Wednesday, May 27, 2009

on becoming a man

Well I picked up a book called On Becoming a Man today in a rather remarkable Hadfield op shop. It is in beautiful condition, to the degree that I suspect whoever was once given it did not actually read it, or if they did, they respected it immensely. Since the subhead is 'A book for teenage boys', the first five words in the title create the name OBAMA, an extraordinary piece of prediction (though it doesn't explain the rest of the acronym, which reads in full OBAMABFTB) The 20th century Nostradamus responsible is one Harold Shryock, whose name is an anagram for Hard Rocks Holy and Arch Lord Oh Sky.The book has no date (it might be from 1968* but it does not mention the Jefferson Airplane) and though it is American (Shryock was from the College of Medical Evangelists, Loma Linda, CA) it was published in Warburton, outside Melbourne, by a publishing house called Signs. I can picture it now.

By the way, some seem to regard the work as still relevant. This is not my other blog.

I haven't read it from cover to cover, of course I read the section on homosexuality as, being such a mad fag myself, I love to see how we are persecuted (actually it just fell open at that page). I notice that Shryock adheres to the interesting fallacies of the time (he sees gay men as frozen in an emotional state by, for instance, the death of a family member at a sensitive time) but considers a two-step scenario the most likely, wherein a boy is oriented to homosexuality by personal tragedy but only then activated - turned on, if you will - by an exploitative older man. Anyway, Shryock doesn't pull too many punches, except perhaps the punch that, while the book is plainly a Christian book, it doesn't say anywhere that it's a Christian book, until you start reading the fucker.

The pictures are possibly the best bit (since I'll never read it fully I'll never ever know). They are a mixture of oddly posed photographs and strangely but finely painted scenarios.

(By the way is it a syndrome that sparks off songs in your head when you're reminded of them? Because I keep thinking of a ditty 'bout Jack and Joanne. You can't really see the caption, not if you've got eyes like mine, but it's worth clicking on the pictures if that enlarges them. They look strangely more lovely pixilated anyway I think).

This one intrigues me, not just because I believe its central message to be true:

But also because I wonder what the hey this trusted pedagogue has drawn on his board. I mean, really:

It's so easy to laugh at this kind of stuff (I don't mean this picture specifically, but the whole book) that it's almost not funny. I suppose there is a generation or two of people whose knowledge, such as it is, of this sort of cheesy upright western civillisation certitude is derived entirely from retro greeting cards with funny talks balloons. This thing was probably published in my lifetime but I could never have ever looked at a picture like this without simultaneously finding it creepy, possibly funny, eminently defaceable, ridiculous, and standing in some ways for many things it is meant to be entirely the opposite of.

I mean, the world moved on; it doesn't matter particularly. But it does bear some consideration, that this kind of thing - I was almost about to say this kind of garbage, because that just seems so self-evident - represents a universe that is entirely gone now, with a huge amount of evidence left behind, but evidence which is for most of us entirely meaningless. I am not saying people don't still believe in families or America or god or whatever this stuff is supposed to represent, but that the certainty of its moral position and the coccoon-like right places for everyone has been entirely assailed and to my mind destroyed. When I see a picture like this, the endpapers of the book which for some reason I've made really teensy but you can still make it out kind of:

I can only see a phallic building over the back fence, a perverse set of relationships between the women in the picture and the young man in purple, and the whole thing so unutterably fraudulent and sterile, yet fraught with strong and corrupt meaning. None of these people can ever be happy until they cast off their crippling stereotypes. I mean maybe it's just me. Is it just me?

*Actually Father Dave says it is from 1951, which seems more plausible, I saw an edition on eBay dated 1968 however so maybe there was an update to mention Jefferson Airplane.

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