Red Pop and Hans Kirk’s The Fishermen
I’ve lost something called Red Pop. I remember being fabulously excited, back in high school, because there was a product that was pop, and that was red, and so they had just called it Red Pop, and they sold it at Hy-Vee. I didn’t really bother buying any for myself, of course, since I’m not a big fan of the “red” flavor – I prefer clear, purple or brown pops. But, it came up in conversation (the pop-vs.-soda debate again) and when I went to look for a bottle, it was gone. Vanished, and not even a memorial web page. I’m beginning to think I completely made it up. But I *swear* an acquaintance of mine had scanned in the logo… Mike Campbell, are you out there? Bueller?
Anyway. It strikes me that the pop-vs-soda thing is really my token effort at resisting California idiom. I make a point of using “pop” more often than I ever did when I lived in Iowa, but the rest of my midwestern twang is softening just a little, I think. My friends here have commented on my excessive use of the word “dude” and I’ve even caught myself calling something “rad” without thinking about it… yikes! My project for tomorrow, while I’m cleaning ovens, is to pay particular attention to the quality of my vowels, and see if I notice anything interesting about them. Round about 3 in the afternoon, I’ll start wishing I had some formal linguistic/phonological training, and piss the hell out of all my coworkers somehow whining about how Caltech doesn’t offer any interesting hum classes. Or else I’ll be gritting my teeth wishing P. would shut up. I went to high school with P. He’s one of those congenial, congenitally annoying people, who speak loudly and often, and are nice enough that you feel guilty for disliking them. But most of the time he’ll be vacuuming things, and that vacuum cleaner is blessedly loud.
And I read straight through a good book today – The Fishermen by Hans Kirk. It follows a group of super-pious fishermen who move to the other side of Jutland, where the fishing is better but the people aren’t nearly so puritanical, and the subsequent culture clash. It was an actual, compelling, and subtle portrayal of fundamentalists, which is rare in most of what I read. Plus, he used a rather interesting stylistic device, by doing away with quotation marks. Dialogue was just stuck into the flow of the text, supposedly to “facilitate transitions between characters’ thoughts and speech and to increase the distance between author and reader by creating a type of objectivity in which the narrator disappears behind the characters and their collective group,” according to the translator’s introduction. I’m still trying to figure out what the last part of that actually means, but the trick did seem to put the characters’ speech on the same level as their actions, somehow reminding me of an old man wagging his finger and saying “do as I say, not as I do.” Which of course was a constant thread throughout the book. I’m glad I don’t have to write a paper on it, though.