A Good Idea

Letter From Venice

The most readily saleable kind of merchandise a writer keeps on offer is his natural gregariousness, with the widely advertised consequence that so many writers drink themselves to death.  In this steady though unprofitable trade of ours, I am pleased to say, I have some distinct advantage over the competition, as I never went to school and spent my childhood in near-monastic isolation.  That such a mode of upbringing, notwithstanding John Stuart Mill’s inspiring example, is almost universally credited nowadays with the unleashing of homicidal sociopaths, called “loners,” upon placid diners in fast-food restaurants may be flattering; nothing, however, is further from the truth, since it is perfectly obvious that a person deprived of a certain experience in his youth is all the more eager to have his fill of it as an adult.  So it is for me with human company, with the result that no pipe-smoking stranger on the train, no matter how choleric, and no newspaper-reading misanthrope on the bus, however deaf, have ever evaded the tungsten grasp of my clinically certified volubility.

At the next table at Harry’s Bar the other night were two middle-aged couples visiting Venice, one British and one Australian.  The Englishman, whose wife would soon reveal herself as the weak link in the organization of the table’s defenses against my relentlessly mounting intrusion, was in the insurance business. ...

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