The Worst -- Part I

          THE WORST WINE
         THE WORST SAINT
         THE WORST SYMPHONY
                    By Charles McGrath and Daniel Menaker
 
The Best Wine: "The Domaine Romanée-Conti is the most rarefied and expensive wine in the world, with vintages that need decades to mature." --MoreIntelligentLife.com, 2010

 

The Worst Wine--Switchblade, bottled by Ernest and Mario Volpone, of Modesto, Rhode Island.  Back on the market again, in zinc throwaway cans (the original 1994 vintage was towed out to sea by the Food and Drug Administration), Switchblade is a thick, sweetish wine, with a bouquet indistinguishable from a mature Pine Sol.  On being opened, the wine pants audibly.
 
The Best Saint: "Saint Francis of Assisi--16 people bested this."

     --TheBestStuff.com
 
The Worst Saint:  Saint Emanuele Olivetti of Mantua (1507-67).  The son of a noble family, Olivetti was donated to the Church by his parents at the age of fifteen, when he disclosed that he had daily visions of a burning duck who commanded him to retain his urine.  After he was ordained – with serious misgivings on the part of the presiding bishop – he was sent to a small parish on the Po Valley, where he soon earned a reputation for piety by sleeping on a shelf and wearing hair shorts.  His sermons were interminable, and he gave such highly unorthodox penances as requiring blasphemers to drink hot starch and adulterers to walk backward for a month.  At his death, several observers reported that they heard Olivetti’s spirit asking for directions.  He was canonized a hundred years later, when his followers established that Olivetti had miraculously enlarged a lonely and unpopular young woman’s bust and had brought a canned ham back to life.
 
The Best Symphony: "1. Beethoven Symphony No. 5"--ClassicalCDGuide.com
    
The Worst Symphony:  The “Lymphatique” Symphony in C Minus, Opus 22 (1929), by Pascal “Tarara” Boomdier.  The “Lymphatique” is a sniveling, seemingly endless work said to have been strongly influenced by the nocturnal racket of the plumbing at Boomdier’s pension.  The third movement (“The Waltz of the Tax Attorneys”) is particularly raucous, as the composer’s instructions require the orchestra to razz the second bassoonist after each of his four solos.  The symphony has been performed only once in this country, at the convention of marriage counselors in Anaheim, California, and a critic who was there termed the final movement (“The Fishmonger’s Lament”), in which the winds are called upon to render a remarkably flatulent rubato, an “offense against nature.”
    
Charles McGrath former Deputy Editor of the New Yorker and Editor of the New York Times Book Review, is Writer-at-Large for the Times.

 

Daniel Menaker is the Editor of Grin & Tonic.

April 24: "[The HST] lifted a curtain from our view of the universe, changing it so profoundly that no human can look at the stars in the same way..."

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

advertisement
Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.