Monday, January 07, 2002

The Daily Howler

Most of it wasn't even this good, mind you: the choicest bits are the real forehead-slappers, the moments when the prose screeches over the line from serviceably bad to the screechingly awful...
  • She was dark, with strong features—a face like a jailhouse tattoo: heart-shaped and bisected by a dagger of a nose...

  • We headed away from Freeport itself, knocking deeper into the two-horse town that hunched around the motel, in search of pizza to go and an acceptable beer. We found both in a sort of strip mall that formed the center of town—laundromat, liquor store, Famous House of Pizza, post office. From the meager selection of beers at the liquor store, Harper chose Bass Ale (“I’ll never understand the American relationship to imported beers, I never will,” he said a little too loudly. “Nobody at home drinks this stuff any more, much less considers it a premium brew. It’s like 1979 just opening a fucking bottle”); from the Famous House of Pizza he selected two large, pepperoni and Hawaiian (“That’s the essence of American invention,” he said again a bit too loudly; “I mean, honestly—ham and pineapple? With cheese and tomato sauce? In a culinary sense, it’s utter barbarism—but it’s inspired barbarism”). The English: they may not go in for flavored teas, but they practically invented Constant Comment.

  • ...Dr. Costello, crusty dowager empress of the Creative Writing faculty (although, like many things crusty, she was flaky on the inside) ...

  • [Beth was] tall, scissor-legged (the sleek curve of her hips where the grip would be, and just as inviting to the hand), hair the color and sweep of a cherry wood stain baby grand piano, a sound-board belly and a spine like mother of pearl. She was a distance runner, lean and muscled, swollen in all the places you’d want her swollen, sunken in all the places you’d want sunken. A landscape of rills and dells, musky ravines and soft, taut mounds... Her eyes could be whip-cracks, could snap like bear traps, or could melt like butter on pancakes.

  • Dagmar’s laugh made me think of Miles’ trumpet when he put the Harmon on and murmured down low, like the end of his second chorus on “Old Folks”...
...or this quote-unquote "hilarious," Marx Brothersesque exchange wherein Pin—what a wag! what a cut-up!—torments a half-deaf old woman with his lightning-quick recall of Scandinavian folklore, as she endeavours to introduce him to a man named Finn Harper...
“I’m sorry?” I called out as if puzzled. “Who is this… this ‘Finn’ of whom you speak?” A goodly portion of the audience glared in my general direction—Not Knowing Finn, apparently, was a state less to be pitied than to be scorned, or an indicator of some great moral failing: to Dr. Costello it seemed nearly inexplicable.

Dr. Costello, who was having trouble seeing me (and, I soon realized, trouble hearing me as well), said, “Finn, of course. Finn!

I cocked my head to one side. “Sibelius?

Dr. Costello blinked slowly. “No, it’s not an alias. His name. Finn Harper.”

“Finn Harper? Does he play the kantele?”

“No, of course we can’t delay,” sputtered the doctor. “We’ve still got to—

“No, no—the kantele—like Wainamoinen? ”

Dr. Costello was becoming agitated. “Young man, I don’t know what you’re—we can’t delay, and we can’t wait ‘til morning, so if you’ll just…”

I persisted, “You know—the Kalevala?

“Call whom? Call a doctor? Young man, are you ill?

Oh how we larfed.

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