Sunday, 17 March 2013

Elmer Gantry and the uvular 'r'.

‘Ginty him, ginty him Haaza (Hayes), you cowardly rat’.That was heard by me at a hurling match, for how else shall our young braves learn valour, and it must have been Waterford playing because when he said ‘rat’ he said it with a uvular ‘r’, the French ‘r’, said down in the throat. That vestige has hung around since the Norman invasion in the late 12th. century and only in that area. So when the ball was on the ground in contention I had to ginty him and the next thing I knew was I was holding half a hurley and a ragged v was peeled off my knuckle probably caused by the other half bouncing back.

Down in the surgery with Doctor Fitzgerald - I’ll put a few stitches in that, you’ll be all right, I’ll be quick, and he took out what looked like a needle you might use for closing a jute bag. To help him get it through the thick skin he grasped the end in a stainless steel pliers. A neat little thing. Then he broke the needle.
- Who did you go to, asked my father.
- Dr. Fitzgerald.
- Frosty Fitz, he took 14 years to get his degree, I knew him at College.

I spent a few days in bed after that, in the infirmary of the school getting hot tea and toast and dinner on a tray. That was all right and someone gave me Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis to read. I enjoyed it, a good marriage of the writer’s broad style and the material. Some years ago I read it again and it was still good and the picture they made with Burt Lancaster as Gantry was Hollywood at petitionary prayer. Have a look at this:
Gantry Vs. Evolution
Could this be made today or would Meyer be too nervous?

So lately I was reading Dodsworth from 1929 just before he got the Nobel Prize in 1930 which must have been a retro award as Babbitt and Main Street was mentioned in the citation. It couldn’t have been for Dodsworth which is poor, repetitive and essentially high functioning rummy ranting. He sholda’ used Stooge Dross Reducer
an essential step in babbitting which the book Babbitt used. That’s working well but as I’m still reading it I’ll say no more till I’ve finished. In a curious way I’m coming to like Babbitt, he’s a poor lost soul, some great iron mountain caused a major deviation in his moral compass. Sort of.

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