Here is a drawing I have made for you. I know it looks like an ampersand but it’s not. It’s a drawing.
I call this piece Line Drawing of a Person Sitting With Knees Pulled Up, Moodily Gazing at the Ocean of Life (Out of Frame to the Right). I feel that it conveys a certain something, but I must concede that, despite the epic echoes in the title, it’s not my best work. The jaunty angle of the knee doesn’t seem to fit with the sad, slumped curve of the back, and the lack of detail on the face, far from being a comment on the anonymity of the modern urban world, just reads as laziness.
Why did I give you this drawing instead of one of my better ones (say, my well-received 2011 sketch, $, titled Snake Wrapped Around A Stick? Honestly? I was in a rush, and Ocean of Life was on the top of the pile. But I also don’t think it matters. As Dezemba rolls relentlessly towards its final paroxysm of sweaty, grease-stained tooth-grinding jollity like a tinsel-covered steamroller hijacked by a gang of demented elves and driven over our last intact nerve, we’re all too tired to care.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that the “Spot The Difference” in The Times is impossible to solve. And you’re right. But you’re also wondering why I’m offering you art instead of a proper column. There are two answers. First, it’s the silly season, and second, I think we’re all too tired to read another word. By anyone. On anything. We’ve reached word-saturation point. Clever phrases are clogging our ink-stained tear ducts. Solid punditry is oozing out of our pores and staining our collars black.
Even if you read only The Times you’ve read about three-quarters of a million words this year. That’s the collected works of JM Coetzee. Or the opening remarks in a speech by Thabo Mbeki. But why the artworks? That’s simple. A picture is worth a thousand words, so between Ocean, Snake and the above paragraphs, you’ve already read about 2300 words without breaking a sweat. You’re welcome.
Perhaps this is why in December all journalism transforms into shouty lists: our eyeballs are stuffed to bursting so we just want the highlights, numbered and illustrated with funny GIFs of pugs falling off kitchen tables. 5 Newsmakers You’re Too Exhausted To Read About. 10 Things That Happened This Year That You Read About At The Time But Have Now Sort Of Forgotten. The Top 20 Lists of Top 20 Lists for 2014 .
Ordinarily I’d be slightly snobby about bullet-pointed factoids taking the place of actual writing, but it’s been a long year containing far too many words. So let me stop adding to the pile and leave you with one last list, 4 Ways To Survive The Festive Season:
1. Forget Paleo. Rather try Politico, a diet where you cut politics out of your news intake. Doctors agree that politicians are saturated with fat, secrete nothing but sugary words, and are known to raise your blood pressure dramatically, so go politician-free at least until you’re back at work next year.
2. Remember that Christmas is a time of peace on Earth and goodwill to all men. Also remember that “Goodwill” is a verb which, roughly translated from Zulu, means “blow the royal budget on bling without ever having to account for any of it to anyone”. Goodwilling is a fabulous way to spend the holiday, but remember that it also required direct access to the National Treasury, so if you do decide to Goodwill to all men, make sure to keep a bit of cash in reserve so you don’t have to SAA in the new year (“SAA”, verb, meaning, “to ask for handouts”).
3. Never eat the snow. It is made of styrofoam, which means your toilet visits will be cursed with mortifying buoyancy.
4. Finally, try to hold onto the true miracle of Christmas, namely, that a Chinese worker earning 3 cents a year can make a T-shirt of The Big Bang Theory, which she is not allowed to watch because it is banned in China; and that her T-shirt can travel across the planet to be worn by a South African who thinks that China will be a benevolent employer once it has bought us for 20 potatoes in 2050. Still, try not to be too angry: every R10 we spend on Chinese goods is R10 China can lend us at 50% interest once we’ve blown our last trillion on diesel for Eskom.
And that, dear reader, is all for 2014. Be of good cheer, and may next year . what’s that? Enough words? Fair enough. So perhaps one last drawing: a star, to guide us on our journeys in 2015. *
First published in The Times and on TimesLive.