When, as a boy living in my redneck part of rural Australia, I’d stuff up some task allocated by my late father, there’d be a reasonable chance of my being labelled “useless”. While I’m quite thoroughly uninterested in one of those “must have made you feel” discussions, what with all the confected reciprocity and bogus empathy that such exchanges entail, there are still things that can be said of the insult in question.
It – “useless” – is intended as an insult, but I’m afraid I can’t receive it as such. I’m quite happy to be useless. Consider the corollary of taking “useless” as an insult; receiving “useful” as a compliment.
To be “useful” is to count yourself a tool among tools. It’s to position yourself alongside instrumental luminaries such as pencils, auto-rewind and Preparation H. It’s not for no reason that “useful”, as applied to people, has negative connotations in politics.
I’d encourage anyone else who’s been called “useless” to give this some consideration. Unwittingly, you’re being paid a compliment akin to “not a Muppet”.
It’d be far better to be considered, in lieu of being “useful”, as “cooperative with qualifications”. At least this way you’d have some of your agency acknowledged in the mix. And I certainly don’t enjoy the prospect that my “usefulness”, should it ever present itself, may one day entail someone else being fucked over – avoiding this would be one of the qualifications for my cooperation.
Admittedly my concerns don’t condense down well to a single adjective, and I’m not in a mood for coining neologisms, so I think I’ll just happily settle for “useless” and let the connotations land where they will.
It strikes me that in going to great lengths to sharpen your wit, you risk something akin to symptoms of obsessive pencil sharpening.
Sure, for a while you’ll be able to deliver sharp jabs, frequently and with consistency. But before too long, you’ll find yourself fumbling with words, struggling to create anything worth serious reading, the heft of your word-smithing atrophied through neglect.
It’s been a colourful few weeks since the quiet start of Rousing Departures. I’m still graduating back into the swing of things, mind you; getting a feel for all the buttons and switches, all while exploring a few new avenues of literary experience.
A good part of the fun has been Embiggen Books’ recent #bookshopsaredead event on Twitter. Essentially a light literary exercise, the gist is to come up with variations on book titles that reflect the changing state of the industry – what with the electronic book taking sales away from flesh, blood and paper booksellers.
‘Schrödinger’s Bookshop by John Gribbin #bookshopsaredead #bookshopsarealive’ was a pet favourite from my own attempts, and Warren’s ‘Do Booksellers Dream of Electric Books by Philip K. Dick’ was particularly apt. Also existentially angst-inducing was Russell Blackford’s apocalyptic ‘The Bookshop At The End of The Universe by Douglas Adams’.
There were of course, a number of other wonderful contributions, no less enjoyable, only I don’t want to repeat myself and I’m running out of the effulgent language I’d need to describe them all. Call me overly sentimental, but I feel from my end as if the experience has been comparable at least to some of what the ‘pussy is bullshit’ episode from Hitch-22 (the one that had Salman Rushdie producing ‘Octobullshit’) had to offer its participants.
Unfortunately for Embiggen, prior, and giving context to this fun, a sewer pipe burst at their new Melbourne location only a few weeks after opening. With a forced temporary closure, the chosen theme is deeply ironic. I hope the black humor has at least been as good for them as it has for the rest of us!
Embiggen Books, demonstrating considerable morale, have taken the product of this spree of words to artfully produce a number of beautiful posters, displaying them across their storefront during the closure. Producing something looking a little like this… (I’m flattered). Continue reading