September 6, 2014 § Leave a comment
He loved the shop, the smells of the naphthas and benzenes, the ammonias, all the alkalis and fats, all the solvents and gritty lavas, the silken detergents and ultimate soaps, like the smells, he decided of flesh itself, of release, the disparate chemistries of pore and sweat — a sweat shop — the strange wooly-smelling acids that collected in armpits and atmosphered pubic hair, the flameless combustion of urine and gabardine mixing together to create all the body’s petty suggestive alimentary toxins. The sexuality of it. The men’s garments one kind, the women’s another, confused, deflected, masked by residual powders, by the oily invisible resins of deodorant and perfume, by the concoted flower and the imagined fruit — by all fabricated flavor. And hanging in the air, too — where would they go? — dirty, the thin, exiguous human clays, divots, ash and soils, dust devils of being.
“Irving, add water, we’ll make a man.”
— Stanley Elkin, The Franchiser
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
October 21, 2011 § 5 Comments
“I’m not here,” the Chief Eunuch would explain, “to embarrass anyone. I’m here to choose one of you and I’m here to protect you. I don’t believe that women by nature are either more or less duplicitous than men. We’re only human, alas, and if I’m privy to these discussions it’s not, in this instance at least, prurience which draws me. Rather it’s my conviction, one or two steps up from belief, that the nature of any organization is built on the principle of self-interest. In a harem the natural enemy of a woman is another woman. The mothers are jealous of the favored ladies, the favored ladies are jealous of the novices, and everyone is jealous of the virgins. Only in sexual organizations like our own, you see, does the jealousy leak downward”
— Stanley Elkins, George Mills