Recently I had nearly finished editing an appalling piece of “quantitative” “linguistic” “analysis” submitted to this journal by a self-
Walking up in a warm haze to a bright and shining morning, I rushed through the rest of the paper and replied to the editorial elite that while the paper was probably publishable with minor changes in more prestigious venues like the Bascombe County Pre-
Finishing the chapter, I then turned to a paper in the latest issue of the Speculative Educationist. The opening sentence cited a paper in a rather more prestigious journal stating that reading and writing are significant parts of the English language arts pie, with close interconnections between all the slices, whereupon this paper’s author proceeded in Ptolemaic fashion to chart out all the interconnections, and, applying a hydraulic metaphor drawn from Freud (why, Lord, why?!?), discussed how pressure on one slice causes the humors (well, the fluids, but my humors were pumping good and hard by then) in the other slices to rise, as reflected in (why, Lord, why?!?) a regression analysis of responses on a 23-point Likert scale to the 16 items the author had intuited, drawn out of a hat, or elicited in a parlor game in the faculty lounge after far too much Drambuie. In the final analysis, forget mincemeat, this was the least appetizing pie I’ve ever heard of. And not only were the pie slices interlinked as if by the integuments between the organs of one of those nasty facehugger beasties from Alien, the fluid that sprayed out when I teased the statistical model apart and severed all the interconnected tubes inside the pie as if slicing it up for Christmas dinner made the nasty facehugging critter from Alien seem like a Canadian plastic milk bag. I did give special props to the author for the beginning of the conclusion, “This study attempts to contribute to the lack of knowledge about the language arts,” and referred said practitioner to SpecGram for a possible internship. The maw must be fed.
The last paper was edited quickly and easily, despite the superhuman efforts by the author to the contrary. While the analysis resembled the modest heights of its models in the same way that in the least hands a mass or Te Deum becomes a mess of tedium and was as objectionable on statistical grounds as so many such works are, one did appreciate the occasional unintentional salvo of wit or wisdom. Thus, when reading at one point in the summation, “To ensure the making of a further continuation of efforts of facilitation in pursuit of accomplishing the assurance of the respective goals of such enterprises of intellection, the services of educators, educationists, physicians, physicists,2 sociologist, philosophers, theologians, and critical theorists must be enlisted in tentative measures to develop the methodology for drafting the preliminary consultant list,” one did appreciate the author’s grasp of hard-
I then peeked repeatedly in the inbox on my desk, wasting time, dreading what must be done, but no matter where I peeked or however many trips I made to the mailbox, no more excuses awaited my attention. Apprehensively, I picked up my latest anniversary present from my wife and began to read, for the detailed reports she demands when she returns from her anniversary vacation are perhaps her favorite part. And so I passed the day, and the night, and the next day, and the next night, and part of the next day reading the recent mainstream success among the self-
As you, Dear Reader, are no doubt one of the better sort of reader (just keep telling yourself that), you are also no doubt unaware of this work. It is a typographically interesting specimen of verbiage in the form of a novel written on the complete card catalog of an abandoned library devoted exclusively to a curious mixture of horror fantasy and semi-
Yeah, yeah, pretty routine stuff for our day and age. But wait!!! They’re all unreliable narrators!!!!! This lifts it from the mundane to the dizzying heights of the artistic, or at least of the academically interesting. The novel itself nested most deeply within the frames and autos da fé of metaphor and conceit is the story of a world-
Adding to the luster of the work (at least a luster visible at certain frequencies beyond those I can see, as is so often the case of our younger generation, probably a result of rapid evolution or hallucinogens) is the fact that it started out being run off on a ditto machine and sent through the mail (or in one memorable bit of random fandom, by carrier pigeon), and the readers started the habit of replying to the author with their thoughts on bubblegum wrappers, which have all been preserved and scanned in on an Internet website with forums for further, and further, and further discussion that contradictory multitudes flock to be contained within, for DZM soaked his readership and his socage never ends. Thus, it has the reputation of being a low-
Noting the continued existence of said Internet fora, I hied myself thither forthwith and read a lot, for there is a lot to read, descriptively if not normatively. Truly, the place should have a sign: Eat up, it’s free! As an object lesson in the pitfalls of electronically facilitated hoi polloi exegesis,6 it is nonpareil. As fodder for thought, however, just as Buffet Palace will, as it becomes no longer long for this world, morph into Puffy Ballast, trying to forestall foreclosure by using the cheapest of barbecue sauce to mass-
One fellow, for example, avers, “The unfun funhouse, you see, represents the fate of mankind alone and afraid in a world we never made,” to which someone else replied, “Yeah, it’s like the whole drag of religion, man,” and another thinker replied, “Can these bones live? Not in this world,” and someone else replied, “Yeah, no one made that world. It just is. We’re interlopers in it and it’s gonna come and eat our bones.” Then someone else replied, “But someone did make that world: DZM!!!” And after three days of harshed buzzes without the buzzing of posts, someone finally replied, “Yeah, the author, kinda like God, only not as mean.” And so literary theory dies whimpering.8
Similarly, one fellah9 wrote, “What I perhaps enjoyed the most is that this book shows how language creates our world. It’s like the Sapper-
And so on and so forth. It leads one to wonder and ponder who is more pathetic. Is it the people earnestly discussing arcana arcane even for that book’s arcanum arcade like, “But if it’s so damn big inside both up and down, why doesn’t it flood up with ocean water being connected to a lighthouse and all? Because of the Bermuda Triangle!!! See the hint on page 2763, line 4, ‘Cats don’t sing unless they’re gutted’!!!,”14 followed by 23,925 posts on how the Sasquatch are actually crashed UFO pilots who missed the homing beacon to Atlantis as part of their epic centuries-
parlor games etymological analyses of the name “Olmec”? Or is it the few who pop in regularly to troll them, like “They need to assign this book in every class at college. There are too many students right now, and if this book were assigned everywhere I wouldn’t have to compete against a bunch of socially promoted half-
As one singularly unfun dude put it, “Buying books would be a good thing if one could also buy the time to read them...” This holds more of the key to modern academia than one might suspect outside the bellies17 of the beast. One must ever read and read, and there is no end of the tiresome making of yet more of the stuff, for that is the currency of the realm and it does take its toll. Everyone must read yours, and you must read strategically in their own jottings to ensure you pay fit tribute to the genius of others, genius best represented by verbiage imprinted on bound paper, its epigones encoded in the electrons, for everyone knows without saying it that the currency of time is yet more precious than the currency of the word, a currency inflated like Gre/isham’s Law by the output of the academic mints, clipping and adulterating whatever honest tribute flows into them; and like Moscow in some 19th century Russian novel, the realm of academia devours your own coin to little end.
And this, gentle readers and fierce readers, is why there’s so much of the stuff throughout every sector of the academic enterprise. To make back the time wasted reading it, the perpetrators of the next branch downstream seek to recoup their losses by taking up a like time of their own readers’ in the hope of piling up their tribute as social capital, rather like a turbid muddy river slowly branching off in ever minuter articulations of technique and subject in a vast entropic Ponzi scheme
fleecing harvesting the precious time and efforts of the willing flock in the vain hope they’ll get back with interest what they spent on the uninteresting. And so, dear readers, thank you for your time.
1 [Editor’s note] In fact, if memory serves, the exact phrasing was, “Damn, we just can’t get rid of you, can we? Well, here, help us earn our rent and edit this.” The pragmatics of intonation and idiomaticity, we have noticed, aren’t AZP’s forte.
2 I seem to remember that the paper had something to do with laying the groundwork for starting the process of considering the requirements necessary in facilitating the design of cruelty-
3 Which one suspects mostly of serving to date that layer of the text fairly accurately, for this encoding of a vice precedent in an undisclosed locution serves about as much function as any other of the text’s addled Easter eggs.
4 There is much to-do in the Murkovsky-
5 But a cube has six walls, one wants to say, but clearly there is a deep-
6 [Editors’ note] An ugly phrase, but the only one mutually passable. As one might expect, AZP refuses to accept “the hoi polloi” on the grounds that it means “the the many,” which he says would be an eternal embarrassment to him if published under his name that would permit him never to show his face outside his ramshackle shack ever again. We were eager to use the phrase for exactly the same reason. As contributors are even harder to come by than interns, however, we agreed upon this compromise locution...this time.
7 Let us not speak of that. Ever.
8 Some would say it already has, in which case this is its zombie getting done in.
9 The feminine form of “fellow.”
10 I for one would pay big bucks to read about Bulldog Drummond and everyone’s favorite Klingon teaming up, or perhaps even better facing off against each other. Unfortunately, that’s not Lousy Heaves.
11 Fittingly, no one ever raised the question, “How do you know it does?”
12 Presumably because they knew they’d never say anything so funny if they tried
13 Some might say this shows one doesn’t grab thistles, one stomps them down hard with jackboots. Me, I like thistles.
14 Clearly a reference to violas, and not the only one to go whoosh past the more vocal sections of his readership.
15 Of course he didn’t. Barthes did that for him. One suspects Kristeva is still lost in it somewhere...Book or maze? Hard to tell.
16 Besides the author.
17 Like a cow, and as full of tripe.
|What Happens When Linguists Meet?
|Rasmus Rask Diamond Puzzle VIII
|SpecGram Vol CLXXXIII, No 3 Contents|