P.J. O’Rourke is one of my favorite writers of all time. You must read his book, Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence and a Bad Haircut. It is hilarious. Here is an excerpt:
And that’s just from the Acknowledgements section of the book. He is absolutely hilarious. His “Website Welcome” page on http://www.pjorourke.com is PERFECTION, seriously click on this link and read this thing. Basically I agree with every word and gosh it is SO FUNNY. So where am I going with this? I don’t have any exciting October Garden How-To’s and didn’t take any pictures of golden sunlight or frolicking children and puppies today. So in searching for something to write about, I decided to search for something I already wrote. As an English major at Wesleyan University, I wrote the paper below. It was supposed to be a reflection on Dictee (which is a very abstract, disjointed book by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha). Pretty much the whole book is in the nonsensical format of my paper:
My Name Was Here
le 24 avril 2003
The Sad, Lonely, and Crazed Woman of Dictee:
Links in the Web of Knowledge Systems
The multilingual work that provokes readers to consult an outside work in pursuit of a knowledge can claim a priority in stimulating thinking at the same time that it points to the necessary intercultural, weblike nature of all knowledge systems. (Spahr 139)
Je pense donc que je suis.
Je pense [excessivement] donc que je suis [fou].
Elle pense. Elle parle. Elle prononce. She thinks. She speaks. She utters. “Hers now. Hers bare. The utter.” (5) The utter, bought by a high price—the woman’s sanity—lost in nervous anticipation. She is not at ease. Cha’s Dictee “is built around discomfort. It has little reading ease.” (Spahr 124)
“She hears the ringing and the call is announced.” (139) She labors over the ring. She thinks too much. She is mad. She overstates the obvious. Reading in too far, too many Re’s and she knows it, “Re dust…Resurrect it all over again. Bit by bit. Reconstructing step by step…” (129): because she is so lonely. She says “You fade.” (128) Perhaps the subject is physically absent but with obsessed words she shows that her subject still actively torments her, and it is her own fault: (1) she creates the Re dust, (2) the Re dust becomes “A shadow”, (3) she reconstructs, re-enacts, rebuilds: (4) creates “a new shape” reminiscent of the original, but without true form. “It seemed to resemble but it wasn’t.” She is heartbroken and crazy over something or someone, she recreated its/his/her image over and over, and continually her Re creation reveals itself to her: reminds her she was only pretending. All of this Re business results in trouble with the verb. To go. Aller.
“Something takes only one to start.” (128)
The Aller passage is vague, vague, vague. Because of this ambiguity, the reader can connect it to other passages. Connect it to Laura Claxton. Laura writes to Mr. Reardon unaware that he has moved. H. Small writes, “Of late I have not heard anything from him and cannot advise you of his present address.” (142) Laura will be sad when she reads these words. Sad for her sister. Her sister who “is in awful shape/she threatens/to kill her self and/her children and/husband has done/all they can” Her sister is crazy (over/under Mr. Reardon?). So crazy, in fact, that perhaps she doesn’t even have a sister: she writes to herself in 3rd person. Her doctor told her to do this, in a journal, for therapy, to help her eat.
 Re dust: The fictitious world created by too many what ifs? Too many re-readings, re-enactments. The writer addresses the personification of what is created by these re’s: “You Re dust”
Beat her anorexia, stop her from going crazy. “She is afraid of going crazy.” (146) Much easier to write those words in 3rd person. Elle s’écrit. Reflexive verbs. She fights with her body.
“In the whiteness/no distinction her body invariable no dissonace synonymous to be come yours.” (118) To become yours. DO become your body. Devenir. “The verb.” (118) To become.
Carl Dreyer, 1928: La Passion de Joan d’Arc. Impressive fanatic. Crazed? We were in confirmation class reading Catechism and trying to finish our French homework we found it “NOT possible to distinguish the speech” (67) of either. READ and call crazy what is wildly ambiguous. The ambiguity invites unusual juxtapositions/relationships because it does not have to be read LINEARLY.
* * *
Ok so that’s the paper.
It’s over (thank goodness).
If you are confused right now, that’s the point. IT MAKES NO SENSE.
Did I actually “read” Dictee? Of course not. Part of being an English major is writing pages and pages on things you know nothing about. Thumbing the pages as you would do a picture flip book one can quickly conclude: This work is disjointed. It has no plot. It makes many vague social/cultural/political references.
What was at stake that we spend 2-4 hours of class time (at 40 grand a year that is some expensive class time) in such serious discussion of this crappy book? Well…Theresa Hak Kyung Cha is a published author. While I am a lowly
blog glog writer. Interestingly enough she seems FAR less concerned with the reader’s pleasure in “reading” her book than I am.
So, the punchline, people, is, I got an A+ on the paper. It took me ten minutes to write. If you can appreciate this paradox, you seriously need to read some P.J. O’Rourke.