Thursday, August 10, 2006

Yet Another Classic Summer Rerun

August 25, 2004
She Doth Teach the Torches to Burn Bright -- with Headlights Like That

I think they call it "found art," when you drag a piece of junk out of the dumpster, glue it to the wall and call it "Florence Nightingale's Prolegomena to a Better Metaphysics"

An equivalent is English as gibberish, as in the instructions for operating a cheap VCR that have been written by someone with only a glancing knowledge of the language.

Another gift from the ashes is English that is an insult to the basic sense and beauty of the language, of the kind you find in certain press releases and advertisements where the problem is not that the writer is taking risks in the strange lands of languages not his own but has apparently failed to keep his head above water in the vast sea of his own tongue.

Ridiculing this kind of stuff strikes me as a lazy kind of column writing, both lazy and condescending. And not just because the difference between what these writers do to English and what George Bush does to meaning -- a far more worthy topic -- is the difference between a butcher and Jack the Ripper.

But sometimes it is just irresistible.

I present for your inspection a catalog description recommending the purchase of a romantic sculpture of Romeo and Juliet. The sculpture looks like something by a senile Rodin -- the artistry gone, the artist yearning for his lost hormones.

The work is a naked torso of a naked woman with a naked young man standing behind her -- Romeo and Juliet getting serious about getting busy! First observation: Juliet has these enormous breasts, and Juliet, as we recall, was not quite 14 years old.

If Juliet had looked like this, when her parents complain about death having plucked the sweetest flower from the field of life, one of the servants would have added, "And Hooters, methinks, hath lost a waitress."

Also, our new Juliet looks in her early 30s, minimum, while Romeo has this "boy band" mop. Recall all those references to "old Capulet" and to how young Lady Capulet was when she got married? What we have here is not "Romeo and Juliet" but "Romeo and Mrs. Robinson"!

None of this is really my point. It is the text accompanying this ... thing ... that filled me with envy. First the headline:

Place it on the shelf of your living room and let the world know you're a connoisseur of the finest art.

"Shelf of your living room" is about half a bubble off. Dull American or struggling immigrant? Let us continue.

There is much history behind this superbly crafted piece of art. Romeo and Juliet was one of the most influential tragedies ever written by world-renowned playwright William Shakespeare.

Not "admired." Not "soul-stirring." Not even "performed." The play is "influential." It makes people love? It makes people die? I see bumper stickers: What Would Romeo and Juliet Do?!?

And, now, for the first time, you can own this rendering of the two lovers engaged in a passionate embrace.

Not to be indelicate but what we have here is Romeo playing "supermarket" by squeezing one of the melons. I guess this is an embrace, though you could also call it copping a feel.

Our bronze-plated statue is a must for devotees of Shakespeare's most famous story, enthusiasts of his work, or everyday people who have an interest in finely sculpted art.

Okay. Let us move through this passage methodically. Every devotee would want this on the shelf of his loving room, no doubt about that. But the writer reassures the "Hamlet" crowd and the "Othello" bunch and even those who prefer the comedies that if you squint just the littlest bit, it's Ophelia and Hamlet, or Desdemona and Othello (squint a lot), or Beatrice and Benedict -- or Rosalind and Celia if that diagrams your sentence. Yet here's something for "everyday people" who just happen to like "finely sculpted art" because...

It can also make a sophisticated gift for any wild-eyed couple, whether long-time married or newly consummated. The powerful imagery of this bronze will surely evoke sensuous feelings in even the most inhibited individuals.

Wild-eyed? I want it now. Inhibited? See wild-eyed; you'll want it soon enough. Newly consummated????? Ah, this is where I fall in love with this description, and not only because the idea of "newly consummated couple" is either great poetry or great nonsense. No, what I love is the fact that "newly consummated" is NOT hyphenated, which is exactly right since the AP StyleBook says you do not hyphenate adverbs modifying adjectives. And I guess that makes it nonsense. No one cares if poetry follows the AP StyleBook.

Meanwhile, back in the catalog:

... adorn your living room with this noble statuette and let it move you to new heights of affection for your mate.

Measures: 16" x 13" x 21". Weight: 9.6 lbs.

$99.95 Additional shipping charge $9.95

No mention of handling charges, and for once this is a item where you can actually see the handling!

Now, for those who have waited so patiently:

What man art thou that thus bescreen'd in night So stumblest on my counsel?

Full disclosure: The original link was dead, but I found the noble sculpture offered elsewhere at an even better price.

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