Sunday, July 06, 2014

All Over the Place

Late in DEATH ON THE INSTALLMENT PLAN, the narrator tries to start a farm with a mad balloonist and his heavily mustachioed wife, but they discover that the property is run-down and there are "owls all over the place." So it's a book with an owl in it is what I'm saying. "Mad balloonist," while accurate, is maybe too specific. He's a generalized crackpot: "Suppose I take this ludicrous little radish and blow it up to enormous size with telluric blasts... Well? Like a balloon! Ah? And suppose I make a hundred thousand of them... a hundred thousand radishes! More and more voluminous!... And each year as many as I please... Five hundred thousand... enormous radishes!... As big as pears!... As big as pumpkins!... Radishes such as nobody has ever seen!... Why, it's automatic... I eliminate the small radish... I wipe small radishes off the face of the earth!... I corner the market, I erect a monopoly! All your measly undersized vegetables are finished! Unthinkable! Through! All these baubles! These small-fry! No more tiny bunches! No more piddling shipments! If they keep, it's only by a miracle... It's wasteful, my friend... anachronistic... shameful!... Enormous radishes, that's what I want to see! And here's our slogan: The future belongs to the radish... my radish... And what's going to stand in my way?... My market? The whole world!... Is my radish nutritious? Tremendously! Radish flour is fifty percent more nutritious than the other kind..." Yeah, that little speech goes on for three or four pages. The ellipses (and exclamation points) are Céline's. Now try to imagine about 600 pages of that and you've got some idea of reading DEATH ON THE INSTALLMENT PLAN.