Sunday, February 2, 2020


Here is Herman Melville in Moby Dick: ‘Methinks that in looking at things spiritual, we are too much like oysters observing the sun through the water, and thinking that thick water the thinnest of air.’

OK, I understand the metaphor, but in what conceivable sense do oysters observe the sun?  Even in 1851 when Moby Dick was published, it must have been common knowledge that oysters don’t have eyes with which to do any observing.

But then in The Walrus and the Carpenter, 1872, Lewis Carroll gave them hands and feet, and I suppose ears.

"O Oysters, come and walk with us!"
The Walrus did beseech.
"A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each."

And here’s Raymond Chandler writing in what I think is a faux-self-deprecating way about his first novel The Big Sleep, 1939 ‘My story is just another detective yarn that happens to be more interested in people than in plot, to try to stand on its own legs as a novel with the mystery a few drops of Tabasco on the oyster.’

 And here is the person I consider to be the greatest literary oyster eater: Isaak Dinesen, 

who accrding to legend consumed only oysters, grapes and Champagne, which I thought wouldn be the worst diet, though apparently not - at the time of her death she was suffering from malnutrition (and a few other unpleasant things as well) 

She did write however, in ‘The Deluge at Nordeney.’  

“Do you know a cure for me?"
"Why yes," he said, "I know a cure for everything. Salt water."
"Salt water?" I asked him.
"Yes," he said, "in one way or the other. Sweat, or tears, or the salt sea.”

The last of these is also the brine in oysters.

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