To see ourselves as others see us

She started shriekin'.

She started shriekin’.

The most important dumb Swede in American history was Chief Justice Earl Warren. In film, Sonja Henie was dumb, Greta Garbo was less dumb, and Ingrid Bergman was not dumb.

In general, Swedes are either madmen or dumb. Madness trumps dumbness — if a Swede is a madman, his dumbness is moot. Gaear Grimsrud was probably both, but who knows? (more…)

Published in: on January 25, 2011 at 6:54 pm  Comments (8)  

“Lie Down in Darkness”, William Styron


“Marry a Jew or a Chinaman or a Swede, it’s all fine if you’re prompted by any motive, including money, save that of guilt.” (Milton Loftis on p. 74 of William Styron’s “Lie Down in Darkness”.)

I entirely agree. May none of you ever marry a Swede from motives of guilt.


1. When William Styron has Peyton Loftis say of her relationship to her father Milton “I think we have a Freudian attachment”, is Styron a.) telegraphing his punch, b.) belaboring the obvious, or c.) going postmodern and meta ahead of the rest?

2. When Styron keeps talking about Peyton’s hips, isn’t the interest he’s taking in his fictional character’s ass as unhealthy, in its way, as Milton Loftis’s Oedipal fixation on his daughter — pretty much regardless of how lovely Peyton’s fictional ass really was?

3. They seem to be finally making a movie out of the book. In her prime, wouldn’t Brooke Shields have made a great Peyton Loftis?

4. Helen Peyton Loftis thought that her daughter Peyton Loftis was irredeemably evil by nature, whereas William Styron thinks that it was Helen who was irredeemably evil. Might not the entire Peyton line have been an evil spawn cursed by God, so that both were right?

Published in: on January 21, 2011 at 9:11 pm  Comments (2)  

Wodehouse Quiz

Wooster and Jeeves represent which two social types?

a. Jeeves represents the working class; Wooster represents the idle rentier class. 

b. Wooster represents the parasitical aristocracy; Jeeves represents their also-parasitical lackeys. 

c. Wooster represents the powerless and silly Mikado or Caliph whose power is purely symbolic; Jeeves represents the businesslike Shogun or Sultan who holds all real power. 

d. The ignorant Wooster represents the dominant property-owning moiety of the dominant class; the well-read Jeeves represents the dominated moiety; Wodehouse’s portrait of the relationship is the wishful projection of the dominated intelligentsia.

Published in: on January 21, 2011 at 9:06 pm  Comments (6)  

A happy ending which only The Buddha could bring

She rained tears and made prostrations day and night without ceasing. Three days later, during her worship, she saw an image of the Buddha, who announced to her “Your bridegroom’s lifespan is coming to an end. You need only continue your ardent practice without harboring sorrowful thoughts.” The next day her bridegroom was gored to death by an ox.

Lives of the Nuns, tr. Katherine Ann Tsai (Hawai’i, 1994), pp. 49-50; cited by Mark Edward Lewis on p. 193 of China Between Empires (Harvard, 2009).

Published in: on January 13, 2011 at 6:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Heredia, “Les trophées”

For a realistic picture of the life of the centaur you can’t beat the sequence “Hercule et les Centaures” in Heredia’s Les trophées. He gets down to the nitty-gritty — the seating arrangements for the various sorts of inlaws at centaur weddings, for example, or the stresses put on the centaur marriage by husbands who are continually sneaking off to score blonde chicks, and by wives in heat galloping off to run with the thoroughbreds.


Published in: on January 12, 2011 at 11:07 pm  Leave a Comment