After Caspar Milquetoast moved downtown, he looked forward to taking the tram to work, and while he was pleased to spend a few minutes zipping smoothly along the tracks instead of sweltering an hour in heavy traffic, he found that the price he paid was enforced familiarity with his fellow commuters, for while most were merely silent and tried to avoid catching anyone’s eye, there were always the children barging into him, sometimes with sticky comestibles in hand; the ultracrepidarians giving their expert opinion on any item they happened to see in their newspapers or on any topic they chanced to overhear, before taking up their day jobs behind the cash registers at Safeway and Target; the drunks who found the tram passengers to be, depending on their own type of drunkenness, either potential punching bags or a neighborly community primed for gemütlich encounters involving confiding conversations, warm hugs, and sometimes convivial song; the truly mad, who muttered or shouted in the sometimes odiferous extra space the other passengers gave them; and the curmudgeons who responded with acerbic remarks to anything anyone did—the latter group being one with which poor mild Caspar found himself increasingly in sympathy, as he learned to take refuge behind dark glasses, headphones, and a Kindle, swallowing sardonic observations he suspected stood a good chance of earning him a black eye.
Felicia was a cat who lived with several other felines in the baroque splendor of San Carlo Church, but while they liked to climb up and down the knobby, encrusted magnificence of the gilded columns and balconies, Felicia liked to sit comfortably by the main entrance and grow fat being fed by the tourists, a situation that wasn't a problem for her until the rainy weekend she fell into the catchment area on the back side of the building: soaked in water, her climbing muscles atrophied from lack of use, the poor moggy could do nothing except cling to an iron drain-frame and try not to slip further down the sloping wall to her watery doom, until at last a passing gelato-cart worker heard her plaintive cries and pulled her out.
Hamlet, as a sort of proto-slacktivist, had a lot to say about what should be done, but mostly just talked, unable to decide whether to plunge the blade of his bodkin into his wicked uncle's breast or his own, while in the meantime his girlfriend went from radiantly in love to just slightly under the weather to raving mad, until at last she drowned herself, all who had known her weeping over her body, with her face's ghastly pallor and her formerly thick, luscious hair now sodden and draggled.
There are fashions in parentcraft, so that permissiveness follows scientific parenting which follows the moralizing style, and after a couple of decades of “self-esteem” parenting, when everyone got a trophy and children were trapped in an over-scheduled and over-sheltered world of playdates, never allowed to go anywhere alone for fear they would be kidnapped, we now have the competing model of “free-range” parenting, where kids are encouraged to learn how to cook their own meals and make solitary peregrinations on their city’s subway system; meanwhile there are still those traditionalist parents who—just as ardently as hipsters reject digital music and multi-geared bicycles—take a Luddite view of 20th-century child-rearing trends, instead following the older beliefs in “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” only encouraging independence to the extent that the child is taught to do household chores, just as in older times a girl would have been taught how to change the diapers of her younger siblings or heat the sadirons to press Papa’s good shirt.
When Gladwell Donnybrook found the little creature hopping about in the water of a runnel at the bottom of Little Bear Gorge, he first thought it was a common frog or toad, until he noticed that it was covered with very fine reddish hair, whereupon he realized that, despite the expression "fine as frog's hair," there were not in fact any lanuginous anurans, and when he saw the next day that it had overnight, holus-bolus, grown to eight feet in height and was breakfasting on a rather hefty mule deer, he knew for certain that it was a monstrous whatsit from some Lovecraftian region of the Great Outside.
In order to fructify her plans for a comfortable old age, Edna Kristoff-Madison took a job as apprentice to a milliner and found that making hats got her measly wages for a lot of work, but because she demeaned herself well, she earned the respect and loyalty of what she hoped were her future customers.
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.
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