Saturday, September 16, 2006

Back (sort of)

Where've I been?, my 4 readers have been asking. Oh, you know – the first weeks of the new semester, always a punishing time; 2 of them, in fact, sick as a dog with some sort of viral thing; trying to work over a manuscript & chewing my nails to the quick over contract haggling; reading some books: poetry – Moxley, Swensen, Sheppard, etc. – theory & criticism, Samuel Beckett's More Pricks Than Kicks (why haven't I gotten around to reading this one before? It's got one of the funniest story endings of all time, that of "Yellow":
By Christ! he did die!
They had clean forgotten to auscultate him!
I can't really tell you why that's funny, except that the first line refers back to a joke (told a couple of pages earlier) about a highly devout amateur actor, and that the second line, for almost all of us mere mortals with non-Beckettian vocabularies, necessitates a trip to the dictionary ("auscultate," to listen to the sounds of the internal organs as part of a medical diagnosis – our hero, Belacqua Shuah, you see, is on the table for a tumor operation), & somehow I find that moment of having to look something up – right when the chap whose adventures one's been following thru the whole book has just kicked the bucket – deeply funny. Especially since knowing what "auscultate" means casts precisely no light whatsoever on the story's climax.)
Amy comments last time on big words & bloggistry. I can only excuse myself by noting that "Cambridge Marxist-obscurantist" is not my but Gordon Burn's description of JH Prynne, & I [sic]ced it because I thought it was such a deeply dumbass thing to say in the first place. Was JHP a Marxist way back when? I don't know, but he was an English intellectual & a chap with his head screwed on the right way, so I assume he was. Was he an "obscurantist" (from "obscurantism," the practice of deliberately preventing the facts or full details of something from becoming known)? No effing way – just because Burn finds JHP's poetry "difficult" or "obscure," it's a logical error to attribute a certain set of (ultimately moral) intentions to him.
But, oh, oh, oh oh, that Marxist-obscurantist rag.... It makes me think of Bob Archambeau's latest blast against "avant-smugness," playing off of Kasey Mohammad's thoughtful post-mortem (one hopes) on the cold corse of ye olde School o' Quietude V. Post-Avant dichotomy. I'll try to say something anent (not a big word, but a Scotticism) that sooner.
And poised for a weekend of celebrating J.'s birthday. Tomorrow we have reservations for this place. We're telling the girls that it's the "Lilo and Stitch" restaurant, and hopefully we can keep them from throwing poi at the dancers.


Brian said...

They should love it. We took my daughter there for her 16th, the night before she moved back to Mississippi, and she had a great time. It was probably the third or fourth time Amy and I had seen the show, and it's been different every time. Very impressive fire dancers this time.

Archambeau said...

Someday I should try to define "avant-smugness." I'm not sure why it bothers me more than the smugness of more mainstream poets. I suppose I just sort of pity the dimness and provinciality of most of the people who want to write little backyard epiphanies, wheras I tend to get angry at the dimness and provinciality of some avant types because I tend to assume they ought to know better.

Archambeau said...

Did I just embody my own brand of smug? Ay yi yi. Better drink some coffee and de-grumpify.

Amy said...

Be careful! We went to Mai Kai for Brittany's 16th birthday, and the fire-dancers had over-wetted their fire-sticks: when they started twirling, we were all splattered with lighter fluid! And this just before the cherries flambe arrived! (It was touch and go for a while there, although not as bad as an alien eating a guest's head)... now I'm off to sing a few bars of "Hawaiian Roller Coaster" for the rest of the day. :-)

Alex Davis said...

I cherish the end of "Dante and the Lobster":

"She lifted the lobster clear of the table. It had about thirty seconds to live.

Well, thought Belacqua, it’s a quick death, God help us all.

It is not."

Don't let that put you off dinner this weekend!