Saturday, February 05, 2005

Long long long

The sun is blazing here in New York—rendering our previous post, on art vs. cold weather, a bit moot. So disregard those menus—save them for when the next blizzard hits—and feast your eyes on the following marathon-length sentences.

'Patrick O'Brien's father was not born in 1877; his family was not "briefly split up on the death of Patrick's mother"; it is untrue that "his formal schooling was seriously disrupted by . . . recurrent respiratory complaints which dogged him throughout his childhood"; he attended Lewes Grammar School for three years, not one; there is no evidence that his stepmother possessed a "collection of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century literature", and consequently no possibility that he read "voraciously" in her non-existent library; as Patrick himself recorded, he was not fifteen but twelve when he wrote Cæsar (sic); he wrote Hussein in 1937, not 1938; nothing suggests that his first marriage was "further strained" by the fact that his second child was born afflicted by spina bifida; the colorful description of his supposed first meeting with my mother during the Blitz is entirely fictitious; his elder brother Michael never aassumed the name "O'Brian", nor did Patrick's decision to assume that name by deed poll have anything to do with Michael; he does not appear to have claimed Irish birth on the cover of any of his books; several of the stories in his collection The Last Pool were written long before "his years in Wales"; "The Frozen Flame (in the United States entitled The Catalans)" has the titles the wrong way round; the hero of The Golden Ocean is Peter Palafox; it was not "Lord Thomas Cochrane" but Lord Cochrane whose career provided background material for Master and Commander; and there is no evidence that Patrick was inspired by Captain Marryat (he certainly possessed none of his works).'
—Nikolai Tolstoy, letter to the TLS, December 3, 2004, criticizing the new Dictionary of National Biography's entry on his stepfather, Master and Commander novelist Patrick O'Brian

'But the interstates now have razed their way on out into the last aboriginal outbacks of the South, and in all the Fox's Dens and Bali-Hai lounges of the motels that have accumulated along their length, townsmen from the peanut gins and feed mills of nearby scruffy little communities—great-grandsons of Jackson's fance skirmishers and Jubhal Early's mounted raiders, who were accustomed until recently only to the beercan-popping hoot and stomp of local pine-planked honky-tonks—gather on a Saturday night to roost, in khakis and clay-clotted brogans, in a windowless grottolike clandestine gloom lascivious with dim glows and quilted leather and a sweet whiskey-tinged must of the urbanely illicit, fingering damp paper napkins imprinted with raffish cartoons as they brood over their bourbon-and-ginger-ales at the waitresses bobbling back and forth in Bo Peep thigh ruffles and net stockings, all the while mulling the savory intimations of secret abandoned sheet-thrashings in the rooms along the rear parking lot, until inevitably one of them, after a waitress' leggy passage by him, jumps atop a table with a loud obscene yawp of supplication, and then, as he is being herded toward the door by the manager, snatches up a chair and sends it skidding calamitously down the length of the bar with a parting bawl of outrage and longing—this, a hundred years later, about all that is left of those legendary heedless charges wit wild gleeful yodels up the slopes of Cemetery Ridge and Malvern Hill.'
—Marshall Frady, The South Domesticated, as quoted in Hal Crowther's "Son of a Preacher Man: Marshall Frady (1940–2004)," in the Winter 2005 issue of The Oxford American


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