Naming of the Trees

This is ordinarily something I’d keep to my own private haunt, Departure Delayed, but today is too special a day for my understandably minuscule following there. The 90th birthday of a man, William H. Gass, whose writing I perhaps too slavishly adore, requires eyeballs, even if they are likely set to blink and quickly flit away.

I recorded a while ago this small section I still read, perhaps too often. It’s from Omensetter’s Luck, arguably Gass’ greatest novel, and is where Henry Pimber walks into the woods and names the trees, like the first goddamned, depressed Adam, bound for a hanging high, improbably high, in the trees.

And in that spirit, I re-post it here:

Should you feel so included, other Gass-related excerpts and adorations can be found elsewhere

Oh, and yes . . . should you indulge in the vanity of Googling yourself, Mr. Gass, Happy Birthday. 

Pursuing the simultaneous, after all

A quick thanks to all my fellow AUFS administrators — most of whom I count at this point as close friends, which thus possibly compels them not to quibble or fuss on such matters — for indulging me a week to serialize another story. Everybody who read, or will perhaps one day read, thanks for doing so, whether you found the experience worthwhile or not. I pulled down my previous story, in advance of submitting it for “formal” (a horrible term, as I think about it, for editorially vetted) publication elsewhere. The same could happen to this one, too, I suppose, should the notion strike me. These stories, though, are all quirky, rather unpublishable things, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the lot of them — you’ve been warned, there are others! — ended up here again, or my personal blog, eventually.

Anyway, I’ve gotten ahead of myself, or at least parallel to my present interests — I’m always pursuing the simultaneous, after all — which is simply to link to Part One, for all you (well, one that I know of) who indicated they’d read when everything was available at once. In which case, there you are . . .

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In Between — a serialized short story (end)

Then Ramsey said: May all that lust lacks be exposed by the light of its desire. And it was so. Ramsey made the two great desires: the greater desire to feed the flesh, and the lesser desire to sustain the soul. He made that these should never be satisfied, that their objects be always within reach but beyond grasp, and that the portion of those desires granted to another should be envied. He made that the envy of another should itself be an object of desire. And Ramsey saw that he wanted more, the fourth sin.

I’ll even grant that maybe the flesh is a wicked thing. Wicked and fertile. How much poorer would the world be, though without its wages of sin?

Then Ramsey said: Though the rapacious hunger of desire will never be sated, its objects will be gluttonously devoured. For it is not the objects one desires, girls or God, but desire itself, which nourishes lust, is protected by greed, and is grounded in pride. And Ramsey saw that it, the fifth sin, was so. And if it was not necessarily good, it at least seemed realistic. And he agreed, saying: Increase and multiply, all that I lack, in order that I might too increase and multiply, and lack evermore. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Creation of the World — a serialized short story (part 5)

His dad may be a deadbeat, possibly a scoundrel of the lowest order, but for Ramsey his absence was decisive. Only where there is a decision to be made is there hope for something creative, let alone a Creator. If his mother was any indication, the pure immediacy of the present, from the routine to the horrific, could only pick up after the messes these decisions had made or tidy up before the next ones to come. So, yes, of course, his absent father and his present mother were each in their own way removed from Ramsey, but they were so for fundamentally different reasons. His father, whether he be in Heaven, Hell, or Harrodsburg, because he creates a moment he cannot himself occupy; his mother, because she inhabits a present that itself can only be created, never anticipated. What else can one do, then, but confess what he does not know within the same breath as all that he claims he might yet?

—I am . . . Ramsey nodded wearily . . . a sinner. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Brown Recluse — a serialized short story (part 4)

—’Atta boy, Davey. Just like I showed ya!

—S’alright, Coop. Keep your head in the game!

—Strand ‘m on second, Cooper!

—Watch for the bunt!

—Bring him home, Daniel. Look at that hole in right just waitin’ for you!

Ramsey did not feel the brown recluse readying to bite his left ankle or the mosquito with designs on the white of his right wrist. He did not sense there was a copperhead sliding into her den three feet away, or that the mouse she was digesting was pregnant. He was unaware that the shit smeared in the grooves of his new shoes was that of Darryl Jones, or that it contained suspicious traces of blood Darryl was afraid to ask about. There was a slight dandelion stain smeared midway down the back of Ramsey’s t-shirt that would neither come out nor ever be noticed. Daryl will be dead in five years, after two rounds of chemo and remission, drowning off the coast of Northern California during a family vacation. In a month, the copperhead will be killed by a family of raccoon. The mosquito bite will itch for two days. The spider, it turns out, was only passing through, momentarily lost on its way. It will live the rest of its life, who knows how long, never once tasting human blood. Read the rest of this entry »

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Lucifer’s Letter — a serialized short story (part 3)

To the God-damned If You Do,

You may not realize or even appreciate this, but I like watching you. I’m doing so now, actually. I see you stopped reading for a second there—did a little double-take and glance over your shoulder? No, I’m just kidding. I’m not watching you read this letter. Well, I am, but not while I’m writing it. I may not be human, but I’m still pretty much as bound by time as you. I guess you could say I’m a little god damned that way myself. Ha Ha Ha. No . . . when I say I’m watching you now, as I’m writing, it’s best not get too pedantic. What with reprints, revisions, and subsequent editions of this letter, who can say when “now” is, right? I mean, let’s face it, I could just as well be referring to any peeping Tom, Dick and Harry in the past or the future. Let’s just assume, shall we, the ubiquity of now, and take for granted—get our cards all on the table—that I’m always watching you. From beginning to end. Period. Because don’t you know that this very moment, yesterday’s Where Have You Been? is converging with tomorrow’s Where Will you Be? . . . that today’s Where Are You Now? is nothing but the slippage between past and present, and that its answer, right as you read, is the entirety of your life?

Read the rest of this entry »

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Anatomical Differences — a serialized short story (part 2)

The injustice of it all, he felt, was that Mary-Ann had asked to see. Until recently, the subject of their bodies had only rarely come up between them. “Girl” and “boy” had indicated, for him anyway, abstract differences measurable mostly, if at all, by hair length. Of course, other kids at school talked, increasingly so, which gave him a rough idea about the anatomical differences that are kept covered by clothes, but not until this summer the precision necessary for even a full-blown curiosity.

She made her offer, after listening to his story about the prayer circle. —I’ll show you mine.

—No, that’s okay.

—Really? I’ve let your cousins see. I don’t mind. There’s not much to it. Read the rest of this entry »

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Hiding Spots — a serialized short story (part 1)

The best hiding spots are the ones that keep you on your toes. Closets may be as cavernous as tombs or confining as coffins, depending on the architecture of your house or fears, but they must in either case remain dark. Always remember: unless it also prevents your exit, a locked door will be a dead giveaway. Crawlspaces above and below the house should have at least as many cobwebbed corpses as cardboarded keepsakes. Even if not, they remain preferable to standing-room basements and attics. Shimmying under beds is appropriate only when the bed is not your own—even better if is not even your room—and you remain red-handed by blame. If you are on the run, areas purportedly haunted often offer good sanctuary, though they will become increasingly harder to find the older you become. Unfortunately, the more you believe to be possible after death, the braver you have to be in life. Eventually you will settle for known crime scenes, even if all you can find are those with a history of manslaughter and suicide. You will, however, find these are far more common than you at first thought, at which point the need for endurance will eclipse your lack of bravery.

The point being, you are never so invisible as when you are as terrified of the escape as you are of the capture. Read the rest of this entry »

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“clumsiness & truth are so often intertwined we tend to take their copulation for granted.”

[Re-posting this old piece of mine -- conjuring days of old in the spirit of May Day.]

Dear ________,

You misunderstand me, so let me be clear: I do not want the City to “support” the Occupy movement or its Commune. Indeed, though I risk misunderstanding yet again so soon after such momentary clarity, I think it would be very foolish public policy for them to do so. Much better, I think, to go the disingenuous route of the Councilperson whose letter you’ve attached, and insist on a vapid sympathy.

While I agree with the message of the Occupy movement and consider myself, along with all City Employees, including the men and women in our Police Department, to be part of the 99%, I disagree that occupying Frank Ogawa Plaza, shutting down the Port, or calling for a general strike against our City, is going to impact the 1% that this movement is supposed to be targeting.

What genius is on display here in one of the more nakedly clumsy co-opting of populism in my recent memory. The Councilperson doesn’t even bother to give the dignity of a period to his agreement. Here in the opening paragraph of his letter, the feeblest of commas is all that separates his agreement with “the message of the Occupy movement” and his self-consideration as “part of the 99%” from the declarative strongman of this magnificent sentence, “I disagree.” Provided the Occupy movement does not camp, strike, or shut down a port, which is to say, provided it does precisely nothing it has in actual fact done the past three weeks, he supports it completely. The only reservation he has concerning the Occupy movement is its actual existence. Would that it could be but a “message”! — by all means, a call to be dissatisfied, even angry, but to be so at home, please, as quietly as possible, yes, at least until election day, when those so called might vote for cynical opportunists like himself.

This Councilperson is in the minority, I believe, in his clumsiness, but not in the desire to show support for the Occupy movement on his own terms. And while I understand perfectly well why the City, all of its administrative stars & ideological stripes, would go this route, I fear you don’t appreciate why the Occupy movement would do well to develop a strong allergy to any & all public expressions of sympathy by those who are formally in (or are seeking formal) power. It seems to me that the moment a city officially loses the “but” after its stated solidarity is the moment the truth of this allegiance has been lost — clumsiness & truth are so often intertwined we tend to take their copulation for granted. (Or, I should add, it is the day after a revolutionary upheaval. But, alas, I am not at all confident any of us have enough dying light remaining actually to see that morning. Rome was not unbuilt in a day, as a friend said to me recently, and arguably our allotment of days are insufficient to the cause, if not the struggle itself.)

So, in close, while we agree that the Commune should remain illegal, I have no interest in its relocation. I would much prefer that it be declared illegal and remain exactly where it is, in order that it might continue to test the City’s ability to uphold the consequences of that illegality. The gross flouting of the law–or at least its outright disregard–this is what seems necessary to expose its many inadequacies (& those of its administrators). In this way, the Commune’s symbolic value as a site of disobedience is also the unavoidable germ of its undoing. The present age, you’ve insisted in the past, has had very little real use for such symbols, but are either of us yet prepared to say the same of the future that remains?

Yours,

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Saturday Movie: Haneke’s The Seventh Continent

Thanks, biblioklept.

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