Monday, February 20, 2012

What are bad writers for? (addendum)

While I was preparing my effusions on the literary efforts of James Poulos, I was not alone. Hordes of bloggists leapt at Poulos's text like hounds on the umbles (actually, no; the hounds get random bits of flesh, which might be a better metaphor anyway, while the umbles are reserved for the servants, baked into umble pie; but I digress); in addition to the links given in the earlier post I should mention TBogg, SEK, Betty Cracker, and Rich Yeselson. But the most startling approach is undoubtedly that of Doctor Habilitatissimus Michael Bérubé, who laid down a claim that Poulos's writing is not merely not bad but actually in some sense—well, extraordinary; "modern," he says, "perhaps on the very cusp of the post-modern," citing as evidence the following text:
to the growing discomfort of many, that framework hasn’t come anywhere close to answering even the most basic questions about what women are for — despite pretty much universal recognition across the political spectrum that a civilization of men, for men, and by men is no civilization at all, a monstrously barbaric, bloody, and brutal enterprise. Given the existence as uttered forth in the public works of Puncher and Wattmann of a personal God quaquaquaqua with white beard quaquaquaqua [jump]
outside time without extension who from the heights of divine apathia a few inherently meaningful implications about what women are for flow naturally from this wise and enduring consensus, but no faction of conservatives or liberals has figured out how to fully grasp, translate, and reconcile them in the context of our political life it is established beyond all doubt what many deny that man in Possy of Testew and Cunard that man in Essy that man in short that man in brief in spite of the strides of alimentation and defecation wastes and pines wastes and pines and concurrently simultaneously ironically, one of the best places to look for a way out of the impasse is the strain of left feminism that insists an inherently unique female “voice” actually exists that’s a claim about nature what is more for reasons unknown in spite of the strides of physical culture the practice of sports such as tennis football running cycling swimming flying floating riding gliding conating camogie skating tennis of all kinds dying flying sports of all sorts autumn summer winter winter tennis of all kinds hockey of all sorts penicillin and succedanea much good would come from a broader recognition that women have a privileged relationship with the natural world. That’s a relationship which must receive its social due — if masculinity in its inherent and imitative varieties (including imitation by quasi-feminized males of quasi-masculinized females!) is not to conquer the world.
Now, if you look closely at this you will realize that it is not exactly Poulos's text at all, using words such as "extension", "apathia", and "quaquaquaqua" that are foreign to Poulos's distinctive style. A little more probing and we see that it actually is Poulos's text in bits interspersed with bits of another text, and quite a famous one: Lucky's great speech from act 1 of Waiting for Godot, in which the hitherto mute slave, invited by his master to "think" for the entertainment of Vladimir and Estragon, talks himself into a frenzy of academic-sounding but disconnected phrases, one of which is "divine aphasia", which just about describes it. Bérubé has constructed a kind of palimpsest text in which Poulos is seen as as it were overwriting Lucky's speech, as if to say... something...

As if to say, maybe, that Poulos has something in common not so much with Beckett the writer as Lucky the thinker in his representation of the existential dilemma of... I know! Of conservatives! Poulos is Lucky, the hapless slave whose special talent is performing a demented simulacrum of thinking, for the mockery of an audience, veering inevitably out of control (Vladimir finally stops him by clapping his hat over his head).
James Poulos. No photo credit.
And by the same token Tucker Carlson is Pozzo, the pompous self-righteous slave master—and the rest of the cast? David Brooks as the urbane, companionable Didi and Ross Douthat as the shy and tortured Gogo, obviously:

Suppose we repented.
Repented what?
Oh . . . (He reflects.) We wouldn't have to go into the details.
Our being born?
Vladimir breaks into a hearty laugh which he immediately stifles, his hand pressed to his pubis, his face contorted.
One daren't even laugh any more.
Dreadful privation.
Merely smile. (He smiles suddenly from ear to ear, keeps smiling, ceases as suddenly.) It's not the same thing. Nothing to be done. (Pause.) Gogo.
(irritably). What is it?
Did you ever read the Bible?
The Bible . . . (He reflects.) I must have taken a look at it.*
And what about Godot? (Spoiler alert: He doesn't show up.)

*Originally I was going to use the exchange where Didi tells Gogo that if they hanged themselves they would get an erection, and Gogo says, "Let's hang ourselves immediately!" but I decided that was too easy.

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