REPORT A PROBLEM
One of my fellow Julliard librarians discovered a curious reference in the notebooks of Arthur Russell. It said, "I have sunk in the Hudson River a metal box containing an audio reel that would have blown apart the history of New York City music."
The diving expedition took three months. A library technician drowned. It took three months, but we actually found it. We treated it with archival care, then slipped it onto the spindle of a reel-to-reel.
And there we heard it: clumsy, but certain: we had discovered the prototype, or ur-text, of every single song by Talking Heads.
What did I do today?
I got up, having not slept much.
I had a dentist appointment scheduled for 11:40.
I was really tired. So I decided to stay home til 11.
It made sense to go to the dentist on the way to work rather than go to work twice.
So I emailed my boss and told her what I was planning.
I played World of Goo for a bit until it was time to go to the dentist.
I walked up to Danforth and get on the subway at Chester.
I smoked a cigarette.
I'm out of space.
CHRISTMAS PARTY MASSACRE
I decided to go to the Christmas Party this year. I was frightened—psychotically so—but I forced myself to go. Apparently, it's good for one's career.
I started off with two girls I knew. They kept on staring into my eyes. I was witty and I told a lot of clever jokes. The girls laughed and laughed. They wanted to 'step outside' for a bit, so we did.
Finished, we went back inside. The crowd about me was growing. I won a few good arguments. The girls wanted more, more.
I'm telling you, I killed 'em!
Thursday morning, almost 7:30, at work. A column writer called to editor's office is told his column is to be written by a woman in Bangalore; in fact, none of his columns have been printed in two months. "Maybe you should read the paper once in a while." Scene ends in abrupt blackout.
A demon is called into Mephistopheles' office. His job is being outsourced to a minor Indian deity. Minor Indian deity introduced. Has taken over the task of tempting the column writer. "Great job! Murder!" Demon demoted, winds up tempting dogs, cats and gerbils to bite their owners.
The Warm Bed and the Bugle Salesman
I climb into bed and her side of it is still warm. I slide over to her side and feel the warmth. I can smell her hair on the pillow under my hair.
It's been ten years since a bugle salesman took her away from me. Every night since then - over three thousand six hundred all told - I've climbed into bed and her side of it has been still warm. Every night I've slid over to her side and felt the warmth, smelling her hair on the pillow under my hair.
ADAM AND THE MAGIC PENCIL
Adam is a boy. He has a pencil. It is a magic pencil.
What is a magic pencil? Can you guess?
Adam has a magic pencil. How does it work? For what does he use it?
Adam uses his magic pencil to protect himself from assholes.
When an asshole comes near Adam, Adam holds up the pencil, and the asshole magically disappears!
Take a magic thing into your dreams, boys and girls. If a monster comes at you, use your magic to stop the monster.
Adam's pencil, however, is real. He uses it every day!
I was in the grocery store this morning & I saw a woman I thought was my mother. I went up to her & said, "Hi, mom."
She said, "John! What are you doing here?"
"Grocery shopping. What are
"The same. But what are you doing in Oshawa?"
"We're not in Oshawa. We're in Toronto."
"Don’t be foolish."
"No, it's true!" I had a world atlas with me; I opened it to the ONTARIO page & pointed at a dot.
"See? TORONTO it says."
"No it doesn't. It says OSHAWA."
Thus we discovered we were complete strangers.
-Hey there, you going to the Christmas party?
-What, you got some other plans?
-No; but I can't.
-There some the matter?
-No, it's just that I can't.
-So, you going to the Christmas party?
-Something else come up?
-I can't go to the Christmas party.
-You got other plans?
-Are you going to the Christmas party?
-You already asked me. No. I can't.
-Not feeling well.
-I'm fine. But I can't.
-If I knew that, perhaps I could go.
-Hey! I'm talking to myself again, aren't I?
I knew last night I wasn't going, and thus I didn't go. Once I'd figured out that I only had to have one reason not to go—even if it came inside the restaurant itself, like last year, when I turned and left immediately—I would not be going; and it was this realization that reflexively meant I wasn't going.
It's painful when you are always expecting people to not like you. It keeps you alone most of the time. What did I do to deserve this? I'm here; not there. Maybe it's because I myself really quite hate people.
Okay, to start off ice-breaking this workshop, let's go around the room clockwise and quickly say our first names. Karen.
Good. Now let's go in the other direction, and say our last names. Jameson.
Excellent, now, there's seventeen of us, that's good, so let's go around the room clockwise, and name someone close to you. My husband Jimmy.
Now counterclockwise, every third person. Name the last motion picture you've seen. Twilight.
Now clockwise, every fourth person: something no-one else in the room knows. I have webbed toes.
Counterclockwise, who in this room do you most want to kill? Myself.
Roberto Bolaño - 2666 - A Premature Review
I'm on page 136, or approximately one-sixth of the way through. This is why I am calling this a premature review. Yesterday I told someone it was 'dynamite,' but since then a certain tedium has set in on me. Maybe it's because I've only been reading it in bits and pieces. The frequency with which the novel describes dreams is at the root of the tedium. I mean, what's more pointless than a dream? Especially meaningless dreams, which they seem to be: meaningless. In any case, that's my only complaint so far.
The Christmas and New Year holidays are upon us once again for another year, and I know I'll be getting caught up in the festivities and not paying good attention to this my great work. However, I know a trick—a news trick—that is used to give reporters time off, and that is the trick of making 'baggers.' A bagger is a news item not tied to any specific time and which can thus be shown while the reporter is getting drunk. ('In-the-bag.') So I'm writing baggers, and they'll appear on holidays. (I'm letting you see behind the curtain!)
Now Charlie, Charlie was a rebel up until this moment of his demise.
You could see it in the way he leaned his head and in his eyes.
Parents, teachers, couldn't parent, teach him, always cracking wise,
Like, "Fools, you're staring at the ceiling; I'm staring at the skies."
His army started small, with snowballs and Boston cream pies,
The New York Times caught up with him and praised him to the skies.
His followers' numbers grew, like around Big Macs grow fries,
Seized power, murdered, until counter-rebellion grew in size:
The newer rebels; and today's the day Charlie dies.
Jeremy was in an airport, sitting in the holding area, waiting for an airplane. He had just consulted the departures board. Half the planes had been marked
He hadn't known why. It had been a bright and sunny summer day. Anyway, he sat, slowly reading Greek, waiting for his plane.
He looked up and noticed that the holding area was entirely empty. Even the crossword-puzzle-selling woman was gone. He looked up at the board. All the flights had been cancelled.
He walked back the way he'd come. Finally he met a man, who said, "Didn't you get the notice?"
It's all out of order. Facebook.
I'm on, I'm off, I'm on, I'm off, I'm on again. But for how long this time?
You see, there's a Martian communicating with me through Facebook, only through Facebook, and I don't like how we communicate. It seems noncommittal, but I'm not sure about that. I think it may want to eat my soul, I don't know.
And so I break it off in the only way I know how. I close it down. And yet I've come back twice—usually when drunk—because, as they say, something is better than nothing. Dig?
He was serving a prison sentence for robbery. One year. 366 days. (It was 2008.)
Whenever he'd wake up he'd scratch a mark on the wall. He'd seen a movie showing how to do this: IIII then a / through the four.
Time passed, and the marks accumulated.
Whereupon he gathered up his things and got the attention of the screw.
"Let me out, I'm finished."
The screw said, "You're only halfway through, chump."
"But I got 366 marks on the wall...."
That's when he realized his error.
Those goddamn daily naps!
My father's back in the hospital. He may not come out again; I don't know if he'll survive til I go visit him in Oshawa on Christmas Day.
Early this morning there was a fire at the Durham Humane Society in Oshawa. Animals who had been rescued from abuse were killed: 180 cats, dogs, and critters. Only two cats, seven dogs and a rat were rescued.
I didn't know what to get my father for Christmas. Today, I know.
I'm donating money to the shelter, in his name.
I only hope I can tell him about it without going mad.
God saw an angel pass by. The angel had a brand new copy with him, hot off the presses.
"Can I see that?"
"Will you sign it for me, sir?"
"Sure thing." God wrote, "Nice to see the old tome in circulation. Sincerely, God."
Then God flipped through it. "This was one of my greatest works."
"Indeed, sir. Truly divine."
God stopped. "Wait: The Books aren't in the right order."
"Deuteronomy should be
"But they've always been in that order there."
"Are you serious?"
"I'll just have to start again, then."
So God destroyed the world.
This is verifiable.
Big snow today. Cam, who assembles factoids, came in looking for pix. Apropos the snow, he said, "This is a long shot, but apparently the record snowfall in Southern Ontario is the 25th of February, 1965. You got any pix of it?"
I felt like a ghost was talking to me. "I was born that day."
(I later checked the G&M and TS. It was true.
(I was born during the biggest snowstorm of the last 64 years. And I never knew!
(Dear reader, was that prophetic?
Cam said, "I didn't know you were that
Steven Soderbergh is so happy with his biopic about Che that's he's going to do another one; he's even discovered that the script, with some minor tinkering, can serve as the template for his next four hour film. That's pretty amazing in itself. A young left-leaning artist-type suffers privation in a military organization resisting Western Imperialism, absorbs the reality of class struggle, identifies enemies, and is instrumental in setting up a socialist state. (He is also a brutal mass murderer, but that can be left out of this picture, too.) The movie will carry the title character's mononymous name, namely,
It's 1:21. Today, my grandmother, my mother, my brother, his wife, their child, my sister, her husband, their son, their daughter and her boyfriend came over for Christmas gift-giving and dinner.
If I may brag—what's the internet for but bragging?—I cooked the best turkey I ever et. The white meat was moist, and slightly salty. I used the turned turkey method, as outlined in the Joy of Cooking.
In my list two paragraphs ago my more astute readers have noticed the lack of somebody: my father. He was, as we et, in the Oshawa hospital.
Missing you, Dad.
The Great Writer said to me, "My intention—and I don't believe this is unique to myself—is to get the reader, that isolated entity, of here or of the future, to feel, even for the smallest moment (or, more grandly and egotistically, for the greatest moment), something that tells him that in this sea of humanity there's still a place for that possible fiction, the individual self,
individual self: that, beyond all the awards I've received, is what I am trying to accomplish."
I said, "Wow. I myself am only trying to induce nausea, vertigo, and projectile vomiting."
Death came running into my room slo-o-owly.
He yelled, "Pleased to meet you. I'm Death!" in the merest of whispers.
"I don't understand," I said. "You come fast as you come slowly, and you are loud and quiet at the same time."
Death sat, and while he stood there, he said in a shrieky
"I am also the beginning and the end, you're forgetting that bit. Hurrah!
"So, you come fast and slow, loud and quiet, at the beginning and the ending, low and high, happily and sadly."
We switched places. I said, "You've got it right."
I continued, "I am fast in that I slip in and replace everything; I am slow in that, after the fact, I seemed destined since the beginning; I am loud in that everyone near cannot hear anything else, but I am soft in that the noise diminuates faster than any other sound; I am happy for self, yet sad for other; I am low in that, from this side, life is structurally comedic, but I am simultaneously high in that, in some sense, every death is a tragedy. Beginning and ending: if there was no life, I wouldn't be."
Because I don't think I'm enough of an obnoxious know-it-all asshole, I've decided to start reading books upside-down. Being the prick I am, I don't find it hard to do. In fact, when I read upside-down I read at about the same speed as a normal person. I can even predict the words that are coming up; thus, even if it's upside-down I can still read aloud better than 95% of the general population. So on the streetcar I read upside-down and everyone looks at me like I'm crazy, but really I'm just saying to them, I'm an obnoxious asshole!
I was so worried, three and four days ago, about going to see my father. From what my mother told me, he wasn't responding, wasn't eating. (Three days ago, my sister and my mother went to a funeral home to make arrangements.)
I needed to see him before he died.
Then, two days ago, my mother called. He'd rallied. She was happy.
So I went to see him in hospital yesterday. He was barely coherent.
Where are you?
He didn't know.
I know: It's true: He's dying. I bet he dies before February.
But I'm not worried any more.
BASED ON A TRUE STORY
Steve, Jack and Mike were glooming at the bar. Death was in the air. Jack broke it.
"I decided last Sunday to mow the whole lawn before June got home from church. You know that my lawn is huge, three point five acres or so. So I was out there sweating and busting, trying to get it done before she came home. I was putting the mower in the garage when she drove up. Know what she said?"
Steve said, "What?"
"'You missed a spot under that tree.'"
Mike laughed. And called for another round.
All these holidays are messing my head up. Do I have to make another large-format story? (Yes, John, you do.)
It's about Cézanne.
A model models for an artist. She comes back the next day for another session. She's a year older, but that's imperceptible.
Two days after that it's her third sitting. She's two years older. (It's the Fibonacci sequence!)
And so it goes, for more than a month. The painting goes on. It gets better and better! The model is, finally, seventy-five years old. The painting is good, good.
It's almost done; but the model doesn't show up.
The phone rang and I answered it.
-Oh, ah, wrong number.
-Wait. What did you want?
-I was trying to order a pizza.
-I can make pizza. I make good pizza.
-I'm sure you do, but-
-I'll make you pizza.
-What would you like to order?
-You can deliver?
-Two small pizzas?
-I have just the pans for 'em.
-What so want on 'em?
-I guess a Mystic, and a Mediterranean.
-Will do. One Mystic, one Mediterranean.
-How long will it take?
-Oh, I'd say ... five hours or so.
That's when he hung up! Asshole!
It's almost the end of the month, and I have to say, everything's been so crazy in this crazy house that I really don't know what to say. It's like I'm all worded out. I don't even think I could make it through the alphabet even. I'd get stuck somewhere around M. Maybe I can't even get to G. If I really concentrated, and did it slowly enough, I could get to T. Maybe that's too ambitious. How far can I get? Phew! Let me steel my reserve. A B C D E F G H I J K L
Still all wiped out. It's New Year's Day Eve, isn't it? I used to be agnostic about the change of calendar to such an extent that I was probably obnoxious.
What's the big deal? It's completely arbitrary, the end of the year. It was invented by calendar makers!
But now I'm older, and arguably more stupid, or at least I pick my battles better these days. I was just being a precocious jerk back then. But my days of precociousness are way in the past.
These days, I'm merely a jerk. That's all: just a jerk.
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