With This Week's Guest Editor:
French Symbolist Writer and inventor of Pataphysics
Alfred Jarry didn't bottle things up. He expressed himself with abandon, especially in his ludicrous farcical play Ubu Roi, which prefigured the Theatre of The Absurd, with its grotesque and repulsive central character Pere Ubu who becomes the King of Poland. Pataphysics has been defined as "a branch of philosophy or science that examines imaginary phenomena that exist in a world beyond metaphysics; it is the science of imaginary solutions."
- "One can show one's contempt for the cruelty and stupidity of the world by making of one's life a poem of incoherence and absurdity." -
(Oy oy oy! With another schlimazel like this you try to bankrupt us! - Ed.)
Dear Mr Jarry,
I hope you can help or advise me. I am a person of somewhat restricted growth. I was brought up by sadistic monks in a monastery in the Low Countries after being discovered as an abandoned babe in a sack of cauliflowers on the streets of Ghent. The brothers used to mock me and called me the "cauliflower runt". I moved to England in 1979 where I have been able to survive by work in circuses. I made my name as a human cannon ball and also survived by mucking out the beasts as they seemed to sense an affinity in me and refused to attack me. However, the current coronavirus lockdown is very difficult for me as the circuses have been stood down and I am stuck in an attic apartment in Lowestoft which was the last place the circus was marooned at.
Can you help? I am close to giving up. I am classed as "shielded" due to my deformed circulation so cannot go out, and the attic smells of herrings and it is so small that, though I can stand, visitors have to stoop painfully or go on all fours. And yet all my furniture and facilities are full-sized. What with that and the stink, nobody every comes.
The worst thing is, I am biologically a female and nobody has ever realised.
And I have run out of Vim.
Goliath the Human Cannon Ball
Alfred Jarry writes: My abode was created when they divided an apartment horizontally. All my guests were forced to crouch, whereas I stood erect, lord of my domain. You are a monster. Glory in it. It is conventional to call ''monster'' any blending of dissonant elements. I call ''monster'' every original inexhaustible beauty.
Dear Mr Jarry,
I am a travelling salesman in what used to be called Ladies' Unmentionables. I need hardly mention what these are. I live alone, and always have, and have found the travellling life to be both balm and bane. To keep moving does keep my mind from dwelling on my loneliness, but at the same time, it's not a life conducive to meeting the right girl. I say "girl", but I fear that the time for "girls" has been lost to the turning of the empty years.
However, despite all this, I did meet a lady who owned a Guest House that I began to frequent near Peterborough. She was a widow and seemed to share my interests in crosswords and John Betjeman. There was one evening of watching Question Time and more than one pot of Ceylon tea that I shall not forget.
I am not classified as being "essential" in these times, and so I have had to stop travelling and become "locked down". Hence I have not seen this lady these past weeks.
I have long agonised over whether to write to her, or even to take up the cudgels and telephone, as I do have the contact details. But I am bereft of ideas as to a pretext, or what to say as an opening.
I have never been adept at breaking the ice. Women are something of a closed shop to me. Once at school I became fond of a girl who I felt was looking at me. Indeed, she was looking at me. She stared at me. For weeks I hesitated, I imagined our conversations, discussing works of Betjeman under the trees as the sunlight dappled and danced. Then one day I spoke to her. "Hi", I said. "My name's Peter." She looked at me in that way of hers; for an unspeakable moment my heart leapt. "Your face is weird, you look like a seagull", she said. "If you don't stop gawking at me I'll get my boyfriend to smack you one."
Should I forget all this and contact Alice at the Guest House near Peterborough? I could not help noticing that Alice's kitchen was well-stocked with Vim.
152 Effigy Gardens
Alfred Jarry writes: That's a beautiful speech, but nobody's listening. I wore tight bicycle shorts, a silver skeleton tie-pin, and women's heels. I mounted my bicycle and rode, my shaggy hair streaming like a mare's tail. I fished and fenced, it was beautiful like literature. Let's go.
Dear My Jarry,
this lockdown is driving us mad. We are stuck in a flat here and the neighbours upstairs are Rastafarians and they make an awful row every night playing loud dub reggae. We know they are getting marijuana every day and it sounds like they've got goats and chickens up there too. The landlord lives under us but he won't do anything. Him and his wife are into BDSM and we know they are at it most nights. You can hear her screaming as he whips her and does all kinds of perverted things to her. We'll never forget the night we moved in and they invited us round for a drink. After a while, they went out to get more drinks. We were just thinking how nice they were, when they came back dressed in black PVC outfits. He was leading her by a chain and she was gagged and blindfolded and crawling along the floor. "You can use this bitch any way you want", he said. We didn't know which way to look.
Have you any advice as to where we stand? What can we do?
PS. Also, our Vim supply is dwindling and we can hardly ask any of these people as they are not exactly "Vim types"!
Alfred Jarry writes: The exaggerating mirror of the other self, which has never before been seen completely, is made of eternal human imbecility, eternal lust, eternal gluttony, the vileness of instinct magnified into tyranny; of the sense of decency, the virtues, the patriotism and the ideals peculiar to those who have just eaten their fill. The virtue of dress rehearsals is that they are a free show for a select group of artists and friends of the author, and where, for one unique evening, the audience is almost completely expurgated of idiots.
Dear Mr Jarry
time hangs heavy on me at this time of locking down and social distancing. I fear that I might go mad. One day merges into another and the terrible night gives way only to another endless day like a desert in which I wander like a thirst-crazed lost soul.
Have you any advice on how to cope? I watched Donald Trump the other day, and he was no help. He was talking about disinfectant. That's no use to me. I'm right out of Vim.
PS. Help me. I've even taken to reciting the name of the village in the night to stem the visions of slaughtered Etruscan milk maids being eaten by wild boar.
Alfred Jarry writes: It is fine to live two different moments of time as one: that alone allows one to live authentically a single moment of eternity, indeed all eternity since it has no moments. When that fails, I find that absinthe helps. And opium, lots of opium. Have you tried ether? Nobody will recommend it but, for me, that was always the highest recommendation. Alcohol is always easy to get. Of course, I died at the age of 34, but such is the price we pay, who refuse the chains.
President of the United States of America DONALD TRUMP.
(Please note that Mr Trump will not be able to send personal replies to all your letters. He is very busy at present talking gibberish about using disinfectant as a treatment for coronavirus.)
The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.
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