Page 27. " His pyloric valve snapping shut indiscriminately and filling his stomach with trapped gas "

The pyloric valve (also more correctly called the pyloric sphincter) is a ring of muscle that controls the flow of liquefied food from the stomach to the duodenum. Ignatius appears to suffer from a valve that is peculiarly sensitive to stress, presumably staying open longer than it should, allowing a reflux of bile and gases from the duodenum back into the stomach and then snapping shut.

Although the pyloric valve can be affected by conditions such as peptic ulcer which would prevent it from closing properly, there seems to be no medical literature that describes a valve as wilful and hilarious as that which plagues Ignatius.

Page 27. " Ignatius believed in the Rota Fortunae, or wheel of fortune … "

Fortuna was the Roman goddess of fortune and the notion of her controlling a metaphorical wheel to which all humanity was tied dates back to the writings of Cicero. Through the writings of Boethius (see next bookmark), the concept later came to dominate medieval beliefs on the nature of life.

As a motif, the wheel appears all over medieval art and architecture, from illuminated manuscripts to rose windows. Often the wheel is divided into four stages showing human figures and labelled on the left "I shall reign", on the top "I reign", on the right "I have reigned" and at the bottom "I have no kingdom".

The concept has become embedded in Western culture and is manifested in many diverse ways that include the randomness of the roulette wheel and the certainties of Bob Dylan's changing times.

Page 27. " … a central concept in De Consolatione Philosophiae "

The Consolation of Philosophy was written from a condemned cell around AD 524 by Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius. The central theme of the book is the transitory nature of wealth and fame, a contemplation that would have been fresh in the author's mind as he awaited execution by Theodoric the Great, a viceroy of the late Roman Empire, under whom Boethius had risen to a position of power and influence.

The book is written in a mixture of prose and verse and takes the form of a conversation between Boethius and Lady Philosophy. The author is consoled by the realisation that happiness comes from within and that one's inner virtues are more durable and valuable than material wealth because they are not subject to the vagaries of fortune. Philosophy reminds him that "no man can truly be secure until he has been forsaken by fortune".

Page 28. " They gonna star that vagran no visible means of support stuff on me "

In jurisdictions across the world there are vagrancy laws, many derived from old English statutes, that have been used by authorities to control, coerce and harass particular groups and classes of people. In the tense civil rights era of the early 60s, the arbitrary use of these laws was a source of constant resentment among the black populations of the southern United States.

Section 107 of Title 14 to the Louisiana Code lists those it considers to be guilty of vagrancy in the state. Along with the habitual drunkards, habitual gamblers and prostitutes, the list includes "able-bodied persons without lawful means of support who do not seek employment and take employment when it is available to them". The penalty is a fine (currently $200) and/or six months in prison.

Page 31. " The ancient oaks of St. Charles Avenue "

St Charles Avenue is one of the main Mardi Gras parade routes. It carries the world's oldest, continuously running streetcar line and its Uptown section is famous for the grandeur of its mansion buildings and the lines of Sothern live oak trees that were planted there in the early 20th century.

Page 34. " the refrigerator with the cylindrical motor on top "

Monitor-Top refrigerator
Creative Commons AttributionMonitor-Top refrigerator - Credit: beautifulcataya
This would almost certainly have been a GEC 'Monitor-Top' refrigerator. Introduced in 1927, it was the first widely available domestic refrigerator. The top assembly contained the compressor which emitted a lot of heat and was therefore designed to stand away from the cold cabinet section. The units originally sold for $300 and many utility companies allowed customers to meet the payment by adding $10 a month to their bills.

Page 37. " I would like very much to know what the Founding Fathers would say if they could see these children being debauched to further the cause of Clearasil "

Ignatius huffs this line at Mrs Reilly when he enters the family kitchen having earlier been heard from the other room bellowing at the TV

The Founding Fathers were the group of men who secured the United States' independence from Britain and drew up the Constitution. They include some of the giants of American history including Franklin, Washington, Jefferson and Adams.

Clearasil was invented by the extraordinary Ivan Coombes. As an energetic entrepreneur and inventor (he also invented Odor Eaters) he could be seen as a shining example of the opportunities that, even 200 years later, a hard-working citizen could make for themselves in the new country.  Coombes was for many years his product's sole distributor, sales manager and advertising director and he was so successful that Clearasil became the only product other than Cheerios to sponsor ABC's youth dance programme American Bandstand. It is presumably an episode of this that drives Ignatius to this particular bout of apoplexy.

Page 40. " Were Hroswitha with us today, we would all look to her for counsel and guidance "


Hroswitha of Gandersheim
Public DomainHroswitha of Gandersheim

Hroswitha of Gandersheim (also known as Roswitha, Hrosvit or Hrostvit) was a 10th century Benedictine canoness who wrote plays that are considered to have been unique at the time and which are seen as bridging the gap between classical stage drama and the miracle and morality plays of the medieval era. In contrast to the licentious work of the Roman playwright Terence, whose style she emulates, these plays explore the theme of chastity as a sanctifying spiritual force. Just the sort of influence that Ignatius feels is missing from the modern world.


Page 41. " Schiller needed the scent of apples rotting in his desk in order to write "


Friedrich von Schiller
Public DomainFriedrich von Schiller

Friedrich von Schiller was one of Germany's most famous Romantic poets. Closely associated with Goethe, he wrote Ode to Joy which Beethoven set to music in the final movement of his Ninth Symphony and which is well known as the European anthem. Schiller had a suitably scandalous love life that revolved around the twin Lengefeld sisters, the younger of whom he married. Apart from the eccentric creative stimulus provided by his drawer full of rotting apples, Schiller's workspace was further spiced up by the lead, copper and arsenic that scientists examining artefacts for a new museum in his birthplace of Marbach found in samples of its wallpaper.


Page 45. " You must realize the fear and hatred which my weltanschauung instils in people "

Weltanschauung is one of those German philosophical terms whose precise meaning is elusive to translate. The literal meaning is 'worldview' and this is now in common use to indicate roughly the way an individual sees the world. For Sigmund Freud, weltanschauung was more precisely understood as "an intellectual construction which gives a unified solution of all the problems of our which no question is left open and in which everything in which we are interested finds a place." Ignatius is driven by a weltanschauung that matches Freud's definition, so much so that he is able to wield it with a characteristic, thick-skinned certainty.

Page 45. " I do not support the current Pope. He does not at all fit my concept of a good, authoritarian Pope "

Pope John XXIII held office from October 1958 until his death in June 1963. Born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, he had become Patriarch of Venice in 1953. His election as Pope seems to have been a surprise even to himself, as he had arrived at the papal conclave that followed the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958 clutching a return train ticket to Venice. His pursuit of wider ties with other faiths and his emphasis on ecumenism marked him out as more progressive than his traditionalist predecessor who had reigned for over 19 years. 

Page 46. " the bus bounced and threw him against the woman sitting beside him. She think cause I color I gonna rape her. "

In 1955, bus travel became the focus of the civil rights movement's struggle against racial laws across the USA. The arrest and trial of Rosa Parks for refusing to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama to a white man was understandably used by civil rights organisations to attack that state's laws and highlight the everyday injustices that black people suffered. An attempt had been made earlier to use the arrest of a teenage girl, Claudette Colvin, for the same 'offense' but, when it turned out that she was pregnant, the campaigners had to tread cautiously and wait for a more upstanding example to generate publicity of the issue. A boycott of Montgomery's bus system, led by Martin Luther King, saw people getting around by car sharing, cycle riding or taking taxis with black drivers who dropped their fares to the price of a bus ticket. In 1956, the federal district court ruled that Alabama's bus segregation laws were unconstitutional.

Many regard the arrest of Rosa Parks as the spark that lit the civil rights movement across the USA, setting off a wave of demonstrations, boycotts and actions that carried on through the 1960s. It also inspired similar actions in other countries, notably the Bristol bus boycott  in the UK which arose in 1963 from the refusal of the Bristol Omnibus Company to employ Black or Asian bus crews.