distracting, in the best & worst senses.

September 2, 2014 § 2 Comments

As pointed out recently by Blckgrd, and more distantly by others, I’ve allowed this space to grow a little dusty. The gutters, filled with last autumn’s fall; hinges, inside and out, squeaking chorally with the mice and sundry vermin I’ve long given haven. It had been my hope to spend much of my vacation writing and, as tends to happen, directing it out of places perhaps best unseen to here, for the likes of you who I never see at all. One week in, and I’ve managed nothing of the sort. I’d blame the twisty roads of Ireland and their ill effects on my stomach or the Irish whisky tying my tongue. This, though, would be a bald-faced lie, as either malady could just as fairly be pinned on all those foot-falling ghosts, of Finnegan to Flann, and the alchemy of a landscape turned language, from the hillside plow to bog-born poetry. Ireland was, let’s say, distracting, in the best and worst senses.

At any rate, as of today I’m in the flat-chested Lowlands for two weeks. The horizon outside my window now is pocked like a waffle. If there is a vanishing point here it isn’t off in the distance, but rather diffused into the bikeable density of red-bricked, bourgeois comfort. This is to say, I should have plenty of time to write, as indeed I just have.

And yet I began doing so at all not to go on as I have, but simply to quote. Which I shall do now:

“Ben, everything there is is against you being here! Think of get togethers, family stuff, golden anniversaries in rented halls, fire regulations celebrated more in the breach than the observance, the baked Alaska up in flames, everybody wiped out — all the cousins in from the coast. Wiped out. Rare, yes — who says not — certainly rare, but it could happen, has happened. And once is enough if you’ve been invited. All the people picked off by plagues and folks eaten by the earthquakes and drowned in the tidal waves, all the people already dead that you might have been or who might have begat the girl who married the guy who fathered the fellow who might have been your ancestor — all the showers of sperm dried on his Kleenex or spilled on his sheets or fell on the ground or dirtied his hands when he jerked off or came in his p.j.’s or no, maybe he was actually screwing and the spermatozoon had your number written on it and it was lost at sea because that’s what happens, you see — there’s low mortality and torn tails — that’s what happens to all but a handful out of all the googols and gallons of come, more sperm finally than even the grains of sand I was talking about, more even than the degrees. Well — am I making the picture for you? Am I connecting the dots? Ben, Ben, Nick the Greek wouldn’t lay a fart against a trillion bucks that you’d ever make it to this planet!”

— Stanley Elkin, The Franchiser

§ 2 Responses to distracting, in the best & worst senses.

  • Bump thanks!

    I use that Franchiser for Elkin’s birthday post each year along with this one, the most beautiful paragraph, especially in context with the novel, I’ve ever read:

    “And it was wondrous in the negligible humidity how they gawked across the perfect air, how, stunned by the helices and all the parabolas of grace, they gasped, they sighed, these short-timers who even at their age could not buy insurance at any price, not even if the premiums were paid in the rare rich elements, in pearls clustered as grapes, in buckets of bullion, in trellises of diamonds, how, glad to be alive, they stared at each other and caught their breath.”

    – Magic Kingdom

  • Brad says:

    Ah … that is beautiful, indeed. Criminally under-read.

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