Friday, June 22, 2012


Juan Gris, “Seltzer Bottle and Glass,” 1917

      Max Brod, whom they had left writing at the pensione, was already at the café, and was holding above his head a newspaper for them to see.
—They are going to fly at Brescia! he shouted, and a waiter who might have been bringing a seltzer to the Tsar of Bulgaria, so grave was his progress, looked with uninterrupted dignity over his shoulder at Max, who to him was but a Czech and probably a Jew, stamping his feet and rattling La Sentinella Bresciana in the air.
—Aeroplanes! Blériot! Cobianchi! Die Brüder Wright!

        —Guy Davenport, out of “The Aeroplanes at Brescia” (Tatlin! 1982)

                                                                A SELTZER BOTTLE

Any neglect of many particles to a cracking, any neglect of this makes around it what is lead in color and certainly discolor in silver. The use of this is manifold. Supposing a certain time selected is assured, suppose it is even necessary, suppose no other extract is permitted and no more handling is needed, suppose the rest of the message is mixed with a very long slender needle and even if it could be any black border, supposing all this altogether made a dress and suppose it was actual, suppose the mean way to state it was occasional, if you suppose this in August and even more melodiously, if you suppose this even in the necessary incident of there certainly being no middle in summer and winter, suppose this and an elegant settlement a very elegant settlement is more than of consequence, it is not final and sufficient and substituted. This which was so kindly a present was constant.

        —Gertrude Stein, out of Tender Buttons (1914)

How easy it is for a grenadine and seltzer to get into your nose when you laugh (bar in front of the Opéra Comique).

        —Franz Kafka, out of the Diaries (8 September 1911)

                      I could hear the hissing of soda water in the seltzer bottle and the roar
of the wind in the trees, the cat scratching at the back door, the mice rotating
in place like dust mice, the jangle
of keys the size of fenceposts the thunk of cylinders as the lock—what was
all the fuss about?—goes through the motions and the clipclopping door falls silent
again. Inside the place reeked of mildew and decay though it looked pretty tidy
considering no one had set foot there for twenty years. A newspaper, still dangling
precariously from the rim of the mail slot, hadn’t aged. There was a coffeepot, still warm,
on the stove.

        —John Ashbery, out of Flow Chart (1991)

A marble table top with a basket of bread. A bottle of seltzer water, preferably blue. A soup with egg drops. And two men talking. Talking, talking, talking. With burning cigarettes hanging from their blanched lips. Nearby a cellar with music: strange instruments, strange costumes, strange airs. The birds begin to warble, the air becomes over-heated, the bread piles up, the seltzer bottles smoke and sweat. Words are dragged like ermine through the spittled sawdust; growling, guttural dogs paw the air. Spangled women choked with tiaras doze heavily in their richly upholstered caskets of flesh. The magnetic fury of lust concentrates in dark, mahogany eyes.

        —Henry Miller, out of Sexus (1949)

& if I feel like a woman looming over Lautrec
With water weight & panties & murderous fuchsia underfoot
Those dying balloons on Job’s Lane sag around like saline breast implants
& pineal sunbeams sneak through my hair
Dirty but focused as screwy detectives or Plexiglas
I go to pieces in my adolescent pine
Amid blackheads, seltzer, a cold front
Falling into a decline
Like ladies on the prairies used to
In the klieg-lit house with the deodorant cakes in the upstairs johns . . .

        —Jeni Olin, out of “Blue Collar Holiday”
        (Blue Collar Holiday & A Valentine to Frank O’Hara, 2005)

      “It’s a masochistic impulse,” he said. “Whenever I have a vague twitch of optimism after swallowing somebody else’s bromo-seltzer, I take a dose of drivel like this and remind myself of the fact that ninety-nine per cent of the world is still imbecile, mechanistic, and pathological.”

        —Maxwell Bodenheim, out of Duke Herring (1931)

      “I’m a light sleeper. Every time you snore, you get hit with this,” waving the pillow.
      No kidding, either. The routine of snore, get belted with pillow, wake up, say hmm, fall back to sleep, goes on well into the morning. “Come on,” finally, “cut it out.”
      “Mouth-breather!” she yells. He grabs his own pillow and swings it at her. She ducks, rolls, hits the deck feinting with her pillow, backing toward the sideboard where the booze is. He doesn’t see what she has in mind till she throws her pillow and picks up the Seltzer bottle.
      The what, The Seltzer Bottle? What shit is this, now? What other interesting props have They thought to plant, and what other American reflexes are They after? Where’s those banana cream pies, eh?
      He dangles two pillows and watches her. “One more step,” she giggles. Slothrop dives in goes to hit her across the ass whereupon she lets him have it with the Seltzer bottle, natch. The pillow bursts against one marble hip, moonlight in the room is choked with feathers and down and soon with hanging spray from jets of Seltzer. Slothrop keeps trying to grab the bottle. Slippery girl squirms away, gets behind a chair. Slothrop takes the brandy decanter off of the sideboard, un-stoppers it, and flings a clear, amber, pseudopodded glob across the room twice in and out of moonlight to splash around her neck, between her black-tipped breasts, down her flanks . . .

        —Thomas Pynchon, out of Gravity’s Rainbow (1973)

. . . Man is a species of crocodile who does not relish his goodness or his vices unless they are half rotten.
      This was the time when the Parisians held every American responsible for the tragic execution of Sacco and Vanzetti. One evening at the Coupole Hart Crane was drunk and began roaring: “Down with France.” He was standing at the bar when the waiter behind the counter douched him with seltzer water. Had the waiter known that Hart Crane was the first poet of his country, he might have been even more savage.
      Crane threw a lump of traveler’s checks on the counter and, after looking about him, picked up a chair to hurl at the bartender . . .

        —Edward Dahlberg, out of “The Expatriates: A Memoir” (Alms for Oblivion, 1964)

The Goaders have gathered
for leaflet printing
and the ink is almost paste.
Hey Sarge, plow now, worry later,
then we can bring in those girls
from across town to spike the cider.
We can bromo-seltzer our enemies
into packaging this stuff,
our most valued asset—
nature walks galore . . .

        —Jennifer Moxley, out of “Club Life” (Imagination Verses, 1996)

. . . discoursing volubly on the war.
      “’S a mental was’e,” he insisted with owl-like wisdom. “Two years my life spent inalleshual vacuity. Los’ idealism, got be physcal anmal,” he shook his fist expressively at Old King Cole, “got be Prussian ’bout ev’thing, women ’specially. Use’ be straight ’bout women college. Now don’givadam.” He expressed his lack of principle by sweeping a seltzer bottle with a broad gesture to noisy extinction on the floor, but this did not interrupt his speech. “Seek pleasure where find it for to-morrow die. ’At’s philos’phy for me now on.”

        —F. Scott Fitzgerald, out of This Side of Paradise (1920)

      What a confounded rain! How it falls! Everything is imbedded in water! From my window I can see bonnets passing shielded by red umbrellas; barques are out to sea; I hear the chains of the anchors which they are raising with general imprecations addressed to the bad weather . . .
      Admire here one of the polite ways of Providence which would be hard to believe: in whose house have I lodgings? In the house of a chemist! And of whom is he the pupil? Of Dupré! Like him, he deals in Seltzer water! “I am the only one in Trouville who manufactures Seltzer water,” he says. In fact, at eight o’clock in the morning I am often awakened by the noise of corks which go off unexpectedly. Pif! paf! The kitchen is the laboratory as well as kitchen; a monstrous still stands humbly among the stewpans:
The frightful length of its copper smoking,
and often they cannot put on the dinner-pot because of pharmaceutical preparations. In order to go into the yard, it is necessary to pass over baskets filled with bottles. There creaks a pump which wets your legs; two boys are rinsing decanters; a parrot repeats from morning till night: “Have you breakfasted, Jacko?” and finally, a brat about ten years old, the son of the house and the hope of the pharmacy, exercises in all sorts of athletics, such as raising himself from the ground by his teeth.

        —Gustave Flaubert, out of a letter to Louis Bouilhet (23 August 1853)

His system of diet here was regulated by an abstinence almost incredible. A thin slice of bread, with tea, at breakfast—a light, vegetable dinner, with a bottle or two of Seltzer water, tinged with vin de Grave, and in the evening, a cup of green tea, without milk or sugar, formed the whole of his sustenance. The pangs of hunger he appeased by privately chewing tobacco and smoking cigars.

        —Thomas Moore, out of The Life of Lord Byron with His Letters and Journals and Illustratative Notes (1844)

p’yót odnó stakánom krásnoe vinó: The implication is presumably that Onegin prefers a beaker of foreign wine to a jigger of national, right-thinking vodka. However, it is possible to understand the word odno as meaning not “only” but “straight”
he’s a Freemason, drinks red wine
unwatered in tumblerfuls.
But in those days the one to dilute his drink would have been the jaded beau from St. Petersburg rather than the provincial tippler. It would seem that Onegin has graduated, like Pushkin, from champagne to Bordeaux . . .
      In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, ripe gentlemen watered their wine. Anthologically, Pushkin advocated it in stylized little pieces of 1833 and 1835 (Yúnosha skrómno pirúy, “Youth, feast modestly,” Chtó zhe súho v cháshe dnó, “Why is the bottom dry in the cup”); and, biographically, added seltzer to his champagne, as Byron did to his hock. According to a remark of Wellington’s (1821) reported by Samuel Rogers in his Recollections (1856), Louis XVIII mixed water with his champagne.

        —Vladimir Nabokov, out of Eugene Onegin: A Novel in Verse: Commentary (1991)

Do not bake bread in an oven that is not made of stone
Or you risk having imperfect bread. Byron wrote,
“The greatest pleasure in life is drinking hock
And soda water the morning after, when one has
A hangover,” or words to that effect. It is a
Pleasure, for me, of the past. I do not drink so much
Any more. And when I do, I am not in sufficiently good
Shape to enjoy the hock and seltzer in the morning.
I am envious of this pleasure as I think of it. Do not
You be envious . . .

        —Kenneth Koch, out of “Some General Instructions” (The Art of Love, 1975)

      “Like a pot of seltzer water?” asked Sylvester. “Or something like that?”
      The jockey didn’t answer. He drew a gold cigarette case from his pocket and snapped it open. Inside were a few cigarettes and a tiny gold penknife. He used the knife to cut a cigarette in half. When he had lighted his smoke he held up his hand to a waiter passing by the table. “Kentucky bourbon, please.”

        —Carson McCullers, out of “The Jockey” (1941)

. . . He had a rude way of speaking and he was undoubtedly a fascist and a member of their club and he sat at noon and at evening in the cane chairs of their club to read El Debate, to have his shoes shined, and to drink vermouth and seltzer and eat roasted almonds, dried shrimps, and anchovies. But one does not kill for that . . .

        —Ernest Hemingway, out of For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940)

11 July, Friday—Posted to Bingen—Castles in Earth, Castles in Air, Castles in Water—Walked to the Chapel in the Bingen [? Schloss / Sulen]—in the after to Niederwald, some Graf’s Country Box—Selzer Water, & asman’s hausen red wine which we did not think deserved the praise of pleasant Tasted—the marvellous Grotto leading to the Tower, the view from which is fine—the wood fire / the handsome German out of whose bottle we drank Rudesheiner but not Peter Arnold Mum’s Rudesheiner—

        —Samuel Taylor Coleridge, out of the Notebooks (1828)

      Yet, sweets, our Zimmerman sleeps peacefully, his trusting soul given o’er into our hands as ’twere a baseball gathered in by what is called, for reasons dark, a sure glove. What means “sure glove” I cannot tell, unless it be what old Diogenes Laertius dubbed metonymy; or was it that this said metonymy gathered in a “can of corn”? No matter, so long as he snoozes on.
      You’ve lost me, bulging carlo, the wife breathed quietly, but just to hear you once again spout forth your dizzy horseshit perks my spirits up like seltzer. We’ll fare forth, no matter where we are, or where go we instead!

        —Gilbert Sorrentino, out of Blue Pastoral (1983)

I advise you to read all the well written “nude” stories you can lay your hands on nor even blush internally. Darn it Bo screwing is as natural as breathing but to do it as often as the latter act is bad economy that’s all. Now a fellow who has led a certain kind of life is like a seltzer bottle; the least pressure on the lever is wild excitement to him. But a man has this exclusive thing about him in distinction to a seltzer bottle, he can think and he can imagine . . .

        —William Carlos Williams, out of a letter to Edgar Irving Williams (27 August 1910)