What he called the ‘ineluctable infantilism of faith’ I was less reconciled to. But I loved him so I went along. He would usually wear this foodstained jacket with epaulettes and come out with, ‘I like neither Scaliger’ quite haughtily, or ‘Britain’s claim I won’t rescind’ to annoy you. And fall to momentary emphases—one day ‘hybridity’, another ‘trash-talk’—never bearing them out; it being the contrariness of the adoption that counted. The label ‘intellectual’ he found anathema. What fired him up was, he’d say, the ‘earthly’ written word. He was on the edge of arrogance, charming you, always like this.
The fact was he loved dictionaries. Something of ‘the bare grammar’. Whatever philosophical tangle came up it wasn’t a pseudo-problem so much as definitional—of the unclarity intrinsic to the medium as evolved. Which is how he would have put it. I won’t say his personality was fancy, but liking as he did to call religion ‘that recurrently demanded apology for the constitutive’ he could tend to alienate, even with those pitying eyes. I suppose because he embodied it he wasn’t the best advertisement for what he thought. I hung around initially for lack of conversation.
He especially as I remember hated its making evil mercy. The world’s passive to god’s active.
He was overweight anyway, it wasn’t as if in his case the Universe had split the winnings. Letitia would tease him for having breasts. It was his way to scoff but he wasn’t unfit, not at all. That’s why he could enlist. The swimming he did eventually gave him soft loping biceps, though the belly stayed.
One morning I said it looked like a hair-bomb had been ‘exploded somewhere in the vicinity’ of his face, and he said (I felt rather feebly): Yes, the mops want liberation. He never was funny.