In Conclusion


Ineptitude consists in wanting to reach conclusions…What mind worthy of the name, beginning with Homer, ever reached a conclusion?

Gustave Flaubert
The Letters of Gustave Flaubert: 1830-1857

Illustration by Saul Steinberg (1966)

Letter to the Editor


I’m a guy. But if I was a girl, I wouldn’t go anywhere. I’d sit all morning in a big comfortable chair with my hands up my dress. And then in the afternoon, I’d put my hands in my blouse. It’d be fantastic. Why the hell would I want to go anywhere? You answer me that.

Mark Farmers
New Haven, Conn.
Letters from the Editors of the National Lampoon (1973)

Promises of Eternity

Monkey before Skeleton

Do you ever think of yourself as actually dead, lying in a box with a lid on it?…It’s silly to be depressed by it. I mean one thinks of it like being alive in a box, one keeps forgetting to take into account the fact that one is dead…which should make a difference…shouldn’t it? I mean, you’d never know you were in a box, would you? It would be just like being asleep in a box. Not that I’d like to sleep in a box, mind you, not without any air – you’d wake up dead, for a start, and then where would you be? Apart from inside a box…Because you’d be helpless, wouldn’t you? Stuffed in a box like that, I mean you’d be in there for ever. Even taking into account the fact that you’re dead, it isn’t a pleasant thought. Especially if you’re dead, really…ask yourself, if I asked you straight off – I’m going to stuff you in this box now, would you rather be alive or dead? Naturally, you’d prefer to be alive. Life in a box is better than no life at all. I expect. You’d have a chance at least. You could lie there thinking – well, at least I’m not dead! In a minute someone’s going to bang on the lid and tell me to come out. “Hey you, whatsyername! Come out of there!”…

I wouldn’t think about it, if I were you. You’d only get depressed. (Pause.) Eternity is a terrible thought. I mean, where’s it going to end?

Tom Stoppard
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1966)

Painting by Gabriel Cornelius von Max (1840-1915): Monkey before Skeleton