News Item o’ the Day (Assault With A Dog Edition)

So this popped up today in the UK & World News app on the hardworking staff’s cellphone:

Puppy thrown at German biker gang

A German student “mooned” a group of Hell’s Angels and hurled a puppy at them before escaping on a stolen bulldozer, police have said.


In its detail-rich brevity, the item reminded us of turn-of-the-century French journalist/anarchist Félix Fénéon, who in 1906 wrote the faits divers column – “known in hackdom as chiens écrasés (‘run-over dogs’)” according to Julian Barnes – for Le Matin.

He had at his disposal the wire services, local and provincial newspapers, and communications from readers. He composed up to twenty of these three-line fillers in the course of his evening shift. They were printed – unsigned, of course – and read for a quick smile or breath-intake or head-shake, and then forgotten. They would not have been identifiable from the general mass of faits divers had not Fénéon’s mistress, Camille Plateel, dutifully cut out his contributions – all 1220 of them – and stuck them in an album (his wife apparently did the same).

Many of them are now collected in Novels in Three Lines, which – appropriately – has its own Twitter feed.

Representative samples:

Picture 1

In a way you could say Fénéon was one of the first micro-bloggers.

Oh, yes – and that canine assault story? Even though it appeared in the “Current articles” section of UK & World News, turns out it’s actually from 2010.

Pas de problème! Fénéon would have loved it anyway.

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