Editing Eliot: A Prufrock Challenge

Do mermaids each peaches? Or just salmon?

Like many of you, I was first exposed to T.S. Eliot’s classic “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” on an episode of “The Flintstones.” Barney and Fred deal with feelings of emasculation, longing, and persistent thoughts of their own mortality when Al Prufrock joins the bowling team, squeezing the universe into a ball that he gutters nearly every time.

But like any great work of art, from this to “Eminence Front,” Eliot’s tale of nervous middle-manager Prufrock went through a considerable period of editing from the time it was undertaken, in 1910, to its publication five years later.

TS Eliot

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?

I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

—from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

If you’re saying that I don’t have a Nobel Prize in Literature like T.S. Eliot does, you’re right. But I am a Nobel laureate in Feelings*, and I’m pretty sure these early whacks at a pivotal passage of Eliot’s masterpiece are legitimate. If you need to etherise yourself, do it, but by all means lean back and marvel at the creative process:

1. Do I dare to eat this Peep?

I have heard the mermaids tweeting each to eep.

2. Do I dare to eat this fudge?

barnaby rudge
I have heard the mermaids quoting “Barnaby Rudge”

3. Do I dare to smoke this pipe?

harbor seal
Mermaids are seals. Don’t believe the hype.

4. Do I dare to drink this Squirt?

I doubt I will be the Mermernie to their Mermbert

5. Do I dare to shave my face?

big chill
Yeah, if you want Glenn Close to pimp you out to Mary Kay Place

6. Do I dare to pierce my nips?

robert pine

Merms opine: You’re neither Ponch nor Jon, but Robert Pine, of “CHiPs”

7. Do I dare to get some tats?

old possum's book of practical cats
Best go write about your cats.

8. Do I dare to eat a scone?

gluten intolerance
I’ve heard mermaids say they leave gluten alone

9. Do we dare to meet on land?

ezra pound
Make like Ezra and go Pound sand.

10. Do I dare to seek this dance?

calf implants
Merms prefer dudes with calf implants.

*On closer inspection, it turns out I don’t have a Nobel Prize but a Field Medal (Archery).

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