This week has been dominated by a couple of re-readings of Motorman by David Ohle. Motorman is one of those books that really attempts to push against the boundaries of accepted language as a sort of political act. To resist by taking apart the safe language we use every day that acts as a confinement for thought, and making things a bit strange.
But there’s not all the much written about it, aside from the introduction to the 2008 edition by one of our besties, Ben Marcus, and a handful of blog posts scattered about the internet. I’d like to put together one of those “Reading…” style books where I can ramble on about the themes and notions in Ohle’s work. And put together a wicked index.
So far I’ve been re-reading and making lists on the language in the book. A list of foods eaten in this strange post-capitalist-ecological-mismanagement world (crickets, cherry-water, grubs, snipes, popcorn and on), and a list of ailments and surgical maladies faced by our hero, Molendenke (removed lung, 3 additional hearts, infested with slugs when the moons are up — and so on). The foods are almost invariably gross, except for those consumed for entertainment, or not as part of a meal and point to some colossal failure of farming. The maladies seem more of a psychological problem, a set of “improvements” for quantity over quality — safety over vitality.
Ohle explores the idea of freedom by “making-strange” as in, to experience actual liberation, one must be able to break the stale language we use ever day. Our hero suffers metaphorically, and literally, from the effects of stifling rules of language — and works within a society set up to reinforce the high walls keeping him away from freedom.
It’s #BloomsDay — that is to say, the day where we celebrate one of the trinity of Irish literature: Joyce. Joyce’ Ulysses takes place on a single day (16th June, today, of course) and gives us the lodestone of modernism. While enough has been said about Ulysses (so I won’t add any more) I do like Jane Smiley’s comments that there is a small industry around the work designed on helping us mortal get to grips with the depths of each and every reference.
Okay, one thing I like about Joyce and Ulysses, he went to Italy to write it. He left the city he was writing about to take part in an act of writing home. It’s something I think about a lot. Do you really have to be absent from a place, a person, to be able to write it?
I have a bit of a softness in me for the re-articulated pastoral. The kind of things that would put me off usually, are nicely undercut — the companionship of animals undercut with the companionship of the stove and odd twists in the language like “June efforts quietly” and “unrabbited woods”.
Time Clare, renowned performance poet, writing advice purveyor (the last episode of his podcast is extremely something) and author, laid down this challenge for himself on twitter this week:
Some of the ideas are really excellent, others are promisingly silly. The thread is well worth your time and effor scrolling and liking.
Naturally, you should also like the initial tweet as it will encourage Tim to do a few more.
The following was kindly delivered to my inbox by Poems For The Resistance:
Thanks for reading this week’s Etch to their Own. There’s something in the water, and it’s probably in the beer too. Etch to their Own was written by @CJEggett and proofread over the shoulder in an old, filthy mirror. If you like what you’ve read, make sure you forward it on to someone who might enjoy it. A wise man once said. Did I tell you I am quitting my job to take up a slice of another business? It’s a good thing, and only filled with promise now that I have feeling in my skull again.