September 20, 2018

"Her dress of sleazy silk was bright burned orange painted with black sail-boats sailing over purple trees and red football players playing over steeples and..."

"... white skiers skiing over sail-boats cascading to the hem and locked acrobats, the entire field of outdoor sports, it seemed, being on her body, for her scarf was painted with spidery tennis players and tennis nets and ice-skaters skating on silver ponds and red polo riders riding red horses, and there were little footballs hanging from her charm bracelets, tennis rackets and ice-skates and golf clubs and numerous other trophies, some of field and stream, satin fishes running around the hem of her chiffon petticoat edged with yellow lace, butterflies embroidered upon the keens of her thin silk stockings…"

From "Miss MacIntosh, My Darling," a 1198-page novel written by Margurite Young, published in 1965, quoted in "The Most Unread Book Ever Acclaimed," a Paris Review essay by Meghan O’Gieblyn, who actually read the whole thing and recommends that anyone hoping to read it should "abandon all hope of destination" and "Accept that the bus is going nowhere." That's not a metaphor. There's actually a bus: "A young woman, Vera Cartwheel, is traveling by bus through southern Indiana, looking out at an endless expanse of gray mist." She's wearing the dress you see described in the sentence partially quoted above.
The description of her dress does not end there. More sports are named. It’s hard not to feel that something has gone wrong; the record is skipping; whoever was manning the controls has stepped out for a cigarette—or a very potent joint. Why must the pattern contain every conceivable sport? Would not three, or four, or a dozen, have been enough? In a similar vein, one might ask why there needs to exist ten thousand types of birds or 350,000 species of beetles....

34 comments:

Achilles said...

“Her dress of sleazy silk...”

Were you doing a google search for something about the current topic of conversation?

What keywords is Althouse using? Certainly dress and silk would help little...

Lucid-ides said...

"Flowery run-on sentences with vivid adjectives are in Marjie. All the hip kids are doing it. Just like this little paper tab. You need to hit this." - Unnamed beat dude at the love-in.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

"Accept that the bus is going nowhere." That's not a metaphor. There's actually a bus

Oh, great. How about a spoiler alert next time!

Darrell said...

So when does Kavanaugh push her down on the bed and press his body against hers?

Darrell said...

There is no "sleazy silk."
It a miracle. Every millimeter.

Lucid-ides said...

So when does Kavanaugh push her down on the bed and press his body against hers?

Chapter 78, page 834, middle of page.....as I recall....but I could be wrong....it's been a long time. Trust me.

(p.s....and not very steamy from what I recall. Lackluster performance)

Laslo Spatula said...

"Her dress of sleazy silk was bright burned orange painted with black sail-boats sailing over purple trees and red football players playing over steeples and..."

Was she wearing a one-piece swimsuit underneath it?

I am Laslo.

rehajm said...

Spanning the dress to bring you the constant variety of sports... the thrill of victory... and the agony of defeat... the human drama of athletic competition...

cfkane1701 said...

This is the book Macon Leary (played by William Hurt) reads on airplanes in the movie The Accidental Tourist. His character is a travel writer for businessmen who hate to travel, and he advises having a book to read on airplanes so that other travelers don't talk to you.

Ann Althouse said...

The word "sleazy" referred to thin, insubstantial things long before it meant "Dilapidated, filthy, slatternly, squalid; sordid, depraved, disreputable, worthless." The latter meaning is traced only to 1941 in the OED:

1941 J. Faulkner Men Working i. 31 Gwendolin..had been hanging on to her dress and peering around her wide sleazy hips.
1941 W. A. Percy Lanterns on Levee x. 111 I was always happening on a Hermaphrodite, in some discreet alcove, and I would examine the sleazy mock~modest little monster.

The older meaning goes back to the 1600s is most closely associated with fabric. It was considered figurative to use it to refer to, say, opinions (to mean insubstantial):

1648 N. Ward To Parl. at Westm. 26 Their vain, and sleasy opinions, about Religion....
1860 R. W. Emerson Power in Conduct of Life (London ed.) 72 You shall not conceal the sleezy, fraudulent, rotten hours you have slipped into the piece.

jwl said...

Learning a lot at Althouse today, I was wondering why author associated silk with being slatternly, it didn't make sense to me when I read.

tcrosse said...

In the British Commonwealth, Silk is the informal name for a Queen's Counsel, an exalted type of attorney.

richlb said...

"Bus to nowhere" reminds me of the video game Penn & Teller made for the Sega Genesis CD. It included a "mini-game" where players drive a simulated bus route from Tucson to Vegas. At 45 MPG. In real time. The road is straight without much scenery, but the bus has a slight pull to the right, meaning players had to constantly adjust the steering to keep from crashing. Complete the route and score one point. Then, if you would like, you can make the return trip.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penn_%26_Teller%27s_Smoke_and_Mirrors#Desert_Bus

Ralph L said...

All that and nothing about her thin silk stockings?

rcocean said...

No plot or story. Just lots of great sentences.

Yep.

rcocean said...

You can see why the 1941 meaning sandblasted the old meaning off the map.

Hard to think of sleezy as "insubstantial"

Richard Dolan said...

Perhaps Ms. Young got her writing skills editing law review footnotes. There's the same compulsion to name them all, and don't ask whether there is any real point to it.

Benjamin J said...

Most locations of Burger King open at 6 a.m., and begin serving breakfast at that time. If it's a 24-hour location
what
time does burger king stop serving breakfast

Expat(ish) said...

I would think there is a fierce contest for the most unread acclaimed book.

For example: the bible

For another: What Happened (Hilary Clinton)

-XC

The Crack Emcee said...

"Accept that the bus is going nowhere."

We'd probably fight less if we all realized this.

FullMoon said...

Must have been a rather large woman

Bad Lieutenant said...

Just goes to show that #MeToo works both ways. Nobody published this to make money or win awards. The effort to admire is not the writing, but all the fellatio she must have performed to get the thing in print!

mikee said...

If you want a book over 1000 pages that goes somewhere, I recommend Rebecca West's "Black Lamb and Gray Falcon," a Balkans travelogue written on the cusp of WW II.

You will find characters to love, to hate, and to travel with.

mandrewa said...

Thank you for the reference to 1941 W. A. Percy Lanterns on Levee.


I didn't know that existed. I've read of all of Walker Percy's books. I didn't know about William Percy. Just reading the Wikipedia entry on William Alexander Percy makes it clear that some of things said in Walker Percy's books are about his family and they are not fiction.

Roughcoat said...

Ken Kesey's famous bus was named "Further" but it too was going nowhere.

rcocean said...

"What Happened (Hilary Clinton)"

Library book sale had two of these in mint condition.

Price? $1 - No takers.

Megaera said...

I think it was GSW Haldane who, when asked what truth we might derive from a close consideration of taxonomy, said he could only conclude that the Almighty seemed to have been inordinately fond of beetles.

Marc said...

Ruth Ford reads chapter 80 of Young's novel here. There is a entire series of recordings of narrations from the novel at that site. Miss Macintosh my darling seems to be out of print, alas.

William said...

Does anyone know of anyone who has actually read Finnegan's Wake. I myself read about two hundred pages of Gravity's Rainbow......I wonder if this will help sales of the book.

Marc said...

"He is alive, and comes to tell me so." While I haven't read the book and am only vaguely listening to the narration of Young's book, this seems to be a very impolitic chapter ("About Esther Longtree, the Infanticide") in present circumstances. Marguerite Young was quite the player in NYC bohemian society, judging by the Wikipedia entry, but perhaps she was an honest liberal. "But because of a child she had killed before her birth...."

Stephen Cooper said...

People think that books are like athletes, some win records, some are in the Hall of Fame, some never made the big leagues.

Other people think books are like wine, any drinkable wine is good, the rest are bad, and some really good wine is worth a fortune.

Saying a book is not worth reading is not really an insult to the author, most authors would rather be good people than good authors. They are happy enough to know that their books were mildly entertaining for people who wanted some mild entertainment in difficult times.

Eventually, all books are in what Stevie Wonder, back in the day, called the "minor key of life". If you care about other people, you enjoy books but do not really rely on them as a guide to understanding the hundred or so people you have been closest to, and certainly no secular book has no important relevance , in and of itself, when someone looks back on long years in their life in which only a few people were close enough to be friends or lovers or spouses, and so on.

Wiliam - I read Finnegans Wake in 2016. I was studying the Irish language at the time, and if you recognize 5 or so Irish words per page the book makes a lot more sense. (I also read a few footnotes per page .. 2 or 3 per page, or so, was enough to get the gist). I liked it a lot better than Ulysses, mostly because the last third of Ulysses includes about a hundred badly written pages and the last third of Finnegans Wake does not. Anyway, about 50 pages or so into Finnegans Wake I figured out what Joyce was trying to do - it is not that complicated: he was describing, in myrida ways, as Johnny Carson used to say, his own failure to understand the world but also describing why he thought that failure was not important, but funny, or at least potentially funny. In the last 75 pages of so, beginning with Sandyas, Sandyhas, he returned again and again to what he learned back in the day about the drama of Christianity. People, because they are created to do so, care about each other, and are amazed at what they see when they are not lazy. That is my take, anyway. Ulysses, on the other hand, made no sense towards the end except as a "psychological study", and although it was well written .... I was glad the author grew up and matured and eventually wrote a better book ....

Roughcoat said...

I read Finnegan's Wake, for an Irish Literature class in college.

Stephen Cooper said...

if you are reading this years from now .... I was not showing off.

People constantly mock Joyce because they think they look like "regular guys' when they say Joyce was "too complicated,"
and, after all, who does not want to look like a "regular person"?

That is not what happened. (i mean, what did not happen is this: Joyce decided to get all fancy and to give everybody the right to criticize him for being too fancy, because they were all regular people and he was some scapegoat loser who was way too intellkchyal. Actually, Joyce tried to communicate. He may have said a couple dumb things about how smart he was, but every athlete does that (brags) and they all get a pass. The guy tried to communicate, which is more than most people try to do, except with other people from whom they get benefits of one sort or another. Think about it.

For some people, Finnegans Wake is a fairly simple story. A few people live in a world they try to understand, they get confuse for a while, then they understand it. Not the most typical plot ever, but it is a plot.

So in defending Joyce I am not showing off, I am just saying, everybody is complicated.

LordSomber said...

They should get Ken Nordine to do the audiobook.