"What kind of facts?"
"What d'you mean?"
"Known facts; proven facts; indisputable facts; media facts; created facts?"
"Created? I don't understand."
"Of course you do. Facts can be created. The press demonizes, or trivializes, or sensationalises with 'facts'. [...]"
Tesco brushed assorted junk from a chair to allow him to sit down. He settled himself opposite and peered at him through the piles of paperwork on his desk. To one side, a large cardboard box revealed the evil-looking remains of a long-abandoned take-away pizza. -- p.30
"What do you do?"
"Ties: I get given hundreds. [...] Now underpants: that's more difficult. No one presents me with underpants. [...]"
"[...] How does the poem go? 'You cannot hope to bribe or twist, thank God, the British journalist.' "
Ivor did not smile. "You've forgotten. It goes on. 'But seeing what the man will do, unbribed, there's no occasion to.' "
"You should be cautious."
"Can you explain?"
"Sorry, Mark. Classified."
"An intelligence source?"
"You might speculate."
"You're warning me, but not telling me what you're warning me about?"
"I knew you'd understand, Mark. [..]"
"Anything to help," Ivor responded, briefly reflecting that the popular image of Her Majesty's First Minister as a cross between a used doormat and the yawn personified was sometimes quite close to the truth.
From Lemony Snicket, Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Biography
From Fowl Play by Scott Capurro:
From Rumpole for the Defence by John Mortimer:
-- Rumpole and the Confession of Guilt
-- Rumpole and the Dear Departed
"That is not instant coffee we drink, Erskine-Brown. Don't flatter the stuff. It's dishwater lightly flavoured with meat extract."
"Well, a large tin of whatever it is costs no more than £6.50 at the most. There are twenty members of chambers. Henry is getting £40 a week coffee money and making a profit of £33.50. On our coffee!"
"Unbelievable!" I did my best to sound aghast. "There's only one thing that disturbs me."
"What's that, Rumpole?"
"Will they have room for a waxwork of our clerk Henry, between Dr Crippen and Herr Hitler in the Chamber of Horrors at Madame Tussuad's?"
-- Rumpole and the Rotten Apple
From John Mortimer, The Trials of Rumpole:
From Denise Little (Ed.), Twice Upon a Time
-- P. Andrew Miller, One Fairy Tale, Hard-Boiled
-- Leslie What, The Emperor's New (and Improved) Clothes
"She is perfection."
"You don't get out much, do you? She's made out of paper!"
The Tin Soldier would not be swayed. "I have never been against mixed marriages."
"You're very weird," said the Black Goblin.
-- Gary A. Braunbeck, A Leg Up
She looked like a cross between a market researcher and a washer woman, but she had an eerie incandescent glow to her. She wore an old felt hat jammed down tighter over coarse grey curls. Her spectacles, taped clumsily at the bridge, had dropped halfway down her beaky nose. She wore a bag lady raincoat and carried a document case and a clipboard with a messy, almost organic, sheaf of papers sprouting from it.
-- Jacey Bedford, Baron Boscov's Bastard
From Wombat Revenge by Kenneth Cook:
[...] Young Bill was a splendid lean boy with bright, intelligent eyes. He wore only denim shorts and a large frill-necked lizard that perched on his shoulders and hissed at me malevolently.
[...] Young Bill sat silently listening to us, occasionally stroking the lizard on his shoulders. Its frill had gone down now and it looked less like Queen Elizabeth I condemning somebody to the scaffold and more like a mediaeval monk who enjoyed poisoning people.
-- from The Frill-Necked Astronaut
-- from On the Wrong Side
I have often thought that the image of myself, large and flabby, astride a bicycle, with a quokka on my left ear and the quokka's tail in my left hand would have made a splendid photograph. The sort of thing Time magazine would pay a lot for.
I bought myself a drink at the pub and the barman asked me what had happened to my ear. I told him I had bumped into a tree. It would have been pointless trying to tell the truth.
-- from The Killer Quokka
-- from The Buffalo Hunters
"Talking of food," said Tony, "you ever had frogs' legs? They're great. They taste like chicken."
"I'm never sure about French stuff. I mean, they eat horses, don't they? An' that's barbaric, to my mind." [...]
"Me, I like all them exotic things," said Tony. "Snails, they're like whelks." He thought for a moment. "When in garlic."
"I couldn't eat snails," admitted Steve. "I mean, you see 'em in the garden leaving slimy trails, don't you? An' when they're cooked, they look like something you'd find up a horse's nose." [...]
-- From Jumbo Portions, a story by Christopher Fowler in his collection The Bureau of Lost Souls
'My, where in the world did you get this file from?' asked Mrs Norman after she had finished the data which had unscrolled on the screen.
'It was in the box that Mrs Sharpe left for me after her meeting this morning.'
'Show me the lid. Just as I thought. Someone's throwing you in at the deep end. Well, it's all good practice for you. Let me give you a peek into this man's final days.' While Daniel looked on, she began to tap the keyboard faster. Presently she stopped and sat back in her chair, studying the screen.
'Well, well, well,' she said, analysing the codings. 'Goodness dearie me.' Suddenly she switched on a smile like a torchbeam and shone it at him. 'Templeton, R. Thirty-four years old. Divorced - black mark there, for a start. Creative director of an advertising agency, that's another black mark. Got his head chopped off by a lift! Was it a murder or an accident? A very determined suicide, even? No, I think we can safely rule that out.' She pressed a button marked screen down and ran through the rest of the codings.
'A flat in docklands, a house in Norfolk, healthy bank balance. No charity donations, though, even though they're tax deductible. Ah, here's the juicy stuff, number of sexual liaisons in his last year of life ...'
'That's listed, too?' asked Daniel, shocked.
'Of course,' said Mrs Norman, concentrating on the screen. 'Goodness gracious, what a terrible womanizer! Oh well ...' She began to remove the disk from its drive slot.
'Wait, is that it? You've already made your decision? Suppose he really was murdered?'
'Suppose he was?' countered Mrs Norman. 'He led a rotten life. Whoever bumped him off was doing the world a favour. What good was he to anyone? Advertising executive, a flea on the back of mankind. Good riddance.' She threw the file into the rubbish bin.
... Daniel was still staring into the bin as Mrs Norman loaded up the next case history
... "Oh dear, a property developer. Owned a silver Porsche with a car phone. Those facts alone are enough to condemn him to eternal ... thingie"
... 'Wait a minute, what is going on here?' Daniel pushed his chair back and rose to his feet. 'This isn't a branch of the Civil Service, this is ...'
-- From The Bureau of Lost Souls, a story by Christopher Fowler in his collection The Bureau of Lost Souls
From The Absolute Last Chance Diet Book by John Kolness & Tim Halle.
-- - Gut Reactions
Statements like these are the kind of defeatist nonsense the money-grubbing, so-called experts, want the general public to believe. It's nothing but mumbo-jumbo from the dieting quacks out to collect huge fees.
The flab sucking doctors who have hooked up with this astounding weight loss method don't want you to know that there are many different liposuction methods, all messy and dangerous, but some downright easy to do in the comfort of your own home or garage.
In fact, did you know that an imaginative person can take a used Electrolux, and eager boy scout troop, a paint by number set, a few sharp knives, and be joyfully sucking pounds of useless, ugly fat out of holes in their chubby bodies for just pennies an hour?
-- - Liposuction
-- - The Partner Diet
-- - The Rubber Room
From the Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling:
From Elizabeth and her German Garden by Marie Annette Beauchamp
Quotes from a teenage fiction series by John Marsden:
From The Comic Stories by Anton Chekhov (Translated by Harvey Pitcher, pub. Ivan R. Dee, Chicago, 1999):
[...] Back home again, Grisha starts telling Mamma, the walls and his bed about where he has been today and what he has seen. He talks more with his face and hands than with his tongue. He shows them the sun shining brightly and the horses trotting along, the horrible stove and the cook drinking.
That evening he just can't get to sleep. The soldiers with their birch twigs, the big cats, the horses, the piece of glass, the tub of oranges, the bright buttons - all these are rolled into one and press on his brain. He turns from side to side, babbles away and eventually, unable to bear his state of excitement any longer, starts to cry.
[...] "It's probably something he's eaten ..." Mamma decides.
And so Grisha, bursting with impressions of the new life he has just discovered, is given a teaspoonful of castor-oil by his Mamma.
[p. 107-108 -- Grisha / Grisha (1886)]
Note: 'Grisha' is a diminutive of the name 'Grigory'.
[...] The friends caught up with the funeral procession and joined it. The dead man was being borne along slowly, so that before reaching the cemetery they had time to nip into several pubs and knock back a quick one for the good of Babylonov's soul.
At the cemetery a short service of committal was held. Mother-in-law, wife and sister-in-law, following established custom, wept profusely. As the coffin was being lowered into the grave, the wife even shouted: "Stand back -- let me join him!" but did not, probably remembering the pension. [...]
[p. 128-129 -- The Orator / Orator (1886)]
[...] After they had finished with the men, the young ladies got on to love. Then after a long conversation about love one of them stood up and left. The others immediately set about tearing her to pieces. They all agreed she was stupid, unbearable, a sight, and that one of her shoulder-blades stuck out.
[p. 138 -- Notes from the Journal of a Quick-tempered Man / Iz zapisok vspylchivogo cheloveka (1887)]
"It's what the experts demand," sighs Pimfoff.
"Experts? Charlatans, more likely. They only do it to show off, to pull the wool over people's eyes. Or take spelling, for example. If I spell "mediaeval" with 'e' in the middle instead of 'ae', does it really make a blind bit of differences?"
"Now you're going too far, Ilya Martynych, says Pimfoff, offended. "How can you posibly spell 'mediaeval' with 'e' in the middle? This is getting beyond a joke.'
Pimfoff drains his glass, blinks with a hurt expression and starts looking in the other direction.
"Yes, I've even been thrashed over that diphthong!" Yashkin continues. "The teacher called me up to the blackboard one day and dictacted: 'Our beloved teacher is an outstanding paedagogue.' I went and wrote 'paedagogue' with just 'e' at the beginning. Wrong, bend over! A week later he calls me out again and dictates: 'Our beloved teacher is an outstanding paedagogue.' This time I wrote 'ae'. Bend over again! 'But Sir,' I said, 'that's not fair. It was you told us 'ae' was correct!' 'I was mistaken last week,' he says, 'yesterday I was reading an article by a member of the Academy which proves that 'paedagogue' is derived from the Greek paidos and should be spelt 'ai'. I am in agreement with the Academy of Sciences and it is therefore my bounden duty to give you a thrashing.' Which he did. It's the same with my son Vashya. He's always coming home with a thick ear because of that diphthong. If I were Minister of Education, I'd soon stop you people having us on with your diphthongs."
"I bid you good day," sighs Pimfoff, blinking rapidly and putting on his jacket. "When you start attacking education, that really is to much ..."
[p. 146 -- A Man of Ideas / Myslitel (1885)]
Translator's note [p. 215]: "Or take spelling for example." What Yashkin objects to in Russian spelling concerns the redundant letter yat, which was abolished in the spelling reform of 1918. It is translated here into a roughly comparable feature of English spelling.
From Extraordinary Tales by Jorge Luis Borges & Adolfo Bioy Casares:
On waking the Emperor asked after Wei Cheng. He was told that Wei Cheng was not in the palace. The Emperor sent for him, and then kept him busy the whole day through, so that the Minister might not kill the dragon; toward nightfall he proposed they play a game of chess. The game was long drawn out: the Minister grew weary, and fell asleep.
A clap of thunder shook the earth. Two captains presently burst upon the scene: they carried the immense head of a dragon drenched in blood. They threw it at the feet of the Emperor and vociferated: "It fell from the sky."
Wei Cheng, who had meanwhile awakened, gazed at the head in perplexity and observed: "How strange. I was dreaming I killed a dragon like that."
[p. 21, The Death Sentence -- Wu Ch'eng-en]
[p. 58, The Explanation -- Edwin Broster, Addenda to a History of Freethinking, Edinburgh, 1887]
[p. 137, Perils of an Excess of Piety -- Nozhat el Dallas]
[p. 139, Four Reflections -- Franz Kafka, "Reflections on Sin, Pain, Hope and the True Way" (in The Great Wall of China, translated by W. and E. Muir, New York, 1948)]
[p. 144, Aurea Mediocritas -- Tallemant des Réaux, Les Historiettes, XXIX]
From A Minimum of Two by Tim Winton:
I sat by, in the world outside of him.
[From Bay of Angels, p. 91]
From The Admirable Crichton, by J. M. Barrie (University of London Press, 1970):
[...] This room, however, is comparatively small and very soft. There are so many cushions in it that you wonder why, if you are an outsider and don't know that it needs six cushions to make one fair head comfy. The couches themselves are cushions as large as beds, and there is an art of sinking into them and of waiting to be helped out of them. There are several famous paintings on the walls, of which you may say "Jolly thing that," without losing caste as knowing too much: and in cases there are glorious miniatures, but the daughters of the house cannot tell you of whom; "there is a catalogue somewhere."
[Introductory remarks to Act One, p. 11]
Ernest (uneasily jocular, because he is concealing the footstool): "And how are my little friends today?"
Agatha (contriving to reach a settee): "Don't be silly, Ernest. If you want to know how we are, we are dead. Even to think of entertaining the servants is so exhausting."
Catherine (subsiding nearer the door). "Besides which, we have had to decide what frocks to take with us on the yacht, and that is such a mental strain."
Ernest: "You poor over-worked things." (Evidently Agatha is his favourite, for he helps her to put her feet on the settee, while Catherine has to dispose of her own feet). "Rest your weary limbs."
[Act One, p. 13-14]
punkah (n.) portable fan usually of leaf or palmyra; large swinging cloth fan on frame worked by cord or electrically. From Hindi pankha fan, from Sanskrit paksaka (paksa wing). [The Concise Oxford Dictionary, 7th Edition]
From A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 10 - The Slippery Slope by Lemony Snicket (HarperCollins, 2003):
[Chapter 1, p. 21]
[Chapter 2, p. 27]
[Chapter 2, p. 43]
From A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 11 - The Grim Grotto by Lemony Snicket (HarperCollins, 2004):
[Chapter 2, p. 34]
From The Wit and Wisdom of O-sung and Han-um [Korean Folklore and Classics Vol 1]
The Delicious Poison by Lee Myung Soon
O-sung's school teacher was a humbug. He was stingy, greedy, and was so severe in his punishment that his pupils suffered much under him.
This stingy teacher was very fond of dried persimmons, and he always had much difficulty in resisting to buy them whenever pedlars went by. One day during the lesson, he heard a pedlar shouting "Delicious dried persimmons!" He tried to forget it but the pedlar didn't go away and persistently shouted "Delicious dried persimmons" under his window. His mouth watered and at last he lost all self-control. He ran out of the classroom and returned with a big bundle of dried persimmons. Then he eyed his pupils suspiciously and told them that the bundle was nothing other than a violent poison, which he had bought to eradicate all the mice in the neighbourhood.
After a while he was obliged to leave the school for a while on account of some urgent business downtown. So he put the dried persimmons in his closet and solemnly told his pupils to be careful not to have anything to do with the dangerous poison.
When he had left, the boys forgot all about studying and at once became a mass of confusion.
"Oh, that stingy teacher! What does he think we are?"
"Do you think he'd know if we ate just one or two?"
"Of course. I saw him count them in stealth in that corner. When did he ever fail to find out whatever small things are missing?"
"Oh, I'm just dying to taste them. One little bite will do for me."
The boys' mouths overflowed with saliva and they were glancing at each other with the most pathetic expressions.
"Well, boys, why don't you go ahead and eat? Nobody's going to stop you. Let's all have a feast of those dried persimmons and have done with it." O-sung, who had hitherto been silent, addressed the boys in an authoritative voice. All eyes were instantly turned on O-sung with doubt, or with hope. O-sung always had some way to get his comrades out of their severe teacher's punishment.
"Well, go ahead and eat, and leave everything to me."
The boys, who had full faith in O-sung's strategy, heartily feasted themselves and emptied the bundle in no time at all.
When it was about time for the schoolmaster to return, the boys looked at O-sung. He was reading his book with all ease of mind. When the boys reminded him of the teacher's return, he slowly rose up, picked up his teacher's ink-slab [a black stone on which Korean scholars mix dried ink with water], which the owner treasured and took such prudent care of, and smashed it on the floor. His comrades were horrified, but O-sung calmly told them to lie stretched out on the floor and make as if they were dead. The boys could not but obey him. Not a limb stirred. Even their breathing was almost inaudible.
The schoolmaster, approaching his private school, wondered why all the urchins were so silent. Then, stepping into the room, his eyes met the bodies of the boys lying like dead on the floor and his precious ink-slab broken into a hundred pieces. He was so infuriated that at first he could scarcely speak.
"You little devils, what have you all done?" he stuttered, at length. Still the boys were all motionless. The teacher picked up his whip and was about to whirl it recklessly when O-sung rose up and knelt down with bended head.
"Have mercy on us, sir. Your valuable ink-slab was broken by our mistake, and as we knew how you cherished it, we could think of no punishment less than death for our deserving. So we all ate your poison and here we are, waiting for our last," he explained, seemingly with deepest regret.
The schoolmaster now had no other choice than to own the falseness of his saying and forgive the boys. Being ungenerous and stingy, he not only lost his refreshment but also his treasured ink-slab.
From The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge (Lion Hudson, Oxford, England, 2000):
She rested herself against the thought of those beads, just as in a lesser degree she rested herself against the thought of the piece of purple ribbon that was wound around her slender waist beneath the pelisse, the little bunch of violets that was tucked so far away inside the recesses of her grey velvet bonnet that it was scarcely visible, and the grey silk mittens adorning the small hands that were hidden inside the big white muff. For Maria was one of your true aristocrats; the perfection of the hidden things was even more important to her than the outward show. Not that she did not like the outward show. She did.
[Chapter 1, p. 8]
For a moment Maria thought that Sausage was another thing that one must have to attain perfection, but then a delicious smell told her that her cousin had descended suddenly from the spiritual plane to the material, where she guessed that he was really happier and more at home.
[Chapter 2, p. 43]
Wiggins eyed the hare with profound disfavour ... She was slightly larger than he was, and her beauty constituted a challenge to his own that he was not disposed to take lightly. He sat down abruptly and, with his back to the hare, scratched himself. The action was a studied insult, but she seemed not to mind. She was obviously a hare of serene disposition.
[Chapter 4, p. 75]
But now, alas, she had said the wrong thing. Marmaduke's face darkened like a thundercloud, his smile broke abruptly in half, the two ends disappearing into his ear like rabbits bolting into their burrows, his great bushy eyebrows beetled at her, and his eyes shot sparks, and when he spoke his voice ceased to be a squeak and boomed at her like a roll of thunder.
"Does my appearance suggest that of a female lady's maid?" he demanded. "Does any self-respecting male concern himself with ribbons and laces and female rubbish? Allow me to inform you, young mistress, that if there is one thing in this universe for which I have not the slightest partiality it is a female. And my master, the Squire, entertains in his bosom the same sensations of distaste for the daughters of Eve as those that lodge in the breast of his humble retainer. Until you and your lady governess arrived upon the steps of this mansion no female had darkened our doors for twenty years."
This was awful.
"But Miss Heliotrope and I couldn't help being born females," faltered Maria.
"I am unaware that we have blamed you for it," said Marmaduke. "It is my distinct impression that we have received you with our best courtesy and cookery, and made the best of an unfortunate circumstance that admitted of no circumlocution."
"You've both been very kind," faltered Maria.
The ends of Marmaduke's smile suddenly came out of his ears and attached themselves to the corners of his mouth again.
"The circumstances might have borne upon the Squire and myself with more heaviness than has actually been the case," he conceded kindly. "You, Mistress, are of tender years; and femininity, my dear young lady, grows on a female with the passage of time, like all bad habits, and is less objectionable in the early stages. And as for your lady governess, she is a distinct improvement upon that other duenna, who resided here before with the other young mistress, and never stopped asking questions. Through the keyhole I have perceived her to be a woman of great saintliness of character and weakness of digestion, characteristics which, by concentrating a lady's mind upon her own soul and stomach, do not allow her to indulge in that feminine curiousity about the affairs of others which renders her presence so trying to the males whose domocile she shares."
[Chapter 5, p. 87-88]
"No wonder he looks as he does," said Maria, as Robin plied the scrubbing-brush with more zeal than tenderness. "If you were more gentle with him, perhaps he'd smile."
[Chapter 6, p. 97]
[Chapter 7, p. 120]
[Chapter 7, p. 124]
[Chapter 9, p. 166]
From Villa Incognito by Tom Robbins (Bantam, New York, 2003):
As it turned out, the nuptial rite that the fox suggested was the very Shinto ceremony that Miho remembered from her girlhood. Called san san ku do -- "three three nine times" -- it involved the wedding party sitting in a circle while the Shinto priest poured warm sake. A sake cup was then passed thrice around the circle, with each participant taking three sips on each revolution. After the last person had taken his or her ninth sip -- banzai! -- the priest would declare the couple to be husband and wife. Kitsune volunteered to serve as priest.
Under those conditions, needless to say, Tanuki made an enthusiastic bridegroom. It may be equally superfluous to report that neither groom nor priest was satisfied with nine sips of sake. The cup kept going around and around. Around and around. In the end, Miho was positive she was married at least twelve times over, and as for the badger and the fox, they had probably married each other so profusely that every divorce court in the land would have had to work night and day for a year to put them asunder.
Pru sniffed. Pru shrugged. To ascribe osculatory attributes to a season characterized by rot and decay struck her as a textbook example of metaphoric excess.
The mystery of mayonnaise [...] is how egg yolks, vegetable oil, vinegar (wine's angry brother), salt, sugar (earth's primal grin-energy), lemon juice, water, and, naturally, a pinch of the ol' calcium disodium EDTA could be combined in such a way as to produce a condiment so versatile, satisfying, and outright majestic that mustard, ketchup, and their ilk must bow down before it (though, at two bucks a jar, mayonnaise certainly doesn't put on airs) or else slink away in disgrace. Who but the French could have wrought this gastronomic miracle? Mayonnaise is France's gift to the New World's muddled palate, a boon that combines humanity's ancient instinctive craving for the cellular warmth of pure fat with the modern, romantic fondness for complex flavors: mayo (as the lazy call it) may appear mild and prosaic, but behind its creamy veil it fairly seethes with tangy disposition. Cholesterol aside, it projects the luster that we astro-orphans have identified with well-being ever since we fell from the stars.
Okay, maybe that's sailing a ways over the top, yet even its detractors must admit to mayo's sheen. And nowhere, under no condition, does it shine more brightly than when lathered upon an ordinary slice of bread.
"The All-Controlling Agent of Destiny and Change."
"Are you really the All-Controlling Agent of Destiny and Change?"
"Of course not, you ninny. There's no such thing. I'm the Mindless Tosspot of Random Chance. If you detect patterns in my swath, in my wake, that's your prerogative, I guess, but should you base important decisions on those 'patterns', you could be in for a surprise."
[...] the Hanoi-backed Pathet Lao had seized control of most of Laos. On August 23, the Lao People's Revolutionary Party (the merchants of Marxism employ the term "people's" with a veracity every bit as sincere as "vine ripe" and "farm fresh"), declared itself the ruling party of the newly formed Lao People's Democratic Republic. A policy of "accelerated socialism" was embarked upon, and among other vine-ripened reforms, the people's practice of Buddhism was severely curtailed.
"Look at him up there," said Stubblefield, directing Dern's attention to the silhouetted figure who appeared to be dancing alone in empty space out over the canyon. "He's feeding the angels." The Americans were sipping Cristal on the veranda, after a day that the one had spent adding brush to the crude canopy that camouflaged the helicopter, and the other, reading Oscar Wilde.
"Just look at him," Stubblefield went on, as in the distance the solitary figure jumped through a hoop and landed back on the nearly invisible wire. "What you're seeing is the perfection of a conscious act of craziness. What you're seeing is pinpoint focus combined with mad abandon in such a way as to cause the specters of death and the exaltations of life to collide at some kind of crossroads. The sparks that fly from that collision are like little shards of God. If you can hold them in your mind for more than five seconds, you can understand everything that ever was or will ever be."
"Ha-ha. No, I think they planned to fatten them up and eat them. The Lao are notoriously unsentimental when it comes to animals. Anyway, they put the little creatures in a wire cage. A small cage, very cramped. Beside the ringmaster's house. Most people ignored them, and with good reason. They'd pretend to be docile, just cute and cuddly, but then when you got too close, they'd suddenly hiss and lunge and bite a hunk out of you if you weren't careful. Because they were so devious about their viciousness, Stubblefield nicknamed them 'Nixon' and `Kissinger."
[...] He'd paused to read the plaque by the vermilion torn gate, and now he informed Thomas that in 1872 the head priest of Chingo-do temple-the so-called Hall of the Guardians-had dedicated it to a deified animal, a "raccoon dog," that had formerly lived in great numbers on the grounds of Senso ji and that was popularly believed to fend off robbers and prevent fires. [...]
The Americans walked through the torii, paid a nominal fee at the ticket office on their left, passed between two quite large stone lanterns, and approached the shrine. It was in no way remarkable, the shrine, except that just to the right of it there stood two ceramic statues, each of them a funny-looking animal figure up on its hind legs. Four or five feet tall, the figures were painted black, with round white bellies and wide white circles around their decidedly crazed eyes. As the representations were rather mannered and stylized, it didn't dawn on Colonel Thomas what they were supposed to be until Leworc said, "Oh, I get it. These 'raccoon dogs' are the legendary Japanese badgers, the, uh, tanukis I believe they're called."
The shrine to which Lisa had referred was called Yanagi Mori. Oddly enough, it turned out to be located in Akihabara, one of Tokyo's most nondescript districts, known primarily for its discount electronics stores. Surrounded by a red picket fence, Yanagi Mori faces a narrow plebeian street lined with small shops and stalls. Its rear is on the cement banks of the Kanda River, an urbanized trough whose imprisoned green waters course pitifully across Tokyo in much the same way that the Los Angeles River trickles through L.A.: a liquid indictment of the failed imagination of man.
Although the shrine grounds were no larger than, say, the parking lot at a suburban McDonald's, it was filled with Tanuki images in stone, wood, clay, rusty iron, and other media not readily identifiable. Some of the carvings were quite fanciful, and the Americans had to admit the place had a pleasing atmosphere. Certainly it was reverential, but with comic undertones, as if refusing to allow that reverence to puff up into piety.
After they'd wandered among the statues for a while, Thomas pointed to a building on the grounds. "Looks like more tanukis over there."
"No," said Lisa. "That Kitsune shrine. Kitsune not same-o same-o Tanuki. Kitsune is what you call ... fox. In Japan, fox and badger have special powers and people worship, but are not true gods. Kitsune the fox is messenger of gods. He run between worlds. Between other world and this world. Sometime cause trouble, make joke, but he work very hard. Tanuki never work. He for fun. Eat, drink, dance, make sex. Alla time big fun."
From Grendel by John Gardner (Penguin Books, 1971)
[Chapter 4, p. 53]
The image clings to my mind like a growth. I sense some riddle in it.
[Chapter 9, p. 126-127]
[Chapter 11, p. 158]
From The Billiard Table Murders by Glen Baxter (Pan Books, 1990)
"We're looking for a certain party who checked in from New York."
"Ah yes," said the manager. "The East Coast party. One of whom I seem to recall was somewhat tinnish."
"You mean tinnish, as in metal?" interrupted Trubcock.
"Yes, I would say that he was, in fact, almost totally tinnish."
"Are you trying to tell me this guy was a goddam robot?" yelled Mulheardy.
"One doesn't like to reveal too much of the personal habits of one's clientelle. A certain degree of discretion is ..."
"I'd like to remind you this is a homocide case," barked Mulheardy. "Now tell us where they are."
[Chapter 18, The Chase is On, p. 154-155]
From Sheridan's Plays, edited by Cecil Price (Oxford University Press, 1975):
Captain Jack Absolute: Sir, your kindness overpowers me - such generosity makes the gratitude of reason more lively than the sensations even of filial affection.
Sir Anthony Absolute: I am glad you are so sensible of my attention - and you shall be master of a large estate in a few weeks.
Captain Jack Absolute: Let my future life, Sir, speak my gratitude: I cannot express the sense of I have of your munificence -- Yet, Sir, I presume you would not wish me to quit the army?
Sir Anthony Absolute: O, that shall be as your wife decides.
Captain Jack Absolute: My wife, sir!
Sir Anthony Absolute: Aye, aye, settle that between you - settle that between you.
Captain Jack Absolute: A wife Sir, did you say?
Sir Anthony Absolute: Aye, a wife -- why; did I not mention her before?
Captain Jack Absolute: Not a word of her, Sir.
Sir Anthony Absolute: Odd so! -- I mustn't forget her tho'. -- Yes, Jack, the independence I was talking about is by a marriage - the fortune is saddled with a wife - but I suppose that makes no difference.
Captain Jack Absolute: Sir! Sir! -- you amaze me!
Sir Anthony Absolute: Why, what the devil's the matter with the fool? Just now you were all gratitude and duty.
Captain Jack Absolute: I was, Sir, -- you talked to me of independence and a fortune, but not a word of a wife.
Sir Anthony Absolute: Why -- what difference does that make? Odd's life, Sir! If you have the estate, you must take it with the live stock on it, as it stands.
[From The Rivals, Act II, Scene I, Lines 305-335]
Mrs. Malaprop: Sir, you do me infinite honour! -- I beg, Captain, you'll be seated -- (they sit) -- Ah! few gentlemen, now a days, know how to value the ineffectual qualities of a woman! few think how a little knowledge becomes a gentlewoman!
[...] I am sure I have done everything in my power since I exploded the affair [between Malaprop's daughter and an ensign]! long ago I laid my positive conjunctions on her never to think on the fellow again; -- I have since laid Sir Anthony's preposition before her; -- but I'm sorry to say she seems resolved to decline every particle that I enjoin her.
Captain Jack Absolute: It must be very distressing indeed, Ma'am.
Mrs. Malaprop: Oh! it gives me the hydrostatics to such a degree! -- I thought she had persisted in corresponding with him; behold this very day, I have interceded another letter from the fellow! I believe I have it in my pocket. [... She hands the letter to Absolute ...]
Captain Jack Absolute: [Reading the letter out loud] "As for the old weather-beaten she-dragon who guards you," Who can he mean by that?
Mrs. Malaprop: Me, Sir -- me -- he means me there -- what do you think now? -- but go on a little further.
Captain Jack Absolute: Impudent scoundrel! -- "it shall go hard but I will elude her vigilance, as I am told that the same ridiculous vanity, which makes her dress up her coarse features, and deck her dull chat with hard words which she doesn't understand" --
Mrs. Malaprop: There, Sir! an attack upon my language! what do you think of that? -- an aspersion on my parts of speech! was ever such a brute! Sure if I reprehend anything in this world, it is the use of my oracular tongue, and a nice derangement of epitaphs!
[From The Rivals, Act III, Scene III, Lines 5-65]
[From The Rivals, Act III, Scene II, Lines 105-111]
From T. H. White, The Sword in the Stone (NB - the original version; White produced later revisions which removed Madam Mim):
Madame Mim, B.A. (Dom-Daniel)
PIANOFORTEThe cottage had lace curtains. These stirred ever so slightly, for behind them there was a lady peeping. The gore-crow was standing on the chimney.
No Hawkers, Circulars or Income Tax.
Beware of the Dragon.
"Come on," said Kay. "Oh, do come on. I tell you, she'll never give it us back."
At this point the door of the cottage opened suddenly and the witch was revealed standing in the passage. She was a strikingly beautiful woman of about thirty, with coal-black hair so rich that it had the blue-black of the maggot-pies in it, silky bright eyes and a general soft air of butter-wouldn't-melt-in-my-mouth. She was sly.
"How do you do, my dears,"said Madame Mim. "And what can I do for you today?"
The boys took off their leather caps, and Wart said, "Please, there is a crow sitting on your chimney and I think it has stolen one of my arrows."
"Precisely," said Madame Mim. "I have the arrow within."
"Could I have it back, please?"
"Inevitably," said Madame Mim. "The young gentleman shall have his arrow on the very instant, in four ticks and ere the bat squeaks thrice."
"Thank you very much," said the Wart.
From Italo Calvino, Numbers in the Dark and Other Stories (Translated by Tim Parks) (Penguin Classics, 2009, ISBN 9780141189741):
[Numbers in the Dark, p. 79]
I stopped, blinked: I understood nothing. Nothing, nothing about anything: I didn't understand the reasons for things or for people, it was all senseless, absurd. And I started to laugh.
What I found strange at the time was that I'd never realized before. That up until then I had accepted everything: traffic lights, cars, posters, uniforms, monuments, things completely detached from any sense of the world, accepted them as if there were some necessity, some chain of cause and effect that bound them together.
Then the laugh died in my throat, I blushed, ashamed. I waved to get people's attention and "Stop a second!" I shouted, "there's something wrong! Everything's wrong! We're doing the absurdest things! This can't be the right way! Where will it end?"
People stopped around me, sized me up, curious. I stood there in the middle of them, waving my arms, desperate to explain myself, to have them share the flash of insight that had suddenly enlightened me: and I said nothing. I said nothing because the moment I'd raised my arms and opened my mouth, my great revelation had been as it were swallowed up again and the words had come out any old how, on impulse.
"So?" people asked, "what do you mean? Everything's in its place. All is as it should be. Everything is a result of something else. Everything fits in with everything else. We can't see anything absurd or wrong!"
And I stood there, lost, because as I saw it now everything had fallen into place again and everything seemed natural, traffic lights, monuments, uniforms, towerblocks, tramlines, beggars, processions; yet this didn't calm me down, it tormented me.
"I'm sorry," I answered. "Perhaps it was me that was wrong. It seemed that way. But everything's fine. I'm sorry," and I made off amid their angry glares.
Yet, even now, every time (often) that I find I don't understand something, then, instinctively, I'm filled with the hope that perhaps this will be my moment again, perhaps once again I shall understand nothing, I shall grasp that other knowledge, found and lost in an instant.
[The Flash, p. 9-10]
Now, since the only thing that wasn't forbidden was the game tip-cat, the town's subjects used to assemble on meadows behind the town and spend the day there playing tip-cat.
And as the laws forbidding things had been introduced one at a time and always with good reason, no one found any cause for complaint or had any trouble getting used to them.
Years passed. One day the constables saw that there was no longer any reason why everything should be forbidden and they sent messengers to inform their subjects that they could do whatever they wanted.
The messengers went to those places where the subjects were wont to assemble.
"Hear ye, hear ye," they announced, "nothing is forbidden any more."
The people went on playing tip-cat.
"Understand?" the messengers insisted. "You are free to do what you want."
"Good," replied the subjects. "We're playing tip-cat."
The messengers busily reminded them of the many wonderful and useful occupations they had once engaged in and could now engage in once again. But the subjects wouldn't listen and just went on playing, stroke after stroke, without even stopping for a breather.
Seeing that their efforts were in vain, the messengers went to tell the constables.
"Easy," the constables said. "Let's forbid the game of tip-cat."
That was when the people rebelled and killed the lot of them.
Then without wasting time, they got back to playing tip-cat.
[Making Do, p. 11-12]
From Italo Calvino, Italian Folktales - Selected and Retold by Italo Calvino (Translated by George Martin) (Penguin Books, 1981, ISBN 9780140062359):
A woman had a daughter who was big and fat and so gluttonous that when her mother brought the soup to the table she would eat one bowl, then a second, then a third, and keep on calling for more. Her mother filled her bowl, saying, "That makes three! And four! And five!" When the daughter asked for a seventh bowl of soup, her mother, instead of filling the bowl, whacked her over the head, shouting, "And seven!"
A well-dressed young man was passing by just then and saw the mother through the window hitting the girl and crying, "And seven!"
As the big fat young lady captured his fancy immediately, he went in and asked, "Seven of what?"
Ashamed of her daughter's gluttony, the mother replied, "Seven spindles of hemp! I have a daughter so crazy about work that she'd even spin the wool on the sheep's back! Can you imagine that she's already spun seven spindles of hemp this morning and still wants to spin? To make her stop, I have to beat her."
"If she's that hard-working, give her to me," said the young man. "I'll try her out to see if you're telling the truth and then I'll marry her."
He took her to his house and shut her up in a room full of hemp waiting to be spun. "I'm a sea captain, and I'm leaving on a voyage," he said. "If you've spun all this hemp by the time I return, I'll marry you."
The room also contained exquisite clothes and jewels, for the captain happened to be very rich. "When you become my wife," he explained, "these things will all be yours." Then he left her.
The girl spent her days trying on dresses and jewels and admiring herself in the mirror. She also devoted much time to planning meals, which the household servants prepared for her. None of the hemp was spun yet, and in one more day the captain would be back. The girl gave up all hope of ever marrying him and burst into tears. She was still crying when through the window flew a bundle of rags and came to rest on its feet: it was an old woman with long eyelashes. "Don't be afraid," she told the girl. "I've come to help you. I'll spin while you make the skein."
You never saw anyone spin with the speed of that old woman. In just a quarter of an hour she had spun every bit of hemp. And the more she spun, the longer her lashes became; longer than her nose, longer than her chin, they came down more than a foot; and her eyelids also grew much longer.
When the work was finished, the girl said, "How can I repay you, my good lady?"
"I don't want to be repaid. Just invite me to your wedding banquet when you marry the captain."
"How do I go about inviting you?"
"Just call 'Columbina' and I'll come. But heaven help you if you forget my name. It would be as though I'd never helped you, and you'd be undone."
The next day the captain arrived and found the hemp all spun. "Excellent!" he said. "I believe you're just the bride I was seeking. Here are the clothes and jewels I bought for you. But now I have to go on another voyage. Let's have a second test. Here's twice the amount of hemp I gave you before. If you spin it all by the time I return, I'll marry you."
As she had done before, the girl spent her time trying on gowns and jewels, eating soup and lasagna, and got to the last day with all the hemp still waiting to be spun. She was weeping over it when, lo and behold, something dropped down the chimney, and into the room rolled a bundle of rags. It came to rest on its feet, and there stood an old woman with sagging lips. This one too promised to help, began spinning, and worked even faster than the other old woman. The more she spun, the more her lips sagged. When the hemp was all spun in a half-hour, the old woman asked only to be invited to the wedding banquet. "Just call 'Columbara.' But don't forget my name, or my help will have been in vain and you will suffer."
The captain returned and asked before he even got into the house, "Did you spin it all?"
"I just now finished!"
"Take these clothes and jewels. Now, if I come back from my third voyage and find you've spun this third load of hemp, which is much bigger than the other two, I promise we'll get married at once."
As usual, the girl waited until the last day without touching the hemp. Down from the roof's gutter fell a bundle of rags, and out came an old woman with buckteeth. She began spinning, spinning even faster, and the more she spun, the longer grew her teeth.
"To invite me to your wedding banquet," said the old woman, "you must call 'Columbun.' But if you forget my name, it would be better if you'd never seen me."
When the captain came home and found the hemp all spun, he was completely satisfied. "Fine," he said, "now you will be my wife." He ordered preparations made for the wedding, to which he invited all the nobility in town.
Caught up in the preparations, the bride thought no more of the old women. On the morning of the wedding she remembered that she was supposed to invite them, but when she went to pronounce their names, she found they had slipped her mind. She cudgeled her brains but, for the life of her, couldn't recall a single name.
From the cheerful girl she was, she sank into a state of bottomless gloom. The captain noticed it and asked her what the matter was, but she would say nothing. Unable to account for her sadness, the bridegroom thought, This is perhaps not the right day. He therefore postponed the wedding until the day after. But the next day was still worse, and the day following we won't even mention. With every day that passed, the bride became gloomier and quieter, with her brows knit in concentration. He told her jokes and stories in an effort to make her laugh, but nothing he said or did affected her.
Since he couldn't cheer her up, he decided to go hunting and cheer himself up. Right in the heart of the woods he was caught in a storm and took refuge in a hovel. He was in there in the dark, when he heard voices:
"Put on the pot to make polenta! That confounded bride won't be inviting us to her banquet after all!"
The captain wheeled around and saw three crones. One had eyelashes that dragged on the ground, another lips that hung down to her feet, and the third teeth that grazed her knees.
Well, well, he thought to himself. Now I can tell her something that will make her laugh. If she doesn't laugh over what I've just seen, she'll never laugh at anything!
He went home and said to his bride, "Just listen to this. Today I was in the woods and went into a hovel to get out of the rain. I go in and what should I see but three crones: one with eyelashes that dragged on the ground, another with lips that hung down to her feet, and the third with teeth that grazed her knees. And they called each other: 'O Columbina,' 'O Columbara,' 'O Columbun!'"
The bride's face brightened instantly, and she burst out laughing, and laughed and laughed. "Order the wedding banquet right away. But I'm asking one favor of you: since those three crones made me laugh so hard, let me invite them to the banquet."
Invite them she did. For the three old women a separate round table was set up, but so small that what with the eyelashes of one, the lips of the other, and the teeth of the third, you no longer knew what was what.
When dinner was over, the bridegroom asked Columbina, "Tell me, good lady, why are your lashes so long?"
"That's from straining my eyes to spin fine thread!" said Columbina.
"And you, why are your lips so thick?"
"That comes from always rubbing my finger on them to wet the thread!" said Columbara.
"And you, how on earth did your teeth get so long?"
"That's from biting the knot of the thread!" said Columbun.
"I see," said the bridegroom, and he turned to his wife. "Go get the spindle." When she brought it to him, he threw it into the fire. "You'll spin no more for the rest of your life!"
So the big, fat bride lived happily ever after.
(Riviera ligure di ponente)