Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Updates from Auden, etc.

One of the most annoying idiocies of contemporary internet life is Google's and other corporations' faux-friendly offers to help you out by selecting products for you! Friends for you! News "Recomended For You." Based on the deep understanding of your spiritual and intellectual needs revealed by the last thing you bought on line, the infinitely caring algorithms are making our lives better, easier, and more enjoyable all the time. (Please read E. M. Forster's "The Machine Stops," by the way. Also see Pixar's Wall-E.) Every once in a while these mindless intrusions are as funny as they are annoying, as was the case in an offer a friend of mine received from Amazon a few weeks ago: "Receive updates from Auden!" She and I had fun thinking up some possible updates W. H. Auden might post via website or Twitter, even though he's been dead since 1973. These included:

- Spanish Civil War For Losers. Glad I Didn't Go.
 - Can't Decide Whether Poetry Changes Anything or Not
- Seven Tips for Staying Gay and Sane in Oxford c. 1955

and so on.

Now, it occurs to me that if we can sign up to receive updates from Auden, even more enthralling possibilities exist. As far as I know, William Shakespeare has at
least two Facebook pages, each of which spells his name differently, which is just how he is. I do occasionally receive commentary from him there, because I am his Facebook friend. I'm not sure he has a Twitter account yet, but I want to urge him -- I think he follows this blog -- to open one as soon as possible, because stating things with pith in 140 characters is the appropriate twenty-first century challenge for someone who has managed 154 times to lay bare the complexities of the heart in fourteen lines of iambic pentameter.

So, since I have nothing to post this month except one more depressing comparison between Trump and Coriolanus, I am going to imagine some blank-verse Shakespeare Tweets.

Here they are.

Brave #NewWorldSavages: King Stephano? / A mindless lout! State totters. Hell is empty. / And why? Because the devils are all here. / #Sadsadsadsadsadsadsadsadsadsadsad.

If dead weren't I, I'd move to #Switzerland, / Or hide in darkest #Scotland. That, because / The #NewWorldSavages affright me much.

Thou savages, thy governor smacks much / Of Antioch, the ancient king depraved / In #Pericles. Check out the play. It's yuge.

What pains me much the most about my fame / Is that I now collect no royalties. / It galleth me to see so many freaks / Who, blithe, quote me, and money goes to them.

I once sought mean employ in Hollywood / Yet there was told my screenplays could not sell. / My way polysyllabic and antique  / Leaves #NewWorldSavages bewildered. Sad.

These Tweets reveal a Shakespeare who is lost, free-floating on the internet, feeling abandoned, awash in a sea of digital idiocy. Desperately, he tries to assert his dignity, relevance, and uniqueness through the only available medium. He fails, confronted by the fact that the internet itself erodes all dignity, all uniqueness, all claims to superior knowledge or artistry. It's not like the theater. It's not even like a poem. It's just a big mushy net of words where anybody can say anything and no barriers of taste, aesthetic quality, or truthfulness exist. He considers enlisting subscribers to "Shakespeare Tweets," but he knows that anyone can pretend to be Shakespeare, many people are already pretending to be Shakespeare, and he has no way of proving he is himself and that some people's words matter more than other people's. He knows that Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, and the Earl of Oxford are all operating rival Shakespeare sites, each with hundreds of thousands of followers. Reluctantly, then, he surrenders his Twitter account and returns to his grave, trusting that what he has already written is enough

 Luckily, it is.

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