The Air at the Top of the Bottle

The Ullage Group header image 1

Ben Hecht on American Men

April 10th, 2009 · No Comments

Ben Hecht was the first “Fortean”: he coined the word, and staked his claim.  Like the other founders of the first Fortean Society, back in 1931, he had no particular interest in scientific anomalies; he just enjoyed the exuberant and provocative books Charles Fort wove from them.

I plan to paste in snippets from those founders, from time to time: the Society played a lively part in the history of American freethought; its iconoclasm still offers a welcome breath of fresh ullage in the prevailing stink of bovine excretion.  And — most crucially — they were colorful writers, still fun to read.

Here, for example, is a clip from a Hecht piece mocking the American male for its obsession with freakishly large breasts.  It’s a cheery piece, meant “to offer to the genuine female with normal bosom the small assurance that at least one man knows the score.”  But you may find this salvo even cheerier:

This newly hatched American infantilism is not confined to cooing over large bosoms.  It shows itself in the way the new American buys things.  His home has become a play pen full of useless objects, or objects he could do without; and he must keep dithering for more.  It shows itself, also, in in his response to the new barrage of television advertising.  He listens to the commercials with the glassy, pacified eye of infancy.  He dotes on reiteration.  The success of television advertising — the most successful raid on our piggy banks since the Mississippi Bubble — is based on the American’s babyish delight in hearing and seeing unvarying grimaces and sounds repeated over and over. 

I am certain when our inwardly tattooed citizen dreams idly in his warm tub, no poetry or memories of art or even of love and adventure drift through his noggin.  He sees, instead, beer bottles, deodorant bottles, hair-dye bottles, iceboxes, lipsticks, aluminum pots, cake mixers, cigarette packages, polished automobiles — with their chin-chucking slogans echoing around them.  A genuine infant in its warm tub is similarly preoccupied with the wonders of its rubber duck and whatever other material objects are dear to the dawning soul of babyhood.

(Posted by Doug Skinner.  This is taken from Esquire’s World of Humor, 1964.  The date and title of Hecht’s piece have been shaved off for some editorial whim.  Go figure.) 

Tags: Forteana · Literature · Technology

0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...penny for your thoughts.

Leave a Comment