August 16th, 2005



Greg stepped out of his car and waved amiably to the groundskeeper, a diminutive hispanic woman who, if she stood next to Greg, would come about to the top of his stomach. They had never spoken beyond the occasional awkward 'hello' or 'pardon me,' but he made a point to wave and smile at her when he saw her, and for her part she would always stop whatever she was doing and wave back in a kind of matronly-yet-servile benevolence.

It was the servile part that bothered Greg; while he was hardly rich, he was a well-educated and erudite white male of the type that, should he apply his efforts in that direction, could more or less have the world at his door. In terms of the social construct, while he didn't exactly have a royal flush, he could easily be said to be holding a full house. The groundskeeper, on the other hand, was probably an immigrant with a shaky grasp at best on English, who spent her days clipping hedges, sweeping sidewalks, and cleaning up litter and bits of passing road debris in order to feed what Greg assumed was probably a goodish number of children.

Sometimes, he wondered what she thought about him. His liberal-with-a-hint-of-Protestantism upbringing suggested that she should regard him as a lout and a layabout who didn't do proper work and deserved a good old-fashioned smite for having the gall to live an easy life. However, as far as he could tell, her attitude was anything but. She seemed to regard him as a particularly nice man and as far as he could tell hoped that he would marry an equally nice young woman and generally go on having the world served to him on a platter. "Couldn't happen to a nicer boy," seemed to sum up her attitude, for which he was grateful, though it still left him feeling awkward and without any real notion as to how he should act around her.

But this wasn't what was on Greg's mind today. As he smiled his usual awkward smile and waved his usual awkward wave, staring down at her from a dizzying six-feet-plus, he found himself wondering if she was one of the wee folk, or if he was the giant.

-The Gneech

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Jeeves Think Not

Today's Forgotten English

Headache, nausea, etc. following a drinking carousal. Colloqual.
--Mitford Mathews's A Dictionary of Americanisms, 1956

Figuratively, an unpleasant aftermath or reaction; depression, "blues", clamour, uproar.
--Sir James Murray's New English Dictionary, 1928

Feast Day of St. Armel, a patron of headache sufferers. Gervase Markham's The English Housewife (1616) advised: "For headache you shall take of rose-water, of the juice of chamomile, of woman's milk, and of strong wine vinegar, of each two spoonful; mix them together well upon a chafing-dish of coals, then take a piece of dry rose-cake and steep it therein, and as soon as it hath drunk dup the liquor and is thoroughly hot, take a couple of sound nutmegs grated to power, and strew them upon the rose-cake. Then, breaking it into two parts, bind it on each side upon the temples of the head, and so let the party lie down to rest, and the pain will, in a short space, be taken from him."

Well, I can certainly see how that might -- HUH???

-The Gneech
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Jeeves Think Not

Most Unsuitable, Sir

Well, I have finished Don't Point That Thing At Me, the first of the Charlie Mortdecai thrillers by Kyril Bonfiglioli. (This series, you may recall, was recommended to me by Gary Gygax, upon his learning that I was a Wodehouse fan. Well, when an August Personage recommends something to me, I generally waste no time in checking it out.)

The Wodehouse connection is obvious enough; the cliché that reviewers use about the Mortdecai books, I have discovered, is that they're "one half P.G. Wodehouse, and one half Raymond Chandler." Bonfiglioli makes constant references to Wodehouse, lifting phrases and making entertaining turns-of-phrase with a Wodehousian style. His use of language is certainly well-oiled and entertaining ... but the story, I regret to say, is crap.

Like the disappointing Wake Up, Sir!, this book is lurid, in a way that Wodehouse would spurn like a rabid dog. It's intended to be a caper story, and for the first chapter or so, it seems like a charming little story of larceny, until the protagonist is suddenly gruesomely tortured and things just start going downhill from there. The fact that the plot makes precious little sense doesn't help things, but really it doesn't hurt them that much either.

This is the kind of book that literati are prone to gushing over with phrases like "deliciously wicked" or some such gibberish. Well, it is my considered opinion that genuine wickedness is not delicious at all, and I am sick of people telling me it is.

A veneer of panache doesn't make an annoying creep any less of an annoying creep, and nobody in Don't Point That Thing At Me isn't an annoying creep as far as I can tell. The least annoying of the creeps is Mortdecai's manservant Jock, who's sort of like an amiably loyal dog who keeps accidentally tearing people's throats out. (SPOILER WARNING! Jock, as the only likeable character, naturally gets killed off somewhere near the end. Except that he shows up again in the sequel ... I presume there's some attempt to explain this occurence, although I can't imagine a convincing way to pull it off given how he dies. END SPOILER WARNING)

So anyway, the net result is that the rest of the Charlie Mortdecai library will not be joining my collection, I'm afraid. From what I gather, they don't get any better, just darker and more implausible. The author, Bonfiglioli, was not a happy man, and if the behavior of his putative alter-ego in Don't Point That Thing At Me is a wish-fulfillment fantasy on his part, I'm not surprised that he drank himself to death.

Le sigh!

-The Gneech
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