to fit in everywhere and give satisfaction. Although as a rule
my words and phrases are good for one day and train only, I have
several that stay by me all the time, for some unknown reason,
and these come very handy when I get into a long conversation and need
things to fire up with in monotonous stretches. One of the best ones
is DOV’ `E IL GATTO. It nearly always produces a pleasant surprise,
therefore I save it up for places where I want to express applause
or admiration. The fourth word has a French sound, and I think
the phrase means “that takes the cake.”
During my first week in the deep and dreamy stillness of this woodsy
and flowery place I was without news of the outside world, and was
well content without it. It has been four weeks since I had seen
a newspaper, and this lack seemed to give life a new charm and grace,
and to saturate it with a feeling verging upon actual delight.
Then came a change that was to be expected: the appetite for news
began to rise again, after this invigorating rest. I had to feed it,
but I was not willing to let it make me its helpless slave again;
I determined to put it on a diet, and a strict and limited one.
So I examined an Italian paper, with the idea of feeding it on that,
and on that exclusively. On that exclusively, and without help of
a dictionary. In this way I should surely be well protected against
overloading and indigestion.
A glance at the telegraphic page filled me with encouragement.
There were no scare-heads. That was good–supremely good. But there
were headings–one-liners and two-liners–and that was good too;
for without these, one must do as one does with a German paper–pay our
precious time in finding out what an article is about, only to discover,
in many cases, that there is nothing in it of interest to you.
The headline is a valuable thing.
Necessarily we are all fond of murders, scandals, swindles,
robberies, explosions, collisions, and all such things, when we
knew the people, and when they are neighbors and friends, but when
they are strangers we do not get any great pleasure out of them,
as a rule. Now the trouble with an American paper is that it has
no discrimination; it rakes the whole earth for blood and garbage,
and the result is that you are daily overfed and suffer a surfeit.
By habit you stow this muck every day, but you come by and by to
take no vital interest in it–indeed, you almost get tired of it.
As a rule, forty-nine-fiftieths of it concerns strangers only–
people away off yonder, a thousand miles, two thousand miles,
ten thousand miles from where you are. Why, when you come to think
of it, who cares what becomes of those people? I would not give
the assassination of one personal friend for a whole massacre
of those others. And, to my mind, one relative or neighbor mixed
up in a scandal is more interesting than a whole Sodom and Gomorrah
of outlanders gone rotten. Give me the home product every time.
Very well. I saw at a glance that the Florentine paper would
suit me: five out of six of its scandals and tragedies were local;
they were adventures of one’s very neighbors, one might almost say
one’s friends. In the matter of world news there was not too much,
but just about enough. I subscribed. I have had no occasion
to regret it. Every morning I get all the news I need for the day;
sometimes from the headlines, sometimes from the text. I have never
had to call for a dictionary yet. I read the paper with ease.
Often I do not quite understand, often some of the details escape me,
but no matter, I get the idea. I will cut out a passage or two,
then you see how limpid the language is:
Il ritorno dei Beati d’Italia
Elargizione del Re all’ Ospedale italiano
The first line means that the Italian sovereigns are coming back–
they have been to England. The second line seems to mean that they
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