Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Rather Girlish Noise

James Joyce, letter to Nora Barnacle (December 8, 1909):
I think I would know Nora's fart anywhere. I think I could pick hers out in a roomful of farting women. It is a rather girlish noise not like the wet windy fart which I imagine fat wives have. It is sudden and dry and dirty like what a bold girl would let off in fun in a school dormitory at night.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Scatological Anagram

Sir Thomas Browne, Works, ed. Geoffrey Keynes, vol. 3 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964), p. 274:
There were in my time two proctors of the same yeare in Oxford John Smith a man not well beloved and William Oldis a purblind dimme sighted, on whome these Anagrams were made:
William Oldis
silly dimme owl
John Smith
shyt on him

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Slave of Vulgar Needs

Joris-Karl Huysmans, "Ecstacy," from The Box of Spices (1874), my translation:
Night had come, the moon was emerging from the horizon, spreading on the blue background of the sky her sulfur-colored gown. I was seated next to my beloved, oh! very close! I clasped her hands, I inhaled the warm scent of her neck, the intoxicating breath of her mouth, I pressed against her shoulder, I wanted to weep; ecstasy kept me throbbing, desperate, my soul took wing on the sea of infinity. Suddenly she rose, freed her hand, disappeared into the hornbeam grove, and I heard a pitter-patter of rain on the leaves. The delicious dream vanished ...; I fell back to earth, to vile earth. O my God! So it was true, she, the divine beloved, she was, like the others, the slave of vulgar needs!

La nuit était venue, la lune émergeait de l'horizon, étalant sur le pavé bleu du ciel sa robe couleur soufre. J'étais assis près de ma bien-aimée, oh! bien près! Je serrais ses mains, j'aspirais la tiède senteur de son cou, le souffle enivrant de sa bouche, je me serrais contre son épaule, j'avais envie de pleurer; l'extase me tenait palpitant, éperdu, mon âme volait à tire d'aile sur la mer de l'infini. Tout à coup elle se leva, dégagea sa main, disparut dans la charmoie, et j'entendis comme un crépitement de pluie dans la feuillée. Le rêve délicieux s'évanouit...; je retombais sur la terre, sur l'ignoble terre. O mon Dieu! c'était donc vrai, elle, la divine aimée, elle était, comme les autres, l'esclave de vulgaires besoins!
A friend (to whom I am indebted for pointing out this passage) commented, "Poor girl. The hornbeam grove was obviously a pis-aller."

Friday, November 26, 2010

Farts: A Fragment

Unfortunately this is all that I can reconstruct from Google Books' snippet view of the beginning of a poem by George Macbeth entitled "Farts," which appeared in Poetry Review 77 (1987) 35:
Farts! The last outrage of the bum
Whose lumpish contours, ordered to succumb
To forceful briefs or britches, feel their triumph come.

Farts! In their vengeful odour, still
They range as outlaws, pungent as pig-swill
And deafening the nose-drums like a noisome drill.

Lingering dregs! A dog's loosed knell
Which nothing but a good hosing can dispel
Or cat's thin, whiskery chink no disinfectant quell.

Worst is the human. Outcast air
That no disruptive perfume can repair
Or aerosoled excuses nullify or snare.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


John Barth, The Sot-Weed Factor (Garden City: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1960), p. 322:
While thus he lay debating, his valet, though asleep, was by no means at rest His innards commenced to growl and snarl like beagles at a grounded fox; the hominy and cider in him foamed and effervesced; anon there came salutes to the rising moon, and the bedchamber filled with the perfume of ferment. The author of these delights snored roundly, but his master was not so fortunate; indeed, he had at length to flee the room, ears ringing, head a-spin, and the smart of bumbolts in his eyes.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Sacred Place

Alan Weisman, The World Without Us (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2007), pp. 57-58:
Soon after he arrived in Tucson, his new boss at the Desert Lab had handed him an earthen gray lump the approximate size and shape of a softball. It was at least 10,000 years old, but unmistakably a turd.


Inside Rampart Cave was a mound of dung deposited, he and his colleagues concluded, by untold generations of female sloths who took shelter there to give birth. The manure pile was five feet high, 10 feet across, and more than 100 feet long. Martin felt like he'd entered a sacred place.

Friday, November 12, 2010

An Insult

Beaumont and Fletcher, The Knight of the Burning Pestle, Act III, Scene V:
Now a churl's fart in your teeth, sir!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Jonathan Swift, Mad Mullinix and Timothy, lines 151-152:
I fart with twenty ladies by;
They call me beast, and what care I?

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Rouzer

Jonathan Swift, Strephon and Chloe (1734), lines 191-192:
And as he fill'd the reeking Vase,
Let fly a Rouzer in her Face.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines rouser, sense 3, as "A loud noise; a noisy person, song, etc." and cites Swift. But, in plain English, a rouzer here is a fart.

Kenneth Haynes, English Literature and Ancient Languages (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), p. 58 (with note on p. 182), comments:
The force of those lines depends not only on the scatology but also on the surprising word 'Rouzer'; Geoffrey Hill has observed, 'It would be difficult to find a word that blends the outrageous and the festive more effectively than this.'45

45Geoffrey Hill, The Lords of Limit (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984), 78.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Cacatio Matutina Est Tamquam Medicina

Confessions of a Barbarian: Selections from the Journals of Edward Abbey, 1951-1989 (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1996), p. 292:
Nothing like the deep satisfaction of a good defecation in the morning; why carry two or three pounds of shit around all day?