i am much too literal-minded to be allowed out by myself. Or more to the point, on the net. I have been embarrassing myself online for about 11 years now. Real life, much longer. Now i’m a bit of a brainbox at times, but i can be so dizzy. You think i can spot satire the first time round? I miss jokes, quite often.
Anyone in my Twitter list will know this already, i’ve probably had to say, oh, sorry, *blonde moment* after something i tweeted to you. Well, i can spot them sometimes, but other times – d’oh! Straight over my head. Or under it – i may have been thinking lofty thoughts.
Literature was compulsory in my university course (and the main reason the course remains incomplete), in fact, I had to do a double major, Literature and Creative Writing.
I love writing, i loved Creative Writing. I am happy to read anything from high- to low-brow under my own steam. i once had to admit in Lit 101 that my current outside reading consisted of rereading “100 Years of Solitude” (highbrow) and also the latest Jackie Collins (considered tres trashy) – i didn’t have to admit it, i could have lied.
But i don’t care – in my opinion, people like Wilbur Smith (blockbuster bestsellers set mostly in africa) can happily hold their heads up as a writer who helps literally millions to enjoy books – unlike people like Thomas Pynchon, *hiss spit snarl* who only writes to annoy people who read ‘high’ literature.
Least that was my opinion after i read “The Crying of Lot 49”. *sounds of screaming* Not worth the paper it’s written on – it’s a trick. I threw it across the room, then picked it up, read it again in case i missed something, because i do miss things. Nup, i checked with friends, it’s supposed to be like that. I threw it at the wall again and then gave it to someone i hated.
However, that’s unusual, i can read almost anything and enjoy it. If i switch off the Editor Inside, i can even read an early Harry Potter book without getting too tetchy over how much it sounds like Enid Blyton and J R R Tolkien.
I could never understand why – despite loving books – I hated Literature as a study – but Thomas Pynchon showed me *reluctant gratitude* . I detested the endless evisceration of texts, with not even a passing focus on whether it was a thing to be enjoyed.
Spoiler Alert “Crying of Lot 49”, the book ends where it starts, without the big final scene to let you know what is going to happen after the first page. So you are left hanging, saying what? Brilliant, but i hated it.
It’s designed for “modern literature” nuts who love to dissect texts – cos if you do, you disappear up your own profundity. And yes, that’s a euphemism – after the last few posts i’m trying to be less on the adult content.
Then was the denial that the author ‘meant’ anything by their words, or could hope to communicate in a clear way with anyone, really, and narrative (the story) was dead, along with – in the end – the author themselves.
A text was produced by a culture, not a person. Literature included anything – street signs, movies, adverts, and so on. It was a series of signs one could not possibly hope to decode, so one shouldn’t try. You get a picture in your head when i say cat, i get a pic too – and they’re probably different cats.
So trying to communicate is stupid – just a bunch of people railing at each other in words (signs) they don’t actually understand to mean the same thing. Wow – you now don’t have to do Literature 101.
You should give me all your money, i have saved your brain from being strangled by your own intestines. Despite the above, we continued to take sentences apart. I had to bite down the urge to scream “Oh sod off!” a lot.
I was also doing it in my mid-twenties, having been out in the real world of working in shops, and it was hard to deal with sudden poverty and a bunch of what were – for the first year at least – mostly high school kids.
I was done with nearly all the Creative Writing Units, (at 2.5 yrs into a 3 yr degree), and left. I’d done two years of Lit, and i couldn’t stand it any more. The idea of the Lit-heavy course i had next semester was enough to get me walking.
It was years before i realised part of my problem with Literature – I miss the literary allusions unless they’re the kind where someone’s compared to some mythical character i know about. “He was as a strong as Hercules” yes, i get that. Other things? Not so much…
spoiler alert – do not read this if you’re afraid of learning plot details of Billy Budd by Herman Melville. However, you need no familiarity with it to be able to understand this post, i’m a great believer in not making you read something else so that i make sense.
I hadn’t read Billy Budd until the morning of the tutorial, when i realised from the common room chatter that it was this week, not next week, the book had to be read by. So i skimmed a borrowed copy at record speed.
Books in Oz were expensive then, too, (though they’re no better now), especially the scholarly ones. I often tried to do without books, because i was so poor i literally couldn’t afford to eat.
This was back in 1984 or so and my memory of the plot was full of holes, so i checked this. Billy Budd was a young sailor, real pretty boy, goody two shoes, gets beaten by sadistic sailor in charge, who mistakenly believes Billy dislikes him.
Unfortunately captain is twit and believes the nasty sailor about Billy, but the captain is ever-so honourable, blah blah blah. Billy Budd (whilst looking noble) hits bad sailor once, bad sailor dead, captain hangs Billy.
But hey, don’t worry, because the sailors knew the truth even if the officers didn’t. Yes, and they wrote a song. And ha ha! Take that, evil Establishment! Yes, i thought, as i finished, but he’s dead, so They won, but don’t mind me.
I sat there, waiting for the discussion, hoping i wouldn’t get asked as i was still quite vague over much of the story (i usually volunteered). I managed to cover my surprise as the tutor asked how we’d all dealt with the homosexual allusions in the text.
Huh? I thought. These allusions were laid on so thick (in ripe, creamy spurts, that lay in sticky streams on the deck – or something like that) everyone had been groaning at the tweeness of it all and begging for the book to end.
Even the gay guys were thinking he’d gone over the top. Everyone laughed. I laughed along with them.
Now, it was by the guy who wrote “Moby Dick” – about Captain Ahab and his search for Moby Dick, the Great White Whale – and apparently, that’s not just about whaling and bad ship management either! I don’t remember much of that, other than i was also glad when it was over.
I’ve read all the classics, i just didn’t get what they were alluding to. Though Dickens still rocks, and is easily decodable. I grew into Shakespeare. And others. Completely wasted on the young, at least they were on me.
Other people began talking glibly about the aforementioned homosexual allusions, metaphors, etc, as i casually flipped through the book in uber-fast skim mode, and spotted rather a lot of unrequited homo-code – the above spurting on the deck was when Billy Budd’s porridge was spilled.
All these years later, i still can’t think of Lit without shuddering. Not from the content, though it was bad enough – Billy Budd wasn’t the worst thing they made me do, i had to watch freaking Ingmar freaking Bergman! – but from “How i could have missed it?” Over and over.
So this whole post is a longwinded way of saying – don’t be surprised if you get a tweet (or a post on your blog) from me, saying “ahem, you’ve done that wrong/are being insane” – because i’ve taken you literally. I’ll apologise in advance, though i’ll do so afterwards too.
I know i’m not alone – enough people do it to me at times. The literal-minded are everywhere – and they don’t just have blonde hair. And our thanks to those of you who are kind enough to point out in private that it was a joke or that we missed the point- we appreciate your collusion in hiding our blushes and the extent of our blondeness.
If i out you as blonde in public it may be because i’m busy being blonde. I quite often compound the blonde moments of others by taking their moment of silliness seriously while the speaker is already realising their mistake, and everyone is laughing, “Whoa, lol, are they having a blonde moment or what?”
And i carefully explain why that last post of theirs was demented. Yes, they say through gritted teeth, i’d just realised. *blonde moment*