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Friday, April 29, 2005

Paperback Striker

Intriguing little Blotter item in the Review for April 27: Officers despatched to a 911 by a woman who said her husband "struck their infant in the head with a paperback book."

Hmm, I suppose it depends how infantile. No, of course it doesn't: infants are infants and one doesn't go round whacking them round the bonce.

But it set me trying to recall all the objets de biff with which I've caught the attention of my own children - usually on the hand but now and then on a juicy bum or back of thigh. Certainly never the head, not even a clip round the ear (which is bloody painful, I tell you. 'Magpie' Mason would come up behind you in Latin and if you so much as got a gerund wrong or forgot to agree with the dative - wallop! "Silly ass!". And you never saw it coming). Anyway.

  1. Fingers and palm of hand
  2. Furled copy of the Financial Times
  3. Rolled copy of Punch (hey, never thought of that - *terrible* pun)
  4. UN-rolled copy of Punch (top of Georgina's head, so yeah, I lied, I *have* done the head)
  5. Napkin (table manners)
  6. Various bamboo implements of indeterminate purpose - carpet beater, I expect - but splendidly flexible and *long*, ideal for fleet of foot escapers
  7. Toothbrush (again on head. Goodness, I'm in denial about where I struck them)
  8. Wallet, cheque book
  9. But never a paperback book - I don't *think* (I no longer trust myself on this whole chastising histoire)

The vital thing is to strike with the speed of a cobra at the time. Absolutely no use leaving it 'til later or "when your father gets home." Why the school beatings were so sadistic wasn't so much the pain but the all-day waiting until the end of the day and prep. And of course everyone knew so you'd wander around an outcast, collecting sympathetic glances from pals and sneers from one's enemies.

I once flattenned some worm for sidling up to me with a "Bet it'll hurt."

"As much as this?" I inquired mildly, delivering what I'm still convinced was my perfect riken-zuki ever. But enough digressing on the best years.

I wonder which author the Blotter villain chose? Unlikely that an infant-striking cad would go for Dickens or the classics, more like some penny dreadful or one of those macho westerns by the likes of Brad Thrust, Jeb Derringer or some such barrel-chested nom-de-plume - usually a cloak for Doris Snodgrass or Percival Montclair.

Who would I have chosen? To whom would the honour have gone of lightly brushing the velvet skin of my darlings?

Mum used a hand on the back of the leg; Dad only struck me once, with a furled copy of the Daily Telegraph atop head when I was being unspeakably bullying to my younger brother, now a beefy six-footer and fortunately forgetful or at least forgiving of my years of tormenting him.

I have a pal who owes his death-dealing skill in the martial arts entirely to the genuinely criminal abuse he suffered at the hands of his drunken yob of a father. His hours of toil in the dojo had the sole purpose of one day laying his dad very flat for a very long time for all the black eyes and bruises his mother had had to put up with. Someone up there (or down there) obviously liked the sod because he DUI'd himself into a wheelchair before justice could be delivered. Simon still chafes about that.

Post-script: Back in late March, I commented on David Foster Wallace's Atlantic Monthly cover feature, Host, and singled out a passage that impressed me.

BainbridgeBeat's chiding of my 'book bash'd baby' piece illustrates what that passage was getting at.

Foster Wallace is talking about a talk-show host in the context of racism but its application is universal. Be it a topic such as child abuse or under-age actresses, sexual innuendo, risqué language. age or appearance - wherever sensitivity might be called for - Wallace makes a valid point and presents a universal truth:

"John Ziegler does not appear to be a racist as 'racist' is generally understood. What he is is more like very, very insensitive — although Mr. Z. himself would despise that description, if only because 'insensitive' is now such a PC shibboleth.

Like many ... John Ziegler seems unable to differentiate between (1) cowardly, hypocritical acquiescence to the tyranny of Political Correctness and (2) judicious, compassionate caution about using words that cause pain to large groups of human beings, especially when there are several less upsetting words that can be used.

Even though there is plenty of stuff for reasonable people to dislike about Political Correctness as a dogma, there is also something creepy about the brutal, self-righteous glee with which Mr. Z. and other conservative hosts defy all PC conventions.

If it causes you real pain to hear or see something, and I make it a point to inflict that thing on you merely because I object to your reasons for finding it painful, then there's something wrong with my sense of proportion, or my recognition of your basic humanity, or both". [My coloring].


Comments:
Really, busker, you can do better than use an abused infant as fodder for your blog...I'm "struck" by your callousness. As for your clever and incredibly unfunny "Paperback Striker" headline--sad!
 
well, there you go. what can one say? i wouldnt *never* have thought of it had i not read the blotter piece and i couldn't invent another lead-in. likewise the beatles song - it just popped right in my head, and i don't sit around pondering these titles.
 
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