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The Village Idiot

That damned library!

Jack Deatherage, Jr.

(9/2016) When I'm looking for someone to blame because my head hurts from trying to think, Carolyn (a library associate in the C. Burr Artz Public Library's Maryland Room) comes to mind if I'm struggling with something art related. The Emmitsburg Branch's Librarian Sue (a once-upon-a-time teacher of art history) and the Mad One (an artist who claims she ain't) follow close on Carolyn's heels for making my head hurt. (Carolyn tops the list only because she ordered me out of the local library for being disruptive, twice. Coincidentally matching the number of times and reason I've been ordered out of drinking establishments.) Sadly, their combined attempts to enlighten and educate me (beyond my intelligence) occasionally seems to have had some small effect on me. Why else would I have picked up Christopher Moore's "Sacre bleu: a comedy d'art"?

On any given day I am not fond of the frogs... or French, as seems to be the politically correct term for the French speaking people of France. My first encounter with anything fro- French was in a Catholic grade school where I was taught to read phonetically and then tormented with classes on French language (the Sisters were obviously part of a frog umm French order), which has no phonetic rhyme or reason I was ever able to discern. From the third grade on I've had nothing but contempt for the French. (Oh the shame when I learned some years ago that our clan hails from some frog speaking part of Europe. De Atherage was the old spelling of our clan name before some frog fled to the British Isles and anglicized, and humanized us! Sort of.)

I mostly picked "Sacre bleu" out of the stacks because I was bored with Cussler's (ocean-going-benevolent-government-agency-saved-the-world-from-megalomaniacal-private-corporate-types-out-to-rule-the-world-while-destroying-the-environment) formula writing. That I would attempt to read a story set mostly in Paris (a place I consider a serious contender for Hell on Earth) has me thinking I'm in need of a new genre to read. Dear gods, the story even has a few French words in it!

Anyhow, I begin reading and discover I recognize some of the characters' names. They are artists, though exactly what they are famous for I'm not sure. So off to the library I go hoping to find some books with pictures so I don't have to read anything more about frogs, or Dutch and American madmen. It doesn't take Librarian Sue long to convince me I made a mistake. Her love of art and its history now has several books on hold for me and the promise of more from her private collection should I foolishly decide to slide deeper down the rabbit hole of learning. Well, not quite learning. Learning seems to require retaining. I mostly get impressions and let the details float on by. Coincidentally, the artists are all Impressionists.

Simona, once (probably several times) told me "You really haven't mastered a language until you can understand its poetry and it's jokes." (I think she's about got English whipped. She laughs at my pontifications - when she isn't cursing me in one of the several languages she speaks better'n I do English.) I don't understand poetry in any language, with the exception of some of the simpler vulgar limericks of which I've encountered none in "Sacre bleu". As for the jokes, or comedy, I think I'm grasping some of the simpler stuff and hope the art/history books on hold at the library will help me with the more complex puns, innuendos, references and such.

I'd be happier with the vulgar words used in the book too, if I thought they were appropriate to the time period the book is set in. Did wayward sons of noble families really use the word "bonked" in 1865 Paris? Maybe. It is Paris after all. But the constant doubt about the historical accuracy of the story, the not knowing the actual habits of the artists, and my general inability to read what is in front of me without my mind wandering off to play elsewhere, has me rereading entire pages as I try to puzzle out what the author is attempting to convey to me.

I do understand bits and pieces of the story. The artists are often poisoned by their paints. Most of them would have been my drinking companions when I was at my swilling best, though their frequenting whorehouses for inspiration has me questioning my lack of such creative spark ignition. Sadly, it's too late for me to look into exploring whorehouses for inspiration. DW tends to frown on that type of discovery. She even suggested I'll die in uninspired ignorance. Ah, Women. Sheesh.

I somehow manage to finish "Sacre bleu" while waiting on the art history books I requested from the library. I suspect the new books will do little to help me understand the context of "Sacre bleu", but I'm hopeful they'll be full of pictures so I don't have to read a lot. My head hurts enough now.

While I'm waiting, I pick up another novel by Moore, "The Serpent Of Venice". While "Sacre bleu" was an iffy choice, it is about Paris and frogs after all, "The Serpent..." has a serpent in it and I don't mind them so much. And it takes place mostly in Venice, which, as far as I know, is sinking into the sea and will one day be of no bother to me at all.

Sweet Mother of Purgatory! "The Serpent Of Venice" is a satirical novel poking fun at Billy Shakespeare! Gods! If there is anything less comprehensible than French, it's Shakespeare! Billy and his imbecilic parameters. Or was Mrs. Wenschoff referring to me while I was napping in her senior English class? Maybe she said "iambic pentameter"? Either or, Billy the bard was/is beyond my limited grasp of English.

This time I am NOT requesting the works of Shakespeare to help me understand the comedy which is "The Serpent Of Venice". Moore writes enough vulgarities to satisfy me without my having to understand the contextual references to Billyboy's gawdawful plays!

It is definitely time for me to look for a new genre to root through! Or maybe I should abandon fiction for awhile and read something from "the wall" of nonfiction behind me as I type? "The Encyclopedia of Golf"? "The Gnostic Gospels"? Ummm no.

And "no" to DW's suggestion I try the grade school readers from the 1940s and '50s that I've been collecting since the 1990s. I'd rather take a nap and dream of libraries in flames!

Better to dream those little dreams than to awake and find the places that make my head hurt gone. But oh, how my head aches with all the thoughts libraries inspire! And me caught with nothing drinkable to muddle the mind.

Oo. I suddenly recall some English class about Greek tragedy and comedy? I wonder what brings that incomprehensible corpse to mind after having weighted it with stones and chains, and happily sunk it in 1971? Oh dear, are other bloated corpses from that time going to float to the surface and disrupt of my reflective pool of growing senility?

Read other articles by Jack Deatherage, Jr.