“All About Relativity: Einstein’s Theory Explained for The Lay-Mind in Simple Terms” (E11)

  • Originally Published: Vanity Fair, March 1920
  • First Reprinted: Never
  • Original Byline: Robert C. Benchley

🦉🦉🦉

Comments:
Nothing earth-shattering here, as Benchley bends Einstein’s bolts from the blackness of space into a set of light goofs on gravity. RB mocks the incongruously chummy obscurantism that characterizes so much popular scientific discourse, laying a miserable crumb trail of the theory’s most easily digestible minutiae that leads absolutely nowhere. Promising to open up a worm hole between the lay reader’s mind and the core concepts of cutting-edge 20th century physics, RB then tosses the low hanging fruit of his obtuse inquiry aside without so much as an existential frisson. The author’s quarrel is not with Einstein, or with any of his fellow pioneers in the vanguard of space-time research, but rather with the newspaper and magazine hacks who come off like the half-assed evangels of a new cosmic theory whose power to illuminate never glimmers onto the page.


Published a couple of months after Benchley’s resignation from Vanity Fair in protest against the dismissal of Dorothy Parker and Robert Sherwood, this could very well be the erstwhile Managing Editor’s final piece for the magazine (I guess I won’t know that for sure until I complete my alphabetical survey). If so, he went out on a fittingly futile note.

Favourite Moment:
“When the professors have got this far in their explanation of Einstein’s Theory, they say that, of course, the whole thing is difficult to explain to the lay-mind, and that the best and most loyal thing to do is simply to take the scientists’ word for it and let it go at that.”

“After-Bedtime Stories: How Lillian Mosquito Projects Her Voice” (E7)

  • Originally printed: Life Magazine, July 29, 1920
  • First reprinted in: Love Conquers All
  • Original Byline: Robert C. Benchley

🦉🦉🦉

Commentary:
Here, the nursery’s caustic conch passes from humanity’s best friend (E6) to one of its most implacable foes, in the anthropomorphized person of Lillian Mosquito. Nothing terribly surprising in RB’s characterization of the despised insect as motivated more by bloody-mindedness than by blood-lust. Lillian is a vampiric ventriloquist, baiting her inept victims to add insulting self-injury to their itches. More interestingly, perhaps, the piece expands upon the previous installment’s note of malaise under Mother Nature’s malevolent tutelage. A shame we never got to learn “how Lois Hen scratches up the beets and Swiss chard in gentlemen’s gardens…”

Favourite moment:
“But he was prevented from leaving by kindly Old Mother Nature, who stepped on him with her kindly old heel…”

Reprint Note:

  • Reprinted under the title “Animal Stories: Part II – Lillian Mosquito”

“After-Bedtime Stories: How Georgie Dog Gets the Rubbers on the Guest Room Bed” (E6)

  • Originally printed: Life Magazine, July 15, 1920
  • First reprinted in: Love Conquers All
  • Original Byline: Robert C. Benchley

🦉🦉🦉

Commentary:
Reprinted in Love Conquers All as part of a diptych with E7 (“How Lillian Mosquito Projects Her Voice”), we embark on a little field trip to Old Mother Nature’s nursery, where anthropomorphic auditors gather each day for a series of seminars in mischief making. Georgie Dog relates with relish his best practices for doing one’s worst with sodden footwear. A perverse peek at the author’s proto-sitcom universe from the perspective of the kind of domestic chaos agent so apt to addle the Benchleyan Little Man’s intimations of harmony.

Favourite moment:
“And sure enough, in came Georgie Dog, wagging his entire torso in a paroxysm of camaraderie, even though everyone knew that he had no use for Waldo Lizard.”

Reprint Notes:

  • Title changed to “Animal Stories: Part I – Georgie Dog”
  • Cartoon of Georgie not reprinted in Love Conquers All – not by Gluyas Williams