Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Riding the rim

Let’s face it: writing is not the most financially promising walk of life, and even reading a lot won’t guarantee a prosperous retirement. (Perhaps the reason so many people don’t do any until they reach it). So here is a way for a bookish type to earn a free drink or two. It never fails.

Equip yourself with a few fat novels. War & Peace is excellent; Proust is good for back-up; and then (beware of intellectual overkill) there’s Finnegan’s Wake. Avoid late Harry Potters (although they are awfully fat) and anything with vampires except Bram Stoker’s original. They spoil the image.

Get hold of a reasonably straight-sided pint glass. Any kind will do, except the very tall, narrow ones. With your drinking companions gathered round, you pose the following question. “Which is greater: the height of my glass or the circumference of its rim?” While they are pondering this question, say: “Tell you what: just to make it interesting I’m going to do to this…”

Take your War & Peace and place it under the glass. Then ask: “So which is greater: the height from the surface of the table to the top of the glass, or the rim of the glass?”

By now, most of your companions will have made up their minds, but at the slightest trace of hesitation, say: “Tell you what: let’s add Finnegan’s Wake and this volume of Proust to the pile.” By this time, the glass will be about five or six inches above the table. Pose the question again: “So which is greater: the height from the table to the top of the glass, or the rim of the glass?”

By this time everyone will be convinced that the total height must be greater than the glass’s circumference. That’s when you make them bet on it: a drink, three drinks, the keys to their car, their wife, whatever. Then measure the rim of the glass with the use of a napkin and a ballpoint, followed by the distance from the top of the glass to the surface of the table. No cheating is required. As long as the stack of books is not taller than the height of the glass, you will win the bet.

“I don’t believe it!” your companions cry.

You smile, tap your copy of À la recherche du temps perdu and say “It’s all in here.”

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