Thursday, December 18, 2003

Kind of Like a Blog

(In which a simple web link turns into a literary disquisition over the course of several days' tweaking)

I don't often link to the places I visit during the day, as one is supposed to do in a blog... I tend to treat this page as more of a diary, only looking up links in order to further the reader's understanding of what I'm talking about. But lately I've come across something that I absolutely love, and wanted to share it with you:

The Splendidiser

Following links around on Queerday, a practice I of course heartily recommend, I found this little web-bot (I assume this is a web-bot, I am largely ignorant of such things) on the Bright Young Things film website that turns your text into something Evelyn Waugh or P.G. Wodehouse might have written. All you do is click on the Splendidiser link and put your URL into the text window, and suddenly your very own blog sounds like Bertie Wooster at his most frivolous. You can also insert non-URL'ed text into another window of the page and turn your term paper or letter to Grandma into a little bit of Jazz-Age Chelsea.

I applied it to my office's website, and all of a sudden the dry-as-dirt negotiations update I was laboring over all last week was a glittering and facile piece of fabulousness, describing our district as "perfectly horrid" and our contract as "screamingly bogus." My coworkers and I almost died laughing. Shreikworthy, indeed. Of course, I also applied it to this page, and didn't see that much of a difference, being such a modifier-addict myself. But here's a little sample of what the Splendidiser can do to the dryest of texts:


    We the ghastly People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the frightful common defence, promote the bloody general Welfare, and secure the simply splendid Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the frightfully beastly United States of America. How boring!

    Article I. Twaddle! I dare say, twaddle!

    Section 1.

    All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a spiffing Congress of the priceless United States, which shall consist of a simply dandy Senate and House of Representatives. Ugh, how morbid!

    Section, I dare say, 2.

    Clause 1: The spiffing House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the frightfully beastly People of the simply dandy several States, and the spiffing Electors in each State shall have the simply bogus Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most shriekworthy numerous Branch of the simply dashing State Legislature, and I think it's utterly splendid!

    Clause 2: No Person shall be a frightfully horrid Representative who shall not have attained to the simply dashing Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a bloody Citizen of the jolly United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which the horrid little man shall be

    chosen. Rather!

    Clause 3: Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a simply dandy Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. Ugh, how morbid! The frightfully beastly actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the frightfully horrid first Meeting of the Congress of the horrid United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct . My dear child, the Number of representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three, and I think it's utterly splendid!

    Clause 4: When vacancies happen in the divine Representation from any State, the simply too divine Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies, and I think it's utterly splendid!

    Clause 5: The blasted House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the frightfully divine sole Power of Impeachment. Ugh, how uncouth!

Well, anyway, maybe that wasn't the best example, but do go give it a try on your own. Especially if you have a blog yourself, or if you have some dull-as-ditchwater piece of text you'd like to jolly up.

What drew my attention to this article was a mention of my current favorite author, Stephen Fry, whose Making History I just finished reading and enjoying immensely (it posits what might have happened to modern Europe if Hitler had never been born, and was quite interestingly thought-out). Having first encountered Fry in the fabulous BBC Jeeves and Wooster series, which I loved so much that I subsequently read the entire Wodehouse collection over the next few years, and then again in some of my favorite films (Cold Comfort Farm and Wilde are the only ones which come to mind, but I know there are more), he was a natural choice when searching for new authors to consume when he popped up as a Gay/Lesbian selection at Amazon with The Liar (which wasn't terribly gay, though it has gay-ish bits, but I later learned that Fry is gay so perhaps that was enough for the good people at Amazon).

My expectations were not high... I've read other celebrities' novels, and they tend to be amusing but not well-written (Rupert Everett's Hello Darling, Are You Working, which comes immediately to mind, was a clever-clever disaster); but Fry's precariously artful use of language, the subtle but riotous humor, and the fantastic but entirely believable characters set this work apart from the normal run of modern literature, and I was immediately hooked. I've read everything he's written so far (that I know about, anyway), and though Revenge (a modern retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo) was a bit upsetting, and therefore not precisely 'enjoyable,' it was still beautifully written and parts of it absolutely haunt me.

I think the thing I enjoy most about Fry is his use of early 20th century style (รก la the Bright Young Things) alongside a late 20th century sensibility. It is the use of a completely surface-driven, wilfully artificial, and rather baroque system of word-usage and characterisations blended perfectly with the sort of honesty, realism, and diversity in subject-matter and plotlines that one expects from a contemporary story-teller. Where the brilliant and brittle authors of the 'twenties and 'thirties had both governmental and societal censors to contend with, having to pull their punches or overdecorate their meanings as regards sexuality and other "distasteful" physical realities (without which censorship, though, the style would never have been created), Fry's stories are driven by the kind of "no detail too indelicate for print" mentality that informs our current polpular literature.

Waugh would never have been allowed to so much as mention masturbation, Wodehouse would never have been able to describe any scene that took place in a toilet, and even the decadent and outrageous Ronald Firbank could never, ever, under any circumstances, have been able to allow two men or two women to fall in love anywhere between the covers of a published work. It all happened under the cover of that exquisitely constructed language that characterized the style of the time... and it was for that purpose that the style was created — to give the initiated a little wink as to what was really going on in the story without the censors having a clue.

Well, I think I've prattled on about this long enough. I've had a terrible cold for the last few days, right on the heels of that terrible flu and right at the most inconvenient possible moment. But as a result, I have not been able to concentrate on anything for very long, and though I started this post on Thursday and somehow accidentally posted it on Saturday, I have been futzing around with it in fifteen-minute sessions for days. So I am going to wrap it up and move on to other topics and other pastimes.

I hope you're having a perfectly spiffing day!

No comments:

Post a Comment