Literary Banter

Bruce and I started our courtship by reading Shakespeare to each other.  (Could there be anything quite that romantic?)  Of course, our literary companionship had its down side.  In the early years of our marriage, I once accused him of being “just like Uriah Heep!”  He was deeply wounded.  “Uriah Heep is a despicable character!” he moaned.  Alas, it was a wicked stab I had delivered.

(Quiz question #1: Who is Uriah Heep and why would Bruce be offended?  Which literary characters would you choose to compare your significant other with?)

Twenty-five years into our marriage, we still use literature as part of our communication  — which, frankly, is loads of fun.  Here are a few bits of our banter.  See if you can identify our sources:

A note I left on a candy wrapper — which once had contained his chocolate:

I have eaten the chocolate
You left in the closet,
And which you were
Probably saving for a snack.
Forgive me.
It was so melty
And so dark.

(Quiz question #2: What poet is being imitated?  Have you ever used the source poem to apologize for eating somebody else’s fruit?  Are you likely to do it now?)

As we step outside to begin a date, one of us often says:

“Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table.”

(Quiz question #3: Who gave us the idea for these lines and what does this poem suggest about our ages?)

If Bruce is trying to comfort me on a day when I don’t particularly want to be comforted and asks, “Honey, what can I do?” I am likely to respond, “Kill Claudio.”

(Quiz question #4:  Where in the literary canon does this response come from?  In what circumstances is it the best response possible?)

Of course, other things we love also enter into our conversations.  Bruce is likely to gather our family together by saying, “Come together right now, over me.”

(Quiz question #5: Who is he quoting?  Who was dead when this song came out?)

Finally, if you happen to be one of the literati — or a Beatles fan — what literary/musical phrases do you and your spouse or friends use in your communications?  Who do you quote most frequently?

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9 Responses to Literary Banter

  1. Lisa Torcasso Downing says:

    At our house, we quote the Simpsons. Now that’s art.

  2. Th. says:


    Those are terrific. I wish my wife would ask me to kill Claudio.

  3. Angela H. says:

    I’m quite sure “I’m a human blanket!” from So I Married an Axe Murder does NOT count. We did name our firstborn child after the title character of Edith Wharton’s most famous novel, one that’s read and not quite understood by high schoolers all over the country. A depressing choice, actually — we hope our son won’t end up suffering from a loveless marriage or a sledding accident — but we did love the name.

  4. Katya says:

    We always quoted lots of Jane Austen: “They must all go to BYU. That is the place to get husbands!”

  5. Chris Bigelow says:

    Bruce must not be very ‘umble if he was offended by being compared to Uriah Heep (a character in Dickens’s “David Copperfield”).

  6. Angela, I love the name ETHAN. The human blanket thing probably doesn’t count, but surely, “Have you ever done anything EVIL? I mean EEEEVEEEL?” does.
    Chris–well done. You should be PROUD of yourself.

  7. Zina says:

    1. Uriah Heep is awful. Bruce =/= Uriah at ALL. Dickens.
    2. That is brilliant. Imitation of Williams, “This is Just to Say”
    3. J. Alfred Prufrock, Eliot. It suggests you are in about your mid-thirties (Eliot said he imagined old J. A. P. to be “quite a young man”), but you are worried about keeping in style and being mocked for getting older.
    4. What a kind husband you have! Beatrice, in the admission-of-love scene, wanting vengeance for Hero’s humiliation. Tell me, did he?
    5. “Come Together” John Lennon; Paul was allegedly dead, but he got better.

    We don’t quote nearly enough great literature around our house; mainly, it’s dad’s appalling puns, ruining dinner, but occasionally we do get the Beatles. My then ten-year-old, hearing his dad had bravely given a speech in a tabernacle to an audience of maybe seven (there was a ball game scheduled for his same time), patted B’s back conciliatorily and said, “Well Dad, you and Father MacKenzie.”

    Oh, and sometimes I do get people attention by shouting “Hwaet!!”

  8. Blain says:

    There. I found you again.

    I believe the plums were eaten by William Carlos Williams. The Beatles did “Come Together,” which feels a little more Lennon than McCartney to me, but I don’t know who was dead at the time (other than Stu Sutcliffe, but I don’t think he had anything to do with that).

  9. PAUL was dead. At least that’s what they said… You have to be kinda old to remember that.

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