Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Notes to To Boldly Go Where No Blogger Has Gone Before!, or, Four years in

* On our phones. What Alexander Graham Bell meant to say, before he was cut off, was "Watson, come quickly, I need you so to help me out here so that some day people can read romance novels on the subway without anyone around them knowing." Or something like that.

** Another constant: in the twenty-first century, men will still attempt to use poetry as a means of seduction; what worked for Lord Byron comes very close to working for Helmsman Mitchell.

Which reminds me of another area in which, sadly, it seems our descendants will devolve: twenty-third-century gender roles are frustratingly reminiscent of mid-twentieth-century gender roles. Helmsman Mitchell thinks nothing of calling Dr. Dehner frigid, then trying to put the moves on her right there in sickbay after softening up her defenses with a little verse; for her part, she seems not to feel that either action is particularly inappropriate.

Fortunately, by the twenty-fourth century the situation has improved at least a bit, though the uniform worn by Counselor Troi on the NCC-1701D does make one wonder if there isn't still some distance to go.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Notes to "Those rather hit-or-miss days," or, Wodehouse in spats and letters

* According to McCrum, Wodehouse wrote at the time that Orwell "struck him as 'one of those warped birds who have never recovered from an unhappy childhood and a miserable school life,' but school was precisely what they shared and the two men got on very well."

** In a 1962 letter, however--also collected in The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh--Mitford writes, of a trip to Venice,
Short of a book I bought the Code of the Woosters & have been shrieking but the selection of Penguins is deplorable, in all the shops they are the same: The Day of the Triffids what can that be & Ldy Cly [Lady Chatterly's Lover], in literal hundreds. Someone has blundered.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Notes to "It seemed to be always 3 o'clock," or, Ye Olde Time Sunday Feeling

* Forgetting, it seems, the whole "David danced before the Lord" part, and the whole bit in Ecclesiastes where "I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labor the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun." Ah, the legacy of the Puritans, it liveth on and on!

** But, Hughes explains, "If the preacher grew fierce I looked at the statue of Samveli Johnson, whom I vaguely connected with Sam Weller." It's hard to imagine a less appropriate fictional analogue for Dr. Johnson--or a less appropriate reason to turn to him. Imagine how he might have thundered at someone who was turning to him in order to avoid contemplating their eternal fate!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Notes to "And I thought, Suppose one of them had an omniscient valet?", or, P. G. Wodehouse on Jeeves

{George Grossmith, as seen in the Idler, February 1893}

* From a review of Murphy's book in the National Review, I learned that Murphy contends that George Grossmith (author of the wonderful Diary of a Nobody) was the primary model for Bertie Wooster--and, more strikingly, that
Furthermore, his grandfather had helped found the Savage Club, the model for Dickens's Pickwick Club, and had been the original Mr. Pickwick. So we seem to owe to the Grossmith family half of two of English literature's most celebrated master-servant comedy teams, Pickwick and Sam Weller, Bertie Wooster and Jeeves.
That is a legacy in which a family could justly take pride.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Notes to "Avoid naming it straight," or, Reading Henry James

* Munro gives that answer in response to a question about whether, like Proust, she ever revised something after it had already been published (and thus, in theory, finished). She goes on to confess that she has:
Actually I’ve done it recently. The story “Carried Away” was included in Best American Short Stories 1991. I read it again in the anthology, because I wanted to see what it was like and I found a paragraph that I thought was really soggy. It was a very important little paragraph, maybe two sentences. I just took a pen and rewrote it up in the margin of the anthology so that I’d have it there to refer to when I published the story in book form. I’ve often made revisions at that stage that turned out to be mistakes because I wasn’t really in the rhythm of the story anymore. I see a little bit of writing that doesn’t seem to be doing as much work as it should be doing, and right at the end I will sort of rev it up. But when I finally read the story again it seems a bit obtrusive. So I’m not too sure about this sort of thing. The answer may be that one should stop this behavior. There should be a point where you say, the way you would with a child, this isn’t mine anymore.
That interview, well worth reading in full (if for no other reason than for such lines as "An editor who thought nothing happened in William Maxwell's stories, for example, would be of no use to me"), is in the second volume of The Paris Review Interviews, of which the fourth volume (featuring P. G. Wodehouse! And Haruki Murakami!) has just been published. Christmas lists, take note!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Notes to Notes! On Agatha Christie and Nero Wolfe!

The premise of both The ABC Murders and "The Slaughtered Santas" is that the best way to hide one murder is in a batch of seemingly random murders: in the Christie, it's an alphabetic scheme, with a person whose last name starts with A murdered first in a town whose name starts with A, followed by B and B, C and C; in the Nero Wolfe story, it's street-corner Santas.