Temporarily, and maybe in one spot.

Posted by September Blue Wednesday, 19 March 2008

In the post-apocalyptic San Francisco of Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, empty apartments aren't empty.

"Kipple is useless objects, like junk mail or match folders after you use the last match or gum wrappers or yesterday's homeopape. When nobody's around, kipple reproduces itself. For instance, if you go to bed leaving any kipple around your apartment, when you wake up the next morning there's twice as much of it. It always gets more and more. [...] Your place, here," he said, "this apartment you've picked - it's too kipple-ized to live in. We can roll the kipple-factor back; we can do like I said, raid the other apts. But -" He broke off.

"But what?"

Isidore said, "We can't win."

"Why not?" [...]

"No one can win against kipple," he said, "except temporarily and maybe in one spot, like in my apartment I've sort of created a stasis between the pressure of kipple and nonkipple, for the time being. But eventually I'll die or go away, and then the kipple will once again take over. It's a universal principle operating throughout the universe; the entire universe is moving towards a final state of total, absolute kipple-ization."

What I love best about this is how neatly it reverses usual ideas of the mechanics of mess. The less time you spend actually living somewhere, the more kipple you'll need to deal with when you're home; tidying is a constant, unwinnable fight against entropy.

This is what my flat is like. I get up, I go to work, I come home at night with just about enough energy to make a coffee and slump on the sofa under a blanket, I sleep. And when I am not watching, the kipple spreads (I imagine with a soft rustling sound). How else did the kitchen table I only ever use for marking essays get covered in empty carrier bags and cans of soup? How else did the armchair by the door end up stacked high with, if I'm remembering right, three newspapers from February, one pink-and-purple scarf my mother knitted, an indefinite number of junk mail envelopes, a purple Monster Munch packet, an Edith Wharton novel, enough receipts to wallpaper the whole building and some disintegrating internal mail envelopes? How else did my bedroom come to look like the natural habitat of a nesting laundry-monster?

The war on kipple is like the war on misplaced undergraduate apostrophes. No one can win, except temporarily and maybe in one spot.


  1. Sisyphus Says:
  2. Heh. So true.

    Bob the Angry Flower has a poster about the apostrophe that I love but have not had the bravery to buy and put up somewhere. Maybe I'll have to wait for tenure. Heh.

  3. Laz Says:
  4. You know, I've been thinking a lot about this matter recently. All I ever seem to do at the weekend is tidy. And when I'm not actively tidying, I'm thinking about what I have to tidy next. I make plans to tidy. I'm starting to look forward to Monday and the break from tidying.

    Not sure life is worth living any more...