This is ONE OF 5 responses to VC 31 John 18 ("The Golden Seagull")...
Yes, I know I've been an old geegaw with regards to responding to these requests for the year's best voice cards. I always find myself so late in finishing up Archipelago that I don't leave myself time to leisurely walk through old voice cards again. (Though I do find myself eagerly looking to see if my voice cards have been chosen among the faves, vain bastard that I am.) This year, I'll try to be different.
However, I must protest (There's that old geegaw again) about being confined to categories with regards to favorite cards. It seems to me, "most hilarious," "most provacative," "most eloquent," etc. are just so much flotsam of artificial categories, just another example of our limiting western mindset to pidgeon hole everything and everyone into nice neat little piles - a mindset of rigidlity that has gotton our world into so much trouble by the way. (Ah, but that's sauce for another voice card on another day.)
What we are gathered here for is celebration, deservedly so. And so I will just list my favorite cards, cards that defy easy, facile catorization, cards that are at the SAME TIME eloquent, funny, charming, intelligent, etc. For isn't good writing by definition writing that defies easy labels and categories, and the good writing in Archipelago is no exception.
So here goes my choices in no particular order (in line with my platform in this special election issue to say "Pfui on categories!" "Storm the Barricades; Bring Down Those Deadly Walls of Deadlines; You Have Nothing to Lose But Your Anxieties!" Er, excuse me, many pardons. I digress yet again):
Of course, there are more, but this card is getting longer and longer. My deepest apologies to those great voice cards and voice card writers I left out. The constrainst of time, I'm afraid made this a rather haphazard process for me.
- I know it's not on our officially sanctioned voice card issues on which we can vote, but I think John's meditation on turning 36 in issue 31, card 1, deserves special mention. Going back further. . . . let's see. . .
- John's "I never Met a Voice Card I didn't Like" (Issue 29, card 10) stands out. Typical (or should I say, atypical in the wider world of boring, mundane prose) Cartanian eloquence on what a voice card actually is and does.
- Yumi's eloquent, honest simplicity in "Turmoil" (Issue 30, card 3) and John's understanding reply (Issue 30, card 9) seem to me to stand out as one larger card that is surely one of the best of the year.
- Another pairing (I don't see why, if you're isisting on categories, pairs of cards - cards and the wonderful responses they engender - can't be a category, for, when all is said and done, can one REALLY separate separate the dancing of Fred and Ginger after all? Wouldn't one dancer by more impoverished without the other?) that stands out is Yumi's "You Are Not Alone" (Issue 30, card 6) and John's response, "Sluts I Have Known" (Issue 30, card 7).
- Another standout card is John's patient, elequent, and unpatronizing reply to a child's question in his card "Tom Bombadil" (Issue 28, card 2).
- Of course, no list of greatest Archipelago hits would be complete without a special kudo of John's excellent narrative of his struggle with the evil empire at The Lab. That mythic saga spans thousands of words and 3 issues: "I Return to Hell (Issue 27, Card 16); Job Hell, Canto 4 (Issue 28, Card 15); and "Ascent" (Issue 29, Card 2). Together, they probably constitute the best stretch of Archipelago writing ever. And if you wanted to make a lot of nifty bucks, John, I would imagine that you would be able to sell that story to one of the big slick business mags, or just to a big slick mag (say The New Yorker for its "Annals of Business" section). This is a great example of writing that defies categories - it's funny, moving, intelligent, wry, whimsical, incisive, and very pertinent.
- Another memorable card is Larry's "Generation X Revisited" (Issue 28, Card 1). An excellent example of expository writing (writing that explains).
- As is the exchange that went on about the worth of employment last year ("Bastards et. al." (Holly, Issue 27, Card 5), "Job Satisfaction" (Suzanne, Issue 29, Card 7"), and "Wage Slave" (John, Issue 28, Card 7). Once again, it was a discussion in the best sense of Democracy, waged with respect and tolerance to other views, and one that informed and delighted, as well. Excellent.
Still, tripping through the tulips in old issues is trememdous fun. It's amazing how much work (or play) we've generated. Going back further, I still remember sitting in my study way back in 1989 or 88 in Los Osos, writing responses to the Crab novella. What we are creating, friends, is a treasure trove not only of wonderful writing, but of good memories, as well. Thanks to you all for my bouquet.