Friday, February 24, 2006

Categorie Bukowski

T'es dans la catégorie
De celles qui lisent Bukowski
En trouvant super naze
De mettre les gens dans des cases—Vincent Delerm

There is such pleasure in putting people in categories—you’re the kind of person who reads Bukowski, the kind of person who thinks it's silly to categorize, the kind of person who listens to sentimental French music, the kind of person who has a pot of geraniums out front.

Part of what made the discussion of Rupert Thomson’s Divided Kingdom so lively over at the Lit-Blog Co-op was the fun that the bloggers with Thomson’s categories: this dystopia, my copy of which is currently zooming its way from some amazon warehouse to Jersey City, imagines a society 'segregated by personality type. There's the "Red Quarter," where the optimistic and sanguine reside; a "Blue Quarter" for empathetic phlegmatic types; a "Yellow Quarter" populated by impulsive and aggressive cholerics; and a "Green Quarter" where the melancholic and introspective live.'

While Thomson’s categories are familiar from Shakespeare (and no less delightful for that), I took great pleasure last night in coming across—thanks to my writing group, one of whom is writing on Coleridge—Coleridge’s categories of readers:
  1. “Spunges that suck up every thing and, when pressed give it out in the same state, only perhaps somewhat dirtier”
  2. “Sand Glasses,” whose “reading is only a profitless measurement & dozeing [sic] away of time”
  3. “Straining Bags, who get rid of whatever is good & pure, and retain the Dregs”
  4. and finally “the Great-Moguls Diamond Sieves,” whom he celebrates as “the only good, & I fear the least numerous, who assuredly retain the good, while the superfluous or impure passes away & leaves no trace” (Collected STC 5, 1: 65-66)

I get such a feeling of triumph reading a funny list like this. There, I think, it’s all sorted. The pleasure decreases, however, when it comes time to actually sort people into the categories. Things immediately get fuzzy again. Am I a melancholic spunge or a sanguine sand glass? A straining bag when it comes to some topics, sure, but can’t I lay claim to being, at least occasionally, a great-mogul diamond sieve? Then, this last--"the Great-Moguls Diamond Sieves"--is surely the most cumbersome term of praise for a great reader ever coined. Doesn't it sound more fun to be a sand glass anyway?

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