Thursday, 30 April 2009

The Virtuosically Shambolic Dr Hugh Brady

Ever jetsetting, the Intellectual Hooligan this week found himself in Credit Crunched Dublin. The first elevator he encountered (directly outside Connolly Station) was broken.

Paninis were 8 Euros apiece.

And adorning every bin was the following (magnificently scathing) poster:

That one's going to be changing some attitudes, isn't it?

Anyhow, let's get to the meat of the anecdote, shall we?

In his journalistic fashion, the Hooligan was in Dublin to cover one momentous event.

Yes, that's right. It was the graduation address by Dr Hugh Grady, President of UCD (University College, Dublin). Some may have assumed that the Hooligan was present through personal interest – but no. He was just there for the speech.

And what a speech it was. Peppered with vertiginous silences, on the edge of which we (the audience) felt ourselves teeter precariously, hypnotised by the slow void of incomprehension into which we gazed, terrified, this was a piece of daringly post-modern oratory. The spirit of Cicero imbued with the defiantly spartan self-consciousness of Samuel Beckett.

A triumph.

There will have been philistines present in their droves (let there be no doubt) who complain:

'But it was really, really boring. And I couldn't actually follow what the hell he was talking about.'

To them I say: 'Okay. You have a point. But don't you see the bigger picture? A La Recherce Du Temps Perdu is really, really boring, too. And don't even get me started on Endgame. But that's not the thing, is it?'

For, on Wednesday 29 April, we in the grand concrete chambers of UCD bore witness to the birth of a new form of rhetorical art.

At first, its brilliance shimmered fitfully, mirage-like. Halting delivery. Gaping pauses, mid-clause. Ascending tricolons cut off in their prime. Mobius-strip sentences that turned back upon themselves in a staggeringly unexpected display of one-dimensionality ...

... Kentucky-fried chicken arguments that, when stripped of their fatty, bloated, bready coating, seem, in skeletal form, to bear no resemblance to the anatomy of the animal from which they allegedly came ...

... Halting exhortations, brandished – extended and trembling – like retractable tape-measures, ready at the merest touch to whip and slither metallically back into their sheaths.

Yes. Oh yes.

I can pinpoint the moment at which it became clear to me that this was a truly inspired piece of spoken art. It was the point at which Dr Brady uttered the following words, following on from a leaden expression that the Intellectual Hooligan (reprehensibly) neglected to note down:

'... A corny phrase, perhaps – but that's the T-shirt.'


'Ha ... That's ... [trailing off] ... that's what the T shirt is going to say.'


This, dear reader, was the searing anti-punchline anti-climax of a masterful anti-speech.

The beautifully-choreographed dredging of a blocked sewer – its majestic contrivance only perceptible when viewed from afar – the lapping tides of rising and falling effluence performing a balletic dance, contracting and expanding, sketching out a bleakly wonderful image of humanity's beautiful futility.

I fear it will be for generations yet to be born fully to recognise and celebrate the weighty literhetorical genius of Dr Hugh Brady. Yet, cataract-eyed, the Intellectual Hooligan nevertheless abases himself in tribute, able only to apprehend fleeting glimpses of his glory.

(So it is when humble man – with the foolhardiness of the prophet – raises his scarred gaze to the heavens, blasphemously daring to lock eyes with the burning sun.)

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