THE WORST WINE
THE WORST SAINT
THE WORST SYMPHONY
By Charles McGrath and Daniel Menaker
The Best Wine: “The Domaine Romanée-Conti is the most rarefied and expensive wine in the world, with vintages that need decades to mature.” –MoreIntelligentLife.com, 2010
The Worst Wine–Switchblade, bottled by Ernest and Mario Volpone, of Modesto, Rhode Island. Back on the market again, in zinc throwaway cans (the original 1994 vintage was towed out to sea by the Food and Drug Administration), Switchblade is a thick, sweetish wine, with a bouquet indistinguishable from a mature Pine Sol. On being opened, the wine pants audibly.
The Best Saint: “Saint Francis of Assisi–16 people bested this.”
The Worst Saint: Saint Emanuele Olivetti of Mantua (1507-67). The son of a noble family, Olivetti was donated to the Church by his parents at the age of fifteen, when he disclosed that he had daily visions of a burning duck who commanded him to retain his urine. After he was ordained – with serious misgivings on the part of the presiding bishop – he was sent to a small parish on the Po Valley, where he soon earned a reputation for piety by sleeping on a shelf and wearing hair shorts. His sermons were interminable, and he gave such highly unorthodox penances as requiring blasphemers to drink hot starch and adulterers to walk backward for a month. At his death, several observers reported that they heard Olivetti’s spirit asking for directions. He was canonized a hundred years later, when his followers established that Olivetti had miraculously enlarged a lonely and unpopular young woman’s bust and had brought a canned ham back to life.
The Best Symphony: “1. Beethoven Symphony No. 5”–ClassicalCDGuide.com
The Worst Symphony: The “Lymphatique” Symphony in C Minus, Opus 22 (1929), by Pascal “Tarara” Boomdier. The “Lymphatique” is a sniveling, seemingly endless work said to have been strongly influenced by the nocturnal racket of the plumbing at Boomdier’s pension. The third movement (“The Waltz of the Tax Attorneys”) is particularly raucous, as the composer’s instructions require the orchestra to razz the second bassoonist after each of his four solos. The symphony has been performed only once in this country, at the convention of marriage counselors in Anaheim, California, and a critic who was there termed the final movement (“The Fishmonger’s Lament”), in which the winds are called upon to render a remarkably flatulent rubato, an “offense against nature.”
Charles McGrath former Deputy Editor of the New Yorker and Editor of the New York Times Book Review, is Writer-at-Large for the Times.
Daniel Menaker is the Editor of Grin & Tonic.