Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Sweat and Cakes and Ale

Today it is so humid in New York that I swear the subway platforms were slick with sweat. Even on the train, which is supposed to be air conditioned, I actually had sweat rolling down my legs. My legs, Marie! And the crankiness--oh, the crankiness. Not one, not two, but three separate individuals made three separate, noisy complaints about things completely beyond their control: "Why didn't they tell us sooner we were gonna skip stops?" from a man in a hardhat (take that thing off! It's too hot!); "Get outta my way! Geeze!" from a man old enough to know better to a klatch of preteens; and "What the hell's the matter with the AC on this thing?" from me. Summer in the city.

And, for the first installment of the "What's Jen Reading" blog posts, a quote from W. Somerset Maugham's Cakes and Ale:
The wise always use a number of ready-made phrases (at the moment I write "nobody's business" is the most common), popular adjectives (like "divine" or "shy-making"), verbs that you only know the meaning of if you live in the right set (like "dunch"), which give ease and a homely sparkle to small talk and avoid the necessity of thought. The Americans, who are the most efficient people on the earth, have carried this device to such a height of perfection and have invented so wide a range of pithy and hackneyed phrases that they can carry on an amusing and animated conversation without giving a moment's reflection to what they are saying and so leave their minds free to consider the more important matters of big business and fornication.
You're the exception that proves the rule, Marie, to use a pithy little phrase I've never really understood.

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