It’s All Fiction

“The true life is not reducible to words spoken or written, not by anyone, ever.” This appears to be a left-handed way of saying, “It’s all fiction.”

Don DeLillo continues with a more specific and even more demanding observation: “An eight-hundred-page biography is nothing more than dead conjecture…”

Dead conjecture?

imgres.jpgWhen I studied rhetoric at the university we had several exercises designed to develop various skills in writing. One I remember well was to write detailed instructions so that anyone could read them and flawlessly perform the task described. My essay was called “Scratching the Grasshopper” and it dealt with the very Southern California effort of paddling a surfboard out beyond the shore break.

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Samuel Beckett and Friends

GodotReading James Joyce is difficult and often injurious to your mental health and the same thing can be said for reading Joyce’s friend and one-time secretary, Samuel Beckett. In fact, sometimes Beckett is almost too obscure. The way I see it, Joyce gives us way, way too much to absorb and understand, whereas Beckett often gives us so little that we’re lost in the void. Or to put it another way, with Beckett there is often no there there (but the lack of there is so profound).

How many times have you read Waiting For Godot? How many times have you seen it performed (at college, on Broadway, in your wind-blasted backyard)? It’s a powerful experience and sometimes it’s hard to explain why. My favorite part is where Estragon snarls: Are you feeling Lucky … punk!

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Winter Reading

burning+bookDo you like to read in a dark room with a pleasant fire in the fireplace and a favorite reading lamp while scrunching into the deep cushions of an oversized chair you bought at an estate auction that came with a lifetime supply of antimacassars? Or do you like to take a sling chair down to the beach and soak in the salt and sun while reading a great book and trying at the same time not to get oily fingerprints on each page as it is turned?

Those both sound good to me. I was in the habit of taking one or two weeks down at a beach house and always had a cloth bag full of intended reading: some times I went the route of Big Fat Books and only took two or three (I read War and Peace in one week at the Jersey Shore) and at other times I grabbed eight or ten slimmer volumes, expecting to make room on my bookshelves by knocking off several of those books that just seemed to hang around month after month. I never was as successful as I hoped and even on a cruise (I never get off the ship) I came home with more than one unread book.

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Monkey Brain Sushi

existenzIn 1999 David Cronenberg made the movie Existenz. In simplest terms, it was the story of getting lost in a virtual reality video game and never being sure of where the fiction ended and the reality resumed. There have been many books and movies that play with this theme of not knowing reality from fantasy. In 1988 Masato Takeno wrote a piece of short fiction titled The Yamada Diary. Predating Existenz, Takeno develops the story of a young student who loses himself in the fiction of a video game called The Yamada Diary.

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