Wednesday, 28 December 2005

MLA: The Random Example Panelists: When you claim to draw "a random example" of a particularly lucid and/or egregious aspect of a work and proceed to quote it at length from your prepared notes I do not believe you. There is no such thing as "a random example" at the MLA. There is the trope of the random example however and it is a powerful trope. It says "My argument is so exhaustive I could choose any passage in the book and it will exemplify my point." It says "My argument is so comprehensive that I do not even need to read books to partake of Its Infinite Validity." It says "My argument is so thorough that nothing exists outside it not even God or Jesus or Allah. My argument encompasses the sacred mysteries of the Catholic Church and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and it knows who killed JFK." It says "My argument is so powerful it told Moses to tell you not to make any graven images of it or any of its premises that are in heaven above or the earth below or that are are in the water under the earth. It commands you not to bow down before premises or serve them to your friends: For It the Comprehensive Argument is a jealous Argument, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that refute Its Validity and showing mercy unto thousands of them that recognize It and keep Its Conclusions." It says "My argument told your argument to sacrifice its only beloved Premise to appease It but then said 'Ha Ha!' if you were Infinite in Your Validity you would know that you could find another Premise somewhere else to why not slit that one's throat because I find blood funny."
MLA: Book Browsing and Bird/Bat Shit I wandered the halls of the Marriott Wardman Park alone for the first time in three days today. I felt like a dead man wading through a sea of ostensibly impressive conversations about books Borges never even reviewed. I'm not sure what the official ontological status of an imaginary book neither reviewed nor written is but I'd believe in parsley first. Case closed. Very wonderfully good conversations everyone but me is having. (Anyone else suppose MLA makes English professors not to speak English good? Or think for that matter?) I stumbled through the Grove Press stand and leave it with two Robbe-Grillet and one more Tristan Egolf novel than I'd entered it with . . . but I was only out six dollars. So I turned around and made a beeline for the ATM. I understood why they require security passes to enter these dens of inexpensive brilliance. I needed was more money. The line at the ATM snaked around the former homes of pay phones. I stood there patiently . . . like a toddler with a Big Gulp and an undersized bladder. At that point I ran into fellow UCI future-alum Peter Byrne. He looked sharp. I don't want to knock his typical attire but I had never seen him with clean lines and a complementary trench coat. He took one look at what Sean called my "blog hipster" look and correctly sussed that I was not on the market. We talked for a couple of minutes then he went to search for "his" suite. I haven't seen him since but I can spy the gutter from my window so I'm sure it wasn't a disaster. So I played ATM and returned to the killing fields. I noted the New York Review of Books booth and made a blood oath to never enter it. Two minutes later and two gallons paler I entered the booth and spent fourteen dollars on seven books. The woman at the counter performed admirably. Her small talk consisted of giggling (sure to surge the Philip Roths out there to untidy ends) and the "confession" that she had read all the books she displayed. I grilled her on the three books up there I remembered well enough to grill someone on and she passed with flying colors. Then the guy manning the Louisiana State University Press box across the pavement from the NYRB booth joined in the festivities. She did not, however, know much about the wetlands or for that matter any of the books LSU press thought important. I asked her how she knew so much about the books she sold. She informed me that she gets so bored sometimes she has nothing better to do than read the merchandise. If only all students displayed such admirable laziness. Enough about the books I bought. Because if the wife asks I didn't buy a single book. I don't even know what a book is. But I did eventually find myself before the Inside Higher...

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