i think what i hated most about that night was how humorless the whole thing was. i mean when you think about tuk, you expect humorless but what i didn’t expect, and what i was so disappointed about, was that i think there were only three people there who had read the book: the speaker (bambang sugiharto, his blurb is on the back cover, he’s like a philosophy lecturer from the u of parahyangan, gm (or maybe laksmi just read him the book as bedtime stories) and me.
then the first thing that bambang, phd, said was how ‘memang jarang ya kita bertemu dengan seorang esais indonesia yang bacaannya begitu luas, gayanya begitu stylish dan begitu erudit’ (he really did say erudit). i mean, the other thing that gm said to me re: my review of ellipsis was how ‘kritik sastra indonesia itu ya masih berkisar di situ2 aja, ttg orangnya’. well what about what that bambang dude said? could you get more ad hominem than that? if i had her money my bacaan would be luas too, i mean i hadn’t read the weil&bespaloff book just because i couldn’t afford it. i’d read the review in the guardian sometime ago, but my credit card’s maxed out way before that.
and then gm’s first comment was ‘saya kira buku ini sangat berharga karena memperkenalkan kita pada bespaloff,’ and then he went on and on ad nauseam about who she was and who weil was bla bla bla, nothing that you can’t google, so that people forget that laksmi did not introduce bespaloff to us, it’s the new york review of books who repackaged the two essays in the one book that did it.
when gm was in the middle of his hagiography of bespaloff&weil, catatan pinggir style, it struck me: he’s (or thinks he is) socrates. the sad thing was there was no budding plato in the crowd. you know, he probably thinks that it’s his duty to educate these people, the way he would give a short history of pompeii in his catatan pinggir, and that’s noble and all that, but like, hasn’t he heard of wikipedia?
i asked him outside about what he meant when he said that my review of ellipsis was just another example of ‘gitu2 aja kritik sastra indonesia, selalu ttg orangnya’ and he said that me mentioning the fact that laksmi used to write the good food guide was beside the point, and that what i said about her love motel poems were an unwarranted personal attack.
so i explained blablabla that my point in mentioning the good food guide, apart from not wanting to miss out on telling the joke about the oasis foie gras, was how i seriously think that her habit of writing about the ambience (pronounce it a la francaise of course) of a restaurant helps her, and is a good influence, when she writes her travelogue lyrics (lyrical travelogues?). and that my point about the love motels was the simple matter of why did she use ‘love motel’ instead of say, ‘check-in’, the indonesian idiom. not because i think she’d be better off using the indonesian idiom, i just want to know why she chose ‘love motel’ over anything else. (in my review i also mentioned the possibility of ‘fuck motel’.)
anyway, the point was that i was just reiterating what was already on the page, there in my review/essay/whatever. though i must admit, gm was actually quite prepared to listen to me and then changed (or appeared to anyway) his stance once i was done explaining. he nodded his head and said now i know what you mean. still though, that means he either didn’t read my review properly, or didn’t understand it, or something was stopping him from seeing what i was trying to say (perhaps laksmi’s pendulous breasts).
and he sort of sounded kinda mean. his praises (for the bits in my essay that he liked) sounded genuine, even supportive and encouraging, but his protests were like, really angry. like a child throwing a tantie.
i’m sick of talking about that review. but i guess there’s still another thing i want to say, at least when i wrote it i kept my attention on the pages of her book, the words she’d tried hard to turn into magic, and her record as a writer, unlike the people in that back-breaking theatre (why don’t they just have chairs, instead of levels, is that not socratic enough?), who’d crap on and on about heidegger whenever they had the chance. (and even when they didn’t.)