31 March 2008

Sallow Tribe

I feel like I ought to be brilliant for as much as I have written and thought and read since I came back last summer. But I'm not.

I often feel like the sub-sub librarian (a la Melville). I had all these great ideas about Palestinians, and then I began writing and talking with folks and found that others have come up with these very ideas. Not about Palestinians necessarily, but about others. OK, then, back up; I need to cite this idea and this idea and even this other one. I'm left with very little. But, damn. I thought of this on my own.

Let us meditate:
“[It will be seen that this mere painstaking burrower and grub-worm of a poor devil of a Sub-Sub appears to have gone through the long Vaticans and street-stalls of the earth, picking up whatever random allusions to whales he could anyways find in any book whatsoever, sacred or profane. Therefore you must not, in every case at least, take the higgledy-piggledy whale statements, however authentic, in these extracts, for veritable gospel cetology. Far from it. As touching the ancient authors generally, as well as the poets here appearing, these extracts are solely valuable or entertaining, at affording a glancing bird's eye view of what has been promiscuously said, thought, fancied, and sung of Leviathan, by many nations and generations, including our own.
So fare thee well, poor devil of a Sub-Sub, whose commentator I am. Thou belongest to that hopeless, sallow tribe which no wine of this world will ever warm; and for whom even Pale Sherry would be too rosy-strong; but with whom one sometimes loves to sit, and feel poor-devilish, too; and grow convivial upon tears; and say to them bluntly, with full eyes and empty glasses, and in not altogether unpleasant sadness - Give it up, Sub-Subs! For by how much the more pains ye take to please the world, by so much the more shall yet forever go thankless! Would that I could clear out Hampton Court and the Tuileries for ye! But gulp down your tears and hie aloft to the royal-mast with your hearts; for your friends who have gone before are clearing out the seven-storied heavens, and making refugees of long-pampered Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael, against your coming. Here ye strike but splintered hearts together - there, ye shall strike unsplinterable glasses!]”

As always Melville predicts my worldview. In his first chapter in MD Melville pokes fun at the un-named researcher, and nevertheless goes on to provide us with the important information. That's fine. The information is more important than my ego. I'm OK with that. But it means that I have to watch my contribution diminish.

JM asked me, after reading a chapter, who I want to tell this story to, or, who do I want to write to. I answered "Melville". She's so patient with me. She let me explain the "story" behind what this particular chapter should be. "What is the twist you want to give this?" she asked me. I have epiphanies that turn out not to be mine. Then I sit down and write reasonable but not compelling descriptions of how people do something, or think about something. Ugh. But I keep thinking about this dissertation in Melvillilan themes. I keep thinking about all of us, and Urdustenees in particular, as both Fast Fish and Loose Fish too. Meaning: our hearts and minds are somewhat fastened to the projects of the state, and somewhat autonomous. Perhaps, I will suggest, those who have been abandoned by the state are ahead of the curve here. Those with nothing to loose are, as Melville would say, Loose Fish much more than us Fast Fish who are burdened by authority and discipline. There is my twist.

That is, until I find that someone else has written an ethnography about Palestinians based on Melvillian post-modern theory.