Six Lectures On Fruit

Dobson’s Six Lectures On Fruit were among the most highly-regarded of his works, held in an esteem that the contemporary reader finds unfathomable. Revisiting these pamphlets, it swiftly becomes apparent that Dobson has no idea what he’s talking about. The revised view of the Lectures is put best by one upstart young Dobson scholar, who dismisses them as “bloviating and orotund”.

Consider the first lecture, On The Putting Of Fruit Into Pies, in which Dobson challenges the accepted definitions of both ‘fruit’ and ‘pies’, not to mention the usual meanings of the verb ‘to put’. Some critics like to pretend that the essay is a precursor of what would become known as postmodernism or deconstruction, and inasmuch as it is clueless gibberish, they are correct. In his defence, the pamphleteer does not dress up his babble in needlessly complicated pseudoacademic jargon. Indeed, his language is direct, even earthy, and littered with harsh Anglo Saxon expletives, but he betrays depths of almost unimaginable ignorance. The climax of the lecture is supposed to be a recipe for what Dobson calls a ‘prune and lemon pastry explosion’, but the instructions are so befogged by witlessness that, to my knowledge, no one has ever succeeded in making it.

The genesis of the Lectures was an invitation to Dobson from the Orchard Persons Of The Port Of Tongs. Those of you familiar with the geography of this wretched seaside town will know that it is bounded on its eastern landward side by a terrific number of orchards. The Orchard Persons’ Social Club & Community Centre was situated in a clearing between a pear orchard and a persimmon orchard, and the usual entertainments it hosted were nights of oompah oompah music and freakish dancing. Perhaps that is why Dobson chose to deliver his second lecture, On The Cutting Of Grapefruit Into Segments Of Equal Size, in the form of rhyming couplets, to the accompaniment of a glockenspiel. He was not a skilled glockenspielist, nor did he have much understanding of geometry, as those Orchard Persons discovered who went home and tried to cut their grapefruit the Dobson way .

For the third and fourth lectures, Dobson resorted to anecdote and personal reminiscence, recounting a series of yarns under the headings All The Plums I Have Ever Eaten, Where I Was, And What They Tasted Like and How I Built A Coathanger Out Of Fig Stones.

Audiences were dwindling by this time, and only three people turned up to listen to what was to become the most notorious of the Lectures, the Dialogue Between A Raspberry And A Tangerine. Even those who are most severely critical of the series are forced to admit that Dobson did a tremendous amount of research for this one. He was barely out of the reading room of the Pointy Town Municipal Library for weeks on end, poring over books on topics as diverse as fruit, philately, biochemistry, aerodynamics, the Peninsular Wars, tugboats, flamenco dancing, and the Diet of Worms. But his claims to have penetrated the very essence of a raspberry and a tangerine are, quite frankly, ludicrous. Marigold Chew told him so as they ate breakfast on a hopeless veranda on the morning before the lecture. Dobson’s response was to weep great racking sobs into his bowl of Special K. He spent all day making revisions to the text, some of which have a certain Jesuitical rigour, and by the time he arrived at the clearing between pear and persimmon orchards he was brimming with confidence. Preposterous it may be, but the Dialogue Between A Raspberry And A Tangerine retains to this day a kind of magnificent declamatory brio. Lengthy extracts from the lecture formed the libretto of a concept album by prog rock titans Gratuitoüs Umlaut.

The published edition of Six Lectures On Fruit contained only the texts of the first five lectures. Some Dobsonists have argued that the sixth in the series never actually existed, that Dobson had some kind of brain spasm and that all knowledge of fruit was wiped from his mind. E V Van Voo did much to spread this story, in a foolish ‘conspiracy theory’ novel, but he overlooks the fact that the pamphleteer was never a man to let ignorance stop him expounding at length on any subject he turned his mind to.

What in fact happened was that when Dobson arrived in the clearing on the final Thursday he found the doors of the Social Club barred and bolted, and no one in sight. Even the birds had fled from their perches on the trees that fringed the clearing. Dobson took one look at the mighty iron padlock on the door, reached into his satchel, took out the notes of his sixth and final lecture – some drivel about bananas, or marmalade – and tore them into confetti, and cast them unto the winds, and then he trudged off into one of the orchards, and shook a branch until pears and persimmons came tumbling to earth, and he sat on a tuffet and gorged himself on fruit until he was bloated, and, bloated, he waddled homewards, along the lane out of the orchard, body and brain with fruit bloated.

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