[This piece ought to have appeared on Tuesday. Mea culpa.]
Dobson adored Pancake Day. Every year, in the weeks leading up to Shrove Tuesday, he grew ever more hot-brained and excitable, gathering sacks of flour, carrying out repeated Orwellian egg counts, and begging Old Farmer Frack for churns of milk from the mad old rustic’s cow collection. Every year, too, he revised, polished, embroidered, and sometimes even rewrote from scratch his pamphlet Pancakes : Food Of The Gods? (out of print).
In the complete Dobson bibliography, this title appears both with and without that question mark, like Sidney and Beatrice Webb’s fatuous Soviet Communism : A New Civilization?, written in 1935 at the height of Stalin’s terror, which lost its question mark between its first and second editions. Why Dobson ever phrased his title as a query in the first place is unfathomable, for he was absolutely convinced that all divine beings subsisted on pancakes and nothing else. A glance at any sacred text or compendium of myths quickly disproves the pamphleteer’s theory, if we can call it that, though “delusional idée fixe” would express it better. Dobson spent a preposterous amount of time working his way through the foundational texts of all major religions, Tippexing out all mentions of foodstuffs and, as soon as the Tippex was dry, scribbling in the word “pancakes”. At one point he commissioned Rex Tint, the noted mezzotintist, to create a mezzotint showing the Greek gods atop Mount Olympus, stuffing their faces with pancakes. The work was never completed, or even begun, because Dobson wanted to pay the mezzotintist in eggs, flour, and milk, and Rex Tint, famously, was a “cash only” mezzotintist.
It comes as something of a surprise to learn that in spite of his enthusiasm, Dobson was a hopeless pancake maker. He could never get the mixture quite right, and his tossing technique was laughable. He tried to divert attention from his pancake ineptitude through a combination of bluster, weeping, and pointing out of the window at an imaginary flock of chaffinches. Only late in his life did he face up to the truth, in the remarkable pamphlet My Pancake Ineptitude : A Heart-Rending Confession In Sixteen Bursts Of Hallucinatory Prose (out of print). In the sixteenth and final text, Dobson makes his most compelling case for the divine nature of this simple aliment, although the prose is so hallucinatory that not even the most diligent, pancake-focused reader can work out what in heaven’s name he is babbling on about.
ADDENDUM : A better, and more accurate title than Soviet Communism : A New Civilization would have been Soviet Communism : Enemy Of Orchards, as Michael Gilleland at Laudator Temporis Acti reminds us.