Saturday, 16 June 2012

In Watermelon Sugar


Item on the 'news' headlines of AOL's mail-server today:


"Are you a secret alcoholic?"


My first thought was,  "Secret from whom?"  It is certainly no secret to the man in the off-licence when you go in every 2 hours and buy three miniatures, starting at 11 in the morning.

Perhaps 'secret' was the wrong word.  It wouldn't be the first time that a journalist has used the wrong word, after all.  AOL are constantly trying to hook me in with all sorts of titillating tit-bits which usually include tits.  All the B-List starlets who are falling out of their ill-fitting dresses (see photos);  Is my P.C. infuriatingly slow? (no, because I haven't got one);  Could this berry be the secret to eternal youth? (no);  Starlet rushed to hospital after losing consciousness at an all-night party (allegedly);  the amazingly fat woman who became amazingly thin (over a period of three years);  Could this be the answer to male hair-loss?  (no).  And so it goes on, day after day.

There is a rumour that a vast, cyclonic weather-system that is spinning around over the Atlantic right now, is going to drop three months worth of rain on us in a matter of hours this weekend.  I thought it already had.  That's the other thing that AOL knows will catch your eye in the mornings:  extreme weather warnings - well, threats really.  A few months ago, it was all about snow, and now it's all about wind, rain or both in unequal measure.  Nowhere has there been any information regarding the imminent lifting of the hosepipe ban from the South of England.

At a time when - thanks to the ever-increasing speed of the digital age - everyone's attention-span has been reduced to a matter of minutes - if not seconds - good old Radio 4 is broadcasting James Joyce's 'Ulysses' throughout the whole of this saturday, starting early in the morning and finishing late tonight, semi-dramatised in it's entirety.

Admittedly, it is being dished out in bite-sized portions, but it is still a hell of a meal.  I think I picked up a copy of 'Ulysses' to impress my friends when I was student, but I soon put it down again with only about 2 pages read.  I never picked it up again.  Am I a bad person for that?  If you think so, then I would like to point out that I spent a year (on and off) studying Wittgenstein, and read everything that Nietzsche put down on paper, word by word - so get off my back, will you?

Ulysses was just too long for me though.  Any book which deals with an ordinary day in the life of an ordinary man and is set in real-time, but takes more than a day to read is just too long for me.

When I was about 14, my older cousin gave me a copy of 'War and Peace' for Christmas.  That got the same treatment as 'Ulysses'.  Even before the digital age, my attention span amounted to no more than about three minutes.  I've always had a butterfly mind, which is why I chose John Aubrey for a role-model, and Richard Brautigan for a prose writer.

Back in the 1970s, I would eagerly await the publication of Brautigan's latest slim volume, rush to the bookshop to buy it for quite a lot of money, then take it home and read it from cover to cover in about 10 minutes, relishing every one of them.

'In Watermelon Sugar' was a memorable one, but I only remember a small part of it's small self.

Brautigan picked up a crumpled piece of paper in the street one day, and unwrapped it to find a note to the employer of the Mexican man who wrote it.  It went something like this:

"Dear Boss.  I won't be in to work today.  I am not ill.  I am feeling so good that I do not want to work today.  If I am feeling bad tomorrow, then I will come in to work."


That's my kind of writing.



12 comments:

  1. Alas, I also have the attention span of a butterfly these days. And it gets worse as I get older. I managed about 2 pages of Ulysses also and have no intention of picking it up ever again. But Happy Bloomsday, anyway.

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    1. Happy Father's day to you too, Jude.

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  2. I seem to remember struggling through about 10 pages. I wonder how many faithful listeners Aunty will manage..... very few I suspect.

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  3. I'm listening.
    I love the book, but it's the first time I'll have listened to it.

    Couldn't stick War and Peace though.

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    1. It's worth sitting through through 8 hours of the film until that fused mortar bomb spins around on the floor to the tune of a waltz, though, isn't it?

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  4. Have not read Ulysses but did read War and Peace. I can read for hours into the night and regretfully not sleep.

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  6. That Ulysses book is no good. War and Peace isn't great either. I doubt the Mexican man would waste his time in reading either when he was feeling so good.

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    1. You sound like my old Irish aunt now, Mise, so you do.

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  7. I loved In Watermelon Sugar. What a whacky book.

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