With the dumbing down of
the most desirable quality in a manuscript, whether in prose or verse, will
soon be its suitability for spin-offs of games and clothes, and films and
television, and for advertising of all kinds. In time to come, if the classics are ever reprinted at
all, they will certainly be edited for commercial correctness. America
Remembrance of Mustaches Past
For a long time I used to go to bed early, because my droopy and wispy mustache had made me the laughingstock of all Paris and even its suburbs in all directions for a distance of about a hundred kilometers, but one fateful afternoon while, within hearing of saints and sinners alike, the bells at Notre-Dame du Bon Conseil were tolling four o'clock, the hour at which I customarily indulged in my nightcap of a madeline and a cup of tisane, both purchased at Francine’s Fabulous Fondues on the rue des Italiens, a thoroughfare with otherwise bitter associations for me, even more than the Champs-Élysées, where, in an outburst of passion that was alternately pure and prurient, as is more or less normal for French juveniles, more if they have attractive mothers who do not always appear in their bedrooms for a good-night kiss, I once gave both my heart and a diamond friendship ring from Cartier’s on the Rue François 1er to Gilberte Swann and the very next day she refused to let me play with her blue, splinter-proof hoop from Au Bon Marché although she did extend that felicity, as desirable as a sip of cool Perrier to a parched legionnaire on a dune in Morocco, to Emile Spangler, who had never given her anything more valuable than a band from a cigar once puffed by the Prince of Wales at Les Filles de Carmen, touted as the most discreet and sanitary brothel on the rue Auber, I suddenly recalled, after three decades of cerebral oblivion, the stiff and sturdy mustache of Pierre de Montiers, the popular boulevardier, and his faithful ministrations of Sardieu's once-a-day, shape-assured mustache wax, which was once, and still is, somehow, probably through its unique and patented ingredients, repelling the usual obliterations of time, available at better hairdressers in the Faubourg St. Germain and throughout Paris and the provinces; immediately, even though it was for me a late hour, and even though Maurice, my splendid valet from the Madame de Pompadour Training School for Domestic Servants and Courtesans, had already laid out my velvet bed jacket, silk pajamas, and embroidered slippers, all imported from Khuzistan by Robert Bourget et fils, my one and only haberdasher, established since 1801 upon the rue du Tivoli, whose wares I esteem as highly as I do Lamontier’s organic truffles from the heart of Perigord, for which the sommeliers at Maxim’s will always have the perfect wine, depending on the year and season, I took leave of my cork-lined apartment designed at a reasonable fee by the impeccable Henriette Bizet, whose drapes and settees I am bequeathing to the Louvre if it will have them, a doubtful eventuality, (but what human wish is not?) and, risking an attack of asthma, rushed out for a social season's supply of M. Sardieu's remarkable product, capable of transforming a country bumpkin who didn’t know cow’s dung from court etiquette into a dandy fit for full membership in the Jockey Club, or even for an intimate—as much as mere commoners can be intimate with their betters, and, à forteriori, needless to say, vice versa—soiree at the chateau of the Duc de Guermantes, in whose veins run the blood—fortified , you may be sure, by daily doses of the new and improved Ferro-Forte liver tonic with added chamomile and rose hips from his local San Souci Pharmacy—of Charlemagne and Louis the Pious, all of which preceding persiflage reminds me that when I once stooped from our usual lofty conversation about the deference due to the nobility and aristocracy, whatever may be the alleged and de jure form of government, whether a monarchy or that most futile of fantasies, a democracy, and took the liberty of complimenting the Duchess on the sparkle and clarity—suggesting the lost innocence we once had, or so we like to think we had (O vanity of vanities!)—of the more than thousand windows of her chateau, she revealed, to my great interest, for I delight in learning these tidbits concerning the nonsexual preferences and practices of both royalty and the major and minor nobility, even those elevated by those upstarts, the House of Orleans, that she has ordered her servants to employ Monsieur Sanitaire, the only cleanser recommended by Martine de Stewart, whose sage advice is disseminated in books available at Barnes et Noblesse Oblige and other fine shops whose wares, whatever their other virtues, can never enable us to retrieve and live once again with greater sensitivity and discrimination, not even for a moment, the lost time of our lives.