Monday, 15 September 2008

It's the last words, the true last. When I shared the story of my filing, Rich noticed I'd included links to some of my more memorable posts like a person shuttering the windows before closing shop. I considered it. Acephalous is, after all, a record of the final three years of my graduate career. They weren't good years. When the ledger closes they will likely stand as the worst three years of my life. (Summary.) Some of that misery I brought on myself—anything having to do with anything online—but all of it flattened me as only perfect shit-storms can. If I seemed to handle disaster well, it was only because my coping mechanism suits this medium. But my life hadn't always been a drinking song. What began with random cancer simply snowballed. For the past three years everything that could go wrong has done so spectacularly. I'm only a consummate storyteller because I've been given an obscene wealth of good material. The sooner I put all this behind me the better. So that was the end of Acephalous. What began with anger should end with joy. I have other places to punish random people with random thoughts and outstanding invitations to write elsewhere. I don't need a place that reminds me daily of times most awful. But Acephalous is mine. My voice. All the terrible things I recorded here were written in a voice whose development can be tracked. When I began, my voice wafted contagious—when others smelled it, they vomited too. Now I'm almost willing own up to the fact that the words I inhabit belong to me. That they have carried me to the threshold of my story since the door opened on my story. They almost say me. So I'm not closing shop yet. I've only written 1,734 posts. I've only received 18,357 comments. I must go on.
David Foster Wallace Remembered (I wrote some of this shortly after learned of Wallace's death, but didn't publish it because it seemed too much about me. His kindness was in direct contrast to my arrogance—I needed to establish the latter before I could address the former—but it was still too focused on me. It wasn't until I read bianca steele's comment and dan visel and Kathleen Fitzpatrick's remembrances that I found a way to frame this rambling non-story.) Infinite Jest was published the second semester of my freshman year at LSU. Every time I saw someone lugging it around, I’d approach them. By the time I'd scaled half the novel, an informal reading group had created itself. (This is, I think, one of the reason his death has had the effect it’s had—so many of his readers transferred some bit of the intimacy they felt, based on the investment required to read IJ, to other readers.) This loose association of people who read Wallace, Pynchon, and Gaddis were the same people who’d be reading McSweeney’s, The Believer and n+1 a decade later. Because Wallace first brought us together, I always assumed narcissism drove my belief that he was responsible for the birth of arch-sentimentality. But I don't think it's narcissism. Without Wallace, there would've been no David Eggers, no Marco Roth, no Joss Whedon. Kathleen's tribute includes a quotation from the closing paragraphs of "E Unibus Pluram" (1993): [Mark] Leyner's work, the best image-fiction yet, is both amazing and forgettable, wonderful and oddly hollow. I'm finishing up by talking about it at length because, in its masterful reabsorption of the very features TV had absorbed from postmodern lit, it seems as of now the ultimate union of U.S. television and fiction. It seems also to limn the qualities of image-fiction itself in stark relief: the best stuff the subgenre's produced to date is hilarious, upsetting, sophisticated, and extremely shallow—and just plain doomed by its desire to ridicule a TV-culture whose ironic mockery of itself and all "outdated" value absorbs all ridicule. Leyner's attempt to "respond" to television via ironic genuflection is all too easily subsumed into the tired televisual ritual of mock worship. Entirely possible that my plangent cries about the impossibility of rebelling against an aura that promotes and attenuates all rebellion says more about my residency inside that aura, my own lack of vision, than it does about any exhaustion of U.S. fiction's possibilities. The next real literary "rebels" in this country might well emerge as some weird bunch of "anti-rebels," born oglers who dare to back away from ironic watching, who have the childish gall actually to endorse single-entendre values. Who treat old untrendy human troubles and emotions in U.S. life with reverence and conviction. Who eschew self-consciousness and fatigue. These anti-rebels would be outdated, of course, before they even started. Too sincere. Clearly repressed. Backward, quaint, naive, anachronistic. Maybe that'll be the point, why they'll be the next real rebels. Real rebels, as far as I can see, risk things....

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