What do the philosopher-historian Herodotus and Zippy the Pinhead have in common?

Here I am yet again on a Sunday morning in the summer, sitting inside in the air conditioning and wishing I could open the windows instead.  And it’s not because it’s so hot where I am that I can’t:  but it’s so humid that the moisture in the air makes it seem hotter than it actually is, and so I sit here, thinking about doing a free-style post just for enjoyment’s sake, and wanting to open the windows so that I can hear the sounds of pleasure and excitement drifting up from the sidewalks below where people are passing in their Sunday-funday haze.

Don’t get me wrong, the sun is shining, and the birds are chirping, and there’s no rain in the immediate forecast.  But the air conditioning goes on, relentless fake atmosphere blowing down in my face from the air vents above.  Still, I have decided to go ahead and follow Herodotus’s implicit advice in his remark from Histories, bk. II, ch. 173:  “If a man insisted always on being serious, and never allowed himself a bit of fun and relaxation, he would go mad or become unstable without knowing it.”  Though you may already think I’m unstable without knowing it, because I don’t know it, it’s not a problem.  So, this post is just for fun and games, no serious endeavors intended.  Now that I’ve declared my purpose, however, I’m left with my guests on my hands (you, my audience) and no precise plan of action for how to forge ahead on this fun-expedition.

It’s true, I’ve been slacking off for quite some time now, when I used to post almost every other day.  But just now, I’m engaged in following the somewhat slow and sedate pace of Mrs. Gaskell’s The Cranford Chronicles and am at the section where Miss Matty goes over all the old family letters she’s been saving, and burns them so that no one will desecrate the memories contained in them by reading them when she’s gone.  Frankly, she might as well not have bothered:  the subjects of the letters are tame, and even the narrator reading with her (who is an unnamed friend) clearly finds them so.  It’s rather like Andy Warhol’s eight hour movie about sleeping for eight hours:  I don’t understand why we have actually to experience the reality in order to know that the letters are such as only an old maid in a backward English village would think it necessary to burn.  But having declared my purpose of becoming better educated and covering one if not two of Mrs. Gaskell’s gargantuan novels (at this rate, I don’t know if I’ll ever get through Wives and Daughters as well), I’m committed to my purpose.  I will finish at least this book about Cranford.

“So where’s the fun?” I hear you ask.  “All you’re doing is complaining about the air conditioning and Mrs. Gaskell, and dragging in Andy Warhol to make the whole a little more titillating.  We demand to know, where’s the fun?”  I can see that just as Mrs. Gaskell and Dickens and other writers of the nineteenth century had audiences who expected good value for their money in the way of long, often prosy, and (let me say it again) long narratives which wouldn’t too much offend their Victorian sensibilities (or would at least mitigate the minor scandals contained in their pages by carefully calculated build-up to the surprises and an adequate degree of moralizing in some trusted character’s voice or other), so my own long-suffering audience is wondering where all this is leading, and asking how it can be to fun, since it’s not usually considered fun just to listen to a blogger complain about something he or she finds annoying.  Unless, of course, he or she is a sterling performer, a regular stand-up comedian, which at this precise moment at least I am not.

Let’s just say that I wanted to reach out this morning to my readers without any precise purpose in mind, just to touch base, to let you know I’m still here (which probably won’t thrill everyone equally, but hell, we all have some disappointments in life), and to play little trills and pseudo-musical tricks with my writer’s voice, and to pass off the whole possibly unnerving experience by quoting Herodotus and calling it “fun.”  And now, it’s your turn:  I’ve just quoted Herodotus in his august and seriously-intended and solemn tones of advice, and you can retort with however much irony you see fit in the manner of Bill Griffith’s 1979 comic strip Zippy the Pinhead, “Are we having fun yet?”  I don’t know if you’re having fun or not, but as it’s a free-style post day, feel equally free to retaliate in kind with your own jokes, complaints about the weather, tales of boring reads, or whatever turns you on (as long as you don’t offend my too recently Victorian sensibilities by sneering at my attempts to read Mrs. Gaskell–I will become better educated, I will, I will!).   Enjoy your summer weekend, too–we don’t have many more of them left!  Shadowoperator


Filed under A prose flourish, Other than literary days....

7 responses to “What do the philosopher-historian Herodotus and Zippy the Pinhead have in common?

  1. I commend you for taking on such a task as the one you describe. But my imagination soars regarding those letters. Surely there is something amiss. What is she hiding? Was there a lover scorned? A family member forced out or to live in the proverbial attic? Surely there has to be something of interest! In any event it’s nice to see you venture forth and have a bit of “fun.” May I recommend you leave the air conditioned unit and join your fellow weekenders passing below your window? Sometimes the body has to follow the mind that wonders. As for me, I am also in dreadful air conditioning, pondering dinner even at this early hour, wondering if I should publish an article for the Amazon Kindle. I know, but still. If I don’t publish something periodically I get testy! And it’s a new challenge, albeit a small one. All the best to you, SO. Enjoy this Sunday no matter how you spend it, doing much or little, for this particular day in all its glory or drudgery, we will never have again.


    • Ah, Kathy, Miss Matty is a timid soul who is appalled by the notion of having her bonnet on askew, but you have just knocked the ball in twice, with a couple of holes-in-one: she hides her feelings constantly, but yes, there was a lover scorned in her past, and her dear brother disgraced himself as a very young man and upon being caned in public by his father, felt he had to go for a sailor as a career. Not never to return, but that’s a story for another time. It’s just the slow pace and the overly genteel humor which don’t quite rollick along to suit me. But you’ll be glad to know that I did step out a little, and broke down and opened the windows, air conditioning shut off. Thanks for your good wishes, and good luck with your Amazon Kindle article. You’re right, this day of opportunity will never come again, so here’s to everyone getting out and having a bit of it. Ta!


  2. Delightful, Victoria. When the world,and your own plans, are too much with you, goofing off and musing is definitely called for. It’s part of the writing process! And you communicated a poignant realism—that air conditioner!—that’s charming, too. Kudos.


    • Thank you, Richard. I have more or less adjusted to Mrs. Gaskell’s pace now, and am finishing up the third book of “The Cranford Chronicles,” “My Lady Ludlow.” Sitting in the air conditioning once again, of course, even at 8:45 a.m., because the heat is atrocious. But having a lark once with free-style composition has helped, and though my body is chained to the chair, so to speak, my mind is a little freer. I know Ohio must be having all sorts of weather phenomena, so I won’t complain anymore to you at least.


  3. There is not enough quoting of the mighty Herodotus on blogs these days…back in the day you couldn’t move for him…and other such misremembered clichés or downright lies. Love your free styling and also the critiquing of Vic Lit. Dickens is whimsical in his prose, never let a chance to write three sentences where one will do, was his motto…maybe.


    • My goodness (oh me, oh my), a free-style post answered with a free-style comment! Keep ’em coming Ste J, I can always do with a little more outrageous asseveration (is that the word?) when my mind is bogged down.


  4. it is a word now…free-styling is the way to go, especially with laundry.


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