Saturday, May 1, 2010

Americans Imitating Frenchmen Who Imitate Americans

Here's a bit from a posting by James Fallows at The Atlantic site:
... a passage from a 1930s-era essay by James Thurber, called "Wild Bird Hickcock and His Friends." Thurber loved reading French pulp-novel versions of American Westerns, and he described one of them thus:
There were, in my lost and lamented collection, a hundred other fine things, which I have forgotten, but there is one that will forever remain with me. It occured in a book in which, as I remember it, Billy the Kid, alias Billy the Boy, was the central figure. At any rate, two strangers had turned up in a small Western town and their actions had aroused the suspicions of a group of respectable citizens, who forthwith called on the sheriff to complain about the newcomers. The sheriff listened gravely for a while, got up and buckled on his gun belt, and said, "Alors, je vais demander ses cartes d'identité!'' There are few things, in any literature, that have ever given me a greater thrill than coming across that line.
Go read the whole post to get background, pictures, and more finger wagging about the ridiculous "Zee muss gibt uns zeine papers!" law from the newly born 48th fascist state. You know, the one that requires police to check your identity papers to make sure you have a right to be where you are when you are and how you are. The one that makes it illegal for the police to not be suspicious of everyone because you can never be too sure who is an illegal alien. Just ask those who demand papers from Obama to prove that he is a US citizen and is rightfully elected President of the US.

You don't have to be a James Thurber fan to appreciate the above. But I was raised on Thurber and enjoyed his downplayed homespun humour.

Oh, and I was raised in an era when a "Your papers!" was an order barked by a Nazi or an official of Fascist police state, you know, kinda like Arizona has become.


thomas said...

I read the Fallows post earlier and I enjoyed it as well as the other ones on the AZ law. Good to read your take on this post and the law though. It looks like more states are going to follow with laws of their own even though there are multiple lawsuits and protests going on. This has the potential to turn very ugly before it gets resolved..

I have always enjoyed James Thurber, but I have not read all of his work. I do own one of his essay books. I have looked a lot of times for one of his essays or short stories called "The Day Sports Died". I read it while still in high school but since then I have never found it listed anywhere and I have looked through all the books I could find and on the internet.

RYviewpoint said...

Thomas: I wish I could help you, but I moved a half year ago and the order that my many thousands of books had was lost and I'll never regain it, so I can't find anything.

Now my house is like a perpetual Easter egg hunt. I go from room to room and look on shelves and in piles and "discover" books I knew I had but wasn't sure where they ended up after the move. But I have no space to re-organize, so I've given up.

So I can't find my Thurber books to check them for you. Sorry!

thomas said...


I appreciate the thought.. I don't know why I look for the story except maybe to prove to myself that it was a real Thurber story (that I actually read it). I would have loved to reference it at different times in the past because, like so many of his stories, it illustrates human behavior so accurately.