“Bad News for Synura” (E34)

  • Originally printed: Life Magazine, February 9, 1922
  • First reprinted in: Never reprinted
  • Original Byline: R.C. Benchley


Here R.C. Benchley takes up the cause of the single celled synura, whose only transgression has been to impart a slight aftertaste of cucumber to the city’s water supply. Objecting to numerous public pronouncements by county officials concerning their efforts to isolate the little fellows in the Kensico reservoir (with a view toward eradicating them entirely), Benchley asks his readers to consider the underdog’s point of view. Okay, sure, some people think their oil savors more of strychnine, and maybe that’s a point against them, but the important thing is, they are not strychnine! And the synura have rights, too. To elicit sympathy from his bourgeois audience, RCB dwells primarily on those upwardly mobile algae who’ve spent long hours at night school prepping to catch a current down into the metropolis, where dreams come true.

To call this piece “slight” would be to ascribe far too much importance to it, but the author shows admirable commitment to his one-joke premise and carries it through to a final appeal for a filibuster of these filtration machinations.

Favourite Moment:
“And then came the official edict. The reservoir gates are to be closed. The open road to New York is to be barred. And in the rural fastnesses of Kensico there is at least one synura who swims idly about, with his life’s ambition thwarted.”

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