No matter how visceral Mr. Sinclair's response to Rosemary Byron, with their shared love of pretending to be Lady and the Tramp over spaghetti dinners and dueling with cheap lightsabers purchased from Toys-R-Us, not to mention their tropical bedtime encounters, being at one on everything was nugatory compared to the appeal of Telwyn McCloskey's vast real estate holdings, and soon she was sporting an engagement ring that boasted an enormous and coruscating diamond, paid for by Miss McCloskey herself.
From his window, the young student Giovanni Guasconti could see the walled garden of the house next door, with a plethora of floriferous plants seemingly all in bloom at once and unceasingly, and moving among their startling brilliance—and scarcely less brilliant and colorful in her beauty than they were—was a young lady whom he eventually learned was Beatrice, the daughter of the great scientist Giacomo Rappaccini; as he began to fall in love with Beatrice Giovanni learned that all the plants had been created by Rappaccini to be poisonous, and that in caring for them Beatrice herself had become poisonous herself, her isolation and fear of harming others making her fey in almost every sense of the word, so that it was with a certain acceptance that she drank the antidote Giovanni brought her, though she suspected better than he that her death would be the result; although her father pretended to have suffered only a scientist’s disappointment in this outcome, Giovanni heard shortly afterwards that—under the guise of making ergonomic improvements to his work-bench and other laboratory equipment—he had swept away all his experiments in poisonous plants and soon Giovanni saw that the garden too had been allowed to wither away, and the earth afterwards burnt to purify it.
Before drinking from the pierian spring of Turkish literature, English-speaking students must orientate themselves to a different use of the Latin alphabet, where the ‘c’ is pronounced as a hard ‘j’ and diacritics change or even seem to delete other familiar consonants; then comes the rather onerous task of learning the language itself, especially challenging in its agglutinative structure; but finally the determined enthusiast will be fluent enough to be exhilarated by a dazzling tradition that ranges from the free-verse guru Nâzım Hikmet to the man-in-the-street revolution of the Garip movement to the abstract delights of the “Second New” movement.
Jack, lost in the desert, was unable to satisfy his yen for water, and grew more and more lethargic, lacking even the energy to walk over the next sand dune; as he became increasingly light-headed, lines of poetry began to drift through his mind, but he knew pierian springs were no substitute for real ones, and so he upbraided himself and whipped himself up into such a state of lionhearted determination that he began the long walk out of the desert.
Lady Celestine Dalrymple-Morris had lived most of her adult life as a typical woman of the neurasthenic persuasion: she spent her days laid upon various pieces of furniture in a state of lethargic ill-health, with scarcely the energy to raise her head from its comfortably reclining position on the pillow, this lassitude punctuated by occasional fits of hysterics or fainting spells, as she lost herself in the pierian delights of Byron, Shelley, and Keats, her yen for romance and great acts of sacrifice seemingly destined never to be satisfied; none of her intimates or acquaintances guessed that when the war began she would prove to be as lion-hearted and clever a secret agent as any who served the realm.
Elizabeth Bennet, once married to Fitzwilliam Darcy, would have been happy to slough off most of her family because, apart from her kind sister Jane and her admittedly eccentric father, the rest were all both obnoxious and acute causes to her of embarrassment—from her mother, a foolish flibbertigibbet, to Mary, with her unwarranted pretentions to pierian culture, to Kitty, still remarkably thoughtless and vain, to Lydia, who although now Mrs. Wickham, was as much a fizgig as ever she had been in her hoydenish girlhood—but Elizabeth was content to retain contact of a sort with all: her husband tolerated them for her sake, and she always bore in mind the saying about the humble drupe: that such fruit could have the plumpest, juiciest flesh in the world, but one must remember that they had in them stones that must be navigated, and that families were like that too.
During a six-month period Garfield Smith made seventeen junkets to investigate opportunities for his federally-funded organization to aid some of the most poverty-stricken nations in the Global South, although his destinations were Turkey, Romania, Hungary, and Greece (where he bought a handsome ancient frieze featuring a procession of warriors in chariots, the relic paid for with funds from sources unknown and exported through channels unspecified), and when his constituents began to question these activities, his assistant Meliflua Boatswain held a presser in which she used an assortment of charts to explain the complex nexus of relationships involved in finding the root causes of developing-world poverty, while the reality was that Boatswain could construct all the fishbone diagrams she wanted, but she was a complete Pollyanna if she thought to distract us from the root cause of all these junkets, which was that the mice go where there’s cheese.
After young Andreuccio had been lured to a house, made ill, dropped into a filthy latrine, robbed, and chased from the neighborhood, he found himself in the old cemetery on the edge of town, where among the tombs and rough untended hummocks he was found by a couple of fishy characters who bullied him into helping them rob the sarcophagus of a newly deceased bishop; after climbing into the huge stone casket and handing out the bishop's gold-encrusted dalmatic, miter, and gloves, he was asked for the real treasure, a priceless ruby ring, which he claimed not to have found, and although there was a moment of panic when Andreuccio was shut into the sarcophagus by the angry thieves, he managed to trick his way out and, polishing the ruby on his feces-encrusted sleeve, he said, "That's a fair dinkum ruby!"--so pleased by the happy outcome that he didn't even wonder why he, a medieval Italian, was speaking 20th century Australian slang. --Boccaccio via Pier Paolo Pasolini
My most interesting relative was probably Aunt Eloise, the rover of the family: the bucolic pleasures of country life were not for her, for she was as bored with rolling rural landscapes as she was exasperated by the roiling anthill of city life, so she got herself a job in international sales and—finding what her critical siblings thought quite jammy success and enjoying the work—she spent the next forty years sending the family postcards from assorted exotic climes, as well as photographs of herself skiing in the Andes and dining at an oont ranch in Australia (I’ve never cared for camel meat myself), and on the occasional visit giving us strange charms and talismans, such as Greek Evil Eye beads, Japanese Omamori, and once a monkey’s paw that we were all afraid to go near for fear we would accidentally wish for something; finally Cousin Gaspard buried it in the woods above the lower forty.
A new magic instructor was brought to Chrestomanci Castle, and he proved especially skilled with alembics, teaching the children how to distill all manner of potions, but he was eighty-sixed as soon as Chrestomanci discovered he was also using an alembic to make and drink a daily batch of whiskey, the great enchanter not being such a latitudinarian as to employ an alcoholic teacher; the man left, but angrily, muttering oaths and execrations, none of which were powerful enough to harm Chrestomanci.
Lydia Milquetoast planned the first tea party she had ever given, inviting her boss, her supervisor, and her minister’s wife, but as usual left the execution of her plans to the last minute, when she found that she had painted herself into a corner on picking up the fine little tea cakes and petit fours from the bakery (which closed too early for her to get there from work the day before), had not been able to find the kind of bread she really wanted (the kind that cut so neatly into tiny sandwiches), and now discovered that she had chipped one of the only set of four matched teacups she owned; the last straw was when she realized that her toaster was kaput and that she would not be able to produce the charming little toast points that she had so counted on to go with her fine Scottish marmalade, the expensive stuff and the only thing she had ordered well in advance, knowing that her boss’s own personal avarice was matched only by her snobbish insistence that everyone else entertain her in the finest style, and as Lydia sat down and began to cry, her nerves by this time so frayed that she failed to realize she could make toast in the oven, the grimalkin, sitting on her tuffet and twitching her grey-striped tail, gazed calmly at Lydia with her crystalline green eyes as if to say, “Didn’t I tell you how it would be?”
As the company sank slowly into the sunset, one of our last diversions was watching management’s Vice-President in Charge of Productivity, Mandrake Dalrymple, welcome the liquidation specialist’s Workplace Consultant, Giles Galvanise—both experts in corporate efficiency, an oxymoron if ever there was one—to his little kingdom at headquarters: frenemies since the time they had been prep-school bullies thirty years before, Dalrymple and Galvanise could confront the most head-scratching problems of business organization with cool calculation, but any idle moment was spent in polite cat fights, where the flamboyant Dalrymple and the still-preppy Galvanise cast their contemptuous gazes upon one another, alow and aloft, each sneering at the other’s respective sartorial addictions, from sockless Sperrys to paisley cravat and from cap-toe oxfords to Brooks Brothers tie, as they dropped acid remarks about one another’s career choices and professional abilities.
After her years of apprenticeship, Rosamund Lacrimae at last cast off the cocoon of the student and presented herself as the true imago of the professional soothsayer, using many arcane methods, but relying especially on types of numerology, such as Kabbalah, Pythagoreanism, and especially logarithmancy, for which she carried books of tables; her claims were modest, but her results consistent, and set beside her skill the activities of her rivals were as a gimcrack rhinestone ring bought from a sidewalk vendor compared to the chatoyant glow of a black opal.
During the Great War Lord Greystoke became accustomed to the long waiting in the trenches, punctuating the boredom of playing cards and caring for his uniform and other gear with the terrifying charges across No Man’s Land, but his experiences of the war hardened him as an aginner when it came to civilization, and afterwards he shucked title, clothing, and English manners, emerging like a butterfly from a chrysalis as his old self—if at first a trifle paler—happily brachiating from tree to tree through the jungle, hurling his cries to help his ape friends find his position and ward off enemies, and knowing that if and when he did need a show of force, he could swiftly assemble an elephantry that could do quite stunning damage to the average poacher’s camp or a burgeoning safari stop; that happy state of affairs continued until the day the aging Tarzan missed his grip and plunged eighty feet or so through crashing branches to the forest floor below.
Caspar Milquetoast was in such despair over the ignoble shamelessness of leaders (whether CEOs or heads of state) who spouted tired platitudes about sacrifice and greatness that they believed in not one whit, who boasted of their love for humanity while grinding their heels into the faces of the poor, and who vaunted over brief recoveries that were in fact dead cat bounces, that he shucked his previous responsible social position in what was a sort of ecdysis of disgust and joined a hermitage of Buddhist monks in British Columbia.
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