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“I WISH I HAD said that,” Oscar Wilde remarked. “You will, Oscar, you will,” responded James McNeill Whistler.
I’ve often shared Oscar Wilde’s wish, though the fear of stumbling into outright plagiarism usually stopped me. We can enjoy quoting the clever words of others, with proper citations, of course. Here are a few, some for the first time at SimanaitisSays.
H.L. Mencken was known as the Sage of Baltimore. Alas, some of his writings were racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Anglo-Saxon and elitist. Others were equal-opportunity acerbics aimed at us all. My favorite: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”
Glen Newey writes scholary works in practical philosophy and also articles for the London Review of Books. For example, in “As Useful as a String Condom” in the LRB, he analyzed the role in modern Britain of its Royal Family. I cited his book review of Saint/Sir Thomas More’s Utopia, 1516, in my own “Utopia Revisited” here at SimanaitisSays.
It was Newey’s LRB review, “Utopia in Texas,” that contained the priceless description of Henry VIII as “Donald Trump in a Codpiece.”
Frank Bruni contributes regular Op-Ed pieces to The New York Times. This national newspaper will never fail as long as it publishes wonderful Brunisms such as his April 16, 2017, contrast of political advisors Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner; the latter, you may recall, the president’s son-in-law.
My favorite Bruni line in that article: “Consider Trump’s obsession with appearances, then tell me who has the advantage: the guy who looks like a flea market made flesh or the one who seems poised to pose for G.Q.?”
Andy Borowitz has an amazing way of condensing his satirical news stories into four or five concise, rib-splitting paragraphs.
A recent favorite, from April 8, 2017, is summed up magnificently by its title: “Nation Desperately Hopes Real Reason for Bannon’s Exit Will Not Involve Sex Tape.” Borowitz describes, “The terror inspired by the thought of a Bannon-based sex tape cut across party lines…. When asked how they would react…, an overwhelming majority ‘strongly agreed’ with the statement ‘Please, please, please, God, no.’ ”
Having invoked the deity, I feel not inappropriate in citing Mother of God: A History of the Virgin Mary, by Miri Rubin, discussed in the London Review of Books, April 9, 2009.
Hilary Mantel is author of the Thomas Cromwell trilogy, Wolf Hall, Bring Up the Bodies and a third novel in progress. She is also on the Editorial Board of the London Review of Books, to which she regularly contributes.
Her review of Rubin’s book on Mariology is titled “What Did Her Neighbors Say When Gabriel Had Gone?” Mantel begins with “In my Catholic girlhood she was everywhere, perched up on ledges and in niches like a CCTV camera, with her painted mouth and painted eyes of policeman blue.… Not a woman I liked, on the whole.”
“She could have been a benign second mother, and on your side,” Mantel continues, “but she always seemed to be in cahoots with authority; she knew your every move, and had a low opinion of it.”
“Pray all you like,” Mantel lamented, “you are not going to be both a virgin and a mother; this was a one-off by the deity, a singular chance for sullied female flesh to make itself acceptable to the celibate males who were in charge of whether or not we got to heaven. It always seemed odd and distasteful to hear priests speak reverently of the Virgin Mary, when you knew they despised women or feared them or regarded them as being as strange as talking fish.”
I wish I had said that. Then again, as a guy, I guess I couldn’t have. But I can sure celebrate its saying. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2017