Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Eat a peach?

J. Alfred Prufrock’s “Do I dare to eat a peach?” makes sense as a trivialized version of his “overwhelming question” and as a speculation about transgression and forbidden fruit. “No, thank you, I don’t think I should,” Prufrock might have said to the woman in the garden. And then there’s the messy juiciness of peach-eating, perhaps a painful thought for one who is painfully self-conscious.

But it may be worse than that. Imagine trying to eat a peach, or even an apple or an orange, in the manner described in Mrs. Humphry’s Etiquette for Every Day (London: Grant Richards, 1904):

However sharp or strong the dessert knife might be, this procedure seems (to me, anyway) to guarantee Prufrockian angst. Either that or Three Stooges hijinks.

In 1914, after protracted discussion, Grant Richards published James Joyce’s Dubliners. T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” appeared in Poetry in 1915.

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