For those who may have missed our editions of Alphonse Allais‘s CAPTAIN CAP, here’s a treat: Doug Skinner‘s introduction to Vol. IV, THE SANATORIUM OF THE FUTURE:
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Dorothy Parker once remarked that most humorists “milk a formula until it moos in pain.” After so many years of turning in several columns a week, Allais may have been feeling the strain. He admitted in one piece that the punning names he used for his characters were not really that funny. In a series of rather glum installments in 1901 (July 25, July 31, August 9), he simply listed recent patent applications. Contemplating such genuine inventions as the luminous hat, the pedal-operated fan, the combination fishing pole and bicycle pump, the hail parasol, the gloves made from intestinal membranes, the multicolored cane, the sea soap, the summer fez, the metal legs for wooden horses, the powdered cheese, “etc., etc., etc.,” he could only remark, “The fantasists who think they’re so clever when they imagine a dust-catcher for submarines, or a rubber muzzle to prevent snails from dribbling on the salad, are small beer beside certain serious and licensed inventors.” Fact, all too often, trumps fiction, to the eternal despair of humorists.