Saturday, July 25, 2009

The "Gift" of Blab

Blab. What a great word. It's the bl that makes it. Cross your ears and listen: speech and conversation devolves to bl-bl-bl-bl-bl

It's not just the spoken word. Cross your eyes and read: the text morphs to a jiggling bl-bl-bl-bl-bl-

I brought a book to the HMO yesterday to read while waiting to get the increasing translucency of my bones quantified. I'd seen it lauded on the internets as insightful, difficult, worth reading.

I sat there reading in a fume of increasing annoyance. To my left a noisy madonna-and-child, we-are-so-kute duo was attracting the adoring and vocal attention of a grandmotherly type across the way. Which only served to inflame my annoyance at the text, the tone of which I can only describe as breezily self-aggrandizing, pitched some where between snake-oil sales and pick-up lines. It's difficult to say what Caputo most adores -- the word "I" or putting (presumably "I"ronizing) "quotes" around words.

I-I-I-I- Let us speak then of love. I-I-I-I- "God" God. Know The Secret. I-I-I-I- (dollop of gratuitous Latin followed by popcult allusion) -- DERRIDA!!! -- I-I-I-I-I- gratuitous "quotations" ! The Matrix ! Star Wars ! Luurrve -- THE IMPOSSIBLE !!!! Sympathetic antipathy ! Zarathustra !!! I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I- ELVIS, UFOS, BABY BOOMERS ! QUOTATION MARKS "AROUND" EVERYTHING ! "O" the "Irony" ! bl-bl-bl-bl-bl- !!!

I wanted to hurl the very slim volume against the wall somewhere above the head of the fawning Grandmother. I restrained myself.

It reminded me of another slim volume to which I'd had a very similar reaction of visceral annoyance. Which surprised me, since the title -- Against Happiness -- had seemed to promise something congenial to my melancholic disposition. What choir doesn't enjoy being preached to ?

But, alas, I was annoyed. Deeply annoyed. The writer, a scholar whose field is the romantic poets, rails against Americans who shallowly pursue shallow diversions -- MacDonald's, Disney, TV, malls, fundamentalist religions -- as he glorifies his own clear-eyed, death-embracing melancholia.

I kept asking myself, "How can he even write with one wrist so firmly affixed to his tormented brow and the other hand clutching at his tortured breast ? And write such purple prose, at that, so larded with adjectives and alliteration ? Not to mention taking so many cheap shots into the well-stocked fish barrel ?"

A small sampling:

(on malls) We trade glistening leaves for peevish shimmering.
(on road trips) We wish to sit by the grizzled highway -- oaks, hoary and twisted, hover at out backs -- and dream of deserts broken only by bones.
All creatures are meldings of grandeur and gloom.
Behind the pastel lurks lament.

He lets loose on "gated communities" -- sequestered from the gorgeous turmoil of the organic world -- and of "suburban malls" -- smooth and blank, bland and blinding, and declares that few inhabiting these gated communities and the urban malls likely give a thought to the environmental costs of these postmodern conveniences...

And then, a page later, waxes poetic about his own house, the sort adored by melancholics -- The windows in winter barely resist the blasts of freezing air...I love this old wreck of a building. I'd never trade it in for one of those warm and efficient prefabricated houses in the suburbs. I enjoy its sweet decadence too much.

I see. Suburban "envirmonmental costs," bad. His own leaky energy hog of a house, good.

That's when I hurled Against Happiness against the wall. Dude's giving a bad name to melancholia.

He's at his worst when he's railing at "happy Americans" -- the generalities glitter so much they're blinding -- who have "probably never moved among autumn's multihued lustrousness, through the serrated forms of orange and amber and crimson, with hearts irreparably ripped." Instead, he claims, they are wolfing down Happy meals, shopping at the Disney Store, keying their Blackberries, taking their Paxil and Lunesta in front of their large-screen TVs, eating Power Bars and pork rinds, Jello and Kool Whip, all in an attempt, of course, to escape death.

"You self-rightous prick," I screamed at the "Against Happiness" -shaped dent in the (dilapidated) plaster of my (ramshackle, circa 1894) bedroom wall.

"How the FUCK do you know what's in the heart of the man or woman eating the Happy Meal, or living in the gated community ? You don't, do you. You have never bothered to ask. You wouldn't, would you, condescend to even feign interest in the contents of their hearts; it is beneath you and your multihued, lustrous melancholia and your irreparably-ripped-by-autumn heart. To you they are simply happy, willing, narcotized consumers of the offerings that the cynical corporate world has deemed most profitable. Can you imagine that they are humans with the same stunned being-in-the-world as you, humans not fortunate enough to have been exposed -- as you have been -- to other, more liberating cultural options ?"

And, moreover, bl-bl-bl-bl-bl. Bl-bl. "Bl" -bl-bl-bl-bl-bl-bl-bl-bl !

BL !

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