Visit Citebite Deep link provided by Citebite
Close this shade
Source:  http://catallaxyfiles.com/?p=2363

This Old Man

January 16th, 2007 skepticlawyer

One of the most difficult writing assignments I ever had was a commission to write a piece on my father. Initially, my piece was simply one of a collection of essays by Australian writers on their fathers. Ross Fitzgerald, the cranky but interesting (and loudly teetotal) historian was the editor, and as he’d stood by me in my time of trouble, I felt I owed him one. Then the Weekend Australian got in on the act, wanting to run my piece in their glossy magazine on the 1997 Fathers’ Day weekend.

This lucrative commission came my way less than 12 months after my father had been convicted of soliciting in the Beenleigh Magistrates’ Court. He’d come perilously close to having a Channel 7 camera crew assembled outside the courthouse for his departure, like some senator or crime boss, natch. The duty solicitor shovelled him out of the building using the lift down to the cells, which was bloody quick thinking but, ahem, not completely kosher.

Dad’s other dodgy activities around the place had been kept from the likes of Robert Manne and other denizens of the MSM, but only with difficulty. At one point either Manne or one of his cronies rounded up our erstwhile next door neighbours in Cairns. And they were our neighbours when dad really was using the justice system as a perverse sort of revolving door. So I had to play nice, not tell the truth, bring out my dad’s good bits. My piece - unintentionally - also became an experiment in postmodern narrative, something I’d studied at university and understood, but roundly despised because most of its intellectual progenitors wrote the most appallingly opaque prose. I did notice, however, that adopting a postmodernist style was very good for muddying the waters. The postmodernists who could write - Michel Foucault, for example - did this well.

So I had several challenges: write a witty 3000 word feature, tell a bunch of whoppers (or at least, not reveal all the truth) and write using a technique I’d hitherto despised. Things were not looking up. I developed my first genuine case of writers’ block - right down to marking the copy deadline on my calendar with a big black X - and was pretty certain I was about to kiss several thousand dollars goodbye. And yet.

The thing is, dad did have a lot of good bits. I was forced to confront them when writing the piece. One of the reasons he’d gotten away with so much serial petty crookery was his verbal dexterity. Writing forced me to record that particular skill.
Less than a year after the piece ran in the Australian, my father was dead. On the job in a Woodridge brothel, too. Somehow, we kept that away from Manne and his mates as well. I’ve reproduced an edited (and I think better) version of the piece over the fold.


You’re no doubt expecting a story on ‘Fathers’. Perhaps you even want to hear about my ‘father’. You’d like some funny anecdotes, the odd serious incident, a few tall tales. All to make my father, and by extension me, explicable. That’s why you bought this book in the first place, isn’t it? That’s why you’re reading this piece. Of course, someone may have given you the book for Father’s Day. In which case I’m sure you’re a savvy reader. You’re wise to the fact that publishers time themed collections to coincide with holidays and anniversaries. Anzac Day, Christmas, National Tiddlywinks Championships. Hell, this book is all my dad’s getting this Father’s Day.

The problem, of course, is that I can’t give/tell my father to you. I write fiction. Will it be more agreeable if I write a fictional father, leaving the real one (whose ‘real one’ - mine? Yours?) to one side? My father has a limited, fictive existence in the pages of this country’s newspapers. Whose story is he? Theirs, or mine? By becoming a “public figure”, I’m told, I’ve forfeited my right to privacy. Every moment I choose to live in this country will be another moment in “the fishbowl.” Is that why you want to “know” my father? Why not the father of a young Murri family down the road from me, a father I know to be more interesting, more vital, more so many other things? Why not my brother’s father? Yes, my brother would “make” a different one, intimate and personal, it is true, but like mine, wholly constructed. And why should I speak at all? My books are for sale. I am not. Why this voyeuristic attempt to peer into my family life because I am one of those people who gets discussed over the morning’s coffee, newspaper and (burnt) toast?

My father exists in a dozen ways in the world, but in only one way within this text. Those multiple ways of being in the world, however, resolve into one human individual. Meanwhile, the frozen words of this essay will bifurcate into hundreds, even thousands of “father(s)” when placed before the eyes of you expert textual decoders, my readers. The father(s) you readers construct are not copied, but invented, partly out of the words I write, mostly out of what you bring to the words I write. In any case, I can only represent so much of the private ritual of my family, and what little I do make representable resonates in ways entirely other for you, and you, and you over there.

Perhaps you will know him if I provide his vital statistics and a mug shot, detailed enough for police identification. Thinning but not bald. Sixty-eight years old. Hands unusually large and strong. Carriage very upright. Scar over right eye. Slight limp. London accent. Maybe a few tastes and attributes will help you along. Sceptical. Witty. Irreligious. A genuine autodidact. Likes the X-Files. Listens to ABC Classic FM, but not the news or Karl Haas (”Karl Haas is a pain in the rhyming slang”). But this says nothing. Almost nothing, anyway. And my father is no criminal in need of a mug shot unless you consider the raising of an unbeliever (like me) a crime.

It seems I am left with stories, the manufacture of imaginary moments. I must translate printed words (mankind’s most artificial form of artistic expression) into possibility.

Appropriately fatherly story #1

My father described and illuminated my world with pointillistic aphorisms. Meaning: dad had lots of funny one-liners.

A politician caught with his fingers in the till (remember, this is Queensland) always finished up “as popular as a pork chop in a synagogue.” Short, fat, officious public servants suffered from “duck’s disease.” An unsatisfied spoilt brat in the supermarket had “a face on him like a busted boot with the laces out.” I (six feet at sixteen) “stood out like a pimple on a round of beef” and had elbows “like knots in cotton.” My year twelve Modern History teacher (who managed to lose the entire class’ end of term examination papers not once, but twice) obviously used “a tame black hole for a filing system.” Journalists spent much time “talking out of their alternative orifice.”

At work, dad was “as busy as a one-armed fiddler with the crabs.” When mum asked him to do something extra around the house, he’d tell her to “stick a broom up me arse and I’ll sweep the floor as well.” My hyperactive three year old nephew was “like a fart in a colander. Doesn’t know which hole to come out.” A large cucumber was automatically “a maiden’s delight.” Dad’s range of toilet humour always impressed. Maybe too much. Our (admittedly very badly behaved) basenji (a semi-wild African dog whose nearest relative is the dingo) has been called “shit” so often he now answers to it. Seriously. If someone in the house yells “shit!”, the dog materialises, yodelling merrily (basenjis don’t bark) and wagging his curly little tail. Once we lost him and had to conduct a house-by-house, backyard-by-backyard search, calling here shit shit shit, here shit shit shit shit all the while. Come to think of it, it’s a wonder that incident didn’t make the newspapers.

There were yarns. I recall with particular vividness (meaning: it sticks in the mind) one about the “oozlum bird.” You see, I believed in the oozlum bird. Characteristically, my father never dissuaded me from this belief. When I “got” the funny, years after I’d first heard him tell the story, the effect of having the penny so long in suspension made me hoot with laughter. In the middle of a primary school spell-a-thon, mind you. “The oozlum bird, which is very rare (somewhere in between imaginary and extinct)” he often said, “lives all over the world. It is distinguished by brilliant plumage and an ability to speak in tongues. A large and melancholy creature, it flies around and around in ever decreasing circles, very slowly and very sadly. Eventually, it disappears up its own fundamental orifice.”

There were serious one-liners, too. Not many, but enough. At the time they irritated me because he refused to explain them. “Only believe half of what you read and none of what you hear” he’d say after the news (even the ABC). This in a sprawling working-class area where most TV sets weren’t even tuned to the ABC. Kids at school told me “that’s the boring one no-one in their right mind watches.”

I spent a lot of time in trouble. Comments along the lines of fails to cooperate with peer group or anti-social or rebellious turned up regularly on report cards. At one point my father wrote a letter to the school, which he declaimed before mum and me with considerable gusto. It included Jefferson’s remark that “a little rebellion now and then is a good thing”.

Once we were set an essay (by the same teacher who lost the exam papers, if I remember rightly). What is History? It wanted to know. Include some comments on the value of studying history, it continued. “Ridiculous question,” said my father, and scratched it out. Who is History FOR? He wrote instead. Whose interests does it serve? I wanted to argue with him, wanted to defend the subject I had taken against the guidance officer’s advice. I wrote a long, personally discomforting essay. Discomforting because no-one else I knew held these opinions. I finished, frightened to hand it in. At school we learn who owns history - or, rather, who has enough clout to make it look like they own it. We are not told that our history is only one version of truth among many, and that it is made legitimate simply by being taught. No-one explains that we will find answers, but no answer.

This Father(s) piece, so people tell me, must be autobiographical. In which case I have a large admission to make. I think all autobiography (and biography, its close cousin) is fiction. Letters and diaries may help the biographer, but no biographer can enter the mind of his subject. Stories constructed external to that subject must suffice. Letters and diaries may help the autobiographer, too, but every narrative written with publication in view is submitted to a rigorous series of personal tests based on what the writer/autobiographer chooses to share with the reader. If, by chance, any aspect of the writer/autobiographer concerned is contested in some way, then a vigorous (and entertaining) spat erupts soon after publication. Each of the many critical parasites on the master text does the utmost to establish his version of the narrative. Meanwhile readers (sensible people) create personal versions. Writers, of course, are seldom silly enough to be interested in anything so dull as a single version of events.

So some stories I tell concern my father. Others pertain to different, “other” fathers. Based on this, the parasites could argue that some are “real” and others “imaginary.” However, even those with good memories find that memory crafts the raw material of experience, giving it shape and texture. My patchy recollections of events from ten years ago are more likely to have the tenor and tone of fiction than anything I try to “make up” now.

My father is still alive, too. There’s the obvious constraint of knowing he’ll read what I’ve written and come after me with a waddy when he finds out I’ve told the public version a of story b rather than versions x, y, q or t. This constraint would not be removed by his death; merely altered. Many people (historians in particular) forget that when sources/stories disappear, narrative itself is impoverished. We would like to know what Julius Caesar’s thoughts were on crossing the Rubicon, but are happy to admit (until the physicists provide us with an appropriate vehicle) the impossibility. However, living (and perhaps correcting or contradicting) narrative/recollections are daily destroyed by death. And, as a result, the remaining version(s) acquire in their turn a limiting, monumental quality.

Appropriately fatherly story #2

As a teenager, I hated my voice. Years later, at university, someone told me it was “rich and bluesy” but the comment didn’t help. These days I confine my singing to the shower and the car. My windows have dark tinting and no-one can see my lips moving. I’ve watched others (those with untinted windows) on the freeway picking their noses and singing away (often simultaneously). My father has the rare ability to lipread other motorists’ musical tastes.

“Meatloaf,” he’ll say. “Badly dressed boomer, inside lane. Would-you-believe it he’s driving a Lemon“. He’s fairly good on car makes and models, too.

Unfortunately, his facility for vehicle identification has never extended to vehicle repair (or any other sort of repair, either). Not so long ago my brother bought him a large mug for Father’s Day. The cup showed “Dad: The Incredible Mr Fixit” wandering through a rubble of broken furniture, disused electrical leads, nails, washers and coffee-stained owners’ manuals. “Mr Fixit” was clad in welders’ mask and overalls, clutched a plumber’s friend in one hand, and had his foot stuck in a bucket.

Dad broke tools, fell off ladders and routinely “hit the wrong nail.” Then there was the time my nephew (who was at the “button-pushing” stage) poked a sausage into the VCR and hit fast forward. Dad, of course, was supposed to be supervising. Once he screwed in the plate that holds the mower blades on upside down. Mum mowed the grass next day and wondered why the Victa was exhibiting echidna like behaviour.

“Look, Helen,” she said. “The bloody thing’s trying to bury itself.”

Mum always maintained that the worst falling-off-ladder incident was due to what she termed dad’s “breast fixation.” My father has a remarkable black thumb when it comes to almost all aspects of horticulture (plants have been known to wilt at his approach), with the notable exception of paw-paws [and dope, but I didn’t put that in the original article]. Friends tell me that Queenslanders can grow paw-paws at will, and that this talent doesn’t really count. However, I do think it significant that when a particularly bad epidemic of bunchy top went through the district a few years ago, dad’s were the only paw-paws left unscathed.

He was perched up on the highest rung of the ladder, gently feeling up his beloved paw-paws, when the ladder, lodged in soft, mulchy soil, went from under him. Mum walked out onto the back verandah to see my father, a look of unfathomable surprise on his face, hugging the tallest paw-paw tree in the yard. He slid down it slowly.

“Harry,” she said. “Isn’t that going a bit far?”

Dad told the Mormons we were Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Jehovah’s Witnesses we were Mormons. Both groups walked past the house, eyes averted.

“We’ve been marked,” he said. “Religious equivalent of a white cross on the front door in plague time.”

“Everyone thinks Beethoven is better than an advertising jingle.” I told him once, sure of the absolute value of things.

“Everyone” he said, “except an advertising executive.”

“Cabby,” people used to ask him, “what’s your pick for the Cup?”

“A horse.”

Horses were “brainless four-legged hayburners” and gambling “the curse of the Irish.” [My mother was Irish] Speed never fascinated my father as it does many men. He told me that he wouldn’t walk across the street to watch the Formula One Grand Prix. We debate the composition of the Test side instead. He maintains that most critics (”the literati-glitterati”) are like certain cricket commentators. “The closest they’ve come to the real thing is I made a hundred in the backyard at mum’s.”

When his house (housing commission timber, badly in need of a paint job) was on TV every night for a week, his response was “better watch the telly, ducks. This is now the second most famous house in Australia after Bob and Blanche’s.”

“You’re in Who’s Who,” he said to me last week.

“I find that funny. Really.”

“If you’re so famous, why aren’t you rich?”

“Something to do with getting paid $1.39 a copy, dad.” I said. “There are times when I feel like hanging a sign on the front gate. Writer’s begging bowl. Please give generously.”

It would be easy to find unpleasant things to say about my father, and about father(s). It’s almost customary now for women (writers and others) to castigate the males in their familial world, usually with some justification. I accept that their stories (just as partial/partisan, if not more so, than this story) have a superficial narrative cohesiveness and “realism” that mine lacks.

But the “fatherly story” I choose to tell is not rooted in the simplistic urge to make real and familiar some small part of my life. For many centuries, the role of the storyteller was to make the familiar strange, and I prefer strangeness. Homer’s Achaean and Trojan warriors, read through the prism of modernity, are so utterly other that they take the breath away. Yet they were just as breathtaking in the eighth century B.C., because Homer made them somehow larger and stranger than the normal young men who fought and killed in battle and were relatives of his listeners around the campfire.

I expect you think I am strange. However, in an important sense that is really not your business. I don’t belong to my readers. And my stories don’t really belong to me, either.

It’s only words, as the song says, and words are all I have.

Entry Filed under: Literature, Media

48 Comments Add your own

  • 1. skepticlawyer  |  January 16th, 2007 at 8:28 pm

    It is possible to be clear and postmodern. It just takes a lot of effort.

  • 2. davidleyonhjelm  |  January 16th, 2007 at 8:58 pm

    You are brave SL.

    I do my share of scribbling but I doubt if I could write about my father while he is alive, postmodern style or not.

    Some things need to wait a while, or longer.

  • 3. skepticlawyer  |  January 16th, 2007 at 9:05 pm

    At the time I needed the four grand, David. And I was determined to meet the challenge, rather than run away.

  • 4. Rob  |  January 16th, 2007 at 9:49 pm

    Awesome, sl. Just awesome. And I loved the post-modernist disarrangement of the waters.

  • 5. skepticlawyer  |  January 16th, 2007 at 9:53 pm

    Thanks Rob. I’ve been saving this one for a while, and in light of Frank’s piece in the Australian, thought it deserved a run.

  • 6. JC.  |  January 16th, 2007 at 9:54 pm

    WOW

    good stuff, SL. Great stuff. Aren’t you in the wrong profession? Lawyering sounds a little boring seeing what you can do with a keyboard.

  • 7. skepticlawyer  |  January 16th, 2007 at 10:00 pm

    Thanks, JC. I do write as well, to be fair. Lawyering provides the bread and butter, while writing provides the cream. I’ve got a new novel on the way, I write book reviews for all sorts of people, and I blog. At the moment writing earns about 20% of my total annual income - it’s not worth doing full time, and I refuse to apply for government grants (for reasons I’ve explained elsewhere on this blog).

    Once the new novel comes out, writing will bounce up to about 50% of my income, but only for about 3 years or so.

  • 8. JC.  |  January 16th, 2007 at 10:10 pm

    Just curious..

    What does the author of a years best selling novel makes from the sales? Range is good.

    Ever thought of script writing? I knew a guy once that simply wrote scripts. Never ever got made into movies, but the studios are forced to buy lots over the year and know full well they won’t be made.

    The guy made a cracker of a living just doing this. He thinks he would be lucky to ever get a script on a screen. Dunno how long it can last though.

    My wife knew a gal who was a good script writer and finally hit the big time. She was the co-writer of the televison series called Chasing Amy (I think). That really made the gal a packet.

  • 9. skepticlawyer  |  January 16th, 2007 at 10:20 pm

    Scriptwriting is very difficult to pursue in Australia, which has pretty much adopted the East German model for getting movies made (which is why our movies suck, except for privately funded efforts like Kenny).

    How much you make depends on what sort of contract you sign. New authors get the worst deal - usually only 10% of RRP for ANZ sales, and 10% of the net receipts for overseas sales. This was particularly bad for me as I sold a lot of copies (about 40,000 I think) overseas. That’s nearly as many as I sold in Australia. Even with a bestseller, the sales wind down eventually and you have to either (a) have another book to go or (b) make money doing other stuff.

    Ultimately I’m not complaining that much, because most Aussie authors sell about 3,000 copies per book (if they’re lucky). I strongly suspect that the Australian people aren’t ignorant doofuses who hate reading, though. They just don’t like reading ‘pretentious and illiterate verbal sludge’. Australian writers get away with producing that, tho, because they rent seek rather than write for the market.

  • 10. C.L.  |  January 17th, 2007 at 12:54 am

    This is a great little essay. Writing about family and parents is indeed very hard. I suspect that the more famous and crammed with public affairs is a parent’s life, the easier it is to produce a story with a fairly straight-forward symbiosis between nature and action. Easier too to go with either lionisation or apologia. Authors whose parents are “ordinary” people are probably required to confront (and analyse) personality more than deeds and if they do it well, the results are telling and engaging.

  • 11. Alex_the_drummer  |  January 17th, 2007 at 1:27 am

    Nice, SL.

  • 12. Deus Ex Macintosh  |  January 17th, 2007 at 6:26 am

    Have never been able to quite work out how or why your father ended up standing for the Green Party.

  • 13. skepticlawyer  |  January 17th, 2007 at 8:11 am

    Basically because the ALP were no longer being as generous with other peoples’ money. I know that sounds cynical, but that’s about the strength of it. For fairly obvious reasons, dad had been a lifelong Labor voter. Mind you - like most people in Logan - he was ‘old’ Labor. He hated Hawkeating’s economic reforms, and had a fairly dim view of immigration as well.

  • 14. Darlene  |  January 17th, 2007 at 9:26 am

    Wow!!!

    Best Blog Post 2007.

    Am going to print it out so I can read it on paper (things get taken in better that way).

    Why wasn’t Manne or whoever just responding to your text rather than trying to dig up dirt?

    Writing about family is very difficult to do as C L noted.

    The divisions between old and new Labor still cause fractures within the party. My brother (who was a labourer) once said that he didn’t bother going to branch meetings anymore because all they talked about was “poofs” and the environment.

  • 15. skepticlawyer  |  January 17th, 2007 at 9:52 am

    Ta muchly Darlene.

    Robert Manne was one of the people who conflated what he thought were my politics with my writing. Apart from that, he’s a serial dirt digger - he’s done the same to Keith Windschuttle. It’s just the way he operates.

    I think your comment about the ALP speaks volumes, too.

  • 16. Jason Soon  |  January 17th, 2007 at 10:16 am

    I once belonged to the Chifley branch of Young Labor - in Blacktown. It was a right wing branch which means we were all mostly sensible centrists. Someone proposed a motion about the Tasmanian gay laws which were a big issue then. Naturally we voted by a majority to condemn them. But there were two dissents - one was by a Lebanese Muslim member and the other was by a traditional young Aussie blue collar member.

    In saying this I’m not casting aspersions on the two BTW. They were both otherwise good level headed members and I strongly doubt they wished gays any harm. But they clearly didn’t think it an important enough issue.

  • 17. Andrew Reynolds  |  January 17th, 2007 at 11:01 am

    Darlene,
    They are probably talking about “poofs” and the environment because they know they no longer have any possible valuable input on the economics.

  • 18. skepticlawyer  |  January 17th, 2007 at 12:10 pm

    I think it goes deeper than just economics, Andrew, although that’s a part of it. Much of it is to do with middle-class contempt for ordinary people, which I experienced intensily when I first went to university, and I still see now from time to time in my current job. Until the ALP resolves that issue, it’s likely to be stuck in opposition for some time to come.

    Mind you, I wouldn’t use my dad as a metier for any sort of politics. If there’d been rent-seeking opportunities in the offing in his day, he’d have been in like flynn.

    I will say that since his death I’ve slowly been able to deal with his life with a bit more equanimity.

  • 19. Darlene  |  January 17th, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    I’m not sure those divisions can be reconciled, really.

    BTW, I just went to leave a comment on On Line Opinion but couldn’t because I’ve already left one today. I have to wait another 23 hours.

  • 20. skepticlawyer  |  January 17th, 2007 at 12:23 pm

    I thought you could make two comments in 24 hours - have they cut it down to one? That’s nuts.

  • 21. Rafe Champion  |  January 17th, 2007 at 1:20 pm

    Nice work!

  • 22. Mark Bahnisch  |  January 17th, 2007 at 2:01 pm

    I think the blue collar/white collar divide can be overplayed. My own experience as a branch member was that there wasn’t much difference in views between the blue collar and white collar workers. That’s not to say that there aren’t fracture lines, but I think they’re generally exaggerated to create a narrative about “elites”.

    Anyway, that’s by the by.

    Nice piece, SL.

    Though, ironically, I think you’ve demonstrated there is some value in postmodern literary efforts :)

    I’ve been thinking about my own past a lot recently, perhaps because I have a birthday coming up (and with only one more 30something birthday to go that concentrates the mind). I think there’s a lot of truth in the insight that we constantly re-write the narratives of our lives and the way that we perceive our younger selves and our parents changes too, and was never fixed and stable anyway.

    There’s no necessary epistemological relativism in that insight though, I’d also observe.

  • 23. jimmythespiv  |  January 17th, 2007 at 2:11 pm

    noice post !

  • 24. skepticlawyer  |  January 17th, 2007 at 3:53 pm

    Eeek, birthdays, Mark - I’ve got one next week (I’m 35). Thanks for reminding me ;)

    I will say that writing clearly in that style is a challenge, though. I found myself polishing and repolishing to get the prose sufficiently clear. Although writing it did illustrate that ‘postmodern clarity’ is possible. It just takes lots of effort.

  • 25. Rafe Champion  |  January 17th, 2007 at 3:58 pm

    On the topic of shifting perspectives of parents, Mark Twain or someone like him wrote it was just amazing how much his parents seemed to learn (or at leat how much more sensible their views became) between the time he was about 18 and 21.

  • 26. Rob  |  January 17th, 2007 at 3:58 pm

    sl, have you read any Alain Robbe-Grillet? Archtect of the antinarrative, nouvelle romain.

  • 27. Bring Back CL's Blog  |  January 17th, 2007 at 4:24 pm

    35 is so young!

    Mark had two identical boys they were twains

  • 28. skepticlawyer  |  January 17th, 2007 at 4:36 pm

    I’ll leave Mark B to boot you up the bum for that bad pun, Homer.

    Never read any Alain Robbe-Grillet, Rob. I’ll admit I’m generally suspicious of much ‘experimental’ writing - it tends to be a cover for poverty of skill. Good writing isn’t just fluency of expression, although that helps. It’s also about sustaining a narrative, or alternatively coming up with an alternative to narrative that works just as well.

    Many literary writers - to use a mate’s phrase - ‘can’t plot for toffee’. Many popular writers are bad at both diologue and description (they do not do the police in different voices). If a writer can do both, they’ve pretty much landed on the literary equivalent of ‘Free Parking’ in Monopoly.

  • 29. Rob  |  January 17th, 2007 at 4:52 pm

    Point taken, sl. Still, I do like R-G. Mujltiple narratives overlapping and inverting. It actually makes quite fascinating reading, IMHO.

  • 30. skepticlawyer  |  January 17th, 2007 at 4:59 pm

    I suppose I’ll have to admit that the only book I ever ‘cribbed’ during my arts degree was Ulysses. I made multiple attempts at it, too. Afterall, I was the top student in the course, had actually bothered to study ancient languages, had a published paper on Beowulf, yadda yadda yadda. I think I got to the end of chapter 4 and then bought the Cliff’s notes.

    Unreadable tosh, I’m afraid.

  • 31. Bring Back CL's Blog  |  January 17th, 2007 at 5:05 pm

    Sl all the best for the birthday but do not get betwain us as never the twain shall meet.

    I do believe Mark believes more twains and less cars though

  • 32. Rob  |  January 17th, 2007 at 5:08 pm

    Yes, Ulysses is crap, and Finnegan’s Wake is worse.

  • 33. Bring Back CL's Blog  |  January 17th, 2007 at 5:10 pm

    Has anyone actually ever read Ulysses?

    It was the twain of my life

  • 34. Jason Soon  |  January 17th, 2007 at 5:13 pm

    If you’re going to keep up with these bad puns, take a Hayek, Homer.

  • 35. Bring Back CL's Blog  |  January 17th, 2007 at 5:23 pm

    now that is a paternalistic view.
    I have grandfathered mine!

  • 36. Steve Edney  |  January 17th, 2007 at 5:24 pm

    I thought Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was a great book, but couldn’t get into Ulysses.

  • 37. skepticlawyer  |  January 17th, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    I liked Portrait as well, although it was very clearly written and wore its experimentation very lightly indeed.

  • 38. Adrienswords  |  January 17th, 2007 at 6:19 pm

    I’m sorry why is this piece postmodernist? I did a subject on postmodernism at uni. Four guys taught it and they each had four distinct takes on what it meant. All mutually exclusive save it supposedly begins at the end of the second World War.

    I’ve read Alain-Robbe Grillet - La Jalousie, Topology of a Phantom City - real page turners. Unputdownable.

    On the other hand Don Delillo is supposedly postmodern and his writing cuts clean.

    One of those four guys I agree with him: ‘post’ people are dangerous, ‘ism’ people are dangerous too.

  • 39. skepticlawyer  |  January 17th, 2007 at 6:22 pm

    Okay, to use the ‘lingo’, it interrogates the stable narratives of identity and memory, and questions the author’s capacity to impose a master narrative on the reader. These are core tropes in the philosophies of Foucault, Derrida and Deleuze.

  • 40. Jason Soon  |  January 17th, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    I like Don DeLillo, never thought of him as postmodernist.

  • 41. skepticlawyer  |  January 17th, 2007 at 6:25 pm

    He uses bits of it, although he satirises it too - think of the Department of Hitler studies complete with its non-German speaking professor - in White Noise. Oh, and the Airborne Toxic Event ;)

  • 42. Rob  |  January 17th, 2007 at 6:29 pm

    Adrienswords — Jealousy is brilliant. Djinn? (Not inviting you for a drink.)

  • 43. skepticlawyer  |  January 17th, 2007 at 6:43 pm

    Kerching, kerching, kerchinnnng! Miao.

  • 44. Adrienswords  |  January 17th, 2007 at 6:44 pm

    I’m not criticizing your piece just ‘postmodernism’. It’s a word increasingly meaningless.

    I’d think of it more as new journalism but as it’s a memoir maybe that doesn’t apply.

    How do you interrogate stable narritives of identity and memory? You can say ‘hey they’re just an illusion’. But interrogate? Where were you last Saturday night, narrative?

    Foucault wrote about the relationship between the structure of knowledge and the use of power. Why he’s so often cited in discussions about the creative arts is beyond me. He didn’t contribute much there.

    Derrida ? What I said about postmodernism goes double for deconstruction.

    Deleuze? Haven’t had the pleasure. After I graduated I didn’t want to read any philosophy unless the writer’d been dead for at least a hundred years.

    Delillo? That’s what they say. Who cares, he rocks.

    Nice piece tho’. Interesting character your dad.

  • 45. Adrienswords  |  January 17th, 2007 at 6:48 pm

    Rob - Are you being sarcastic or failing to realise that I was?

  • 46. Rob  |  January 17th, 2007 at 7:07 pm

    That must be another quip that passed me by, AS. Curse this humourlessness.

  • 47. Adrienswords  |  January 17th, 2007 at 7:13 pm

    It’s funny I just donatated Topology of a Phantom City to recycling the other day. It’s pretty (unintentionally) funny. The Pythonesque highbrow.

  • 48. derrida derider  |  January 17th, 2007 at 7:34 pm

    It’s a good and brave piece, but I can’t help thinking this was wasted in a compilation - there’s obvious fuel for a novel there.

    On fathers, you really should read Le Carre’s A Perfect Spy - it’s clear that a lot of the driving force for this fine genre writer came from his relations with his father. Really puts you in mind of that Larkin poem (”They fuck you up, your mum and dad …”).

    But of course for a daughter these things are problematic in a quite different way.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed




Recent Comments

Keep our poor server alive