the smoking gunt

Dec 28 2013
I have never recovered from the first time I saw the W. C. Fields short, The Fatal Glass of Beer. It represents for me still the high point of cinema, surpassing even Groucho’s Duck Soup. Have you seen The Fatal Glass of Beer? I don’t think I have the critical powers to describe it. Throughout much of it, W. C. Fields is strumming a zither and singing a song about the demise of his unfortunate son, who expires because of a fatal glass of beer that college boys persuade the abstaining youth to drink. He then insults a Salvation Army lassie, herself a reformed high-kicker in the chorus line, and she stuns him with a single high kick. But to describe it in this way is to say that Macbeth is about an ambitious man who murders the King.
—H. Bloom, interviewed

2 notes

Aug 18 2013
An aria in an opera—Handel’s “Ombra mai fu,” for example—gets along with an incredibly small number of words and ideas and a large amount of variation and repetition. That’s the beauty of it. It’s not taxing to the listener’s intelligence because if you haven’t heard it the first time round, it’ll come around again. I always think listening to Handel operas is a bit like seeing your luggage on the carousel—Oh no, there goes my bag! And then, Oh good, here it comes again.
— James Fenton, Paris Review

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Jul 02 2013


Whether the Sp. bigote, moustache, is in any way connected, cannot be decided. According to Wace bigoz, bigos was applied opprobriously by the French to the Normans, which shows that the word had then acquired some connotative force; the legend that it originated in the refusal of Hrolf or Rollo to kiss the foot of Charles the Simple, when, in the words of the 12th c. chronicler, ‘lingua Anglica (!!!) respondit Ne se, bi got, quod interpretatur Ne per Deum’ (No by God!), is absurdly incongruous with facts.

the OED, via Sarang

1 note

Mar 20 2013

Fresh off the boat train in Euston, [Enright pere] approached a man who looked like the stereotype of a city gent for being impeccable – pinstriped suit, furled umbrella, bowler hat – and asked if he knew the time. The man took his watch out of his fob pocket, and looked at it, and said that he did. Then he put the watch back. My father said: ‘So. Could you tell me what it is?’

‘No,’ said the man, and he shook out his newspaper, leaving my father to walk away.

— Anne Enright

3 notes

Feb 15 2013
Betjeman didn’t look much like a rock star but he kept his larder stocked with scotch, was generous with it, and interviewer Andrew Tyler admitted he was as drunk as a boiled owl by the time he staggered out of Betjeman’s house.

Nov 14 2012
Richard Burton (1925-84) had the following pet names for his wife, Elizabeth Taylor: Lumpy, Booby, Old Fatty, Shumdit, Cantank, Old Snapshot and the Baby. She sometimes called him, who knows why, Darling Nose and Drife. They were at the height of their fame, and they seemed to speak a private language. Together they called Campari mixed with vodka and soda water, one of their favorite cocktails, a “Goop.” They referred to the act of raiding the refrigerator instead of sitting down to a proper meal as “grapple-snapping.”
— NYT via Zach

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Nov 13 2012
Mistress Overdone speaks for herself, as does Mistress Quickly, while Sir John Falstaff has an impotent droop (as well as false stuff) which cannot equal the proud Shaking of a Spear implied in the name of his creator. A Caliban is a cannibal who has elementary problems with literacy…
— Colin Burrow, LRB

1 note

Sep 11 2012
I read The Lord of the Rings over and over. I made charts of the kings of Rohan and so on. I used to write letters to my friends in dwarfish runes. The English master took a dim view of this and made me read Barchester Towers as an antidote, when all I wanted to do was to get back to Bilbo Baggins’s eleventy-first birthday party for the seventh time. I’ve never been able to read Trollope since.
Hollinghurst (cf. the bits about Trollope in Line of Beauty)

4 notes

Aug 30 2012
(“There, like a bird, it sits, and sings / and whets, and claps its silver wings / and till prepared for longer flight / waves in its plumes the various light.”)

marvelous spatuletail(photo by andre baertschi) 

(“There, like a bird, it sits, and sings / and whets, and claps its silver wings / and till prepared for longer flight / waves in its plumes the various light.”)


marvelous spatuletail
(photo by andre baertschi) 

127 notes

Aug 17 2012

Over the rim of the glass
Containing a good martini with a twist
I eye her bosom and consider a pass,
Certain we’d not be missed

In the general hubbub.
Her lips, which I forgot to say, are superb,
Never stop babbling once (Aye, there’s the rub)
But who would want to curb

Such delicious, artful flattery?
It seems she adores my work, the distinguished grey
Of my hair. I muse on the salt and battery
Of the sexual clinch, and say

Something terse and gruff
About the marked disparity in our ages.
She looks like twenty-three, though eager enough.
As for the famous wages

Of sin, she can’t have attained
Even to union scale, though you never can tell.
Her waist is slender and suggestively chained,
And things are going well.

The martini does its job,
God bless it, seeping down to the dark old id.
(“Is there no cradle, Sir, you would not rob?”
Says ego, but the lid

Is off. The word is Strike
While the iron’s hot.) And now, ingenuous and gay,
She is asking me about what I was like
At twenty. (Twenty, eh?)

You wouldn’t have liked me then,
I answer, looking carefully into her eyes.
I was shy, withdrawn, awkward, one of those men
That girls seemed to despise,

Moody and self-obsessed,
Unhappy, defiant, with guilty dreams galore,
Full of ill-natured pride, an unconfessed
Snob and a thorough bore.

Her smile is meant to convey
How changed or modest I am, I can’t tell which,
When I suddenly hear someone close to me say,
“You lousy son-of-a-bitch!”

A young man’s voice, by the sound,
Coming, it seems, from the twist in the martini.
“You arrogant, elderly letch, you broken-down
Brother of Apeneck Sweeney!

Thought I was buried for good
Under six thick feet of mindless self-regard?
Dance on my grave, would you, you galliard stud,
Silenus in leotard?

Well, summon me you did,
And I come unwillingly, like Samuel’s ghost.
‘All things shall be revealed that have been hid.’
There’s something for you to toast!

You only got where you are
By standing upon my ectoplasmic shoulders,
And wherever that is may not be so high or far
In the eyes of some beholders.

Take, for example, me.
I have sat alone in the dark, accomplishing little,
And worth no more to myself, in pride and fee,
Than a cup of luke-warm spittle.

But honest about it, withal …”
(“Withal,” forsooth!) “Please not to interrupt.
And the lovelies went by, ‘the long and the short and the tall,’
Hankered for, but untupped.

Bloody monastic it was.
A neurotic mixture of self-denial and fear;
The verse halting, the cataleptic pause,
No sensible pain, no tear,

But an interior drip
As from an ulcer, where, in the humid deep
Center of myself, I would scratch and grip
The wet walls of the keep,

Or lie on my back and smell
From the corners the sharp, ammoniac, urine stink.
‘No light, but rather darkness visible.’
And plenty of time to think.

In that thick, fetid air
I talked to myself in giddy recitative:
‘I have been studying how I may compare
This prison where I live

Unto the world …’ I learned
Little, and was awarded no degrees.
Yet all that sunken hideousness earned
Your negligence and ease.

Nor was it wholly sick,
Having procured you a certain modest fame;
A devotion, rather, a grim device to stick
To something I could not name.”

Meanwhile, she babbles on
About men, or whatever, and the juniper juice
Shuts up at last, having sung, I trust, like a swan.
Still given to self-abuse!

Better get out of here;
If he opens his trap again it could get much worse.
I touch her elbow, and, leaning toward her ear,
Tell her to find her purse.

The Ghost in the Martini
Anthony Hecht (via emonarch10)

(Source: mglsong)

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