Perelmania: fish


I know a man who keeps an ocelot

and I have seen Mistinguette with a sheep on a leash, but if  ‘The Aquarium’ really wants to steal into my heart, it will have to stop referring to fish as ‘pets’. No fish ever gave the alarm in a burning building by barking or played with a ball of yarn on the hearth. The most you can say for the fish is he has a certain icy composure and austere dignity, unlike those who have to take care of him.  Of the several hundred letters which have appeared in the question-and-answer department of ‘The Aquarium’ over a period of three years, not one has ever come from a fish. You don’t catch him beefing about conditions to the editor or wringing his fins and wallowing in self-pity. Your true aquarist, however, emerges in the magazine as a febrile amateur, a bundle of nervous tics, and a pretty contemptible proposition. Let an unforseen bubble burst in his tank and he flees to the ‘Correspondence’ column to snuffle weakly and babble out his horrible blunders.

The Most of S.J Perelman (Methuen 2110) p. 60


3 thoughts on “Perelmania: fish

  1. Our fish (and there were many) tended to generate amusement or fascinated horror (when they suffered their inevitable fate), with a substantial dose of resignation. But this could be because they were often rescued “feeder” fish, or goldfish from the Fair in a plastic bag. I can see how watching your $20 angel fish turn belly up would ignite the sort of response that Perelman describes.

      1. Can’t think of a single fish that we had that could be described that way. Not the frog either. Well, possibly the Plecostomus, but he must not have been happy. He leapt from the tank one night and was discovered months later, mummified, when the furniture was moved.

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