Walls are notoriously prudish

September 24, 2011 § 2 Comments


TRACY, 32, is dressed smartly. It is impossible to know whether he paid a little or a lot for his clothing. It could go either way. He is standing with ASHLEY, 30, near one of the large bookcases that dominate the living room. Ashley is dressed more casually, and looks slightly off when standing next to Tracy. His designer jeans are faded by age, not by manufacturer’s design, and very likely were purchased either at a thrift store or at one of the more upscale outlet malls. His new Hugo Boss button-down does not even try to disguise the fact that the neck of his undershirt is visibly frayed.

They are standing to the side of the party, each looking at the host’s bookshelves. Tracy pulls Russell Hoban’s novel Kleinzeit off the shelf and runs his thumb over the pages from cover to cover.

Have you read this one?

I haven’t even heard of it. Any good?

It depends on what you like. It’s an experimental novel.

Like a postmodern novel?

(disgusted) God, no. It plays with language, sure. Lots of puns. But it’s not postmodern. Hoban is too poetic to be postmodern.

What’s it about?

It’s about a guy struggling with creativity.

Like with writer’s block?

Not exactly. For him, creativity is a kind of sickness. So, it’s not that creativity is too far gone. It’s that it’s never far enough away. It’s all a struggle.

A struggle against who?

You might have to read the book to understand this, maybe. But, basically, a struggle against everything. Against the paper, against the pen, against his body. Nearly every major object in this guy’s world becomes an antagonist to the main character. You have a chapter where a pen rapes a piece of paper. You also have a Hospital depicted as some kind of demonic-divine force pulling Kleinzeit’s strings like he was a puppet. The idea being that mortality cuts both ways. It keeps us from doing something with our lives when we’re too obsessed with it ending. But the knowledge that it has a real, definite end causes us all in our own ways to create something new that we’ll leave behind.

Wait, what?  A pen? (motions like he is writing) Rapes a piece of paper? That sounds kind of fucked up.

Oh, no doubt, it is. But it all kind of makes sense. When even your run-of-the-mill things are considered conscious in some way. This wall (knocks against the wall) might, for example, feel naked if we took down the pictures. Or skinned if you removed the paint. Or, yeah, it might scream if you banged into it.

Walls are notoriously prudish, aren’t they?

(visibly ignoring the attempted euphemism) And let’s not even think about its horror when it sees you approaching it with a sledgehammer and the blueprints for that open-plan house you’d always wanted.

How morbid. I feel like I should go home this instant and tell my walls that I love them.

Why stop there? Don’t forget your front door. Your oven. Your curtains.

My bed. My blanket. My shower. My toilet.

Everything you have. Everything you don’t. Everything you want. Everything you’ve lost. Everything you’ve forgotten or didn’t know about. Every last thing.

(Tracy opens the book and appears to read a few random lines. He closes the book and puts it pack on the shelf. They stand quietly for a moment.)

This really is a beautiful house, isn’t it?

§ 2 Responses to Walls are notoriously prudish

  • tom clark says:

    Were there a God, and were I that God, I would remove forthwith and suddenly (as by an Act of God, of course), every volume on the host’s shelves writ by an author born after 1800.

    I would shred those books, and throw the shredded bits down upon the polished-hardwood floor, and watch Ashley and Tracy grovel before the illegible scraps, as savages before the pulverized remains of fallen idols.

    And then I would clear my throat and say (in the Voice of God, of course), “Have a nice day.”

    And then, in the ensuing confusion of dust and tears, I believe I would go directly to my blog (this of course would be the Blog of God) and put up a link to Departure Delayed.

    Ah, fictions are so… what’s the word? Safe? Dangerous?

  • Brad Johnson says:

    Better lived than they are read, for the most part. But only the most.

    I’m glad you’re still coming around, Tom. I saw one of your books the other day at small lending library in the back of an art space in the Mission. It was with much pride I said to myself: “He’s commented on my blog!” And then, yes, of course, I burned the book, and duly paid the fine.

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