Friday, February 5, 2010

A Salinger catalogue

Bessie Glass has just stood up:

She went over to the medicine cabinet. It was stationed above the washbowl, against the wall. She opened its mirror-faced door and surveyed the congested shelves with the eye — or, rather, the masterly squint — of a dedicated medicine-cabinet gardener. Before her, in overly luxuriant rows, was a host, so to speak, of golden pharmaceuticals, plus a few technically less indigenous whatnots. The shelves bore iodine, Mercurochrome, vitamin capsules, dental floss, aspirin, Anacin, Bufferin, Argyrol, Musterole, Ex-Lax, Milk of Magnesia, Sal Hepatica, Aspergum, two Gillette razors, one Schick Injector razor, two tubes of shaving cream, a bent and somewhat torn snapshot of a fat black-and-white cat asleep on a porch railing, three combs, two hairbrushes, a bottle of Wildroot hair ointment, a bottle of Fitch Dandruff Remover, a small, unlabelled box of glycerine suppositories, Vicks Nose Drops, Vicks VapoRub, six bars of castile soap, the stubs of three tickets to a 1946 musical comedy (“Call Me Mister”), a tube of depilatory cream, a box of Kleenex, two seashells, an assortment of used-looking emery boards, two jars of cleansing cream, three pairs of scissors, a nail file, an unclouded blue marble (known to marble shooters, at least in the twenties, as a “purey”), a cream for contracting enlarged pores, a pair of tweezers, the strapless chassis of a girl’s or woman’s gold wristwatch, a box of bicarbonate of soda, a girl’s boarding-school class ring with a chipped onyx stone, a bottle of Stopette — and, inconceivably or no, quite a good deal more.

J.D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey (1961)
Wonderful catalogue, and writer. I like how the deadpan assembling of sentence parts in the first two sentences — “to the medicine cabinet,” “above the washbowl,” “against the wall” — gives way to the overgrown abundance of the sentences that follow. “[D]edicated medicine-cabinet gardener” sounds Nabokovian, as does the joke on Wordsworth’s golden daffodils. Nabokov, it turns out, was an early admirer of Salinger’s writing.

Did you catch the pun in “congested”?

Argyrol? Musterole? Sal Hepatica? Stopette? Stay tuned.

More on these items from a catalogue
Sal Hepatica

comments: 5

Elaine said...

Sal Hepatica was a laxative. Musterole was a mustard plaster by any other name. I have no clue about the others on your short list...but I recognized a lot of the brands/products on the list.

If you just love lists, _Charlotte's Web_ has a great one--the contents of Wilbur's slops bucket. There may also be several relating to Templeton the Rat (his nest, the dump, and the fair.) I don't know why, but they are a lot of fun.

Must rush off and catalog the contents of my "kitchen oddments" drawer.

Michael Leddy said...

I have fond memories of Aspergum from childhood, but the four items I mentioned were unknown to me. I’m planning to make a post or two about them and some others.

Thanks for the Charlotte’s Web tip.

Anonymous said...

Stopette was a deodorant -- a "spray-on" deodorant, in a plastic bottle that you could squeeze to create a spray. I happen to know this not from memory of the 50s (though I was around then, as a little kid deodorant was not big on my agenda) but because GSN (Game Show Network) shows, very late at night, reruns of old game shows like "What's My Line?", of which Stopette was a sponsor.

Matt Thomas said...

Surely this qualifies as a “dowdy world” post, yes?

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks for the GSN tip, Bibliotrope. I’m going to post a Stopette print ad soon.

Matt, yes, it’s the dowdy world for sure.