Friday, 30 November 2007

Hot on the Heels of I.4.i

A multi-storey car park in Portsmouth, site of many suicide attempts, marked for demolition, 2004.

A REEL-TO-REEL tape recorder relays fragments of the scene just acted. A MONKEY IN MILOU MASK noises a response.

REEL-TO-REEL: I am given cause to wonder what your, Milou, investments in a potential answer to this question are.

MONKEY IN MILOU MASK: That is a valid object of wonderment, ____, but an answer must be deferred a moment until I offer my own wonderings. You, or one of your associates, have established this computerised pool hall, with its flickering FACEPLANT signage and neon wall art, presumably in the hope of accruing members and inciting verbal exchange. You have solicited contributions on the basis of your own assumptions about the contributors, which remain murky. So if I were to admit that my ‘investments’ in a potential answer are minimal, I would have to follow up by asking what investments of your own should cause you to be concerned about mine, about ISOPROPYL RICECAKE’s, etc. Can a group – even a virtual one – be consciously formed without a basic agreed-upon identity?

REEL-TO-REEL [whirring]: You persistently drag out a humanist instinct in me which assumes that somewhere latent in the apparent neutrality of your interest in these issues lies the claim of an individuating instinct.

MONKEY IN MILOU MASK: I would not deny the existence of an individuating instinct; I would merely add that *one* such instinct is numerically insignificant. I would also add that time spent in academic institutions, with their tendency to flag up failed historical precedents, risks making neuters of us all, a process which may already have occurred in my case. [Examines defiantly inactive reproductive apparatus.]

REEL-TO-REEL [jammed]: The pertinent negat… The pertinent negat… The pertinent negat… The pertinent negat…

A car park attendant readjusts the mechanism.

REEL-TO-REEL: The pertinent negative question embedded in yours might be: If such ardour cannot be manufactured under the condition of knowing stupidity, what are the manufacturable forms of ardour left for the ethically conscious consumer? [Dramatic pause] One, I might suggest, is despair itself.

MONKEY IN MILOU MASK: Ardour in despair suggests Greek choruses, narcissicism, the Rapture, Live Aid, post-lactation overflow of the nasolacrimal duct, the Catholic Church, Royal funerals, a digitised loop of Laurel & Hardy dropping a piano down a staircase, Alcoholics Anonymous, Holocaust karaoke. All of which may have their place, but when the audience addressed is one of fellow-despairers (as it invariably is), what function do you then serve (as a writer or otherwise) beyond mutual consolation and ego massage of your social-cum-professional circle?

REEL-TO-REEL [end of reel]: Fact A: as demonstrated re: love, profitable love is our ultimate concern.

MONKEY IN MILOU MASK: Say wha? Whose ultimate concern? And by ‘profitable love’, do you mean the pursuit of biological stimulus through congregating with fellow humans? Is that why our faces are planted to this screen?

THE CHOIR OF ST. PAUL’S CATHEDRAL [on the Tannoy]: I saw the Lord, sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up,
and his train filled the temple.


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