22 December 2004

Text that glows, smells yummy, is sensous to the touch...

The Voices of Village Square


O, dear, sweet Harry, with your French gangster-movie bangs, your Ski Shop turtleneck sweater and your Army-Navy Store blue denim shirt over it, with your Bloomsbury corduroy pants you saw in the Manchester Guardian airmail edition and sent away for and you sly intellectual pigeon-toed libido roaming in Greenwich Village – that siren call really for you?


Obviously Harry thinks so. There in the dusk on the south side of Greenwich Avenue, near Nut Heaven which is the intersection of Greenwich Avenue, Sixth Avenue, Eighth Street and Christopher Street, also known as Village Square, Harry stops and looks up at the great umber tower at 10 Greenwich Avenue. He can see windows but he can’t see through them. He gives a shy wave and thereby becomes the eighth man in half an hour to get conned by The Voices.


A Sunday Kind of Love

Love! Attar of libido in the air! It is 8.45 am. Thursday morning in the IRT subway station at 50th Street and Broadway and already two kids are hung up in a kind of herringbone weave of arms and legs, which proves, one has to admit, that love is not confined to Sunday in New York. Still, the odds! All the faces come popping in clots out of the Seventh Avenue local, past the King size Ice Cream Machine, and the turnstiles start whacking away as if the world were breaking on the reefs. Four steps past the turnstiles everybody is already backed up haunch to paunch for the climb up the ramp and the stairs to the surface, a great funnel of flesh, wool, felt, leather, rubber and steaming alumicron, with the blood squeezing through everybody’s old sclerotic arteries in hopped-up spurts from too much coffee and the effort of surfacing from the subway at the rush hour. Yet there on the landing are boy and a girl, both about eighteen, in one of those utter, My Sin, backbreaking embraces.

He envelops her not only with his arms but with his chest, which has the American teen-ager concave shape to it. She has her head cocked at a 90-degree angle and they both have their eyes pressed shut for all they are worth and some incredibly feverish action going with each other’s mouths. All around them, ten, scores, it seems like hundreds, of faces and bodies are perspiring, trooping and bellying up the stairs with arteriosclerotic grimaces past a showcase full of such novel items as Joy Buzzers, Squirting Nickels, Finger Rats, …


These were extracts from Tom Wolfe’s The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby. No, its not fiction, though the tools that he uses are borrowed from fiction. Most of the stuff from this book is his articles published in Esquire and other magazines. The Voices of Village Square is an article on a detention center for women. He starts the story with the girls’ ‘siren calls’ at a passerby. He doesn’t let go of a detail, no way, not one: be it the feel, smell, or sound of the place. He paints word-pictures, and how!

But there’s more to the New Journalism that Wolfe heralded than just being something different. Language can tell, language can mask; it can clarify things or further muddy the pool. We accept any bullshit language thrown at us, and rarely understand what’s happening or why it is being thrown at us. If you care to look, you will find an agenda. The politics of incomprehensibility. More on that to follow soon.

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