Sunday, July 29, 2012

The great white hope

Darn! Missed again!

San Francisco Chronicle writer Jon Carroll has a quirky way of signing off at the end of  each of his columns. He embeds his e-mail address in a pithy literary quote. Here's an example from Carroll's July 3, 2012, installment:
The weight of this sad time we must obey; speak what we feel and not what we ought to say. The oldest hath borne most; we that are young shall never see so much nor live so
Do you recognize the quote? It's from the end of King Lear, which Carroll has long been mining for material. And now it had run out!
Well, that's that. "King Lear," the story of a foolish old man and the terrible price he pays for his folly, is concluded, a sentence at a time with a few omissions, and now we turn somewhere else for our e-mail line at the bottom of the column. But where?
Carroll solicited suggestions from his cherished readers for a new public-domain source of meaty tag-lines. Naturally I hastened to his assistance:
Dear John:

A modest suggestion:

Call me Ishmael – or

and perhaps

No need of profane words, however great the


Cutting up the fresh blubber in small bits, thrust it through the


Does it not bear a faint resemblance to a gigantic fish? even the great

until, finally,

And I only am escaped alone to tell

That could keep you in sign-off lines for a good while, no?

Of course, if you were hankering for something more contemporary, I could – in a self-promotional move – kindly offer my new novel, beginning with

Greetings! We who are about to lose salute

and ending with

“We have a winner,” he murmured to

Unfortunately, debut novels by math professors turned writers are too obscure to give your readers the desired literary frisson, so I stick with my recommendation of the great white whale.

“There she blows! there! there! there!”
Nice, huh? A good suggestion mixed in with a judicious dash of self-promotion. Carroll wrote back:
Nice stuff ...
I was excessively pleased, so imagine my reaction when I read Carroll's next column and saw this at the bottom:
There's Melville, of course, and Lewis Carroll, and more Shakespeare, and nursery rhymes and old-timey proverbs, all of them candidates for the words before the e-mail line, which is
Of course, there was no guarantee that Moby-Dick was uniquely my suggestion, but it didn't matter. However many of us recommended Melville, there he was, leading all the rest. I was most entertained. Alas, it was not to be. Carroll pondered his options during a vacation from column-writing and somehow settled upon the runner-up in his list of candidates. The first column after his return ended thus:
Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having
Oh, no! “We're through the looking glass, people!” (Of course, that's an allusion to Oliver Stone's epic fantasy movie JFK.)

1 comment:

Tualha said...

It's just nepotism.