Sunday, September 27, 2009


Today was the first time I've ever been in Rutgers's Kirkpatrick Chapel: built in 1873, it was curiously familiar. Designed by Henry Janeway Hardenbergh, it doubled up as the Rutgers College library for a couple of decades - but its resemblance to a temple of learning didn't give it its familiarity: that came from its strong echo of Victorian Oxbridge college chapels. Indeed, it was very like Mansfield Chapel, complete with the same genre of portraits of rather severe and grumpy nonconformist divines that hung around that institution.

The occasion was a memorial celebration for Richard Poirier - someone about whom I felt as though I knew and understood a lot more by the end of the afternoon than I'd picked up on from a rapid course in reading his prose, and from variegated anecdotes. I'd hoped that - as a kind of compere, or continuity announcer, or however one would describe my chairly role - I wasn't doing him or those who knew and loved him a disservice - but even more than this I'd been troubled about how to pronounce his name. The NYT obituary seemed to be wonderfully helpful there, pointing out that it rhymed with "warrior" - which worked well... until Alice pointed out that my UK pronunciation didn't quite match up with her American enunciation. All that I could say on this topic (in a relieved tone) by the end of the afternoon was that there's more than one US way of pronouncing "warrior."

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