Friday, 12 October 2012

'Trieste Spam' by Simon Lavery


M.K. ‘Don’ Strachan was living in Trieste; its name signifies ‘marketplace’, which explains why most foreigners go there – they usually have something to sell.  His grandfather knew James Joyce in his Berlitz days there, or so he claimed; they used the same optician and used to (dimly) see each other there sometimes.  Stanislaus and Jim would join them for drinks together in the waterfront bars; his grandfather always paid. 
Don was an amateur semiotician.  He was working on a book: Spam as Signifier-the semiotics of junk mail.  When he finished his day-job as a clerk in a bank he would resume his academic work; he avers that junk emails are the most textually rich e-messages that we receive.  We should prioritize them and consign to a ‘junk’ folder all the emails we receive from known sources: friends, work colleagues, family.  Spam, he believes, is the found poetry of the digital age, the electronic equivalent of the ‘words of the prophets’ that are ‘written on the subway walls’.  Spam is the expression of the zeitgeist, not junk.  That is Don’s argument, and he refines it every night in his lucubrations.
He has never received dubious emails from helpful-sounding Nigerians claiming that he has a long-lost bank account that has just been discovered, and that if he will only send his own bank’s details he will receive a large sum of money.  He does, however, receive phone-calls in Italian telling him that he could make five thousand euros from his recent accident.  He is considering an extra chapter on the linguistic strategies of cold-callers, with particular reference to their opening gambits.
Once, in an idle moment in the bank, he composed a spam message of his own on his iPad and sent it to his work email address.  When he opened his work email account remotely that night when he returned home, he feigned surprised delight. 

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