William Goldman’s The Princess Bride (1973)

William Goldman’s The Princess Bride (1973)

Rob Reiner is faithful to William Goldman’s novel The Princess Bride, for which Goldman wrote the screenplay.  “Indeed,” he writes in the novel, Vizzini, “had set out a little picnic spread. From the knapsack that he always carried, he had taken a small handkerchief,...
Virginia Woolf’s The Voyage Out (1915)

Virginia Woolf’s The Voyage Out (1915)

Woolf’s picnic on the summit of Monte Rosa, a fictional place in South America, is the high point (pun intended) of The Voyage Out (1915). Journeying on donkeys walking in a single file, the narrator creates the image of “a jointed caterpillar, tufted with the white...
Calvin Trillin’s “Fly Frills to Miami” (1978)

Calvin Trillin’s “Fly Frills to Miami” (1978)

Trillin’s joke about his “no-frills picnic” while en route from New York to Miami is a tongue-in-cheek report of the consequences of his wife Alice’s frugality that he calls “Law of Compensatory Cashflow.” Because Trillin always (almost) defers to Alice’s superior...
Gwen Raverat’s Period Piece  (1952)

Gwen Raverat’s Period Piece (1952)

“Heroic Survivors of the Picnic.” is Gwen Raverat’s bittersweet memory of a miserable picnic. It’s the next-to-last anecdote in her memoir Period Piece: A Cambridge Childhood. I think she means to suggest that life was no picnic but that she has no remorse. Despite...
A.T. Smith’s  Picnic Fiasco “Slicing the Wasps” (1919)

A.T. Smith’s Picnic Fiasco “Slicing the Wasps” (1919)

The humor of Smith’s picnic fiasco “Slicing the Wasps” is obvious. The legend reads: “Suitable for both sexes, young and old. Fascinating, amusing, skillful exciting, and with that element of danger.” It’s also an allusion to John...
William B. Jerrold’s “Picnic Reform” (1869)

William B. Jerrold’s “Picnic Reform” (1869)

According to Jerrold, editor of The Epicure’s Year Book for 1869, British “Picnic- frequenters” need to radically reform their “picnic gastronomy.” First off, Jerrold commands you must eliminate the ordinary. “Could anything be more...
Eric Satie’s Le Pique-Nique (1914/22)

Eric Satie’s Le Pique-Nique (1914/22)

“Le Pique-nique,” a piano composition about 30 seconds long, is one of twenty-one very short musical interpretations in Sports et Divertissement [Sports & Entertainments] devoted to the happiness of people at play. Satie’s preface ­explains that two artistic...
Georges Touchard-Lafoss’s Chroniques de l’Oeil-de-boeuf (1776)

Georges Touchard-Lafoss’s Chroniques de l’Oeil-de-boeuf (1776)

Touchard-Lafosse’s pseudonym Oeil-de-boeuf is an allusion to Louis XIV’s Salon de L’Oeil-de-Boeuf, the antechamber to his bedroom dominated by a circular window, oeil-de-boeuf, above the door. As a metaphor, it suggests that he’s a gossip, often relating sexually...
John O’Brien’s Ants at a Picnic (1992)

John O’Brien’s Ants at a Picnic (1992)

Ants at a picnic always serve for picnic humor not because they have interrupted picnics but because it is cute to presume that they do. But who is really bothered by ants? John O’Brien achieves stasis in “Ants at a Picnic”: his picnickers and ants below them are...
Laurie Colwin’s Picnics (1988 & 1993)

Laurie Colwin’s Picnics (1988 & 1993)

Family Happiness is Laurie Colwin’s comic tale about an East Manhattan Jewish housewife who finds happiness at home and in a picnic in bed with her lover. On the way to her first tryst, Polly Demarest stops to pick up a smoked salmon sandwich. Alone and excited, they...