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Sunday, 22 June 2008


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Completely unrelated to the article linked, but on the subject of great lines: I'm reading a book of stories by an American writer Hortense Calisher. In one of the stories, set in the 40's in NY, a boy of 23 met a girl of 20 (naturally) and they exchange information about their families.
-Does your mother work? ,-asks the boy
-No, she marries

Nice one, Tatyana, and what a lovely, old-fashioned name 'Hortense' is, one hardly comes across it these days.

Oh, she was given that name in 1911, and the family was German-Jewish, so no surprise there.

Yes, I immediately thought that's Edwardian. The name summons up an image of a slim girl in a high-waisted, long, full skirt with a buttoned blouse up to her neck and big sleeves with her hair pinned up.

About as different as you can get from the sights that hit you on the High (Main) Street today!

Well, by the time she was grown enough to wear long dresses and pin her hair up, the fashion was exactly the opposite (and much more elegant, if you ask me.)

Calisher made a very good impression on me, at least in her short stories - I haven't read the novels. I like her tone.

As with the little 'Memsahib', I bow to your superior knowledge on lady's fashion, Tatyana, whilst muttering darkly to myself that I know what I like!

As a treat just for you, a small quote from Calisher's story A Christmas Carillon, as a sampler:

...Grorley's childhood had been what was now commonly referred to as Edwardian - in a house where where servants and food smells kept their distance until needed, and there were no neurotic social concerns about the abundance of either - a house where there was always plush under the buttocks, a multiplicity of tureens and napery at table, lace on the pillow, and above all that general expectancy of creature comfort and spiritual order which novelists now relegated to the days before 1914.


Also thanks for "carillon", a word that very vaguely rang bells in my memory (pun definitely intended!) but I couldn't remember what it meant - the OED, once again, saved me.

Not vituperative but still one of the great lines I wish I'd thought of: in a TV interview Gorbachev was asked how different the world would have been if Khrushchev had been assassinated rather than Kennedy. Gorby thought for a moment and then said, "I don't think Onassis would have married Mrs Khrushchev."

Doubt very much a) Gorbachov said it,
b) if he did, it was he who thought it, c)if he did, it was from a popular joke some KGB functionary relayed to him

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