Slangster Jonathon Green: Diary 3/10 to 3/11/22

Notes of a Novelist; doublethinking myself and playing with my words; Mister Slang; Powell’s Books; The Mountain of Ignorance analogy; anti-religion rant; Emily Fox Gordon

Jonathon Green

Copyright 2022 (text only) by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

{3/10/22}

My novelistic “solution” to The Lolita Curse is to have the sufferer die because of the curse.  While reading my old “Notes of a Novelist,” for the seventeenth time, it occurred to me to have the sufferer instead embrace his fate, and become totally immersed in his fantasy, to the point of needing permanent hospitalization.  This, of course, would be “a kind of death,” possibly a bit more palatable to the more romantic of my readers (assuming that I ever have any).

No, I don’t keep track of how many times I read and reread my own writing.  But I know it’s been quite a few, and I always find that piece helpful and inspiring.

I started to write “particular piece” there; then recognized that “particular” means nothing in the context, and so backspaced out the three or four letters I had typed.  Why do I thus put my own behavior under a microscope?  Well, don’t I always?  No.  But I do it often enough that it’s a thoughtless habit.

Are habits always “thoughtless”?  No.  Am I arguing with myself?  Yes.  Does it make for entertaining reading?  I doubt it.  I’ll move on.

“Notes” has gotten zero “likes” on my blog, and of course zero comments.  I would have paid twenty bucks to have a copy of those thoughts when I was a shaver on the verge of making a commitment to “being a novelist.”  Indeed, I’ve paid more and gotten far less.  (I verged on writing “little shaver,” decided the adjective was redundant; my impression is that “shaver” is a young man who has just begun shaving, of necessity.  If I look it up in my recently-acquired dictionary of slang, will I find it?  Answer:  yes.  Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang, Jonathon Green, ed., Cassell & Co., London, 1998-2000, is worth a hundred times the fifty cents I paid for it (based on the quantity of words therein), though this is the first time I’ve looked anything up in it [“looked up anything…”].  Here’s the quote:  “shaver n. [late 16C+] a man. [lit. one who shaves and thus reached manhood; best known in phr. young shaver (usually referring to a younger person); now used ironically]” [sic throughout]. [3/12: In looking for a photo of Green, I found one (above) and an article from 2017–link; he has established an online dictionary of slang, free here, but “slangster” is not listed–Merriam Webster has it]

So if this were a writing to be published, I’d go back and insert “little.”

It’s clear that I’m talking so much because I’m avoiding something, like, perhaps a blank page with pen in hand?  That would be, pen in my hand if I wanted to avoid the retort of certain wags who would jump at the chance to point out that “blank pages don’t have hands.”  Fuck ’em.

BTW, the book has 1316 pages in a large format with tiny print.  Truly astonishing.  A quick check of Thriftbooks.com on the name Jonathon Green reveals that this guy has more than a dozen dictionaries and compendia of words including The Big Book of Being Rude: 7000 Slang Insults and Rhyming Slang.  I think I have a new favorite author.  He’s made a career of obscure words, clearly.  His books are going cheap, too (about $5 on up).  The most astonishing thing about this is that it took me 74 years to find him, despite being a devotee of reference books in (now) the Age of the Internet.

I refer to Thriftbooks here a lot; I’ve never even looked at Powell’s.

Until now.  An impressive web site, the first page quite interesting.  A search of “Jonathon Green,” however, reveals the dry rot (or whatever):  about half-a-dozen titles, with dozens “out of stock,” including Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang.  In addition, the search turns up Signal Processing Methods for Audio… in the first row (not by Green).  By the relevant measures, based on this one superficial comparison, Thriftbooks is the big winner in a not-close race.  Powell’s is the winner in offering attractive clickbait such as “Staff Picks,” “Author Events,” “Happy You Sale,” etc.  (I suppose “attractive” is redundant there; live with it, I’m not getting paid for this.)  Of course I’d kill to be able to visit Powell’s brick-and-mortar store (as the clichés go).  After all, they advertise themselves as the “world’s largest independent bookstore.”

Okay, enough.  I’ve been at this for ninety minutes this morning, and although it’s not yet 7:00, I’M HUNGRY!  Not going to eat until 8:00, however—that’s my schedule and I’m sticking to it.  Instead, I’m going to try to visit my beloved characters (i.e., “put butt in chair with pen in hand”—no, the chair doesn’t have hands).

715 words typed this morning?  That’s all?!  Phooey.

One page, forty minutes, a satisfied sigh—that’s good.  Now I can have breakfast.

{3/11/22}

Each of us is born with a mountain of ignorance smack in the middle of our worldview—if we can talk about the worldview of a baby.  And the lifelong task of many of us largely consists in chipping away at that mountain, reducing it to a lump as best we can, because that ignorance stands ever in our way, keeping us from our goals, keeping us from understanding the world.

As we learn things—and we are born knowing some things, as “evolutionary epistemology” teaches—that mountain gets chipped away [did I not notice that I just used this expression?!].  Language is a jackhammer that speeds the chipping away, while also raising clouds of obscuring dust.  Much of what gets chipped away is not actually destroyed, rather, it is just gotten out of the way; it’s sitting on a distant shelf in our minds.  That’s how I see my view of quantum mechanics:  it’s just another lump of ignorance, but one I don’t have to think about, because I’ve seen that to reduce it to dust would require learning a lot of math and science that just isn’t worth my time, because an “understanding” of matter and energy on that level would play no role in helping me accomplish my goals. [For those who like to know things, you just saw an application of “pragmatism.”]

Now, when we learn a religion, if we really believe it, we erect on top of that lump a golden statue that becomes an additional impediment, moreover, one that constantly attracts our eyes.  It is however just an idol.  If we subsequently see that the gold plating is wearing off, and underneath is just ordinary rock and dirt, we move that lump to a distant shelf, out of the way, perhaps dusted off occasionally, but [it is] no longer able to take our eyes away from our goals.  But the central lump of ignorance remains.

It may be that this analogy or allegory will strike readers as more harmful than helpful; it’s the idea that “God is a lump of ignorance that just gets in the way” or (this morning) “God is an idol” that I wanted to consider at greater length than the bare statement.  What I find most annoying about religion, notably Christianity, is that the believers say that they “don’t know what God is” and/or that “God is a mystery.”  Yet God is also the “explanation” for every difficult question.  To hell with all that, I’m an atheist and I’ll die an atheist.

Emily Fox Gordon

I’ve been reading Emily Fox Gordon:  Mockingbird Years: A Life In and Out of Therapy, Basic Books, New York, 2000.  [Link to her website] For quite a while I was impressed and enchanted, some of the writing being quite beautiful.  But lately, it has seemed rather dry and abstract compared to other such books, like Judith Moore’s valuable and moving Fat Girl and anything by Cindy Crabb (e.g., The Encyclopedia of Doris).  Anyway, here’s a quote or three:

“Diana’s speaking style was expressive and tormented.  She would make a stab at saying something, fail, erase the air with flailing palms, cover her face with her hands and rock back and forth on her haunches, then try again.  Today she said, ‘I…don’t feel very good about this, but I’m just so uncomfortable.  I don’t think this is something I can say.’” p. 15.  This was in group therapy.  The closing quote isn’t really anything; I just dislike cutting things out of paragraphs, as a rule.

“In one of his essays Dr. Farber compared the psychoanalyst to Kierkegaard’s ‘systematizer,’ a man who has spent decades building a splendid mansion, a great multistoried edifice with wings flung out in every direction.  But when the man has finally completed his dream house, he settles contentedly in a shack next door.  In Dr. Farber’s view, the house of psychoanalysis was impressive but unfit for human habitation.”  p. 16.

I’ve noted other passages for copying, but don’t feel like it this morning.  That’s more like afternoon or evening work; I like to keep mornings for creative work.  Which I’m going to try right now.  (Alas, I’ve agreed with Pablo to do laundry today, which will kill my productivity until evening—if then.)

Copyright 2022 (text only) by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

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