Novel Talking: The Autotelic Otiose

Xlibris Corporation LLC, 2000 M12 20 - 284 páginas

Novel Talking; or, The Autotelic Otiose A Menippean satire on television and marijuana. Dialogues and fantasy futures by a Shakespeare scholar concerning the impact of modern media and recreational chemicals on post-literate Bicentennial America.

A Review of Novel Talking

It is one thing for a temporarily retired academic to retreat to the woods, deliberately regress to personal and cultural adolescence, and dream in silent solitude about stand-up classroom verbal eloquence; but it is another when these dreams become a theory of human nature going all the way back to the primitive Siberian shaman and are urged on us as a description of modern western man. It does not help much that the author, a teacher of Shakespeare, acknowledges each irony in turn: social science theory is nothing but autobiography, writing is a dream of speech, solitude creates fantasy company. Each admitted irony, each existential paradox wafts this quixotic author further from his mundane chore---to write well.

To be sure, the author agrees. Marijuana, he says, generates first draft or "epiphanic" thought, and the book is thus a composition text, an illustration of pride and flaw. "If indolence has been the hallmark of my execution (for quite a while, in several areas) should I not make it the focus of my educational effort?" Thus will the "stone soup" of this Peter Pan "preserve", if not communicate, the "creative vision," which he defines as "an idealistic blurring of forms which allows autobiography, cultural history, ethical paradigm and ecstatic witness to reveal common roots in ego and fiction."

In method and subject (roughly, being stoned and watching the tube) Novel Talking is adolescent pastoral, aware of itself as an idyll. It is a survey of the four seasonal literary modes, comedy, tragedy, irony and romance, each presented with a behavioral analogue from the social sciences,. The pattern for tragedy: the western body-soul dualism derives from the cultural practice of swaddling. Its first articulation is by the ancient shaman, who performs an imitation of a wrapped (rapt) memory of an imagined unwrapped act, a magic spirit flight from the body, an ineffable claim convincing enough to arouse, sustain and focus to his profit the fight-flight tension (the mingled rage and ridicule) of the gathering within the sound of his voice. In further discussion the swaddle itself becomes an analogue for various contemporary sedentary recreational states, including television and chemical euphoria, which are contrasted with group ritual behavior in order to suggest ways to deal with emerging national patterns of "domestic equality and mutual grooming."

This is a rather heavy argument to be founded, as the author says, only on cultural generalizations and, more importantly, on purely autobiographical analogies. He further asserts that it is only because of the fashion of the times that he speaks in this way. He is only a Boy Scout, an acolyte, only a shaman stoned. He has a theory of gentility, of manners, and God is a personal laugh track. He is looking for work. We seek, he says, only what we lack. At the college level of this author's prime pedagogic fantasy (only one of several) this search translates as a form of residential literary and critical counseling ("minor arbitration, general assaying, duck rowing"), a kind of WASP male Uncle Tomming or intellectual groping for pay that can only be imagined, perhaps, after three years alone in the woods.

It's going to have to be a no-frills fantasy, this academic niche, because the writing of this book will compel poetic justice, academic logic and Dame Fortune to all insist that its author teach composition for a living. And that would be, after all, the best framework for coaching the logical and literary mise-en-scene of a gathering of shamen. Heaven help his students. &nbs

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