After the lesson on Whitelady (lose sensation, he kept thinking, and I become a fictional character) Enderby walked with care, aware of a sensation of lightness in his left breast as though his heart (not the real one, the one of non-clinical traditional lore) had been removed. So sensation could lie, so whither did that lead you? His feet led him through a halfhearted student demonstration against or for the dismissal of somebody, a brave girl stripping in protest, giving blue breasts to the February post-meridian chill, to the long low building which was the English Department. Outside the office he shared with Assistant Professor Zeitgeist or some such name, there were black girl students evidently waiting for Professor Zeitgeist and beguiling their wait with loud manic music on a transistor radio. Enderby mildly said:
"Do switch that thing off, please. I have some work to do."
"Well, you goan work someplace else, man."
"This is, after all, my office," Enderby smiled, feeling palpitations drumming up. "This is, after all, the English Department of a University." And then: "Shut that bloody thing off."
"You goan fuck yoself, man."
"You ain't nuttin but shiiit, man."
Abdication. What did one do now-slap the black bitches? Remember the long servitude of their people and bow humbly? One of them was doing a little rutting on-the-spot dance to the noise. Enderby slapped the black bitch on the puss. No, he did not. He durst not. It would be on the front pages tomorrow. There would be a row in the United Nations. He would be knifed by the men they slept with. He said, smiling, rage boiling up to inner excoriation: "Abdication of authority. Is that expression in your primer of Black English?"
"Pip pip old boy," said the non-jigging one with very fair mock-British intonation. "And all that sort of rot, man."
"You go fuck yo own ass, man. You ain't nuttin but shiiiiit."
Enderby had another weapon, not much used by him these days. He gathered all available wind and vented it from a square mouth.
The effort nearly killed him. He staggered into his office, saw mail on his desk, took it, and staggered out. The black girls, very ineptly, tried to give, in glee, his noise back to him. But their sense of body rhythm prevailed, turning it to oral tom-tom music. The radio took four seconds off from discoursing garbage of one sort to advertise garbage of another-male voice in terminal orgasm yelling sweet sweet sweet O Pan piercing sweet. Enderby went into the little lounge, empty save for shouting notices and a bearded man who looked knowingly at him. He opened his letters, chiefly injunctions to join things (BIOFEEDBACK BRETHREN GERONTOPHILIACS ANONYMOUS ROCK FOR CHRIST OUR SATAN THE THANATOLOGY MONTHLY), coming at length to a newspaper clipping sent, apparently out of enmity, by his publisher in London. It was from the Daily Window and was one of the regular hardhitting noholdsbarred nononsense manofthepeople responsibilityofagreatnationalorgan addresses to the reader written by a staffman named Belvedere Fellows, whose jowled fierce picture led, like a brave over-age platoon officer, the heavy type of his heading. Enderby read: SINK THE DEUTSCHLAND! Enderby read:
My readers know I am a man that faces facts. My readers know that I will sit through any amount of filthy film rubbish in order to report back fairly and squarely to my readers about the dangers their children face in a medium that increasingly, in the name of the so-called Permissive Society, is giving itself over to nudity, sex, obscenity and pornography.
Well, I went to see The Wreck of the Deutschland and confess that I had to rush to the rails long before the end. I was scuppered. Here all decent standards have finally gone Kaput. Here is the old heave-ho with a vengeance.
But enough has been said already about the appalling scenes of Nazi rape and the blasphemous nudity. We know the culprits: their ears are deafened to the appeals of decency by the crackle of the banknotes they are now so busily counting. There are certain quiet scoundrels whose names do not reach the public eye with the same tawdry glamour. Behind the film image lies the idea, lies the writer, skulking behind cigarette smoke and whisky in his ivory tower.
I say now that they must take their share of the blame. I have not read the book which the film is based on, nor would I want to. I noted grimly however that there were no copies the other day in my local library. My readers will be horrified however to learn that he is a Roman Catholic priest. This is what the liberalism of that great and good man Pope John has been perverted into.
I call now, equivocally and pragmatically, for a closer eye to be kept on the filth that increasingly these days masquerades as literature and even as poetry. The vocation of poet has traditionally been permitted to excuse too much-the lechery of Dylan Thomas and the drunken bravoing of Brendan Behan as well as the aesthetic perversions of Oscar Wilde. Is the final excuse now to be sought in the so-called priestly vocation? Perhaps Father Enderby of the Society of Jesus would like to reply. I have no doubt he would find an attentive congregation.
Enderby looked up. The bearded man was still looking knowingly at him. He said something. Enderby said: "I beg your pardon?"
"I said: how are things in Jolly Old?"
Enderby could think of absolutely no reply. The two looked at each other fixedly for a long time, and the bearded man's jaw dropped progressively as if he were silently demonstrating an escalier of front vowels. Then Enderby sighed, got up, and went out to seek his Creative Writing class. Like a homer he tapped his way with his swordstick through the dirty cold and student knots to a building named for the inventor of a variety of canned soups, Warhall or somebody. On the second floor, to which he clomb with slow care, he found them, all ten, in a hot room with a long disfigured conference table. The Tietjens girl was there, drowned and sweatered. She had apparently told them everything, for they looked strangely at him. He sat down at the top or bottom of the table and pulled their work out of his inside pocket. He saw that he had given Ms. Tietjens a D, so he ballpointed it into a rather arty A. The rest shall remain as they are. Then he tapped his lower denture with the pen, plastic to plastic: tck tck, tcktck tck, TCK. He looked at his students, a mostly very untidy lot. They looked at him, lounging, smoking, taking afternoon beverages. He said:
"The question of sartorial approach is relevant, I think. When John Keats had difficulty with a poem he would wash and put on a clean shirt. The stiff collar and bow tie and tails of the concertgoer induce a tense attitude appropriate to the hearing of complex music. The British colonial officer would dress for dinner, even in the jungle, to encourage self-discipline. There is no essential virtue in comfort. To be relaxed is good if it is part of a process of systole and diastole. Relaxation comes between phases of tenseness. Art is essentially tense. The trouble with your er art is that it is not tense." They all looked at him, not tense. Many of their names he still refused to take seriously-Chuck Szymanowski, for instance. His sole black man was called Lloyd Utterage, a very reasonable name. This man was very ugly, which was a pity and which Enderby deeply regretted, but he had very beautiful clothes, mostly of hot-coloured blanketing materials, topped with a cannibal-style wire-wool hairshock. He was very tense too, and this too Enderby naturally approved. But he was full of hate, and this was a bore. "I will not," Enderby said, turning to him, "read out all your poem, which may be described as a sort of litany of anatomic vilification. Two stanzas will perhaps suffice." And he read them with detached primness:
"It will be your balls next, whitey,
A loving snipping of the scrotum
With rather rusty nail scissors,
And they tumble out then to be
Crunched underfoot crunch crunch.
It will be your prick next, whitey,
A loving chopping segmentally
With an already bloodstained meat hatchet,
And it will lie with the dog turds
To be squashed squash squash.
"One point," he said. "If the prick is to be chopped in segments it will not resemble a dog turd. The writing of er verse does not excuse you from considerations of er-"
"He says it will lie with the dog turds," Ms. Tietjens said. "He doesn't say it will look like one."
"Yes yes, Sylvia, but-"
"Of course, thinking of Ford. Sorry. But, you see, the word it suggests that it's still a unity, not a number of chopped bits of er penis. Do you see my point?"
"Yeah," Lloyd Utterage said, "but it's not a point worth seeing. The point is the hate."
"The poetry is in the pity," said Enderby. "Wilfred Owen. He was wrong, of course. It was the other way round. As I was saying, a unity and rather resembling a dog turd. So the image is of this er prick indistinguishable from-"
"Like Lloyd said," said a very spotty Jewish boy named Arnold Something, his hair also cannibalistically arranged, "it's the hate that it's about. Poetry is made out of emotions," he pronounced.
"Oh no," Enderby said. "Oh very much no. Oh very very very much no and no again. Poetry is made out of words."
"It's the hate," Lloyd Utterage said. "It's the expression of the black experience."
"Now," Enderby said, "we will try a little experiment. I take it that this term whitey is racialist and full of opprobrium and so on. Suppose now we substitute for it the word er nigger-" There was a general gasp of disbelief. "I mean, if, as you said, the point is the hate, then the hate can best be expressed-and, indeed, in poetry must be expressed-as an emotion available to the generality of mankind. So instead of either whitey or nigger you could have, er, bohunk or, say, kike. But kike probably wouldn't do-"
"You're telling me it wouldn't do," Chuck Szymanowski said.
"-Since the end words are disyllabic or er yes trisyllabic but never monosyllabic. A matter of structure," Enderby said. "So listen. It will be your balls next, nigger, etc. etc. It will be your prick next, nigger, and so on. Now it is the structure that interests me. It's not, of course, a very subtle or interesting structure, as er Lloyd here would be the first to admit, but it is the structure that has the vitality, not all this nonsense about hate and so on. I mean, imagine a period when this kind of race-hate stupidity is all over, and yet the poem-perennius aere, you know-still by some accident survives. Well, it would be taken as a somewhat primitive but still quite engaging essay in vilification in terms of an anatomical catalogue, the structure objectifying and, as it were, cooling the hate. Comic too on the personal level-It will be your balls next, er Crassus or say Lycidas. Rather Catullan. You see." He smiled at them. Now they were really learning something.
"You think," Lloyd Utterage panted, "you're going to get away with that, man?"
"Away with what?" Enderby asked in honest and rather hurt surprise.
"Look," Ms. Tietjens said kindly, "he's British. He doesn't understand the ethnic agony."
"That's rather a good phrase," Enderby said. "It doesn't mean anything, of course. Like saying potato agony. Oh I don't know, though. The meanings of imaginative language are not the same as those of the defilers of language. Your President, for instance. The black leaders. Lesbian power, if such a thing exists-"
"He understands it," said Lloyd Utterage. "His people started it. Nigger-whippers despite their haw-haw-haw old top."
"Now that's interesting," Enderby said. "You see how the whipping image immediately begat in your imagination the image of a top? You have the makings of a word man. You'll be a poet someday when you've got over all this nonsense." Then he began to repeat nigger-whipper swiftly and quietly like a tongue-twister. "Prosodic analysis," he said. "Do any of you know anything about that? A British linguistic movement, I believe, so it may not have er gotten to you. Nigger and whipper, you see, have two vowels in common. Now note the opposition of the consonants-a rich nasal against a voiceless semivowel, a voiced stop against a voiceless. Suppose you tried nigger-killer. Not so effective. Why not? The g doesn't oppose well to the l. They're both voiced, you see, and so-"
"Maaaaaan," drawled Lloyd Utterage, leaning back in simulated ease, smiling crocodilewise. "You play your little games with yourself. All this shit about words. Closing your eyes to what's going on in the big big world."
Enderby got angry. "Don't call me maaaaaan," he said. "I've got a bloody name and I've got a bloody handle to it. And don't hand me any of that shit, to use your own term, about the importance of cutting the white man's balls off. All that's going to save your immortal soul, maaaaaan, if you have one, is words. Words words words, you bastard," he crescendoed, perhaps going too far.
"I don't think you should have said that," said a mousy girl called Ms. Crooker or Kruger. "Bastard, I mean."
"Does he have the monopoly of abuse?" Enderby asked in heat. "It's he who's doing the playing about, anyway, with his bloody castration fantasies. He wouldn't have the guts to cut the balls off a pig. Or he might have. If it were a very little pig and ten big fellow melanoids held it down for him. I say," he then said, "that's good. Fellow melanoids."
"I'm getting out of here," Lloyd Utterage said, rising.
"Oh no you're not," Enderby cried. "You're going to stay and suffer just like I am. Bloody cowardice."
"There's no engagement," Lloyd Utterage said. "There's no common area of understanding." But he sat down again.
"Oh yes there is," Enderby said. "I understand that you want to cut a white man's genital apparatus off. Well, come and try. But you'll get this sword in your black guts first." And he drew an inch or so of steel.
"You shouldn't have said black guts," Ms. Flugel or Crookback said. It was as though she were Enderby's guide to polite New York usage.
"Well," Enderby said, "they are black. Is he going to deny that now?"
"I never denied anything, man."
Suddenly the cannibal-haired kike or Jew, Arnold Something, began to laugh in a very high pitch. This started some of the others off: a bespectacled big sloppy student with a sloppy Viking moustache, for instance, began to neigh. Lloyd Utterage sulked, as did Enderby. But then Enderby, trying, which was after all his job here, to be helpful, said, "Greek hystera, meaning the womb. This shows, and this might possibly bring er here, our friend I mean, and myself into a common area of understanding, that etymology can get in the way of scientific progress, since Sigmund Freud's opponents in Vienna used etymology to confute his contention that hysteria, as now and here to be witnessed, could be found in the male as well as the female." Little of this could be heard over the noise. At length it subsided, and the sloppy Viking whose name was, Enderby thought and would now check from the papers before him and yes indeed it was, Sig Hamsun, said:
"And now how's about looking at my crap." That very nearly made the cannibal Jew Arnold begin again, but he was rebuked ironically by Lloyd Utterage, who said: "This is serious, man, yeah serious, didn't you know it was serious, yeah serious, as you very well know."
Hamsun's crap, Enderby now saw again, looking through it, was in no way sternly Nordic. To match its excretor it was rather sloppy and fungoid. Enderby recited it grimly however:
"And as the Manhattan dawn came up
Over the skyline we still lay
In each other's arms. Then you
Came awake and the Manhattan dawn
Was binocularly presented in your
Blue eyes and in your pink nipples
"What does that word mean?" a Ms. Hermsprong asked. "Mono something."
"It means," Enderby said, "that he had only one mouth."
"Well, we all know he only has one mouth. Like everybody else."
"Yes," Enderby said, "but she had two nipples, you see. The point is, I think, that he would have liked to have two mouths, you see. One for each nipple."
"No," Hamsun said. "One mouth was enough." He leered.
"Permit me," Enderby said coldly, "to tell you what your poem means. Such as it is."
"I wrote it, right?"
"You could just about say that, I suppose. It means fundamentally-which means this is the irreducible minimum of meaning-play between unitary and binary, that is to say: 1 dawn, 2 eyes, 2 nipples, 1 mouth. There's also colour play, of course-pink dawn in blue sky, two pink dawns in two blue eyes, two pink nipples, one pink mouth (also two pink lips), one blue heaven in pink nipples and pink mouth. You see? Well then, now we come to the autobiographical element or, if you like, the personal content. It's a childhood reminiscence. The woman in it is your mother. You're greedy for her breasts, you want two mouths. Why should there be two of everything else-even the manifestly single city and single dawn-and only one sucking mouth? There." He sat back in post-exegetical triumph that the twin simmering murder in Lloyd Utterage's eyes did something to qualify. Ms. Tietjens said, in counter-triumph:
"If you want to know the truth, it was me."
"You mean you wrote it? You mean he stole it? You mean-"
"I mean I'm the woman in the poem, complete with two nipples. As you can vouch for."
"Look," Enderby said.
"He wrote it about me."
"What I mean is that I didn't bloody well ask to see them. Here, by the way, is your poem back. With an A on it. And a lousy poem it is, if I may say so. Coming into my apartment," he told the class, "and stripping off. Something to do with Jesus Christ being a woman. And you," he accused, "pretending to be lesbian."
"I never said I was that. You make too many false assumptions."
"Look," Enderby said in great weariness and with crackling energy. "All of you. A poem isn't important because of the biographical truth of the content."
"Look," countersaid the sloppy Nordic, "it was one way of keeping her there, can't you see that? She's there in that fucking poem forever. Complete with pink nipples."
"I'm not a thing to be kept," Ms. Tietjens said hotly. "Can't you see that attitude makes some of us go the way we do?"
"The point is," Enderby said, "that there are certain terrible urgencies." Lloyd Utterage guffaw-sneered in a way that Enderby could only think of as niggerish. It was in the act of the formulation of the term that he realised with great exactitude the impossibility of his position. There was no communication; he was too old-fashioned; he had always been too old-fashioned. "The urgencies are not political or racial or social. They're, so to speak, semantic. Only the poetical enquiry can discover what language really is. And all you're doing is letting yourselves be ensnared into the irrelevancies of the slogan on the one hand and sanctified sensation on the other." So. Identity? Unimportant. Sensation? Unimportant. What the hell was left? "The urgent task is the task of conservation. To hold the complex totality of linguistic meaning within a shape you can isolate from the dirty world."
"The complex what?" Ms. Hermsprong asked. The rest of them looked at him as if he were, which he probably was, mad.
"Never mind," Enderby said. "You can't fight. You'll never prevail against the big bastards of computerised organisations that are kindly letting you enjoy the illusion of freedom. The people who write poems, even bad ones, are not the people who are going to rule. Sooner or later you're all going to go to jail. You have to learn to be alone-no sex, not even any books. All you'll have is language, the great conserver, and poetry, the great isolate shaper. Stock your minds with language, for Christ's sake. Learn how to write what's memorable. No, not write-compose in your head. The time will come when you won't even be allowed a stub of pencil and the back of an envelope." He paused, looking down. He looked up at their pity and wonder and the black man's hatred. "Try," he said lamely, "heroic couplets."
The cannibal Arnold said: "How long will you be staying?"
Enderby grinned citrously. "Not much longer, I suppose. I'm not doing any good, am I?" Nobody said anything. Hamsun did a slow and not ungraceful shrug. Chuck Szymanowski said:
"You're defeatist. You're anti-life. You're not helping any. The time will come later for all this artsy-shmartsy crap. But it's not now."
"If it's not now," Enderby said, "it's not ever." He didn't trouble to get angry at the designation of high and neutral art as crap. "You can't split life into diachronic segments." He would write a letter of resignation when he got back to the apartment. No, he wouldn't even do that. Today was what? Friday the twenty-sixth. There would be a salary cheque for him on Monday. Grab that and go. He was, by God, after all, despite everything, free. Ms. Cooper or Krugman said, kindly it seemed:
"What's your idea of a good pome?"
"Well," Enderby said. "Perhaps this:
"Queen and huntress, chaste and fair,
Now the sun is gone to sleep,
Seated in thy silver chair,
State in wonted manner keep.
Hesperus entreats thy light,
Goddess excellently bright…"
"Jesus," Lloyd Utterage said with awe. "Playing your little games, man." And then, blood mixed somewhere down there in his larynx: "You bastard. You misleading reactionary evil bastard."