In the first draft of Gone With The Wind, Scarlett O’Hara’s given name was not Scarlett. It was Pansy.
A Website by Frank Key
In the first draft of Gone With The Wind, Scarlett O’Hara’s given name was not Scarlett. It was Pansy.
If we inherited our genes from the things we eat, we’d all look like chickens and carrots and bees and things like that.
This morning’s rustic wisdom from Farming Today, BBC Radio Four
The Greek philosopher Theophrastus (c.371 – c.287 BC) was a man with a wide range of interests. He wrote “Three Books of the Gods; one of Enthusiasm; an Epitome of Natural Things; A tract against Naturallists; one Book of Nature; three more of Nature; two Abridgments of natural things; eighteen more of Natural things; seventeen of various Opinions concerning Natural things; one of Natural Problems; three of Motions; two more of Motion; three of Water; one of a River in Sicily; two of Meteors; two of Fire; one of Heaven; one of Nitre and Alum; two of things that putrifie; one of Stones; one of Metals; one of things that melt and coagulate; one of the Sea; one of Winds; two of things in dry places; two of Sublime things; one of Hot and Cold; one of Generation; ten of the History of Plants; eight of the causes of them; five of Humours; one of Melancholy; one of Honey; eighteen first Propositions concerning Wine; one of Drunkenness; one of Spirits; one of Hair; another of Juices, Flesh and Leather; one of things the sight of which is unexpected; one of things which are subject to wounds and bitings; seven of Animals, and another six of Animals; one of Man; one of Animals that are thought to participate of Reason; One of the Prudence and Manners, or Inclinations of Animals; one of Animals that dig themselves Holes and Dens; one of fortuitous Animals; 1182 Verses comprehending all sorts of Fruits and Animals; A question concerning the Soul; one of Sleeping and Waking; one of Labours; one of old Age; one of Thoughts; four of the Sight; one of things that change their Colour; one of Tears entituled Callisthenes; two of hearing; one of the Diversity of Voices of Animals of the same sort; one of Odours; two of Torment; one of Folly; one of the Palsie; one of the Epilepsie; one of the vertigo, and dazling of the Sight; one of the fainting of the Heart; one of Suffocation; one of Sweat; one of the Pestilence”.
Nappa Gisburn brought to my attention a television programme entitled Lobstermen : Jeopardy At Sea, screened on something called the Quest Channel. I did not see it, but then, as Mr Gisburn himself noted, it was probably less exciting than its title promised.
It served to remind me, however, that some years ago I encouraged readers to join the Adopt A Lobster scheme. Some of you in fact did so, and have the certificates to prove it. What I find both worrying and perplexing is that nobody seems ever to have received any news of their lobster. Much as I would like to think that Babinsky and Bobnit Tivol and Tiny Enid are scuttling happily across the ocean floor, snapping their claws at minnows, I just don’t know, and it’s the not knowing that leads me to lie awake at night, thrashing around on my pallet, biting my pillow, and generally making a sorry spectacle of myself.
Readers will recall that I undertook a special study of lobsters and consider myself, if not an expert, than certainly as someone qualified to embark on a worldwide lecture tour, all expenses paid. Should you, or anybody you know, wish to invite me to some far-flung yet luxurious corner of the globe, and to put me up in an exquisite hotel for a week, I will be happy to deliver a five- or ten-minute unillustrated lecture on lobsters while waving my arms about in a foolish, hysterical manner.
I want one of these. A toy nun fashioned from a clothespeg by the elderly father of Gregory Vincent St Thomasino, Brooklyn poet and Jubilate Agno enthusiast.
It is almost impossible to read a memoir or biography of a Victorian writer without coming upon the inevitable walking statistics. Even [John Stuart] Mill, that effeminate “logic-chopping machine”… walked fifteen miles three days before his death at the age of sixty-seven, a modest record compared with [Leslie] Stephen’s grandfather, who celebrated his seventieth birthday by walking twenty-five miles to breakfast, then to his office, and home again the same day. Fifty miles a day was about the average for the “Sunday Tramps” organised by Stephen.
Gertrude Himmelfarb, Victorian Minds (Weidenfeld & Nicolson 1968)
An anti-Catholic crow (and a seagull) have been causing a rumpus at the Vatican. I would like to know what the Jesuits’ position is on crows, ravens, jackdaws, and other birds of menace.
Following the unseemly decision of Penguin Books to publish the maunderings of a has-been pop singer as a “Classic”, we now have the equally risible sight of the British Library paying £100,000 for the collected scribblings and jottings of the hugely untalented writer Hanif Kureishi.
“Kureishi said it was important that it was the British Library that looked after the archive”, apparently – my italics – thus winning this week’s Self-Regarding Wanker Award.
Kureishi : preening
My grassy knoll potsage the other day prompted a keen-eyed reader to bring to my attention something called Project Unspeakable. According to its Facecloth page, this “project” aims to “challenge the silence surrounding the assassination” of President Kennedy and three other “leaders for peace” (Robert Kennedy, Dr King (as we must always call him), and Malcolm X).
Er … what silence is that, precisely? There are so many books about the JFK assassination that even Vincent Bugliosi hasn’t had time – in the twenty-plus years he worked on his book – to read all of them. Not to mention the magazine articles, television documentaries, and feature films. The deaths of the other three have not attracted quite that level of attention, but they have hardly been ignored and cast into the dustbin of history (© Leon Trotsky, another murderee who surely ought to be on Project Unspeakable’s list. Oh, hang on, he wasn’t American, and he was ice-picked by a Stalinist agent, so in Unspeakable circles that’s probably all above board.)
The “conspiracy of silence” is about as silent as Hooting Yard, which as you know hardly ever shuts up.
For reasons too convoluted for my puny pea-sized brain to comprehend, I found myself the other day embarking on a spot of research into the Norwegian writer Alf Prøysen (1914 – 1970). He is best known for his tales of Little Old Mrs Pepperpot, a woman who every so often shrinks to the size of a small teaspoon, which explains her original Norwegian name of Teskjekjerringa, or the teaspoon lady. In looking through a list of pot-spoon-woman stories, I was struck particularly by the one entitled Mrs Pepperpot Buys Macaroni.
It is worth noting here that, if ever one were stupid enough to trust the Wikipedia, this is a perfect example of its unreliability. As any fule kno, the true title of the tale is Mr Pepperpot Buys Macaroni.
Be that as it may, Mr or Mrs, the important thing is that Prøysen, wittingly or not, invented a completely new fictional genre, the “buying macaroni” story. In the years since Mr Pepperpot, or Mr Teaspoon or whatever his name is, went out and bought that macaroni, it is a theme which dozens, if not hundreds, of creative artists have found rich and rewarding. Novels, plays, films, ballets, operas, opera bouffes, art installations cobbled together from grainy black-and-white video tapes and coathangers, all have been grist to the buying-macaroni-artist’s mill. Bloody hell, even the greatest visual artist of this or any other generation, Steve McQueen, is said to be following the most brilliant film ever made by anybody anywhere, 12 Years A Slave, with an even more brilliant film, 12 Years Buying Macaroni. And not only that, but McQueen is paying homage to Prøysen by casting in the lead role the greatest musical genius of our times, Tinie Tempah. Mr Tempah is reportedly as tiny as Mrs Pepperpot during her teaspoon-shrinkage phases. At least that is my understanding.
A poor scribbler such as myself cannot, of course, hope to compete with these titanic geniuses, but in my own tiny way I hope to make a modest contribution to the genre with a piece called Dobson Buys Macaroni. I have already refilled my propelling pencil in preparation.
Alf Prøysen performing one of his timeless macaroni-buying songs
Yesterday I went to the library, and I emerged into the bright winter sunshine clutching four Clarice Lispectors and a Gertrude Himmelfarb. If we consider only the writers’ names, it was one of my most spectacularly gratifying borrowings. I have not yet begun to read any of the books, but when I do I shall be sure to share with you lot anything startling I come across.
The reason they must remain set aside for the time being is that I am immersed in my current reading. Like a mad person, I am deep into Reclaiming History : The Assassination Of President John F. Kennedy by Vincent Bugliosi. This majestic if preposterous tome weighs in at over 1,600 pages and comes freighted with a CD-ROM containing the equivalent of a further 1,000 pages of notes. Bugliosi’s aim is to prove conclusively that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, and that the multiplicity of conspiracy theories are a disservice to history. To achieve this, the magnificently grumpy prosecutor hammers away at every last detail of “what did happen” and tears to shreds every ditzy bit of fanciful doo-dah of “what did not happen”. In theory, of course, the book, published in 2007 after over twenty years’ work, would be the final word on the subject. But Bugliosi knows that in spite of his mightiest efforts, the nutcases will not be silenced. As he writes (page 444):
unfortunately we know that the notion of a conspiracy in the Kennedy assassination will be alive and well for centuries to come. I suppose it is a given that there will be [others] who will breast-feed the conspiracy loonies for generations to come with their special lactations of bilge, blather, and bunk.
I have been obsessively interested in the assassination since, as a ten-year-old, I borrowed from the library the JFK issue of a long-forgotten and never-since-seen series of historical works for children. These were not books, but pocket files crammed with information sheets, facsimiles of historical documents, and – in this case – a cardboard cut-out model of Dealey Plaza for assembly by the awestruck tot (me).
I can only conclude, with Thomas Mallon, that I may not be “of the Grassy Knoll”, but I am most certainly on it.
You cannot afford not to be with a sheep at four-thirty in the morning.
Words of wisdom from Farming Today on BBC Radio Four.
It is my son’s birthday next week and, as is the way with young persons nowadays, he has sent me his “wants list”. I am tempted to plump for either the radio hat (ideal for listening to ResonanceFM) or the horse gas mask (ideal for listening to ResonanceFM on horseback while riding through mephitic mists and vapours).
As is traditional at Hooting Yard, on the first of January we bring you the resounding words of Peter Hitchens, first uttered in the Year of Our Lord MMX but ever worth recalling:
I am actively hostile to the ‘New Year’.