XERXES



 


That's not me.  (I'm over here.)  It's Xerxes in her best Sunday dress.
This week she has been reading G.K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday.
 
 
Xerxes was baffled by the end of this book but admits she was
rather fond of the hedgehog in Montaigne from this earlier passage:
 
 
"With pleasure, if you don't mind hearing my story," replied the eminent foreign
philosopher. "I am by profession an actor, and my name is Wilks. When I was on the
stage I mixed with all sorts of Bohemian and blackguard company. Sometimes I touched
the edge of the turf, sometimes the riff-raff of the arts and occasionally the political refugee.
In some den of exiled dreamers I was introduced to the great German Nihilist philosopher,
Professor de Worms. I did not gather much about him beyond his appearance, which was very
disgusting, and which I studied carefully. I understood that he had proved that the destructive principle
in the universe was God; hence he insisted on the need for a furious and incessant energy,
rending all things in pieces. Energy, he said, was the All. He was lame, shortsighted,
and partially paralytic. When I met him I was in a frivolous mood, and I disliked him so much
that I resolved to imitate him. If I had been a draughtsman I would have drawn a caricature.
I was only an actor, I could only act a caricature. I made myself up into what was meant for a wild
exaggeration of the old Professor's dirty old self. When I went into the room full of his supporters
I expected to be received with a roar of laughter, or (if they were too far gone) with a roar of
indignation at the insult. I cannot describe the surprise I felt when my entrance was received
with a respectful silence, followed (when I had first opened my lips) with a murmur of admiration.
The curse of the perfect artist had fallen upon me. I had been too subtle, I had been too true. They
thought I really was the great Nihilist Professor. I was a healthy-minded young man at the time, and I
confess that it was a blow. Before I could fully recover, however, two or three of these admirers ran up to
me radiating indignation, and told me that a public insult had been put upon me in the next room. I inquired
its nature.  It seemed that an impertinent fellow had dressed himself up as a preposterous parody of myself.
I had drunk more champagne than was good for me, and in a flash of folly I decided to see the situation through.
Consequently it was to meet the glare of the company and my own lifted eyebrows and freezing eyes
that the real Professor came into the room.

"I need hardly say there was a collision. The pessimists all round me looked anxiously from one Professor
to the other Professor to see which was really the more feeble. But I won. An old man in poor health, like my rival,
could not be expected to be so impressively feeble as a young actor in the prime of life. You see, he really had paralysis,
and working within this definite limitation, he couldn't be so jolly paralytic as I was. Then he tried to blast my
claims intellectually. I countered that by a very simple dodge. Whenever he said something that nobody but he could understand,
I replied with something which I could not even understand myself. 'I don't fancy,' he said, 'that you could have worked out
the principle that evolution is only negation, since there inheres in it the introduction of lacuna, which are an essential of differentiation.'
I replied quite scornfully, 'You read all that up in Pinckwerts; the notion that involution functioned eugenically was exposed long ago by Glumpe.'
It is unnecessary for me to say that there never were such people as Pinckwerts and Glumpe. But the people all round (rather to my surprise)
seemed to remember them quite well, and the Professor, finding that the learned and mysterious method left him rather at the mercy of an
enemy slightly deficient in scruples, fell back upon a more popular form of wit.  'I see,' he sneered, 'you prevail like the false pig in Aesop.'
 
'And you fail,' I answered, smiling, 'like the hedgehog in Montaigne.'
 
Need I say that there is no hedgehog in Montaigne? 'Your claptrap comes off,' he said; 'so would your beard.'
I had no intelligent answer to this, which was quite true and rather witty. But I laughed heartily, answered, 'Like the Pantheist's boots,'
at random, and turned on my heel with all the honours of victory. The real Professor was thrown out,
but not with violence, though one man tried very patiently to pull off his nose. He is now, I believe, received everywhere in Europe
as a delightful impostor. His apparent earnestness and anger, you see, make him all the more entertaining."
 
 

***

 
Any comments you might have for Xerxes
can be sent to Hud[dot]Hudson[at]wwu[dot]edu.
I will see to it that she receives them.

***
 
 
Xerxes' Second Year
 
 
Last week Xerxes was reading Dante Alighieri's Purgatorio
The week before Xerxes was reading C.S. Lewis's The Four Loves
The week before Xerxes was reading Steven Schwartz's The Seven Deadly Sins
The week before Xerxes was reading Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens
The week before Xerxes was reading Neil Simon's Brighton Beach Memoirs
The week before Xerxes was reading Sy Safransky's Four in the Morning and Sunbeams
The week before Xerxes was reading Daniel Levitin's This is Your Brain on Music
The week before Xerxes was reading Alfred Lord Tennyson's In Memoriam
The week before Xerxes was reading Paul Woodruff's Reverence
The week before Xerxes was reading Richard Yates's Eleven Kinds of Loneliness
The week before Xerxes was reading Marilynne Robinson's Gilead
The week before Xerxes was reading Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass
The week before Xerxes was reading Jenny Bond and Chris Sheedy's Who the Hell is Pansy O'Hara?
The week before Xerxes was reading William Hjortsberg's Falling Angel
The week before Xerxes was reading Edward Gorey's Amphigorey: Fifteen Books
The week before Xerxes was reading Cornelius Plantinga's Not the Way It's Supposed to Be
The week before Xerxes was reading Mark Twain's A Cure for the Blues
The week before Xerxes was reading Herman Melville's Moby Dick
The week before Xerxes was reading G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy
The week before Xerxes was reading Frederick Buechner's Godric and The Alphabet of Grace
The week before Xerxes was reading Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung's Portraits of Vice
The week before Xerxes was reading Paul Johnson's Intellectuals
The week before Xerxes was reading David Foster Wallace's A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again
The week before Xerxes was reading Alexander Pope's An Essay on Man
The week before Xerxes was reading Edgar Lee Masters's Spoon River Anthology
The week before Xerxes was reading Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants
The week before Xerxes was reading Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God
The week before Xerxes was reading Ingmar Bergman's Images: My Life in Film
The week before Xerxes was reading William Trevor's The Story of Lucy Gault
The week before Xerxes was reading Anonymous's Everyman
The week before Xerxes was reading Eugene Field's Little Boy Blue
 The week before Xerxes was reading David Maine's Fallen
The week before Xerxes was reading Stephenie Meyers's Twilight and New Moon
The week before Xerxes was reading Gordy Slack's The Battle Over the Meaning of Everything
The week before Xerxes was reading Nicole Krauss's The History of Love
The week before Xerxes was reading Wallace Stevens's Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
The week before Xerxes was reading The Dalai Lama's An Open Heart
The week before Xerxes was reading William Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part II
The week before Xerxes was reading William Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part I
The week before Xerxes was reading William Shakespeare's As You Like It
The week before Xerxes was reading William Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra
The week before Xerxes was reading William Shakespeare's Macbeth
The week before Xerxes was reading Jelaluddin Rumi's The Essential Rumi
The week before Xerxes was reading Harold Bloom's Where Shall Wisdom Be Found?
The week before Xerxes was reading Anne Fadiman's The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
The week before Xerxes was reading Leo Tolstoy's The Devil
The week before Xerxes was reading Colin McGinn's Shakespeare's Philosophy
The week before Xerxes was reading Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild
The week before Xerxes was reading Stephen Greenblatt's Will in the World
The week before Xerxes was reading Martin Buber's I and Thou, Meetings, and The Way of Man
 

Xerxes' First Year
 

The week before Xerxes was reading Allan Chinen's Once Upon a Midlife
The week before Xerxes was reading G.K. Chesterton's St Francis of Assisi
The week before Xerxes was reading Jean Toomer's Cane
The week before Xerxes was reading Ikhwān al-Safā's The Animals' Lawsuit against Humanity
The week before Xerxes was reading Patrick Süskind’s Perfume
The week before Xerxes was reading Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark
The week before Xerxes was reading John Milton's Paradise Regained
The week before Xerxes was reading Dylan Thomas's The Force that Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower
The week before Xerxes was reading Stephen Crane's The Blue Hotel
The week before Xerxes was reading Gore Vidal's Creation
The week before Xerxes was reading A.S. Byatt's Possession
The week before Xerxes was reading C.S. Lewis's The Great Divorce
The week before Xerxes was reading Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet in Heaven
 The week before Xerxes was reading Dennis Potter's Blackeyes
The week before Xerxes was reading David Suzuki and Wayne Grady's Tree: A Life Story
The week before Xerxes was reading James Hogg's Confessions of a Justified Sinner
The week before Xerxes was reading Alexander Theroux's Theroux Metaphrastes
The week before Xerxes was reading Mervyn Peake's Titus Alone
The week before Xerxes was reading Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast
The week before Xerxes was reading Mervyn Peake's Titus Groan
The week before Xerxes was reading Walter de la Mare's The Three Royal Monkeys
The week before Xerxes was reading John Collier's His Monkey Wife
The week before Xerxes was reading Lois Lowry's The Giver
The week before Xerxes was reading Rudyard Kipling's Mandalay
The week before Xerxes was reading Ralph Helfer's Modoc
The week before Xerxes was reading Stuart McLean's Home From the Vinyl Cafe
 The week before Xerxes was reading Ossie Davis's Purlie Victorious
The week before Xerxes was reading George MacDonald's The Portent
The week before Xerxes was reading Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead
The week before Xerxes was reading Michael Phillips's George MacDonald - A Biography
The week before Xerxes was reading Christopher Moore's The Stupidest Angel
The week before Xerxes was reading Gordon Lightfoot's Minstrel of the Dawn
The week before Xerxes was reading Sun Tzu's The Art of War
The week before Xerxes was reading Robert Graves's I Claudius
The week before Xerxes was reading Philip Ardagh's A House Called Awful End
 The week before Xerxes was reading John Milton's Paradise Lost
 The week before Xerxes was reading Mervyn Peake's Mr Pye
The week before Xerxes was reading J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
The week before Xerxes was reading Riff Raff and Magenta's The Time Warp
 The week before Xerxes was reading William Shakespeare's Timon of Athens
 The week before Xerxes was reading J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion
The week before Xerxes was reading e.e. cummings's anyone lived in a pretty how town
The week before Xerxes was reading Sir Thomas Browne's Religio Medici
The week before Xerxes was reading C.S. Lewis's A Preface to Paradise Lost
The week before Xerxes was reading Stephanie Plowman's The Road to Sardis
The week before Xerxes was reading Alexander Theroux's Darconville's Cat
The week before Xerxes was reading Dennis Potter's The Singing Detective
The week before Xerxes was reading T.S. Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
The week before Xerxes was reading Matthew Scully's Dominion
The week before Xerxes was reading Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray
The week before Xerxes was reading the Prologue in Heaven from Goethe's Faust
The week before Xerxes was reading Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market