“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Friday, September 15, 2006

Br'er Rabbit

One of the great American stories, one of the primal stories, is the story of the Tarbaby. I can’t see how you can understand this culture if you don’t know that story. I can’t see how you can understand this culture if you don’t appreciate that story. That it was ripped off by a cracker newsman (albeit a, for the time, moderate cracker newsman) in Atlanta doesn’t matter in the slightest – this story obviously comes from a genius oral source. Uncle Remus, Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor, Ralph Ellison -- the recording angel of history will gather very few positives about Southern civilization when all is said and done.

Well, to refresh y’all’s memory, this is the beginning of it:

“One day atter Brer Rabbit fool 'im wid dat calamus root, Brer Fox went ter wuk en got 'im some tar, en mix it wid some turkentime, en fix up a contrapshun w'at he call a Tar-Baby, en he tuck dish yer Tar-Baby en he sot 'er in de big road, en den he lay off in de bushes fer to see what de news wuz gwine ter be. En he didn't hatter wait long, nudder, kaze bimeby here come Brer Rabbit pacin' down de road--lippity-clippity, clippity -lippity--dez ez sassy ez a jay-bird. Brer Fox, he lay low. Brer Rabbit come prancin' 'long twel he spy de Tar-Baby, en den he fotch up on his behime legs like he wuz 'stonished. De Tar Baby, she sot dar, she did, en Brer Fox, he lay low.

"`Mawnin'!' sez Brer Rabbit, sezee - `nice wedder dis mawnin',' sezee.

"Tar-Baby ain't sayin' nuthin', en Brer Fox he lay low.

"`How duz yo' sym'tums seem ter segashuate?' sez Brer Rabbit, sezee.

"Brer Fox, he wink his eye slow, en lay low, en de Tar-Baby, she ain't sayin' nuthin'.

"'How you come on, den? Is you deaf?' sez Brer Rabbit, sezee. 'Kaze if you is, I kin holler louder,' sezee.

"Tar-Baby stay still, en Brer Fox, he lay low.”

The contrapuntal repetition of and variation on "Tar-Baby ain't sayin' nuthin'" and “Brer Fox, he lay low” kills me. It is, to borrow Barthes’ phrase, the punctum here – that complete and unexpected joy of a thing so perfect in itself that explanation can only operate on it the way oxygen operates on silver – giving it a dulling verdigris. It is music of the highest order the American language has to offer. Its effect has worked on me since I was seven, I think. It owns real estate in my heart that will remain there until alcoholism and senility wash away all my cares and woes.

I bring this up because LI strongly identifies with Br’er Rabbit. Many are the Tar Babies we heat ourselves into attacking. We stroll down the road – or, at least, scroll through the internet – looking out for political stories and finding dozens, dozens of offenses that cause our blood to bile. Why, yesterday, we wasted a good hour looking up things about Telos, the journal, because the Telos site has put up the American equivalent of the Euston Manifesto. Why, you might ask, would LI bother? Because something in the look of the thing just drives us crazy, that’s why. That Tar Baby stays still while we ask it all kinds of questions: what the fuck you talking about, Islamo-fascism? And what the hell is this thing about “the left”? And on and on – the bric a brac talk of politics, out of which think tankers have woven a magic web of distractions that keep those interested in power, in the way we live, occupied with lifelong trivialities. For once you enter into that talk, you are doomed to fight with decoys, only decoys, until you exhaust yourself. And sometimes that goes on for forty years.

"'I'm gwine ter larn you how ter talk ter 'spectubble folks ef hit's de las' ack,' sez Brer Rabbit, sezee. 'Ef you don't take off dat hat en tell me howdy, I'm gwine ter bus' you wide open,' sezee.

So we reared back and was going to bus open the whole stinking manifesto/Telos site/lefty crapola fiesta when we stopped for once -balanced on one foot, a brick in one hand - and thought about life. As in, there are more important things in. The Br’er Rabbit in us was kicking its hind legs so rapidly they formed a blur, but we held onto its long ears and gradually, gradually, slowly, we pulled out of that utter waste of time.


new york pervert said...

'It is music of the highest order the American language has to offer. Its effect has worked on me since I was seven, I think'

Yes. And before I got to your saying this about the 'something so perfect,' I had never thought about the 'he lay low' since I read it as a child: I didn't know what the phrase meant then! so I didn't ever think of it again,, not a single time, and it brings exactly the ecstasy you say, but strange that I blocked it out because I didn't know what 'lay low' meant.

Anonymous said...

man ...great post
great great point

t'is my first visit here
you all
can thank that disgrace to the cube farmers of amerika
j alfred scrubbs
for my quick gander

i'll be back