Sir F. Chook, Inventor of Leopard Oil

Likeness captured upon a daguerrotype machine in Japan, July 1891

Lettres

Wherein the Author reflects upon certain topical & personal issues of the Day.

The F.A.Q!

Penned upon the 19th of March, 2009

In a creative moment, I tweaked the Frederick Answers Questions section of the Biographie page, and Miss Merah pointed out: those are useful additions, why not pop them on the news page as well? So here they are; if you have a particularly probing question you’d like to put to me, feel free, and there’s every chance I may immortalise its answer.

Is Sir Frederick available for public readings, private feedings or produce seedings?

I most certainly am. I am a trained historian with experience in public speaking and event hosting; if you like the cut of my wit or the drape of my jib and think I might be the belle of your ball, drop me a line and we’ll see if we can’t make strange bedfellows.

Why ‘FrillyShirt’? And is your name really ‘Sir Frederick Chook’?

Papers, magazines and journals name themselves for their content, of course; Vogue and Cosmopolitan wish to illustrate their fashionability, while Punch has always celebrated comic bigotry and domestic abuse.

So whither FrillyShirt? Well, a shirt is an intimate thing: it sits close to the skin, to the heart. Ideally, a shirt is comfortable – to wear a hair shirt is a greater challenge than to wear a hair belt buckle. Frillyness is a function of ornamentation, ostentation, unqualified and unashamed. Once you’ve put on a shirt, it more or less stays on – you could take off an indulgent hat to meet your bank manager and put it back on when you’re done, but you couldn’t remove a frilly shirt without stripping off entirely. FrillyShirt, then, implies wearing one’s flamboyancy on one’s sleeve, entirely honestly and expressively, without slavishness to what is proper and socially advantageous.

That’s all jolly spurious, but what of ‘Sir Frederick Chook’? Well, ’tis a nom de plume, simply enough. Writers have always used pen names to express a certain facet of their identity – Voltaire, for example, or Mark Twain, or Flavor Flav. ‘Frederick’ is more or less the product of chance – it is a nice-sounding name, sort of brassy, and while it in no way upstages my more everyday names, it does summon something of the long-haired wit, no? “Oh, hallo, Freddy’s pulling up in a cab now! And he’s brought some chorus girls!” It also serves as an homage to the vastly underrated German philosopher Friedrich von Schelling. “Oh, hallo, the chorus girls are actually the Berlin Academy!”

‘Chook’ is, like me, Australian in origin, and very silly. ‘Sir’ is the title of a baronet. It’s a hereditary title rather than one granted by the state, and so its bearer need exhibit no loyalty to the establishment in order to earn one. However, it is not a peerage, and grants the bearer no special political rights. Rather than seeking to give myself airs above my fellow humans, I declared myself baronet of my imagination, a title implying absolutely nothing about me beyond possession of a title. And an imagination. The fruits of which, you see before you!


A secondary thought: as you know, a review is an assessment of the context, strengths and weaknesses of a published or presented work, while a preview serves to inform of an upcoming work and its likely content. To this pantheon I would add the deview, which serves to obfuscate the work as much as possible. For instance, “This year’s most controversial lepidoptery documentary, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button fails miserably to disappoint for the third week running. The famous ‘skating Bertrand Russell’ scene will have you guffawing in the lavatories despite its absence from all commercial or private prints. Pay particular attention to Englebert Humperdink’s cameo as the United Nations delegate for Lapland at the special commission for human development next month.”


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