Friday, 30 July 2010

Text message

“There's nothing outside the text,” said the text I read. That's so ridiculous! I exclaimed, laughing out loud. So loud that the sales clerk was moved to approach me to enquire as to the substance of my merriment. I repeated the line of text but to no avail for my amusement at this inherent piece of self-referential nonsense was, apparently, only self-contagious. My words fell on stony ground. Her face drew a veil. It was then, in my desperation to be understood and with toe-tipping trepidation, I began to account for myself. On refection, I realised, explanation tends to dissipate on too detailed a telling. Too much scrutiny stops-dead spontaneity. In any case, perhaps the utter futility - the utter ridiculousness of such a foolhardy attempt - might be cause for amusement in itself? He suddenly thought to himself. So here goes.

Well - I began - imagine the world is made of text. Text needs an author, or authors, together with an audience and, we may suppose, on differing occasions, we are both the author and audience, for the world can be viewed in so many very different ways and there are so many very different stories - ways - we can tell and it be told. Or so it would appear. Let's further suppose that one author in particular, a master story teller, wished to distance themselves form the others; to step outside by manipulating the text so that she - let's call her "she" - is no longer a co-creator but subverter, perhaps to control her audience so that they are trapped in a world of her owned creation. Narration. Now in order to create this deviant and devious narrative, she has to create an alternative text but she can't do that ex nihilo (out of nothing: textlessness) she has to have acquired it from other - shared - texts; so while she might manipulate the narrative, we still have the substance of text in common.

Continue. She said.

If the author is embedded within the text, then, by recreating it, we can't get outside - extricate ourselves - from the text to look at it and ourselves from beyond, because we always take the text with us and it us, and, any attempt to communicate from the outside would immediately relocate ourselves from within it. Innit?

I'm still not sure I follow. She said.

If there's nothing outside of the text, then - by obvious extension - there's nothing in it to take out!

And why's that? She said.

Text is text - "the writer is text; "the reader” is text; “the speaker” is text; "the listener" is text and so on, and, on its own, alone, how can it mean anything except itself which is in itself text!

And? She said.

It's just text! Words as symbols, letters, lines, cuneiforms, curls, circles, swirls, marks and smudges!

When I finished speaking and she listening, there was an unmarked stop-gap of silence. She started laughing and then I started laughing again. I had no idea what we were laughing about. And may be she didn't. And that was our little "in" joke.

Was that in the text? She said.

With that the clerk put me back on the shelf. And stepped outside for a deep breath of fresh air - drawing it into her lungs and then slowly out again. Before popping back in.

The sign above the door revealed the legend: “If in the beginning was the word and the word was God, then there was no text to create. Without an author there is no death. Period.”

But, perhaps, that would be placing them outside context.

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