Wednesday 13 -
Nicephoros, Patriarch of Constantinople
Somewhere in the Great Northeast in a place like Connecticut, Maine, or Vermont, there's this Writing Workshop going on, and the fellow that runs it, the Author of three Novels highly acclaimed by Other Novelists of his tepid ilk, has a wicked Hangover and he's Woolgathering while one of the twelve students is reading aloud their latest crappy & predictable story, and he's thinking he got laid last night by one of the Other fellows in the Workshop, though of course he can't be sure. And before you know it, he's sitting there dissecting the story, which really wasn't that bad, with the kind of Cruelty that passes for Efficiency, and everybody's squirming a little and trying to figure out what they're to say Next, at least those of them who Care, and by this point in the Session, that's not that many people.
And one of the students is saying, Why is it that all the stories we've been reading in here have to do with Sex and Mind-Altering Substances, is this Gratuity really what we, as Writers, want to express? And another student is all over that, now, talking about Reality and Art and Hemingway and Picasso, and someone asks about the reference to Gauguin in the Piece and somebody else says, well, it's been a long time since I've read Bakhtin, but it seems that the Carnivalistic atmosphere of the Final Section reminds one of it, and somebody else says Fuck Russian Formalism! We're Artists, not goddamn Social Critics! Shit, it's really more like Fellini than anything, if you ask me (which nobody had).
But, the Instructor remarks, isn't the Wedding Ceremony at the end in Itself a kind of Absurdist Carnival? And the students (none of whom will ever write another line of Fiction after this class) are thinking about it, and about sex, and Designer Drugs, and then the Scene starts a slow fade and somebody says Wow! This is really interesting. The way this scene is Fading reminds me of the way I used to sit in Church as a Child when I was a Catholic and just, y'know, sort of faze out, and if anything, the experience of this Text is akin to the effect created in the work of, say, Julio Cortázar, and he's saying all this shit but not really thinking about it or meaning it and what he's really up to is trying to impress this hefty chick in the Workshop who'd been into Modern Dance and who positively reeked of fuck me energy, and he was so taken with her latest story, which she'd read in Class the week before about a woman who goes down on lots of other women imagining them to be a young Isadora Duncan, that that night, not having the Fortitude to go to her cabin with a bottle and a hit of E, that he just masturbated all night in his little cabin, imagining the young woman to be thinking of herself as Isadora Duncan whilst he went down on her until she begged for his Manhood, which is also something Isadora used to do, AND Djuna Barnes AND Dietrich, maybe, and probably just about Everybody, actually, 'cause the way he was thinking, he was the Center of the Universe, just like, say, Roedy Green is the Center of Roedy Green's Universe but Hell, if you're you, y'know, just who the hell else but You is gonna be the center of your Universe unless you're as Pussywhipped as, say, F. Scott Fitzgerald? At least, that's what he was thinking, which doesn't necessarily make it so unless you want to get all Quantum and shit, but maybe the Young Man had a Point. Of Sorts.
Or at least that was the Point that was Manifesting Itself from him, because thoughts, like Nursery Rhymes and Hurricanes, are mercurial and sentient in their own ways, with their own Inner Lives, and once one realizes that life gets real Zen on your ass and you start feeling like yours is the only Consciousness in the Cosmos, so of course you start thinking about God, which is some real Teilhard de Chardin kinda shit to be thinking about, and then they went out and drank a lot and smoked a lot and wrote very little, but who cares? Their story'd already written itself. At least in a Manner of Speaking. Or Something.
So later, over Alcohol, they were still at it and talking about all kinds of sorta Literary shit like, what now? Are we ever gonna get any money for this, I don't mean like Grisham or somebody, but at least like DeLillo or Somebody. And their Writer-in-Residence, who had tenure and cleared 65K a Year, had been quoting airily from A Moveable Feast where Hemingway says, The one who is doing his work and getting satisfaction from it is not the one the poverty bothers. Of course, all these kids had Rich Parents which is how they got in the Workshop in the First Place, but it's fun, ain't it, to imagine yourself so brilliant as to be misunderstood, obscure, ostracized and living in utter penury all the while more or less having a blast (what they didn't yet see is that they had to write), and who cares if you start out Rocking and end up like Truman Capote or Tennessee Williams, but shit, if you're composing a Big, Great, interwoven Narrative, like, say, James Joyce, who pays the bills if you don't have a Patron, like Yeats, or a major Grant like Charles Simic, who's written the Same Poem over and Over going on 40 Years?
All this was a little too much to keep talking about, 'cause it's a Real Buzzkill, so one Writer said to Another did you know how Isak Dineson was, like really into Astrology, as was D.H. Lawrence, and they'd give their characters the names of Zodiac Symbols in their First Drafts? Somebody was saying that was a bunch of outmoded Jungian Bullshit, but Hey! said somebody Else, that's kinda cool, really, what Sign do you think Hedda Gabler is? And one guy said a Gemini and one guy said a Leo and then the Dancer woman agreed that Hedda probably had a lot of all that in her Chart but that Really, she was an Aries, hands Down, she'd studied this shit. That shut everybody up for a moment, and then the Instructor said What a great idea! For next week's Story, then, everybody use Zodiac Signs instead of real names (he was drunk, now) 'cause your Character names suck anyhow. And he said, this is the last info you're gonna get for free, ha ha, but you know what Kermit Broadmeyer does? Besides write better shit than Richard Ford or T.C. Boyle, lol. He gets his character names from the records of a Cemetery Plot in Illinois that was used to bury Inmates of a 19th-Century Insane Asylum! And everybody laughed, as this was so Obviously Bullshit, but man, but Boy, what Creative Discussions they had when bored, clueless, fucked up, and Depressed.
And God's not even a Capricorn, or a Gemini! the Professor added. GOD is a PISCES. Goddamn.
And, for that particular Moment, it was all True, and Darkness moved on the Face of the Waters, and God said the Blank Page, Clusterfuck, is All Yours.