Friday, February 8, 2008

Saki on grocery stores

If you enjoy Edwardian wit (think Oscar Wilde, P.G. Wodehouse, G.K. Chesterton), check out The Complete Saki or The Collected Short Stories of Saki.

I've had my battered Modern Library Edition for forty-five years--it was a Christmas gift from my best friend in high school--and it continues to charm. Saki is the pen name for H.H. Munro (1870-1916), a British journalist born in Burma and killed in France during World War I. His last words were "Put that damned cigarette out!"

Here are some lines from "Clovis on the Alleged Romance of Business":
"It is the fashion nowadays," said Clovis, "to talk about the romance of Business. There isn't such a thing. The romance has all been the other way, with the idle apprentice, the truant, the runaway, the individual who couldn't be bothered with figures and book-keeping and left business to look after itself. I admit that a grocer's shop is one of the most romantic and thrilling things that I have ever happened on, but the romance and thrill are centred in the groceries, not the grocer. The citron and spices and nuts and dates, the barrelled anchovies and Dutch cheeses, the jars of caviar and the chests of tea, they carry the mind away to Levantine coast towns and tropic shores, to the Old World wharfs and quays of the Low Countries, to dusty Astrachan and far Cathay; if the grocer's apprentice has any romance in him it is not a business education he gets behind the grocer's counter, it is a standing invitation to dream and to wander, and to remain poor."

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