which is worse, this snobbery or the inverted snobbery of what Paul Virilio calls a ‘pitiless art’? (“Art can rest on sinister foundations,” says Diaghilev in Chinchilla.)

I said, ‘Marco Polo, the hero of the Christian west. This man travelled freely [because of Genghis Khan, its villain] because of the Mongols. He went from outpost to outpost along roads they made safe, where before he would not have gone ten miles without a knife at his throat, or would have stayed in Venice reading his precious books. That is the fact of the matter. That’s what sickens me about your type. You favour the arts, but it was violence that spread those arts.’

The teacher shouted, ‘You make me sick!’

‘And you’re a snob! Read your damn history. Europe before the Mongols. No money, no building, no roads, no reading, no art, no science. Villages in the dark forest. Nothing for hundreds of years until nations had boundaries and soldiers guarded the roads. Then came commerce. Then the drawers and scribblers. The art-people.’ I drew in the air. ‘It’s all down to military power, Teacher. Brute force made your Renaissance, the artists and merchants that plied the Silk Road. When the roads are safe the art crowd come out of the woodwork and open their little shops and buy their canvases. So don’t be a snob. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you!’

‘The Mongols are gone,’ the teacher said.

‘Wrong,’ [I said].

– Gerard Donovan, Schopenhauer’s Telescope, Scribner, Great Britain, 2004, p. 165

Induced by fear of being lonely and cold, men drift into bars and drink to push back the despair and pull forward the dreams of greatness that were their constant companions when young.

– Ibid., p. 206

(According to Daniel Farson, in The Gilded Gutter Life of Francis Bacon, The Colony Room boasted these four as the perennial topics of conversation: scandal, daydreams, sex and drinking.)