by Clarence Brown
American Reporter Correspondent
March 10, 2004
SEATTLE, Wash. -- After watching the Oscars, it occurs to me that we ought to have Billy Crystal emcee our national life. The material for his style of comedy is lying around asking to be used. Used, not believed.
I am not making this up, and I hope it was not an invention of the Wall Street Journal's reporter Vanessa O'Connell, but it might well be the product of a fevered brain.
You've heard of Smith & Wesson?
Imagined response: Heard of it? I shoot it at legal targets!
Wait. Listen to this. The Chairman of this leading gun manufacturer, one James J. Minder, my exact coeval (74), resigned after it was disclosed that he'd done time for ... wait for it ... armed robbery. O'Connell writes: "That could put the company, an icon of the gun world, in an awkward situation."
Awkward? To a person of my generation, exactly that of the perp and CEO, unthinkable.
But to Ink Soup the unthinkable is mother's milk. Excuse me, there's my cell... .
It's Charlton Heston. Hi, Chuck. How are things at the National Rifle Association? No, I did not mean to trash all gunowners, I am one myself ... what? ... an old 410. gauge shotgun found among my dad's effects. No ammo, though. What?
Thanks, no, I don't need any. I keep the squirrels off my bird feeder with a slingshot. A slingshot! No, it's not a laser gun, in fact it's pre-NRA, so you would not be interested.
Or ... wait a sec. It's so pre-NRA that it is even biblical. It was David's weapon when he offed Goliath.
But ... what am I saying? Of course you'd be interested, even though makeup would have to come up with a miracle for you to play David... .
Back to the topic. By now we are fairly accustomed to all these top people caught doing exactly what one would least expect.
Suppose Julia Child's mousse au chocolat turned out to have a strong garlicky flavor. Suppose Rush Limbaugh was caught in an alley with the Little Red Book memorizing the sayings of Chairman Mao... .
Or suppose that Professor Harold Bloom of Yale were to... But here I draw the line. Professional courtesy. In any other line of work, a hand on the knee of a student, even one so promising as Naomi Wolf, would lead to speculations of a sordid and obvious kind.
But that is only to say that literary research has its own methods, seldom understood or even explicable to the laity.
For more on this topic I refer insatiably prurient readers to that scandal rag The Wall Street Journal (27 Feb. 04), where they will be titillated by a description of this "groper of pretty coeds [...] on one disastrous, candle-lit, Amontillado-fueled evening."
And just now, even as I write, the Nabokov list on the Web is alive with excitement over the news that the library of the recently deposed President of Haiti, Jean Bertrand Aristide, contained a copy of, wait for it, "Lolita."
But he was a priest of the Roman Catholic Church, was he not? asked one respondent. Would he not have preferred the early fiction of Gore Vidal? That's it from here, Billy Crystal. Over to you...
Clarence Brown is a cartoonist, writer, and Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Princeton University. He has been known to abuse the ellipsis just the same.