You are currently browsing the daily archive for October 15, 2012.

May I just point out that today is the anniversary of the birth, in 1881, of Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse?

The fact that the man wrote comic light fiction should not obscure the fact that he was, and I don’t think I exaggerate, one of the greatest literary geniuses of the 20th Century.  Indeed, I think his chosen milieu only accented his l.g., insofar as there is nothing more challenging than this kind of humor because, above all, it must look absolutely effortless and his strengths lay in his theatrically superb comic timing and deftness of touch.   How about a few quotes (pulled at random from here) by way of demonstration?

  ♦   It is no use telling me that there are bad aunts and good aunts. At the core, they are all alike. Sooner or later, out pops the cloven hoof.

  ♦   Bertie: “You see before you, Jeeves, the toad beneath the harrow.”

 ♦   Bertie: “There are moments, Jeeves, when one asks oneself, ‘Do trousers matter?'”
Jeeves: “The mood will pass, sir.”

 ♦   He looked haggard and careworn, like a Borgia who has suddenly remembered that he has forgotten to shove cyanide in the consomme, and the dinner-gong due any moment.

 ♦    Unseen in the background, Fate was quietly slipping lead into the boxing-glove.

 ♦    He wore the unmistakable look of a man about to be present at a row between women, and only a wet cat in a strange backyard bears itself with less jauntiness than a man faced by such a prospect.

 ♦    I turned to Aunt Agatha, whose demeanor was now rather like that of one who, picking daisies on the railway, has just caught the down express in the small of the back.

 ♦   Mike nodded.  A sombre nod.  The nod Napoleon might have given if somebody had met him in 1812 and said, “So, you’re back from Moscow, eh?”

One could, of course, go on and on and on and on……

To quote Professor Farnsworth, “Good news, everyone!”

Yes, Tom Wolfe has a new novel coming out:  Back to Blood.  Says the devil’s website ad copy:

As a police launch speeds across Miami’s Biscayne Bay-with officer Nestor Camacho on board-Tom Wolfe is off and running. Into the feverous landscape of the city, he introduces the Cuban mayor, the black police chief, a wanna-go-muckraking young journalist and his Yale-marinated editor; an Anglo sex-addiction psychiatrist and his Latina nurse by day, loin lock by night-until lately, the love of Nestor’s life; a refined, and oh-so-light-skinned young woman from Haiti and her Creole-spouting, black-gang-banger-stylin’ little brother; a billionaire porn addict, crack dealers in the ‘hoods, “de-skilled” conceptual artists at the Miami Art Basel Fair, “spectators” at the annual Biscayne Bay regatta looking only for that night’s orgy, yenta-heavy ex-New Yorkers at an “Active Adult” condo, and a nest of shady Russians. Based on the same sort of detailed, on-scene, high-energy reporting that powered Tom Wolfe’s previous bestselling novels, BACK TO BLOOD is another brilliant, spot-on, scrupulous, and often hilarious reckoning with our times.

Sounds tasty.

I will confess that I thought his last novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons, a bit on the clangorous side with a heroine who sported a fairly improbable combination of academic brilliance and social naivete, but never mind.  The man’s in his 80’s now, so I’m willing to cut him a little slack if he gets a bit heavy-handed whilst taking apart our “culture” or, in the words of Theodore Dalrymple, what’s left of it.

Did I ever mention that Wolfe was my law school commencement speaker at Dubyanell?  As one of the most distinguished living alums of the university, I’ve always strongly suspected that he’s sort of their fall-back when they can’t find anyone else with more star appeal for these occasions.  He gave what I am sure is his standard stumper tearing into the evils of political correctness.  Most of the students ate it up.  The faculty first looked alarmed, then stony-faced.  Good times.  Good times.

I would immediately nip over to the devil’s website and purchase my own copy.  However, we’re getting pretty close to the official start of Robbo’s Christmas/Birthday book-buying embargo (put in place because nobody else knows what to give me except books), so perhaps I’ll hold off in the hope that someone in the Port Swiller family will get wind of this and act accordingly.

I see that today is the 25th anniversary of the Great Storm of 1987.  Wiki describes it thus:

The Great Storm of 1987 occurred on the night of 15–16 October 1987, when an unusually strong weather system caused winds to hit much of southern England and northern France. It was the worst storm to hit England since the Great Storm of 1703 (284 years earlier) and was responsible for the deaths of at least 22 people in England and France combined (18 in England, at least four in France).

According to the Beaufort scale of wind intensities, this storm had winds of hurricane force; however, the term hurricane refers to tropical cyclones originating in the North Atlantic or North Pacific. Hurricanes have a very different wind profile and distribution from storms, and significantly higher precipitation levels.

The storm was declared a rare event, expected to happen only once every several hundred years.

There are still bitter memories of the fact that nobody really saw the storm coming and therefore got caught flat-footed when it hit.

I only mention the anniversary because I happened to be spending the year in London and so went through it myself.  I recall hearing the wind blowing pretty strongly that night but had no idea of just how strongly.  It was only the next day when I got a dekko at the damage, both in the neighborhood and on telly, that I began to grasp the scope of the thing.   I was living in a house just off Wandsworth Common and remember the number of great, huge trees uprooted there.  Ditto when I trudged into Westminster and Kensington to have a look round.  Out in the countryside, it was much worse.  Curiously, I do not recall that we ever lost power, but then again I believe the lines might have been buried.

Call it Robbo’s Brush With Historickal Meteorological Greatness.   Not that I hold the family record – that goes to my brother, who was a 1st year med student in Charleston when Hurricane Hugo hit.   They drafted all the med school people to work triage during the storm, so he went right through it.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo finds himself in a bit of a seethe today because he got tagged by a flag-waiving, knuckle-dragging, officious P.E. coach-type person for his practice of making left-hand turns out of the driveway of Barbarian High (“Home of the Fightin’ Jutes”) when dropping off the eldest gel of a morning.  It saves me the bother of having to turn right, travel back up the street to the nearest light, turn into a side street and basically box-haul the Wrangler around to get her headed in the proper direction again.  Although the school sits on a pretty heavily-traveled road, we usually get there before the volume picks up too much and I only take this shortcut when the lanes are absolutely clear in both directions.

The fellah, who was a dead ringer for Larry Mittleman, ghosted up out of the darkness, demanded that I roll down the window and said with positive menace in his voice, “For your safety and the safety of the children, we ask that you turn to the right when exiting.”  Jeesh! Give a guy a flag and a fist-full of traffic cones and he suddenly thinks he’s freakin’ Patton directing armored columns across the French countryside.

In fact, it’s a debatable point whether, when there’s no actual traffic,  having to head back unnecessarily in the wrong direction and bang a u-turn is safer than just skootching out of the area quam celereme.  However, I’m willing to swallow the affront to my common sense and let the point go.  What I actually found irksome was that “for the children” line, the use of which scrapes across my soul like iron fingernails on a blackboard.  So evocative of Mr. Rogers, She Who Must Not Be Named, the bubble-wrapping of young people today and all the very worst excesses of Nanny Statism.   We hates it!

Indeed, when I become Emperor of the World, use of that expression will constitute a flogging offense.

Anyhoo, fighting back a momentary wild urge to say, “Oh, yeah? Well the Jerk Store called and they’re out of you!”, I simply smiled icily and said, “Understood.”

And I meant it to sting.

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