Prunes and Prism

RULES FOR YOUNG LADIES: Some arch advice on snagging a husband. Exercising the mouth into a pretty shape through repetition of certain words seems to have been an indoor sport for young nineteenth-century girls; in Little Dorrit, Charles Dickens' overly bred girl repeats, "papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes and prism." (

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Prince of Peas

Dear friends who know me told me I should see Junebug, and they were so right I've seen it three times now: the first time alone, the second time alone with commentary, and the third time with the Comrade, whose notions of the South up to this point have been informed by Doc Hollywood. (For those who don't have TNT, Doc Hollywood is the Michael J. Fox vehicle that falls in the first category of movies about the South; namely, those that feature quirky characters and art-directed county fairs. The other category involves racial tension, murder, and ceiling fans, and everybody sweats a lot.)

Before Junebug I don't think I'd ever seen such an honest picture of the South (don't watch these people quibbling over an empty carton that should have held Vantages and think you know the whole story -- I give you fair warning before you attempt them further), and I don't know that any other movie has ever gnawed at me for days afterward. I think it spoke to me because it's a movie about home, but also because I could see myself in both George, who comes back to the place where he grew up (with equal, or unequal, parts longing and suffocation), and Madeleine, who comes in as an outsider (with equal, or unequal, parts fascination and exasperation, cut with a little shame and a dash of never knowing how to "do"). Of course it didn't mean as much to the Comrade, who has never been trapped in a baby shower feeling like a female impersonator, but I think it functioned as a kind of travelogue nonetheless.

Since the movie I've been singing hymns around the house. ("Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling ...") On Sunday the Comrade was elbow deep in the $40 worth of cheese* he'd bought at Garden of Eden market** and chimed in with "Earnestly, tenderly, cheeses is calling, calling for you and for me: cut me ... cut me ..."

I guess he isn't the first person to come up with this, but I thought it was pretty good for somebody who's not operating in his native tongue. And it's a joke with a lot of mileage: "What a Friend We Have in Cheeses." "Cheeses Is Just All Right With Me."

The Comrade wondered why Southern Christians are so hung up on hymns, since in the Eastern Orthodox church hymns are sung only by priests, as a form of prayer. I told him to compare it not with the Russian church, but with Communism: all those songs for Dyedushka*** Lenin weren't prayer but they were certainly praise, as well as something rousing to do at assemblies. But I felt a pang of guilt (see also: longing, suffocation) at comparing "I Come to the Garden Alone" with Soviet propaganda. So I told him he shouldn't assume Southern Christians don't have real, gut-level faith, no matter how glad I am that I never have to go to another dinner in a church basement (see also: fascination, exasperation).

Incidentally, I got that butterscotch Tastycake, and I wish I could be more articulate about this, but: holy crap. I didn't get much butterscotch per se, but it's so sugary and light, like a grocery-store birthday cake. I'm glad they're kosher -- I'll have something to eat when the Christians throw me out for the blasphemy I've just committed and I have to seek refuge in kabbalah.

* Friends, this is nothing -- I've watched him leave that place $70 lighter. I think we can all agree that this is a lot of money for anybody to spend on cheese (cheese that doesn't conceal weapons-grade plutonium, that is), but for someone who ate potatoes for a couple of years while the ruble was hurtling through the core of the earth, it's downright sinful. The man loves cheese.

** Why, oh why, didn't they call it Garden of Eatin'? A low-down, dirty shame.

***"Grandfather" Lenin. Really.


Blogger Recovering Baptist said...

I haven't seen Junebug but it's now on my Netflix list. For a good old fashioned redneck funeral experience, read my homepage. I just went to a visitation...

11:27 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

So did you like the Krimpet? The "cake" part is sort of blah but that icing on top...oh yum!

I'll have to check out Junebug since I lived in the South for quite a bit of time.

4:52 PM  
Blogger cb said...

Amy, re: variations on the theme of Jesus and cheeses: Miss Dawn Bauer and I used to sing the below in high school to the tune of one of Depeche Mode's greatest hits. I think she made the lyrics up, 'cause she's crazy like that.

Your own personal Cheez-Whiz
Somewhere to dip your chips
Your pita crisps

12:49 AM  
Anonymous Libra Litrou said...

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Libra Litrou

8:54 PM  

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