We might need cheering up on this gray/rainy/disappointing Friday, so I offer this story:
A few years back, in the summer, I attended an academic conference that lasts a whole week. Unlike other conferences, it's made up of professional scholars and also interested laypeople. Usually the thing centers on just one novel. It's like summer camp for grown-up nerds, really awesome. I went to this for several years in a row, because the opportunities for hobnobbing, gossiping, and talking books are unparalleled. Nobody's bed got shortsheeted, that I know of, but there are the usual camp hookups and feuds. There's even a dance, I'm not even kidding. Yet this is serious business.
That year--I think the book was Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens--the actress Miriam Margolyes was there. You might know her as Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter movies.
My favorite role of hers is as old Madam Mingott in Age of Innocence, remember? A very funny lady, but somehow also august. She'd come because she'd been in the BBC adaptation of Little Dorrit and is interested in literary matters. She participated in everything and was just one of the gang.
One of the activities planned was a group reading of a mashup of some comic scenes from Dickens. Parts were assigned and people sat in a circle rehearsing together. Everyone was really excited to be reading with such a celebrated actress, and we were giving it our absolute best. There was lots of laughter and merriment.
And then there was a lull, and in that lull, an unmistakable bodily noise. More silence.
Then, Miriam Margolyes spoke up. In her full, rich, voice, a voice used to commanding an audience, she said:
"It is I who has farted so dreadfully."
Everyone loved her even more after that. And I still think of it from time to time, about that "dreadfully" and the nearly perfect anapestic rhythm of that line. The woman is a pro.