Mid-Post: Inter-Shandean-Mezzo

Like James Joyce with his ever-flowing Finnegans Wake, a riverine blathering extravaganza if there ever was one, Laurence Sterne in Tristram Shandy, who must have seemed Sir Extravagant, or Sir Eccentric, himself, in his storytelling vagaries, wished to keep the critics puzzled forever and anon. We are anon, aren’t we, still reading and puzzling. I am I can assure you. How wonderful for writers to admit they wished most to dupe the super-snoots! Sir Perverse hoped—winking in his wildest dreams—the wigged ones would accept kindly such nomenclature as Dr. Kunastrokius, for he had not barely scratched to life the subject, merely appropriated for the good gentleman Doctor as fair a skin as he deserved. Slawkenbergius must have given the Anti-Shandeans fits—all that nose business must have put those snoots in snits.

This morning—sorry, a digression arrives—my mundane life—I was weeding in a fanciful mood, on my haunches in the driveway—and it struck me how ideas issue from such grave digging–on the surface mindless, but in the pablum of one’s inklings, a most mindful activity!—and as I gleaned the deep-seated knotweed clumps—those stubborn spidery octupinal extensions which never come forth from the radical abyss—Oh, how to persuade?—I thought wonderful, plain disquisitions on the subject of Tristram Shandy’s flight across Europe in the latter stages of that ever retrogressing yet progressively paginated epic. The ideas from the cave of Chaos–crystalline they were,–those unspoken arguments I devised were clearer than Slawkenbergius’s noses on a donkey—that is, my thoughts were progressing—swimming cerebrally faster than the hands of the wall clock– as realistic cognitions—and were I able to leave the driveway to sit before my word progressor—Why!—I felt sure I should be able to explain all and be done with it. Plain as the truths of a Sunshine acid trip, they were, I swear! My word, yes, not in words, but plain fully-formed ideas, the way realism presents itself. Nothing at all so stylized as that which one presents in bubbling wordiness. Ye Words—I now judge ye–the bane of reality!

So now, I sit before my machine and I can think of nothing that fits wordily well—although I wish to explain my argument as plainly as the good Parson Sterne’s Homunculus. Oh!—Surely, this has to be a universal experience of all writers, vicars, professors, and—ahem—criticks—When feeling clear-minded and with all Wit intact, [thank God for commas, ay?] one leaves the clear-thought of interiorized pap-meandering to go forth to report it—Then, by gum, it starts to issue forth on the up-booted contraption as the same long-winded explanation of introductory explanations the author, the narrator, the forgetful explicator, the –I don’t give a hoot what you call yourself!—long-story-short—expounder wished he could avoid by simply getting to the point. However, one soon discovers that the habits of one’s scrambled-eggs brain-matter cannot be unscrambled to sunny-side-up status in a thought-jif, and the syntax—yes, the damned rightness of syntax– then must run as smooth unmixed woof on warp as the wordles dropple bumblingly down le cheminée cérébral to find their unfiltered run as sententiae or somewhat sensible jumble-mumble-rumbles.

{By the bye, my wife, my dearest critic, recommends that I really should come to grips with something.}

OKAY—Quantum leap—Have you seen the magic lantern version of Chloe and Theo, about the Eskimo, that is, the Inuit Arctick Circle dweller, Theo Ikummaq, who was sent by his Elders to inform the Elders of the Southern realms about the Sun’s Kiss of Death? Here is a sample, a scripture of words he delivered to a minor U.N. Representative:

Theo explains: “I was sent here to deliver a message. It is the message I should be delivering to my own people: We are too late.

“Your leaders do not have the power to change anything. Your television sets have the real power. They compel you to buy things that you do not need and to envy people who have things that are worthless. They tell you to drive cars that cannot even move because everyone else is driving one, too. In cities, where there is no clean air. The TV mocks the way you look and affects your happiness. What can your leaders do about your nature? It is so corrupted, that you live each day consuming, devouring, and wasting, never happy until nothing is left.

“My message should be for my own people. We should be preparing for the Sun’s Kiss, for it is surely coming sooner than we wish.”

This afternoon I presented this message, via magic lantern, to our 12-year-old granddaughter who is staying with us in Idaho. Unfortunately she was suffering from a 24-hour stomach flu with a temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit. The cold of the Arctic and the chill of the message I thought might rouse her to energetic purpose. She is now sleeping soundly.

The Shandy Shock

Did it surprise you to find Vicar Sterne’s “THE AUTHOR’S PREFACE” so far advanced into the epic? It seems our Author arose from his bed one particular morning with a new idea and a better opinion to surprise the reader with. Well, tell us all the tale of The Wrath of Achilles and The Much-Wandering Ulysses—it was all right for Mr. Who-Ever-“They-Were”-Homer to begin his epick in medias res—even tho’ everything is told as if-it-were-now-and-here-before-your-very-mind’s-eye. So Sir Perverse—our Homer—decided to begin In Mediam Rem, which is to say, in the middle of the blamed thing, and—besides—by journeying retrograde, never bloody well getting to the point. If you don’t mind his vast unending extravanganza, you’ll p’aps tolerate mine, soon to end. For this is merely the Shandean Intermezzo.

In place of the post-placed PREFACE, unnamed as Chapter XX, in choosing a fine discourse on wit and judgment, things that are as far apart as farting and hickupping [sick], Parson Sterne of Yorkshire, erstwhile citizen of Ireland, addresses those Anti-Shandeans who might find fault with his Masters’ codes, especially of Doctor Didius’ de fartandi et illustrandi fallaciis, but please do not let them ignore the guidance of Phutatorius and his, the Vicar’s, friend Kysarcius. How I have pondered the wish of the Vicar to delight—how could he not doubt the lights might go out?—or irk to death his readers with such profanities hidden in Latin nomina or praenomina as they might be. Of course, the power of the Fati— not to be confused with the Farta—(actually it is quite possible to confuse them for both are kinds of excrescent sounds)—cannot be ignored in their type of speech. Come to think—etymologically they are close, for the fatum (from Latin for) is not far from the fartum in sound, and lips are involved in both utterances. Speech of the orifices is damnably difficult to decipher, whether you think it a matter of wit or not a whit of any matter. Walter Shandy might understand better than I.

Phutatorius the guide also greatly attracted me, for my father Agnew Gilmourius often spoke of phutering about–particularly ambling about the garden with a suitable pipe smoaked up and sooked upon—which I, as a flat-nosed infant–

assumed to be a “futtering” or “footering” about, not knowing the spelling of his Phuter. At last learning its elemental copulative nature—the phutnote announces such—the idea of his and… and… and… I now make much better sense of, for he was just going from one thing to another, and anon, without much deliberation, or with a determination to deliberate eventually. Quite unlike Vicar Sterne was my father, though both phutered similarly.

It was here in such prolix postpositive PREFACing that I encountered the error of the geographical psychology, for Good Parson Sterne speaks of the least of man’s judgment having its way in the minds of those close to the Arctick, and getting a more robust energy as one journeys southwards. Think back on Theo the Inuit I recounted earlier—Did he not know the Sun’s deadly Kiss from his mythology and living fact better than the folk of the southerly regions? But then:

“Now, Sir, if I conduct you home again into this warmer and luxuriant island [Could he mean Magna Britannia?—or just insular Yorkshire?] where you perceive the spring tide and blood of our humours runs high, –where we have more ambition, and pride, and envy, and lechery, and other whoreson passions [See, he is practicing the copulative Phutering here] upon our hands to govern and subject to reason,–the height of our wit and the depth of our judgment, you see, are exactly proportioned to the length and breadth of our necessities, —and accordingly, we have them sent down amongst us in such a flowing kind of descent and creditable plenty, that no one thinks he has any cause to complain.

“It must however be confessed on this head, that, as our air blows hot and cold—wet or dry, ten times a day, we have them in no regular and settled way; —so that sometimes for near half a century together, there shall be very little wit or judgment, either to be seen or heard amongst us:–the small channels of them shall seem quite dried up, — — then all of a sudden the sluices shall break out , and take a fit of running again like fury, –you would think they would never stop: …”

–Well, Sirs, here you must go on yourselves in the Volume’s unravelling if you think there is any wit and judgment in the matter. No!—Let me finish, though good sense has ended in calculating by half centuries-:

“—-and then it is, that in writing and fighting, and twenty other gallant things, we drive all the world before us.”

Much follows: to wit, The Chair of Wit and Judgment Knobbs—the analog of the post-faced PREFACE—this is the brass gong, one of my favorite nuggets, the top of the knobs in Tristram Shandy, and—to think—it could have sailed in on the first few sheets—nay, from the first recto fold of the signature–of Volume I, had Vicar Sterne not played himself—all bells and whistles of his cone-cap a-jangling—the mindful, playful procrastinator. The very avatar of Yorick—he of the blackened recto-verso—was our Yorkshire jester.

– David Gilmourius, July 2016.

This entry was posted in 2016 Selections, Tristram Shandy. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Mid-Post: Inter-Shandean-Mezzo

  1. vanperdue says:

    Huh? What did you say?

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