20 February 2011

Devaluing the Word

From a Facebook post on a Friend's wall (a degree of digital separation) that I vampirically sucked out to offer here, via this digital medium.

I am in a English/linguistics class right now about slang, and one of our textbooks, written by the professor, is about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It's called Slayer Slang: A Buffy the Vampire Slayer Lexicon. I thought about you and your birthday party one year at Uptown, with the Buffy theme, in class today. I hope you are doing well in New York.


Now, ehem, I was sharing a rant with a friend the other day regarding Border's closing in Dekalb, IL (the Bloomington, IN store closed right before Xmas) and their bankruptcy and this rant was primarily about Reading and to my mind access to reading material. Bookstore closings are not awful, I would argue, if they send us back to libraries, if they send us back to reading as a very critical act in the development of the human soul, both collective and individual. If they send us back to books that are measureless deeps to sound. The commodification of "the Word"* has made the Word cheap. I believe it should be free, but not cheap.

This devaluation is endemic of our urge to consume...pulp fiction writers were paid pennies on the word (still?)...and one can see how easily this affects (infects) our educational institutions.

What do you suppose "Slayer Slang" has to teach us? One of my professors made a very important point that often goes unheeded though it is quite obvious: there is only so much time to read and study--choose your texts wisely.

I'm sure there will be folks who will argue that though Buffy is "entertainment" so was Bleak House and Middlemarch and Clarissa and Shakespeare (though not Moby Dick if sales are indicative). Is this a very serious debate? It's hard for me to see this as anything other than a symptom of the consumption society. Professors are commodities; texts are commodities; degrees are commodities...We are selling empty words, empty ideas (like our food industry, yes?).

Who reads philosophy; who reads history; who reads works of science if not our students? (Professionals in these fields included of course.) Who instructs them in the vast knowledge that is "at the back" of these texts? The texts that speak to us through time via their conversations with other thinkers and writers--texts talking to texts, arguing with texts, will need some explication.

Does the Slayer Lexicon lead us into fields where wisdom is sown?

Sometimes it simply seems as if we are in a hurry to only and always be the "blank slate" culture. Buffy is unique and contains all you need to know. Study it deeply and you will be initiated into the mysteries of the human and the universe. There is no need of further study.


Plus, I can get that on my Kindle.

*I worked at a bookstore in Clayton, MO and one day a man asked for assistance in locating copies of the Qur'an. Taking him to the aisle (no pointing as direction!) I showed him the myriad copies and translations. But it turns out he didn't want to buy one. He wanted to chastise me for selling them. "This is not for sale. This is the word of God. How can you sell this? Who are you to sell the word of God?" I honestly don't remember how I responded--probably via the fail-safe "would you like to speak with a manager?"

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