Friday, May 1, 2009

reading other people's correspondence


Warning! Do not poke about
the correspondence of your friends:
you’re surely better off without
the information that it sends.
If despite this you ignore
my warning since you want to poke,
consider less is often more,
and more is often just a joke.

Some diseases we can fool
sometimes, but we can never cure
what we should not have read. It’s cool
and healthier to be unsure
than being certain we have been
betrayed by what was written but
was not intended to be seen
by us, if personal or smut.

The moral for all males and females
is: remember cats aren’t killed
by reading sexy kittens’ e-mails––
being curious does that.

Written in the office of Kia Michel MD, and inspired by Janet Maslin’s review of Christopher Buckley’s memoir on his two parents (Losing Mum and Pup” (“Turns Out It All Does Seem to Be Funny,” NYT, April 30, 2009):
“Losing Mum and Pup” explains how the younger Mr. Buckley lost both his parents within the space of a year and lived to reel off bon mots about it. It eulogizes two people whose only child deemed them larger than life, recognizing that both Godzilla and Mount Rushmore have larger-than-life stature. To some extent this book about the senior Buckleys is an act of expiation, the apologia of a son who sometimes found himself “tempted to pack them off to earlier graves.” To some degree it demonstrates, with the Swiftian urbanity that distinguishes Christopher Buckley’s own literary career, how much about this family’s story is best left unsaid. For a better understanding of how Mr. Buckley developed a satirical style to serve him as a protective carapace, consider the circumstances of his upbringing. His mother, Patricia Taylor Buckley, who died at the age of 80 in April 2007, was elegant, socially prominent and sharp-tongued, capable of sounding like “a cross between Noël Coward and a snapping turtle.” His son credits his own sense of humor to her, which is by far the greatest compliment in this barbed yet flattery-filled memoir. “Losing Mum and Pup” exults over every aspect of Mrs. Buckley’s fabulousness, from her chicken pot pie party recipe to what Women’s Wear Daily called her “belle poitrine.”…
The stormy fights in the Buckley household (Christopher estimates that his parents spent one-third of their marriage not speaking to each other) are used as fodder for humor, not as signs of distress. When he cites a letter he came upon written by his father to the headmaster of Christopher’s boarding school inquiring whether Christopher was having “an amorous dalliance” with another boy (he wasn’t), his main point is this: “Don’t go poking about in other people’s correspondence — you might not like what you find.”

© 2009 Gershon Hepner 4/30/09

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