Monday, February 8, 2010

Meditations on Melmoth

My sphincter contracts even as I write the word. I cannot tell you how delighted I was to find someone who shared my enthusiasm for W.G.Sebald, for the TLS and Sontag's recommendations and for East European accents . Beckett's trilogy, "Malloy", Malone Dies" and "The Unnamable", have been my bedside companions for some forty years. I felt that ould Sam had written the novel out of existence and it was not until much later in the twentieth century that I discovered Hoban's "Riddley Walker" and Thorpe's "Ulverton" and I realised my error. Innovation was still possible. And then came Sebald whose books I cannot put down. Curiously I missed Sontag's encomium but did find her recommendation for Gombrobricz and it was out of that cul-de-sac that I emerged with the idea of combining "Pornografia" with "Some Enchanted Evening". I guess it's fair to say that Sontag saw something that I have clearly missed. If only I could have taken a photo!

How much else I have in common with Melmoth I know not, except perhaps paying visits to local supermarkets and meeting East European flyermaids. I did share Melmoth's experience recently but I took the flier and followed its directions to discover a seller of "Millenium Superpens". It was only then that I realised the import of her "You are illegible". To my cost I had actually purchased one of these pens in the year of the millenium in that time before I was introduced to the computer and the keyboard. The Superpen guaranteed to last until the next millenium which, given that I was then sending 100 page letters to the United Kingdom at regular intervals, suited me perfectly. Once I started using it I discovered the Superpen's secret. The ink actually stopped flowing to the nib every third letter. A short pause and a shake of the platinum handle was required to get it flowing again. This super-habit tended to discourage me. After a couple of halting pages I put it away in a drawer. I soon forgot which drawer - but I imagine it is still there waiting for someone to give it another try in 3000. A week later I passed the same flyermaid outside the supermarket. She seemed to have about the same number of fliers in her hand as on the previous occasion and I could see that no one was taking them. I stopped in front of her. (She was quite attractive in that old "Swedish Fly Maids"' way). I asked if I might make a suggestion and she nodded in that East European way. I said; "Why don't you say , while holding out your flier, 'You are ineligible' . You will be doing the customers a great favour and in return they may take a flier." I walked a few paces away and watched her performance. The next passer-by stopped in utter bewilderment - AND TOOK THE FLIER.

It may be quite apparent by now that I am hopelessly out of touch with the modern world and its gadgetry. Being bewildered is now a regular part of my life. How many years have passed since "The Global Village" was written and coined and even used by Woody Allen for one of his best comedic touches! But the village gets smaller every day and these blogs are an enormous part of that diminishment. Spam is being swamped. Even my daily allotment of 10 Viagra offers is easily rejected but I am deluged by blogs. (Try a subscription to AlterNet on the InterNet. It's much more aligned to my political thinking but it arrives in compendiums more often than Viagra)!. But what really overwhelms me is the Mobile Phone. Three times today my home phone has alerted me with its ringing tone to the fact that someone wants to revive the art of conversation. On each occasion I reached the home phone installation too late to intercept that lying message of mine that announces I am out of town for a month. Luckily I can trace the number and ring back immediately. Busy signal. When I do get there in time - it requires a short spell of athletic endeavour because my 'wait-time' button is out of synch and won't allow me to correct it - I am greeted by a multitude of distant voices. I say "Hello" and not one of them responds. I am simply talking to one of my daughters' cellphones. They may have them in their handbags or shoulder slings and have activated them accidentally. And the phone decides it would like to contact me. It has been happening for months now but I guard against paranoia. I allow that my relatives have cellphones which love me even more then they do - when they visit I notice the little bastards peeping out of their bags at me - but I also accept that all over this city and indeed the whole world there are lovelorn mobiles calling relatives and friends of their owners in the hope of finally making it to the altar. They live in the AltarNet. Forgive that crude but advertising pun.

So - what kind of a village are we living in? Can you imagine a sixteenth century villager living in a sleepy little hamlet like Ulverton hearing a knock on their door and discovering on their front porch a questing shovel? The affronted peasant may well ask it to leave - even tell it to 'pess off' in that inimitable sixteenth century slang - but what will be the villager's state of mind when it happens three times a day? I imagine him - or her - leaving a note scribbled in charcoal on the front door saying "I be off to the fair to sell my potatoes wrapped in rolling skates and shewing how to cut them - so I won't be back awhile." Will that keep those pesky shovels at home or will it simply acknowledge porkosity as a neologism?

1 comment:

  1. sphincteral constrictions notwithstanding, i am honoured to have been meditated upon, and have once again enjoyed your observations. the diminishment of which you speak is, to my mind, the defining malaise of our culture – the interconnectivity bereft of context, and the urgency with which we are exhorted to spackle the virtual walls, as if our every state of being and drab pronouncement might have merit, has created a satanic fugue of the lonesome, solipsistic clucking and braying of self-hood, insidiously cloaked in the guise of a new and evolved global communion. the sheer hypocrisy of my using someone else’s blog to lament this state of affairs is bracing, is it not?

    a small addendum to your cell phone paranoia: an acquaintance of mine was dining with his friend, and during the prandial conversation, revealed the intimate details of an affair he was having. at some point during this discourse, the cell phone in his pocket automatically dialed his wife’s cell phone, permitting her to eavesdrop on the rest of the conversation, with predictably catastrophic results. leading me to wonder if perhaps the technology has become self-aware, disapproves of us in general, and has elected to implement corrective measures.

    with regard to what else you may have in common with melmoth, i should think, albeit on brief acquaintance, that you are a fan of the towering works of vivian darkbloom, and of the minatory caesurae, and that which surrounds them, of harold p., and that you perhaps have a passing interest in the sustainability of incongruent truths…