“Not so much peeved as content,” I responded. “This is my zen face.” Buddhist manuscripts in cursive Greek, dated later than the second century AD, have been recently found in Afghanistan. Some mention the “Lokesvararaja Buddha” recorded in Greek as «Λωγοασφαροραζοβόδδο», this being the fifty-fourth reincarnation of the Buddha. To be a Gallifreyan Time-Lord capable of infinite regeneration has always been the chief aspiration of my terrestrial corporeal manifestation. Failing that, to achieve the state of unfazedness possessed of the Greek Buddha, would be ideal.
“How are you going?” the tentative customer asked, having picked up my seventh volume of poetry and put it down again. Any sales.”
“Well, at this stage, I’m paying people to take these beauties of my hands and still they are not flying out of the door,” I lamented.
“At times like these you need Minties,” he consoled me and pulling one out of his pocket, placed it on the table.
Now I have harboured a lifelong aversion to Minties, ever since a swimming teacher in my youth adopted a practise of throwing said comestibles in the pool, I am convinced, solely in order to enjoy the spectacle of wet young boys in speedos vying with each other in friendly competition for their possession, unwrapping and consuming what appeared to me to be petrified witchetty grubs, wherever they found them. Mention Minties to me and I immediately taste chlorine on my tongue and feel his yellow flecked eyes lash my posterior with their acid gaze. It goes without saying that I have steadfastly refused to introduce unnatural objects to my mouth ever since.
Of course we have Persephone of ancient myth to thank for Minties. Despite being abducted by Hades and forced to live in the abysmal Underworld, Persephone was insanely jealous of her husband cum rapist and deplored his infidelities. One of his conquests was his ex, the naiad Minthe, or Menthe (Μίνθη or Μένθη) who missed him and complained vociferously when he married Persephone, organising clandestine trysts while Hades was away on “business trips” for work.
Not being able to shame her on ocial media, the ancients recounted that Persephone grabbed hold of Minthe and dragged her out onto the sands of Pylos. She hurled herself upon her and squashed her to death, executing the first Fosbury flop in history. As Minthe’s soft body was reduced to a pulp of flesh and blood, her lifeless limbs released an intense balmy fragrance: Wild mint.
“But it must be fun to be sitting here,” the plainly not going to purchase anything customer observed. “You get to talk shop with your fellow authors. You can pont…. What’s the word…”
“Pontificate. You get to pontificate on your chosen topics with your brethren.”
Now I have to admit, I despise my fellow authors. For they are an earnest and morally uncompromising bunch who stake their reputations upon every word they have lovingly written and are possessed of an ardent desire to change the world. In this they are aided and abetted by their adoring friends, who form an adulatory claque around them, urging them towards greater heights of literary prestidigitation. If Kakistocracy (Κακιστοκρατεία) describes government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens, that claquistocracy describes literary pontification at the behest of dedicated fans.
I had a dedicated fan once. He returned my fifth book of poetry to me stating that he understood not a word.
Instead of pontificating with my vastly superior peers, I curtly informed the man that I prefer to gorgianise instead. In the “Lives of the Sophists”, Philostratus coins the word γοργιάζειν, in order to denote the practice of engaging in oratory of a grand and florid style, or to speak in an excessive manner like the sophist, Gorgias. I enjoy multiple Gorgiasms, every single day.
Taken aback by this, the lapsed customer offered an opinion as to the extent that the concentrated conglomeration of the collected works of Melbourne’s Greek authors under the GOCMV’s roof provided a fire risk to the said edifice. I ventured the opinion that Heinrich Heine’s famous quotation: “That was only a Prologue: where books are burned, in the end people will be burned as well,” actually refers to the burning of the Quran by the Spanish Inquisition during the conquest of Granada in 1499 and as the only quasi-religious material to be found on the mezzanine was securely hidden on page 79 of my sixth poetry collection, he could rest assured that we were all quite safe.
Well almost. For the Olympians despised art for art’s sake. When Hera quarrelled with Zeus and his entourage in Euboea, Zeus decided to flush her out by pretending to get remarried. He dressed a block of wood carved in the shape of a girl shrouded in veils and gave her the name Daedala or Artifice, because she was the first creature that embodies art in herself. Hera, tearing aside the veils to discover that a block of wood had replaced her in Zeus’ affection, had her ritually burnt on Mount Cithaeron, simultaneously creating art criticism into the bargain.
The sorely troubled customer began to take his leave, offering to nip downstairs and return with my chosen choice of beverage, a frappe being his suggestion. At that, I emitted what I verily believe to have been a whoop of enthusiasm, which he reassures me, was actually a grunt. This is because, as I informed him, I used to fulminate against the existence of the Frappe as the epitome of Greek cultural heresy, that is until that very moment.
For it was precisely at that cosmic junctrure that I came to the realisation that frappe, borrowed from French frappé, past participle of frapper “to hit, or strike” is cognate with the ancient Greek φραπίζω, which appears in Herodotus and later loses the f as ῥαπίζω, meaning to hit or slap. The frappe is thus not just the epitome of laziness, but a doing word. Responding also to his offer of purchasing for me a souvlaki, I offered the opinion that unlike Oakleigh, Greece was invented so that Greek-Australians can order souvlaki and frappe in their bathers, from English speaking waiters. Strange to say, he left, and despite me waiting patiently for all of two minutes, he did not return, bearing either item.
Seeing the foot-traffic flag somewhat in the interim, I determined to whip up some clientele in the manner I had witnessed itinerant watermelon sellers do so in my youth in Athens. In a stentorian voice, I began to cry my wares: «Εδώ τα φρέσκα βιβλία, εδώ τα φρέσκα βιβλία». I proceeded not only to describe by books as fresh and domestically grown but also offered to sell them by the kilo. Seeing a look of horror descent upon my colleagues countenances, I promptly desisted, considering that it was probably the timbre of my voice that elicited from them, such horror. These days I have been learning how to sing Sakis Rouvas’ old hits with the voice of Vasilis Tsitsanis. The problem with my Vasilis Tsitsanis impersonation however is that it sounds like Vasilis Tsitsanis impersonating Chrystakis, an obstacle that I am trying in vain to overcome, and which is not conducive at all, to flogging off one’s own printed material.
It was at this stage that a microphone under my nose and I was called upon by my interlocutor to participate in a segment entitled “Meet the Author.” As a joke on his teacher Heraclides of Pontus, stoic philosopher Dionysius the Renegade wrote a fake Sophocles tragedy entitled Parthenopaeus. Even though it contained the line: “Heraclides knows nothing of letters and has no shame,” Heraclides fell for it and referenced passages of the play in his own writing about Sophocles. As the hubbub in the room drowned out our conversation, I thought it would be expedient to follow suit and cast my literary endeavours in the most nefarious of lights. I proceeded to do so, offering for good measure that in highbrow decadent Victorian circles, lawn tennis was referred to as σφαιριστική and galoshes were called ἀνθυγρόπελος, an expression it was widely believed derived from the Greek words for “against wet mud.” Similarly I ventured, prophylactics could have been termed ανθυγρόπεος by no small stretch of the imagination, considering this to be slightly erudite until my interlocutor informed me that though no one in the room could actually hear what I was saying, it was actually being recorded for posterity.
As my colleagues sold tome after tome, enthralling the many visitors to the highly successful event, I decided it was high time I took my leave. Gathering up my books for donation to adjacent Falung Gong pamphleteers, I decided first to perform my ablutions and so headed to the requisite chamber. It was the fashion in days of old at Oxford to inscribe upon the inside of lavatory doors the Heracleitan phrase: «τὰ πάντα ῥεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν μένει»,ie everything flows and nothing remains. Emerging relieved, I mused that this custom should be introduced to Greek-Australian toilets everywhere, with me being the exception that proves the rule, for not even those generous and placid Falun Gongers would allow me to unload the fruits of my literary loins upon them, even as I tried to convince them that they were Greek iterations of their own philosophy.
Better luck at the Greek Book Fair next year.