Deep in the Heart of Texas

Article excerpt

Truffling through the frothy and tawdry scraps of pre-inaugural Zeitgeist, I found this on the front page of the Washington Post's Style section:

"The heart will be the favorite organ of the Bush administration," says Marshall Wittmann of the conservative Hudson Institute. "That's to distinguish it from the favorite organ of the Clinton administration."

Wittmann, formerly of the Christian Coalition, helpfully explained that among religious conservatives the term "heart" has become a friendly synonym for the more controversial "soul," and that this explains President Bush's frequent recourse to it--as in "Jesus changed my heart" or, more controversially, "The senators, if they are objective, they'll take a look at Senator Ashcroft's heart and his record and they'll confirm him."

Don't be fooled. The giveaway is in the comparison between the two throbbing items in the original excerpt and the strong subliminal connection between them. I think I can say I saw this coming during my controversial live stand-up act at the Washington Improv last year, where I was narrowly beaten by Senator Joseph Lieberman (who cheated by using cue cards) in the run-off. The trick consists, having lulled the audience somewhat by a snatch of song and a few consensual gags, in making them substitute the work "d**k" for the word "h***t" in any familiar context. You should do this, ideally, by citing or reciting the original and by letting them do the rest. Thus:

"I left my heart in San Francisco"

"Heartbreak Hotel"

"My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains"

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (scattered titters by now, or you're dead)

Heart of Darkness

"Two hearts that beat as one"

The Heart of the Matter

Jack of Hearts (mirth, mounting to spontaneous bursts of laughter)

The Heart Has Its Reasons

Gary Hart

"I [LOVE] NY" (or "My Lab/Apso/honor-student daughter")

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

"Don't Go Breaking My Heart" (all rise; prolonged and stormy applause)

Then a few grace notes about the heartland, about speaking from the heart, about your heartfelt appreciation--don't overdo it, or that's where your heartaches will begin--and you can exit in a pelting tempest of undergarments. Heart like a wheel; hearts afire; total eclipse of the heart; heart to heart; artichoke heart...it's of course utterly puerile to go on like this...be still, my heart; Kind Hearts and Coronets; heart bypass surgery; quadruple heart bypass surgery; heart transplant; heart murmur; heartburn; absence makes the heart grow fonder...

Actually, I dreamed up this ridiculous game with my dearest friend, Martin Amis, after a heavy dinner; we liked it for its pointlessness alone. And then, as so often happens, a point began to occur. …