Here is how to

Passage that we read in class last Wednesday:

Marathe: “Choose your attachments carefully. Choose your temple of fanaticism with great care. What you wish to sing of as tragic love is an attachment not carefully chosen” (107).

Steeply: “But you assume it’s always choice, conscious, decision…You sit down with your little accountant’s ledger and soberly decide what to love? Always?” (108).

About 60 pages later, in the Year of the Yushityu, Hal narrates TENNIS AND THE FERAL PRODIGY, which “according to the entry form” (172), is written by Mario. The script of this “11.5-minute digital entertainment cartridge” (172) champions Marathe’s argument that there is always a choice. Moreover, the script conveys that one can always be in control–of anything and everything.

The script is structured like a lesson, with nearly each paragraph beginning with “here is how.” Therefore, the script assumes that abilities from “how to hold a stick” (172) to “how to sweat” (174) can be learned, and hence, can also be controlled and regulated, as if a product of choice.

In particular, the speaker instructs, “Here is how to handle being a feral prodigy” (174). In here lies a contradiction–because feral denotes untamed, natural, wild, and incapable of being “handled” (174). To handle, on the other hand, signifies to control, to manage, and to dominate. The script thus insists that it is possible to conquer even the unconquerable, to control even the uncontrollable. In fact, this possibility can be shown, taught and learned by what seems to be a simple lesson–a lesson that tames the self.

In here lies another contradiction–the freedom, or ability, to take control of the self in turn limits and subjugates the self. The cartridge does not instruct “how to handle a feral prodigy.” It instructs “how to handle being a feral prodigy” (174). Thus, the cartridge instructs not how to tame an external feral prodigy that has come to invade the body, but rather how to control a self or a being who has come to be defined by his feral prodigy. In a way, by stating, “Here is how to handle being a feral prodigy,” the text evokes a giving away of the self, a surrendering of the self. The complete “being” or existence of the self has become replaced by only being a feral prodigy, an alternate, reduced existence.

Handling “being a feral prodigy” (174) ultimately effaces the being, reducing it to zip. The paragraph is poetic. It creates a contrived, controlled, regulated, unnatural–not feral–effect. Using words such as “signifying” and “composed of” renders the sentence–”Here is how to handle being seeded at tournaments, signifying that seeding committees composed of old big-armed men publicly expect you to reach a certain round” (174)–literary and formal and also, forced and unnatural. Furthermore, the lesson–”By repeating this term over and over, perhaps in the same rhythm at which you squeeze a ball, you can reduce it to an empty series of phonemes, just formants and fricatives, trochaically stressed, signifying zip” (174)–carries a poetic rhythm per se. This rhythm reverberates throughout the script. The repetition of “Here is how to” and the choppy syntax create their own rhythm. The use of the words “trochaically stressed,” “signifying,” “phonemes,” “formants,” and “fricatives” produces the effect of a poetry explication. Moreover, “phonemes,” “formants,” and “fricatives” generate an alliteration, furthering the poetic style. Ultimately, however, the poetic style of these sentences in synchronization with the result of handling being a feral prodigy amount to nothing, “signifying zip” (174). This paragraph delineates a process of reduction: reducing terms to “an empty series of phonemes”–which are irreducibles, and reducing a being into a feral prodigy, and then that feral prodigy into, presumably, a tamed prodigy. In this way, this paragraph, along with the lesson embedded in this paragraph, exerts control–a control that is perhaps tragically and inescapably self-limiting and self-effacing.

So then looking back at Marathe’s words, he claims that the lack of choice renders a person “a fanatic of desire…a citizen of nothing” (108), but the contrary–that is, the option to choose, the ability of control–can lead to the same result: nothingness.

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