Monday, May 25, 2009

Solving the Caviarette Mystery

I read this New Yorker advertisement once. Then I read it again. I read it a third time and I STILL didn't know what the hell it was supposed to mean (click for a larger image).

I'm happy to report that the fourth time was the charm. So let me explain.

The people in the comic are all members of the same family. They try various pastimes and they all fail miserably; Brother sucks at polo (a "chukka" is a polo-style period), Sis is equally bad at tennis, Mom is losing vast amounts of money playing bridge, and Pop couldn't win at the stock market to save his life (a smooch to anybody who can find out which commodity "Cons. Gravies"* is supposed to be).

The butler knows that "something must be done" to make the family he serves them caviar on incredible J. R. Ritz Caviarette crackers. He also gives them illegal cocktails, you'll notice. The combination of booze, caviar, and crackers leads to a happy ending in the sixth panel.

Why was this all so confusing? Other than the fact that the actual plot is disconnected and silly, I had trouble figuring out what Pop was doing in panel four (that's ticker-tape, not spaghetti), and it took me awhile to recognize the affiliation of the butler was the bow tie that tipped me off.

But none of this explains the absolutely atrocious first paragraph, which would throw even the savviest culture bloodhound offtrack:
Athletic and high mental family loses all indoor and outdoor sports except Caviarettes at which pastime all run up tremendous record-breaking average.
This is such a terrible sentence that it must have been done on purpose. Was it meant to evoke a telegram, or a radio report, or a quick newspaper brief? Caviarette crackers deserved better, I'm sure.

* I guess I'll have to smooch myself because the answer just occurred to me while I was trying to get to sleep. It's "Consolidated Gravies" and is not meant to be an actual commodity; it's a play on "gravy train." Whew, now I CAN sleep.

1 comment:

Downeastah said...

Referred to in Phoebe Atwood Taylor's 'The Cape Cod Mystery' chapter 7 'Dot Becomes Involved'. First of the Asey Mayo series published 1931. A classic, more Ngaio Marsh than Dorothy Sayers. The passage implies it's a cracker: while ordering hors d'ouevres in a restaurant '...fond of salmon paste on caviarettes.' N.B., caviarettes was a proprietal name, but not capitalized here.