What is "Metaliterature"? It is literature about literature, in this case, views, reviews, and thoughts provoked by stuff I've read. I'm hoping this might be a chronicle of the brain of a life-long reader as guided by intertextual coincidence. If you like what you read, read what I like.
Currently domiciled in the Vale of Glamorgan.
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The Case For Working With Your Hands... by Matthew Crawford
You know those books where, prior to reading them under the
weight of readerly guilt for having to this point completely neglected them, you
had avoided them as you expect, once the plunge has been taken and cover
opened, to be confronted by a whimsical piece of nonsense, written whilst
whiling away a few hours between gloating about how wonderful your life is to
your dwindling stock of friends and sleeping with your ridiculously
good-looking wife who also makes the world’s greatest vegan curry, and destined
to annoy the shit out of you because you had the vain hope that maybe just this
once it would be worthwhile and life-changing but are fully expecting to be
seriously disappointed? That.
Sorry, did I just utilise a Twitter device?
A condemnation of my life.
Well, “That” in this case would be a gigantic fucking* lie.
This book, scholarly in a slightly biased fashion, anecdotal in an entertaining
and endearing manner, so so very interesting in a “Jesus Hindu Krishna I’ve
wasted my life” sort-of-way, is the antithesis of those vapid arse-wipers. God
damn it all to Hell if only I had access to this sort of advice when I rather
short-sightedly decided that Law was the path to the most riches with the least
amount of effort pre-GCSE choice, aged 13**. What Crawford manages, in a manner
on reflection which is somewhat preachy, is to give sufficient evidence,
calling on sources ancient, old, modern and post-modern, to prove (to me
anyway, with my penchant for idleness) conclusively that work without a product
is not work – it is containment.
Why else would someone like B&Q advertise with a slogan
that presupposes pride in a job done, not necessarily well, but at least by
oneself if not because effort for an end product, a tactile,
every-fucker-can-see-it product that illustrates just how fucking hard you’ve
had to work to get there? Information Management is just so much shit. Bertrand
Russell said the definition of “work” (and I think he meant this pejoratively) was
twofold: “first, altering the position of matter at
or near the earth's surface relative to other matter; second, telling other
people to do so.” Judging from this I would
say he is of a similar position to Crawford, in so far as if your job fulfils the natural role in your
life of producing something that makes you proud, that you can experience as a
product of your labours, or that other people can enjoy and relate that enjoyment
to you, then it does not count as work.
Oh fuck – if only I had been told
all of this when I was a stupid, ignorant little dipshit by someone other than
my mum, who, bless her, did tell me that a trade
would always be in demand and that I should take up plumbing. At that tender
age the spectre of rooting around in soil pipes was so abhorrent to me that the
door closed forever (or nearly forever). Where would my life be now? I suspect
that I would be living in a carved mahogany mansion overlooking the city I had
built from the ground up with my bare hands, with grateful citizenry depositing
offerings of fruit, bread and sexy young daughters at my doors daily.
All this distracting expostulating
with the way my life has turned out, at
least on the work front, should
not take away from the fact that this is a good book. Not brilliantly written,
not easy to read (at first), and probably not well footnoted enough to pass as someone’s
doctoral thesis, but very much an argument for a way of life that is so
appealing to me that I have already stopped working very hard in my role as an
Anyone who raised an eyebrow just
then, can leave now.
*A pre-emptive apology for all the swearing would normally
appear here, but fuck you.
**In an aside worthy of getting myself a spousal kicking for
my habitual “blame the fuck out of everyone except myself” whinging, I blame it
on my parents’ obsession with L.A. Law.
Many (many) years ago, when I first read War With The Newts, after scouring the Waterstones' internal database (whimsically named Ibid, and from which one could print the details of books onto the till roll in light- and so it seems, time-sensitive purple ink which, on the inches thick ream of leaves I printed for future perusal, faded within a few months rendering my catalogued wish list so much locker mulch) for authors with a suitably Czech-sounding name, having put away an entrée of my first slim Hrabal, a palate-cleansing Kundera and in need of a meaty Moravian main course, I think I might have completely and totally missed just how funny it was, bloated as I was by the doughy and Victorian-sounding translation and the rather unlikely ideation of the future political terroir of mankind and their unusual amphibian slaves and, latterly, sappers, the newts.
How's that for a sentence David Foster Wallace? INTERROBANG.
Well, there's no chance that Čapek's typically Czech…
Trav is back, still grieving the loss of some chickadee or other whose death almost knocked him off his game, but not too shook up to set himself up with a few more lucky lovelies whilst tripping his way through another overly complicated and rather sordidly underwhelming plot. This time, some bikers are making dirty movies with minors on the set of a future classic hot-air-balloon movie. Travis falls into the action because a rich old geyser carks it in unusual circumstances and it affects the trust fund of a former marina-mate. And hirsute intellectual Meyer wets his pants towards the end.
You may sense a fatigued, sardonic note in my precis. It's not that I don't still love John D., it's just that after embarking on the long game that is reading the entire Travis McGee oeuvre, I'm approaching the end and it feels long overdue. It's been fun, it's been enlightening, but it's also been a schlep. With the realisation I might now have fewer years left to me …
If there was a comfort-food version of a book for me, then this would be it. It's funny, touching, humanistic, and features so many quotable quotes that its trim 120 pages could be represented in its entirety on some such authors' quotations page.
We're introduced to Tiny on the occasion of his mother's death, lured into a treacherously fatal situation by, of all things, a duck, while her 4-year-old son sleeps in the car where he wakes to a terrifying solitude. Meanwhile, we're treated to a potted but entertaining history of Granddaddy Jake, Tiny's grandfather, into whose care by fair means or foul (no pun intended) he is finally placed. But the titular Fup duck comes along only once Tiny is fully grown (and how!). A lost and lonely duckling, much like Tiny, she's discovered shivering in a freshly dug post hole, which betrays the attention paid to it by Tiny's nemesis, a wild hog called Lockjaw, who enjoys tearing up Tiny's fences just as much as he …