Friday, February 20, 2009

"It must have been my brother's tone that set the woman off. I cannot say that this tone had nothing in it to offend. The woman looked across the table at my brother and told him that she could not help it, she just had to say that he was the most affected creature she had ever come across.
   That was her word; she called him a creature. She inflected the word by not inflecting it at all.
   She made a point to say it without style.
   That the woman from San Francisco had just had to say this to him did not seem to come as a surprise to Nicholas.
   'Of course, you can't help it,' my brother said to the woman. 'Of course, you have to say it.'
   I noticed, because there was no way not to, that Nicholas was surpassing the woman in flatness of voice. He was far surpassing her. I had thought until then that I had heard my brother speak in every voice he had, even voices he did not, but I had never heard the voice that he was using with the woman. I had not before heard speech so stripped of ornament.
   I told the woman that we had already seen the Scenes from the Life of the Virgin. I even called it that.
   'Sweetheart, she doesn't care what we've seen,' Nicholas said. He leaned forward, facing the woman across the table.
   'I expect you pride yourself  on being unaffected,' my brother said to the woman.
   'I do,' the woman said.
   'I don't,' my brother said. 'But I wonder all the time, who are people trying to fool, when they go through their lives just acting like themselves.'
    He paused because he had come to a pause. After the pause, he said, 'A little affectation now and then is just a little generosity.'"

Christopher Coe, I Look Divine, published in 1987

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