Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Life Sentences #11 SPECIAL 100th POST EDITION

You gotta find amusement in higher learning, right? If you don’t, fuck it: I gotta laugh when I think about some of the classic examples of genius I witnessed at work during my time in the halls of low-grade academe. I guess I shouldn’t think some of this shit is funny but I can’t help myself because what can I say? It’s just so goddam funny.

So one time, I got my hands on the copy of a textbook a fellow professor was using as a lecture prompt for a creative writing course. An anthology of some canonical material, of course. And I couldn’t help flipping through the pages and reading the margin notes, even though I knew this was sort of like reading somebody’s diary and that when I eventually arrive in hell this is the type of behavior that will merit extra-high flame on my proverbial eternal ass-burner. Oh well.

Eventually, I found in this textbook D.H. Lawrence’s famous story “The Rocking Horse Winner,” about which my enthusiasm is roughly the same as it is, say, for Major League Baseball, meaning I don’t mind it; it’s not bad; but I might change the channel when the commercial break comes. I noted that my fellow professor had annotated the following sentence:

Everybody else said of her: "She is such a good mother. She adores her children." Only she herself, and her children themselves, knew it was not so. They read it in each other's eyes.

My fellow professor had underlined ‘herself’ and ‘themselves’ and wrote in the margin (and I can’t remember the exact wording), “Reflexive pronouns establishing a pattern for reflexive action throughout the story.” Nice theory. Plausible, too. A kid in the story gets a hold of a rocking horse and appears in a few spazzy scenes on this rocking horse and I guess that’s reflexive, right? Might be some other reflexive actions occur in the story, too – hell, give a non-stupid person any adjective and apply it by analogy to any text and this shit’s going to line up into something meaningful (this same principle works with playing Mahavishnu Orchestra’s album Inner Mounting Flame at top volume and watching a Lakers game with the sound off: Kobe and Pau will dribble in perfect sync with the music every time). So we can imagine this professor conducting a seventy-five-minute thoughtful lecture/discussion on the reflexive nature of “The Rocking Horse Winner” and the students in class becoming so enlightened that blood trickles from their ears. Trouble is – and I hate to break this shit to you, former colleague – those pronouns you underlined? Herself and themselves? They are intensive pronouns, not reflexive pronouns. So your theory on reflexive action, as my friend the Iranian Redneck would say, is basically a high-brow form of goat-fucking.

See, a reflexive pronoun does have a -self attached to it, but it appears in the objective case of the sentence and it reflects back on the subject. Thus: I (subject) hate (transitive verb) myself (direct object and reflexive verb). An intensive pronoun, on the other hand, generally occurs in an appositive position or directly after a noun or a pronoun, and the intensive pronoun’s function is to intensify or amplify another noun. Thus: Mike himself showed up on his bike for group ride. Or why not let D.H. (the H stands for Horsecock: little known fact) Lawrence do it for us? Only she herself, and her children themselves, knew it was not so.

I gotta write in the margins of this blog: “Intensive pronouns establishing a pattern that this story is gonna be totally intense, dudes!”

See how much fun this shit is?

Sentence of the day:

Fuck yourself, Mag.


(Implied subject: You) Fuck (transitive verb) yourself (direct object and of course a lovely reflexive pronoun), Mag (noun in direct address: note, people, that a comma precedes it).

Further analysis:

I will. I will. I have been. I have been.

1 comment:

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