Jim Holt

Jim Holt

A weeklong electronic journal.
Feb. 27 1997 3:30 AM

Jim Holt


       One thing that can definitely be said against having a job is that it affords little scope for solitary drinking during the daylight hours. This is one of life's great pleasures--its only great pleasure, I have sometimes felt. I feel this acutely today, for Wednesday has traditionally been my "heavy-drinking day." (Don't call me Wednesday, I once advised Christopher Hitchens, offering this as an excuse. He gave a knowing chuckle.) You start at lunch with a half-bottle of claret. It is the elegant, French thing to do, you reason, William Buckley has a half-bottle at lunch, after all, and he has written 6 million words, and so on. Before you know it, you have had three-quarters of a bottle, so why not finish the thing off? A mild exhilaration comes over you--you are "in your cups." Owing to the mysteries of brain chemistry, this is followed by a brief fit of the glooms, which I call "wallowing in crapulent self-pity." But that gives way soon enough to a delightful afternoon bacchanal, a one-man Dionysian romp that can be accompanied either by a recording of Turandot or Sister Sledge, as you see fit. (It is generally a mistake to answer the phone during this interval, as your elocution will be unaccountably bad.) After sashaying around the living room for a few hours, you lapse into a stuporous nap. When you wake up--bingo!--it's the cocktail hour. Time for a glass of whiskey, then maybe a nice inky zinfandel while you make yourself dinner, following a recipe in "Cooking for One While Drunk." ...
       I believe that God loves alcoholics more than he does a lot of respectable people.


* * * * * *

       Today, sadly, I am in the office under very sobering fluorescent lights, puzzling over niceties of grammar. The author whose manuscript I am looking at apparently does not grasp the distinction between "it's" (the contraction of "it is") and "its" (the possessive neuter pronoun). This used to be a problem for me until I came upon an excellent poem/mnemonic device that was thought up, I believe, by the husband of the late Jessica Mitford:

When is it 'its'?
When it's not 'it is.'
When is it 'it's'?
When it is 'it is.'

     My dog is having a more interesting day. A car and driver came to pick him up at 8:15 this morning for a photo shoot in SoHo for Martha Stewart's magazine. He is a preternaturally cute miniature dachshund called Renzo. His task is to play with a selection of toys--a large, squeaky rubber carrot, etc.--in a tasteful setting while the photographer snaps away; for this he will be paid a $50 modeling fee. Renzo is very good, the stylist tells me over the phone. The only problem is that he always wants a toy other than the one he's supposed to be playing with in the given shot. Proust called this une erreur d'âme--"soul error." Dogs, however, do not possess souls (see Descartes).      Perplexing.      Photograph of dog © 1997 Gentl and Hyers. All rights reserved.

Jim Holt is the editor of the New Leader, a political biweekly.