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number_63
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Commercial Traveller
« : 18.10.04 at 21:02 »
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Has there been an analysis of the lyrics anywhere?
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Mike Walters
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Re: Commercial Traveller
« Reply #1: 19.10.04 at 00:23 »
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There have been various glancing references to 'Commercial Traveller' over the years in the old MV forum (worth doing a search in the MV archives collected under, well, Archive) but, unless I misremember, no sustained analysis.  Clive has talked about the references to The Odyssey and therefore, I guess, to Ulysses, but I don't think we've ever taken it any further than that.  
 
In the light of John N L Morrison's comments about the apparent lack of critical mass on the board (and it does seem that, other than talking about the choice of beer at PoD - don't get me wrong, an entirely legitimate focus of attention - we do seem to have collapsed into lethargy lately), any thoughts on this one?  Personally, I like the substition of Homer's 'rosy -fingered dawn' with 'baby lotion pink' , but that's parenthood for you.  
 
Regards
 
Mike
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number_63
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Re: Commercial Traveller
« Reply #2: 22.10.04 at 20:47 »
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Mike
 
Many thanks.
 
At the risk of displaying my ignorance,how does one search in the archives for a discussion of a particular set of lyrics? I'd like to catch up on this song,but without having people reply,as happened on the email,somewhat testily that this has already been discussed before.
 
So can I do this on my own?
 
number 63 Huh
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Mike Walters
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Re: Commercial Traveller
« Reply #3: 22.10.04 at 20:58 »
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Hi number 63 - or can I just called you 'number'?
 
I'm sure Steve can explain this much better than me (and maybe there are other ways of doing it, but this works for me...), but if you go into the Archive section in the menu bar at the top of the page (you need to be logged in to do this), then go down to the MV Archive text files right at the bottom of the page, you can then open up each year's archive.  You can simply use the 'find on this page' tool in the Edit menu on your web browser to look for a particular word or phrase, such as 'commercial traveller'.  It's a bit laborious, but that will then take you to each reference to the phrase in the archive.  I had a very quick look which supported by recollection that this lyric hadn't really been discussed in much depth, but I could well have forgotten some discussion ('it's my lousy memory...') so it's probably worth a skim through them all to see what you can find.  If you can't find much, or even if you can, I'd be pleased to hear your own thoughts.  
 
Regards
 
Mike
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number_63
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Re: Commercial Traveller
« Reply #4: 23.10.04 at 14:18 »
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Mike
 
Excellent . Many thanks.I've ploughed through and found very few references-the main ones being the song in the lists of favourites etc.
 
And the only suggestion I found was Ian C's question (MV2742) as to whether Kingsley Amis' ' A Case of Samples ' could have been an inspiration.
 
(I may have missed some;several pages purported to have no references to the song at all,which may have been something I did wrong rather than an accurate description of the archive)
 
I've very little to contribute,but much to ask.I'm very fond of the song.But only see it as a comparison of the modern mundane work/family life with some classical allusion.But what? So why Homer,the Odyssey or Ulysses?
 
And what (more dully) is /was Infacare? A real product? Or a CJ invention?
 
PS I'd be happy with the salutation ' 63' .In this formulation the status of the first and second names is reversed.So as I'm calling you Mike,then really I ought to be 63 Wink
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Mike Walters
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Re: Commercial Traveller
« Reply #5: 23.10.04 at 17:55 »
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Hi 63
 
Glad you were able to find a few things in the archives  My assumption about the lyric  is that CJ is using a similar technique as Joyce's 'Ulysses',  but perhaps to a different effect.  CJ seems to me to be using the parallels with the Odyssey to indicate how epic and romantic aspirations give way to the pressures of the mundane, so that the stock Homeric epithets ('wine dark sea', 'rosy fingered dawn') become translated into banal parallels.  And, yes, Infacare is real enough - gentle baby soap stuff, if I recall correctly.  
 
Ian C may well be right about the Amis reference.  I went to look at my Collected Amis and realised that that poem isn't included - but interestingly the paperback copy I've got does include a warm endorsement on the back from one Clive James, and it's not difficult to imagine that CJ might see Amis's poetry as an influence.  To stretch these possibly tenuous links still further, like CJ, Amis also borrowed Tennyson's title 'A Dream of Fair Women' for one of his poems.  And, coming full circle, it may be that 'Commercial Traveller' also makes reference to Tennyson's poem, 'Ulysses', which is about the aged Ulysses's longing to travel again to escape his now mundane life.  
 
Any more for any more?  
 
Regards
 
Mike
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number_63
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Re: Commercial Traveller
« Reply #6: 24.10.04 at 18:38 »
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Mike
 
Many thanks.
 
As this seems to be a private conversation (!) can I ask a rather naive question.Unfortunately I don't know any of the bits of literature referred to.Including the Odyssey.
 
So what are the parellels with the Odyssey?.(Apologies for being lazy about looking this up,but I've a serious suspicion that the Odyssey is rather lengthy!) Smiley
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Ian Chippett
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Re: Commercial Traveller
« Reply #7: 24.10.04 at 20:37 »
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Mike wrote:
 
<<Ian C may well be right about the Amis reference.  I went to look at my Collected Amis and realised that that poem isn't included - but interestingly the paperback copy I've got does include a warm endorsement on the back from one Clive James, and it's not difficult to imagine that CJ might see Amis's poetry as an influence.>>  
 
I think that now I'd probably not go so far: the two texts are about commercial travellers but I think that's about as far as it goes. I'm surprised BTW that the poem isn't in the Collected Poems: it's definitely in the Selected Poems and indeed gave its name to Amis's second (?) collection IIRC.  
 
Ian C
 
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Mike Walters
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Re: Commercial Traveller
« Reply #8: 25.10.04 at 09:32 »
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Glad Ian joined in, anyway.  It was beginning to feel a bit lonely out here.  
 
There's quite a good Homer Home Page (they couldn't resist) at  
 
http://www.enl.umassd.edu/InteractiveCourse/Homer/homer.html
 
which includes a decent synopsis of the Odyssey.  I take the references to include those to the nymph Calypso, Odysseus's giant bow, maybe the gorilla as Polyphemus, and the children as Penelope's suitors (if that's not drifting too far towards Oedipus...) etc, as well as the stock Homeric epithets.  But others may spot others.  
 
Picking up Ian's point, I was also bemused not to find 'A Case of Samples' in the Amis Collected Poem, but it doesn't appear to be there (though what the Penguin edition also doesn't include is anything as helpful as an alphabetical index).  Seems a bit odd to include it in the Selected Poems but not the Collected ones, but I suppose he always was a contrary old thing.
 
Mike
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Jan
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Re: Commercial Traveller
« Reply #9: 25.10.04 at 11:31 »
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Not usually my  style to intrude on the literary stuff but I think the nymph is Nausikaa. Well, I know the nymph is Nausikaa thanks to Clive's index and notes to his novel Brilliant creatures where she also makes an appearance. I mentioned it in MV9914 which is in mvdigyr7.txt but I didn't mention the song title Commercial Traveller (sorry!).
 
There was a prose version of another familiar passage:
...she came swayingly stepping... towards him through the ankle-deep water,
as once Nausikaa must have walked towards Odysseus where he lay face down
in the foam, so that when he looked up through salted lashes he saw her as
a curved shadow in the sunburst.

 
He says its in the Odyssey VI.
Jan
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Mike Walters
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Re: Commercial Traveller
« Reply #10: 25.10.04 at 16:35 »
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Thanks for the intrusion, Jan!  
 
That's obviously right - I had assumed, without really thinking about it, that the poem was following a similar arc to The Odyssey from Odysseus's imprisonment by Calypso to the return home, maybe with some play on the different kinds of imprisonment.  But you're clearly right that this is a reference to Nausicaa who finds Odysseus after he's been shipwrecked.  Which makes the lyric more intriguing to me.  Thinking about it, I'm not entirely sure what the significance of the nymph actually is in the lyric - I've always vaguely assumed that this section refers to an earlier idealised version of CT's relationship with his wife, so that the lyric traces a route from romatic aspiration to mundane reality.  I suppose that works as a parallel with The Odyssey if we see Odysseus's potential relationship with Nausicaa (whose father invites Odysseus to marry her, if I recall correctly) as a kind of road not travelled.  Or something.  Better ideas very welcome!  
 
Regards
 
Mike
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number_63
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Re: Commercial Traveller
« Reply #11: 25.10.04 at 20:59 »
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Many thanks Jan and Mike
 
I've read both MV9914 and the Odyssey synopsis with much interest.
 
(and belatedly learnt the origin of Scylla and Charybdis!)
 
I now understand that the allusion is to the Odyssey,but how close?  
 
And what's the history of the song? Is it a real oldie? This actually impacts on interpretation; it strikes me that there are three main phases-the earliest and most recent songs have less elaborate allusions than the main period of the first 6 albums????
 
63 Smiley
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Ian Chippett
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Re: Commercial Traveller
« Reply #12: 29.10.04 at 00:07 »
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Mike wrote:
 
<<Picking up Ian's point, I was also bemused not to find 'A Case of Samples' in the Amis Collected Poem, but it doesn't appear to be there (though what the Penguin edition also doesn't include is anything as helpful as an alphabetical index).  Seems a bit odd to include it in the Selected Poems but not the Collected ones, but I suppose he always was a contrary old thing. >>
 
Quite right, Mike: after delving around in my library I eventually found what I thought was KA's Selected Poems only to realise it was his Collected Poems and "A Case of Samples" wasn't (to my amazement) in it. How could he leave it out? (Though in a sense he didn't as at least two readers thought he hadn't.)
 
Can't help much with the classical references (though maybe Pete can: didn't he read Classics at Cambridge?). Any chance of a transcription? Bit too hard for me but it would be worth having.
 
Ian C
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