A Frolic of His Own

pp. 201--250
Annotations by Steven Moore except as [noted].

Page references are to the current Scribner softcover edition. References in parentheses are to first US edition (Poseidon) and to U.K. editions.

A Frolic of His Own
annotations for
softcover (hardcover & UK)
         1-50 (1-54) §
51-100 (56-112) §
101--150 (119--164) §
151-200 (174-224) §
201-250 (228-281) §
251-300 (285-341) §
301-350 (344-394) §
  351--400 (402-449) §
401--450 (465-516) §
  451--end (517-end) §

203.26 (228.38) Poetics: Aristotle’s famous treatise on art; his discussion of three levels of characters—superior to audience members, on the same level, and inferior to the audience--occurs in section 1448a.

203.31 (229.5) Nicochares, who wrote the Iliad: see 370.1.  

204.6 (229.22) the Crito: in this Platonic dialogue, Socrates, presented with a plan to bribe his jailor and escape execution, questions whether wrongdoing is justified to defend oneself against wrong. He concludes it is not, especially if breaking the State’s law is the result.    

208.25 (234.18) the Cratylus [...] someone's name is just a convenience: this Platonic dialogue, concerning the origins of words, is held between Hermogenes, Socrates, and Cratylus.  Hermogenes holds that names are merely conventions without any intrinsic connection to the object named, while Socrates succeeds in convincing him that names originally expressed the essence of the object named, although the names may change over time for a variety of reasons, notably ease of pronounciation.  Cratylus himself holds the position that once a name deviates from the original essence, it becomes nonsense.  Socrates's arguments against Cratylus are convincing to the reader, but Cratylus remains unpersuaded at the end of the dialogue.   Of particular importance to Frolic is Socrates's own failure to define justice. (soliloquy at 412c). [CL]

208.33 (234.27) Thrasymachus: see 214.35 above.  

209.1 (235.1) ‘Every dog is entitled to one bite’:  from Prosser, who calls it “the often repeated statement” (501).  

209.11 (235.11) Piranesi: Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-78), Italian architect, best known for his numerous engravings.  

209.14 (235.15) Écrasez l’infame: Fr. “Crush the abomination” (originally from Voltaire).  

215.10 (242.10) John Ruskin [...] going for ten year old girls:   Ruskin’s marriage to Effie Gray was annulled, allegedly because the inexperienced art critic, misled by Greek statues, was horrified to discover his bride had pubic hair; in later life Ruskin was attracted to a number of young girls, most obsessively an Irish girl named Rose La Touche, whom he met when she was nine.

215.18 (242.17) Freud [...] essay about Medusa’s head: in his 1922 essay "Medusa's Head," Freud write: "If Medusa's head take the place of the representation of the female genitals, or rather if it isolates their horrifying effects from the pleasure-giving ones, it may be recalled that displaying the genitals is familiar in other connections as an apotropaic act. What arouses horror in oneself will produce the same effect upon the enemy against whom one is seeking to defend oneself. We read in Rabelais of how the Devil took to flight when the woman showed him her vulva."

215.24 (242.27) Anna: while Anna Freud (1895-1982) followed her father's teachings, it was Sigmund Freud who introduced the concept of penis envy in his essay "Femininity" (1933).  

223.11 (251.31) mere anarchy: l. 4 of Yeats’s “Second Coming” (see [304.23], [321.14]).

The Second Coming
William Butler Yeats, 1921
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
225.2 (253.35) the unexamined lives: Socrates believed “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Plato, Apology 38a.

227.18 (256.30) milking her into the morning tea, where might he have read that?: Oscar read that in the concluding  chapter (“Penelope”) of Joyce’s Ulysses, where Molly remembers her husband Leopold making that request. (Gaddis has stated that he read that particular chapter during his undergraduate days, but no more of Ulysses.)  

227.30 (257.3) What is worse than treason to one’s king: nothing, according to Macbeth after he has murdered Duncan: “Treason has done his worst;  nor steel, nor poison / Malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing, / Can touch him further” (3.2.24-26).

229.16 (258.38) Beaumont and Fletcher, Ford, Webster: all Jacobean dramatists of the early 17th century.

229.17 (259.1) Marlowe’s Tamburlaine: Marlowe’s first play (1587) contains spectacular battle scenes and even more spectacular language (hence Oscar’s response).  

230.14 (260.3) Coriolanus: Shakespeare’s play (1608?), set in Rome.  

232.40 (263.5) Railswort? Afhadi? Probidetz?: perhaps of no special significance, but the ridiculous-sounding names make clear Gaddis’s opinion of screenplay writers, if nothing else.  

235.12 (265.36) piece in the paper on your hairy Ainu: an article on the Ainu appeared in the 19 August 1992 issue of the New York Times (the only such article between 1986-94), but since it doesn't mention the samurai, Basie's reference is either to another newspaper or is fictitious.  

235.20 (266.5) Fayette County: name of counties in Alabama, Georgia, and West Virginia.  

236.35 (267.29) By the shores of Gitche Gumme? —Stood the wigwam of Nokomis: the first of many references to Longfellow’s narrative poem The Song of Hiawatha (1855). (Given FHO’s theme of literary borrowings, it is worth noting that Longfellow’s poem resembles the Finnish epic Kalevala in spirit as well as in numerous particular passages.) Gaddis first quotes from canto 3: “By the shores of Gitche Gumme, / By the shining Big-Sea-Water, / Stood the wigwam of Nokomis” (Gitche Gumme is Lake Superior, and Nokomis is Hiawatha’s grandmother, who raises him). Then he quotes from the account in canto 7 of Hiawatha’s construction of his birch canoe called Cheemaun; here and elsewhere, Gaddis both weaves lines from Longfellow into his prose and imitates his eight-syllabled trochaic meter.

237.11 (268.10) ravished like the Sabine women: an incident in legendary Roman history, and the subject of many paintings.  

237.13 (268.11) the beautiful Wenonah: Hiawatha’s mother, who dies shortly after giving birth (canto 3).

237.30 (268.31) from Londonderry to Chandigarh: that is, from Ireland (Protestants vs. Catholics) to India (Moslems vs. Hindus). Cf. CG 186.5. Repeated at 447.2.  

238.2 (269.7) Bishop Sheed:  Sheen, Fulton J(ohn) (1895-1979), American Roman Catholic archbishop, who, through the broadcast media, became the most prominent spokesman of the Roman Catholic church in the U.S.  [MR]

238.3 (269.9) Clare Luce: née Clare Booth (1903-?), American playwright, author, and politician; married Henry R. Luce of Time-Life.  

238.42 (270.11) Soweto: an urban area of Johannesburg, South Africa, and the scene of frequent protests and riots before apartheid ended in 1994.

240.10 (271.28) Neanderthal senator of theirs: Jesse Helms, R-North Carolina, parodied here as Senator Orney Bilk (see 294-96 for his political beliefs and details of his career).  

240.21 (272.2) art today is spelled with an f: so said Recktall Brown (R 143.9).  

245.24 (278.3) The Emperor Jones: see 86.37 (96.14).

246.1 (278.23) one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence: Button Gwinnett (1735-77).

247.25 (280.16) veteran colleague from Iowa’s Twenty Fourth Congressional District:

248.10 (281.6) The confusion of tongues: said to be the legacy of the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1-9).  

248.13 (281.10) swarm of flies: see 34.33.  

248.39 (281.38) parti pris: Fr.: “preconceived opinion, bias.”

Abbreviated References
A. Gaddis’ Books

CG: Carpenter’s Gothic. 1985. New York: Penguin, 1999.
FHO: A Frolic of His Own.
New York: Poseidon, 1994.
JR: J R.
1975. New York: Penguin, 1993.
R: The Recognitions.
1955. New York: Penguin, 1993.
B. Gaddis’s Sources
Catton: Bruce Catton, The Army of the Potomac: Mr Lincoln's Army. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1962.
EB: Encyclopædia Britannica. 14th ed., 1929.
ODQ: The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations,
1st ed., 6th impression, (London: Oxford University Press, 1949). Gaddis owned this particular impression, given to him by Ormande de Kay in Paris in 1950.
Plato: The Dialogues of Plato. Translated by Benjamin Jowett. New York: Random House, 1937. 2 vols.
Prosser: William L. Prosser, Handbook of the Law of Torts, 4th edition (St. Paul: West Publishing Co., 1971).
A Frolic of His Own
annotations for
softcover (hardcover & UK)
         1-50 (1-54) §
51-100 (56-112) §
101--150 (119--164) §
151-200 (174-224) §
201-250 (228-281) §
251-300 (285-341) §
301-350 (344-394) §
  351--400 (402-449) §
401--450 (465-516) §
  451--end (517-end) §
A Frolic of His Own
< 151--200
§ 251--300 >

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