On Privacy and Narrative.

unnamed-6The act of reading is an intimate act. You sit alone in your flat. You become alone in a crowded space, as your mind submerges into the text. You hear the author’s words resonate from the silent paper as waves of sound pulsate through your body. At the perfect harmony, you are shattered. Reading allows for a personal intimacy, an intimacy with the text, and an intimacy with the character. Whether or not the narrator is reliable pressures our ability to trust our access to characters’ private lives. Part of us may let go, most of us may cling to the edges of the newly bound or ruggedly aged book in our hands. In my own experience, there is always a sense of wanting privacy and self-freedom, whilst also wanting someone to, omnipotently, understand our own narratives. We don’t want to have to explain ourselves. We want an empathetic audience to our lives, but on some level, wouldn’t that just be insufferable? I’ve been thinking, today, about the need for privacy and space whilst reading Oliver Twist. Of course, many narratives do not give the mundane reality of a person’s day. For instance, not once has Oliver had a wee. Am I the only one that this bothers? (haha, please don’t run away with the idea that I think about this and this alone). But such mundane acts are the building blocks of life. A narrative takes the reader through the character’s movements–as much as we can see, as much as is pertinent to the narrator and/or author’s articulations. Reading can seem especially invasive if we are reading a memoir or a memoir-styled fiction. It seems quite perplexing, in a humuorous sort of way, that to escape this world and slip into a quiet sanctuary, that we, unnoticed by the cast, emerge into other peoples’ lives. Of course, I am also going to claim that, although some might argue the observer effect is null-and-void in this context, it is at the forefront of our engagement with the text, story, film, or television show. We always bring our own biases and knowledges to a book. We each have our own particular strengths. I, for instance, can recall quotations from theoretical texts, but I find it much harder to recall lines from literature. I am incredibly envious of people who can memorise these quotations. I’ll have to work on it, I suppose. Back to my point, we always bring our own state of mind (at the time), our own set of knowledges, our own abilities and lack of ability to empathise, and our own interpretations to what we are viewing or beholden. Our observer effect does not effect the ink’s immutability upon the page, but it is key to our understanding of what we read. We cannot change what happens upon a screen, but how we engage with it is our own observer effect. This may be dubious in other areas of life, ‘research’, or writings, but our nature to engage with things on nuanced and varied measures is precisely the (abstract) beauty of reading. Thus, in our own small ways, as we escape into these worlds, you can align or malign with a particular character. The books become about us, inasmuch as they are about other things. Perhaps, that is why in cases of extreme emotion–it is difficult to lose yourself in a book. But, I’ll always remind myself. The lustful craving for privacy and lack of intimacy is willfully and beautifully undone by the power of narrative, character development, and/even the deconstruction of narrative itself. Those silly post-modernists; shucks.


Additionally, I am setting myself a goal of Five Books in March. I’m trying to whiz through Oliver, but so far, I’ve been a little slow with it. My own narrative continues to drown out Oliver’s. But, if anyone is intimidated by Dickens, do read this book. Dickens has such a beautiful way of phrasing things. tumblr_nkpcm0aFEe1sb2oz2o1_1280 Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think? I’ve read P&P, and if I don’t get to it this month, I might save it for early spring (Canadian weather). To me, it is a spring novel. Maybe, I can bring it forth sooner through literature? Also, I picked up my copy of Northanger Abbey today and was gently perusing it. This might also contribute to my slow pace with Oliver. Woopsiedaisy. I hope you’ll read along with me and/or let me know what you think about these books or a book you’re reading. Be the courageous ones I know you all to be. I wish you peace and happiness.

Heaps of Love,
Word Play Xx

A Vogon on Poetry

Touchstone / Spyglass / GIPHY / Douglas Adams

‘No, well you’re completely wrong,’ he said, ‘I just write poetry to throw my mean callous heartless exterior into sharp relief.’ —Prostetnic vogon jeltz

**spoilers for those very unaware of Douglas Adams’s and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy**

Later to come, I will attempt to recreate some Vogon poetry for the fun of it…this may appear in a few blips of a light year given the busy nature of the Holiday season. I wanted to include Jeltz’s line here because I felt like this should be the motto of today’s poet. There is much to be said and many words with which to say them, but should we expect people to find our underlying humanity in the matrices of language? I doubt people really do look for the human below, and perhaps that is too human-centric. This brings me to Douglas Adams’s amazing text, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. After the intensely bureaucratic destruction of Earth to make way for Hyperspace travel, there are only two ape-descendents remaining, Arthur and ‘Trillian’. As Arthur muses, England, Nelson’s Column, Trafalgar Square, and, most importantly McDonalds are all only ideas in his head. Their existence, their veracity, and their tangibility have left the realm of physical existence to metaphysical recollection and supposition. A memory to be forgotten or improperly recreated. 

Yet, when Arthur begins to Panic, a verb the wise Guide advises the wary, drunk, or happy traveller against, Ford tries to engage Arthur in an exercise in empathy with the Vogon guard, who is about to send them into outer space—something Arthur only eventually able to do:

‘There you are, Arthur,’ said Ford with the air of somone reaching the conclusion of his argument, ‘you think you’ve got problems.’

Arthur Rather thoughT he had. Apart from the unpleasant business with his home planet the vogon guard had half-throttled him already and he didn’t like the sound of being thrown into space very much.

‘Try and understand his problem,’ insisted Ford. ‘Here he is, poor lad, his entire life’s work is stamping around throwing people off spaceships…’

After much prodding from Ford, Arthur realizes existence beyond himself and beyond the truth of his world’s existence and, therefore, his own. But at this moment, he is about to be ejected into nothingness.

Indeed, in a previous scene, when Arthur prattles on about humanity, VOGANITY!, we are reminded, he mindlessly recreated a stream of pseudo-intellectual mumbo-jumbo. And, although Jeltz is cast as a character-type who belongs to an uncivilized race, he intuitively sees through these empty platitudes. He offers a statement of interpretation to both Ford and Arthur, who are attempting to save their own lives. Just as they accept, he calls their bluff. He says no, I don’t secretly want to be loved. I don’t want people to have to wade through my words to discover I need to be loved.  Heartlessness and crudity is my truth, but poetry, as a concept, signifies an opposing truth to you. Thus, although the text claims that poetry was inculcated in Vogon society as a way to display cultivation and culture, Jeltz mumbles his own indecipherable poetry in congruous language that emphasizes the cacophony and harshness of his own character:

‘o freddled gruntbuggly….thy micturations are to me / as plurdled gaggleblotchiTs on a lurgid bee.’

Indeed, it is Ford and Arthur who respond to Jelt’z poetry with onomatopoeic signifiers of their distress, rather than real words: ‘Aaaaaaaarrrrrrghhh’ and ‘Nnnnnnnnyyyyyuuuuurrrggghhh’

So, I’ll leave this brief and inconclusive because I want to continue to chew this over in my mind. Hopefully, more to come. In the meantime…