Very early morning coffee, Surry Hills

Devonshire Street -- dawn 13 January


Pomo Cho

a9470_129129 The bottom line first: I found Tom Cho’s Look Who’s Morphing (2009) very amusing. To quote from that Same.Same review:

… it takes a certain type of person to appreciate Cho’s unique style and his even more unique brand of humour.

Cho’s book is best explained using his own words. In one of the fantasies, his Auntie Wei wears an apron with plastic breasts attached and starts acting like the demonically possessed girl from The Exorcist. As she masturbates using a crucifix, she quotes from the author’s successful funding applications and calls the collection ‘a body of short works that are thematically linked,’ and that’s exactly what it is.

It is almost impossible to describe the ‘short works’ using conventional literary terms like ‘short stories,’ or ‘essays,’ or ‘memoir’. It’s a collection of ‘short works’ linked by the common theme of morphing or transforming…

And the man himself says in a rather brilliant interview post:

It’s probably best to illustrate this by quoting the instance in which the use of ‘blah blah blah’, ‘yada yada yada’ occurs – the beginning of my piece ‘Learning English’:

‘When I first arrived in Australia, I did not know a word of English.  I began English lessons through a migrant settlement program soon after I arrived, but I found it all very difficult.  Yet things did improve a little once I learnt the trick of replacing words I did not know with phrases like “blah blah blah”, “yada yada yada”, “whatever”, or the name of a celebrity. Australia is very different from my homeland. I was born and raised in a town called Rod Stewart.’

So, rather than neatly lining up the ‘linguistic signals’, we’re disrupting established relationships of meaning.

Why my interest in fucking with signals? Well, it’s fun. And, as a writer, I have an interest in signals. But there are other motivations at work too. In this case, via the use of  ‘blah blah blah’, ‘yada yada yada’, etc, linguistic signals are shown to be mutable in some way (i.e. you can change a message via the technique of substitution). If the signals are shown to be mutable, the attitudes and behaviours associated with these signals are also suggested as being mutable (or ‘morph-able’).

So what does this amount to? Well, firstly: we don’t have to make the signals line up neatly in accordance with established beliefs. And, secondly: in fucking with the signals, we have the possibility of morphing these established beliefs.

That’s as may be, but I just enjoyed the trip.

See also Tom Cho.