Category literature

Words of Comfort and Consolation II

The search for truth is the only valid form of revenge. •pseudo-Nietzsche, My Sister and I (1951). There’s so much freedom in the world that you can pick anything you want and put it in your butt. •Björk, interview in Details 7/94. As long as a word remaineth unspoken it is in the prison of […]

Why Kipling Was Never Knighted (Perhaps)

Sometime in the late nineteenth century there appeared the anonymous bawdy ballad “The Bastard King of England.” Rumor attributed it to Kipling, with no real evidence; and rumor goes on to assert that the ballad and the attestation so scandalized Queen Victoria that she refused to knight Kipling. (Other rumors hold that he was offered, […]

The First Time

1. The first time someone got a wedgie: A.D. 96 Whenever you get up out of your chair (I often have been noticing it now), your wretched tunic sodomizes you. And when you go and try to pluck it out —now straining with your right hand, now your left— you only work it out with groans […]

If There’s One Thing I Hate, It’s a Star-Bellied Sneetch

The morals of most Dr. Seuss books—those that have morals—are usually pretty basic and uncontroversial and there’s not a lot to talk about there. I don’t mean this as a criticism—these morals are for five-year-olds. I just mean that I’m not going to write an essay about Yertle any more than I’m going to write […]

The Aphorisms of Nicholas Chamfort

Chamfort was killed, of course, by the French Revolution—not for being a nobleman, (which he was) but because even as a devoted Jacobin (which he also was) he could not stop dropping witty zings. “Be my brother or I’ll kill you,” was how he summed up the revolutionary philosophy. Chamfort was their brother, and they killed […]

Contemporary Allusion

[Warning: Drier than usual.] I recently read an academic book from 1886 about Elizabethan theater, and the author, A.W. Verity, made a lot of references to literature as he wrote. He made a lot of references to Elizabethan playwrights, of course, and to critics who had edited and discussed them previously, but he also drops […]

The Aphorisms of Johann Kaspar Lavater

Johann Kaspar Lavater is best known (insofar as anyone can be well known as a physiognomist) as a physiognomist but back in his day—the late eighteenth century—he was up to all sorts of tricks, including a 1787 book of aphorisms, Aphorisms on Man. His friend, the painter Henry Fuseli, translated the book into English in […]