The Broom of the System 7.7分
读书笔记 9 1990 /c/
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“... that, to repeat what I heard for years and years and suspect you’ve been hearing over and over, yourself, something’s meaning is nothing more or less than its function. Et cetera et cetera et cetera. Has she done the thing with the broom with you? No? What does she use now? No. What she did with me—I must have been eight, or twelve, who remembers—was to sit me down in the kitchen and take a straw broom and start furiously sweeping the floor, and she asked me which part of the broom was more elemental, more fundamental, in my opinion, the bristles or the handle. The bristles or the handle. And I hemmed and hawed, and she swept more and more violently, and I got nervous, and finally when I said I supposed the bristles, because you could after a fashion sweep without the handle, by just holding on to the bristles, but couldn’t sweep with just the handle, she tackled me, and knocked me out of my chair, and yelled into my ear something like, ‘Aha, that’s because you want to sweep with the broom, isn’t it? It’s because of what you want the broom for, isn’t it?’ Et cetera. And that if what we wanted a broom for was to break windows, then the handle was clearly the fundamental essence of the broom, and she illustrated with the kitchen window, and a crowd of domestics gathered; but that if we wanted the broom to sweep with, see for example the broken glass, sweep sweep, the bristles were the thing’s essence. No? What now, then? With pencils? No matter. Meaning as fundamentalness. Fundamentalness as use. Meaning as use. Meaning as use. Excuse me? You’re asking me why? Lenore, please. What do you talk about all the time, then, ‘why’? She feels useless. She feels, felt, as if she had no function, over there, in the nursing home. Wait, I’ll get to that. Uselessness is the key, here. Well now Lenore of course she had to be there, nursing care, ninety-eight point six, and she wasn’t happy in the house, which she said if you remember dripped with memories of lost capacity. No, there was no choice, and we did buy the Shaker Heights facility, even though it was a poor investment. If that’s not love, what is? But for someone who feels that meaning is use then to feel that she has no use, well then. She told me she was unhappy. She came to me and told me that. Didn’t tell you all this? I find that passing strange. Recall appropriately now when I refer to my own mother’s section, for those with Alzheimer’s. This bothered Gramma Lenore deeply. How Bloomfield noticed that the patients there couldn’t remember the names for things, televisions, water, doors ... and so under Gramma Lenore’s influence he had them identified with their function? With the gilt letters, the little use-vocabulary handbook, with Lawrence Welk on the cover? So the door is ‘What we go from room to room though’? Water is ‘What we drink, without color’? Television is ‘What we watch Lawrence Welk on’—Lawrence Welk being primitive, undefined, even in syndication, no problem with Lawrence Welk. How my mother and all the rest came after a fashion to relearn the words they needed, via function, via what the things named were good for? And then Gramma Lenore noticing that the one component of the facility this method couldn’t be applied to was the patients themselves, because they had no function, no use, weren’t good for anything really at all? No? She told me this drove her up the wall. They had no use at all. What? No, the derivative comes from the pineals of cattle. We use cattle pineals. Rather we would if we could. Now, just wait, please. So Gramma Lenore perceived loss of identity without function. She wanted to be useful, she said to me. As did Gretchen Yingst, of course, and that Mr. Etvos, the whole pseudo-Wittgensteinian mafia over there. Mrs. Yingst had results from her late husband’s projects—the really interesting ones, by the way, done on his own, not for his company. Consolidated Gland Derivatives, in Akron? Now C.E.O.’d by Dick Lipp, best serve on the corporate tennis circuit? On his own, though. Took much of it to his grave, apparently, but left some pineal results written down ... on Batman tablets, the coincidentality of which I don’t care to comment on, right now, for reasons that you’ll hear in approximately six minutes. Now just wait. There is of course too the fact that pineal-efficacy in nutrition is, it’s turning out, verifiably mostly linguistic, as I mentioned, speech understanding et cetera, the dreary and tiresome importance of which to certain parties I won’t even bother to allude to, but the understandable importance of which to potentially proud and ambitious parents I both understand and rub my hands over, not to mention the importance in all sorts of general scientific areas from which benefits should begin to accrue in no small measure, should things get on track.... So that Gramma Lenore, Mrs. Yingst, and Mr. Etvos agreed to turn over results from Mr. Yingst’s work to me, and I bounced them off Obstat, a pain in the rear but a fine chemist, and Obstat’s eyes bugged out, and away we went. Or rather now away they’ve gone, which is to say they’ve apparently decided to withdraw their support from the project, and to take back the Yingst Batman tablets, which is regrettable though OK, but also to filch all of Obstat’s samples and results and notes, which he in an attempt to be clever was keeping in Batman folders and Batman lunchboxes in the laboratory fridge, and apparently the day before I left for Canada to do some fishing with Bob Gerber Mrs. Yingst and Etvos got in here and got to Obstat, and Etvos amused Obstat with card tricks, which is unfortunately not hard to do, while Mrs. Yingst put the fruits of many many dollars of research into that kangaroo-pouch pocket of her nightie, under her robe, which Obstat helpfully remembers as being pink terry cloth. Obstat, why don’t you just come out. Why don’t you just come on out, Obstat. Why don’t you just come out from behind the curtain. Lenore could see your shoes, anyway, couldn’t you? Come out, Obstat. Obstat is here representing the technical angle on the whole problem. Neil you remember my daughter, Lenore, Neil. Yes. And they’ve made off with the all-important Batman items, which includes the only existing jars of the prototype food mentioned in this Advertising Age, here, and if I ever find out who leaked to that magazine I will kill, kill. Are you listening on the intercom, Foamwhistle? If you’re listening make no sign that you’re doing so. I thought so. And they have it all. And who knows what they’re doing, who really knows what the food can do. Cattle pineal derivative is phenomenally if mysteriously powerful, we’re finding out. Isn’t that right Obstat., And they have seen fit to leave the nursing home, and have others join them, one shudders at the persuasive force probably brought to bear, to leave the nursing home, on who knows what sort of quest for function, or symbolic rejection of their life as they’ve come to understand it, who knows? Worried? Am I worried? What kind of worry? In all honesty not particularly. She’s surrounded by followers, which is of course her favorite sort of situation. Warmth must have been arranged somehow. They could be at anyone’s home, some nursing home janitor.... Yes, we have checked. Still, though. At the house? You thought she might be at the house? You didn’t call Miss Malig to see? I see. I’m seething. Let’s not discuss it. She’s not at the house, rest assured. Frankly I’m more worried, and here I apologize not a whit, frankly I’m more worried about the pineal-derivative situation, the potential embarrassment and revenue-loss of not following through with the product for the market year, especially now that that bastard Gerber is starting his ridiculously expensive attack, with the gymnast, et cetera, I’m sure you’ve heard. Yes, I’d like to go too, actually, but appearances.... You and that Vigorous person go and report. No that will not make you an employee. So who knows where they are, who knows what they’re doing. No. I do not think the police need to be involved. Especially at this point. Police mean press means publicity about missing material means Gerber and Beechnut. No. Look, I rationalize it this way, and invite you to do the same. Their leaving is connected with a project connected with the Company. The Company owns the Home. Therefore their leaving is connected with the ownership of the Home, which makes their leaving almost like a nursing-home field trip. Unless of course they don’t come back with the pineal material pretty soon. Or unless they give it to Gerber, or to Erv Beechnut, the thought of which deeply chills me, especially with Gerber’s being in Cleveland next week, knowing Gramma Lenore’s long antipathy for the Company that’s given her everything she has and enjoys. No, that’s beside the point. Although it really, I hope, doesn’t ultimately matter, because Neil here feels he can reconstruct the relevant research and follow through with the delivered goods, eventually, even without the filched material. Eventually, though, and meanwhile there’s Gerber, drooling over the aforementioned material. But we can do it, and hopefully, barring Obstat’s being wrong which is scarcely possible in such an important regard is it Neil, or lid-and-jar screw-ups which are as of today unthinkable are you listening Foamwhistle, to be ready to run market-tests by Thanksgiving. Test small bits of the potential global market. We’re thinking Corfu. Corfu is what we’re thinking, for the first distribution, right now. Small, isolated, contained. Corfusians breed like hell, infants crawling all over. We hope to be ready to hit Corfu with Stonecipheco Infant Accelerant by November. Care for a Corfu nut, by the way? No? They’re quite good. I got them in Canada, fishing. Eat a nut, Obstat.”
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