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Most usually this ends with an answer. I will repent. The execution of the principal criminal will be delayed for some weeks or months, to give him opportunity for reflection. Meanwhile, there will be daily reminders. His wife may be kidnapped, garroted, embalmed and seated in the 'living room to await his return from the office.
His children's heads may arrive in cartons by mail, or tapes of the screams his relatives utter as they are tortured to death.
His friends' homes may be blown up in the night. Anyone who has ever known him will be in mortal danger.
When the organization's per cent efficiency has been demonstrated a sufficient number of times, the population will slowly begin to learn that Uncle George's will must be obeyed instantly and without question.
But does Uncle George want to be obeyed? Doesn't he prefer to be defied so he can go on killing and killing, since all these people are just vermin and the more of them that die the better?
All are, in the last analysis, responsible for Jim's death; their words, their thoughts, their whole way of life willed it, even though they never knew he existed. But, when George gets in as deep as this, Jim hardly matters any more. Jim is nothing now but an excuse for hating three quarters of the population of America.
George's jaws work, his teeth grind, as he chews and chews the cud of his hate. But does George really hate all these people? Aren't 'they themselves merely an excuse for hating? What is George's hate, then? A stimulant, nothing more; though very bad for him, no doubt. Rage, resentment, spleen —of such is the vitality of middle age. If we say that he I. Here we are, downtown already!
George comes up dazed to the surface, realizing with a shock that the chauffeur-figure has broken a record: And this raises a disturbing question: Is the chauffeur steadily 16 becoming more and more of an individual? Is it getting ready to take over much larger areas of George's life? No time to worry about that now. In ten minutes they will have arrived on campus. In ten minutes, George will have to be George—the George they have named and will recognize.
So now he consciously applies himself to thinking their thoughts, getting into their mood. With the skill of a veteran he rapidly puts on the psychological make-up for this role he must play. No sooner have you turned off the freeway onto San Tomas Avenue than you are back in the tacky sleepy slowpoke Los Angeles of the thirties, still convalescent from the Depression, with no money to spare for fresh coats of paint.
And how charming it is! An up-and-down terrain of steep little hills with white houses of cracked stucco perched insecurely on their sides and tops, it is made to look quaint rather than ugly by the mad, hopelessly intertwisted cat's cradle of wires and telephone poles.
Mexicans live here, so there are lots of flowers.
Negroes live here, so it is cheerful. George would not care to live here, because they all blast all day long with their radios and television sets. But he would never find himself yelling at their children, because these people are not The Enemy.
If they would ever accept George, they might even be allies. They never figure in the Uncle George fantasies. The San Tomas State College campus is back on the other side of the freeway.
You cross over to it by a bridge, back into the nowadays of destruction-recon-structiondestruction. Here the little hills have been trucked away bodily or had their tops sliced off by bulldozers, and the landscape is gashed with raw terraces.
Tract upon tract of lowroofed dormitory-dwellings invariably called "homes" and described as "a new concept in living" are being opened up as fast as they can be connected with the sewers and the power lines.
It is a slander to say that they are identical; some have brown roofs, some green, and the tiles in their bathrooms come in several different colors. The tracts have their individuality, too.
Each one has a different name, of the kind that realtors can always be relied on to invent: The storm center of all this grading, shoveling, hauling and hammering is the college campus itself. A clean modern factory, brick and glass and big windows, already threequarters built, is being finished in a hysterical hurry. The construction noises are such dint in some classrooms the professors can hardly be heard. When the factory is fully operational, it will he able to process twenty thousand graduates.
But, in less than ten years, it will have to cope with forty or fifty thousand. So then everything will be torn down again and built up twice as tall. However, it is arguable that by that time the campus will be cut off from the outside world by its own Larking lots, which will then form an impenetrable forest of cars abandoned in despair by the students during the week-long traffic jams of the near future.
Even now, the lots are half as big as the campus itself and so full that you have to drive around from one to another in search of a last little space.
Today George k lucky. There is 17 room for him on the lot nearest his classroom. George slips his parking card into the slot thereby offering a piece of circumstantial evidence that he is George ; the barrier rises in spastic, mechanical jerks, and he drives in. George has been trying to train himself, lately, to recognize his students' cars.
He is continually starting these self-improvement projects: Ile seldom perseveres in any of them for long. Today fie is pleased to be able to spot three cars—not counting the auto scooter which the Italian exchange student, with a courage or provincialism bordering on insanity, rides up and down the freeway as though he were on flit Via Veneto.
There's the Chinese-I Hawaiian boy's grime-gray Pontiac, with one of those joke-stickers in the rear window: The joke isn't a joke in his particular case, because he really is an abstract painter.
Or is this some supersubtlety? At all events, it seems incongruous that anyone with such a sweet Cheshire-cat smile and cream-smooth skin and cat-clean neatness could produce such gloomy muddy canvases or own such a filthy car.
He has the beautiful name of Alexander Mong. And there's the well-waxed, spotless scarlet MG driven by Buddy Sorensen, the wild watery-eyed albino who is a basketball star and wears a "Ban the Bomb" button.
George has caught glimpses of Buddy streaking past on the freeway, laughing to himself as if the absurd little sitzbath of a thing had run away with him and he didn't care. So now George has arrived. He is not nervous in the least. As he gets out of his car, he feels an upsurge of energy, of eagerness for the play to begin. And he walks eagerly, with a springy step, along the gravel path past the Music Building toward the Department office.
He is all actor now—an actor on his way up from the dressing room, hastening through the backstage world of props and lamps and stagehands to make his entrance. A veteran, calm and assured, he pauses for a well-measured moment in the doorway of the office and then, boldly, clearly, with the subtly modulated British intonation which his public demands of him, speaks his opening line: There is something religious here, like responses in church—a reaffirmation of faith in the basic American dogma that it is, always, a good morning.
Good, despite the Russians and their rockets, and all the ills and worries of the flesh. For of course we know, don't we, that the Russians and the worries are not really real?
They can be un-thought and made to vanish. And therefore the morning can be made to be good. Very well then, it is good. Every teacher in the English Department has his or her pigeonhole in this office, and all of them are stuffed with papers. What a mania for communication!
A notice the least important committee meeting on the most of subjects will be run off and distributed in 18 hundreds of copies. Everybody is informed of every-thing. George glances through all his papers and then tosses the lot into the wastebasket, with one exception: Indeed, this card is his identity. Suppose, instead of signing it as requested and returning it to the Personnel office, George were to tear it up? Instantly, that student would cease to exist, as far as San Tomas State was concerned.
He would become academically invisible and only reappear with the very greatest difficulty, after performing the most elaborate propitiation ceremonies: George signs the card, holding it steady with two fingertips.
He dislikes even to touch these things, for they are the runes of an idiotic but nevertheless potent and evil magic: Their magic consists in this: Carrying the curd by its extreme corner, George brings it over to one of the secretaries, who will see that it gets back to Personnel.
The secretary has a nail file on her desk. George picks it up, saying, "Let's see if that old robot'll k now the difference," and pretends to be about to punch another slit in the card. The girl laughs, but only a split-second look of sheer terror; and the laugh itself is forced. George has uttered blasphemy. Feeling rather pleased with himself, he leaves the Department building, headed for the cafeteria. He starts across the largish open space which is the midst of the campus, surrounded by the Art Building, the gymnasium, the Science Building and the Administration Building, and newly planted with grass and some hopeful little trees which should make it leafy and shadowy and pleasant within a few years; that is to say, about the time when they start tearing the whole place apart again.
The air has a tang of smog—called "eye irritation" in blandese. The mountains of the San Gabriel Range—which still give San Tomas State something of the glamour of a college high on a plateau of the Andes, on the few days you can see them properly —are hidden today as usual in the sick yellow fumes which arise from the metropolitan mess below. And now, all around George, approaching him, crossing his path from every direction, is the male and female raw material which is fed daily into this factory, along the conveyer belts of the freeways, to be processed, packaged and placed on the market: Hurrying in pursuit of their schedules, loitering in flirty talk, strolling in earnest argument, muttering some lesson to themselves alone—all bookburdened, all harassed.
What do they think they're up to, here? Well, there is the official answer: But, despite all the vocational advisers, the pamphlets pointing out to them what good money you can earn if 19 you invest in some solid technical training—pharmacology, let's say, or accountancy, or the varied opportunities offered by the vast field of electronics—there are still, incredibly enough, quite a few of them who persist in writing poems, novels, plays!
Goofy from lack of sleep, they scribble in snatched moments between classes, part-time employment and their married lives. Their brains are dizzy with words as they mop out an operating room, sort mail at a post office, fix baby's bottle, fry hamburgers. And somewhere, in the midst of their servitude to the must-be, the mad might-be whispers to them to live, know, experience—what? Will any of them make it?
Oh, sure. One, at least. Two or three at most—in all these searching thousands. Here, in their midst, George feels a sort of vertigo.
Oh God, what will become of them all? What chance have they? Ought I to yell out to them, right now, here, that it's hopeless? But George knows he can't do that. Because, absurdly, inadequately, in spite of himself, almost, he is a representative of the hope. And the hope is not false. It's just that George is like a man trying to sell a real diamond for a nickel, on the street. The diamond is protected from all but the tiniest few, because the great hurrying majority can never stop to dare to believe that it could conceivably be real.
Outside the cafeteria are announcements of the current student activities: These advertised rituals of the San Tomas Tribe aren't quite convincing; they are promoted only by a minority of eager beavers. The rest of these boys and girls do not really think of themselves as a tribe, although they are willing to pretend that they do on special occasions. All that they actually have in common is their urgency: When George eavesdrops on their conversation, it is nearly always about what they have failed to do, what they fear the professor will make them do, what they have risked not doing and gotten away with.
The cafeteria is crammed. George stands at the door, looking around. Now that he is a public utility, the property of STSC, he is impatient to be used. He hates to see even one minute of himself being wasted. He starts to walk among the tables with a tentative smile, a forty-watt smile ready to be switched up to a hundred and fifty watts just as soon as anyone asks for it. Now, to his relief, he sees Russ Dreyer, and Dreyer rises from his table to greet him. He has no doubt been on the lookout for George.
Dreyer has gradually become George's personal attendant, executive officer, bodyguard. He is an angular, thin-faced young man with a flat-top haircut and rimless glasses.
He wears a somewhat sporty Hawaiian shirt which, on him, seems like a prim shy concession to the sportiness of the clothes around him.
His undershirt, appearing in the open V of his unbuttoned collar, looks surgically clean, as always. Dreyer is a grade A scholar, and his European counterpart would probably be a rather dry and brittle stick. But Dreyer is neither dry nor brittle. He has 20 discreet humor and, as an ex-Marine, considerable toughness.
He once described to George a typical evening he and his wife, Marinette, spent with his buddy Tom Kugelman and Tom's wife. It went on all through supper. So then the girls said they were sick of listening to us, so they went out to a movie.
Tom and I did the dishes and it got to be ten o'clock and we were still arguing and we hadn't convinced each other. So we got some beer out of the icebox and went out in the yard. Tom's building a shed there, but he hasn't got the roof on yet. So then he challenged me to a chinning match, and we started chinning ourselves on the crossbeam over the door, and I whipped him thirteen to eleven.
Somehow, it's like classical Greece. Together they go over to the coffee machine, fill mugs, select doughnuts from the counter. As they turn toward the cash desk, Dreyer slips ahead of George with the change ready. Of course, it's only temporary.
The only snag is, she has to get up an hour earlier. Till she gets a job nearer in. Or I get her pregnant. Does he know about me? George wonders; do any of them? Oh yes, probably. It wouldn't interest them. They don't want to know about my feelings or my glands or anything below my neck.
I could just as well be a severed head carried into the classroom to lecture to them from a dish. We could cook up some spaghetti. And maybe Tom could bring over that tape I was telling you about —the one he got from the audio-visual up at Berkeley, of Katherine Anne Porter reading her stuff—" 21 "That'd be fine," says George vaguely, with enthusiasm.
He glances up at the clock. Probably he does not want George to come to supper any more than George wants to go. It is all symbol-ic. Marinette has told him to ask, and he has asked, and now it is on record that George has accepted, for the second time, an invitation to their home.
And this means that George is an intimate and can be referred to in after years as part of their circle in the old days. Oh yes, the Dreyers will loyally do their part to make George's place secure among the grand old bores of yesteryear. George can just picture one of those evenings in the 's, when Russ is dean of an English department in the Middle West and Marinette is the mother of grown-up sons and daughters.
An audience of young instructors and their wives, symbolically entertaining Dr. Dreyer, will be symbolically thrilled to catch the Dean in an anecdotal mood, mooning and mumbling with a fuddled smile through a maze of wowless sagas, into which George and many many others will enter, uttering misquotes. And Marinette, permanently smiling, will sit listening with the third ear—the one that has heard it all before—and praying for eleven o'clock to come.
And it will come. And all will agree that this has been a memorable evening indeed. As they walk toward the classroom, Dreyer asks George what he thinks about what Dr. Leavis said about Sir Charles Snow.
These far-off unhappy Old Things and their long ago battles are still hot news out here in Sleepy Hollow State. They are passing the tennis courts at this moment.
Only one court is occupied, by two young men playing singles. The sun has come out with sudden fierce heat through the smog-haze, and the two are stripped nearly naked. They have nothing on their bodies but gym shoes and thick sweat socks and knit shorts of the kind cyclists wear, very short and close-fitting, molding themselves to the buttocks and the loins.
They are absolutely unaware of the passers-by, isolated in the intentness of their game. You would think there was no net between them. Their nakedness makes them seem close to each other and directly opposed, body to body, like fighters.
If this were a fight, though, it would be onesided, for the boy on the left is much the smaller. He is Mexican, maybe, black-haired, handsome, catlike, cruel, compact, lithe, muscular, quick and graceful on his feet.
His body is a natural dark gold-brown; there is a fuzz of curly black hair on his chest and belly and thighs. He plays hard and fast, with cruel mastery, baring his white teeth, unsmiling, as he slams back the ball.
He is going to win. His opponent, the big blond boy, already knows this; there is a touch-lug gallantry in his defense. He is so sweet-naturedly beautiful, so nobly made; and yet his classical cream marble body seems a handicap to him. The rules of the game inhibit it from functioning. He is fighting at a hopeless disadvantage. He should throw away his useless racket, vault over the net, and force the cruel little gold cat to submit to his marble strength.
No, on the contrary, the blond boy accepts the rules, binds himself by them, will suffer defeat and humiliation rather than break them. His helpless bigness and blondness give him an air of unmodern chivalry. He will fight clean, a perfect sportsman, until he has lost the last game. And won't this keep happening to him all through Ins life? Won't he keep getting himself involved in the 22 wrong kind of game, the kind of game he was never born to play, against an opponent who is quick and clever and merciless?
This game is cruel; but its cruelty is sensual and stirs George into hot excitement. He feels a thrill of pleasure to find the senses so eager in their response; too often, now, they seem sadly jaded. From his heart, he thanks these young animals for their beauty.
And they will never know what they have done to make this moment marvelous to him, and life itself less hateful Dreyer is saying, "Sorry, sir—I lost you for a minute, there. I understand about the two cultures, of course —but do you mean you agree with Dr.
For it obviously has been talking. George realizes this with the same discomfiture he felt on the freeway, when the chauffeur-figure got them clear downtown. Oh yes, he knows from experience what the talking head can do, late in the evening, when he is bored and tired and drunk, to help him through a dull party.
It can play back all of George's favorite theories—just as long as it isn't argued with; then it may become confused. It knows at least three dozen of his best anecdotes. But here, in broad daylight, during campus hours, when George should be on-stage every second, in full control of his performance!
Can it be that talking head and the chauffeur are in league? Are they maybe planning a merger? I've still got that issue of The Spectator somewhere at home, I think. Oh, by the way, did you ever get to read that piece on Mailer, about a month ago—in Esquire, wasn't it? It's one of the best things I've seen in a long time Most of the students enter from the back because, with an infuriating sheep-obstinacy, they love to huddle together, confronting their teachers from behind a barrier made of empty seats.
But this semester the class is only a trifle smaller than the capacity of the room. Late comers are forced to sit farther and farther forward, to George's sly satisfaction; finally, they have to take the second row. As for the front row, which most of them shun so doggedly, George can fill that up with his regulars: Stoessel, Mrs.
George never enters the classroom with Dreyer, or any other student. A deeply rooted dramatic instinct forbids him to do so. This is really all that he uses his office for—as a place to withdraw into before class, ',imply in order to re-emerge from it and make his entrance. He doesn't interview students in it, because these offices are shared by at least two faculty members, and Dr. Gottlieb, who teaches the Metaphysical Poets, is nearly always there.
George cannot talk to another human being as if the two of them were alone 23 when, in fact, they aren't. Even such a harmless question as "What do you honestly think of Emerson? Gottlieb is right there at the other desk listening or, what's worse, pretending not to listen. But Gottlieb obviously doesn't feel this way. Perhaps it is a peculiarly British scruple. So now, leaving Dreyer, George goes into the office. It is right across the hallway. Gottlieb isn't there, for a wonder.
George peeps out of the window between the slats of the Venetian blinds and sees, in the far distance, the two tennis players still at their game. He coughs, fingers the telephone directory without looking at it, closes the empty drawer in his desk, which has been pulled open a little.
Then, abruptly, he turns, takes his briefcase out of the closet, leaves the office and crosses to the front classroom door. His entrance is quite undramatic according to conventional standards. Nevertheless, this is a subtly contrived, outrageously theatrical effect. No hush falls as George walks in.
Most of the students go right on talking. But they are all watching him, waiting for him to give some sign, no matter how slight, that the class is to begin. The effect is a subtle but gradually increasing tension, caused by George's teasing refusal to give this sign and the students' counterdetermination not to stop talking until he gives it.
Meanwhile, he stands there. Slowly, deliberately, like a magician, he takes a single book out of his briefcase and places it on the reading desk. As he does this, his eyes move over the faces of the class. His lips curve in a faint but bold smile. Some of them smile back at him. George finds this frank confrontation extraordinarily exhilarating. He draws strength from these smiles, these bright young eyes. For him, this is one of the peak moments of the day. He feels brilliant, vital, challenging, slightly mysterious and, above all, foreign.
His neat dark clothes, his white dress shirt and tie the only tie in the room are uncompromisingly alien from the aggressively virile informality of the young male students. Most of these wear sneakers and garterless white wool socks, jeans in cold weather, and in warm weather shorts the thigh-clinging Bermuda type—the more becoming short ones aren't considered quite decent.
If it is really warm, they'll roll up their sleeves and sometimes leave their shirts provocatively unbuttoned to show curly chest hair and a St. Christopher medal. They look as if they were ready at any minute to switch from studying to ditch-digging or gang-fighting.
They seem like mere clumsy kids in contrast with the girls, for these have all outgrown their teen-age phase of Capri pants, sloppy shirts and giant heads of teased-up hair. They are mature women, and they come to class dressed as if for a highly respectable party. This morning George notes that all of his front-row regulars are present.
Dreyer and Kugelman are the only ones he has actually asked to help fill the gap by sitting there; the rest of them have their individual reasons for doing so. While George is teaching, Dreyer watches him with an encouraging alertness; but George knows that Dreyer isn't really impressed by him. To Dreyer, George will always remain an academic amateur; his degrees and background are British and therefore dubious. Still, George is the Skipper, the Old Man; and Dreyer, by supporting his authority, supports the structure of values up 24 which he himself proposes to climb.
So he wills George to be brilliant and impress the outsiders—that is to say, everyone else in the class. The fanny thing is that Dreyer, with the clear conscience of absolute loyalty, feels free to whisper to Kugelman, his lieutenant, as often as he wants to. Whenever this happens, George longs to stop talking and listen to what they are saying about him.
Instinctively, George is sure that Dreyer would never dream of talking about anyone else during class: Sister Maria belongs to a teaching order. Soon she'll get her credential and become a teacher herself. She is, no doubt, a fairly normal, unimaginative, hardworking good young woman; and no doubt she sits up front because it helps her concentrate, maybe even because the boys still interest her a little and she wants to avoid looking at them.
But we, most of us, lose our sense of proportion in the presence of a nun; and George, thus exposed at short range to this bride of Christ in her uncompromising medieval habit, finds himself becoming flustered, defensive. An unwilling conscript in Hell's legions, he faces the soldier of Heaven across the front line of art exceedingly polite cold war. In every sentence he addresses to her, he calls her "Sister"; which is probably just what she doesn't want. Stoessel sits in the front row because he is deaf and middle-aged and only lately arrived from Europe, and his English is terrible.
Netta Torres is also middle-aged. She seems to be taking this course out of mere curiosity or to fill in idle hours. She has the look of a divorcee. She sits up front because her interest is centered frankly and brutally on George as George. She watches rather than listens to him. She even seems to be "reading" his words indirectly, through a sort of Braille made up of his gestures, inflections, mannerisms.
And this almost tactile scrutiny is accompanied by a motherly smile, for, to Mrs. Torres, George is just a small boy, really, and so cute. George would love to catch her out and discourage her from attending his class by giving her low grades. But, alas, he can't. Torres is listening as well as watching; she can repeat what he has been saying, word for word. Kenny Potter sits in the front row because he's what's nowadays called crazy, meaning only that he tends to do the opposite of what most people do; not on principle, however, and certainly not out of aggressiveness.
Probably he's too vague to notice the manners and customs of the tribe, and too lazy to follow them, anyway. He is a tall skinny boy with very broad stooped shoulders, gold-red hair, a small head, small bright-blue eyes. He would be conventionally handsome if he didn't have a beaky nose; but it is a nice one, a large, humorous organ.
George finds himself almost continuously aware of Kenny's presence in the room, but this doesn't mean that he regards Kenny as an ally. Oh, no—he can never venture to take Kenny for granted. Sometimes when George makes a joke and Kenny laughs his deep, rather wild, laugh, George feels he is being laughed with.
At 25 oilier times, when the laugh comes a fraction of a moment late, George gets a spooky impression that Kenny is laughing not at the joke but at the whole situation: At such limes, George suspects Kenny of understanding the in-nermost meaning of life—of being, in fact, some sort of a genius though you would certainly never guess this from his term papers.
And then again, maybe Kenny is just very young for his age, and misleadingly charming, and silly. Lois Yamaguchi sits beside Kenny because she is his girl friend; at least, they are nearly always together. She smiles at George in a way that makes him wonder if she and Kenny have private jokes about him—but who can be sure of anything with these enigmatic Asians? Alexander Mong smiles enigmatically, too, though his beautiful head almost certainly contains nothing but clotted oil paint. Lois and Alexander are by far the most beautiful creatures in the class; their beauty is like the beauty of plants, seemingly untroubled by vanity, anxiety or effort.
All this while, the tension has been mounting. George has continued to smile at the talkers and to preserve his wonderful provocative melodramatic silence. And now, at last, after nearly four whole minutes, his silence has conquered them.
The talking dies down. Those who have already stopped talking shush the others. George has triumphed. But his triumph lasts only for a moment. For now he must break his own spell. Now he must cast off his mysteriousness and stand revealed as that dime-a-dozen thing, a teacher, to whom the class has got to listen, no matter whether he drools or stammers or speaks with the tongue of an angel—that's neither here nor there. The class has got to listen to George because, by virtue of the powers vested in him by the State of California, he can make them submit to and study even his crassest prejudices, his most irresponsible caprices, as so many valuable clues to the problem: How can I impress, flatter or otherwise con this cantankerous old thing into giving me a good grade?
Yes, alas, now he must spoil everything. Now he must speak. Yeats reciting. He comes down on "dies" with a great thump to compensate for the "And" which Aldous Huxley has chopped off from the beginning of the original line. Then, having managed to startle or embarrass at least a few of them, he looks around the room with an ironical grin and says quickly, schoolmasterishly, "I take it you've all read the Huxley novel by this time, seeing that I asked you to more than three weeks ago?
Estelle is one of his brightest students. Just because she is bright, she is more conscious of being a Negro, apparently, than the other colored students in the class are; in fact, she is hypersensitive. George suspects her of suspecting him of all kinds of subtle discrimination.
Probably she wasn't ii the room when he told them to read the 26 novel. Damn, he should have noticed that and told her later. He is a bit intimidated by her. Also he likes her and is sorry. Also he resents the way she makes him feel. Just listen to what's said this morning, and then you can read it and see if you agree or disagree. She smiles back. So, this time, it's going to be all right.
He looks from face to face. Nobody knows. Even Dreyer doesn't know. And, Christ, how typical this is! Tithonus doesn't concern them because he's at two removes from their subject.
Huxley, Tennyson, Tithonus. They're prepared to go as far as Tennyson, but not one step farther. There their curiosity ends. Because, basically, they don't give a shit,.
A Single Man
That none of you could be bothered to find out? Well then, advise you all to spend part of your weekend reading Graves's Greek Myths, and the poem itself. I must say, I don't see how anyone can pretend to be interested in a novel when he doesn't even stop to ask himself what its title means.
Oh dear, he is getting nasty! And the worst is, he never knows when he's going to behave like this. He has no time to check himself. Shamefaced now, and avoiding all their eyes—Kenny Potter's particularly—he fastens his gaze high up on the wall opposite.
You'd better look them all up, while you're about it. Aphrodite was furious, of course, so she cursed Eos with a craze for handsome mortal boys—to teach her to leave other people's gods alone. Not lowering his eyes yet, he continues, with a grin sounding in his voice, "Eos was terribly embarrassed, but she found she just couldn't control herself, so she started kidnapping and seducing boys from the earth.
Tithonus was one of them. As a matter of fact, she took his brother Ganymede along too—for company—" Louder giggles, from several parts of the room, this time. George doesn't look at her, however, but at Wally Bryant—about whom he couldn't be more certain—and, sure enough, Wally is wriggling with delight. So Zeus said, of course, why not? And lie did it. But Eos was so stupid, she forgot to ask him to give Tithonus eternal youth as well.
Incidentally, that could quite easily have been arranged; Selene, the Moon goddess, fixed it up for her boy 27 friend Endymion. The only trouble there was that Selene didn't care to do anything but kiss, whereas Endymion had other ideas; so she put him into an eternal sleep to keep him quiet. And it's not much fun being beautiful for ever and ever, when you can't even wake up and look at yourself in a mirror. George beams at them. He does so hate unpleasantness.
Oh yes— so poor Tithonus gradually became a repulsively immortal old man—" Loud laughter. And he got more and more gaga, find his voice got shriller and shriller, until suddenly one day he turned into a cicada.
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George hasn't expected it to work, and it doesn't. Stoessel is quite frantic with incomprehension and appeals to Dreyer in desperate whispers. Dreyer whispers back explanations, which cause further misunderstandings. Stoessel gets it at last and exclaims, "Ach so—eine Zikade! But by now George has started up again—and with a change of attitude.
He's no longer wooing them, entertaining them; he's telling them, briskly, authoritatively. It is the voice of a judge, summing up and charging the jury. However, you will have to ask yourselves how far it will bear application in detail to the circumstances of the story. For example, the fifth Earl of Goniar can be accepted as a counterpart of Tithonus, an: But what about Jo Stoyte? And a Obispo? He's far more like Goethe's Mephistopheles than like Zeus.
And who is Eos? Not Virginia Maunciple, surely. For one thing, I feel sure she doesn't up early enough. George sometimes throws one away, despite all his experience, by muttering it, English style. A bit piqued by their failure to applaud, he continues, in an almost bully tone, "But, before we can go any further, you've got to make up your minds what this novel actually about. At first, as always, there is blank silence. The class sits staring, as it were, at the semantically prodigious word.
What is it about? Well, what George want them to say it's about? They'll say about anything he likes, anything at all.
MFS Modern Fiction Studies
For nearly all of them, despite their academic training, deep, deep down still regard this about business as a tiresomely sophisticated game.
As for the minority who have cultivated the about approach until it has become second nature, who dream of writing an about book of the own one day, on Faulkner, James or Conrad, proving definitively that all previous about books on that subject are about nothing—they aren't going to say anything yet awhile. They are waiting for the moment when the can come forward like star detectives with the solution to Huxley's crime.
Meanwhile, let the little ones flounder. Let the mud be stirred up, first. The mud is obligingly stirred up by Alexander Mong. He knows what he's doing, of course. He isn't dumb. Maybe it's even part of his philosophy as an abstract painter to 28 regard anything figurative as merely childish. A Caucasian would get aggressive about this, but not Alexander. With that beautiful Chinese smile, he says, "It's about this rich guy who's jealous because he's: So the rich guy shoots the young guy by mistake, and the doctor like covers up for them and then they all go to England to find this Earl character who's monkeying around with a chick in a cellar—" A roar of joy at this.
George smiles good-sportingly and says, "You left out Mr. Pordage and Mr. Propter —what do they do? Oh yes—he's the one that finds out about the Earl eating those crazy fish—" "Carp. And Propter"—Alexander grins and scratches his head, clowning it up a bit— "I'm sorry, sir. You'll just have to excuse me.
I mean, I didn't hit the sack till like half past two this morning, trying to figure that cat out.
I don't dig that jazz. Alexander has fulfilled his function. He has put the case, charmingly, for the philistines. Now tongues are loosened and the inquest can proceed. Here are some of its findings: Propter shouldn't have said the ego is unreal; this proves that he has no faith in human nature. This novel is arid and abstract mysticism. What do we need eternity for, anyway? This novel is clever but cynical. Huxley should dwell more on the warm human emotions. This novel is a wonderful spiritual sermon.
It teaches us that we aren't meant to pry into the mysteries of life. We mustn't tamper with eternity. Huxley is marvelously zany. He wants to get rid of people and make the world safe for animals and spirits. To say time is evil because evil happens in time is like saying the ocean is a fish because fish happen in the ocean. Propter has no sex life.
This makes him unconvincing as a character. Propter's sex life is unconvincing. Propter is a Jeffersonian democrat, an anarchist, a Bolshevik, a proto-John-Bircher. Propter is an escapist. This is illustrated by the conversation with Pete about the Civil War in Spain. Pete was a good guy until Mr.
Propter brainwashed him and he had a failure of nerve and started to believe in God. Huxley really understands women. Giving Virginia a rose-colored motor scooter was a perfect touch. And so on and so forth. George stands there smiling, saying very little, letting them enjoy themselves. He presides over the novel like an attendant at a carnival booth, encouraging the crowd to throw and smash their targets; it's all good clean fun.
However, there are certain ground rules which must be upheld. When someone starts in about mescaline and lysergic acid, implying that Mr. Huxley is next door to being a dope addict, George curtly contradicts him. When someone else coyly tries to turn the clef in the roman—Is there, couldn't there be some connection between a certain notorious lady and Jo Stoyte's shooting of Pete? And now comes a question George has been expecting. It is asked, of course, by Myron Hirsch, that indefatigable heckler of the goyim.
Propter says the stupidest text in the Bible is 'they hated me without a cause. Is Huxley anti-Semitic? And then, after a pause of expectant silence—the class is rather thrilled by Myron's bluntness—he repeats, loudly and severely, "No—Mr.
Huxley is not anti-Semitic. The Nazis were not right to hate the Jews. But their hating the Jews was not without a cause. No one ever hates without a cause Whatever attitude you take, it's impossible to discuss Jews objectively nowadays.
It probably won't be possible for the next twenty years. So let's think about this in terms of some other minority, any one you like, but a small one—one that isn't organized and doesn't have any committees to defend it.. Wally is plump and sallow-faced, and the care he takes to comb his wavy hair and keep his nails filed and polished and his eyebrows discreetly plucked only makes him that much less appetizing.
Obviously he has understood George's look. He is embarrassed. Never mind! George is going to teach him a lesson now that he'll never forget.
Is going to turn Wally's eyes into his timid soul. Is going to give him courage to throw away his nail file and face the truth of his life They aren't a minority in the sense we're talking about. And why aren't they? Because a minority is only thought of as a minority when it constitutes some kind of a threat to the majority, real or imaginary. Anyone here disagree with that? If you do, just ask yourself, What would this particular minority do if it suddenly became the majority overnight?
You see what I mean? Well, if you don't—think it over! Now along come the liberals—including everybody in this room, I trust—and they say, 'Minorities are just people, like us. Sure, they're like us—but not exactly like us; that's the all-too-familiar state of liberal hysteria in which you begin to kid yourself you honestly cannot see any difference between a Negro and a Swede.
Maybe, if he did dare, there would be a great atomic blast of laughter, and everybody would embrace, and the kingdom of heaven would begin, right here in classroom. But then again, maybe it wouldn't.
We may dislike the way they look and act, and we may hate their faults. And it's better if we admit to disliking and hating them than if we try to smear our feelings over with pseudo liberal sentimentality. If we're frank about our feelings, we have a safety valve; and if we have a safety valve, we're actually less likely to start persecuting. I know that theory is unfashionable nowadays.
We all keep trying to believe that if we ignore something long enough it'll just vanish Oh yes. Well, now, suppose this minority does get persecuted, never mind why—political, economic, psychological reasons. There always is a reason, no matter how wrong it is—that's my point.
And, of course, persecution itself is always wrong; I'm sure we all agree there. But the worst of it is, we now run into another liberal heresy. Because the persecuting majority is vile, says the liberal, therefore the persecuted minority must be stainlessly pure.
Can't you see what nonsense that is? What's to prevent the bad from being persecuted by the worse? Did all the Christian victims in the arena have to be saints? A minority has its own kind of aggression. It absolutely dares the majority to attack it. It hates the majority—not without a cause, I grant you.
It even hates the other minorities, because all minorities are in competition: And the more they all hate, and the more they're all persecuted, the nastier they become! Do you think it makes people nasty to be loved? You know it doesn't! Then why should it make them nice to be loathed? While you're being persecuted, you hate what's happening to You, you hate the people who are making it happen; you're in a world of hate.
Why, you wouldn't recognize love if you met it! You'd suspect love! You'd think there was something behind it—some motive—some trick…" 31 By this time, George no longer knows what he has proved or disproved, whose side, if any, he is arguing on, or indeed just exactly what he is talking about. And yet these sentences have blurted themselves out of his mouth with genuine passion. He has meant every one of them, be they sense or nonsense.
He has administered them like strokes of a lash, to whip Wally awake, and Estelle too, and Myron, and all of them. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. Wally continues to look embarrassed—but, no, neither whipped nor awakened.
Follow the Author
And now George becomes aware that Wally's eyes are no longer on his face; they are raised and focused on a point somewhere behind him, on the wall above his head. And now, as he glances rapidly across the room, faltering, losing momentum, George sees all the other pairs of eyes raised also - focused on that damned clock. He doesn't need to turn and look for himself; he knows he must be running overtime.
Brusquely he breaks off, telling them, "We'll go on with this on Monday. Well, after all, what else can you expect? They have to hurry, most of them, to get someplace else within the next ten minutes.They are waiting for the moment when the can come forward like star detectives with the solution to Huxley's crime.
Is going to give him courage to throw away his nail file and face the truth of his life He feels a thrill of pleasure to find the senses so eager in their response; too often, now, they seem sadly jaded.
But this semester the class is only a trifle smaller than the capacity of the room. In New York. He has a kind face. The rest of these boys and girls do not really think of themselves as a tribe, although they are willing to pretend that they do on special occasions. And then it all slowly dies down again, back to normal. Two or three at most—in all these searching thousands. This image of writing with, and at the same time as, semen visually puns the term expression and suggests that we think of the results of sexual desire and sexuality—in this case, the expression of sexual fluid—as self-expression even, since he appears alone, as expression of self to self.
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