A Frolic of His Own

pp. 301--350

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) §

302.12 (344.1) a burgeoning bank fraud: probably a reference to the savings & loan crisis of the late 1980s/early 1990s: see Gaddis’s essay on it, “This Above All” (RSP 110-13).

302.13 (344.1) a lugubrious President announcing China’s most favoured nation status: President George H. W. Bush renewed China's most-favored-nation trading status on 24 May 1990, eleven days before the first anniversary of Tiananmen Square massacre.

304.7 (346.9) Maintenant il appartient à l'histoire […] Jetzt der
gehört er der Welt? Geschichte?:
French and German versions of [now
he belongs to the ages], but the German should read: "jetzt gehört er
der Welt." Words spoken by War Secretary Edwin Stanton at the
deathbed of Abraham Lincoln. Senator Orney Bilk uses those words on
the occasion of Judge Crease's death: see 407.28(465.35). For
further information on the connection to Lincoln see:

307.27 (350.13) That's a way of putting it: cf. T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets, "East Coker," section 2: [JS]

That was a way of putting it—not very satisfactory:
A periphrastic study in a worn-out poetical fashion,
Leaving one still with the intolerable wrestle
With words and meanings.

307.39 (350.26) the gay Lothario: a phrase not often used anymore, originating in Nicholas Rowe’s play The Fair Penitent (1703): "Is this the haughty, gallant, gay Lothario?" (ODQ). Lily mistakes the old adjective "gay" for its current, sexual connotation.

309.11 (352.10) Jeremiah, Go to Shiloh [...] of my people: Jer. 7:12.

309.13 (352.14) Speak, for thy servant heareth: 1. Sam. 3:10 (the infant Samuel responding to his god).

311.7 (354.24) that déjeuner sur l’herbe scene: title of a famous painting by Édouard Manet (1832-83) depicting a nude woman enjoying a picnic with two dressed men, which caused a scandal at its first showing.

311.11 (354.27) bumchafer: a short jacket?

311.12 (354.30) Sulka’s: an exclusive men’s haberdashery, formerly on Madison Avenue (closed 2001).

312.8 (355.31) encore du sangre Madame?: Fr.: "Blood again, Madame?"

312.10 (355.33) a little eggy mess on ve tunic in that charming story of Kipling’s: from “His Majesty the King,” first published in Wee Willie Winkie and Other Child Stories (1888), about an unloved child in India (hence the dialect) named Toby. Recalling the time his father chastised him with "Go a-way you--dirty--little debbil!" Toby tells his nurse: "It's what he'd say. I know it is! He said vat when vere was only a little, little eggy mess, on my t-t-unic; and he'd say it again, and laugh, if I went in wif vat on my head."

313.19 (357.8) a little Yquem: Chateau d'Yquem, an extremely expensive and very rare sweet white wine from the Sauternes district in the Bordeaux region in France. The wine classification of 1855 for the Universal Exposition in Paris granted Chateau d'Yquem a unique classification: Grand Premier Cru, or Great First Growth. Chateau d'Yquem is considered a dessert wine, although it may also be served with pate de foie gras, so except for the pate Pookie eats, the assortment of food that Trish and Madhar Pai bring is inappropriate to it. [CL]

313.39 (357.31) Judge Weisnicht: German for "don't know" (weiss nicht).

315.7 (359.10) Loeb, Rhoades: an NYC brokerage firm.

315.19 (359.22) that October crash: in 1987: stock markets around the world crashed on 19 October 1987, shedding a huge amount of value over the following two weeks that would take years to recover. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Monday_%281987%29

316.11 (360.22) Thresher and Glenny: since 1783, shirtmakers to royalty and wealthy discerning customers; more here. [AZ]

317.11 (361.28) Endymion: an early poem by Keats, savaged by reviewers upon its first appearance in 1818.

317.36 (362.15) red in tooth and claw with ravin: a famous description from Tennyson’s "In Memorium."

318.11 (362.33) Merck's Manuel: The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, ed. Merck & Co., Inc., Rahway, N.J., first publ. in 1899, written for doctors and those professions dealing with medical problems. [AZ]

318.19 (363.3) Conrad describing his task [...] you have forgotten to ask: from his preface to The Nigger of the "Narcissus.

319.17 (364.7) Chichikov: the swindler protagonist of Gogol’s novel Dead Souls (1842).

320.34 (365.30) the smell of money [...] Harry’s read Freud: Freud associates money with excrement.

321.3 (366.3) Tolstoy’s Master and Man: an 1895 story about the estate owner and trader Vassily Andreyich Brechunov and his servant Nikita, who get lost in a snow storm on their way to a near-by village where Brechunov wants to complete some allegedly urgent purchase. Having to wait in the cold for the night to pass, Brechunov -- whose wealth and possessions had always been his primary concern in life – undergoes a total change of heart when his servant comes near death. He saves Nikita by covering him with his body. Brechunov dies, but in experiencing empathy for another human being, experiences the transcendant happiness that he had never achieved before. [AZ]

321.6 (366.6) celebrity general who gets five million to write a book written by somebody else: Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf’s It Doesn’t Take a Hero: The Autobiography (NY: Bantam, 1992) was co-written (if not substantially written) by Peter Petre.

323.13 (368.30) wars and rumours of war: from Matthew 24:6.

324.16 (370.1) Nicochares, the Diliad: a Greek comic poet of the 5th century B.C. The Diliad is a lost parody of the Iliad mentioned in Aristotle’s Poetics.

324.29 (370.16) Tocqueville: Count Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-59), French historian, best known for his Democracy in America (1935-39), in which he ...

324.32 (370.18) the invisible man somebody called him: Ralph Ellison’s novel Invisible Man (1952).

326.34 (372.38) epitasis: in drama, the intensifying movement toward the climax; specifically, the point where "the plot thickens."

327.8 (373.16) Blake was it? Where man is not, nature is barren: from the
"Proverbs of Hell" section of Blake's "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell." [JS]

327.10 (373.18) Holinshed: Shakespeare found the basic plot for King Lear in the Chronicles of 16th-century English historian Raphael Holinshed.

327.36 (374.7) the Lord is a man of war says Exodus: Ex. 15:3; cf. CG 243.22, where McCandless cites the same verse during a similar tirade.

327.37 (374.8) he came bringing not peace but a sword: see 39.31.

327.42 (375.21) Thomas Münster: Thomas Münzer or Müntzer, protestant theologian and revolutionary, accused Luther of being too closely connected to the authorities and was executed on 15 May 1525 near Mühlhausen during a peasants' revolt. [AZ]

328.40 (374.11) Dome of the Rock and the Temple Mount: both are in Jerusalem and were the scenes of conflict in the early 1990s.

328.43 (374.12) Uttar Pradesh: see 338.36.

328.41 (375.18) Dostoevski’s heroes [...] living in a meaningless universe: “Not to believe in God and immortality, for the later Dostoevsky, is to be condemned to live in an ultimately senseless universe; and the characters in his great novels who reach this level of self awareness inevitably destroy themselves because, refusing to endure the torment of living without hope, they have become monsters in their misery.” Gaddis quoted this passage from Joseph Frank’s Dostoevsky: The Years of Ordeal, 1850-1859 (Princeton UP, 1983), 159, in a letter to Gregory Comnes, 15 October 1992.

328.42 (375.21) Peter the Hermit: a French (not German) hermit and monk whose preaching inspired the First Crusade (1096). See Runciman, vol. 1, 113 ff.

329.12 (375.34) perfidious Albion: a phrase used to describe the way Britain enforced its politics. It originated with the French poet Augustin, Marquis de Ximénèz's verse line: "Attaquons dans ses eaux la perfide Albion!" (Let us attack in her own waters perfidious Albion!), "L'Ère des Francais" in Poésies Révolutionnaires et Contre-Révolutionnaires (1821). Albion is the oldest known name for the British Isles. [AZ]

329.14 (375.37) such, such were the joys:  The title essay in a collection by George Orwell (1953) that was seen as too libelous to print in England until 1968, about the abuse Orwell experienced as a child at an expensive and snobbish boarding school, thought to offer insights into his lifelong concern for the oppressed.  The title is taken from the second  verse of a Blake poem in Songs of Innocence and of Experience (c. 1790), [VH]

The Ecchoing Green
The Sun does arise, 
And make happy the skies. 
The merry bells ring 
To welcome the Spring. 
The sky-lark and thrush, 
The birds of the bush, 
Sing louder around, 
To the bells chearful sound. 
While our sports shall be seen 
On the Ecchoing Green.

Old John with white hair 
Does laugh away care, 
Sitting under the oak, 
Among the old folk,
They laugh at our play, 
And soon they all say. 
Such such were the joys. 
When we all girls & boys, 
In our youth-time were seen, 
On the Ecchoing Green.

Till the little ones weary 
No more can be merry 
The sun does descend, 
And our sports have an end: 
Round the laps of their mothers, 
Many sisters and brothers, 
Like birds in their nest, 
Are ready for rest; 
And sport no more be seen, 
On the darkening Green.

329.23 (376.7) give up all and follow me: Luke 9:23.

329.24 (376.9) love thy neighbor as thyself: Mark 12:31.

329.27 (376.11) when the bough breaks [...] baby and all: from a children’s rhyme.

329.32 (376.16) the blood of the martyrs, Tertullian wasn’t it? the seed of the church: a famous quotation from the early Church Father (ca. 160-ca. 225), quoted also in CG.

329.39 (376.24) T E Lawrence [...] hesitating retinue of finer shades: T. E. Lawrence (1888-1935) wrote a lengthy account of the Arab revolt and his own exploits as "Lawrence of Arabia" in Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1926). Near the beginning of chap. 3, he writes: "Semites had no half-tones in their register of vision. They were a people of primary colours, or rather of black and white, who saw the world always in contour. They were a dogmatic people, despising our doubt, our modern crown of thorns. They did not understand our metaphysical difficulties, our introspective questionings. They knew only truth and untruth, belief and unbelief, without our hesitating retinue of finer shades." (Lawrence first used this passage in his introduction to C. M. Doughty’s Travels in Arabia Deserta; Gaddis knows both works and cites Doughty in his first three novels.)

329.42 (376.28) true believers go forth to war says the Koran: see surah 4:76 (“Those who believe do battle for the cause of Allah . . .”), 9:123 (“O ye who believe! Fight those of the disbelievers who are near to you . . .”), and elsewhere (2:216, 244; 8:39; 9:29) — The Glorious Qur’an, trans. Muhammad M. Pickthall.

330.6 (376.34) Plato’s dialogue Cratylus [...] Hermogenes: {give details}

330.20 (377.11) the battle of Hastings: the 1066 battle in which William the Conqueror defeated the Saxons under King Harold.

331.20 (378.17) may have builded better than you knew: from Emerson’s poem "The Problem," as quoted in ODQ: "The hand that rounded Peter’s dome, / And groined the aisles of Christian Rome, / Wrought in a sad sincerity; / Himself from God he could not free; / He builded better than he knew;— / The conscious stone to beauty grew."

334.11 (381.26) that beautiful redhead from Grosse Point [...] Liz: Elizabeth Booth from CG. Many readers misunderstood the nature of her death, so Gaddis has Christina relay his intentions on the next page.

334.24 (382.2) Jackson Hole: a ski resort in Wyoming.

334.25 (382.2) him: Doctor Henry Kissinger (see 537.22), the jet-setting physician in CG (but also obviously the diplomat and former secretary of state, whom Gaddis loathed).

334.33 (382.11) Debrett’s: a biographical reference book on the British aristocracy.

337.23. I suppose that’s a way of putting it: cf. T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets, "East Coker," section 2:      [JS]

That was a way of putting it—not very satisfactory:
A periphrastic study in a worn-out poetical fashion,
Leaving one still with the intolerable wrestle
With words and meanings.

337.28 (385.31) the noblest Roman of them all: Mark Antony’s description of Julius Caesar in Shakespeare’s play (5.3.68).

341.23 (390.12) masque adoucissant […] retirer à l’eau tiède: the instructions for Christina's moisturizing skin cream tell her to apply the lotion in thin layers on face and neck and let it work for 15 minutes – but she is too impatient for that – and then wash it off with warm water. [AZ]

345.14 (394.32) pro hac vice: Lat.: "for this occasion only."

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).
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