Jim Holt

       One thing that can definitely be said against having a job is that it affords little scope for solitary drinking during the daylight hours. This is one of life’s great pleasures–its only great pleasure, I have sometimes felt. I feel this acutely today, for Wednesday has traditionally been my “heavy-drinking day.” (Don’t call me Wednesday, I once advised Christopher Hitchens, offering this as an excuse. He gave a knowing chuckle.) You start at lunch with a half-bottle of claret. It is the elegant, French thing to do, you reason, William Buckley has a half-bottle at lunch, after all, and he has written 6 million words, and so on. Before you know it, you have had three-quarters of a bottle, so why not finish the thing off? A mild exhilaration comes over you–you are “in your cups.” Owing to the mysteries of brain chemistry, this is followed by a brief fit of the glooms, which I call “wallowing in crapulent self-pity.” But that gives way soon enough to a delightful afternoon bacchanal, a one-man Dionysian romp that can be accompanied either by a recording of Turandot or Sister Sledge, as you see fit. (It is generally a mistake to answer the phone during this interval, as your elocution will be unaccountably bad.) After sashaying around the living room for a few hours, you lapse into a stuporous nap. When you wake up–bingo!--it’s the cocktail hour. Time for a glass of whiskey, then maybe a nice inky zinfandel while you make yourself dinner, following a recipe in “Cooking for One While Drunk.” …
       I believe that God loves alcoholics more than he does a lot of respectable people.

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       Today, sadly, I am in the office under very sobering fluorescent lights, puzzling over niceties of grammar. The author whose manuscript I am looking at apparently does not grasp the distinction between “it’s” (the contraction of “it is”) and “its” (the possessive neuter pronoun). This used to be a problem for me until I came upon an excellent poem/mnemonic device that was thought up, I believe, by the husband of the late Jessica Mitford:

When is it ‘its’?
When it’s not ‘it is.’
When is it ‘it’s’?
When it is ‘it is.’

     My dog is having a more interesting day. A car and driver came to pick him up at 8:15 this morning for a photo shoot in SoHo for Martha Stewart’s magazine. He is a preternaturally cute miniature dachshund called Renzo. His task is to play with a selection of toys–a large, squeaky rubber carrot, etc.–in a tasteful setting while the photographer snaps away; for this he will be paid a $50 modeling fee. Renzo is very good, the stylist tells me over the phone. The only problem is that he always wants a toy other than the one he’s supposed to be playing with in the given shot. Proust called this une erreur d’âme–“soul error.” Dogs, however, do not possess souls (see Descartes).      Perplexing.      Photograph of dog © 1997 Gentl and Hyers. All rights reserved.