the insightful artistic output
of the ingenious gentleman Don Benjamino de la Letzler, Professor of Phrenology,
Explorer of the Occident, Connoisseur of Cheap Chianti
as was his unfortunate wont, had again procrastinated until the last possible
moment to complete the web page he had sworn upon the memory of Amadis
of Gaul to produce. There he sat, the fluorescent lamp burning down
ruthlessly on his bleached, ink-stained, amoral fingers, churning out self-indulgent
smugly clever prose, bemoaning his fate. An opprobrium of music blared
from the stereo, for there was to be a test on it the next day for which
Benjamino found himself curiously unprepared. He looked up with tragic
and lidded eyes and said to his imaginary friend Moshe, "Moshe, I'm so
verklemmt." Moshe glowered, an importunate yet strangely apathetic
imaginary friend of the worst sort. Moshe was, indeed, out of sorts
that day, wearing the most angry of his red and orange flowered silk shirts,
tempestuous biker shorts and a most improbable Brioni blazer, a blazer
that a Parsee in Delhi had once told him bore the marks of hand-tailoring
at great expense by teams of dwarves beneath the blood-red moon.
Moshe was, indeed, out of sorts that day. "The essay is not fine,"
Don Benjamino was not amused, and from behind those selfsame tragic and lidded eyes, he replied, "It's not an essay, it's a web page. The standards are lower."
"It's a web page, is it? Is it supposed to be a good one? I don't even see any links," said Moshe, measuring each of his syllables carefully with micrometer and slide rule. Moshe spoke in irreproachably measured syllables, and though his sentiments were seldom kind, he was possessed of a singularly disarming enunciation. "Is it any particular sort of web page?" he asked with one of his impeccably pronounced sneers.
"It shall be a web page most curious," mused the ingenious Benjamino. "It is to be modernist, but for its conservative style and excessive use of dialogue, and groundbreaking, but for its lack of insight, and absurdist, but for that Mother would not approve. It shall be metaliterary, and links indeed I expect to see. "And don't forget my favorite, three women": Latent Lesbians and Woody Allen In A Triumph Over Austen They shall appear before I know it."
"I think confining your discussions of Jane Austen to a single link is a bit scanty for such an ambitious effort of metaliterary hypertextual analysis," ventured Moshe. Moshe underlined the gravity of the moment with that round and ominous gesture made only by an amoral hand.
"I dare say I shall address Miss Austen as I chuze," answered Don Benjamino haughtily.
"And what of Virginia Woolf?"
"Nature has but little clay like that of which she moulded Virginia Woolf. Certainly none left over for me. But I was thought fondly of Virginia Woolf when, for the thirty-seventh time today, I fell in love, that time with the most heartwrenchingly beautiful Barnard lesbian I had ever beheld. I recalled to mind, with bitter tears and merry frankincense, what Woolf wrote in To the Lighthouse: ' . . . without any sexual feeling, she longed to cherish that loneliness . . . involuntarily, sections of potatoes rose before her eyes.'"
"Are you ever serious, Benjamino?" barked Moshe. "Say something meaningful."
"If I must, I shall don Rocinante, my trusty reading glasses, and lecture to you, Moshe. You are a most dreadful little man with a most delightful taste for syllabic constructivity." Benjamino turned to his shelves and lifted an unfortuitously leatherbound folio. "Here we are, from the 1942 first run of the Tractatus Logico-Chicken Campi. Let us begin."
"Virginia Woolf, first with 1925's Mrs. Dalloway and perfected in 1927's To the Lighthouse, uncovers and experiments with all the implements of the modernist toolbox. She stands at the precipice of a great volcano of stylistic innovation, and leaps in. Richard Strauss, a decade earlier, premiered his opera Elektra, representing the same sort of project, a restrainedly brilliant excursion both exploiting and hinting at the potential for modernism. Unlike Woolf, Strauss turned tail and fled after his first effort, fleeing abjectly off into Der Rosenkavalier and the lands of schmaltz; he did not have the institution of a loveless, semi-suicidal marriage to support his artistic integrity."
"There is only one thing to
be drawn from that passage, and that is to ask you what possible relevance
it has to Barnard lesbians," proposed Moshe.
Benjamino was silent for a moment. Soon, though, his eyes were ablaze, glinting with the fires of passion and heartburn. "If Leonard and Virginia Woolf could thrive with mutual homosexuality and a rich dose of self-destructive behavior, I'm convinced happiness might yet be mine." But the music was swelling again, and, with the Dichterliebe calling out with Schumann's romantic melodies and unfortunate syphilis, Don Benjamino felt compelled to announce in German:
Da ist in meinem Herzen die Liebe aufgegangen.
"I can't endure your insufferable
hypertext," declared Moshe, his clipped enunciation crystalline with rage.
"This has been nothing but a gross burlesque. What is it to be next
but needless diacritical marks?" asked a most displeaséd Moshe.
"A gross burlesque indeed, and a gross burlesque most mighty," uttered Don Benjamino. And with that, he spurred his faithful hack, shouting out, "Onward, noble steed Sidney Appelbaum!" and rode into the sunset, setting off across the green sand dunes with the wild flowing grasses on them, which always seemed to be running away into some moon country, uninhabited of men. Moshe picked up the forgotten and dyspeptic Tractatus Chicken Campi, and there read Virginia Woolf's 1922 letter to Lytton Strachey, on Ulysses: "Never did I read such tosh. As for the first two chapters we will let them pass, but the 3rd 4th 5th 6th - merely the scratching of pimples on the body of the bootboy at Claridges." Moshe wept.
But there, upon a serenely marble table, Moshe
discovered a rare twelfth century manuscript of Yehudah Halevi's Kuzari.
It was open to a page which Don Benjamino had scratched off and where he
had, with a diabolically palimpsestic glee, penned a puzzlingly shoddy
poem in a spidery and, it seemed, amoral hand: