Friday, June 04, 2010

Michael Innes' The Case of the Journeying Boy: Irony, Circa 1949

For those of you who think that irony was invented around 1970, I offer this 1949 description of a cinema billboard advertising a movie:

The Case of the Journeying BoyAcross its monstrous facade sprawled a vast plywood lady. If erect she would be perhaps fifty feet high; she was reclining, however, in an attitude of sultry abandon and equatorial vegetation and in a garment the only prominent feature of which was a disordered shoulder-strap. As a background to the broadly accentuated charms of her person -- pleasantly framed, indeed, between her six-foot, skyward-pointing breasts -- was what appeared to be a two-ocean navy in process of sinking through tropical waters like a stone. One limp hand held a smoking revolver seemingly responsible for this extensive catastrophe. The other, supporting her head, was concealed in a spouting ectoplasm of flaxen hair. Her expression was languorous, provocative, and irradiated by a sort of sanctified lecherousness highly creditable to both the craft and the ardent soul of the unknown painter who had created her. Poised in air, and in curves boldly made to follow the line of her swelling hips, were the words AMOROUS, ARROGANT, ARMED! Above this, in letters ten feet high, was the title PLUTONIUM BLONDE. And higher still, and in rubric scarcely less gigantic, was the simple announcement, ART'S SUPREME ACHIEVEMENT TO DATE.

--from Michael Innes' The Case of the Journeying Boy (1949), p. 54.

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Friday, April 30, 2010

From Dreamland

This morning I had a dream in which my wife and I were architects. We were discussing how one handles criticism, and I deliberately tried to come up with a line to make her laugh. Here's what I said:

If you're lucky, you've got 140 stories of poured concrete howling, "Je suis! Je suis!" into the teeth of the winds of time.
Sounds like literature, don't it?  (And by the way, it did make her laugh -- but I had to wait until she woke up to tell her about it.)

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

On Character and Writers' Conferences

Poet laureate Kay Ryan writes about attending the monster writer's conference put on annually by Associated Writing Programs (AWP) in 2005:

I have a weak character. I am very susceptible to other people's
enthusiasms, at times actually courting them. I like to sit among people
who feel strongly about a basketball team, say, and get excited with
them. I love to love ouzo with ouzo lovers. These are, of course, innocent
examples. But this weakness concerns me in going to AWP. If I'm
exposed to the enthusiasms of others, I know that I am capable of
betraying my deepest convictions, laughing in the face of a lifetime of
hostility to instruction, horror at groupthink. The only way I've ever
gotten along in this world is by staying away from it; I have had only
enough character to keep myself out of situations that require character.
Now here I am, going to AWP. HOW am I going to remember:
these people are THE SPAWN OF THE DEVIL? They will seem like
individuals, not deadly white threads of the great creative writing
From Kay Ryan's "I Go to AWP," from Poetry, 2005.

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Friday, January 01, 2010

The Hart (and Roe) of the Matter

Background: while they are both guests at a country manor, the beefy Stilton Cheesewright threatens to break Bertie Wooster's spine in five places because he imagines Bertie wants to marry his [Stilton's] fiancee. Bertie considers his options:

What to do? I was asking myself. It seemed to me that the prudent course, if I wished to preserve a valued spine intact, would be to climb aboard the two-seater first thing in the morning and ho for the open spaces. To remain in statu quo would, it was clear, involve a distasteful nippiness on my part, for only by the most unremitting activity could I hope to elude Stilton and foil his sinister aims. I would be compelled, I saw, to spend a substantial portion of my time flying like a youthful hart or roe over the hills where spices grow, as I remembered having heard Jeeves once put it, and the Woosters resent having to sink to the level of harts and roes, whether juvenile or getting on in years. We have our pride.
--from P.G. Wodehouse, Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit , p. 80.

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