Embarrassing conversation with a student

STUDENT: Hey, Matt-sensei, what are you reading?
ME: (showing cover) "An Instance of the Fingerpost".
S: A what?
M: "An Instance of the Fingerpost".
S: What does that mean?
M: ... I don't know.
S: (laughs at me until he almost dies)

This must be what people mean when they talk about overly clever postmodernists ruining the joy of literature.

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An instance of the fingerpost.

Kids gazing at a fingerpost in awe. Oh what fun the '50s were! Doesn't that look like a thrill? These kids today with their Game Boys and whatnot, they don't know what they're missing.



I've read that book!It disturbed me.


Oh, so THAT's what a fingerpost is! Very obvious once you know. Although I don't approve of how much fun those kids are having.

But why "THE fingerpost"? And why an "instance"? I'm guessing it's an obscure quotation wrenched out of context that will be explained later in the book (which has so far disturbed me a bit too, not least in the parts on eye medicine)


I've had the book for some years now but haven't gotten around to reading it; my current plan is to wait until Pepys' Diary gets up to 1663, when the novel begins, and have a go at it. At any rate, I took a look at my copy, and I note that the fourth and final section is entitled "An Instance of the Fingerpost." So I suspect you're going to have to wait until after page 557 to find out. (I was going to cheat and use Amazon's "Search inside the book" feature, but it turns out it's not available for this one -- you can Look but not Search.)


Obviously, there is one Platonic ideal of "Fingerpost" from which all instances are cast. We cannot observe the true Fingerpost, alas, as we would be blinded.


Confession: I got disgusted with the book a few hundred pages into it (for misogyny and grisliness), and so I believe I never got to the "Fingerpost" part. I wait anxiously for you to explain when the fingerpost instances itself.


Good book. I read it two or three years ago. I'm not going to tell you what the title means, but don't worry - the book makes it all clear. I haven't visited your blog in a while, but now I'm back.

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