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.
‘ “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