I’m helping a writer with his residency applications. Looking at 40 he acknowledges he’s never been published and his adjunct position at the university will not assist him in this. He wants time. He wants the cottage on the cape, and I keep looking at him, giving him the benefit of my positive visualization and superimposing his head on Lillian Hellman’s shoulders as she throws the typewriter out the window into the dunes. Simmer down, Lil, it’s really competitive out there.
Are you OK? he says all of a sudden.
I give in to sleep, which smacks of torture. The next 45 minutes run for a few days as I wake up from a dream to find myself in a dream which I wake up from to find myself in a dream which I hurriedly wake up from to find myself in another dream. I’m beginning to detect reality by its smell. My dreams, thank our lucky stars, do not smell. My reality does, in fact, has a tang I can’t scrub off. I hesitate to talk about it because I’m afraid my dreams are listening and will set about manufacturing the smell thing. They get everything almost right, or rather, perfectly wrong: a door handle to a bathroom that looks like a doorhandle, but feels like a finger when you grasp it. That’s bad. Leave that dream.
Wake up in the next one.
Back in the bar, I mark up his bio which exceeds the allotted length by 2900 words. It is a righteous read. I discover eveything about him and am shocked to see the thing I knew previously is simply not mentioned. After two pints and five passes I have reduced the text by one word, and fielded three inquiries from young men, who construe the shock on my face as mystery, apparently. This is a powerful bio. It attracts young men. He must know what he’s talking about, man-wise. And while I’m at it, I doubt I’ll come to this bar again, which used to be, not so very long ago, god dammit, a dyke bar you could sit in all night without having one pleasant exchange with a young man.
In the margins I write:
I am trying to put my finger on a certain dismissiveness around every historic circumstance of your artistic development: from kismet to cecil rhodes, everyone has believed in your talent and you mock them. They were helpless to deny you your due, and you accuse them of posturing. It was almost like this:
So then I didn’t publish, but I got the Congressional Medal of Honor from those maroons. After that, I still couldn’t publish but I went ahead and healed the sick and fed the hungry, whatever that means. Subsequently, I never published.
This is not the place to admit you read Kerouac *after* undergraduate study. You should lie and say you read it as a small child every morning at breakfast because it was the book you could reach from the highchair. Trust me.
And at the end:
The language is clever throughout.
Perhaps a little…
He must be hiding something.
No he isn’t hiding anything.
But he’s self-mortifying.
But in a grand way.
It was a perfect bio, no doubt about it. Didn’t want him to go through with it, all the same. Gone begging for subsidies, he is, convinced 97 is his year for the big money, the bookjacket, the tour, the option. If everything goes well I won’t recognize him in 98.
This is true for me: I cannot tell where the art is. Is it in breathing or is it in suffocation? Do I say nothing of it (like north american indian cultures) or say nothing but it (like european cultures). Is there any explanation for why I see the way I do? Is an explanation necessary if there is momentum? Will being responsible for my art imprison me in social norms? Am I better undetected? Is this the source of loneliness?
So long, sport. Thanks for stopping by. Happy to be of assistance. Best of luck to you. Thanks for the plums.
Don’t forget to write.