Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Second Thoughts (Sydney Morning Herald, 22/03/2008)

Martin Amis, The Second Plane
Jonathan Cape; $39.95; 214pp

In ‘The Voice of the Lonely Crowd’ (June 2002), Martin Amis describes his reaction to what has been, by many magnitudes, the century’s most significant event so far: the attacks on New York and Washington by Islamic fundamentalists in 2001. Naturally enough, his thoughts turned to literature, and, specifically, to his own achievement, as summarised on the page headed ‘By the same author’:

My own page, as an additional belittlement, ended with a book called The War Against Cliché. I thought: actually we can live with ‘bitter cold’ and ‘searing heat’ and the rest of them. We can live with cliché. What we have to do now, more testingly, is live with war.

This was only an initial response. It soon became clear that ‘the war against cliché’ was going to play a crucial role in what has been dubbed ‘the war on terror’ (itself a cliché of evasive intent). The attacks left a vacuum of incredulity into which, before long, all manner of credulousness and cliché began ineluctably to flow. The planes that felled the World Trade Centre were ‘chickens coming home to roost’. Islamists were ‘the fish that swim in the sea of Islamic discontent’. Such clichés were evidence of a collective inability to think beyond the usual categories. Even Amis, by his own admission, showed signs of what Paul Berman, in Terror and Liberalism, terms ‘rationalist naïveté’. His first piece on the September attacks was ‘a reflexive search for the morally intelligible’ and as such sailed close to moral equivalence.

He soon pulled himself together, however, and has since made the best contribution to the war effort that a man of his talents is able to make: he has mounted guard over the English language. First thoughts have yielded to second thoughts and these second thoughts have been pressed into service against the second-hand thoughts, the clichés, of the ‘herd’. The Second Plane is the story of that deployment, bringing together reviews and essays and two outstanding pieces of short fiction – all of them centring on September 11 and the ‘moral crash’ that followed it.

It’s a subject Amis is well qualified to talk about, bearing as it does on two of the themes about which he has written most brilliantly: America and masculinity. Amis has said that America is too vast to inspire unconditional love or hatred: to say that you love, or hate, America is like saying that you love, or hate, life itself. This observation turns out to have been weirdly prescient. What, after all, is the favoured boast (and accusation) of the Islamist, if not ‘We love death more than you love life’? As Amis says, this is a ‘completely new kind of enemy, one for whom death is not death – and for whom life is not life, either, but illusion.’

If cliché is language that has ceased to live then Amis’s style is something like its antithesis. From his magnificent depiction of September 11 – of the ‘defining moment’ when the second plane, ‘sharking in low over the Statue of Liberty’, changed the world beyond all recognition – to his dazzling descriptions of the major players in this new theatre of the grotesque and the wicked (‘Bin Laden’s contribution is his image, and nothing more: omnicidal nullity under a halo of ascetic beatitude’), Amis’s writing seizes the lapels. One of his favourite adjectives is ‘frictionless’ but his own style is almost palpably abrasive. The page fairly fizzes and pops with static.

That Amis is such a careful writer makes the rare occasions on which he falters both more conspicuous and harder to forgive. ‘[An] episode like Abu Ghraib’ implies that that hell-hole popped into being when the photographs of Lynndie England and her fellow humiliation-merchants came to light in 2004 (in fact, it had been a torture chamber and a human abattoir for many years previously). More seriously, Amis dignifies the alliance of Ba’athist thugs and Islamofascists currently tearing Iraq apart with the title of ‘an insurgency’, which is like calling Adolf Hitler ‘a bad apple’. There is also a bit of literary pilfering. A politician is described as ‘cake-in-the-rain handsome’ (W. H. Auden’s auto-description), while Tony Blair’s ‘weak protesting treble’ is lifted from Philip Larkin’s ‘To the Sea’.

There are also at least a couple of examples of Amis attempting to cover his tracks. Recently, he was accused of ‘Islamophobia’ over his essay ‘The Age of Horrorism’, reprinted here as ‘Terror and Boredom: The Dependent Mind’. Amis’s description of an airport official searching his youngest daughter’s rucksack (‘palpating the length of all four limbs of her fluffy duck’) was singled out by many commentators as evidence of his bigotry. This is what Amis wrote originally:

There ought to be a better word than boredom for the trance of inanition that weaved its way through me. I wanted to say something like, ‘Even Islamists have not yet started to blow up their own families on aeroplanes. So please desist until they do. Oh yeah: and stick to people who look like they’re from the Middle East.’

If this is bigotry then I’m in trouble. But of course, it isn’t bigotry; what Amis is doing is confessing to an urge, and there is a world of difference between confessing to an urge (however unbecoming) and propounding a view. It is thus a little depressing to find that the final sentence of the offending passage has been very slightly modified in a way that insures the feelings expressed against the (highly likely) eventuality that someone not from the Middle East will one day blow himself up on an aeroplane. It now reads, ‘Oh yeah: and stick, for now, to young men who look like they’re from the Middle East.’ (Italics added.) What is Amis saying with this change? That his original recollection was wrong? Or that it would have been more politically convenient to have thought something vaguely different at the time?

Nevertheless, this book is a victory for the ironic over the dependent mind and for language that loves life over language that loves death. It is a victory, in other words, in the war against cliché.

Apollo's Bastards (The Australian, 22/03/2008)

John Mullan, Anonymity: A Secret History of English Literature
Faber; $35; 374pp

Unlike balloon animals and wood-oven pizzas, most works of literature are created in private. Writers require solitude and solitude entails invisibility. To be sure, the writer is a furtive creature, scratching or tapping away in his study, emerging only intermittently to smoke a cigarette or buy a bottle of Scotch. The study, the den, the converted loft-space – these are his natural habitat.

The compensation for this self-enforced monasticism is that the writer gets to see his name, if not in lights, then at least in print. A reasonably prolific author will produce a book about once every two years, at which point he is thrust, bewildered and blinking, into the glare and blare of publicity. The old book is sent on its way at a launch, a new one is decided upon at a lunch. Interviews and reviews appear in the press. For a moment, the writer is the centre of attention. But the real prize, the existential jackpot, is that cluster of letters beneath the title, or, in exceptional cases, above it.

Why, then, would a writer choose to sign his work pseudonymously, or, indeed, not to sign it at all? If art, as some anthropologists tell us, is a form of display, of ‘showing off’, then why not mark your territory? These are the questions posed by John Mullan in his absorbing study, Anonymity: A Secret History of English Literature. Nor is he short of raw material out of which to fashion interesting answers. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Henry Fielding’s Joseph Andrews and the ‘Waverly’ novels of Sir Walter Scott are just a few of the masterpieces sent into print without attribution; all were what that ‘addict of anonymity’, Daniel Defoe, called ‘Apollo’s bastards’.

From mischief to modesty to political expediency – the motives for preserving an incognito are, argues Mullan, many and various. Often, it is a form of self-promotion. Indeed, if one point emerges most forcefully it is that final concealment is only rarely the aim; anonymity is a veil rather than a mask. Certainly this was true of Jonathan Swift, whose correspondence with his fellow ‘Scriblerians’ makes it clear that the authorship of Gulliver’s Travels had the status of an open secret. Author-attribution was part of the fun. The writer, pretending reticence, ‘was but the hungrier for admiration’.

Anonymity is also creatively useful. Like Swift and his circle, Sir Walter Scott enjoyed the speculation anonymity attracted. But his was also a constructive reticence, an act of creative ‘self-dispossession’. Scott’s novels, writes Mullan, ‘have a first-person speaker who is ready with local history, geographical knowledge and antiquarian lore, a character whom the author was able to remove from himself.’ Similarly, Charlotte Brontë’s pseudonym allowed her to flex her authorial muscles. As Currer Bell she could defy convention and experiment on the public taste. As Mullan writes,

It is as if the discovery of a ‘female hand’ in her novel is a denial of her imagination. She is not timid or defensive about this [in her letter to James Taylor], not some demure recluse flinching from public regard. There is something assertive, even aggressive, about her requirement that her authorship be de-sexed … She disdains reviewers whose judgements of Jane Eyre are shaped by their assumptions about its author’s gender.

She was challenging a tradition of female reticence. ‘Her pseudonym had become a sign of creative defiance.’

Though Mullan has lots of good material and a lot of excellent points to make, his organisation leaves something to be desired. Mullan himself admits as much when he suggests that his original plan to write ‘a brief history of literary anonymity’ was thwarted by the realisation that no ‘grand narrative’ of anonymity exists. Consequently, he takes a thematic approach, jumping backwards and forwards in time, often in rather arbitrary fashion. But a simpler structure does suggest itself – one that could have coexisted with a fair degree of chronology both within and between the chapters. Hugely to oversimplify, authors went from a situation where anonymity was merely a sign of the low esteem in which literature was held, to one where it was often a matter of necessity, to one where it became a literary convention, to one in which the literary convention presented new outlets for creative experiment. Some acknowledgement of this basic chronology would have been enormously helpful.

Still, Anonymity is a fascinating book and Mullan proves an erudite guide to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries especially. I was particularly interested in his chapter on reviewing, in which he shows decisively that anonymity was as likely to encourage literary back-scratching as intellectual honesty. Of course, it also allowed you to be ruder, causing many a wounded author to smash up the den or converted loft-space.

Poetic Justice (Sydney Morning Herald, 22/03/2008)

Bernadette Brennan (ed.), Just Words? Australian Authors Writing for Justice
UQP; $32.95; 216pp

The front cover of this collection of essays depicts the dirty imprint of a boot. This is an allusion to Joseph Brodsky’s Laureate lecture, ‘An Immodest Proposal’ (a lecture referred to in Gail Jones’s essay, ‘Speaking Shadows: Justice and the Poetic’), in which Brodsky recounts the bittersweet story of how a book of poems bearing just such a mark was found in a concentration camp in France at the end of WWII. This story has its uplifting side, which has to do, in Brodsky’s words, with a book of poetry ‘finding its reader’. But it is also, of course, an image of oppression, a recognition that freedom of speech is allergic to authoritarianism.

Fear that Australia has itself succumb to a species of authoritarianism is the motivation behind this book. As Bernadette Brennan writes in her preface: ‘This collection of essays is designed to contribute to that vital, ongoing conversation about writing and justice that is happening in this country despite the many powerful forces operating to thwart it.’ These ‘forces’ include the legislation limiting press freedoms and civil liberties in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the concentration of media ownership and ‘ever-shrinking arts funding’.

Brennan raises some important issues, not the least of which is the Howard Government’s attempt to undermine the relationship between journalists and their confidential sources. However, the case is overstated. Indeed, the image on the book’s front cover is a good indication of its informing hyperbole. That image inevitably brings to mind George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, in which Winston is told by his interrogator, O’Brien: ‘If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.’ I don’t think it is being politically quietist to point out that the situation in Australia is nothing like as bad as that and that the comparison with totalitarian societies (even when accompanied by solemn caveats) is unlikely to help the cause of those who seek to reverse the offending legislation, inviting as it does accusations of hysteria. Orwell, who is invoked at least twice in this book (incompetently, in the case of Peter Manning), had little time for such moral equivalence.

Nevertheless, Just Words? does broach some urgent moral and political questions and inspires some interesting meditations on how, or whether, Australian writers can treat of them in their chosen genres. Thus, Noel Rowe explores what he calls ‘a poetic of justice’ in Judith Wright’s poetry, while Bernadette Brennan, the collection’s editor, provides a close and subtle reading of Clara Law’s film, Letters to Ali, which expertly exposes the running sewer beneath John Howard’s premiership – the detention of ‘illegal’ immigrants. I especially liked Anita Heiss’s survey of Indigenous children’s literature, though am sceptical about her recommendation for literary ‘collaborations’ between Indigenous communities and the publishing industry. Despite the examples of the King James Bible and the 9/11 Commission Report, good literature written by committee is rare.

The biggest criticism one can make of Just Words? is also the biggest compliment one can pay it – namely, that it undermines its own thesis. When, for example, Peter Manning compares the Australian media to a ‘state media’ one knows that it cannot be the case simply by dint of the case having been made. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. The price of eternal vigilance is humbug.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Virtual Volumes (Sydney Morning Herald, 15/03/2008)

George Steiner, My Unwritten Books
Weidenfeld and Nicolson; $39.99; 210pp

At school I had a history teacher who, when exam-time came around, would give his students the following advice. If one found oneself running out of time, one should not, he said, cut one’s essay short in an artificial effort to finish it but instead write ‘Out of time: would have mentioned’. Beneath this, the student should list the topics that he would have raised had time permitted, thus demonstrating that his failure to do so did not denote any want of knowledge, only the want of time-management skills.

The days are long gone when anyone thought that George Steiner needed to pass an exam: the polymathic, not to say panoptic, professor boasts an almost superhuman intelligence. However, he has decided to apply the principle outlined above to his oeuvre, an oeuvre containing such milestones in thought as The Death of Tragedy and After Babel. My Unwritten Books is his ‘would have mentioned’ – seven books he wished he’d written but for various reasons never did. They include a study of the prodigious sinologist Joseph Needham (Chinoiserie); an enquiry into the role of envy in human (and especially artistic) affairs (Invidia); and an attempt to rethink the notion of ‘literacy’ in an increasingly globalised world (School Terms).

Though Steiner is a brilliant writer he can also be a silly one and The Tongues of Eros shows him at his silliest, which is to say his most intellectually frivolous. Ranging from the sexual proclivities of the deaf to the ‘Don Juanism’ of the polyglot, The Tongues of Eros raises fascinating questions to do with the relationship between language and sex, but is ruined by too much Steinerian dazzle. Take, for example, the following sentence: ‘The etymological accord is factitious, but “semen” and “semantic” are conjoined in ejaculations both corporeal and linguistic.’ Well, if the ‘etymological accord is factitious’ why make such a show of it? Unless, of course, the athletic professor is more enamoured of his own performance than he is of the panting reader on the end of it! Or again: ‘There are even distinct numerologies of eros. Consider the meaning of “69” in modern Western allusion.’ But of course ‘69’ is a visual pun denoting mutual oral gratification; it has nothing to do with numerology. It is passages such as this – too clever by half – that make Steiner such an obvious target for the parodists.

On the whole, though, My Unwritten Books is a joy, albeit a joy more than tinged with regret that we’ll never get to hold these volumes in our hands. In Of Man and Beast, an impassioned polemic, Steiner speculates on the changing relationship between human beings and the animal kingdom, while in Zion he proposes a tentative enquiry into the vexed and vexing idea of ‘Jewishness’, citing ‘addiction to textuality’ as one of a possible handful of factors that seem to distinguish the ‘people of the book’. This last gives the notion of ‘unwritten books’ an added resonance and poignancy. I found myself thinking, more than once, of the holocaust memorial in Vienna’s Judenplatz, a 10 by 7 metre block into which has been scored the simulacra of countless, inward-facing books. To be sure, Steiner seems more haunted than ever by the terrible crimes of the previous century and by the understanding that Man, as Kant said, is fashioned out of ‘crooked timber’.

Indeed, and for all its intellectual vivacity, My Unwritten Books is an often sad volume, steeped as it is in an awareness of death. As Steiner writes in Of Man and Beast: ‘It is not only elephants to which both fable and direct witness attribute some prevision of their own decease, signalled by discreet withdrawal into solitude.’ Conscious that time is running out, this elephantine intelligence is swaying resignedly off from the herd. It’s a majestic sight, but painful to witness.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Pawns in the Game (The Australian, 08/03/2008)

Daniel Johnson, White King and Red Queen: How the Cold War was Fought on the Chessboard (Atlantic Books; $49.95; 368pp)
David Shenk, The Immortal Game: A History of Chess or How 32 Carved Pieces on a Board Illuminated Our Understanding of War, Science and the Human Brain
(Anchor Books; $30.95; 327pp)

On one level, chess is unfriendly to prose. Notwithstanding its military character, the game itself lacks physical drama. The problem is easily observed in a live match. For hours at a time the players sit there, frowning over the sixty-four squares. Then one of them slowly reaches out, picks up a Pawn and moves it … two inches. Even if the audience wanted to go wild (and it is unlikely that any but a tiny minority have the faintest idea what’s going on), solemn arbiters at the back of the stage would brandish placards reading ‘Silence!’

Despite this, and perhaps in part because of it, chess has inspired some mighty literature. From Vladimir Nabokov’s two ‘chess novels’, The Defence and The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, to Stefan Zweig’s The Royal Game, to the superior journalism of Arthur Koestler, Martin Amis and Julian Barnes – more than any other sport chess holds the serious writer in thrall. The reasons for this, in my view, are threefold: the aesthetic and mathematical ‘beauty’ of the game; the mesmerising tension between that beauty and the human wreckage that often surrounds it; and the fact that chess is an incomparable metaphor for internal and external conflict.

It was Boris Spassky v. Bobby Fischer (Reykjavik, 1972) that transformed chess writing into a rich sub-genre of literary reportage. Played as it was in the midst of the Cold War, the match was a political, as well as a sporting, encounter. There was also the clash of personalities, which seemed, in a fundamental way, to underline the political differences. Spassky, the imperturbable champion, headed up the Soviet machine in characteristically sober style, while Fischer, the mercenary American challenger, disgraced himself repeatedly. (‘His bad manners,’ wrote George Steiner, ‘verge on the transcendent.’)

Spassky v. Fischer is the centrepiece of Daniel Johnson’s White King and Red Queen. But the real value of Johnson’s book is that it shows how chess was incorporated into the official culture of Soviet communism. Chess, ‘the supreme sublimation of war’, became ‘a mega-metaphor’ for the standoff between the superpowers, one that derived added significance from the game’s role in Soviet communist society. ‘If the Cold War was the best thing that ever happened to chess,’ writes Johnson, ‘chess furnished the best metaphor for the Cold War.’

The beginnings of the relationship between Soviet communism and chess-obsession are innocuous enough: chess was simply part of the baggage that the 1917 revolutionaries brought with them from the coffee houses. But by the mid-1920s the Soviet Union had decided to promote the game en masse. Apparatchiks such as Nikolai Krylenko politicised chess to an absurd degree and set in place a massive chess infrastructure underwritten by disinformation, psych-ops and all manner of political skulduggery, including the victimisation of players deemed to be ideologically unsound.

One of those players was Victor Korchnoi, who defected in 1976. His match against Anatoly Karpov is fascinating for the surreal atmosphere of Cold War paranoia that engulfed it. The encounters between Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov in the 1980s were similarly charged with political significance, Karpov representing the old Soviet Union, Kasparov representing the new. Indeed, the Karpov-Kasparov epic dovetails beautifully with the wider ‘endgame’: the collapsing scenery of Soviet communism culminating in 1989 with the demolition of the Berlin Wall.

The only problem with Johnson’s book is the lack of actual chess analysis. By contrast, David Shenk’s The Immortal Game includes a blow-by-blow account – one or two moves between each chapter – of a short but absorbing practice game between Adolf Anderssen and Lionel Kieseritzky played in 1851. This was the so-called Immortal Game, in which a spectacular sacrifice by white (Anderssen) led to an equally spectacular checkmate. Shenk proves an insightful and enthusiastic commentator – such that I found myself racing through the chapters in order to get to the next bit of play.

Not that those chapters are any less fascinating. Much more than a straightforward history of chess, The Immortal Game covers subjects as diverse as the role that chess has played in diplomacy, its utilisation by writers and artists and the astonishing mathematics of geometric progression. The numerous insights chess affords into the workings of the human mind (and the toll it sometimes takes upon it) make for particularly interesting reading, especially when it comes to Kasparov’s battles with Deep Blue and other chess computers, during which Kasparov became, in one sense, the representative of the human species.

And then there is chess’s ‘allegorical clout’. Shenk, who has a keen journalistic sense, begins his book in A.D. 813, with an image of Muhammad al-Amin, sixth caliph of the Abbasid Empire, playing chess against a favourite eunuch in the imperial inner sanctum of Baghdad, which is under attack from al-Amin’s brother. Now, in that unfortunate part of the world, a different enemy is wrecking its Pawn structure in an attempt to afford more movement to its Bishops. Clearly, there’s life in the old metaphor yet.

Bogged (Sydney Morning Herald, 08/03/2008)

John Kinsella, Shades of the Sublime and Beautiful
Fremantle Press; $24.95; 112pp

Eleven years ago, Australian Book Review published a letter from John Kinsella responding to Ivor Indyk’s review of Poems: 1980–1994 – an extensive selection of Kinsella’s poetry published by Fremantle Arts Centre Press. Indyk had used his review to suggest that Kinsella’s improbable productivity was not necessarily conducive to his gift, citing his rapidly expanding oeuvre and a forthcoming book on aesthetics, Authenticities, as evidence of literary overproduction. Kinsella responded that Indyk’s review more closely resembled character assassination than serious literary criticism and corrected him on a point of fact: Authenticities was not, he said, a book on aesthetics but a book of poems, though he conceded that separating the two could be difficult.

The concession was a revealing one. Kinsella is indeed a poet-aesthetician, a fact that his latest collection of poems, Shades of the Sublime and Beautiful, makes explicit. Taking its title from Edmund Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757), in which Burke discusses the distinction between beauty, which consists in smallness, smoothness and brightness, and the sublime, with its associations of infinity, darkness, solitude, vacuity and dread, the book is a fragmented essay on aesthetics. To be sure, it follows Burke’s argument closely, with titles such as ‘Joy and Grief’ and ‘Novelty’ lifted directly from his treatise.

The notions of solitude, infinity and dread are especially relevant to Kinsella’s poetry, which is often described as ‘anti-pastoral’. Most of the poems in this collection are set in the farmlands of Western Australia and Kinsella is as alive as ever to the uglier side of that environment: to salinity, bushfires, pesticides, drought, farmland sinkholes and rusty Utes. Conflagrations of crows and grasshoppers inspire a kind of fear in the poet but also a sort of spiritual transcendence. Burke’s notion of terror as productive of sublimity is entirely at home in Kinsella’s poetry, attuned as it is to violence and the threat of it.

Nor can Kinsella resist exploring the political associations of the concept. From ‘the terror of road-widening’ to the war on terror – the observation of some local detail will often occasion a meditation on an aspect of the global situation, though the link is seldom, if ever, clear. Perhaps the most successful linkage comes in ‘Of the Effects of Tragedy’, taking as it does a specific image and a specific idea from Burke’s Enquiry and relating it to the bombings on the London Underground. The result is an eerily moving passage:

I delayed the typing
of this poem by a few days, not able to formulate
my exact meaning, or thrive on my errors
and then I was going to utilise Burke’s image of a fallen
London as one more enticing to those who might never
visit in its ‘glory’, and not actually wishing
collapse, would find annihilation, the remnant of its
immensity, a thrill, a frisson, delight … a prompt to consider
their own mortality – a lens for the night-song
of the tawny frogmouth? And then, London was bombed.

Here, the incongruous local detail – ‘the night-song / of the tawny frogmouth’ – actually underscores the distance between aesthetics and the real world by emphasising the physical distance between the event and the poet contemplating it.

Unfortunately, the great majority of poems in Shades of the Sublime and Beautiful are in thrall to Kinsella’s other ‘aesthetic’: the deaf poetics of the ‘Language school’. Like John Ashbery, Ron Silliman and J. H. Prynne, Kinsella is happy to ‘thrive on [his] errors’, stressing the materiality of language and how it breaks down in the face of reality. The result is a sort of anti-poetry tediously enamoured of its own textuality. Thus ‘the “boo-book” anagrams’ of the Boobook owl in ‘Novelty’ and, in ‘Like Power’, ‘those threatening foxes, dragging / chunks of the dead around / like what / Jakobson said / about Xlebnikov’s syntax’.

Occasionally Kinsella forgets himself and seems to discover some residual faith in poetry’s ability to represent the world. In one poem, his son is ‘mesmerised / by the liquid flick’ of a snake’s ‘seamless body’, while in ‘Sympathy – Bogged’ he describes an attempt to dislodge a car from a muddy puddle. Note how the vowels and run-on lines convey the sense of the thing described:

Low-geared he tries to ease it out,
Semi-grip then centrifugal
Rip, spinning wildly, flywheel blitz.
Bogged – no traction.

Later in the poem a mud-bespattered tail-light is likened to a supernova remnant – a brilliant simile by any standards. The reader-for-pleasure wants more of this.

Alas, there is very little of it. Shades of the Sublime and Beautiful finds Kinsella at his least accessible and will leave most readers bored and bewildered. Try as they might to gain some traction, they will find themselves irretrievably bogged.