The Coming of the Toads blog is written by Joe Linker.
I attended El Camino College and California State University at Dominguez Hills – earning a BA in English, with a minor in 20th Century Thought and Expression, and an MA in English. Over a decade of adjunct work now bookends 25 years in what Han-shan called the “red dust” of business (CPCU, 1992). I was a Hawthorne Fellow at the Attic Institute from April to August, 2012.
“The Coming of the Toads” is the title of a short poem by E. L. Mayo (1904-1979):
“The very rich are not like you and me,”
Sad Fitzgerald said, who could not guess
The coming of the vast and gleaming toads
With precious heads which, at a button’s press,
The flick of a switch, hop only to convey
To you and me and even the very rich
The perfect jewel of equality.
Mayo, E. L. Collected Poems. New Letters, University of Missouri – Kansas City. Volume 47, Nos. 2 & 3, Winter-Spring, 1980-81.
I first read the E. L. Mayo short poem, “The Coming of the Toads,” at El Camino College, in the late 1960’s. At the time, we read with confidence that Mayo’s toads, by then already a couple of decades old, were figurative for televisions, which Mayo saw as ugly, but whose tubes contained a lovely irony, for the bluish-green light emanating from the eyes of the toads emerged from the homes of rich and poor alike, all watching the same shows, or, as McLuhan said, all involved in the same medium, thus Mayo’s equilibrium. Mayo’s poem is a figurative evaluation of the effects of media on culture, and it’s not very different from McLuhan’s analysis.
The source of Mayo’s opening to his poem remains ambiguous. In Fitzgerald’s short story, “The Rich Boy” (1926), the narrator says, “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.” But Mayo doesn’t seem to be quoting from Fitzgerald’s story. Instead, he seems to be referencing the famous, supposed exchange by the two rich-obsessed, repartee aficionados Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Various sources have referenced the supposed conversation. In any case, Hemingway wrote, in his short story, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” (1936), “He remembered poor Julian and his romantic awe of them and how he had started a story once that began, ‘The very rich are different from you and me.’ And how some one had said to Julian, Yes, they have more money. But that was not humorous to Julian. He thought they were a special glamourous race and when he found they weren’t it wrecked him just as much as any other thing that wrecked him.”
Poor Fitzgerald, Mayo seems to conclude, for he didn’t, in 1926, have television. And we didn’t, in the late 1960’s, have the Internet, while today we cradle little metamorph tadpoles in our laps, as Mayo’s metaphorical likeness reaches ever-greater social equilibrium in McLuhan’s global village. The poet waves a metaphorical wand and televisions become toads, ugly and poisonous, breeding prolifically, an invasive species. The short Mayo poem captures the concerns the blog amplifies: the effects of media and technology on culture; the socio-economic democracy of literature and our ability to read; the technologically engaged sensorium encaged in light-show effects; obscure and obsolete technology (in the natural world, non-invasive frog populations are declining, and television grows defunct) ; the anecdotal essay; the poem as pun, metaphor as doubt; what to read, and how; and what to write, and how.
The Coming of the Toads blog by Joe Linker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. The Coming of the Toads blog is Copyright 2007-2013, Joe Linker. To contact, comment on any post, or email: email@example.com.
Read outside the blog:
- Excerpts from novel, “Penina’s Letters,” at The Boulevard: a publication of the Hawthorne Fellows at the Attic Institute: Issue # 5 (Special Issue: Liberation), September 2012; Issue # 4, July 2012; Issue # 3, June 2012. Web.
- Reposts at berfrois. Web.
- “The Value of Time and Pressure,” reposted in The Experience Magazine, Winter 2011. Print and Web.
- “Sex and the Vote,” The Oregonian, 4 November 2010. Print and Web.
- “An object lesson in health and happiness,” The Oregonian, 28 August 2009. Print and Web.
- “Epiphany” appeared in Rocinante, Spring 2009, Vol. 8. Print.
- “A Grammar of Love,” The Christian Science Monitor, 28 May 2009. Print and Web.
Below: A page from Silent Quicksand: “Wailing Rail,” JAZZSKIN,” and “Amuse and Abuse,” appeared in Silent Quicksand, Fall 1973, #3 (a poetry and art magazine of El Camino College).