Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Taeniopygia guttata

I am currently on page 1061 of Infinite Jest, which is not very far in at all (I'm buried in an eight-page, 8pt back-of-the-book footnote (Note 304), which has followed on from a one-line subsection (Note 39b) referent of Note 39 proper, spinning off page 89, which is I suppose where I properly am.

And while I find this incredibly fun (in a way, it's like a neverending cascading of concepts inside concepts (speaking of which, I'm not sure whether this was seen as revolutionary when Infinite Jest was first published (1996) or if, as I feel, it was seen as a formal literary version of the sort of games children's books would play (I would always run out of fingers marking the different paths I'd taken in Choose Your Own Adventure books))) there is something about it that doesn't lend itself to reading in the doctor's waiting room.

I went there straight after work, thinking I could get some study done in the hour or so before my appointment. Unfortunately a small girl with a beautiful smile was busy running back and forth across the waiting room and shouting with the glee of childhood. This was nice, but I was trying to infer the verb conjugation-form of the なあ ending ("to state one's feeling emphatically") when the example given was only the たいなあ form ("to state one's wish emotively", viz.:

一度南極へ行きたいなあ。"I wish I could go to Antarctica just once."

So I pulled Infinite Jest out of my bag (no small feat in itself) and thus bring you to the point of the post. Mea maxima culpa, for my last post's suggestion that an Australian man of a certain age wouldn't have used the term "minor-leaguers". Less than 24 hours later, I was walking along the seafront and remembered the following lines from TISM's "The Back upon which Jezza Jumped":

The minor-leaguers, the average markers, the consistent second raters;
The stay at homers, the timid loners, the habitual masturbators;
The ugly girls, the amputees, the screaming mongoloid;
The senile old, the deformed young, the bladders that unwillingly void...

I was wrong.

But the connection between one of the stories in How We are Hungry and the very start of Infinite Jest lies here:

Jerry has an accent that sounds British but possesses the round vowels of an Australian. (Eggers, 150)
The coach, in a slight accent neither British nor Australian, is telling C.T. that the whole application-interface process, while usually just a pleasant formality, is probably best accentuated by letting the applicant speak up for himself. (Wallace, 6)

As an Australian whose accent has never matched the stereotype, I think I know what Eggers and Wallace are saying here. That there would be gradations of accents in Australia, whether geographic or cultural, based on class or local demography of immigrants, is not so much denied or unknown or unworthy of even being speculated upon; it is in fact that the non-Australian reader, on being introduced to an Australian character, needs to be told that this one isn't the guy you're thinking of.

I have no doubt that the Wallace's tennis coach character is Australian, even though the text doesn't state it directly. And I know it from a brilliant line of wipe-your-glosses genius that follows thereafter. Hal interlocks his fingers "into a mirrored series of what manifests, to me, as the letter X."

His own fingers look like they mate as my own four-X series dissolves and I hold tight to the sides of my chair. (Wallace, 6)

It takes another eight pages before Coach White refers to someone as "mate".

Anyway I didn't get very far through Note 304 (which is a fantastic, horrific description of an incredibly violent pastime reminiscent of the sport-based society of Georges Perec's W) before the doctor was able to see me, and I went upstairs to see her, and the long and short of it is that despite being accidentally hit quite hard in the groin three weeks ago by a tennis ball, the cremasteric muscle is undamaged and the bruising is only painful (as opposed to painful and worrying).

Friday, 26 June 2009

Bettongia penicillata

Sorry, I overslept.

Yesterday I got nine books from the library, florid with the hope of finishing them all within the alloted three weeks, and with the effort of carrying them home.

I read two of the smaller books first: "Eddie Krumble is The Clapper" by Dito Montiel, and "How We are Hungry" by Dave Eggers. You will note, either now or after your Google search, that these are both modern American literature of the recently-fashionable and even-more-recently unfashionable Probably Has A Name But I Don't Know It school. I like reading American literature because it underscores how very wrong I've got the United States.

Until I was about 20, I thought I knew the USA well. I had a diet of largely American television as a child, which allowed me learn my state capitals, and American math primers ("math" "primers" indeed) which taught me to subtract a liter from a quart gallon in over-large san-serif fonts. But then I visited the US, and realised not all accents made it onto TV, and people also tended not to live upstairs from friendly Muppets.

"Eddie Krumble is The Clapper" is an awful, terrible novel requiring of the reader
- about 75 to 90 minutes

It also begins with a "my life was nothing special until six months ago" moment before plunging back to the story proper. When the story ends with the "well, that sure wrapped up nicely" moment (six months later, remember?) he is somehow married to the girl and they have several children.

"How We are Hungry" was an improvement, but featured many, many stories in which Americans travel to non-Western countries and sweat wealth-guilt before having a moment of self-realisation in the final sentence which ends in some vocalised heart-in-mouth emotional expression like running through a goddamn stream in the wind! I quite liked this, actually. Especially the section where a dog translates a squirrel (critiquing the dogs' acrobatic endeavours) for the benefit of his human readers:

"the squirrels say other things, their eyes full of glee. "It makes me laugh that she did not make it across the gap." "I am very happy that he fell and seems to be in pain."

Unfortunately Eggers also wants us to believe a middle-aged Australian character would disparage a group with the term "minor-leaguers". I'll let this slide as the Australian was talking to an American, and because it ties into my next post.

I'm presently eighteen pages into the third book, "Infinite Jest" by David Foster Wallace, which is probably going to take the full three weeks.