Whatever You Do, Don't Look Down

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, there was a penguin. The penguin went to school and, in the course of taking as many English classes as could possibly be managed, was required to read some Truly Awful Stuff. So awful, in fact, that superfluous use of capital letters doesn't even begin to convey the sheer boredom and waffle of some of the designated texts. It is a truth universally acknowledged* that sleeping tablets really just contain finely ground boring books. The industrial-strength ones contain statistics textbooks. And possibly tax law.

Reading the truly awful books** also involved attempting to retain vast numbers of quotes for regurgitation in seven-pages-in-forty-minutes exam responses. For the overly studious, this meant so many quotes that it was a little like swallowing the entire book, with occasional prepositions and expositions omitted. It was a bit like packing jumpers into a space bag - good in theory, but prone to come undone. The fact that a still-scary number of these quotes are still remembered, time immemorial afterwards, and quoted in idle moments between the trifle-eating cat's mother*** and I****, is evidence that, once in, those quotes stay in a lot better than jumpers in a space bag.

But all these ponderings started with a thought. Of a particular book, a particular quote, and the slippery slope of other potential quotes. And crimes against interior design (and, potentially, theatre). Which were all brought firmly back to mind by one picture...

Picture: Chris Maluszynski via Apartment Therapy

The book - actually, the play - was Diving for Pearls, by Katherine Thomson. I'd normally include a link to it on Amazon or some such but, evidencing the unique peculiarity of this publication to Australian secondary schools, there are only three old copies on there. Interestingly, all for my hot air, those three copies are going for pretty decent prices for second-hand plays as well (now, that'll prompt a forage for old and saleable textbooks and suchlike). For anybody wanting to know what it was about, the long version (based on a review of a far more professional staging than the one I remember seeing) is here. The short version can be summed up as "Kath and Kim, without the funny bits".

And the quote which, without the benefit? of the any surrounding context, is, "It's a leagues club, Barbara. It says so on the carpet". Long before I set foot in any sticky carpeted and dubious establishments, this set the scene for what awaited me there. Lurid interior design included. Stickiness of carpet is, in fact, something to be strongly encouraged, if it makes the said carpet anything less lurid. Although some carpets are astonishingly stubborn in their refusal to let their flamboyant glare be dampened.

The play also contained a number of other astonishing displays of erudition. Not the least of which, and possibly the most over-used in collective essays that year other than "To be, or not to be... etc etc ad nauseam and without Hamlet making a bloody decision*****" was "Fuck me dead with a rissole"******.

It's funny just how many vivid memories can be brought back just from a couple of equally vivid carpets...

Pictures: Chris Maluszynski via Wired

* And if it isn't, it very well ought to be.
** Perhaps the point should stop being laboured quite so much. There were also some relatively reasonable books as well. And some good poetry. And a lot of being incredibly silly. Mostly silliness, in fact.
*** She doesn't just make trifles - she's brilliant, among other things, at helping penguins learn quotations. Although it does result in her learning them, too...
**** The quite ridiculous amount of time I spent dithering over whether that should be an I or a me is evidence that quotes (and waffling under time pressure, which has proven to be an infinitely useful ability) may be the only things I learned in English class. Silliness doesn't count. Silliness was there long before English class....
***** Oops, I appear to have thought out loud half-way through an over-used quote. How careless!
****** This is way too many asterisks, and clearly an indication I should cease and desist immediately. Right after hoping that anybody who finds anything to read about on here is also of a persuasion to not be offended by colourful quotes. I just can't bring myself to use asterisks for anything other than footnotes or occasional decoration - certainly not for any variety of ill-concealed censorship, anyway.

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