Thursday, May 27, 2021

“Even Oscar Wilde”

 “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that all bores remain bores their entire boring lives.”

Sighing, Gerard (“Gerry”) Goldsmith, known to his companions in Bob’s Bowery Bar as “the Brain”, gazed at the sentence he had just typed on his ancient Royal portable.

Once again it had taken him an entire afternoon to produce one sentence of his professed life’s work, his “book of philosophical observations”, tentatively titled Pensées for a Rainy Day, Volume One. But it was a good sentence, hang it all, even if he did say so himself!

He stubbed out his latest Bull Durham of the day. Best to quit work now. Gerry did not believe that anything good came from forcing creativity. The trick was just to put yourself in the chair in front of the typewriter, roll yourself a cigarette, and see what came out. Nearly always, after an hour or two, something would come out, as it had today:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that all bores remain bores their entire boring lives.”

And wasn’t that the truth!

Not that Gerry considered himself a – what was the word for someone who was not a bore? A non-bore? An “interesting guy”? A “charming, amusing chappy?” Maybe there wasn’t a good English word for the opposite of a bore because everyone was boring after a certain point. Maybe even Oscar Wilde had worn out his welcome after a couple of hours of his constant and unrelenting wit.

Well, these were questions he could delve into tomorrow, unless of course he found them too boring by then.

Gerry glanced at his watch. Four o’clock! Good God, time to get over to Bob’s before all the barstools got taken –

But that very second Gerry heard something he so rarely heard: a knocking at his door.

“I say, Gerry, are you in there?”

“One moment, please.”

Gerry heaved himself up from his chair and traversed the six feet to his door in not quite a minute.

He opened the door (unlocked as usual, he had drunkenly lost his key just one too many times), and, speaking of bores, who was it but the fellow everyone called Addison the Wit, not his real name, but no matter, he was Addison the Wit for life now, and surely one of the most crashing bores Gerry had ever known. Addison lived down on the fifth floor, and he had been up here to Gerry’s tiny apartment a few times when Gerry had been too drunk to know any better and had a bottle to share, but this was the first time he had ever knocked on Gerry’s door out of nowhere.

“Oh, hi, Addison. What’s up?”

“I do hope I’m not disturbing you.”

He had a thick sheaf of paper held in both hands.

“Not at all,” said Gerry. “Just getting ready to run down to Bob’s for a bock or two.”

“I wonder if you would look at something for me.”

Oh, God, no.

“Uh,” said Gerry.

“Just a little something I’ve been working on,” said Addison.

He raised up the bulky mass of paper.

“If you would cast your discerning eye on these pages. Just let me know, you know, if you think I’m on the right path, so to speak.”

“What is it?” said Gerry.

“It’s a novel.”


“A western novel.”


“It’s called Sixguns to El Paso.”

Sixguns to El Paso?”

“Yes. But I am not married to the title, you understand. Don’t you like it?”

“Oh, no, Sixguns to, uh –”

El Paso.”

Sixguns to El Paso? Sounds like a good title for a western to me.”

“It’s a tale of vengeance.”


“In the old west, of course.”


“I wonder of you could, as it were, just sort of leaf through it, just to see, um, oh, how shall I put it –”

“If it is alive?”


“If it breathes?”

“If it breathes?”

“Yes, I think that’s what Emily Dickinson asked that editor guy Thomas Wentworth Higginson to tell her, when she sent him his poems. If they were alive, if they breathed.”

“Good God, I hope my novel breathes.”

“Oh, I’m sure it does, Addison.”


“Uh, yes.”

“That’s all I ask,” said Addison. “That my words breathe.”

“Well, isn’t that all that any of us writers can ask?”

“Shouldn’t it be any of we writers?”

“Maybe so, old boy, maybe so.”

Already Gerry knew that Addison’s novel would be dreadful, but of course he could never tell him that.

“So you’ll read it, Gerry?”

“Sure,” said Gerry, meaning he would glance through it just enough to pretend that he had read it.

“Gee, thanks, pal. The thing is, though, do you think you could read it tonight?”


“Yeah, it’s only two hundred and forty-eight pages, really just the introductory section of the novel, sort of a prelude or overture, like Proust if you will, but you see I want to get back to work on it first thing tomorrow, and so I’d like to have the pages back by the morning.”

“Tomorrow morning?”

“Yes. Also it’s my only copy, and so I feel nervous about not having it to hand, so if you could read it tonight that would be great.”

“Uh, okay.”


Addison handed Gerry the great floppy sheaf of typescript.

“You’ll take good care of it?”

“I certainly will, Addison.”

Gerry went back to his writing table and put the mass of paper down, next to the much smaller pile of his own work-in-progress.

“I guess that’s your own book on the table there?” said Addison.

Addison had stepped into Gerry’s little apartment.

“Yes, that’s it,” said Gerry. “Such as it is.”

“Well, if you ever want another point-of-view on it, I should be, uh, glad to look it over for you, Gerry.”

“Oh, the horror,” thought Gerry, but what he said was, “Well, I’m not quite ready to show it to anyone just yet, Addison, but, maybe someday –”

“Yes, of course,” said Addison, seeming patently relieved, and more than ready to change the subject.

{Please go here to read the “adult comix” version in A Flophouse Is Not a Home, illustrated by the illustrious rhoda penmarq…}

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