Rachel the cultural anthropologist and I met for coffee the other day to celebrate her new tenure-track position at a university in Minnesota. "So that paper your little scribblings appear in - what"s it called? The Nauvoo?" she asked, pursing her legendarily pouty lips.
"No, silly, NUVO," I replied. "Why?"
"Oh, I"ve noticed that the word f*** has made a comeback in that paper. Every time I open it, it"s f*** f*** f***! F*** this! F*** that! In noticing this, the obvious question formed in my mind: Why doesn"t J., who uses the word f*** all day long in his speech, use f*** in his column? What a perfect combination - J. Williams and f***! It makes no sense that you don"t use it in the Diary."
"Well, my dear Rachel, paradigm of beauty and oracle of wisdom that you are, my philosophy, insofar as I may call it that, is simply that my writing is so, um, otherly that I do not need to use the F-word to shock my reader"s brains into alternative modes of thought. My little 300 word vignettes, which you sometimes humorously refer to as anemic philosophical pastiches, are so powerful - they are allusive, allegorical and world-historical in scope, and are, indeed, such triumphs of utter trope-osity - that I have no need to use the F-word," I said, biting into my espresso shortbread.
"Perhaps your avoidance of f*** is indicative of a deep-rooted aversion to truly radical thought and action," Rachel said. "What could be more radical than throwing a few f***s in here and there, like little eye-explosives? I mean, there"s the NUVO in-crowd, the ones who use f*** - my personal hero Michael Atwood, and Ed Johnson-Ott - and then there"s you, a fuddy-duddy, a true f***ing stick-in-the-mud. Shame on you, you Ashcroft of language!"
"Maybe you"re right," I said half-heartedly, staring at a bald guy next to us, his head shiny like a Victorian gazing-ball.
Rocky the cat, looking sporty in his V-neck T-shirt and plus-fours, then approached our table, his lovely Latina ladyfriend Evangelina by his side. "Well look who it is - the self-proclaimed "Casanova of the near-Eastside,"" I said, chortling loudly.
"Fuck you, loser," Rocky replied, and walked away.