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tc

In Don Dellio's White Noise, consumer products and their names become vivid and take on a mythical quality, like the names of Greek gods in Keats. Descriptions of people are now redundant, as people consist of only a collection of products, or a centre around which products gravitate. The novel opens with one of the finest paragraphs i've ever come across, slowly evolving in rhythm and assonance:


The station wagons arrived at noon, a long shining line that coursed through the west campus. In single file they eased around the orange I-beam sculpture and moved toward the dormitories. The roofs of the station wagons were loaded down with carefully secured suitcases full of light and heavy clothing; with boxes of blankets, boots and shoes, stationery and books, sheets, pillows, quilts; with rolled-up rugs and sleeping bags; with bicycles, skis, rucksacks, English and Western saddles, inflated rafts. As cars slowed to a crawl and stopped, students sprang out and raced to the rear doors and began removing the objects inside; the stereo sets, radios, personal computers; small refridgerators and table ranges; the cartons of phonograph records and cassettes; the hairdryers and styling irons; the tennis rackets, soccer balls, hockey and lacrosse sticks, bows and arrows; the controlled substances, the birth control pills and devices; the junk food still in shopping bags - onion and garlic chips, nacho thins, peanut creme patties, Waffelos and Kabooms, fruit chews and toffee popcorn; the DumDum pops, the Mystic mints.


Then, in an episode where the narrator is watching his child sleep (a particular favourite passtime), we get this:

She uttered two clearly audible words, familiar and elusive at the same time, words that seemed to have a ritual meaning, part of a verbal spell or ecstatic chant.
Toyota Celica.
A long moment passed before I realised that this was the name of an automobile. The truth only amazed me more. The utterance was beautiful and mysterious, gold-shot with looming wonder...Whatever its source, the utterance struck me with the impact of a moment of splendid transcendence.


Now the throwaway language of advertising has entered our collective consciousness and has the power to evoke, much as words like Sylvan, or Arcady, or zephyrs might have done in 1820. It seems to speak of some idealised place, a realm of perfection and happiness that we can only reach 'on the viewless wings of poesy' - a place that is of course inside us as much as out: "Toyota Corolla, Toyota Celica, Toyota Cressida. Supranational names, computer-generated, more or less universally pronouncable. Part of every child's brain noise, the substatic region too deep to probe."

JRWB

That's very interesting. I was going to mention how in Ulyssses a simillar thing happens. Odd as it might seem for Joyce to be setting Greek legend within eary C20th Dublin, the majority of the advertising mentioned in the book (which is taken from genuine contemporary newspapers) does indeed have Classical allusions to it. Things like Hercules Boots, etc. The decline in teaching of the Classics is probably to blame (rather than their ubiquity) for the fact that chidren won't get the reference of the Toyota Cressida, in 1921 I think there's something quite honorable about naming a bicycle after a Greek hero, when presumably most people would know the reference.

I also meant to mention the episode of the Simpsons inwhich Lisa asks if their famiy doesn't know any songs "that aren't taken from TV commercials". I think its true that advertising now plays a very important cultural role. I imagine it's a great many people's main introduction to new music.

tc

Yes i think it could be, I've certainly noticed an increase in my interest. Recently I rather liked the music on the Orange Ad where the fish is in the bowl, and the rain tips him out into the sea so he can swin with the others; so much so that I Googled it to find out who it was by. (incidentally it's a track called Song for Nurses by Oceansize - a kind of british Tool meets Keane, from what I could download). It was also interesting that, on entering the big brother house someone said "Ah, Sezer. Like the salad", and no one mentioned Caesar (Emporer or Dogfood).
When Morgan Spurlock showed young children pictures of historical figures they couldn't name Jesus Christ, but could all name Ronald McDonald - does that make him the new John Lennon?

JRWB

Didn't Nikki have trouble remembering that his name wasn't Felix at first though? Felix being Caesar's sister product for cats?

BlackRose

Two old ladies were outside their nursing home, having a smoke when it started to rain. One of the ladies pulled out a condom, cut off the end, put it over her cigarette and continued smoking.

Lady 1: What's that?
Lady 2: A condom. This way my cigarette doesn't get wet.
Lady 1: Where did you get it?
Lady 2: You can get them at any drugstore.

The next day ... Lady 1 hobbles herself into the local drugstore and announces to the pharmacist that she wants a box of condoms. The guy looks at her kind of strangely (she is, after all, over 80 years of age), but politely asks what brand she prefers.

Lady 1: It doesn't matter as long as it fits a Camel.

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