Strange Behaviour: very arguably a prose poem

At first Ford had formed a theory to account for this strange behaviour. If human beings don’t keep exercising their lips, he thought, their mouths probably seize up. After a few months’ consideration and observation he abandoned this theory in favour of a new one. If they don’t keep exercising their lips, he thought, their brains start working. After a while he abandoned this one as well as being obstructively cynical and decided he quite liked human beings after all, although he always remained desperately worried about the terrible number of things they didn’t know about.

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

I remember times when it was fun having a heated debate, questioning, querying, countering, objecting, but the more you know the less you know, they say, and so just as you realize that you don’t actually have a rigorous explanation as to why you just won’t ever vote Conservative, you start to find a number of things more confusing than they seemed in for instance the GCSE era: God, goodness and the resurrection right through to papal infallibility: I started to find that in the middle of conversations in which there just wasn’t much in my head worth saying I wanted to sit right down on the floor under the weight of the issues and of all the other issues that bore upon, or were borne upon by, those under discussion—and perhaps it would have been better to follow that instinct to sit right down right there on the floor or the ground in a sort of despair, better than talking on, pointlessly carrying on talking, though, this being the real world and not a Dostoevsky novel, not kissing the ground at one’s opponents’ feet out of wild and mournful affection for the planet in general was probably a wise decision.—Yes, that impulse was definitely best resisted: it’s bad enough to be shivering to the core in a warm library in May filled with panicked students, after an hour or three talking outside in cold air;—it’s bad enough to be at a cocktail party, speechlessly weary, stupidly grateful to the agnostic friend who’d said that Protestants weren’t heretics, having successfully avoided having to make the why-I-am-not-a-Catholic explanation, but feeling rather strained, reluctant after all to be put into a little Protestant box, though on the whole more willing to be called a Protestant than a heretic: these things are bad enough without also having dirt or carpet fluff stuck to your mouth: and it would have confused people, you have to be careful of that at such moments, people get confused, sometimes, if you cry when you really want to.—Anyway, what with that, the suspicion of having said a great deal of nonsense at one time or another on serious and important matters to the dear ones who’d said for example that if such and such a doctrine was true, well they’d hand back their ticket, or that they’d always had a soft spot for Calvinism—what with that, and what with the way one had to fold one leg across the other on a sofa, turn a photocopied page, sip a mug of redbush-and-vanilla and say that it’s this whole idea of superaddition, on page whatever, and the way one had to extract the gospel in four quite inaccurate but easy-to-remember points from the paragraphs of Psalm Two, or hear it pressed into a lunchtime talk, with the attendant inconveniences of margarine in the sandwiches and crumbs on the knees, as if the gospel was dry and tidy, my concern was speech—though to filch that phrase like that is to risk getting lynched by a rampaging mob of Eliot critics—similarly, I would have said on behalf of my tribe, I am hungry to be interrupted, but it turned out that Stevie Smith’s poem was about life really, not words. So maybe it would be better to allude to poor old Isaiah saying woe to me, for I am a man of unclean lips, or better still to not make an allusion at all but be still—and know——still the temptation is to just keep talking and talking and talking and talking and talking and talking and talking and talking and talking and talking and

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2 Responses to Strange Behaviour: very arguably a prose poem

  1. edgarthedolphin says:

    a blog post which reminds me of the opening pages of “100 years of solitude”

    and, after all, if one has to be lynched, if there are no options, no ways out, no pleas or supplications, no appeals nor entreaties nor supplications to be had or heard, then, what better rampaging mob to chose than one of Eliot critics

  2. lucysixsmith says:

    How about a mob of Springfield residents? (cf. ‘We’ve given the word mob a bad name’ and ‘Can’t this town go for a single day without a riot?’)

    You told me to read the first few pages of “100 years of solitude” once before, so I assume you like them, so I am taking your reminiscence as a compliment. Hope that’s alright 🙂

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