Sunday, May 1, 2011

   Ballrooms. For Jacob, the BALLROOM is the salle de bal in the château de Fontainebleau, dimly remembered from a day trip during his summer in Paris, when he turned seventeen: the glossy floor stretching away, the sunken octagons in the ceiling, the chandeliers plunging from the great arcades, the tightly clutched copy of the Oeuvres Complètes of Rimbaud purchased at a bookstall on the Seine and carefully cut with his Swiss army knife, the tormenting breasts of a tour guide called Monique. He can still see her coppery braided hair, and the white, loose blouse, suddenly heavy with breasts from a twist of the shoulders. His seventeenth birthday: two years older than David. Jacob is glad to be rid of adolescence; he worries about David, but doesn't know how to protect him. For Marian, the BALLROOM is a nearly forgotten black-and-white movie in which a bride, abandoned by her groom, dances a waltz alone, round and round, one two three one two three, as the members of the hired orchestra exchange nervous glances and continue playing. For David, the BALLROOM is the high school gym, festooned with pink and green crepe paper for the spring dance. He tries to see another, more plausible ballroom, but the images are vague - a British officer with a neat mustache and slicked-back hair gazing across a room at a girl with masses of blond ringlets overflowing with ribbons - and keep turning into the high school gym. For Susan, the BALLROOM remains unimagined: a gray rectangle on a board.

- Steven Millhauser
A Game of Clue

You don't play pinball with just your hands, you play it with the groin too. The pinball problem is not to stop the ball before it's swallowed by the mouth at the bottom, or to kick it back to midfield like a halfback. The problem is to make it stay up where the lighted targets are more numerous and have it bounce from one to another, wandering, confused, delirious, but still a free agent. And you achieve this not by jolting the ball but by transmitting vibrations to the case, the frame, but gently, so the machine won't catch on and say Tilt. You can only do it with the groin, or with a play of the hips that makes the groin not so much bump, as slither, keeping you on this side of an orgasm. And if the hips move according to nature, it's the buttocks that supply the forward thrust, but gracefully, so that when the thrust reaches the pelvic area, it is softened, as in homeopathy, where the more you shake a solution and the more the drug dissolves in the water added gradually, until the drug has almost entirely disappeared, the more medically effective and potent it is. Thus from the groin an infinitesimal pulse is transmitted to the case, and the machine obeys, the ball moves against nature, against inertia, against gravity, against the laws of dynamics, and against the cleverness of its constructor, who wanted it disobedient. The ball is intoxicated with vis movendi, remaining in play for memorable and immemorial lengths of time. But a female groin is required, one that interposes no spongy body between the ileum and the machine, and there must be no erectile matter in between, only skin, nerves, padded bone sheathed in a pair of jeans, and a sublimated erotic fury, a sly frigidity, a disinterested adaptability to the partner's response, a taste for arousing desire without suffering the excess of one's own: the Amazon must drive the pinball crazy and savor the thought that she will then abandon it.

- Umberto Eco
Foucault's Pendulum
    'I read,' I say. 'I study and read. I bet I've read everything you've read. Don't think I haven't. I consume libraries. I wear out spines and ROM-drives. I do things like get in a taxi and say, "The library, and step on it." My instincts concerning syntax and mechanics are better than your own, I can tell, with due respect.

- David Foster Wallace
Infinite Jest