Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Triumph of Brevity REDUX

Yesterday I got an impassioned complaint from an individual who said to be representing the so-called George Borrow Society. The George Borrow Society, if I understand it well, is a club of slightly befuddled eccentrics who aim to keep alive the memory of one even more befuddled and eccentric than themselves, so that - in contrast and comparison - members appear a little more… regular, let’s say. Britain seems to have a monopoly on the thing. Their assemblies often consume a lot of sherry, wear bowties and sensible shoes, and engage in tremendous, often vicious disputes over the fine points of their idol’s life, which not rarely end in schism. And then there were two…

When you observe such goings-on in adolescents, you tell yourself it is only a phase. When you see it in children, you comfort yourself with the notion that it keeps them off the streets. When it concerns grown-ups of means and education, you wonder if you should really hold on to your British passport…?

The fellow in question, who wrote with a rather distinct and unpleasant northern accent, played it along martyr lines. In so many words (and there were rather many….) he pointed out that George Borrow, although an author of limitless genius who has much to offer mankind, is being dreadfully neglected by this insensitive and senseless century. ‘Nobody ever talks of our hero’, he would have written had he not been so verbose. Then he went on to whine that I had caused him, and many of his fellow GBS members, a most cruel disappointment by citing George Borrow in a mutilated text (see last Sunday’s Triumph of Brevity). How could I be so callous? Why rub such salt in open wounds? For once their obscur objet du désir got cited on the internet, and now – and here I quote – ‘internauts can no longer see the forest for lack of trees…!’ As I said: befuddled. And eccentric.

Yet Alfred B. Mittington is not a heartless man, dear reader. He himself has often been pestered and persecuted for his uncommon ideas, his nonconformist ways! So Mea Culpa, Ye Small But Fierce Tribe of Borrovians, all three of you! I will make amends. I will, for once, be merciful, be merciful, tanding to the mad, I will for once  of a nutcase must themselves also have something of a screw lose, and since weand do your humble bidding by publishing the full text of last Sunday’s post. Not that that spiteful Natasha from down the hill deserves to have her trivial jabber immortalised. But those are family affairs, dirty Luso-Russo linen which I should not hang out for all to see.   

A Triumph of Brevity! (Full text)

My beloved goddaughter Ivana came to see me yesterday afternoon when boredom in the family mansion reached absolute zenith and Vera, her mama, threatened to pressgang the poor girl for making the Sunday borscht. Which is all work, no play, and stains your hands beetroot red in the process. She wore a battle-ready mien. I knew I was in trouble and I smiled.
‘Dedushka,’ she growled, ‘I thought you were a socialist?’
‘I was, dear. And I still am. It’s just the boys and girls in Brussels who forced me to join the ranks of reaction and throw in my lot with my natural enemies.’
‘So… How come you quote that Thatcher person with such approval? I understand he's a right-wing bastard! So wouldn’t you say that’s a little inconsistent?’
‘What? Just because I’m a Working Class Hero I can’t appreciate a good phrase by a die-hard conservative? There goes half my Golden Quotebook! No more Cato the Elder for me! Or Winston! Not to mention young Dalrymple!’
‘That’s another one I was wondering about. Do you know the kind of things he writes about poor folk?’
‘Beautiful articles, woven together of gorgeous phrases, by a man who has unique, privileged knowledge… What more can a man of taste and sophistication ask? But I understand I am not to sing his praises in my very own house, on my very own blog. Ah, you are young, my dear Ivana! You still do not know what life is really all about!’
‘What is it really all about then, Dedushka?’
‘Excuse me?’
Truth, dear. In the Gypsy lingo. I’ll lend you my Borrow. Perhaps then you’ll understand.’
‘¿Como? You speak in bloody oracles. What’s loans have to do with this?’
‘¡Ay! I pity the poor Pythia! George Borrow, love. Victorian fellow. A nutcase if ever I saw one, but he had pluck. Came over to Spain in the 1830s to sell Bibles to the unwashed and count fleas in Spanish jails.’
‘There you go again: Bibles! Fascist propaganda to keep the masses up to their eyeballs in opium! Like that Pope piece you posted the other day!’
‘What was wrong with my VatiLeaks? I thought it was rather charming…’
‘It makes the freaking Pope out to be a suffering old scoutmaster with an open mind for scientific achievements!’
‘It is only fiction dear. Parody with a jest and a smile. I was not trying to paint an exact portrait of the present Pope, bless him. Nor do I think that there is such a thing as the Turbo Teachers for Instantaneous Creationism. So don’t fret… I was only doing a little Voltaire.’
‘A little Voltaire? You need 1,400 words for a little Voltaire?’
‘Only 1,369 if the truth be told. Not counting the title.’
‘In spite of what I said last Thursday?’
‘What did you say to me, love? Refresh an old man’s faltering memory…’
‘About VERBOSE! Wordy! Prolix! Rambling! Loquacious!’
‘I do not rightly know what you’re getting at…’
‘I mean you are a long-winded windbag who forever chatters on about stuff nobody is interested in and gives my family a bad name in the valley!’
‘Ah…! That! I remember now. Yes. Well… As a matter of fact, I did contemplate what you said that day. And I decided you had a valid point.’
‘You did?’
‘I did indeed. When did Alfred B. Mittington ever fear to look Truth in the face, I ask you? So just to please you, oh bright spark of my dark old age, I will make you a promise. I promise that your godfather will be a long-winded windbag no longer! Starting tomorrow, I will cut EVERYTHING which is redundant from the blog. Tomorrow’s post will be the leanest, meanest, most concise text that I ever produced! Only the truly vital will remain. All the brushwood will be relentlessly axed.’
‘You can do that? You?’
‘Of course I can. No problem at all. I will simply write my text the way I am used to. Then I go back to it, I erase everything superfluous, and replace the bowdlerized bits with dots between brackets. The old scholarly way of shortening quotes with which I suppose you are familiar.’
‘Like “(…)”?’
‘Precisely! Now: will that satisfy your craving for brevity? Will it make you a happy young lass?’
‘I’ll believe it when I see it. But I swear: if you do, I will never complain again!’
‘Good. That’s a deal then. I’m so glad we finally see eye to eye on these little matters of style and substance...’

[POSTSCRIPT on February 28: After I posted the above text in shortened form last Sunday 26th, an anonymous person, at whose identity I cannot possibly guess, added a comment which ran something like: “Dedushka! I hate you! I HATE YOU! I HATE YOOUUU!!!!”. To this unknown individual, who obviously has some trouble expressing herself without ugly endless repetition, I merely say: people only ‘hate’ what they deeply fear and respect. Nobody hates what she is indifferent to. Q.E.D., you little Jezebel!]

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