Or, for my non-Russophone readers, Happy New Year!
For those of you who have been wondering how the saga of the move has been developing, I am happy to say that we are beginning to see the house hidden behind and beneath the piles of boxes as I have opened them, extracted the books, and flattened and discarded the now useless cardboard (obtained from a friendly liquor store in Astoria, so that we have been surrounded with rubrics like Yellow Tail, Don Juan, and Il Bastardo); as I clear floor space, my wife is able to deploy the furniture in ways that make the house begin to resemble a home. By today, there was enough clear space in the living room that we could dine in comfort as she set the table for the first time with the beautiful green dinnerware we bought to celebrate our new home. She made steak, potatoes sauteed with garlic and rosemary, and fresh string beans; with dinner we had an excellent Argentine malbec (a wine I cannot recommend highly enough; it goes with just about anything, but especially the beef Argentines love so well). After dinner I would normally, on New Year’s Eve, have opened a bottle of champagne, which we would sip until midnight (after which we would totter off to bed—no all-night parties for us, thank you). However, this year I was too busy moving and dealing with the holidays to get around to buying champagne, so I opened the last bottle remaining from my French-wine obsession of a dozen years ago.

This was a sauterne, a 1985 Doisy-Daene (needless to say, at no point in my checkered career have I been able to afford Chateau d’Yquem), the last survivor of a collection that at one point was fairly decent. Alas, when I moved from my first Astoria apartment, with its miraculous closet that somehow preserved wine intact through the muggy New York summers, to a second one with no such space, I discovered that the good stuff had to be drunk up or lost. Amazingly, the sauterne was in great shape even after being kept in far from ideal conditions for over a decade, and in the euphoria induced by the sweet dessert wine I pulled out my beloved 1951 reprint of George Saintsbury’s classic Notes on a Cellar Book (the chapter Beer and Cider is online), a delightful collection of plummy reminiscences by an Oxford-educated critic who started his cellar in the 1870s, back in the days when gentlemen bought their claret by the dozen cases, and we read each other sections that caught our eye. Here is a fine story about sauterne:

With an unnamed Haut Sauterne of ’74, bottled by one of the oldest Edinburgh merchants, but bought at somebody’s sale, I have specially fond associations. It was a very rich wine, being about thirty years old when I first had it; in fact, it was too rich for some tastes. But once there came to ‘the grey metropolis’ a Finnish lady—a most perfect representative of non-Aryan beauty and anythingarian charm—to whom not only all men, but what is more wonderful, most women, fell captive the moment they saw her. She was dining with us once, and confided to me, with rather a piteous moue, that, in this country, champagne was ‘so dreadfully dry.’ Fortunately I had remembered beforehand that the warlocks and witches of the North like sweet things; and had provided a bottle of this very Sauterne, of which I had a few left. She purred over it like one of Freya’s own cats (let it be observed that I do not think Freya was a Finnish goddess), and I promised her that I would keep the rest for her. But alas! she left Edinburgh in a short time, and after no long one I heard that she was dead. The wine lost half its flavour.

In order to keep this entry from being entirely off topic, I will note that Saintsbury uses many words so recondite even I have to look them up, and one such is in this passage: anythingarian, which the OED defines as ‘One who professes no creed in particular; an indifferentist’ (first citation from 1704: T. Brown Wks. 1760 III. 97 (D.) Such bifarious anythingarians, that always make their interest the standard of their religion). I shall have to add it to my arsenal of self-descriptions, alongside nullifidean.


  1. And there was I thinking it was a sparkling neologism polished specially for the occasion. I’m almost sad it has such a lapidiary definition.
    Happy new year to you! and may it be full of reconditeness as well as happiness.

  2. As I was looking for something in a box of things from my old school where I taught a few years ago, I found some cards from some Russian-speaking students. They were all employees of the Soviet embassy. The students had sent me New Year’s cards with the same greeting (as above)in Russian. Let us remember that New Year’s was elevated under communism to rival the West’s Christmas, with a tree and Father Frost (sounds like Santa Claus). Besides all that, may this year be a better one than last year for all the readers.

  3. For coinages, I still recommend Sterne, and everyone should read Tristam Shandy.
    In today’s reading (I:xxi: I’m reading the book somewhat backwards) he described the “Argumentum Fistulatorium”, by which you refute your opponent by whistling a tune (preferably “Lillabulero”). This is an argument much more civil that the “Argument Baculinum”, whereby you refute your opponent by beating him with a stick.
    Though of course in today’s blogosphere, both kinds of argument are required.

  4. As somewhat of an anythingarian when it comes to wines and their potential to pleasing my palate, I am happy to see your recommendation of that Argentine malbec and am looking forward to sampling this French transplant… My friendly wine supplier at the local gourmet grocery store has a new task this year (obviously) … as the Argentine wines shelf is, well, non-existent in his domain.
    Glad to hear the move went well … and happy new year!

  5. I read awhile back that the “anythingarians” were an important force in Dutch politics during the great age of the Dutch empire. They were willing to be either Catholics or Protestants as long as no one made a big deal about it. As Catholics, they supported tolerance of Protestants, and vice versa. Holland / The Netherlands achieved freedom via a Protestant revolt, but toleration was its great contribution to the world. And they couldn’t have done it without a large group of people who just plain didn’t care.
    [Editor: what should the goddamn pronouns be? Is Holland masculan or feminine? etc.]

  6. maria: Thanks, and let me know how you like the malbec! (And make your wineseller aware that Argentine wines are one of the great bargains of the vinous world.)
    Zizka: Holland is etymologically holt-land, and land being a neuter noun in Germanic, so too is Holland; you may use it without the slightest suspicion of impropriety.

  7. I think it’s entirely appropriate that you drink the last of your french wines on the first New Year’s Eve in your new home. A common bottle of champagne would have been a shabby stand in for so momentous an occasion. Happy New Year, daHat.

  8. Some strange feeling seized me when I read your comment, Zizka.
    Does Zizka’s post look strange here?
    No. So Zizka, what is the point in your comment?
    There always has to be some point.
    Nothing personal tho.

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