As a sixties adolescent of the standard issue sort I had my psyche and to some extent my erotic imagination comandeered by Southern. There was Candy, of course, one of the great dirty books (or “dbs,” as Terry called them) of our time. Oh, how my idiot friends and I enjoyed repeating lines like “Give me your hump!” and “When I was in Italy, I got so much hot Italian cock that I stopped menstruating and started minestroneing.” into the ambient Brooklyn air at an inappropriately loud volume. But even better, to me, was The Magic Christian, wherein the multimillionaire prankster Guy Grand oh so grandly and ingeniously sends up the stupid adult world in ways I could only dream about. I must have read it in its Bantam paperback edition a dozen times. And mirabile dictu, when I became an editor at Penguin in the early eighties, I discovered that both of these books were out of print (wtf?) and was able to repay Terry Southern the favor by arranging to reissue them in trade paperback.
This morning we received a copy of The Paris Magazine, which bills itself as “The Poor Man’s Paris Review” and has appeared exactly four times since its founding in 1967. This isn’t very often for a quarterly magazine. Like a blazing comet with an extremely irregular orbit, issue four of The Paris Magazine is not to be missed. I commend to your attention—just for example—Todd McEwen on growing up Thoreauvian: “It was Thoreau’s slow, almost maddeningly slow, description of leaves, of trees, that drew me in. Right away I recognized in Thoreau a fellow connoisseur of depression … ” (This called to mind a favorite paragraph from Sam Munson’s recent novel The November Criminals.)
Instead of answering several important e-mails, I also read Rivka Galchen’s essay on the DSM, Ferlinghetti’s game attempt to translate “Le Pont Mirabeau,” and a rangy essay by Michel Houellebecq on contemporary architecture, including these memorable last lines:
A society which has attained an overheated level doesn’t necessarily melt, but it is unable to produce meaning, since all its energy is taken up with the description of its random variations. Every individual is however capable of producing a sort of cold revolution within himself by stepping outside the infomercial flow. It’s very easy to do. It has in fact never been simpler than today to adopt an aesthetic position in relation to the world: all you have to do is take a step to the side. And this step in the final instance is itself useless. It is enough to pause; to switch off the radio, unplug the television; not to buy anything else, not to want to buy anything else. It is enough to no longer take part, to no longer know; to temporarily suspend all mental activity. It is enough, literally, to be still for a few seconds.
Which is exactly what I was! Congratulations to the new editor of The Paris Magazine, Fatema Ahmed, and to its publisher, the much-loved Shakespeare and Company. May they too find some momentary stillness—and yet manage to produce their next issue before 2019.
I would never have had my very first orgasm, missionary style, on a twin-size futon in the middle of a school day had he not given me the book. It was The Unbearable Lightness of Being. In the inscription, he wrote he didnt want his first gift to me to be something as fleeting as flowers or chocolate. They die, they get eaten, they disappear. How could I not be impressed? I was a teenager, a California girl from the quintessential southern part, where Id probably been too preoccupied with all that, like, sun to get entangled in post-exile, Czech-communist literature.
Days later, I gave him my virginity. It was his first time too. We did it the way humans are meant to, without rubbers or other prophylactic nuisances. Afterward, he put on my bathrobe and sat out on my balcony, holding a wine-glass of orange juice in one hand, a cigarette in the other. I took a snapshot. We laughed.
I wont lie and say I burned my way through it. In fact, I could barely get past the first sentence:
The idea of eternal return is a mysterious one, and Nietzsche has often perplexed other philosophers with it: to think that everything recurs as we once experienced it, and that the recurrence itself recurs ad infinitum!
Goddamn, it was a doozy of a line—a harbinger of many more that I also didnt quite get. Several pages in, Id suddenly come out of a haze and realize Id just lost the last ten minutes of my life. It was like leaving Los Angeles on the 405 late at night, lulled by miles of darkness and speed, and then remembering: Im still driving.
I had thought earlier that I might write in praise of indolence—of the joys of spending six hours lying on the sofa watching football. It had crossed my mind to say to those who complain that this World Cup isn’t living up to their expectations: “It’s still the World Cup, it’s still fucking awesome. Would you rather we had no World Cup at all? Would you rather have to account for what you did all day?”
That was before I watched England against Algeria. All credit is due to the Algerians, who are responsible for any stylish and entertaining soccer found anywhere in the vicinity of Cape Town yesterday. They were not to know when they set up in the now de rigueur defend-and-counter attack style of this World Cup that England would be so abject, so utterly dire. At least the French team made it very clear that they didn’t care.
England strode onto the pitch, all chests blown out and with something to prove. What they proved was that it wasn’t the ball or the trumpets or the defending-is-the-new-attacking thesis that could spoil this World Cup. It was England. The country that claims to have invented the game put in a performance so dull that all the excitement of the previous two days—of Mexico and Serbia and the U.S. comeback and all the refereeing travesties—could evaporate under the entitled nihilism of England’s football team.
At the end, Wayne Rooney stared down the barrel of the camera and snarled, “”Nice to see your own fans booing you, you football ‘supporters.'” The disdain of the England supporters for their team and talisman’s woeful display is, I think, the most encouraging sign yet.
Brothers and sisters, with all respect, your declaration of war is an admission of defeat. We beg you to reconsider this folly.
First you tell us—in what begins to sound like a rage-filled howl against the light—that there is “no such word as snuck.” Then you send us a link to an Internet site, where we learn that snuck “has reached the point where it is a virtual rival of sneaked in many parts of the English-speaking world.” With enemies like that, who needs friends?
You instruct us to look at the OED, yet when we do, we find not only a snuck entry there (“chiefly U.S. pa. tense and pple. of sneak v.”), but also dozens of usage citations, going back to the nineteenth century, many of which are taken from such known language slouches as Raymond Chandler, Jack Kerouac, William Faulkner . . .
Speaking of Faulkner, the coincidence of our being crackers is not, as you imply, irrelevant in this case. The very first appearances of snuck are almost exclusively Southern, and opposition to it has always been inseparable from the idea that it sounds country, or vulgar, or demotic.
That’s probably why the dear “ass-people” at your high school taught you never to say snuck. They wanted the best for you, and didn’t want your college professors making fun of you in class. That’s only proper. High school is the time and place for rigid prescriptivism of the kind you’re trying to put over on us. Later on, though, you put away high-school things. You wake up to the idea that English is an ocean, full of words that live, change, and die, and that your task is not to fix them in place but to master their flow, as best a person can.
A story I heard during the course of my own education changed my mind forever on this subject. When William Tyndale was doing his translation of the New Testament in the sixteenth century—the one that got him killed—there was a certain ancient word for which he lacked an English equivalent. His solution was to mash together a French word, beauty, and an old Saxon one, full. That’s how we got beautiful. By your logic, we should stop using it, since, after all, it wasn’t a word. Nothing is, until it is.
Snuck is a beautiful, almost onomatopoeic word. We’ve asked you for a good reason not to use it. In return you’ve given us the opinions of a long-ago ass-person (enjoyable term in itself—your coinage?). That person has been oppressing you. Set yourself free.
Yours in the cause,