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Thread: 95 Theses 95

  1. #1

    95 Theses 95

    Have you read these from Garrison Keillor’s Lake Woebegone Days? Some of them are wonderful.
    They are supposedly a series of complaints from a son to his father.

    1. You have fed me wretched food, vegetables, boiled to extinction, fistfuls of white sugar, slabs of fat mucousy casseroles made with globs of cream of mushroom, until it's amazing my heart still beats. Food was not fuel but ballast; we ate and then we sank like rocks. Every Sunday, everyone got stoned on dinner except the women who cooked it and thereby lost their appetites--the rest of us did our duty and ate ourselves into a gaseous stupor and sat around in a trance and mumbled like a bunch of beefheads.

    4. You taught me to worship a god who is like you, who shares your thinking exactly, who is going to slap me one if I don't straighten out fast. I am very uneasy every Sunday, which is cloudy and deathly still and filled with silent accusing whispers.

    5. You have taught me to feel shame and disgust about my own body, so that I am afraid to clear my throat or blow my nose. Even now I run water in the sink when I go to the bathroom. "Go to the bathroom" is a term you taught me to use.

    6. You have taught me the fear of becoming lost, which has killed the pleasure of curiosity and discovery. In strange cities, I memorize streets and always know exactly where I am. Amid scenes of great splendor, I review the route back to the hotel.

    11. You taught me "When the going gets tough, the tough get going," teaching me to plod forward in the face of certain doom.

    13. In place of true contrition, you taught me to be apologetic. I apologize continually. I apologize for my own existence, a fact that I cannot change. For years, you told me I'd be sorry someday. I am.

    17. Listening to them, I was taught to keep quiet. Stupidity had the floor, always. Argument was impolite.

    22. A year ago, a friend offered to give me a backrub. I declined vociferously. You did this to me.

    27. Even now, I go to someone's house and think I am a good guest if I am very quiet, don't ask for anything, and refuse anything that's offered. This behavior makes other people think of me as a nincompoop.

    29. You taught me not to go overboard, lose my head, or make a big deal out of it, but to keep a happy medium, that the truth is in the middle. No extremes. Don't exaggerate. Hold your horses. Keep a lid on it. Save it for later. Be careful. Weigh the alternatives. Wear navy blue. Years later, I am constantly adjusting my feelings downward to achieve that fine balance of caution and melancholy.

    58. Believing there is always more than meets the eye defeats the sense of sight. Always looking for hidden meanings, a person misses the lovely surface of the world, even in spring. Surely those green leaves are hiding bare branches. If you look hard enough, you will glimpse them: dark, malevolent, and a big trunk that if you ran into it hard enough, it would kill you.

    86. A scene repeated thousands of times:
    You (in the easy chair): Dear? As long as you're up, would you mind--
    Me (in the doorway): What?
    You (rising): Oh, never mind. I'll do it myself.
    Me: What? I'll do it.
    You (sighing): No, that's all right. You'd never find it.
    (Or: "You might burn yourself." Or: "I'd just have to do it myself anyway." Or: "It's nothing.")

    90. I did listen to you, that's most of my problem. Everything you said went in one ear and right down my spine. Such as, "You're never going to make anything of yourself." When I was laid off from a job, you couldn't believe it wasn't for something I had done, something so awful that I wouldn't tell you.

  2. #2
    unidentified hit record blp's Avatar
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    Oh dear, it's all so horribly familiar (and very funny). Perhaps some amelioration's possible in the form of honest Bill Burroughs and his Words of advice for young people:

    "People often ask me if I have any words of advice for young people."

    ((cough)) are a few simple admonitions for young and old.

    Never interfere in a boy and girl fight.

    Beware of whores who say they don't want money. The hell they don't. What they mean is they want more money, much more.

    If you are doing business with a religious son-of-a-***** get it in writing. His word isn't worth ****--not when the good Lord taught him how to **** you on the deal.

    If, after having been exposed to someone's presence, you feel as though you've lost a quart of plasma avoid that presence.
    You need it like you need pernicious anemia.
    Don't like to hear the word "vampire" around here...trying to improve our public image.
    Build up a kindly, carbuncular, benevolent image.

    Interdependence is the key word.
    Enlightened interdependence.
    Life in all its rich variety, "take a little, leave a little"...

    However: by the inexorable logistics of the vampiric parosis

    Avoid all ****-ups.
    You all know the type.
    Anything they have anything to do with no matter how good it sounds turns into a disaster area.

    Do not offer sympathy to the mentally ill.
    Tell them firmly:


    Now, you may encounter the devil's bargain if you get that far. Any old soul is worth saving, at least to a priest, but not every soul is worth buying--so you can take the offer as a compliment.
    They try the easy marks first--you know, like money (all the money there is)
    but who wants to be the richest guy in some cemetery?
    Money won't buy it.
    Not much left to spend it on, eh Gramps?
    --Getting too old to cut the mustard--

    Well, "time hits the hardest blows" (especially below the belt).
    How does a young body grab ya?
    Like three card monty or the pea under the shell
    ((now you see it, now you don't))
    haven't you forgotten something, Gramps?
    In order to feel something you have to be there...
    You have to be eighteen...
    You're not eighteen...
    You are seventy-eight.

    Old fool sold his soul for a strap-on.

    Aw, they always try the easy ones first.
    How about an "honorable bargain"?

    "You always wanted to be a doctor, well, now's your chance."

    "You could become a great healer and benefit humanity."

    What's wrong with that?

    Just About Everything.

    There are no honorable bargains involving qualitative merchandise, like souls, for quantitative merchandise like time or money.

    So...piss off, Satan, and don't take me for dumber than I look.

    As an old junk pusher told me:

    "Watch whose money you pick up."

  3. #3
    That is very interesting but I don't buy the "you made me" anything. I was taken from my real mother, Jewess, horribly abused by a man and woman who raised me. I spent quantities of time in hospital recovering. They used abusive and seductive speech day and night, told me I was worth nothing, terrorized me every day of their lives. Books of literature and poetry to them were for holding doors open or spreading pages fromthem on the bottom of bird cages. The drunken friends they had over caused me horror since I knew that at some point one of them would make their way into my bedroom so I had to hide.
    I never once thought that any attitude I had was because of them. I had my own mind, my own thoughts, my own secret garden of ideas. I found things to love about them, not by force, by choice, because I saw they too had lived thru things that harm and mold in wierd shapes.
    I loved literature and music, I was in the dance. I actually loved life and people and although I was frightened each day to go into the house I was glad I had one and a room to call my own and I appreciated that they taught me a good work ethic and to not sit around lazily whining for what I didn't have but to roll up my sleeves and make for myself what I needed.
    So in my heart I think that person is very wrong. He can do as he pleases now. It is true the damage done to us in some ways hinders us physically and emotionally for life. But everyone who has ever lived, even in the most liberal of homes has been wounded just by being alive. We get up, pick up the pieces and try at least to make something beautiful. Because of my being a battered child I saw a whole world of them and determined to make a difference in the lives of as many as I could. I do not regret it and my life is full of the smiles of little children. I don't think that is half bad.

  4. #4
    in angulo cum libro Petrarch's Love's Avatar
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    Rachel--What a very strong and beautiful spirit you have, to have worked through the difficult things in your life and to make it an opportunity for helping others. There are not many who face their misfortunes with such a wise and understanding heart, and without becoming bitter. I agree that we are what we make of ourselves and you have made yourself a very fine person indeed. I wish you all possible joy in your present life.

    I think the Garrison Keillor quotes are amusing precisely because he is complaining about things that really don't need to be complained about. We aren't laughing so much at what his parents "did to him" as about the way people will sometimes try to make their parents an excuse for everything that's gone wrong in their lives instead of just going ahead and living. In your case I would imagine that going on with your own life probably really did take a special kind of effort and resiliance, and I admire that.

    "In rime sparse il suono/ di quei sospiri ond' io nudriva 'l core/ in sul mio primo giovenile errore"~ Francesco Petrarca
    "Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can."~ Jane Austen

  5. #5
    unidentified hit record blp's Avatar
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    Rachel, I think what you say is very interesting. Your relating of what sounds an extraordinary childhood is a story. Unnamable's Garrison Keillor post is also a kind of story. Both are therefore in the realms of literature. Almost all of literature is about human relationships and often that involves one human manipulating another through physical force or language. It may be that part of the value of literature is in allowing us space to discuss these methods of manipulation so that we are less susceptible to them.

    That said, the Keillor stuff I think has its tongue in its cheek to some extent.

  6. #6
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    I think this brings up the good old 'nature vs nurture' debate. Even though the sentiments expressed in The Unnamable's post are mainly tongue-in-cheek, there is some truth in it too. It is true that our personalities might shape our reactions to outside influences but aren't our personalities shaped by those outside influences as well?

    In Rachel's case (only because she gave herself as an example), isn't it true that due to the unlucky events of her childhood, she has turned out to be the person she is today? If she had had an easier childhood, would she still have chosen the same paths in her life and, say, would have been working with 'street people' (does this mean 'homeless' by the way? It is a term used very often by you, Rachel, dear, and I find it a little... awkward)?

    I was admitted to school 1.5 years earlier than the norm of the time (because I could already read/write) and throughout my school life, I was the odd one out: 'the little one'. And I can very easily say that owing to that fact only I studied harder; I became more determined than my friends because I desperately wanted to make up for my 'littleness' by becoming 'clever'; compansating for it in that way. Who knows? Maybe I wouldn't have gone to university or made very different choice if I had gone to school at a regular age.

    I think we owe a lot to our environment - both during our childhoods and our adult lives and the person we become is heavy influenced by the kind of nurturing we receive as well as our natures.
    Last edited by Scheherazade; 02-10-2006 at 12:28 AM.
    "It is not that I am mad; it is only that my head is different from yours.”

  7. #7
    Serious business Taliesin's Avatar
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    Rachel - we are really impressed with you. It must take a lot of character to grow out from such situation.
    Our literature teaher told us about Chekhov. She said that he tried to grow himself out from the legacy of his father for all of his life. His father had been a merchant and had a merchant's way of thinking in a negative way- cheating, cruel, hardfisted and greedy. He wanted to be free from the mentality of a slave , from being the underdog, the servant. She said that when Chekhovs father died, the family could breathe lighter.
    We haven't read any of Chekhov's works so we cannot comment it on the basis of his creation, we are afraid.
    If you believe even a half of this post, you are severely mistaken.

  8. #8
    Sorry, I suppose I should have included more background. I don’t actually like the Keillor book apart from the ‘95 Theses 95’ part (they are included as a footnote). I don’t take it as a genuine complaint from a ‘real’ person, merely a series of comments that reveal outlooks and attitudes that make me smile as I wince or wince as I smile. The expression itself is a large part of the attraction. My favourite is “Everything you said went in one ear and right down my spine.” I’m sure we’ve all met people like that - they sound similar to the bit from Burroughs that blp posted – “If, after having been exposed to someone's presence, you feel as though you've lost a quart of plasma avoid that presence.
    You need it like you need pernicious anemia.”

  9. #9
    Has Garrison Keillor’s thread seen the lock of day yet?
    Just "joking" as you Englishers say.

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