Saturday, July 11, 2009

the 66% solution, or: baked beans are off

Martin Amis, Al Alvarez and Melvyn Bragg discussed suicide last week at an event at the University of Manchester's Center for New Writing (podcast here). Reminded me of a book killed off by my very dear friend and admirer Steve Gaghan.

:: ::

In the chocolate-houses of Eleazar these challenges are uttered: Define Zoroastrian. Define Jansenist. Define silversmith.

In the courtyards and bazaars of Eleazar residents are constantly updating their signs, and if a Maronite tattooist with a brace of parrots moves from the street of the rug merchants to the street of the glassblowers those in the new street and the old rush to correct the probability distributions on the signs which greet the visitor.

It is recognised that the business of a silversmith may require him to leave the premises, thereby rendering inaccurate the probabilities for encountering silversmith, Zoroastrian, marmoset owner. Their convention is to leave a dummy as a courtesy to visitors. The silver mask of a silversmith’s dummy, the golden mask of the goldsmith’s testify to the art of the maker more truly than the presence of the maker could do. The owner of a marmoset acquires as a matter of course a stuffed marmoset to represent the living animal when it is being taken to the bamboo grove south of the city. A cockatiel, which is always in its cage, is seen as an inferior sort of pet as requiring no double - though some owners will display, as a matter of pride rather than necessity, a stuffed bird on the pretext that even a cockatiel must sometimes seek medical attention.

It has been said that when the barbarians attacked Eleazar they found a city of masked effigies whose owners had fled long before.

It has been said that when the barbarians attacked many Eleazans fled and perished through their attempts to take with them the facsimiles in whose company they had spent their days. These replicas, it was thought, were the finest expression of their chance-loving civilisation, and the poverty of a life that must carry its chances on its back could not be contemplated. It has been said that the barbarians, having slaughtered the owners, took home the replicas and set them senselessly on display.

It has been said that some refugees fled across the ocean with their complement of copies intact. It was not always possible for a silversmith to find work as a silversmith; to practise Zoroastrianism was not easy. They could not bring themselves to create replicas of the practitioners of the trades they were forced to adopt. A man who was once a silversmith sweeps a floor; he does not place a broom in the arms of the dummy, nor strip it of its silver mask.

In this way do the arguments of the chocolate-houses return to him. Define silversmith. Define Jansenist. Define Zoroastrian.

:: ::

Or. But of course, as so always, Monty Python gets it best:

(You know the sketch I mean. From our very dear friends at YouTube, here.)

Man:Well, what've you got?
Waitress:Well, there's egg and bacon; egg sausage and bacon; egg and spam; egg bacon and spam; egg bacon sausage and spam; spam bacon sausage and spam; spam egg spam spam bacon and spam; spam sausage spam spam bacon spam tomato and spam;
Vikings:Spam spam spam spam...
Waitress:...spam spam spam egg and spam; spam spam spam spam spam spam baked beans spam spam spam...
Vikings:Spam! Lovely spam! Lovely spam!
Waitress:...or Lobster Thermidor a Crevette with a mornay sauce served in a Provencale manner with shallots and aubergines garnished with truffle pate, brandy and with a fried egg on top and spam.
Wife:Have you got anything without spam?
Waitress:Well, there's spam egg sausage and spam, that's not got much spam in it.
Wife:I don't want ANY spam!
Man:Why can't she have egg bacon spam and sausage?
Wife:THAT'S got spam in it!
Man:Hasn't got as much spam in it as spam egg sausage and spam, has it?
Vikings:Spam spam spam spam... (Crescendo through next few lines...)
Wife:Could you do the egg bacon spam and sausage without the spam then?
Wife:What do you mean 'Urgghh'? I don't like spam!
Vikings:Lovely spam! Wonderful spam!
Waitress:Shut up!
Vikings:Lovely spam! Wonderful spam!
Waitress:Shut up! (Vikings stop) Bloody Vikings! You can't have egg bacon spam and sausage without the spam.
Wife:I don't like spam!
Man:Sshh, dear, don't cause a fuss. I'll have your spam. I love it. I'm having spam spam spam spam spam spam spam beaked beans spam spam spam and spam!
Vikings:Spam spam spam spam. Lovely spam! Wonderful spam!
Waitress:Shut up!! Baked beans are off.
Man:Well could I have her spam instead of the baked beans then?

1 comment:

Nathaniel said...

I blink and discover I am the unsuspecting Reader in If on a winter's night a traveler. In just a few short paragraphs, I am completely pulled into the story of Eleazar. I turn the page. Blank.