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Topical Guide 38
Friendship; Friends, Imaginary
Recently, when I read to him the foregoing description of his snarling at the window screen, he said, “I think I realized even then that making friends is an odd and delicate business, full of opportunities for disaster, for losing face, and for rejection. At some point, in some way, you have to declare your intentions, to say, ‘I like you. I want to be friends.’ This is much harder to say than ‘I love you,’ because friends give up much more to each other than lovers do. I suppose that’s why few lovers are friends. I’m certain that’s why making friends, for many boys anyway, often begins with a threat. The boy needs to establish antagonism as a base from which to build the friendship, so that if anything goes wrong, if the possible friend laughs at his name or catches him in a lie, he can fall back on the antagonism and pretend that he was only kidding about the friendship.”
That may be, but it struck me at once when I saw him that he had come to make friends.
Little Follies, “Do Clams Bite?”
He began by creating landscapes; then he created cities; then he created streets and cross streets, one by one, sculpting them out of the substance of his soul—street by street, neighborhood after neighborhood, . . . and the people who walked them or gazed down at them from their windows . . . He began to acquire childhood playmates, and then friends and enemies from his youth . . . It was all different from what he’d actually lived. Neither the country, nor its people, nor even his own past were like the ones that had really existed . . .
Now, can anything be more foolish than that men who have all the opportunities which prosperity, wealth, and great means can bestow, should secure all else which money can buy—horses, servants, splendid upholstering, and costly plate—but do not secure friends, who are, if I may use the expression, the most valuable and beautiful furniture of life? And yet, when they acquire the former, they know not who will enjoy them, nor for whom they may be taking all this trouble; for they will one and all eventually belong to the strongest: while each man has a stable and inalienable ownership in his friendships. And even if those possessions, which are, in a manner, the gifts of fortune, do prove permanent, life can never be anything but joyless which is without the consolations and companionship of friends.
Name, What’s in a
This is obvious, but I would be remiss if I did not point it out:
“My name’s Rodney,” he said. He paused a moment. He was looking at me with unblinking eyes. “You think that’s funny?”
“No,” I said.
“I think it’s the stupidest name I ever heard of, and so does my father,” he said. “My mother thought it up. But nobody calls me that anyway. Everybody calls me Raskolnikov. It’s a mouthful, isn’t it? My uncle started calling me that, on account of the haunted look I have. What do you think?” He clamped his jaw and tipped his head downward so that he was looking up at me, his eyes glinting from deep hollows. “It’s the name of a character in a book. A real son of a bitch. Carries an ax.” He stopped to let that sink in. He was chewing gum. “Anyway, everybody calls me Raskol.”
Little Follies, “Do Clams Bite?”
[T]he door was opened a tiny crack: the old woman eyed her visitor with evident distrust through the crack, and nothing could be seen but her little eyes, glittering in the darkness. . . .
“Raskolnikov, a student, I came here a month ago,” the young man made haste to mutter, with a half bow, remembering that he ought to be more polite.
“I remember, my good sir, I remember quite well your coming here,” the old woman said distinctly, still keeping her inquiring eyes on his face.
“And here I am again on the same errand,” Raskolnikov continued, a little disconcerted and surprised at the old woman’s mistrust.
Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment
In Topical Guide 35 I wrote:
I know that Kraft’s paternal grandfather, Edward Daniel Kraft, often made fried clams, and I know that the fried clams he made are the originals of the clams in the passage above. I also know that Kraft asked his grandfather for the recipe, many years later, and received a handwritten response that he found astonishing in its simplicity. I know, too, that at my request Kraft has tried to find that handwritten recipe and failed. (Make that “at my request Kraft says that he has tried to find that handwritten recipe and failed.” See “History: Nature of, Alternative Versions of, Distortions of, Personal Version of,” above.) Pressed, Kraft claimed that the recipe was nothing more than: “Put a couple of handfuls of flour into a brown paper bag. Add some pepper. Add a handful of shucked clams. Shake well. Drop the clams, one by one, into a deep pot of boiling oil. Fry until brown and crunchy.”
The recipe has been found.
Madeline Kraft refused to let it remain merely paraphrased rather than fully and accurately reproduced. After tenaciously and indefatigably searching her notebooks and cookbooks she discovered the original handwritten letter from Edward Daniel Kraft that contains the recipe. The letter is dated 1980, but the recipe dates from the 1950s. Here it is, lightly edited:
Dig clams and promptly bring home, from Great South Bay preferred. Open clams by cutting the muscles and not the poor things’ stomachs. Put clams and juice in large bowl and stir with hands to settle out any sand and or shell chips. Put three-pound can of Crisco in deep fryer and heat to 400°. Put about a cup of flour in heavy brown paper bag. Scoop clams from the large bowl with fingers and drop in paper bag. Shake well to coat clams. Reach in paper bag, grab a handful of clams and shake off excess flour between fingers. Lift wire basket above hot Crisco and put floured clams in basket. Give basket a shake or two over sheet of paper to remove a bit more of flour coating and lower wire basket into hot Crisco. (Lower basket slowly or Crisco will boil over.) When clams are golden brown they are done. Lift wire rack and drain a bit. Have oven heated to about 200° with cookie sheet in. Put clams on cookie sheet to keep warm and carry on to the next batch.
[more to come on Tuesday, July 6, 2021]