Acquiring the Superfluous

Remember: it was the "wafer thin" that did him in.

[Alexander Theroux’s essay “Theroux Metaphrastes” was published as an appendix to David R. Godine’s 1975 edition of Theroux’s 1972 novel, Three Wogs. It would be obtuse for me to attempt a capsule summary of a defense of expansiveness, and so I hope that the present superfluity will instead be taken as the advertisement for the essay itself it is intended to be; seek it out, I exhort you.]

“Eschew surplusage,” snapped Twain, that anti-European, anti-Catholic pinchfist from the American Midwest, with his unlovely spray of scentless botanicals. Blink the incidentals! Fract that chicken! Scumble that depth-of-field! Rip off that wainscoting! Slubber that gloss! Steam down those frills!

Ah, but these, you see, are not the cries of people with lexical gifts and the leisure, the languor, necessary to art. The artist, in fact, unlike Pushkin’s gambler, must be ready to sacrifice the necessary in the hope of acquiring the superfluous. The periphrastic Mr. Micawber is not funny, ha-ha, to me. Like me, he’s a throwback. He’s a thirteenth century schoolmaster, lessoned well in Dionysius Thrax’s Techne Grammatike, a fatty fellow shaking out poems and encyclopediana at every turn, flung, as he was, into a society of aphasiates, monoglots, and verbal slugs, each locked into the crochets of his bankrupt vocabulary and isolated on the Mt. Hecklebirg of his head.

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