PFC Wintergreen Would Approve

A new algorithm has ranked the world’s most notable English-language authors using a unique cocktail of criteria.

The #1 ranked author? Why, it’s T.S. Eliot! And how did I fare? I was #750,604, ahead of non-ranked literary liberal Philip Baruth but well behind two vaguely literary countesses of the Solms-Baruth family. Oh well. It takes brains not to become notable.

It takes brains not to make money,’ Colonel Cargill wrote in one of the homiletic memoranda he regularly prepared for circulation over General Peckem’s signature. ‘Any fool can make money these days and most of them do. But what about people with talent and brains? Name, for example, one poet who makes money.’
‘T. S. Eliot,’ ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen said in his mail-sorting cubicle at Twenty-seventh Air Force Headquarters, and slammed down the telephone without identifying himself.
Colonel Cargill, in Rome, was perplexed.
‘Who was it?’ asked General Peckem.
‘I don’t know,’ Colonel Cargill replied.
‘What did he want?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Well, what did he say?’
‘ “T. S. Eliot,” ‘ Colonel Cargill informed him.
‘What’s that?’
‘ “T. S. Eliot,” ‘ Colonel Cargill repeated.
‘Just “T. S. -” ‘
‘Yes, sir. That’s all he said. Just “T. S. Eliot.” ‘
‘I wonder what it means,’ General Peckem reflected. Colonel Cargill wondered, too.
‘T. S. Eliot,’ General Peckem mused.
‘T. S. Eliot,’ Colonel Cargill echoed with the same funereal puzzlement.
General Peckem roused himself after a moment with an unctuous and benignant smile. His expression was shrewd and sophisticated. His eyes gleamed maliciously. ‘Have someone get me General Dreedle,’ he requested Colonel Cargill. ‘Don’t let him know who’s calling.’
Colonel Cargill handed him the phone.
‘T. S. Eliot,’ General Peckem said, and hung up.
‘Who was it?’ asked Colonel Moodus.
General Dreedle, in Corsica, did not reply. Colonel Moodus was General Dreedle’s son-in-law, and General Dreedle, at the insistence of his wife and against his own better judgment, had taken him into the military business. General Dreedle gazed at Colonel Moodus with level hatred. He detested the very sight of his son-in-law, who was his aide and therefore in constant attendance upon him. He had opposed his daughter’s marriage to Colonel Moodus because he disliked attending
weddings. Wearing a menacing and preoccupied scowl, General Dreedle moved to the full-length mirror in his office and stared at his stocky reflection. He had a grizzled, broad-browed head with iron-gray tufts over his eyes and a blunt and belligerent jaw. He brooded in ponderous speculation over the cryptic message he had just received. Slowly his face softened with an idea, and he curled his lips with wicked pleasure.
‘Get Peckem,’ he told Colonel Moodus. ‘Don’t let the bastard know who’s calling.’
‘Who was it?’ asked Colonel Cargill, back in Rome.
‘That same person,’ General Peckem replied with a definite trace of alarm. ‘Now he’s after me.’
‘What did he want?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘What did he say?’
‘The same thing.’
‘ “T. S. Eliot”?’
‘Yes, “T. S. Eliot.” That’s all he said.’ General Peckem had a hopeful thought. ‘Perhaps it’s a new
code or something, like the colors of the day. Why don’t you have someone check with
Communications and see if it’s a new code or something or the colors of the day?’
Communications answered that T. S. Eliot was not a new code or the colors of the day.
Colonel Cargill had the next idea. ‘Maybe I ought to phone Twenty-seventh Air Force Headquarters
and see if they know anything about it. They have a clerk up there named Wintergreen I’m pretty
close to. He’s the one who tipped me off that our prose was too prolix.’
Ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen told Cargill that there was no record at Twenty-seventh Air Force
Headquarters of a T. S. Eliot.
‘How’s our prose these days?’ Colonel Cargill decided to inquire while he had ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen
on the phone. ‘It’s much better now, isn’t it?’
‘It’s still too prolix,’ ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen replied

12 Replies to “PFC Wintergreen Would Approve”

  1. AvatarCGHill

    I must be freaking brilliant, then, because I’ve never come close to being notable and likely never will. (And I have editing privileges at Wikipedia, which allows me to maintain this status even in the extremely unlikely event that someone has heard of me.)

  2. AvatarRonnie Schreiber

    Jack, your the English lit guy, I was in pre-med. Did Joseph Heller ever write anything else that was notable?

    Is it permissible to call J.D. Salinger a one hit wonder?

    ShirtStorm is the revenge of the Sylvia Plath fans. Hell: a library filled with Sylvia Plath that has Muzak by Pink Floyd. Can you conceive of anything more depressing?

    • AvatarJohnny Puddles

      How about a Library Filled with Sylvia Plath, and Muzak by Sarah MacLachlan?


      PS: Plath’s school-days copy of Great Gatsby is extant, and her notations are intriguing.

    • AvatarCGHill

      Having read both Heller’s Something Happened and Salinger’s Franny and Zooey, I’d question the “one-hit wonder” tag, especially since both of those books sold respectably — but they’re the literary equivalent of the second-generation Buick Riviera: nobody who loved the first will care all that much about the second. (For the record, I didn’t much like Catcher in the Rye, and I recommend to both fans and detractors Frank Portman’s King Dork, the perfect palate cleanser after a taste of Caulfield. This is, incidentally, the same Frank Portman who fronts the Mr. T Experience.)

    • AvatarMarc

      “Is it permissible to call J.D. Salinger a one hit wonder?”


      that book is basically a young adult version of Ayn Rand- about the exact same whiny, narcissistic, teenage angst and luxuriating in it to justify one’s own anti-social aspie bullshit by telling oneself some ‘genius’ author out there understands those impulses, so therefore the problem is society.


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