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.
Featured Book
The Young Wizard's Hexopedia
Search Site
Interactive

Breathing Circle
Music Box Moment
Cautious or Optimistic
King of Hearts of War and Peace
As I Was, As I Am
Perdition Slip
Loves Me? Loves Me Not?
Wacky Birthday Form
Test Your ESP
Chess-Calvino Dictionary
Amalgamural
Is Today the Day?
100 Ways I Failed to Boil Water
"Follow Your Bliss" Compass
"Fortune's Navigator" Compass
Inkblot Oracle
Luck Transfer Certificate
Eternal Life Coupon
Honorary Italian Grandmother E-card
Simple Answers

Collections

A Fine Line Between...
A Rose is a ...
Always Remember
Ampersands
Annotated Ellipses
Apropos of Nothing
Book of Whispers
Call it a Hunch
Colorful Allusions
Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up?
Disguised as a Christmas Tree
Do-Re-Midi
Don't Take This the Wrong Way
Everybody's Doing This Now
Forgotten Wisdom
Glued Snippets
Go Out in a Blaze of Glory
Hindpsych: Erstwhile Conjectures by the Sometime Augur of Yore
How to Believe in Your Elf
I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought
Images Moving Through Time
Indubitably (?)
Inflationary Lyrics
It Bears Repeating
It's Really Happening
Last Dustbunny in the Netherlands
Miscellanies of Mr. Jonathan
Neither Saint- Nor Sophist-Led
No News Is Good News
Non-Circulating Books
Nonsense Dept.
Not Rocket Science
Oldest Tricks in the Book
On One Condition
One Mitten Manager
Only Funny If ...
P I n K S L i P
Peace Symbols to Color
Pfft!
Phosphenes
Precursors
Presumptive Conundrums
Puzzles and Games
Constellations
D-ictionary
Film-ictionary
Letter Grids
Tic Tac Toe Story Generator
Which is Funnier
Restoring the Lost Sense
Rhetorical Answers, Questioned
Rhetorical Questions, Answered!
Semicolon Moons
Semicolon's Dream Journal
Simple Answers
Someone Should Write a Book on ...
Something, Defined
Staring at the Sun
Staring Into the Depths
Strange Dreams
Suddenly, A Shot Rang Out
Telescopic Em Dashes
The 40 Most Meaningful Things
The Ghost In The [Scanning] Machine
The Only Certainty
The Right Word
This May Surprise You
This Terrible Problem That Is the Sea
Two Sides / Same Coin
Uncharted Territories
Unicorns
What's In a Name
Yearbook Weirdness
Yesterday's Weather
Your Ship Will Come In

Archives

June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006

Links

Magic Words
Jonathan Caws-Elwitt
Martha Brockenbrough
Gordon Meyer
Dr. Boli
Serif of Nottingblog
dbqp
Phantasmaphile
Joe Brainard's Pyjamas
Ironic Sans
Brian Sibley's Blog
Neat-o-Rama
Abecedarian personal effects of 'a mad genius'
A Turkish Delight of musings on languages, deflations of metaphysics, vauntings of arcana, and great visual humor.

April 6, 2018 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Vestal Fire by Compton Mackenzie:

***

Thirty years before this Don Luigi had sent in his bill to Christopher with a demand for immediate payment and a threat of legal proceedings. Whereupon Christopher had paid the bill and told Don Luigi that he would never enter his café again as long as the owner of it was alive. This vow nothing would induce him to break. Duncan Maxwell had begged Don Luigi to try the effect of peremptory bills on some of the other residents in the hope that they too would make solemn vows never to darken his doors again.

***

Scudamore’s humour was a mixture of American pawkiness and international pedantry. An elfin ponderousness is the paradox that describes it best.

[New restaurant concept: International House of Pedantry!]

***

He had a beard so long and so thick that he was never upset by the hoops of the little Sirenisi being driven between his legs, for it served as a sort of cow-catcher, and it was generally believed that he used it as a most efficacious mosquito-net. Scudamore had a theory that he had already been dead for some years and that it was only his beard and nails which were still alive, it being a well-known fact that the beard and nails continue to grow long after death.

***

Gigi had once read on a tinned tongue that it was hermetically sealed, and he had spent so much time trying to open that tin that thenceforward /ermeticamente/ became his adverb of extreme degree. For a thing to be hermetically impossible implied something beyond even the omnipotence of the Almighty.

Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest

April 3, 2018 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Bellringer Street, by Robert Richardson:

***

[This line is from a series of disjointed conversational snippets overheard at a crowded party. Most of them are humdrum utterances on political or domestic topics and the like, so this intriguingly emphatic comment stood out for me--as perhaps the author intended!]

"Don't talk to me about people offering to lay a garden path."

***

A man of alarming height, wearing a precariously balanced toupee as conspicuous as melted cheese poured over a cauliflower, stood up and began thanking everyone in sight.

Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest

March 30, 2018 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Four Days' Wonder, by A. A. Milne:

***

They were great theatre-goers, and had missed the last five minutes of the Third Act of every play worth seeing since 1922.

***

Sturge's book was coming out next month, and Fenton had not yet decided what he was going to say about it. It depended upon certain unknown quantities, one of them being, of course, the actual quality of the book.

***

From their very first meeting Derek had had an offensive way of looking at him, and as soon as the kid had had any eyebrows to raise, it had started raising them.

***

[Re. two fictional characters, each of whom preferred to sleep outdoors.]

It would have been convenient, this being so, if they had married each other, but unfortunately they were in different books.

***

"I don't want a paper, I don't want a paper, I don't want a paper," said Mr. Watterson fretfully.

 

[Cf. the Goons, "Six Charlies in Search of an Author":

 

Grytpype-Thynne:

Nonsense, nonsense, you'd fall down without them. You'd fall DOWN without them.

Ned:

You'd fall down without THEM.

Grytpype-Thynne:

YOU'D fall down without them.

(falling about)

Peter:

Take yer choice.

(Ned breaks up)]

 

***

His hair was very short at the back--not at all what you expect of a painter, but perhaps he wasn't a very good painter.

***

[Aunts dept.]

"She has all the virtues. She is a mother to those who want mothers, and an aunt to anybody who likes aunts."

***

Though in these last two years he had become an enthusiastic cricketer, he excelled as a bad player rather than as a good one, doing so with the air of one who preferred it this way, as being more in the literary tradition.

[Isn't there a Stephen Potter subsection about upmanship through playing badly and losing? (If there isn't, there should be.)]

***

Outside the open windows starlings imitated themselves and other birds untiringly.

***

[Douglas Adams Precursing--and One-Upping!--dept.]

"Have you got two towels?"

"One," said Jenny, looking at the towel-horse.

"I'll have another ready for you. I've told Mrs. Bassett over and over again that the secret of a contented life is two towels."

***

Whenever Leslie Brand let fall an epigram, and he seemed unable to let fall anything else, she either trilled or else bubbled with happy laughter.

***

He looked at himself in the Queen Anne mirror, and found that once again it had no alternative to offer him.

***

[Which Is Pithier? dept.]

"But he's absolutely innocent. As innocent as a--"

"New-born babe," prompted Nancy.

"As innocent as a well, as a matter of fact I was going to say a 'babe unborn.' I don't know that there's much in it."

"Babe unborn," said Nancy. "Much better. Sorry."

Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest

March 27, 2018 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From After the Exhibition, by Dolores Gordon-Smith:

***

[This genericized name has so many components, the hyphenation just gives up midway through!]

"The cleaner, Mrs. whatever-it-is the woman's called, from the village."

[Later on, a different character refers to yet another character as "Mrs. Whatever-she-was-called." And note the discrepancies in capitalization and hyphenation: clearly these two Mrs. Whatevers are no relation to each other. (:v>]

[By the way, I was recently reminded that there was a Boston-area 1980s band called Someone and the Somebodies.]

***

[In case it's not clear from the (lack of) context, the line below has the same intent as the one I recently shared from a Clason novel, "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!"]

"Motion pictures, indeed! I'd like to give them motion pictures!"

***

The sofa and armchairs had seen better days. Lots of better days.

Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest

March 23, 2018 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Corpse Diplomatique, by Delano Ames:

***

He was wearing a beret I'd forgotten he had. A copy of a French Communist newspaper was folded beside his saucer and he had bought a packet of Gauloises cigarettes. He gesticulated in a very Latin way as he asked the waiter to bring me a Dubbonet. He looked essentially, unmistakably English. I'd never noticed it before.

***

Mrs Andrioli... bustled in with a kind of well-that's-that air about her.

***

[I love the wealth of meaning and intensity of feeling that the phrase "I mean to say" can have in the mouth of a Brit (and how--Incomplexpletives Dept.--it's not even necessary to specify what one means to say).]

"Not that one's superstitious or any rot of that sort, but... I mean to say!"

***

As the question was not only cryptic but also rhetorical I smiled back vaguely and said nothing.

***

Midday cocktail parties usually take me like this at about five-thirty in the afternoon, especially when I have missed tea. I glanced through a footnote in Hugo's Simplified Grammar and learned that the imperfect of the subjunctive is almost never used in contemporary French conversation; but even this did not cheer me greatly.

***

Dagobert ordered a bottle of Veuve Cliquot, though he does not normally like champagne, and attacked the Anglo-Saxon heresy that champagne ought to be very dry. Like all silly things it should be slightly sweet and, as it is not supposed to chill, it should not be too cold. It ought to go off with a resounding pop, the cork preferably bouncing from the ceiling on to someone else's head. It ought to have a reckless label designed by, say, Raoul Dufy, and the neck of the bottle should be festooned with plenty of gold and silver tinfoil.

***

"It is pointless celebrating when there's something to celebrate. You need to celebrate when there's nothing in particular to get excited about."

Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest

March 20, 2018 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From The Murder of Gonzago, by R. T. Raichev:

***

"It will be some time before Lord Remnant is forgotten."

"Roderick's personality may have been more forcefully colourful than those of the bland and timid masses, but one does tend to forget people the moment they stop coming to dinner, Provost. Certain people one even forgets during dinner. It's most disconcerting. You look across the table and you wonder, who the hell is that?"

***

"Recordings of various amateur theatricals. So tedious. Everybody dressed up as dentists or minor émigré royalty or organic vegetables or Christmas tree decorations."

[N.B. Dressing as the decorations is a nice twist on the "disguised as a Christmas tree" theme, eh?]

***

[Bonus: In the context of a tale about King Midas and the anthropomorphized (female) earth, someone refers to the latter as "Mrs. Earth."]

Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest

March 16, 2018 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Green Shiver, by Clyde B. Clason:

***

She was as lovely as Yang Tai-chen, that celebrated court beauty of the T'ang dynasty.

And as modern as Rockefeller Center.

***

"Mrs. Kroll told Rawley that she had driven over in the station wagon to spend the afternoon with one of her friends, Charlotte somebody-or-other."

***

[Who Needs Context? dept.]

"Auxiliary verbs may make a tremendous difference."

***

From 

from The Good Thief's Guide to Venice, by Chris Ewan:

***

Victoria dabbed her lips with her napkin and backed away from me with a palms-up gesture, like I was a stack of playing cards she'd carefully balanced and was loath to upset.

Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest

March 13, 2018 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Hanging Around Until, by David Hadley:

***

‘Not that way.’ I pointed in the opposite direction. ‘That way.’

‘Why the fuck didn't you say so?’

‘You seemed so happy going that way. We didn't want to disturb you,’ I replied pleasantly. ‘Besides, it's a much nicer walk that way. Don't you think so, Guy?’

‘Oh yes, very nice. I think you get a much better view of the... er... the road... pavement... houses that way.’

‘In fact, if I ever feel the need to go in the exact opposite direction to the one I originally intended, that would be, in fact, the way I would most definitely go.’ I said.

***

I have a vivid recollection of that look on Guy's face. A frown so tight, it seemed as though he was trying to push his eyes around to look inside his brain to find the elusive memory.

***

‘I always mean what I say,’ I said. ‘Even if I can't always say exactly what I mean.’

***

I picked listlessly at the knee of my jeans. My knee poked like a bald head out of the hole; strands of wispy denim material flapped uselessly from the tear. I arranged the strands like a man covering up his bald patch with his remaining hair.

***

‘All right, I'm going. Thanks for the complete lack of help.’

‘Any time,’ Ron said. ‘Whenever you've got a problem, don't hesitate to not come to me.’

***

‘Sometimes it all feels so absurd though,’ I said. ‘I'm too old for teenage angst and too young for a mid-life crisis.’

Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest

March 9, 2018 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Nick Hornby's Funny Girl:

***

She liked the leading man, a French pop singer named Johnny Solo, presumably by his manager rather than by Monsieur and Madame Solo.

***

"Where have I been? Nowhere. You, meanwhile, have been lounging around in your underwear in Wales, while Johnny Foreigner ogles."

"You could have ogled, if you'd come to Wales."

"Who goes all the way to Wales for an ogle? Especially a secondhand ogle."

She didn't want to have a conversation about second-hand ogling, and she certainly didn't want a conversation about Johnny Foreigner.

"What did you do instead, then?"

"Oh, you know," he said airily. "Thinking. Reading. Taking stock."

She wished he'd chosen any three other activities--space exploration, say, and needlework and coal mining. He wasn't a thinker or a reader or a stock-taker.

[....]

"I was actually phoning to ask you out to dinner," he said eventually.

[....]

She shrugged down the phone, but he couldn't see her, so in the end she had to say yes.

Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest

March 6, 2018 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Magic Mirror, by Mickey Friedman:

***

Jack had decided to make much of my being Southern, and I had been "Honeychiled" almost to death.

***

[Incidentally, the "magic mirror" of the title is an art objet that is said to have once belonged to Nostradamus.]

***

From Blood from a Stone, by Dolores Gordon-Smith:

***

"Here we are, Aunt Constance," said Terence Napier. "One doctor, as prescribed, to be taken regularly before lunch."

***

It wasn't, he thought, necessary to pump Mrs. Mountford. She wasn't a pump so much as a tap.

***

"Yes, Mrs. Paxton's sapphires. A big picture it was, with Mrs. Whoever it is--the lady who's got them now, I mean--all dressed up, with them on."

***

[Time-Space Continuum dept.]

The dinner gong wouldn't sound till eight and she had acres of time on her hands.

***

[During a séance]

"You'll have to be rather more precise with your instructions," said Mary Hawker, addressing the spirit of Barita as briskly as if it were on a committee.

***

"Please say you'll forgive me."

"Of course," said Jack, with a reassuring gesture of his beef muffin.

Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest

March 2, 2018 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From She Shall Have Murder, by Delano Ames:

***

[Fictitious Books Mentioned in Actual Books dept.]

It [the book the narrator-protagonist was going to write, but she wrote this one instead] was going to be called "Waking--No Such Matter."

I am sorry about "Waking--No Such Matter." It would have been a significant book.

***

Dagobert's wife.

I ought, I suppose, to go into all that, but to tell the truth I have a headache, and perhaps she won't be necessary to the story. If she should intrude later on I shall describe her fully.

***

"You are very naughty, Jimmy, and Babs is very cross with you." The italics are her own.

***

The dramatic effect of the above break is admittedly phoney. I was interrupted. But on re-reading I decided to let it stand. It makes a kind of chapter, and I like plenty of chapters, so that you can stop reading with a clear conscience and do something useful.

***

[As the protagonist is enlisted by her boss to help him with a crossword clue about Fidelio.]

"Wasn't there someone in the opera," I said, getting interested in the thing in spite of myself, "who dresses herself up as a man?" My memory of the opera was vague; in fact I'd never heard of it.

***

Before dealing with the vagaries of Dagobert's imagination I'd better put down the unvarnished facts. They can be varnished afterwards.

***

It was a lovely evening and I'll not hear a word against it.

***

Then he began the "Prelude in C Sharp Minor" so quietly that you could almost hear the quietness.

***

"Good Lord!" He glanced at his wrist-watch and jumped to his feet. "I'll miss the Mickey Mouse--I hope."

***

[While dining in a restaurant]

We concentrated on something à la Valenciana.

***

And yet to-night as the cold and darkness reclaimed their nocturnal reign over the premises of Number II Mandel Street I was oppressed by the atmosphere. It had never occurred to me before that the office had an atmosphere.

***

"I could get fond of painting," he said, and I realised with horror that he meant it.

Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest

February 27, 2018 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From The Case of the Curious Client, by Christopher Bush:

***

"He said a lot about being knocked down with a feather," Galley said.

***

[Irrelevant Quotations dept.]

"An honest man's the noblest work of God," he quoted, and heaven knows why.

***

"Something about that girl always gets me. Damned if I know why."

I said nothing. To him she might have been a lump in the throat; to me she'd been a pain in the neck.

***

[Fictitious Naughty Stage Comedies dept.!]

He'd first met her when she was in the chorus of Now You're Getting It.... Previous to that she'd been on the road with a company touring in How's Your Father?....

 

[Of course, How's Your Father? was too appealing to stay fictitious forever, and I see that several decades after this novel was written, it became the title of a TV show.]

***

[Both Sides of the Family dept.]

It looked to me as if we were in for the father and mother of all fogs.

Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest

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.

Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest

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.”

Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest

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!"

Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest

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.]

Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest

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?"

Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest

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.

Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest

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."

Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest

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."

***

Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest



Page 2 of 7

> Older Entries...

Original Content Copyright © 2018 by Craig Conley. All rights reserved.