What do you think?
Rate this book
135 pages, Paperback
First published October 15, 1988
¹ This may be 2016, but I have only ever seen bin men. I feel I ought to use a more gender-neutral term, but the word is firmly embedded in my mind from childhood excitement(!) at watching them come and go. For now, it seems accurate, despite the advent of wheelie-bins lessening the physical demands of the role. I wonder if the continued use of such a term serves to entrench the apparent male-exclusivity of the role, albeit one that few women might want.
² I never know whether it uses more fuel to switch off and restart the car, or to leave it running for a few moments. Perhaps I should investigate. There must be websites and apps for such things. (In this specific case, at the end of a quiet residential cul-de-sac, I never worry about someone leaping into my car and driving away.)
³ Smugness is a nasty emotion, but I indulged it a little when I recalled my suggested design, at 45 degrees to the house, which would also be parallel with the street, being dismissed by the paver, only to be proven right when he checked the angles. I like the finished result.
⁴ Excessive excitement at seeing post is, I think, related to boarding school. Away from home, before the internet, with phone calls brief and rare, any missive from the outside was a thrill. My mother’s enthusiasm probably sprang from that, and was infectiously instilled in my brother and me even before we were despatched to discover its importance for ourselves.
⁵ Three possible reasons come to mind:
1. To build the anticipation (boarding school again?).
2. To hone detective skills (which raises the question of when and why they might be useful).
3. As practice, because so many family members have barely legible handwriting.
⁶ Popping the bubbles of a Jiffy bag is far less tempting than those of a sheet of bubble wrap: the paper backing makes successful squeezing harder to achieve and dulls any resulting sound. A secondary factor is that popping a few bubbles of a Jiffy bag condemns the whole thing to the dustbin (I wonder if bin men are ever tempted to pop things), whereas popping the corner of a piece of bubble wrap merely means cutting off a small piece, and keeping the rest.
⁷ Footnotes are necessary because “the outer surface of truth is not smooth, welling and gathering from paragraph to shapely paragraph, but is encrusted with a rough protective bark of citations, quotation marks, italics… the anticipatory pleasure of sensing with peripheral vision… a gray silt of further example and qualification waiting in tiny type at the bottom.”
…the pursuit of truth doesn’t have clear outer boundaries: it doesn't end with the book; restatement and self-disagreement and the enveloping sea of referenced authorities all continue.
Progression, not regression. Going upward and forward, not down or back. I think ultimately this miniature novel contains a metanarrative: our Howie as postmodern Encyclopedist, believing in mind and progress. That is why the "vehicle of this memoir" is an escalator, and why that escalator is going not down but up. This is, I think, a mock-yet-earnest document of the Ascent of Man.
Whatever happened to predictability
The milkman, the paperboy, evening TV
How did I get delivered here
Somebody tell me, please
This old world's confusing me