The Literary Conference (New Directions Pearls) (César Aira)
– Highlight Loc. 641-44 | Added on Friday, November 02, 2012, 05:56 PM
It was then, when the action rushed toward a resolution, after the exasperating teatime dialogues, that the extent of my fiasco fell on me like a mental atomic bomb. Once again I had submitted to nonsense, to the frivolity of invention for invention’s sake, resorting to the unexpected as if it were some kind of deus ex machina! Again I had squandered the wise ancient advice adorning the frontispiece of my literary ethic, “Simplify, my son, simplify!”
This is it, the activity that needs to be engaged in. On the one hand reading: acquiring information, seeing the cosmos from a different vantage, living another life, thinking new thoughts, understanding something; on the other hand writing: getting out to the black-on-white vastness, clarifying the muddle which pullulates inside, getting the story straight, putting forth an opinion to be contended with, entertaining the readers, putting people in a different place, etc. The entanglement of the two is damn-near transcendent so that the shifts inbetween become, at their very best, revelational.
As of lately, I‘ve engaged in too much of the former and too little of the latter. I‘ve retired to the altitudinous perch of reading… through words, images, sounds, scents and those many sensual channels that ravel us on out into all the other things that are also. And it has been both informative, entertaining, even titillating and, on the mundane side which belongs to all enterprises worth their while, boring. The boredom one slogs through so as to exercise the better one’s will, one’s persistence, those steely features of the self that are supposed to get one some place preferable in the long haul. Even if they do not.
A lot of things that can be talked about I passed over in silence, imagining that they would re-cease my fancy at some belated, later, lateral, wishy-washy point in time. The Olympics! I had sworn to myself that I would, in an outstanding display of pointless, egooistic, moral righteousness, lay upon them a one-man viewing embargo. I had read or heard a lot about the injustice of the Olympic Games in general, not to mention what was about to befall one of my favorite cities, London. Public transport was going to get it in the bum [in fact had been ever since that posse around the dire damsel decided it would be a fine idea to sell the off a huge, intricate, complex-to-maintain network in disjointed, competing morcels…]. Same thing the post-BungaBunga coterie is now trying to pull off for “the boot”, which everybody in the comment section of one of our local newspapers [Tagi] was trying to point out is just a horrific, horrendous, catastrophic idea even if the local commuters might be temporarily blinded [a year or two] by the splendor of a handful of blood-red high-speed trains gunning it between Milano and Napoli at a preliminary discount price.
Anyway, tracing the tangent backwards I get to my mushy-minded ethical sentiments concerning the London Games, as I saw the looming on the hyper-consumerist horizon of 2012 screen-saturated summer. For each and all. Plus these had been, approximately an Olympiad [wick-it] back, been the Olympics I was supposed to attend in the flesh and I wasn’t remotely within financial shooting range; let alone had I managed to wheedle myself into any sort of anticipatory delirium of “witness-to-history” ambitions. I couldn’t have given less in the build-up to the event; I really hadn’t even developed much of a coherent consciousness of it. It, they just loomed their forebodingly on the commercio-spectatorial skyline. Akin to the Soccer World Cup in my father’s beloved country. Much like those Games some years ago, you might recall, which did the folks perched between the Aegean and the Ionian Sea a world of macroeconomic good.
T zero arrived and I dutifully missed the Opening ceremony; hearing of its Peter Jacksonesque exploits only via briefly glimpsed headlines and soundbites. On the whole, it seems almost impossible to miss the general shape of global events, they have a way of plastering themselves across all the surfaces which, sooner or later, you have good reason to at least glance at. And before you know it, you know it. From each according to their ego, to each according to their connectivity.
[At this point I should probably mention that it was the summer break and I had plenty of time off. Oceans of time, vast unceasing temporal rollers floating me beyond times’ break.]
By the second day I had to admit that I had to watch at least one event: Badminton. My recently rekindled affair de coeur with blasted battlecock&shuttledore. I did; the competition was out-bloody-standing. And as one does, as I do, I searched for the best-streaming website, unable to bear the unnerving circle of white, cycling jots popping up and slowly ticking off the percentage towards one hundred. Sure enough, it was on Swiss TV; I always make a mess of the name, SF something.
Most unfortunately, there were also shown five or six parallel streams, all in near-perfect quality, designating exactly when which sort of outlandish sporting event began and ended.
Temptation beckoned with its long athletic fingers. Checking out the Archery competition seemed extremely legit. Given no mega-millions or sizable spectatorship, whatever ethical concerns pertained to the olympic tournament as a whole, somehow fell by the wayside for this poor, neglected, deserving, kookyly-intriguing sport. Plus the master-excuse, the foundational pretext that has preceded every fucked-up yet reasoned action of our mean little historical record, was quick at mind: “JUST THIS ONCE! I only get to watch people contort with bow and arrow, what?, every four years. This is minor; this is totally legit. It is just this one time. Even in Rio, man, I’ll not watch any of this Archery non-sense.” As I found out, Archery is the precise spectatorial equivalent of a gateway drug. I got hooked. Things went downhill in a rush as vertiginous as the event schedule itself.
By the third day I was trying to figure out the ideal alignment of switching between different sports so as to always tune in at the moments of maximum dramatic tension. I also realized that it was best to keep on the regular TV, that way I didn’t have to stream more than one channel and thereby jeopardize the streaming-speed. Late in the afternoon, Olympioholic that I had become within two shakes, I usually trawled the streaming archive for the good bits I’d missed during the day. Badminton, archery, tennis, Equestrian events [that 12 minute long thing where they ride all along the verdant outskirts of London and you find yourself wondering, I did, how the bloodclot you grew up without riding to learn a horse], very little Basketball [my one-time love for it is like the deflated, rotting sack of muscles called heart cut from a horse’s corpse, seriously] , tiny bits of clay-pigeon shooting [there are surely theories of the surreal, which can perfectly account for this], tons of T&F, the triathlon and other athletics more I’d assume. I’m not sure if it there’s any sort of established terminology for this yet but in terms of maximum attention capacity, I’m bi-screenal. I’m certain I couldn’t have handled a third laptop’s stream.
The worst part or the best, by far, was that I didn’t resent myself for any of this compulsive viewing behavior. I felt part of the fucking Olympic Spirit, all alone in the living room, macbook on my lap, bravia up against the far wall. I had fun, fun, fun as a crowd of one.
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