Gregoire's new friend is the Marquis de Bellegarde, who has a lovely daughter.
Bellegarde (as he's powdering Gregoire's face): "Serious topics are deplored. Avoid them."
Gregoire: "I'll restrain myself."
Bellegarde: "Be witty, sharp and malicious and you'll succeed. No puns. At Versailles we call puns 'the death of the wit.' … One last thing: Never laugh at your own jokes."
Bellegarde teaches him the prime directive: That wit opens every door.
In that time, verbal malevolence was highly prized, and small snippets of easily repeated thought outweighed context and complex arguments. It was the put-down that counted. Of course, a few years later, the peasants lopped off the aristocrats' witty heads. And I'm sure nothing like that would ever happen again.
Naturally, I've saved "Being There" (1979) for last. Another generation of children has grown up, and if they haven't seen it, they should. The novel was written by Jerzy Kosinski. He also wrote the screenplay for the film directed by Hal Ashby. Peter Sellers stars as a simpleton gardener known as Chauncey Gardiner who has an amazing, almost magical effect on people.
All he knows comes from TV shows, but when he repeats lines from what was once called the "boob tube," everyone around him hears deep and abiding wisdom.
Send me your favorites. We don't have much time. The election is only weeks away.
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