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The French Disease

By Bob Black

Like many others, I honor the extraordinary French contribution to civilization. We need a way to keep the contribution and dispense with the French. Perhaps they could be kept under house arrest and only let out under supervision-doubtless the Germans could attend to this-to write books, cook meals and oversee the hogs as they root out the truffles.Why the French are such puds is hard to figure. Once they cut a great figure in the world when it was small. They've been washed up lots longer than the English but are even slower to admit it, much less enjoy it. Their impudence/impotence ratio is unacceptably high.They're not so good looking either. Speaking French is such an exercise in facial contortion that by puberty they've all got vertical lines in their faces. When the vicissitudes of age and dissipation etch the usual lines of latitude also, the French face resembles a tictactoe board. Were Dorian Gray a Frenchman only Mondrian could do justice to his Picture."Hell is other people," a Frenchman once wrote. Other people-foreigners, Jews, Protestants, Alsatians, even Belgians-account for much of the best in French civilization. In olden times, Scots and Irish gave their armies some backbone; more recently the Foreign Legion's done their dirty work. Their kings, knowing the character of their subjects, preferred the protection of Swiss Guards. No tinge of chauvinism-a French word, of course-enters into these observations. The French love each other no more than they love anybody else. Who is any outsider to question the French on a judgment of taste? The best thing they ever did was invent "69".

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