Languages with very simple sentence structure are, for the most part, oral languages. It’s the languages that have a culture of writing, developed over a long span of time, that display a fondness for stacking clauses onto one another to create towering sentences. This pattern raises the possibility that the invention of writing, a very recent innovation tagged on to the very last millennia of human evolution, can dramatically alter a language’s linguistic niche, spurring the development of elaborate sentence structure, and leading to the shedding of other features, on a timescale that cannot be achieved through biological evolution. If that’s so, then the languages that many of us have grown up with are very different from the languages that have been spoken throughout the vast majority of human existence.
Most of us heard, and then gleefully repeated, our first Uranus jokes during childhood. The scatological juvenile obviousness inherent in the myriad variations of these essentially identical gags did not and will never diminish our appreciation of them. (There is no definable difference between good Uranus jokes and bad Uranus jokes — there are only Uranus jokes.) My own introduction to Uranus jokes must have come close to half a century ago, and certainly the playground comedian who related the jape was working solidly within a received older tradition. But how old might that tradition be?
So, if acclaimed cooks can achieve so much with so little, why do some of us hoard for doomsday when it comes to kitchenalia? Again, Elizabeth David’s wisdom is apposite. “I don’t a bit covet the exotic gear dangling from hooks, the riot of clanking ironmongery, the serried rank of sauté pans and all other carefully chosen symbols of culinary activity I see in so many photographs of chic kitchens,” she says in an essay in Is There a Nutmeg in the House? “Pseuds corners, I’m afraid, many of them.”
In other words, any fool can collect kitchen equipment. It doesn’t mean they can cook a decent meal.
What’s more, by carving a space for silence in the work of his poetic predecessors, Gosslee at the same time carves a space for the other, room for those outside the cannon to speak. It is in this way that erasure becomes an egalitarian gesture, a collaboration that extends far beyond Gosslee and the poets with whom he’s chosen to engage.
“Cats are not so heartless,” declares Nana. “How could I ever leave him?” I know, I know. What a sap I am. But anyone who has ever unashamedly loved an animal will read this book with gratitude, for its understanding of an emotion that ennobles us as human beings, whether we value it or not.