Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Blank-Blanketed Ghost For What Yales You

Money, like power, flows here and there according to the dictates of a very peculiar mix of educational and social philosophies, poltical events, community mood, student pressures, and institutional opportunism.

--John Hersey, Yale alumnus, from LETTER TO THE ALUMNI (1970).

An apologia? No, my friends, we at the Yale University Press’ human resources hadjit-prop arm of literary succinctness have, in our new editions, excavated and bulldozed discursive swatches from not only the infamous cartooneries of Mohammed, but as well the weedy superfluities of Whitman’s benchmark, the profusion of blackbirds from Wallace Stevens’ “Thirteen Ways” (now “Seven Non-Ambiguities”), and the peripatetic shenanigans of Great Expectations to a more modest, sober, and proportional Middling Fancies makeover, to name just a few cold-fusible skeleton essentialities. No more the clause-clotted Faulknerian stylized raconteur run-off. Iconography is not necessary when the Yale’s “In A Station Of The Metro”-like epiphanies supersede mug-shot impressionism. A word is worth a thousand pictures.

We don’t like to tip our dry hands, but suffice it to say that those fussy journalistic quibbles of nuance, bias, and personal stake are evaporated, the emptied lakes now puddles where drydocked boats are poised and rockerless. Effusions are for the day before the honeymoon. What’s left (no pun), in Jytte Klausen’s The Cartoons That Shook The World, out-constricts Coles notes. And drawings are for kids’ colouring books -- entertaining, yes, but a faulty diversion when considering the important issues of the day, even if those issues are engendered by drawings. But you won’t find our fearless editors hair-splitting over solipsistic infinitives. Unanimous, we march over those anachronistic nullities of “values”, “context”, “priority”, and (especially) “courage”.

We mentioned “bias” in the previous paragraph, and we’d like to expand on that thought. So much of our journalistic hot house procedure is predicated on pre-conceived -- let’s cut through the cheese, right to the chase -- rather, furiously entrenched political positioning. The Yale line of books-in-a-matchbox circumvents with finality this specious filibustering. The skinny stake of terse banality -- er, appropriateness -- is driven into the back-and-forth carnality of needless exposition and ornate detail. Yale-For-Mummies prides itself on the direct approach, a fresh alternative to those legions -- (OK, two or three broadsheets) -- of journals, newspapers, and scholarly frontline publications which depicted a bomb in a turban and a star over an eye. Not a year went by, seemingly, without one more redundant Jyllands-Posten-ism splashed across a backwater mimeographed sheet with a circulation of four.

Censorship? Ha. Simple editing for clarity and a sharp, new angle. Of course, when we say “angle”, we don’t mean egotistical subjective spin, but balanced, concise analysis. Just because Gustave Dore can amaze readers and viewers of Dante’s miracle with pictorial buttressing doesn’t mean we, the collective readership, have to submit to that wordless purgatorial dimension. Some wars end abruptly. And our goal is to put a stop to the war of words by turning every doodle frame into a lame white blank, every prolix Rasta-cut into a terse Telly Savalas-like caption in a billiard-ball bubble. War And Peace has been slashed-and-burned to the length of a TV commentary during a live putt by Tiger Woods. And the better for it.

It’s not simply that our lives are less accommodating to real-time debt-countered paginated tomes. Clarity comes from brevity. And pithiness comes from the cauterized flab. Objectivity reigns. For when arguments, facts, nettlesome discussion once rolls across the parchment freeway, we lose focus, and crash against the two-way divider. In these information-saturated times, readers just want the cutting overview deflowered in a curt, expressionless utilitarianism. Just the fact, ma’am (say our students), and I can get back to the higher twin pursuits of careerism and ass-kissing. Well, our united posteriors may be polished like genetically-modified apples, but we know our market. And with that, we three or thirty marketeers stab the playlists with what we hope to be final edits of the canon.

Michel Houellebecq’s sex tourism sprawl has been trimmed, declawed, sandblasted, sauna hotboxed, cored, sliced, spliced, and put on a grapefruit diet to reduce its bulk from a windy Platform to a single, polished tile. Postcards are read; fairy queens wait centuries for a lone, confused suitor. Terrorism, graphic sex, misanthropy: these may be realities in the over-febrile imaginations of certain authors and readers, but so too is a redundant maxim for those to whom cledonism instructs a vapid smile.

Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho may only contain several pages of horrific violence (these, of course, have been excised), but the no less shocking soak of troubling contemporary cultural references to eighties’ music and hair products dominate the text, and these have been chainsawed to a prose tanka. Inflammation protects a cut and helps the skin to heal, though in literature it can flourish into a garrisoned impetigo, reactionary scabs lobbing extraneous and hoary arguments to-and-fro. “Artistic necessity” is just another phrase for “nothing left to do”. After consulting with the U.N.’s highest ranking Muslim, Ibrahim Gambari, that title page won’t be Pandora’d to.

Finally, we’re releasing a much needed single-page quarto of Shakespeare’s King Lear. The intrigue and brutality may excite audiences, and unfortunately the poetry is intertwined -- in fact, inseparable -- with the intensity. You know, by now, which side of the street we walk on to get to the bank. Therefore, only the crucial stage directions remain. There’ll always be another poet around to turn a colourful phrase. But after talking with council chair on Middle East studies at Yale, Marcia Inhorn, it’s our firm conviction that we, all of us, must do our part in ensuring that we have no blood in our palms, only sleeping pills.

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