Late Year’s Hits for the Hanging Sock

Some humble suggestions for stuffing the X-mas stocking ‘toward the Noel, that mort saison’

Marx planned to write a massive commentary on La Comédie humaine, Balzac’s undivine melodrama epic made up of innumerable novels and short stories. Given the Corn Laws chapters and the obsessive money-commodity-money chains of Das Kapital I, surely he would have followed the diets of Balzac’s people with a similarly intestinal process. From food we naturally descend to other commodified stimulants: time modifies circulation and value with the ‘glittering money form’ down to the heaving belly – then to void, deluge or uprising. What’s the point in revolution without general regurgitation? For further analysis, go to Balzac’s loopy and drol, published for the first time in English by the vital Wakefield Press.

Written in 1839 as an appendix to an early Gastronomic study (Brillat-Savarin’s 1825 Physiology of Taste), this little pamphlet shows that Balzac was one of the first been-there-done-that types when it comes to at least three major modern vices: coffee, smoking, and booze. He stopped there so that Baudelaire could take on the fourth (which is dope), though there are several historical hints that Honoré indulged in a little hashish. Sometimes a wry prude; at others, a cynic denouncing the reader as a hypocritical stupid-ass, Balzac writes on excess with a refreshingly perverse clinicism. His ghoulish theories on the amount of stimulants in a hanged…

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