dimanche 28 septembre 2008

Guy Attends Reception at William Faulkner's Rowan House, University of Mississippi

Oxford, Mississippi: September 28 I most enjoyed a post-debate reception in Rowan Oak, the final home of the great American master William Faulkner, where I mingled with members of the Humanities Departments of the University of Mississippi, who spoke openly and suspiciously, that duality (causal et paranoïde) so uniquely American. I confess, at times during the cocktail chatter, my mind wandered to the words of the great American master whose ghost inhabits this house, and what he said in his Discours de Suède: It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. With that I transcribe, untranslated, some of my evening's transactions.

Professor A.C. (Art History): So Mister Language-Dock, are you a fan of any American authors besides Faulkner? I mean, I know you French are obsessed by late work of Faulkner, Charles Bukowski and by Jackson Pollock but we had some artists too who weren't drunks, surely you must be aware of our expansive pedigree in the South, Eudora Welty, Flannery O'Connor, Maya Angelou, for instance?

Guy: Of this Flannery person I have heard. But we say in France of this so-called postwar Southern Gothic, that they read Camus and think they know the abyss. As for Maya Angelou, this is she of "I Know Why the Cuckoo Clock Sings"?

Professor G.J. (English Dept): Guy, if I may, let's change the subject. Would you agree that French theory is a negative influence on careful reading in America? Our English majors tend to get their heads filled with half baked notions from feminists and people like Lacan and fail to pay diligent attention to the text. And, not that I can read a word of his nonsense, but did you know Jacques Derrida?

Guy: I do not know the level at which you understand or not to understand what you call "French theory." There is no "French theory," if I may say. Non!! As for feminists, asking a Frenchman if he is feminist is like asking a Marxist if he invests in hedge funds. And this "diligent reading," the matronly fussiness of your word choice, diligent, betrays an anal retentive power fantasy, as you suggest that reading a text is diligent, like cleaning one's kitchen. This I cannot concur. As for Derrida, I took a train ride with him once to Lyon in 1995. He was what you say bloqué in la salle de bain.

Professor G.H.I (French Dept.): Stuck. In the men's room. [embarrassed laughter]

Guy: Ah oui! Yes, stuck. Derrida was stucked and as I was immersed in re-reading my favorite novel, Light in August, by your grand maestro, I did not realize my conféré's fâcheuse. It took several train agents to release him from this toilet room. Jacques and I spoke about this incident many times and on his deathbed gave me a manuscript. It is still not fully translated but it is all about shitting. It is called in English The House Out.

Professor G.H.I. (French
Dept): The Outhouse. [more embarrassed laughter ensues] But it is a brilliant book! A study of eschatology, privacy and bathroom door locks.

Professor H.G.J (History Dept)
: Guy, why is that your French writers, and here I am thinking of Hugo, of Zola, of Sartre, of De Beauvoir and many other greats, were so engaged by history while here in America our writers ignore history?

Guy: First the ones you name are third-rate writers. Or what we call écrivaillons.

Professor G.H.I (French Dept)
: He means hacks.

Professor K.P (History Dept): My Word! Sartre was a hack? Hugo?

Guy: History, if I may, is an invented construct, an out house, to continue with this trope from Derrida. It is involved with shit yet isn't the material of shit. Et puis, history contains what we refuse and therefore it stinks. A writer is not one to contain but to be of substance. Here I refer you to the scene in "Barn Burning" in which the father wipes the shit off his boots on the rug of Major De Spain. That scene is worth 10,000 Victor Hugos.

Professor F.D.I.C (Philosophy Dept)
: Guy, are there any logical positivists left in la belle patrie of Descartes? Or have you have you all drank the deconstructive Kool-Aid?

Guy: I do not know what this expression which I have heard drink the cool ade.

Professor G.H.I (French Dept): This is from Jonestown massacre, suicide collectif. The leader urged his followers to drink poisoned "Kool Aid." C'est un boisson poudreux. The expression means to drink Kool Aid is to lose your personal judgment, perdre la tête, marcher à l’aveuglette.

Guy: Ah, oui oui. Well, non. Alors we do not have such disgustive powder drink in France. As for logic. Well of course we have logic. Logic is all, indeed, you and I, we owe our salaries to logic. But we know that the world is a madhouse, yes? And logicians and academics like ourselves are what you say, wardens, and only your maestro Faulkner showed us how mad we are. This is why we have absinthe and why here in American you have what you call "reality TV."

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