from Man in the Poetic Mode p. 100, McDougal, Littell, Evanston Illinois, 1971, publishers, Joy Zweigler, editor
T.E. Hulme was one of England’s Great War poets. He died in 1917 when struck by a shell while deep in thought.
Hulme captures the melancholy cool of Autumn with perfect reflection.
He brings us along on the lonely country walk with him.
Autumn is a feeling. It doesn’t have to represent death, but it can represent harvest and a necessary stage of ending when the crops fall into humus as we also must, before there can be a new beginning.
Autumn is cool, Autumn is a time for reflection. It is my favorite time.
Peace be the Botendaddy
P.S. If you fancy yourself a writer, get offline, get off the electronic reader, go to a real library or bookstore and read something you haven’t read before.
I don’t know much about her, but the fly on the wall observation of old age is riveting.
The poem gives us a keyhole view of how our own essential humanity has us going through the motions of living for the sheer joy of it and the joy of the company of a close one long after our most productive time has passed.
Peace be the Botendaddy
Gwendolyn Brooks, ‘The Bean Eaters’
from Man in the Poetic Mode, Vol. 1 at p. 58 McDougal, Littell publishers, Evanston, Illinois, 1971, Joy Zweigler, editor
I stood in front of the Writer’s Workshop ready to pontificate my verbal bowel movement. It was ‘Pride Week’ so I was surprised that our four *gay* Writers were all at the Workshop.
“What the hell are you guys doing here? You should be at the Pride Festivities?”
“Oh delectable Botendaddy, all four of us are madly in love with you, each in our own way. We wish to sit here squirming in psychic torment as we are forced to listen to your glorious river of mindless, self-involved, megalomaniacal bull feces prattle like Alexander de Large with his eyes held open watching ultra-violence.”
Said Ramon, leaning back in his chair.
“He is a goddamned moron.” Offered Hiroyuki.
“Our lives are meaningless if we give up our Friday nights to listen to his stupefying drivel. Have I really fallen so far? I have no life!” Moaned the Caribbean Queen.
“Botendaddy is a vapid, mindless shithead. It was either come here or kill myself. It was a tough choice.” Said the Stalker.
“I’m totally drunk and high. I may have taken some acid. I’m hallucinating to the point that the Botendaddy actually sounds marginally intelligent.” Said Chief Guyasuta.
“Listen. I just read James Thurber’s short story “The night the bed fell.” It is written in a farcical, rhythmic style rising to a crescendo eerily similar to Shirley Jackson’s “The Night We All Had Grippe.”
Grippe is, in my opinion, the most brilliant short-short story in American Literature in the last 70 years. You can see influences of H.P. Lovecraft’s “Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath” for the ‘writing as rhythm’ style, S.J. Perelman for the dry anti-humor and finally the framing of the story is almost a literary response to Thurber’s “Bed”.
In “Bed” we have the family, with vivid descriptions of the location of each and the various idiosyncrasies of each family member and guest.
While we lack the motion of each character as they move about in “Grippe”, Thurber instead mentally visits the rooms while he interprets each character for the reader through his own lens.
The swirling motion of “Grippe builds to a tornado like crescendo ending up with the lost blanket while in “Bed” separate actions in each room including the writer falling out of his own bed and the noise creating the ensuing chaos as everyone thinks the attic bed fell on father.
We see some more modern treatments of this building-cyclone style of farce that draw on both stories, such as “The Russians are Coming” which builds to complete chaos, but in a town and not a house and the final scene of Grandpa in “Lost Boys.” ‘What I could never stand about Santa Carla is all the damn vampires.’
You can find both stories, ‘Grippe’ and ‘Bed’ in the ‘Man in the Fictional Mode’ series by Joy Littell, 1970-71.
“I am exhausted.” I turned to the Professor. She rolled her eyes.
“Botendaddy… enough of your stupefying nonsense come with us back to our festival hotel suite and let’s just f@&$. You owe us after making us listen to that.”
Said the Park Ranger and Swole Bro nodding in agreement.
I am going to review stories from Joy Littell’s magnificent compilations found only in the groundbreaking Man Series from 1970-72.
I am bored with most contemporary authors, not all, just most.
So Saroyan finds himself in the new Middle School, with a substitute teacher.
To him, the new school meant new things, new methods, new possibilities.
He describes her as thin with an ability to run very fast, apparently to chase students.
The teacher discusses Stonehenge, saying it was 20,000 years old, and the young author, in this autobiographical Vignette, asks her how she knows it was 20,000 years old.
This question, being perceived as challenging to her authority, caused her to chase him and he rushed out of the room.
He ends up reporting to the principal, who was equally appalled, blaming it on the 11 year old Saroyan’s Armenian background.
Saroyan’s uncle, a Law Student at USC gets involved, marches him back to the principal and teacher who then acquiesce to all of the Uncle’s demands. The principal and teacher back off, but Saroyan feels guilty about this and he tries to assure the teacher and principal that he legitimately wanted to know how people would know to determine the age of such things.
There’s a lot to this little story. What I draw from it are two things:
1. Sometimes we don’t know what appropriate behavior is and we have to learn. Saroyan figured out that a questions in a challenging way wasn’t proper or polite and he was sensitive to the teacher’s feelings, whereas many young people might not be.
2. Sometimes when we ‘win’, such as by getting the uncle to help, it’s overkill and it disrupts the natural order of things.
A lot of similar Americana stories tell the same tale, but don’t hit the inner immorality of ‘kid makes authority figures look bad’ ha-ha joke model, ala Marx Brothers or Three Stooges. We get mad because the high society people are upset that their magnificent affair was ruined by the Stooges. We want to laugh at the high society people.
Some say there is inherent cruelty in humor, that’s what makes it funny.
Initially, Saroyan felt that by challenging the teacher and then running away made it funny. Then, after observing the cowed reactions of the teacher and principal, he views it as a cruel mistake. He then discusses the next principal who tried to play tough, then tried to play nice and then just gave up.
Kids can be cruel and they are usually old enough to know better even at 11. We don’t need derivative, poorly-written, literary bowel movement like ‘Lord of the Flies’ to tell us so. Saroyan tells in us in just a few pages, which concise portrayal is what separates the good writers (Poe) from the bad writers (King).
I’m glad Joy Littell included this story. Maybe the wise-ass, smart-ass kids could read it and gain a little introspection.
The Reviewer’s State of Mind: My dad had this book, back about 1970. It tracked his dry humor and ready wit. I just found the book, used, online and it makes me feel like he is in the room with me when I read it.
It was a silly little book, illustrated by a fellow named Arnold Roth.
Juster was a New York Architect who also authored the children’s math book “The Dot and The Line.” and a more famous children’s Book: “The Phantom Tollbooth”. I never read the later nor did I see the movie.
All I know is Roth was in the great tradition of cartoonists like Charles Addams, B. Kliban, Gahan Wilson and others, a hint of the macabre.
This was an entire book of names, each name being a play on words such as O. Diferous the garbageman and Walter Wall Rugs.
The book takes us through the town which each phony name more creative than the next.
Our little cartoon-figure cameraman is naked except for his camera as he walks through the mythical town of Emotional Heights encountering every fake name, such as Ellis Dee who is floating above the University, and Yetta Nother with her 12 kids.
The illustrations are a little bit melancholy, but add the perfect backdrop to the humor.
This book is the foundation for almost every fake name that followed in film and literature. It is an absolute classic and the first and best of its kind.
Go out there and find a used copy somewhere on the net.