The Ecphorizer

Letters - Issue 40

Issue #40 (December 1984)

I enjoyed Buckley Fish's article in the November issue of The Eck and could not agree more with his conclusions. I spent a year and a half as a student in West Berlin and got to see quite a bit of East Germany. One of my most vivid memories from that period was having to hit the dirt at an elevated station when it was buzzed by a MiG-21 flying about fifty feet over the deck. They were retaliating against something Lyndon Johnson had said, I seem to recall.

Last year, one of the people where I work came busting into the office with the horrendous news about the shooting down of KAL 007. "How can they do such a horrible thing, killing so many people like that?" he expostulated, thinking that it was n rhetorical question. It wasn't. "Easy," I said, with the confidence born of considerable acquaintance with the Russians, "they're a bunch of assholes." I always did like general-purpose answers. This one fits a lot of questions.

Also a note on Pelicans ["The Case of the Pious Pelican", November]. While I was going to school in West Berlin, I remember learning that the first document in which the pelican is explicated as an emblem of Jesus Christ (giving his blood to save humanity) is Physiologus, a product of Alexandrian Hellenism that is not slightly tainted with Gnosticism. It goes way back, in other words.

And, while I have your attention, it has always been my ambition to conduct a correspondence with a fictitous person. I found a George Spelvin listed in the SFRM roster last year and tried to strike one up with him, but he has not been responsive. I suggested to him that the right genre for a correspondence with a fictitious person is fiction. How do you feel about it?

Gareth Penn

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I was impressed by Paul Healy's excellent article on Bartlett's Familiar Quotations in the November issue. Paul might be amused to know of a curiousity in Bartlett's, both the latest edition and some previous ones, regarding the citation for Samuel Johnson's remark that "being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned." Bartlett's attributes the quote to Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson wherein Boswell was himself quoting his Tour of the Hebrides. Bartlett's seems unaware that it is quoting a quote!

John Cumming

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