I have to confess before I launch into my panegyric on this droll history of Wrigley Field in my next post, tomorrow afternoon while my Festivus potato pancake batter is rising in the bowl on my kitchen counter, that something about George F. Will’s upper lip always bothered me. Until very recently I never could figure out why. Yes, it looked like the exposed end of a badly tucked in queen sized hotel bed sheet. Slightly. And yes, it has a way of playing orf his bowtie the way Abbot played orf Costello. But that wasn’t it. Something about the way it hung down over his teeth like an inverted gibbous moon tickled some buried engram in my psyche. Something archetypal, perhaps? Whatever it was, it refused to come up into consciousness with the stubborn resolve of a pancake tortoise wedged between shelves of sandstone. Oh, look! There’s one of them now:
But no. That wasn’t it. After years under the silt at the bottom of my mind, it revealed itself. I was reading his great new book in an uncomfortable exit row seat in one of American Eagle’s relict rattletrap ERJ-145s coming home from Cincinnati a couple of days ago. Just as I was dozing orf we hit turbulence and the realization bubbled up through my waning acuity like a swamp fart. George Will’s upper lip reminded me of the cephalopodic Martians from the Classics Illustrated 1955 edition of H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, which I first read in my dentist’s office waiting room when I was about nine years old!
Think I’m kidding? Okay, watch. Let’s talk about the cover of that 124th issue in the Classics Illustrated series, which, I have discovered, produced 159 different numbers from 1941 through 1971 (including the Moby Dick issue, Number 5 from 1942, Jake Taylor read to trick Lynn back into bed in Major League….
though where he found a mint condition copy in 1989 a guy making that year’s major league minimum could afford baffles me).
But back to The War of the Worlds. The series ceased publication in the forlorn year when I attained the age of majority, which does me no good whatsoever when the Electoral College is factored into account. Nontheless I had my experience of their edition of Wells’ masterpiece, which I will never forget, while I waited for a cleaning. This wonderful cover by artist Lou Cameron represents the Martian war machines and set the standard for steampunk menace against which all subsequent versions have failed to measure up:
And here’s a page depicting the ungainly, even blobulous, Martians themselves. Look closely at their lips, especially the one in the center panel:
And now, look at this phot of George F. Will:
Okay, I am now relieved of that can’tscratchable mental itch that afflicted me every time I looked at a photo of Will. I’m also too enervated by relieving myself of that stubborn mnemonic tingle that I will conclude this preface to my discussion of Will’s latest book for the nonce and savor my newfound equanimity until tomorrow.