debt to Laurent is to rein him in less, to reinforce, not weaken, the suspension of disbelief or trust he must win for himself.

from the pages of rmbl

Laurent is both young and old-or shall I say wise- simultaneously. 
Is this only achievable with an assumed name, or is it a part of Laurent's creator as well?

rmbl:You really come very close to the weirdness of Laurent, which I wish to allow to seep into the page, yet somehow not get lost in blogger's enchantment with forgetfulness. I am really not his overlay in youth or in wisdom, I don't suppose any of us is, of anybody. 
He is a spiffy little rotter and a contemplative kind of student of things at the same time. 
He's what a lot of us were raised to be, with our little privileges and encouragements, but he tries to be something else: someone who loves what he can, and goes about asking why something isn't lovable if it could be. 
He is a connoisseur who is adamantly naïve. At the same time, it's striking that he's aware of some things that happened before his time, and he is a student of tragedy, traits which mark him as spectacularly unmodern. 
He knows it’s dangerous when a culture can't remember. You could say, then, should he not be reconciled? That, of course, would be the end of rmbl.  
No, I think the guy is an avatar of a necessary disturbance. 



  1. Amazing post:
    “ Perhaps love is the process of my leading you gently back to yourself. “
    — Antoine de Saint-Exupé
    So beautifully writen by one of my absolute favorite authors. Have you read "Wind, Sand and the Stars"?

  2. Gaye, What an amazing interview. The mystery of Laurent and the mystery of RMBL is all the more enhanced. What a writer, if only I had a fraction of his mind, I would truly sing.

  3. Kristin, thank you-Laurent and Antoine have a great deal to tell us,I think. I have not read this title-I will have to track it down.

  4. Kevin, thanks! I think this interview opens up many windows into Laurent. We need to embrace our differences. Laurent is learning-and I am too!We all have a voice-and each of us finds the right tenor for it, but we have to listen to those around us and "sing" together. xo,PGT

  5. I do not know what to say;


    A fascinating, interesting, inspiring interview

    about someone, a person, who fascinates and inspires me every day.

    I am blessed, I know, to find love and beauty and courage and art in both of your lives!

    Thank You!


  6. Bruce- likewise, and We both are fortunate to claim being the richer for having Laurent and his creator in our midst. Gaye

  7. The Kertész selections were outstanding.


  8. this is a really beautiful post.
    i love the new look too!

  9. Gaye, one of your best! I reread the interview this afternoon and realized how much I'd missed the first read thru. An excellent job done by two different people in their own inimitable ways!

  10. This is an extraordinary, hallucinatory interview, no, an experience, with photos to match, wits to match, flame to the match. I felt like I was underwater, or in a dream, or in a place where the menus had a new alphabet and I was so pleased I could make out a few words, here and there; a place of ideas and desire and Laurent.
    This post is a work of art.
    My sincere admiration, Gaye

  11. Laurent, thank you sir.

    Renee-thanks for taking the time to read it!

    Blue- appreciate the comment. I can not think of a better compliment!

  12. Philip- & of course I should like to say likewise- on all counts. I like that "hallucinatory"--Laurent and his creator do exist!-- an underwater world?-well yes-but riding right on the surface to tell the story and continue to tale. Gaey

  13. I like the idea that it can be done in this "Laurent" ...
    The tone is that of a detective focused not on facts but on their source.

    And...You take the last opportunity to improve my unfortunate Anglo-Saxon. Even if the translation takes a certain poetry (against my will).
    You must know that sometimes I rant, like a French, who respects himself, against my limits and that of translation.

    An incomparable tribute.

    Thank you

  14. Enthralled by Laurent



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