Letter W

Study Study Study Study Study Study Study Study Study Study Study Study Study Study Study Study Study Study Study Study Study Study Study Study Study Study Quotes letter

A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.

Thomas Mann

The portions of a Woman which appeal to Man's depravity,
    are constructed with considerable care.
And what appears to you to be a simple little cavity,
    is really an elaborate affair!
Doctors who have troubled to examine the phenomena,
    in numbers of experimental dames,
have made a list of all the things in feminine abdomena —
    and given them delightful Latin names.
There's the vulva, the vagina, and the jolly perineum;
    the hymen in the case of many brides.
The sort of thing they show you in a medical museum —
    the clitoris, and God knows what besides!
What a pity then it is that, when we common fellows chatter,
    of the mysteries to which I have referred,
we should use, for such a delicate and complicated matter,
    such a very short and unattractive word!

AP Herbert

A genuinely amusing writer from a few years back. He defined a highbrow, for example, as the kind of person who looks at a sausage and thinks of Picasso! (Doubtless a riff on the one about an intellectual being someone who can hear Rossini's William Tell overture without recalling The Lone Ranger.
Laurie Taylor recently topped this in an "interview" in the rather cool "Ohpurleese" magazine: an intellectual is 'someone who can go into a room where there is a tea-cosy on the table and not put it on their head'.)
I digress. It seems we're going to have to wait yet longer for the House of Stratus to get around to publishing Herbert's autobiography, before we gain definitive information on his authorship of the above verse.

His hearers were frankly incredulous. They pointed out that the friendship between the two artistes had always been a byword or whatever you called it. A well-read Egg summed it up by saying that they were like Thingummy and What's-his-name.

PG Wodehouse

In (I presume) one of the "Drones Club" stories.
PG Wodehouse still has few (if any) peers, though.

"Gentlemen! You can't fight in here... this is the War Room!"

From Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove during the frenzied bun fight.

Those who wanted only an orgasm out of life, now they want a career as well.

The Guardian

Those Guardian women!

It's painful to observe a growing serf mentality among ordinary Americans. Working folk seem afraid to complain about greedy executives or tax cuts for the rich, lest some big-money politician accuse them of waging "class warfare." They fall sway to right-wingers on the radio, who tell them to get on their hands and knees and thank Wilbur Ross for giving them a job. Workers should understand that this doesn't have to be. The rules of this unfair game are made in Washington. And until they change the rule makers, nothing will get better for them.

Froma Harrop

In "Detroit News".
Class warfare?! Originally spotted on http://www.ibmemployee.com/index.shtml

Elsewhere, Lloyd points to the "puzzling data on the relative infrequency with which women experience orgasm with intercourse," arguing that "under the common assumption that the capacity for orgasm is designed as an adaptation to encourage and reward intercourse, this infrequency must be seen as a design flaw" (pg. 112). What, pray tell, is wrong with design flaws? Evolutionists know that the biological world abounds in them: our narrow birth canal, the location of the prostate and of the exit site for the retinal nerve. It is the advocates of "intelligent design" and of similar drivel who have difficulty contending with design flaws; biologists understand that since there is no designer, flaws are to be expected, and their existence by no means comprises evidence against evolution by natural selection of the traits at issue. (At the same time, of course, flaws provide impressive evidence that a purported divine designer is either incompetent, indifferent, lazy, or, on occasion, downright malign.)

David P Barash

David P Barash, in "Evolutionary Psychology 3: 347-354" reviewing a book by Elisabeth A Lloyd titled The Case of the Female Orgasm (Harvard University Press, 2005).
Later in his review, Professor Barash (with whose kind permission I quote this item) comes up with the equally excellent "Don't misunderstand: I have nothing against masturbation or same-sex relationships, or carnal satisfaction achieved via poetry, sunsets, cooking utensils, antique harpsichords or even consenting animals. Quite the contrary. Let a thousand orgasms bloom! Indeed, in a world both overcrowded and increasingly infected with dangerous sexually transmitted diseases, I'd heartily recommend masturbation in particular as the epitome of safe sex. My point is that just because something (e.g., female orgasm) can be achieved in diverse ways (e.g., masturbation) does not argue against it having evolved because it is particularly adaptive in a specific, different context (e.g., heterosexual intercourse)."

Q: To what question is the answer "9W"?
A: "Do you spell your name with a 'V', Herr Wagner?"

Sir Huw Wheldon

One of Sir Huw Wheldon's (many) jokes.

The Hooded Clitoris
sits in an arbour
with her friends
Urethra and Labia
planning and plotting
the feminist books to be
published by Fabia & Fabia.

Gavin Ewart

"An Underground Movement" in "Extra Little Ones" (1986).
Gavin Ewart strikes again. I typeset this for one of my favourite booksellers, but chickened out of handing it over... Even though I had had no qualms in ordering Kathleen Meyer's wonderful How to shit in the woods from her, partly just to see her expression. I'm such a coward!

The pretentiousness of the worst academic writing betrays it as a kind of intellectual kitsch, analogous to bad art that declares itself "profound" or "moving" not by displaying its own intrinsic value but by borrowing these values from elsewhere. Just as a cigar box is elevated by a Rembrandt painting, or a living room is dignified by sets of finely bound but unread books, so these kitsch theorists mimic the effects of rigor and profundity without actually doing serious intellectual work. Their jargon-laden prose always suggests but never delivers genuine insight. Here is this year's winning sentence, by Berkeley Prof. Judith Butler, from an article in the journal Diacritics:

"The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power."

To ask what this means is to miss the point. This sentence beats readers into submission and instructs them that they are in the presence of a great and deep mind. Actual communication has nothing to do with it.

Denis Dutton

Denis Dutton writing in The Wall Street Journal (February 5, 1999)