Treatise on Elegant Living by Balzac
Wakefield Press launches this month with two titles from its Handbooks series ("the how-to manual reimagined: guidebooks on a variety of satirical, parodic, and quixotic subjects"): Treatise on Elegant Living and The Young Girl's Handbook of Good Manners for Use in Educational Establishments.
An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris by Georges Perec (Sept. 2010) will be the first title in another series, Imagining Science ("outsider science, extreme empiricism, aberrant experiments, and imaginary speculations—literary explorations in fictional science").
Also announced are titles by Benjamin Péret, Charles Fourier, and Paul Scheerbart. If you follow the literary side of this blog, you can see why I'm excited and why I will feverishly consume Wakefield's books.
A taste of Balzac's 1830 Treatise, a keystone text on dandyism:
Civilization has distributed men among three basic types… It would have been easy for us to have colored in these categories the way M. Charles Dupin does; but since charlatanism would go against the grain of a work of Christian philosophy, we shall refrain from mixing painting with the x of algebra, and endeavor, by stating the most secret tenets of elegant living, to be understood even by our antagonists: those in turned-down boots.
Modern customs have created three classes of beings:
The man who works;
The man who thinks;
The man who does nothing.
From this we get three fairly complete formulas that can express any type of life, from the poetic and restless novel of the bohemian to the dreary and soporific history book of constitutional kings:
The busy life;
The artist's life;
The elegant life.
The Young Girl's Handbook of Good Manners for Use in Educational Establishments (1926) by Pierre Louÿs
Louÿs provides readers with a helpful opening glossary:
We have deemed it unnecessary to explain the words cunt, slit, pussy, snatch, prick, cock, dick, ball, cum (verb), cum (noun), hard-on, jerk off, suck off, lick, blow, fuck, screw, lay, frig, bugger, ejaculate, dildo, lez, dyke, sixty-nine, going down, quim, slut, whorehouse.
Every little girl is familiar with these words.
Here are a few more excerpts (remember, this is a handbook):
In the Bedroom
If you are caught stark naked, put one hand discretely over your face and the other over your cunt; do not, however, then go on to thumb your nose with the first and jerk off with the second.
If your confessor asks you how many times you have polluted yourself, do not reply: "And you?"
On the Street
To give ten sous to a pauper because he has no bread is excellent; but to suck his cock because he has no mistress is going too far; you are under no obligation whatsoever.
Duties Toward Your Mother
Never call your mother: "Old bitch! Pisspot trollop! Whore-licker! Walking pox! etc…" Those are expressions better left to the common herd.
With the President of the Republic
You can ask the President of the Republic for a lock of his hair to remind you of his favors, but it would be indiscreet to cut off his prick as a memento.
frontispiece to this filthy handbook, from La Grande Danse macabre des vifs by Martin Van Maele, 1907–08
The folks behind Wakefield were behind (one incarnation of) The Club of Odd Volumes. See my post on that pamphlet series (I wonder if I did anything else on New Year's Eve 2007).