12 December, 2007

What Kings Do

In the 13th chapter of Rabelais's Gargantua, the eponymous hero discusses with his father the merits of various torcheculs or arse-wipers:
But, to conclude, I say and maintain, that of all torcheculs, arsewisps, bumfodders, tail-napkins, bunghole cleansers, and wipe-breeches, there is none in the world comparable to the neck of a goose, that is well downed, if you hold her head betwixt your legs. And believe me therein upon mine honour, for you will thereby feel in your nockhole a most wonderful pleasure, both in regard of the softness of the said down and of the temporate heat of the goose, which is easily communicated to the bum-gut and the rest of the inwards, in so far as to come even to the regions of the heart and brains.
It's an appealing thought, and it turns up again in the most unlikely place. In 2000, one Ted Kessler for the NME interviewed Liam Gallagher of the rock band Oasis, putting readers' questions to him and his bandmate, Alan White. Asked about his 'fascination with Elvis Presley', Liam retorts:
Liam: "My fascination with Elvis? Just the wiping his arse with gooses' necks does it for me, man. That just kills me."

Alan: "What d'you mean; wiping his arse with a goose's neck?"

Liam: "That's what he did, apparently. He'd have a big fuckoff box of or bucket of gooses' necks that had just been chopped off and he's a proper yellowbelly from down South (Dixie accent momentarily), 'That's me boy', and he'd wipe his arse out the window with gooses' necks. The dirty fucking. . . he is the king. That's what kings do, innit? You know what I mean? They do, don't they?"
Notice, incidentally, in amongst Gallagher's Mancunian vulgarity, the daintiness of 'box of or bucket of'; one wonders if this is indeed an accurate transcription. Still, how on earth does a jest from Rabelais wind up as urban legend about Elvis? I must confess myself unfamiliar with the written literature and oralia of the King; perhaps one of my readers has a clue.


Mrs. Lily-Plum Roth said...

My dear Mr. Roth,

I find the Liam Gallagher/Elvis remark to be absolutely fascinating. I would dearly love to know how this particular urban legend came about.

Your loving wife,
Mrs. Lily Roth

Anonymous said...

I remember well reading the passage about the use of gooses' necks as torcheculs in Rabelais, but had never heard any connection of it with Elvis. It is indeed fascinating. If true, it is an instance of what is meant by the old cliché "life imitates art."