Wednesday, 9 May 2007

"What I have been doing the last few days, complete with bodily fluids", by Lexicon Harlot

1. Saying riveting things about Patrick White's autobiography to an audience of American exchange students. It may interest you to know (although it certainly didn't interest my august audience) that White constructs a direct relationship between his sexuality and his narrative method. He takes "the freedom ... conferred on me to range through every variation of the human mind, to play so many roles in so many contradictory envelopes of flesh" and implies that the shifting narrative point of view in his novels is just this same playing of different roles, reprised in ink rather than (avert your eyes, children) semen. I said semen, oh august audience! Does a single eyelid bat? No. They make 'em tough up in Amerikay.

2. Taking heart in my first year tutorials, where the dear emerging scholars (bless their cotton socks) tolerate my harangue about the importance of right and proper punctuation.
If I should die think only this of me,
There is some corner of a foreign field (Melbourne)
With greater knowledge of the apostrophe.

3. Bleeding profusely. Bring on the 'Pause, I say.

4. Trotting down to Readings bookshop for the humdinger of a launch of a humdinger of a book: Gail Jones' Sorry. I'm only forty pages in – no thanks, Patrick White – but I'm enraptured. She's Jeanette Winterson plus narrative drive. I'm waiting in some trepidation for the full weight of the political allegory to come thudding down, which it will, I'm fairly certain.

5. Buying up stocks in cauliflower. I'm not a great cauliflower enthusiast, but ten days ago it was retailing at Coles New World for $7.95 a head, and at the Thornbury Vegetable Emporium for $6.95. When I saw it going for $2.99 a head on sunday afternoon, I seized my chance. It's like my dad always told me, buy cheap, sell dear. If I'm not sitting atop a multinational cauliflower empire by the end of the month, then Bob's my monkey's uncle.

21 comments:

torshy said...

Hey Lex did you know that our Hal works at Readings? Seen her there lately?

By the way, the best cauliflower dish ever is Lebanese style, baked very, very slowly in the ofen and then served with (I think) nothing much but lemon juice and salt and pepper. Yumo.

nailpolishblues said...

That makes two for the 'pause. Any takers for three?

'Jeanette Winterson plus narrative drive'? Now that sounds good.

Miss Eagle said...

Dear LH, are you ipod-ing or otherwise publishing the Great Apostrophe Harangue. This is one of the great needs of a couple of parsing-deprived generations as well as a need of the preceding generations who wish to harangue the apostroph-confused.

Blessings and bliss

TimT said...

Yes, from the minute that I get up in the morning until I go to bed, I have this great straining tightening feeling inside - a NEED TO PARSE. I go to the toilet, but it doesn't help. Maybe I should see a grammarian about my colons...

It's probably been discussed here already, but do you know the riddle about grammar? 'What's the difference between a cat and a colon'...

One has claws at the end of its paws,
The other's a pause at the end of a clause.

TimT said...

GAH!

The difference between a cat and a COMMA!

emmy said...

Fancy apostrophising Jay Dubb and Paddy Dubb in one foul swoop.Your a bit lardy dah for all intensive purposes now arnt you.

alexis said...

Hi Hanna! I ain't seen Hal at Readings, but I've only been there twice, both times on Tuesday evenings, both for book launches. It's quite a lot like Better Read than Dead, or maybe more Gleebooks. As I was walking back down Lygon St I met a 40-ish fellow in a nice hat who works there too, called Daniel, I think, and I showed him my deep empathy for bookshop galley slaves by quoting all my ex-housemate's (viz., your) tales of encounters with wayward customers.

I know exactly the cauliflower dish you're talking about, although I think there might be a bit of oil involved too.

alexis said...

"Lardy dah"! Emmy, this is a strictly vegetable-oils-only blog.

Needless to say, Jeany-lou Winterson wins hands down over Paddy W every time. And where is her Nobel Prize for Literature, I asks you?

alexis said...

Miss Eagle, verily, you are too kind, but I think Lynne Truss has beaten me to it, with her inimitable (if somewhat snooty) _Eats, Shoots & Leaves_. I now tout Oxford commas wherever I go.

Tim, if you're having trouble with your colon, it may be because you've left the full stopper in.

emmy said...

Nay there's nothing at all somewhat snooty 'bout Ms Truss! Sorry, but I willn't hear it. And as for Paddy, and speaking of snooty, please allow me to share this:

In all directions stretched the Great Australian Emptiness, in which the mind is the least of possessions, in which the rich man is the important man, in which the schoolmaster and the journalist rule what intellectual roost there is, in which beautiful youths and girls stare at life through blind blue eyes, in which teeth fall like autumn leaves, the buttocks of cars grow hourly glassier, food means steak and cake, muscles prevail, and the march of material ugliness does not raise a quiver from the average nerves. It was the exaltation of the "average" that made me panic. - "The Prodigal Son"

alexis said...

Oh Paddy. That reminds me, vis à vis Mr White, I tried explaining to the Amerikanians about cultural cringe. For some reason the concept of an internalised sense of national inferiority was hard for 'em to grasp.

TimT said...

Couldn't you argue that exaltation of Patrick White is just a cultural cringe from the cultural cringe?

alexis said...

Are you suggesting that we should stand up proud and embrace our cultural cringe? Celebrate it as part of our national identity? That those who do otherwise, by canonising Paddy W, are crushing into the dust our nationally important sense of inferiority?

I'm not quite sure I follow.

TimT said...

I'm playing devil's advocate.

For a while now, I've been wondering about how great a great Patrick White really is. There always seemed to me to be a hint of European snobbery in the Nobel Prize decision to award Patrick White 'For having introduced a new continent into literature'; and for all his famous grouchiness, I suspect White may have been quite happy with this description. Whether the rest of Australians should be happy with it is another question entirely: how much of the poetry of Hope, or the literature of McCauley, or the history of Manning Clark (for instance) are we supposed to ignore for this claim about White's literature to ring true?

alexis said...

I don't think White wrote "great" literature, but what I mean by that is that I don't like his writing as much as I like the writing of lots of other people. I don't believe in a universal standard for literary greatness, which I know will displease you, Tim, so I'll just clarify that I do believe there are books we can positively say have been more or less influential in shaping the literary culture we have today. We can more or less quantify lots of things about literature - even such nebulous things as originality - but greatness isn't one of them.

TimT said...

Well, in retrospect I probably shouldn't have used terms like 'great' or 'idolised', etc, because of the problems you talked about here. I just couldn't think of a simple way of talking about the way in which White seems to be eulogised and celebrated in the papers as our literary star. (For instance, in the recent 'Wraith Picket scandal').

Did you ever read Hal Porter's review of White's autobiography? It's hilarious. He says of White:

He commits literature.

In return, White called him something like 'That great green sack of pus'.

alexis said...

Ha! I wish I were accused of committing literature.

Karen said...

I don't believe in a universal standard for literary greatness

I kinda do, which may surprise and displease you, Alexis. And I also like White.

I'm going to have to be very rude and not reply to your email. I hope you'll understand.

alexis said...

But now I will ask you what it is that makes a book great, and you will tell me something (say, the capacity to enlarge our sympathies), and I will say: then let us talk about sympathy enlargement (or some less ugly expression), not greatness. Is that so?

I'm not anti-White. I liked The Aunt's Story, mostly, until the end where it deliquesces into madness (which I know was interesting and blah, but I felt very alienated by the sudden abandonment of coherent plot). I certainly don't want to tear him down, but he's not someone I seek out.

About the email: of course. Bless you.

Karen said...

"There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind."

-Duke Ellington.

I don't know if a discussion about the canon or "genius" is what you're looking for right now, but I do take your point about terms like greatness having much to do with the way one chooses to define greatness. I wouldn't, incidentally, come at it from the "sympathy enlargement" angle. And of course I would concur that particular works are given prominence by particular people at particular times for particular cultural ends.
But I would still suggest that there are some works which are at least trying to do something powerful and true (works of both "high" and popular culture) and some works which attempt rather less. That absolutely glorious experience of reading something and being excited and exhilarated by the intellectual capacity of another human being is the principal reason why I study what I do- and it does feel like something beyond (I say that and my book is about materialism and aesthetics!). I don't suggest that there should be a prescriptive list of books one has to read or that one should devote oneself to ranking great works- but there is that lovely experience of "greatness", which one can find in many spheres and which I really don't want to give up.

Perhaps I just have an "enlarged sympathy" for curmudgeonly old men!

Anonymous said...

wow gold
wow gold
wow power leveling
wow power leveling
wow power leveling
wow powerleveling
wow powerleveling
wow powerleveling
World Of Warcraft power leveling
World Of Warcraft power leveling
World Of Warcraft power leveling
World Of Warcraft powerleveling
World Of Warcraft powerleveling
World Of Warcraft powerleveling
wow power level
wow power level
wow power level
cheap wow power leveling
cheap wow power leveling
cheap wow powerleveling
cheap wow powerleveling
codeheart article
Warcraft Gold
World of Warcraft Gold
cheap wow gold