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AS AUTUMN BROODINGLY debouches into winter, eager French farmers drive their sows through the moist woods of Perigord, in search of the elusive subterranean delicacy, the truffle. Clinging to the roots of its chosen oaks, the dark fungus yields itself up to only the most patient and careful of suitors.

“Keep your corn to yourself, oh Libya,” says Alledius, as chronicled in Juvenal’s fifth satire, “unyoke your oxen, if only you send us truffles!”

The truffle hunters of Perigord mirror our careful march through the labyrinth of life, where we must, perforce, evade the Minotaur of boredom, who bears the tortured carcasses of strained metaphors and clichéd overwriting impaled on its twin horns, before we exhume the morsel of truth.

Across the Atlantic, a Washington City Paper reader turns to the District Line. Sniffing into “Washington’s Mundane Mysteries, No. 6” (11/4), he reads: “Photosynthesis gives us life, but when chlorophyll diminishes and green transforms into a thousand different shades, nature gives us our biggest thrill….”

Underneath the dense loam of Clara Jeffery’s composted verbiage lies the truffle: There are trees painted white at 16th and Euclid Streets NW. Why?

Why is such a promising premise allowed to be rendered each week in such stupefying circumlocution? Is there an editor in the house? Free research and writing courses to the first person who can reel in Jeffery and make an engaging feature out of “Washington’s Mundane Mysteries.”


Silver Spring, Md.