Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Tom detested murder unless it was absolutely necessary."

From Ripley's Game (1974), by Patricia Highsmith
Tom hated the Mafia, hated their loan-sharking, their blackmail, their bloody church, their cowardlinesss in forever delegating their dirty work to underlings, so that the law couldn't get its hands on the bigger bastards among them, never get them behind bars except on charges of income tax evasion or some other triviality. The Mafiosi made Tom feel almost virtuous by comparison.
What better reward for a morning of rigorous house-cleaning than an afternoon spent with the deliciously creepy Tom Ripley? In Ripley's Game, Tom finds himself a bit ennui-ridden . . . so he engages in some acts of violent altruism--which leave him, to no reader's surprise, with some bodies to dispose of. "Oh," laments a woman who unwillingly gets sucked into the mess, "it's the money, it's the corpses." To which, after my morning of cleaning, I couldn't help but add, "It's the scrubbing the blood off the floor."

Meanwhile, to follow an afternoon spent tidying up with Ripley, Samuel Pepys has a solid suggestion for how we might spend our evening. From his diary entry for November 15, 1665:
I made them, against their resolutions, to stay from houre to houre till it was almost midnight, and a furious, darke and rainy, and windy, stormy night, and, which was best, I, with drinking small beer, made them all drunk drinking wine, at which Sir John Robinson made great sport. But, they being gone, the lady and I very civilly sat an houre by the fireside observing the folly of this Robinson, that makes it his worke to praise himself, and all he say and do, like a heavy-headed coxcombe.
For those of you who follow Pepys's example and find yourselves greeting the office Monday morning wearing the grisly rictus and hooded eyes of overindulgence, the last lines of that day's entry may serve to remind you that it could certainly be worse. Whatever its cruelties, a hangover is not the plague:
The plague, blessed be God! is decreased 400; making the whole this week but 1300 and odd; for which the Lord be praised!
Hear, hear.

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