CRAIG CONLEY (Prof. Oddfellow) is recognized by Encarta as “America’s most creative and diligent scholar of letters, words and punctuation.” He has been called a “language fanatic” by Page Six gossip columnist Cindy Adams, a “cult hero” by Publisher’s Weekly, and “a true Renaissance man of the modern era, diving headfirst into comprehensive, open-minded study of realms obscured or merely obscure” by Clint Marsh. An eccentric scholar, Conley’s ideas are often decades ahead of their time. He invented the concept of the “virtual pet” in 1980, fifteen years before the debut of the popular “Tamagotchi” in Japan. His virtual pet, actually a rare flower, still thrives and has reached an incomprehensible size. Conley’s website is OneLetterWords.com.
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A Turkish Delight of musings on languages, deflations of metaphysics, vauntings of arcana, and great visual humor.

Yesterday — February 23, 2018 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Poison Jasmine, by Clyde B. Clason:

***

[Did Prof. Oddfellow go back in time and write this sentence?]

"Some words have so many [associations] that we might almost think of them as magic words."

***

"The first thing I knew was when that West broke into my room to ask some idiotic question about a bathing suit. I'll bathing suit him!" Todd cackled as if he considered the last remark a witticism.

[And a few paragraphs later, after someone has called Todd "Scrooge."]

"Scrooge, eh?" He frowned severely. "I'll Scrooge you, young man!"

[All of which brings to mind the Pythons' pepperpot "Madame Sartre," who as you may recall has a line in that same vein.]

***

[Apparently, members of the What's-Their-Name extended family can show up even in familiar old expressions. Here's one of them understudying Robin Hood!]

"Rambling all around what-you-call-it's barn," Willis answered dryly.

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February 20, 2018 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From various J. K. Bangs works:

***

From Alice in Blunderland:

***

"The Station?" cried Alice. "What Station?"

But before the Hatter could answer, Alice, glancing through the window, caught sight of a very beautiful train standing before the veranda, and in a moment she found herself stepping on board with her friends, while a soft-spoken guard at the door was handing her an engraved card upon a silver salver "Respectfully Inviting Miss Alice to Step Lively There."

***

From Jack and the Check-Book:

***

"H'm!" said the squeaky little voice. "It is rather less than I had thought. However, we can fix that without much trouble. Zeros are cheap. Just add six of them to that balance."

"Do you mean add or affix?" asked Jack.

"Affix is what I should have said," replied the squeaky little voice.

***

From Half-hours with Jimmieboy:

***

So wide awake was he, indeed, that the small bed in which he had passed the night was not broad enough by some ten or twelve feet to accommodate the breadth of his wakefulness

***

From The Worsted Man:

***

[following one of the songs in the piece]

"But what is your scheme, Impatience? You cannot charm us with a song, you know, even if we have joined in the chorus."

***

From A Rebellious Heroine:

***

“I’m not an idiot, my dear Dorothy.”

“You are a heroine, love,” returned Mrs. Willard.

“Perhaps—but I am the kind of heroine who would stop a play five minutes after the curtain had risen on the first act if the remaining four acts depended on her failing to see something that was plain to the veriest dolt in the audience,” Marguerite replied, with spirit.

***

“Miss Andrews,” said Willard, “may I have the pleasure of presenting Count Bonetti?”

The Count’s head nearly collided with his toes in the bow that he made.

“Mr. Willard,” returned Miss Andrews, coldly, ignoring the Count, “feeling as I do that Count Bonetti is merely a bogus Count with acquisitive instincts, brought here, like myself, for literary purposes of which I cannot approve, I must reply to your question that you may not have that pleasure.”

With which remark... Miss Marguerite Andrews swept proudly from the room, ordered her carriage, and went home, thereby utterly ruining the second story of her life that I had undertaken to write.

***

“I am perfectly well aware, Mr. Parker, what we are down for, and I suppose I cannot blame you for your persistence.  Perhaps you don’t know any better; perhaps you do know better, but are willing to give yourself over unreservedly into the hands of another; perhaps you are being forced and cannot help yourself.  It is just possible that you are a professional hero, and feel under obligations to your employer to follow out his wishes to the letter.  However it may be, you have twice essayed to come to the point, and I have twice tried to turn you aside.  Now it is time to speak truthfully.  I admire and like you very much, but I have a will of my own, am nobody’s puppet, and if Stuart Harley [the author of the book within the book] never writes another book in his life, he shall not marry me to a man I do not love; and, frankly, I do not love you.  I do not know if you are aware of the fact, but it is true nevertheless that you are the third fiancé he has tried to thrust upon me since July 3d.”

***

“And that hero—from the Brooklyn dry-goods shop?” I asked, with a smile.

“I’d like to see him so much as—tell her the price of anything,” cried Harley.  “A man like that has no business to live in the same hemisphere with a woman like Marguerite Andrews.  When I threatened her with him I was conversing through a large and elegant though wholly invisible hat.”

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February 16, 2018 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Off the Record, by Dolores Gordon-Smith:

***

[Disillusionment, mixed-metaphor style.]

She'd been trampled by those feet of clay.

***

[Men's Furnishings and Benedicta dept.]

"Bless his cotton socks."

***

[Larvae's Furnishings dept.]

"Then, along comes Bryce, who thinks she's the caterpillar's boots."

***

The shout of "Murder!" was taken up, carried down the street and suddenly a ring of densely packed people gathered round the steps.... Errand-boys, a postman, respectably dressed clerks, all the servants from the other flats, newspaper sellers, fashionable women, men in flat caps, men in greasy overalls, women in aprons with their hair in nets, dozens of children and innumerable barking dogs. Two taxis squealed to a halt and what seemed to be scores of top-hatted, exquisitely dressed young men leapt out, and took up, in penetrating, high-pitched voices, the cry of, "Murder! I say, murder!"

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February 13, 2018 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Murder, Maestro, Please, by Delano Ames:

***

"Was our tandem a Speedster, a Roadster, or a Sportster? It has to go on a form, and since the form is in quintuplicate it's essential to get it right."

***

The mayor got on to the platform to express our gratitude in a few well-chosen words. While he was choosing them everyone filed out.

***

[Honest Answers to Cheeky Questions dept.]

I asked curiously: "Is it lots of fun, Mr Kitson, pretending to be an eccentric genius?"

He opened one bleary eye and studied me. "Yes," he said.

***

Dagobert... knew of a celebrated hostelry in the neighbourhood where the chef was an old pupil of Escoffier. His Perdreau aux morilles and Fricandeau de mousserons were famous, and Dagobert was interested in tasting such locally renowned wines as Clos Saint-Crescent and Château de Leverette. Though he was probably making up these names, he talked himself up to such a pitch of enthusiasm about them that he invited us all to dinner.

***

[By the way, this book--first published in 1952--features a fictional character whose surname is Gordon-Smith. Meanwhile, one of the novels waiting in my to-read stack is by a different author--not born until 1958-whose surname is Gordon-Smith. It does not appear to be a pseudonym and--though one cannot entirely rule out the possibility that a Gordon-Smith senior was a buddy of Delano Ames and the inspiration for his character's name--I have no particular reason to suspect anything other than sheer coincidence at work here.]

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February 9, 2018 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From The Iron Clew, by Alice Tilton:

***

"Mr. Witherall, in my candied opinion..."

[This character says "candied opinion" repeatedly, as does her niece (because there's always a niece! in fact, in this installment there are two nieces, of two separate families).]

***

[Lord Emsworth dept.]

His pince-nez, apparently sharing his astonishment, bounced from his nose.

***

[Hydbridized Jack Horner and Jack-in-the-Box dept.]

The figure of a woman appeared suddenly in the vicinity of his front door--rather, Leonidas thought, as if she'd sprung up through the lawn from some subterranean Jack Horner pie--and started hurrying down his flagstone path.

***

His cheeks and ears began to burn at the thought of what a clambake, fish fry and general field day his discovery would provide for the neighbors.

***

"Unless I'm so late that Inga's soufflé has fallen by the wayside, I shall have an excellent dinner."

***

At the drop of a hat, he had intoned to them a sententious poem whose pièce de résistance was a couplet about truth having no exceptions.

It was almost a relief to find himself wondering, parenthetically and quite irrelevantly, what in the world had rhymed with "exceptions." Or, for that matter, what had rhymed with "truth."

***

"Somehow I always thought of him as a pillar of--hm. I don't know that I ever went so far as to qualify the type of pillar, but I definitely placed him in the pillar group."

***

They hadn't seen him yet, but they would as soon as they finished brushing the snow from their shoulders. Yeoville and Emily [btw, their surname is Pushing] always saw everyone, everywhere. They made a point of it. Seeing people they knew was virtually their life work.

***

"You hadn't ought to leave any loopholes unturned at all!"

***

[Who Needs Context? dept.]

"You mean that you often drop into caddy houses at midnight after blizzards, just on the off chance of running into someone who's stolen your dinosaur's footprint?"

***

"There was Blinko [a magician], in installments, and sandwiched in between his acts was a group who sang songs in hoop-skirts, and then in wimples, and then in bathing suits--you know."

***

"I appreciate how irritating it must be for you to have all these loose ends--er--waving in the air like so many question marks."

***

[Who Needs Context? dept.]

"But look here, it was a dinosaur's footprint!" Liz said. "When did it get to be a bank report? When was it a dinosaur's footprint last?"

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February 6, 2018 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Murder Gone Minoan, by Clyde B. Clason:

***

[PROFESSOR] NIELSEN: There is weighty evidence for believing that Knossos, the principal seat of Minoan civilization, fell circa 1400 B.C.

INVESTIGATOR BROWN: Then they're all dead?

NIELSEN: I believe so.

INVESTIGATOR BROWN: Then why bother about 'em?

NIELSEN: I have sometimes asked myself the same question.

***

"Why did you have the doodad carved on the panels of your, what-you-may-call-it?"

[That's the most *polite* whatchamacallit I've ever encountered. But I wonder if it is, in fact, an etymological ancestor of the latter.]

***

"Stay where you are!" Glendon shouted with wholehearted gusto. "Drop that grip! Put up your hands!"

The obedience average to the three commands was .000.

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February 2, 2018 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From The Hollow Chest, by Alice Tilton:

***

Leonidas had learned that the simplest method of quelling excessive curiosity was a full and tedious explanation. [And so have I (:v>! Because I think most people who pepper one with random nosey questions aren't actually interested in listening to answers--their kick comes from asking the questions.]

***

[Wodehousian Telegram Business dept.]

Instead of sending him thirty-odd identical messages, he thought, Mrs. Clemson Vandercook might well have presented him with one full and explicit telegram that contained a few enlightening details.

***

[Remember this, from Cold Steal?]

"East Dalton, West Dalton, North Dalton, South Dalton, Dalton Hills, Dalton Farms,  Dalton Centre,  Dalton Village,  Dalton Falls,  Dalton Upper Falls,  Dalton Lower Falls,  Daltondale, Daltonville,  Daltonham, Dalton Landing,  Daltonwood--"

[Well, there's another roster in the present book, which introduces Dalton Highlands and Dalton Greens!]

***

"Oh, so this is the right corner! I thought it was Eighth and Oak, but then almost anything seems right if you add it to Oak."

***

"I told her I was supposed to meet her there, after I asked if her name were George, and I suppose that she supposed I was a friend of her uncle's."

"It's too supposey," Lizzie said.

***

It must be Yerkes's niece. It had to be. She was the only niece available.

***

"Er--perhaps you refer to Section Four of the New Amended Code?"

"I suppose that's it. Yes...."

"Then, sir, may I venture to correct, or at least amend, your impression of that law?" Having made up the New Amended Code on the spur of the moment, Leonidas felt quite competent to amend and correct it any way he saw fit.

***

[Departments department]

"The Department," Leonidas murmured wearily, "of Complete and Utter Futility!"

***

[Just last week, I happened to recall the "six-day bicycle race" gag in ~1920s-1940s literature, and I was startled to realize I had yet to encounter it in the Tilton books. A couple of days later... Voilà!]

And the ensuing walk with the general had been as exhausting as any six-day bicycle race.

***

[As discussed, Leonidas frequently says "M'yes," But this was a new one on me...]

"M'yes, and no."

***

"Cripps has a high, thin voice, rather like a knitting needle."

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January 30, 2018 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Cold Steal, by Alice Tilton:

***

But that habit of hovering was one of the things which Leonidas did not like about young Mr. Dow. He could find no fault with the actual quality of the hovering. It was deft and amiable and ingratiating. Mr. Dow was not a one to push. What troubled Leonidas was so much hovering.

***

"The Street Cleaning Department is mother's pet topic, next to what does she pay taxes for, anyway, she'd like to know, if."

***

"The House Moderne has gone to her head."

***

"When I was a puling infant, I remember seeing Swiss Chard scurrying in Medora's background, making lists and doing things up in brown paper packages. She's kept the brown paper industry booming."

***

The back-door chimes sounded, and at the same time... the front door.

"What do you do in a case like this?" Leonidas asked. "When you're alone, which do you answer first?"

"The nearest, unless the phone starts to ring, too, and then I ignore all of them."

***

[Spurious Quotations dept.]

He had held generations of boys at Meredith's in check by quoting just such hastily invented lines at them. There was something about a quotation from Shakespeare, even spur-of-the-minute Shakespeare, that seemed to stop people in their tracks.

***

[Bertie Wooster Couldn't Have Said It Better dept.]

"I am not," Leonidas continued swiftly, "experienced in the art of aunt-hunting, but I question your methods. If I had lost an aunt, and if I thought she might be in a given house, I should unhesitatingly ring doorbells and make polite and pointed inquiries. I should not lurk on snow-bound terraces, sneaking--"

"Who sneaked?" the girl demanded.

Leonidas took from his pocket the barber-pole lipstick....

"From this," Leonidas said, "I can only conclude that you have done considerable sneaking over a period of time."

***

"Tell me, how many varieties of Dalton are there?"

"Fifteen," Leonidas said.

"Seventeen," Cassie corrected him. "East Dalton, West Dalton, North Dalton, South Dalton, Dalton Hills,  Dalton Farms,  Dalton Centre [note the pretentious spelling!],  Dalton Village,  Dalton Falls,  Dalton Upper Falls,  Dalton [you guessed it] Lower Falls,  Daltondale, Daltonville,  Daltonham,  Dalton Landing,  Daltonwood--how many is that?"

"Enough," Leonidas said. "Do I gather that you got to the wrong Dalton, Miss Horn?"

"I got to more wrong  Daltons that [sic] I would have believed possible."

***

"Not, as my esteemed mother says, not on your tintype! No, sir!"

***

"The Blodgetts built it. He was a caterer, you know, and I always felt he let one of his pastry cooks design the house on his day off."

[...]

Cassie had erred on the side of restraint in describing Medora Winthrop's house. You could not attribute an edifice like that to one poor pastry cook. Flocks of pastry cooks must have made Blodgett's house their life work.

***

I've never felt so Columbus-and-the-eggy in my life," Cassie said.

***

"I've never in all my life been as utterly thwarted as I've been today, Cassie. Just one thwart, as you might say, after another."

***

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January 26, 2018 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Beginning with a Bash, by Alice Tilton:

***

"First Boston dowager I ever saw outside of a 'New Yorker' cartoon." She lowered her voice. "Hat teed high on her head, black velvet band around her neck. And you know without any doubt that the diamond in it is real as hell--"

[I like the idea of realness as being subject to degrees--a little bit real, fairly real, very real, real as hell--rather than being an either/or thing.]

***

"This stranger--can't we name him?"

"X," Dot said promptly. "All strangers are X. It's a law, or something."

***

[Marginalia dept.!]

"On looking through the book, I discovered certain vague pencilled comments in what I think must be North's own handwriting.... The marginalia... concern his thoughts not only on the subject matter of Phineas Twitchett, D.D. [Silly Fictitious Author name dept.], but practically everything else under the sun. I've known several people who had that habit of writing down their thoughts when they read a book, whether or not they concerned the book or its contents, at all."

***

"I recall... the law student who wanted Sullivan on Land Titles, published in 1801. Why 1801, I'm sure I can't imagine."

"Perhaps it was a favorite date of his."

***

"Did this red feather thing have like a red plume, dripping off from one side? Did it?"

"I was gradually working up to that, yes. It was the climax."

[...]

"I could tell that hat blindfolded. I could tell it if you was to put it in your pipe and smoke it."

***

"Grey eyes. That sort of grey-blue that looks at you and it seems like they seen you, but you might as well be a tin pie plate for all she cared."

***

He was calling on every saint he ever heard of, in order.

***

"I trust that the next passageway through which Providence forces me will be a reasonable forty-four. I'm not one of these women who feels she can do with a forty-two, which is the average size of all the passageways to date. I know my own limitations, or should I say unlimitations?"

***

Freddy['s]... snapping black eyes were hidden by a pair of black glasses, and... upper lip was adorned by an afterthought in the shape of a small moustache. He looked, Dot said, like a correspondence school freshman. [I'm not quite sure what she means by that, but I like it!]

***

Freddy surveyed them [underlings with whom he was dissatisfied] and then proceeded to give his vocabulary a thorough airing.

***

P.S. Two plot elements (SPOILERS) that I think are worthy of being noted:

1. When the protagonists, who have been chasing around in a stolen car for a while, are questioned by the police, it turns out that the "stolen" car actually belongs to one of the people driving it. Her companions, who acquired the car before picking her up, didn't realize the car they'd stolen was hers, and she hadn't bothered to mention it.

2. The storyline hinges on an embezzler who was subject to great absentmindedness and therefore had to leave a trail--for himself!--to the bonds he'd stolen and hidden.

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January 23, 2018 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Dreamland, by M. K. Lorens:

***

"Oh, applesauce," I told him. "Look in your other pants."

"These are my other pants, blast you!"

***

From The Death of Corinne, by R. T. Raichev:

***

["It's always nice to be given a choice of insults" dept.]

"Spoilsport," Lady Grylls said somewhat childishly. "Or wet blanket, if you prefer."

***

She was so enraged that her turban shook.

***

From A Temporary Ghost, by Mickey Friedman:

***

It was as slick as a whistle and probably ninety-nine and forty-four one-hundredths percent horse manure.

***

From Howl's Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones:

***

Getting into Mrs. Fairfax's conversation was rather like getting into a skipping rope. You had to choose the exact moment, but once you were in, you were in.

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January 19, 2018 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Perfect Daughter, by Gillian Linscott:

***

He... stared at us from half-shut eyes as if wondering whether we were worth the trouble of getting in focus.

***

From Murder in Writing, by Anna Clarke:

***

[Venn Psychology dept.]

A and B and C talk about D and E. But when only A and B are present, then they talk about C, who in turn talks with F, and so on in an infinite number of combinations and permutations.

Like mathematical sets, overlapping each other in places, and in other places standing on their own, as the innermost heart of the human creature stands alone.

The geometry of human relationships.

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January 16, 2018 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Murder at the New York World's Fair, by Freeman Dana:

[This mystery--by Phoebe Atwood Taylor, aka Alice Tilton, writing under yet another name--has the distinction of being sealed into a time capsule with other 1939 World's Fair materials.]

***

[From the introduction to the 1987 reprint edition, by Dilys Winn. I gather that the book had long been out of print when it was reissued.]

Surely, under whichever pseudonym, Mrs. Taylor is the mystery equivalent to Buster Keaton.  And never more so than here, where she surrounds her patrician Boston grande dame with fan dancers, licentious potentates... officious dignitaries, demented relatives, spurious artwork, window-shades in private train compartments, tour guide disguises, marching bands, traveling salesmen, a suitcase stuffed with a snake, fairground jitneys, fairground VIP limos, private eyes tailing the wrong people, wallpaper samples, and a newspaperman sidekick who hero worships our heroine's nephew.

***

[More from Winn's introduction.]

I am truly addicted to the 8 titles that appeared under the nom de nonsense Alice Tilton. Closer in feeling to World's Fair [than Atwood's other main series], these books don't make all that much sense, but they go a long way in proving that making sense is immaterial....

***

What she had just seen in the corridor had bewildered her to a point of forgetting everything, even her far-seeing glasses.

***

"To be any good," Sam explained, "a fair has to have a theme. This fair's got two themes, so it'll be twice as good."

***

"Isn't that the building that has that--oh, you know. That thing. You know what I mean!"

She was, she felt, on perfectly safe ground. Every building at the Fair was sure to have something as a feature attraction.

***

"After yesterday," Sam went on, "I could pick Glue's face out of a million. Why, I dreamed about his eyebrows last night!"

***

She would have preferred almost anyone... to Elfrida in a militant mood. And Elfrida was militant. Daisy knew that by the way the feathers bobbed back and forth on that awful blue hat.

***

"Oh, you do, do you?" the plainclothesman said. "You do, huh?"

His irony sailed over the feathers on the blue hat.

***

[Literally Giving Someone a Penny for Her Thoughts dept. (Did people really do that?)]

Sam pressed a penny into Daisy's hand.

"I wasn't thinking much," Daisy said.

***

[From a letter Taylor wrote to the book's original publisher, Bennet Cerf, as reproduced in the reprint edition's afterword. As part of her extensive research, Taylor had visited the fair site while it was still under construction.]

"You've no idea how many [novel-plotting] obstacles an incomplete Fair can make."

[From the same letter.]

"After all, the bare outline of a mystery plot is simply, X gets killed; dither; Y gets killed: less dither. [Note the introduction of a colon after two semicolons.] A catches B."

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January 12, 2018 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

Sebastian Faulks's Jeeves and the Wedding Bells:

***

"Sir Henry was deterred by the Latin name, which he described as 'fancy nonsense.'"

***

There are times to take offence, but this was not one of them. I left my high horse unmounted--though tethered pretty close.

***

From John Cleese's memoir:

***

'When the powers that be persisted in refusing to roll [a film editor's] name at the end of The 1948 Show, we gave him a credit nevertheless, but for "Choreographing the underwater chariot race." This went through unchallenged.'

***

'But we raced ahead.... confident that from a score of decent three-minute sketches (or scenes) we could construct a hundred-minute film, and so displaying an optimism similar to that of two youths who, having put up a garden shed, now decide to build a cathedral.'

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January 9, 2018 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Rookery Nook, by Ben Travers:

***

MRS. LEVERETT:

I am a working wife and mother, and there at home waiting for me is my five children and cetera, not to mention my husband and what not.

GERALD:

Oh, you've got five children and a what-not...

***

MRS. LEVERETT:

I may as well show you the house and quit.

GERALD:

Where's the quit?

MRS. LEVERETT:

Quit. Go. I'll go.

GERALD:

Oh, go. You'll go. Good! Yes, thanks very much. I see. Quit--I thought you meant the quit was some sort of--well, I mean, quit--it might be anything.

***

From Thark, by Ben Travers:

***

KITTY:

Ronny, I’m terribly upset.

RONNY:

I know—I’m always upsetting someone or something. I upset a basin this morning. That’s a terrible thing to do. Nothing’s worse than a basin when it’s upset. It either breaks into small pieces, or else it runs round the room on the bias.

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January 5, 2018 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Allingham's Tether's End:
***

"A Super is paid to keep his feet on the carpet, his seat on his chair and his head should be a box marked 'Members Only.'"

***

He had a large friendly face and practically no top to his head, so that the peaked cap which lay by his elbow suggested the lid of a mustard pot.

***

From Allingham's Pearls Before Swine:

***

"He had a way not so much of smiling as of hinting that he was about to smile which lent his face a pleasant uncertainty."

***

"You always felt she was just about to be terribly witty and yet she never was."

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January 2, 2018 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Margery Allingham's Police at the Funeral:

***

He was a large lugubrious individual, whose pale waste of a face was relieved by an immense pair of black moustaches. He was in shirtsleeves, a fact which seemed to dismay him when he perceived the girl.

"Lumme, I thought you was alone," he remarked. He turned to the visitor with a ghost of a smile. "You'll excuse me, miss, being in negligée, as it were."

"Nonsense," said Mr. Campion, "You've got your moustache."

***

[British names dept. "Foon" is a dog.]

"Foon," he said. "Written 'Featherstonehaugh.'"

***

[Intentionally Mixed Metaphors Dept.]

"And after all, you don't want me turning up with the family skeleton in my beak, wagging my tail and shouting miaow, as it were."

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December 29, 2017 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Margery Allingham's Sweet Danger:

***

"Do you like American food? Scatty and I fixed her up an electric waffle iron. It works all right, but it's a bit big--the blacksmith made the actual grill--and you get waffles about a foot across. But I think that's all the better."

***

"Who is Mr. Glencannon?"

"One of the prime busybodies of the world.... He's an old boy of independent means who spends his life writing to the newspapers. He must spend half his day reading them and the other half writing to them."

***

[These two gems are in the mouth of a French hotelier...]

"... declared his room had been ransacked--how do you say?--rendered to bubble and squeak."

"If they are not, then my reputation, the reputation of my so beautiful hotel for courtesy, intelligence, and, as you would say, 'wise guyishness,' will be done, gone, exploded--pouf!--like a carnival balloon."

***

Cowardice, and the letting down of friends, were the two cardinal sins in Mr. Randall's calendar.

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December 26, 2017 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Margery Allingham's Death of a Ghost:

***

"I've told him that I'll outlive him if I have to die to do it."

***

"He reminds me of my good grandmother: so covered with frills and furbelows that there's no telling where they leave off. As a child I wondered if they ever did, or if she was just purple bombazine all the way through."

***

From Margery Allingham's Dancers in Mourning:

***

They stayed to watch the curtain rise again on the Alexandra Palace scene, with the chorus in high boots and roller skates assisting Rosamund Bream and Dennis Fuller to enact a travestied version of the now famous "Leg-o'-Mutton Escapade" from Uncle William's memoirs.

During the garter business, that piece of inverted humour amusing to the audience only because it was funny to them that their fathers should have considered it funny, Sutane touched Campion's sleeve and they went backstage.

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December 22, 2017 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

Fom Slightly Abridged, by Ellen Pall:

***

It would be a disappointment to [Regency romance author] Angelica Kestrel-Haven fans to learn that A K-H had thrown in the tea towel.

***

Juliet sighed deeply, her breath forming an amoeba-shaped cloud of mist on the chilly glass.

***

[Ten Percent Less Foul-Mouthed dept.]

"But do my neighbors give a shit--excuse me--do they care a rat's ass if the Candlewick goes belly-up?"

***

Mrs. Lunceford was, if Juliet had to classify her, a fussbudget.

***

He was a blue-eyed, handsome man whose modest height and proportions ought to have condemned him to a life of being described as dapper.

***

"We laughed all night!" he'd recall, and a tear would actually form at the corner of his eye, as if of condensed amusement.

***

"She was very--very come-hither, don't you think? [...] Just don't forget, her hither is my yon. I've got dibs. I'm hitherto."

He bent down and kissed her forehead. "And henceforward," he said, straightening. "And hereunto."

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December 19, 2017 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From File for Record, by Alice Tilton:

***

It seemed reasonable to assume that the woman in the tartan slacks would hardly bother to waste the time to knock out a perfect stranger, particularly if she really were in a hurry to frost a cake. And she looked, Leonidas felt, like the sort of woman who well might have a cake to frost.

***

"Never," he said to himself as he picked up his bath towel, "a dull or stodgy moment!"

***

"Don't you see, I wasn't serious? I know nothing about accounts! I only mentioned them because I had to mention something! If I'd thought of cauliflower, I'd have mentioned cauliflower."

***

"I know his face, but I can't place his head. I guess if I seen him, it was with a hat on."

***

"I don't know what impelled me to jump over your hedge--"

"Everybody does," Leonidas interposed. "The grocer boy, his successor, the grocer girl--everyone goes just so far down the driveway, and then some gremlin whispers in their ear and tells them to jump over Mr. Witherall's hedge. I replace those corner privet plants every other year. There's a gap there now named 'Jesse's Gap,' after my vegetable woman."

***

"Henry S. C. Compton," Leonidas said, "is the sort of man who would have held his finger in the dike even if something far handier had been available."

***

"I have a problem of his to solve," Leonidas said. "I faithfully promised I'd attend to it tonight, and thus far I've had no chance even to think of it. I rather feel that if he saw me sitting here among these bickering merrymakers, hugging a papier-mâché lion, he might just possibly get the impression that I was letting him down badly."

***

"Be as ungrammatical as you please, but tell me!"

[...]

"My story is a then-I-went-er," Dave said.

***

Even in a drab gray denim coverall, well splashed with oil, she was one of the most beautiful creatures he ever remembered having seen. Lieutenant Haseltine himself had never met up with anyone quite so ravishing. Not even on the radio.

***

"It began to occur to me that either everyone in the world had turned into a fellow in a turtleneck sweater, or else I was seeing an awful lot of that one lad."

***

"I needed someone to fawn over me and call me mademoiselle at that point."

***

"Oh, perhaps," Suzanne interrupted impatiently, "someone was going somewhere where someone didn't want to be bothered with lugging a briefcase. Or a ledger. I don't like to carp at you boys, but all this perhaps-ing and someone-sing is getting me down!"

***

"We haven't anything to confront him with! We can't confront him with no dog!" [I.e., the suspicious absence of a dog.]

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