Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Cliff's Notes

1. Cliff's Notes is a series of study guides to specific subjects (algebra,physics, chemistry, literature) aimed at a student audience but often helpful in attracting adults into their informative sphere.

2. Cliff's Notes not only has a title devoted entirely to the meaning and significance of Beowulf, it even addresses such arcana as the symbolic meaning of Grendel's cave in Beowulf.
3. To this day, February 2o, 2008, although I have been exposed to Beowulf and have within recent years read Merwin's excellent translation of it, I have no clue about the meaning of Grendel's cave nor, in fact, do I have any curiosity to store that bit of information in the already cramped spaces of my brain pan.

4. Cliff's Notes is perfectly willing to talk to me about writing, sharing opinions on such things as ending sentences with prepositions, preparing resumes, and addressing areas in my GED writing skills in which I may be in woeful arrears.

5. Cliff's Notes stands ready to be my friend in times of woe and weal, always on the alert to explain what something means, even though I might at first blush not want to know what that something means.

6. Cliff's Notes has friends of all ages, walks of life, and political persuasion, which has, as you might suspect, rendered it an highly profitable entrprise, so much so that it was purchased by John Wylie, which is arguably the oldest publishing house in the U.S., and which also is proprietor of another series, the For Dummies Series.

7. This latest revelation brings forth an association, a connecting of dots , that nearly but not completely embarrasses me: Should the generic name of the For Dummies series be rendered in italic? If the answer is yes, and I suspect it is, I would then have to go back to the first six entries in this essay, rendering Cliff's Notes in italic.

8. These are things writers and editors think of when you are hoping they will notice you and how intelligent and inventive and original you are, how your prose evokes and transforms and transports.

9. I in fact have at least five copies of Cliff's Notes (see, italic! Might as well start somewhere.) in various shelves, probably migrated from working area shelves to garage shelves.

10. The fact of them being moved away from arm's reach is in itself a valuable metaphor; it is what we do to persons with perfectly good , useful information that does not seem perfectly good or useful to us. We move them to the garage.

11. I cannot imagine engaging anyone I know, not Barnaby Conrad nor Brian Fagan, certainly not Steve Cook, emphatically not Lizzie or, for that matter, Jim Alexander, with a discussion relevant to Grendel's cave, nor could I imagine inflicting it on blog friends such as Lori or Square 1 or TIV. David Rochester is a possibility, but I rather suspect he would be polite in his nuanced response.

12. The meat of this is that much of what is gleanable from Cliff's Notes (italic again, right?) is the ability to discuss some recondite point of departure in a test, which is to suggest that we spend a good deal of time preparing ourselves to answer test questions with information that fills our brain pans with the equivalent of clothing packed for a vacation, clothing we do not wear.

13. Answer me this, as ENK is wont on occasion to say (ask): What does Cliff's Notes become the objective correlative for?

14. Let's see if we can find the answer in Cliff's Notes.

15. And while we're at it, what does Hillary's campaign now become the objective correlative for?

16. Are there instances where a Cliff's Notes exegesis would be superior to the thing under study? John McCain is a splendid example, presenting us with a Cliff's Notes version of himself and reality. Revised, of course. (See chapter on significance of McCain's Cave.)


Unknown said...

The significance of Grendel's cave. Hmmm let's see... Should the weary traveler find bits of human skeleton and half eaten carcasses lying about, they may wish to vacate the premises post haste, unless you have a noble warrior at your side. For that matter forget the warrior and just get the hell out of there. That's about as much significance as you will find from me. McCain reminds me very much of Grendel, and oddly enough Hillary reminds me of his unnamed mother. Please don't ask me why, because I'm not sure I could really explain it.

Perhaps there will be Cliff's Notes sold on the 2008 elections by the time the 2012 elections roll around.

Unknown said...

You know, what's really quite funny is that even before I reached #11 (which made me laugh aloud, as much as I ever laugh aloud when alone) I had in fact planned to leave you a comment about Grendel's cave.

Either you are mildly clairvoyant, or I am appallingly predictable.

And so I shall leave the comment I had originally planned to leave, which is somewhat, but not entirely, tongue in cheek, and that is: Aren't caves always symbolic of the same basic ... thing? *respectful pause* Especially when they are littered with the flayed and broken bodies of men?

Maybe I need better Cliff's Notes. Or less Freud.

Lori Witzel said...

Grendel's cave -- my random $0.02 drive-by disquisition:
* Stinky as a teen-aged boy's sneakers.
* Sharp as the half-chewed and splintered rib-cage of the collective unconscious.
* Dark as the light-sucking nanotubes here:
* Frightening as a child's first nightmare.

I love John Gardner's Grendel, BTW. But I would.

x said...

All this Cliff's Notes stuff is interesting, but what really interested me was that you have some brain storage device called a brain pan. Don't recall ever seeing one of those on an MRI.

Anonymous said...

As for #s 7 & 9, whatever you decide to do, do it consistently! ;)