Humor Magazine

"... and All the While Martinis Make the Music for My Memories"

By Davidduff

Damn!  I really need an ice-cold dry martini to write this particular post but alas it's ten o'clock in the morning and that is too early even for me.  However, tonight I will mix one and before taking that first delicious sip I will raise my glass and toast the memory of a man I would dearly love to have met - Prof. Werner Dannhauser - and no, me neither until I read one of his essays reprinted in The American Spectator as a tribute to the man who, alas, died on the 28th April.  The title of his essay, first published in 1981, is The Metaphysical Martini.

If you believe that the art, and craft, of essay writing has withered and perished in the late 20th century, the final shot of poison coming in the form of the hastily banged-out and frequently illiterate blog-post (mea culpa!) which, irony of ironies, are themselves now being supplanted by infantile tweets from twats, then read this superb example of the very best in essay writing. That the subject matter is the martini, positively my most favorite drink, only adds to its allure.

To entice you, let me offer up one or two quotations:

I have never met a martini I did not like. Under no circumstances would I assert
that any martini is as good as any other; my mind may be soaked, but not in
rampant egalitarianism. I am willing to argue, however, that while the best
martini demands to be called "perfect," the worst is nevertheless passable, and
far better than no martini at all.

Instantly, you find yourself surreptitiously licking your lips in anticipation.  He bemoans the fact that the literature is so lacking in works dedicated to the martini but explains it thus:

It may well be that most sane men would rather drink martinis than read about
them and would rather read about them than write about them. Yet that tempting
explanation fails to satisfy, simply because martinis can be held in one hand,
so that anyone who can talk and chew gum at the same time can just as well teach
himself simultaneously to sip a martini and to read or write about it.

I suppose I should try that but only when I have assembled my new, all-encompassing, leather-bound (well, it looks like leather!) office chair which comes complete with a safety belt to stop me falling out!  Anyway, there is one example of what might be called, after drinking two of them, the martini lexicon, and that is a book by Lowell Edmunds called The Silver Bullet: The Martini in American Civilization.  Prof. Edmunds is another American university swot just like Dannhauser and one begins to wonder how anything gets taught at Americna universities!  Still, if the little perishers come out knowing how to mix a really first-class, dry martini then what else do they need to know?  Anyway, my new, but alas late, 'best friend' (anyone who likes dry martinis is automatically my 'best friend'), Prof Dannhauser sums up the wisdom of this book:

The author obviously has a taste not only for martinis but for ambiguity; at any
rate he does not directly attempt to reconcile the opposites he documents.
Instead, he goes on to detail the "simple, unambiguous messages" conveyed by the
martini, propositions which "function as the propaganda, as it were," for the
martini and "play on several common prejudices." The reader never quite knows
whether and to what extent Professor Edmunds shares those prejudices. Be that as it may, the seven messages sent out by the martini are that it is American and
nothing else, urban rather than rural, upper class, a man's and not a woman's
drink, optimistic and not pessimistic, for adults and not children, of the past,
albeit of the living past, and not the present. These propositions are obviously
debatable, but they are stated so reasonably one finds himself wishing he could
discuss them with the author, over a martini, of course.

I do urge you all to read Prof. Dannhauser's essay not just because it is a prime example of the lost art of essay writing but also because it is damned good fun!  My condolences to his friends and family who will be missing a witty and wise man.

 


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