As I’m sure you give a shit about, I care little for web 2.0. This site remains uninteractive. Solitary. Reaping and singing by itself. A monad. Dove-like, it sits brooding on the vast abyss. Innovations like comments or trackbacks or replying to emails? Not for me. As such, I haven’t taken to Digg and still mostly get that sort of news from Slashdot.
There’s a specific type of Slashdot poster that nags at my mind. I’m sure they’re all over the web, but I know them best from /.
The type I’m thinking of drone on about building their own computer or getting off-grid energy or buying all their electrical goods via some mad tax-shopping principle and generally admire their own acumen at finding the cheapest and yet most effective solution to every situation. They’d have every right to feel pleased at this, of course, had they done so; but you often suspect that they have in fact arranged painfully complex and time-consuming solutions, and that their pleasure is firstly a simple self-satisfaction in unorthodoxy; and secondly a more sinister delight in explaining that you — that’s you, buddy — are a grade-A sucker for not doing exactly the same.
Oh, and there’s a tone of manly common sense that they use. Brrr.
Anyway, whether you follow me or no, this type has sat at the back of my mind for a while. The spirit gets on my wick; but there was an echo of something, and I couldn’t quite place it. I was walking down the street (Concrete, Walsh, concrete!), that’s to say Jermyn Street, the other day (What did I just say?), by which I mean last Thursday, and it struck me. They’re Flann O’Brien’s bores.
They’re there, in The Best of Myles towards the back, after the stuff on Irish, which is I think where some people get off.
Let us extract.
Have you met — look, this hurts me as much as it hurts you — have you met The Man Who Buys Wholesale? (You’re in for it this time)
You have asked this gargoyle to ‘dinner’ becdause he has put some business your way during the year, and there may be more where that came from. The clown comes into your room, rubbing his deformed, calloused hands, looks round, checks up on fittings, decorations, etc. Walks over to your radio. It is a year old — 1947 should see it paid for. He examines it closely, taps it, disconnects it, turns it upside down, shakes it, breaks one of the leads, leaves it on its side, takes out handkerchief and wipes hands. Infuriated, you manage to say:
‘What do you think of the radio?’
‘Hah? The radio? Aw, yeh. Aw, with a bit of adjustment it’d be a nice job. I’ll get you a nice one. Them nine pound ones wears out in no time…’
By now you are practically rigid with hatred and disgust. This figure of £9 is of course a trap — and you are going to deliberately fall into it. You thoroughly despise yourself. You say
‘But look here — nine pounds! That set is costing me eighty-seven pounds…’
The foul mountebank springs from the chair, comes over, puts both hands on your shoulders:
‘Are you mad, Mac? Are you in your right mind man?’
‘It’s a perfectly good set,’ you stammer, now loathing yourself utterly, ‘it… it… works quite well and eighty-seven pounds is the recognised retail price. I thought you’d know that!’
The claws are now taken off your shoulders. The monster elaborately averts the face and, addressing the far wall, says: Th’unfortunate man must be mad! Makes a show of walking away sadly, suddenly whips round and shouts, showering you with saliva:
‘Are you crackers? Have you taken leave of your wits? I wouldn’t have believed it of you, that’s all I can say. Of course I know it’s the retail price. But shure, man alive, no one is supposed to buy stuff retail! Shure that went out years ago. Now I’ve two sets at home…’
You can also find the following in O’Brien’s collection:
- The Man With The Watch
- The Man With The Blade
- The Man Who Never Gives Pennies to Beggars
- The Man Who Is His Own Lawyer
- The Man Who Does His Own Carpentry and Talks About It
- The Man Who’s Already Had New Potatoes For Three Months
Incidentally, The Slaves of Solitude still isn’t in print. I think it might be the best book ever on bores. I think Hamilton (along with Kingsley Amis) understand something fundamental about bores (the real wear-you-down fuckers; not just people who can be a bit boring); that it’s a power game and there’s an inclination to the totalitarian native to the type.