“UFO In Her Eyes”, by Xiaolu Guo

UFO In Her Eyes, by Xiaolu Guo.

Around a month ago, I read a book called A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by a Chinese author who I`d not heard of before, Xiaolu Guo. Xiaolu Guo is a Chinese novelist, essayist and filmmaker who, born in 1973, belongs to a wave of Chinese writers and artists known as the ‘Chinese Post 70’s Generation’. It is a term to denote artists who were born in the 1970’s, and who grew up in China after Chairman Mao’s death in 1976.  It is also known as the ‘Post Cultural Revolution Generation’, or ‘Post Maoism Generation’.

One of the trademarks of this movement is, compared to the previous generations, they were allowed to immerse themselves in a more liberal way of writing, not limiting themselves to the desires of the Communist party.

What I especially liked about Guo’s A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, was her ability to capture a meeting between two entirely different cultures and languages. She shows how one (seemingly) universal, yet (undeniably) hard to define concept as love is able to connect people. Another aspect I immediately became interested in, is how in the book, Guo illustrates how important language is to our understanding and interaction with the world, culture and emotions around us. (I wrote a post on this book, so if you want to read a somewhat more elaborate explanation of this, I recommend you read it!)

After finishing A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, I wanted to check out more of Guo’s authorship. After some research, I find out that she has written eight novels, where the two first publications are written in Chinese, while (as I can understand) the remaining five are written in English. UFO In Her Eyes was published in 2009, and one of the novels written in English – i.e not gone through an English translation from the original.

In UFO In Her Eyes, The National Security and Intelligence Bureau are investigating an event in which Kwok Yun, a 37 year old illiterate peasant, has been reported to witness something peculiar in the sky; a spinning metal plate. Agents from the bureau interview the inhabitants of Silver Hill Village, the place where the sighting happened, individually. They encounter different personalities, who all have their own role in the pre-Industrialized village; butcher Ling Zhu, stall holder Kwok Zidong, tea farmer Fu Qiang and rice farmer Wong Jing, to name a few. They all have different opinions on the village’s political status quo, the social situation in China in general, of the circumstances surrounding Yun’s strange UFO sightings, and whether there might be any connection between the three.

Kwok Yun is also under investigation for having assisted an unknown Western traveler she sees immediately following the UFO sighting. The middle-aged white man is laying on the side of the road, clearly in need of help. It turns out he is bitten by a snake, and Yun takes him with her to her home in order to tend to his wounds. They are unable to communicate verbally to each other, and they know nothing about one other – except she is wearing a T-shirt with Western writing on it that the man is able to understand.

A few months later, the village receives a letter from this man, sent from his homeland of America. In the letter, he explains who he is and why he was in Silver Hill Village in the first place. He also shows his gratitude of being helped by the stranger Yun, by including a check of 2000$USD, a considerable amount of money for the villagers.

This sparks a debate between the inhabitants; how should they spend their newly acquired money?

UFO In Her Eyes is a light, humorous and most of all satirical take on China’s problematic social history, focusing especially on Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution. While the novel takes the paranoia, and real-world effects, of surveillance by Big Brother seriously, it is also able to depict the inhabitants of the village as down-to-earth people with a self-reflection over their situations. While being isolated from the benefits of living in a big city – such as education and health care – they do not come across as naïve or unaware of their own social misfortunes. But implying that the village inhabitants have reasons to be socially misfortunate would be incorrect and even condescending of me. What I`m trying to point out is that, even though the agents from The National Security and Intelligence Bureau give off an aura that demands respect and formality, the villagers are able to meet them, talk to them, and recognize them as one of their own, and they are not afraid of speaking harshly or humorously to them. The villagers do not try to glorify their situation, either. They speak their minds and share their opinions and experiences without being afraid of saying negative things about Big Brother.

It is the interaction between the villagers and the agents that makes UFO In Her Eyes delightfully satirical. Knowing far too little about the subject, I have nevertheless made a tentative conclusion as to what might be the reason for Guo to be able to write a story like this. I believe the answer is because she belongs to the before mentioned ‘China Post 70’s Generation’. The writers belonging to this generation did not feel the direct effects of Mao`s restrictive China, politically, socially or culturally. Maybe Guo, and the other writers, was able to be more liberal and non-restrictive with her writing, and her filmmaking, than what the generation of artist prior to her would have been.

And so I end this review in much the same manner as my last one of Guo`s A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, namely by expressing my desire to read more of the author. In order to approach an answer to my musings, I would like to read her latest novel Once Upon a Time In The East, a chronicle of memoirs, or her 2004 autobiographical novel Village of Stone. Both these books discuss her childhood, what is was like growing up in China, and eventually moving to the West, and all the changes this might imply for her.

UFO In Her Eyes has also been made into a film, released in 2011 and directed by Guo herself.

(Actually, before I leave you alone, I encourage you to read this (very short) interview of Guo from 2004 in connection to the publication of Village of Stone, that I found on her website: http://www.guoxiaolu.com/REV_WR_VS__secret_life_coral.htm. It tackles a little of what I`ve pondered in this text.)

Ok, bye.

~ milk

‘Merkelig vær i Tokyo’, av Hiromi Kawakami

merkelig vær

Merkelig vær i Tokyo ble opprinnelig publisert i Japan i 2001, og ble utgitt i Norge i 2015. Den er oversatt til norsk av Magne Tørring.

Vi følger hovedpersonen Tsukiko. Hun er en karrieredreven kvinne på 37 år fra Tokyo. Mesteparten av dagen tilbringer hun på kontoret, og ettermiddagen på bar, hvor hun drikker øl eller sake og ser på TV-sendt sport. Hun er enslig, og har ikke vært gift. En dag møter hun på sin gamle skolelærer, Sensei Harutsuna Matsumoto, som hun gjennom boken kaller simpelthen Sensei. De møtes på samme bar og begynner å prate og reflektere over gamle dager. Etter hvert begynner de å tilbringe mer og mer tid sammen – i begynnelsen via tilfeldige møter – men gradvis blir de bedre kjent med hverandre, følelsene deres for hverandre øker, og før de (bokstavelig talt) vet ordet av det finner de seg i et gjensidig forhold.

Tsukiko besitter en sosial likegyldig over seg, men har allikevel en jordnær personlighet og hun er ikke redd for å gå sine egne veier i livet. Koblet opp mot Senseis romantiske og filosoferende kveruleringer er møtene og samhandlingen mellom disse to en underholdende, morsom og frisk litterær begivenhet. Dialogene kan ta for seg både store, tunge temaer (som for eksempel gammel Japansk diktning) og ting som er mer hverdagslig og håndfast (som måter å lage suppe av sopp på), men forholder seg hele tiden lett og interessant.

Boken er både hverdagslig og rørende. Den viser hvordan intimitet og følelser kan oppstå uplanlagt og fra de minst ventende situasjoner. Det er et tillegg til, et fersk innblikk i, den japanske samtidslitteraturen, og et tilgjengelig alternativ til den populære forfatteren Haruki Murakami. En umiddelbar sammenligning, som jeg ble gjort oppmerksom på takket være bokens omslag, er med filmen Lost in Translation, som også omhandler et kjærlighetsforhold mellom to personer i ulik livsfase satt i Tokyo. Boken er humørfylt, rørende og er en gjenkjennelig, hverdagslig historie om kjærlighet og ensomhet. Det tilføyer et forsøk på å definere kjærlighet; å kunne være alene sammen.

~melk

Tabula Rasa – or an Instantaneous ‘Forgettance’ of a Dying Relation.

The morbid part, the one that I thought was OK, but clearly wasn’t, was that my name was surprisingly soon forgotten. We both thought we’d made an impact on the community. We were not famous or special in any way, but still, the idea of us getting forgotten about three years after our death is harsh. Someone once said that you die twice. The first being your death, obviously. The second being the moment your name is said for the last time.

I remember that morning so well. We were in a motel talking. I remember the rubbish breakfast she bought from a 7-Eleven. There were two medium sized bagels with ham, two small bottles of O.J. and two medium cups of coffee.

“Did you get a chance to look at the headlines?” I asked.

“I brushed them over with my eyes.”

“Anything?”

“Avocado is bad for you. You’ll die from eating them now apparently.”

“How so?”

“Something about trans fats – Makes you obese.”

The way she spoke of the mass hysteria about the lifestyle our contemporaries live made me smile. She was two sided. It was a mockery of it but also a sincere lack of interest. This lack was one of the things I truly enjoyed in her. She had not once made a quizzical look or an attempt of showing me her interests. She sometimes did the crossword puzzles from my old porn magazines. She did not care if I had dirty magazines. I think she in fact found them interesting, but I was mistaken. I wonder if she read the interviews in it. The ones printed next to the naked ladies. Age? 18. Favourite sex position? Double penetration. What are you looking for in a man? A huge cock, humour, good with kids.

“Would you like some bourbon?”

“I want to be sober.”

“Well I won’t”.

I don’t really remember who said what anymore.

“Do you want to do this with music in the background?”

“Sure, why not.”

I put on a vinyl onto the player. It was a Chopin. I believe it was his Prèlude 24. A huge cliché, I’m aware, but I felt that clichés was fitting none the less. The crackling sound of the needle running in the vinyl’s tracks, like a warm fire slowly dying, and the cinder that’s left is collapsing in on itself. The piano tunes hurries away, for the tune is rapid and to the point. A fitting way to begin the end. I heard she opened the brown paper bag she had in her coat pocket. She took out a smaller envelope from this. On the front it was fittingly labelled “exit”.

“Are you ready?” She said with a stoic, bored and indifferent voice. Almost like she was thinking about not saying it at all because that would mean I had to reply thus making her precious time longer.

“I guess this is as good a time as any. Have you finished the crossword?”

“I have. The picture caption was; “Gee I have never had that many cocks in me before.””

We both removed the covers from the bed and refurbished it with a new white one, tucking it in thoroughly so that any aspiring crease was gone, only to be replaced by nothingness. A tabula rasa, only instead of a slate there was a white cotton sheet with an enormous thread count.

The needle rose from the black circular music disc, and signalled that I had to change to “Side B” by being completely still. I could of course put the needle back onto the same side, but that would mean that we’d to listen to the same prelude again, which we weren’t very keen on. I don’t really remember the songs on the other side, but I do remember changing sides.  Funny how you so clearly remember details of something insignificant, like the formation of the molten candlewax around a candle, or the smell of a certain shampoo and how you forget more important things like what you saw at a museum or what happened during your daily drive to work in the city. We might not remember our names or the names of people passed before, but something about remembrance is so creepy. Sometimes you remember things by a trigger. Like the smell of old people’s houses or familiar colour associations.

“We have forgotten the water”

“Shit. Do you think it’s ok to drink from the tap?”

“I don’t know, is it?”

We both began to laugh when we thought it through. Of course it did not matter. I think I was the one to fetch the water. We reused the paper cups the coffee had previously been in. I rinsed it out and smelled for any residual coffee. Some had latched on to the paper itself, in the folded crease where the cup is glued onto itself. It was nothing to do about that, besides, who gave a shit? She put two small pills in my palm and folded my fingers over, turning my hand into a fist, and then she moved my hand so the fist was in front of my heart. I watched as she did the same to herself. We both held hands and lied down on the bed.

“Should we do this naked?”

“No I prefer to do this fully clothed.”

“It’s unnatural though.” I think I said this. But I’m still not sure.

“So be it.”

With a last glimpse of her face, her honey coloured hair and her pale lips we took the pills to our mouths and took a mouthful of water down with them. There was no going back now. A new experience waited.

“Did you water the greens?”

“I fed the cat, you had the watering, right?”

“Oh well.”

“Oh well.”

I just remember this, nothing before, nothing after. Only this “slice of life” as someone used to say. Perhaps this was all there ever was. Who ever said it was more? I’m not even sure if I know these people. I certainly haven’t seen them before. All I know is that I see, and I see it always. It goes on a continuous loop; it goes backwards and in every different way possible, all at the same time. An everlasting presentation of this.

The morbid part, the one that I thought was OK, but clearly wasn’t, was that my name was surprisingly soon forgotten. We both thought we’d made an impact on the community. We were not famous or special in any way, but still, the idea of us getting forgotten about three years after our death is harsh. Someone once said that you die twice. The first being your death, obviously. The second being the moment your name is said for the last time.

~Peanut

“The Accursed”, by Joyce Carol Oates

 

The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates        

the-accursed

In one of the review-excerpts of Joyce Carol Oates’s novel The Accursed (2013) featured in the first pages of my edition, Stephen King wrote: “Joyce Carol Oates has written what may be the world’s first postmodern Gothic novel”. This intrigued me greatly, as I am very much interested in both the Gothic and the postmodern – so, offered a novel with both these elements, I set out to read it with a tentative question posed in my mind; What makes this novel postmodern and Gothic?

Joyce Carol Oates’s The Accursed include many of the tropes one finds in Gothic literature: specters and ghosts, murderers and ‘cannibal sandwiches’, overworked scholars and professors, mysterious and inexplicable events and landscapes, and a frame narrative to pack it all in. The frame narrative is important, as, while it is not a wholly original turn of the Gothic, it gives the reader a sense of reading a document ‘lost and found’, and of h**self being a part of a professorial research team devoted to investigate an age old enigma yet to be solved, something that is, I dare say, inherently Gothic. (We find this in other Gothic and horror writers as well, best showcased in Lovecraft, for example.)

The enigma to be solved in The Accursed occurs at a wedding between ‘part-retired Presbyterian minister’ Dr. Winslow Slade’s granddaughter Annabel Slade and Lieutenant Dabney Bayard in Princeton, New Jersey – June 4th, 1905. A few weeks before the wedding, Princeton has been visited by ‘a lawyer from Carnahan, Virginia, with an association with the Presbyterian Church’, a man rather malicious named Axson Mayte. There is, however, something odd about Axson, something that everyone who meets him prior to the wedding picks up on, but are not entirely able to accurately pinpoint. Through the investigating narrative of scholar M.W. van Dyck II we get to read different academics and historians perspective of Mayte, but the most consensual understanding is that Mayte is the first public manifestation of the Curse. Broadly explained, Mayte shows up at the church door during the wedding and, variously perceived by the invited guests as re-told by van Dyck II, inexplicably draws Slade to him before they disappear like ghosts, “as if into thin air”.

During my master’s course The Gothic Imagination, I wrote an essay about how the existence of two different, yet parallel spaces in Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby (1967)  – the real, physical space of Rosemary’s reality, and the abstract, metaphysical space of her dreams – combine in order to create a new kind of space; a transcendental reality, if you will. Impossible consequences manifest themselves in her real life – impossible because they are consequences only of something she claims to have dreamed, and not of something from her physical reality. (As I look back and browse the earlier blogposts on this site, I become aware that, for some reason, this is something that greatly amuses and interests me.) Joyce Carol Oates achieves some of the same effects in this novel, too. Through hard work, the scholar who narrates the tale (again, his name is M.W. van Dyck II) has been able to get a hold of Annabel Slade’s own journal where she has written about the time spent with Axson Mayte, after disappearing from her own wedding. Without spoiling too much, I would like to simply point out that the technique used in Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby here discussed, is also used by Oates in this segment of the novel. Mayte takes her to a place that does not necessarily exist in ‘real life’ – somewhere called ‘the Bog Kingdom’. What happens in this Kingdom is incomprehensible for both Slade and van Dyck II as they’re happening – but once we return to the ‘real world’ we see that the consequences from these events nevertheless manifest themselves in the ‘real world’ – so they must have happened, whether in this world, or the next.

(There is, additionally, another, even more striking example of this, one that shows Oates’s borrowing of this technique in a much clearer light. But telling you that would be a spoiler of significant magnitude, so much so that I will refrain from writing it here.) (You’ll have to read the book and see if you can spot it. (It’s towards the end of the book.))

Another turn of the Gothic in The Accursed is the fact that the supernatural (the ghost), or in this specific case, the Curse, is never always the same person – or ‘thing’. As in all good and solid Gothic fiction, the supernatural evil is capable of taking on different shapes – the Curse is essentially a shapeshifter. That is to say Axson Mayte is not the ‘only’ manifestation of the Curse. But is he the ‘pure’ Curse – the Master –  or just a deviant of it – a servant? Or maybe there does not exist such a hierarchy of evil, and Mayte is just one of several ways in which the Curse can be allowed to stay in Princeton. Whatever the answers to this, the result is more or less the same; We can never be sure who (or where) the primary source of the Curse is. We, the readers, become paranoid. Even the characters we think we know well may be part of it. We never know where – or to whom – the Curse might strike next.

What is fresh and something I haven’t encountered before, in Oates’s Gothic novel, is the inclusion of a (rather) in-depth discussion and study of American socialist history. The readers get to follow Upton Sinclair’s revolutionary ambition about equality founded on Nietzschean philosophy, his life situation during the writing of his The Jungle, and his appreciation of fellow American socialist Jack London. On one side, I think this socialist, revolutionary aspect of the novel, while particularly interesting and engaging to me in and of itself, is ill fitted in the overall Gothic, ghost/’vampire’ atmosphere of The Accursed. I do appreciate, however, the parallel it draws up at the end of the tale, and the resulting effect of it is a trope very much belonging to the Gothic; Using Sinclair’s hard-working discipline, his vigorous vegetarianism and his admiration of London, and by raising the expectations, hopes and dreams of Sinclair (as well as the reader), of the just cause (for then only to shatter them again toward the end), Oates is able to intriguingly question the validity and power of personal ambitions, dreams and passions. So, by looking at it (‘it’, i.e, the inclusion of ‘a (rather) in-depth discussion and study of American socialist history’) like this, it is more understandably relevant in The Accursed, as the resulting effect does fit rather well in a Gothic setting.

Although the novel is rather long (my edition is 667 pages), with some passages in it that made me personally question the relevancy of this particular topic to the whole of the novel, I would certainly recommend experiencing it. The passages in questions might not strikingly or obviously fit the rest of the Gothic atmosphere of the novel, but after having finished them all and been able to put them together in the bigger picture, I realize what Oates is doing is rather innovative, creative and, ultimately, transgressive (which, keep in mind, is what the Gothic ultimately is all about.)

Stephen King was right when writing of The Accursed that it: “may be the world’s first postmodern Gothic novel.”

~ milk

 

 

 

 

 

Propositions for a new religion in five steps. A manifest of sorts.

So you want to build a system of belief? Don’t know where to begin? Have the existential dread finally gotten a hold on you for good? Fret not lost one – here is the solution to how you can put the power in your own hands. It’s also super fashionable to be a part of a cult right now. This season’s colour is sacrifical red and wicca beige.

  1. Find a cool symbol to be your “cross” or “Star of David”.

This is really hard, because you want your design to be timeless, but also effortless in a way. Your followers must be able to understand the depiction, or at least be able to simplify it, so that the least artistic person in your religion can draw it, if not good, then understandable. Internet is full to the brim of talented artist. They’ll cook you up a design in a jiffy (or should I say gif.phy).

2. The holy scripture.

A book? A scroll? Personally I’m really into carved stone tablets. What about Lapis Lazuli? HAVE YOU CONSIDERED ALL CAPS? If you want your religion to be more “technologic”, why not try a memory stick or a microchip? This might however backfire and look pretty dated in just a few years. I knew this cultist once who had all of his mystic lore on a floppy disk. It looks kind of dumb now. Especially since his religion was all about technology and innovation. The easiest medium for people to grasp is per now still a book. You can do an e-book though, as a compromise. It’s all up to you anyway! I know a lady who reads “Infinite Jest” right now, and she tells me it’s a post-modern masterwork. Why not just make a post-modern masterwork with religious motifs?

3. Clothing.

Let’s be honest, a cool looking robe is one of the best things about a religion/cult/cabal/group (RCCG for short). If you worship the sun (the star, not the newspaper (in this example (I’d refrain from worshiping commercial products as that often warrants lawsuits and/or questions from the taxman about sponsorship and how much you earn contra how much you don’ pay taxes since you’re a religion and not a charity/business)) I’d go for a bright yellow robe with circular designs). I’m partial to a dark red or a medium brown attire. I’m pretty classic there. Religion is all about being or not being classy. You can have a religion revolving red wine and discussions about post-modern masterworks like “Infinite Jest”, or you can have raunchy sex cults with knife cutting and scarring. The fun is in the making! A pro tip is to go for a baggy outfit as you will probably get followers in all sizes and shapes. Unless you have a religion specifically catered to a certain type – which I think is wrong and quite frankly discriminating.

4. Location or place of religious activities.

Gentrify an old community center or an abandoned computer store.  Blockbusters are also all the rage right now. If you need profit you can always just flip some properties and expand your branch. The nice thing about not paying tax is exactly that. As long as you are spending money for the greater good of the religion you have in mind. Churches seldom makes for the most vital houses for a gentrified part of town, unless you could call apple-stores and coffeehouses churches. And yes, a lazy person would draw similarities between mac users and religion, but that is a picture we’re done with, right?

5. Community Outreach.

Will you be out in the streets preaching your dogma, or meet in secret? Will you actively go out of your way to recruit new members or will you have insane initiation requirements? In my experience, the more elite it seems, the more people are inclined to join. Especially if the name of the movement has a “V” instead of an “U” in it. Like INVITVS, or TRANSMVTALISTS. It looks classy and ancient. I’d refrain from using it if it clashes with the word itself. Examples includes these failed religions, ANAL LVBISTS, or MVST LOVE DOGS (this one was a critical analysis circle who exclusively watched the 2005 classic movie starring among others, John Cusack, Christopher Plummer, Stockard Channing, and who can forget Kirk Trutner as Deli Boy (must not be mistaken for Kirk Trvtner, as he doesn’t exist). Community outreach is by far the most visible your deity will be for the uninitiated.

And there you have it. The five steps of brick to build a cathedral (figurative or literal). The mortar is YOU, and the fellows who join you in this revolutionary new branch of enlightenment. As a final tip I’d recommend to stay hydrated, eat in moderation, exercise regularly etc. But hey, don’t let me tell you what to do – I’d rather you tell me.

enlightnemntRemember that reflection is the roller-blades of enlightenment. [Illustration photo: literally the first photo when googling ‘enlightenment stock photo’].

~Peanut

Letter From Merriland

Dear Mom and Dad

 

I have now been living here for about ten years, I apologize for not writing in a long time, but there has been so much going on. Life in Merriland is not what one would expect. Since it has been so long so I have a lot to tell and here is my story if you want to hear it. When I first left Sand Lake, I ended up in the Welsh town called Gloomington where I lived in a shared apartment that was named “The Dudgeon Dungeon”. A bleak and depressing place. I spent most of my days missing home and sitting in my room. I often played my accordion and sang folk songs and I was feeling a bit bitter about having ended up in Gloomington. I must admit that I enjoyed it somehow, there is sometimes nice about feeling sorry for yourself. I was part of something. Everyone in Dudgeon Dungeon felt sorry for themselves and we shared our self-pity. Little did I know that these were the best months of my life, at least after I left Sand Lake. I could not stand staying in Gloomington for long. I packed up and left after living there for approximately six months. I then ended up in Merriland, a country too little and too beautiful to be found on any world map. A paradise on earth, a modern Garden of Eden with fully dressed people.

 

Merriland has a population of around 3 million people, which is a little more than a third of the population of New York City. Merriland might be a small country, but they stand for democratic values. Even if most of the politicians may have very similar opinions, electing them is fully up to the people. Their values have a few similarities with America, but maybe a bit more social democratic, and their political execution may be a bit more efficient. I was surprised in my first encounter with this nation. I was quickly given the right to vote. There was a consensus in the population that if someone worked and paid taxes, they should obviously have the right to be involved in the democratic process of the nation. For them anything else would be unheard of. My first job in Merriland was at a grain factory and my labor was the reason so many Merrilandians got their daily bread. This country surprised me. It seemed the people living there were sincerely happy, they were not living in a dictatorship. I have never experienced a more democratic system than in Merriland. I settled down in a small apartment with air conditioning and quick internet, even before Wifi was a thing. A thing in my block was that every Sunday there was something they called “The Clean-up” where everyone got together to clean up and fix things, we drank coffee and afterwards we ate cake. There was such great unity and everyone was delighted to contribute.

 

I read quite a few books my first year in Merriland. I read Kafka, Bjørneboe, Plath, Hemingway and Wolf. John Irving did not get away either. Finding literature was simple in Merriland. Every bookshop was like a library and it was easy for them to find the more uncommon books. Instead of commercials, they have a TV and entertainment tax, which paid for all the TV channels in the country. The ads that were sent in between were mostly information about the world. Usually with happy children holding hands, reminding us to take care of each other. The shows were quite diverse. There were feel-good reality shows, sitcoms, staged TV Drama and Drama shows similar to those in the US. Everything from the heavy and serious to the light and humoristic.

After living in Merriland for five years things started to change. My happiness turned into discontent. I was no longer happy to be part of Merriland’s happy community. It did not make things better that everyone else were happy and laughed.

 

Thing took a bad turn the time that I cried because I was homesick. I missed Sand Lake. The pleasant, East Coast small town in the state of New York, east of Albany. The place of picnics, porches and progress. I choked up one evening when I was watching a movie with some Merrilandian friends. There must have been something about the film that reminded me of Sand Lake specifically, I cannot put my finger on what it was, but it must have been something. Maybe it just reminded me of home. The scenery in the movie reminded me of Sand Lake. I dreamed back on the old days and my youth back there. It was not perfect, but it was mine. When I started weeping my friend Jessie asked me why I had started crying when it was such a cozy and funny movie. I told him that I missed home and that I just could not control it. Jessie could not understand it at all. This also caught the attention of the rest of the gang: “How can you be homesick when you live in Merriland, the greatest place in the world?” I was used to the United States, the greatest nation in the world, you could love it or leave it. Not loving it left you with a sense of guilt, In Merriland you had to multiply that with at least a hundred. This was a place of wonder and riches. I felt like the world’s most ungrateful person. Here I was surrounded by generous and beautiful people in some kind of paradise and the ungrateful bastard I was, I was missing Sand Lake: The armpit of the world!!!!!

 

After the incident, I decided to keep all emotions that were not extreme happiness or ecstasy to myself. I may have sat in my room crying my eyes out, but in public, I laughed like everyone else.  I was actually just acting 95% of the time, the other 5% I felt genuinely happy. The others seemed genuinely happy all the time. I envied them and I was extremely jealous of their joy and their lives. Maybe I was even jealous of their lies. If you are that happy all the time, you have got to lie to yourself, right? There must be some dark secret. This cannot be that much of a paradise! There must be something wrong here, it is all too good to be true. One day it happened, I found love! Her name was Irene! She was born and raised in Merriland. She was one of them and her happiness spread to me. This was also around the time when I was promoted at the grain factory; I had slowly started working my way up. Irene worked as a manager at a restaurant, my favorite restaurant in Merriland. We talked about having kids. Merriland was the perfect place for kids to grow up. We dreamed about watching them grow, seeing them go to school and succeed in life and maybe find love and have kids of their own. The future looked bright; it was always did in Merriland. It is common in Merriland to have two kids. There is not much adoption in Merriland as there are few families who struggle with raising their kids properly. Contraception is also developed in such an advanced way that no one gets unwanted kids. In fact, most people in Merriland want kids! Those who cannot can try test tubes or a surrogate mother. A Merrilander will gladly loan away their sperm or their uterus to make someone else happy, that is just the way they are! Irene and I got married during my fourth year in Merriland.

 

One day I was trying to send an SMS, but my phone was low on battery and it shut itself off. I re-charged it, but in my frustration, I had forgotten my SIM-code. I started getting stressed out and my head looked like a boiled tomato. I yelled, “Fuck! Shit! Goddamn! Fuck! Shit! Fuck!”  in frustration. Swearing was not frowned upon in Merriland, but frustration was. Frustration was very uncommon there, because it was so nice and pleasant that were no reasons to be frustrated. Finally, I had to write in the PUK-code. That was when my cup overflowed. The SIM-code was just the final bubble in the cup. I had been thinking over my life all day. I was worried that my thoughts were not free and happy enough and that I did not have a reason to live. I was simply not worthy of living in Merriland. I thought; “Is this the time when I end it all?….Should I actually just kill myself?” It was not as if I had a lot to lose, except Irene, but she would be better off without me anyway. I had very little to offer, either her or Merriland. It would probably make quite a fuss if I did kill myself; no one had committed suicide in Merriland in at least twenty-five years. There was not much illness either in Merriland. The most common cause of death was old age. Most Marylanders grew to be around 110 years old. Imagine sticking out this life for 110 years! How the fuck is that possible? I cried a little. Then I told myself I was ungrateful and pathetic.

 

One day I was out biking in the wilderness. I met a gentleman named Kurt, he had a much nicer bike than me and he had clean jeans and bent knees. I asked him if he was interested in a loaf of bread and he told me he had some condiments we could put on it. Sharing was the foundation in Merriland. Without sharing society would fall apart and we would be left with nothing. We had a picnic. Me and Kurt. Me and a stranger. He was happy, like everyone in Merriland. A cheerful man who did not take himself too seriously, but also was not too fatuous. We got to know each other quickly.

 

Kurt told me he was born and raised in Merriland. He had a lovely childhood and he grew up with his sister Katrina, his brother Lorentz and their parents. They used to spend their summers at Tranquil Island, which seemed to be the perfect vacation spot. I told him I grew up in Sand Lake in America. He wondered how it was like to grow up in the US, a place with so much sorrow and violence. I told him it was horrible, but also sort of nice at times. I did not tell him I missed home, that would have been ridiculous. When you meet a new acquaintance in Merriland it is common to tell them your entire life story. Kurt said: I started school when I was five. I met lots of new friends and we had so much fun. The most important thing about growing up was learning from your mistakes. Maybe I did dumb things, but I learned from it every time. We would be happy, play together, and maybe sing a song. Music has always meant a lot to me and I learned to play the harp when I was 11. Every time I went to a party, I would bring my harp. I now work as a police officer, which is a simple job because the crime rate is so low, but there of course are a few things to do. There is always someone in need of a passport or someone driving too fast in their electric cars or someone being naughty and biking on the wrong sidewalk. Everyone can make a mistake, but the police forgives, of course. That is just the Merrilandian way. When I was 20, I married Anita and we have three beautiful children together. We have now been married for almost 20 years and we are just as in love with each other as the day we met!

 

I told him about Irene and that we were thinking of having children someday. I said we had been married for three years. He said, “Good luck”. He advised us to have children; it was a greatest experience one could have in an otherwise amazing life. My happiness-cup was again overflown. I think I started hating him. Maybe it was the American in me that could not stand all the happiness Kurt brought to the conversation. The sleazy bastard with his nuclear family! Fuck him! I smiled and told him I was delighted to have kids. Did I really? Was it just what was expected of us? Did Irene want children? Would not childbirth be just as painful in Merriland? I could not imagine it being more pleasant in Merriland than in any other place in the world. I wanted to tell him about my homesickness, but I skipped it. It would not have done any good. Bringing negativity to such a nice picnic? I could never have done that!!

 

When I got home, I cried again, the tears were flowing. I was just happy Irene did not see me. She could not see me like that. No one could see me like that! I often see my brain as its own universe. I feel like there are planets and civilizations spinning around inside of me without being aware of each other and that there is a planet or even a galaxy behind every single thought. I have often thought of seeing a therapist, but there are so few of them in Merriland. It was basically a profession that was obsolete. Almost no one were sad or depressed and mental illness was almost eradicated. I am not sure if there would be a stigma around such a visit, but still. There were few stigmas in Merriland and people were quite open and tolerant. Maybe it is because actual destructive things are almost non-existent. Sometimes I wonder how people would react if I did commit a terrible crime or murdered someone. You can only imagine how a society where nothing bad happens would take that. It must have been quite a shock! Do not get me wrong, I would never do anything like that, but it is tempting. I would just love to see their faces! To be fair I would like to see their faces if I ever went to a therapist. Imagine being depressed in Merriland!

 

One day I looked through the weekly classifieds and saw that a local library was in need of a manager. Maybe it would help for my body and soul to change fields. I applied. The job interview terrified me. I could not see myself in such a position. I would, of course, not be the boss of the entire library, just a manager position within the library-hierarchy. The interview turned out well and they seemed to like me. One week later, I got a call that the job was mine. I immediately quite the old one and was thrilled to start. I do love books!

 

 

The job turned out to be amazing. Not only did I get to work with books and people, but I also got a bit of responsibility. Responsibility was the thing that separated the bosses from their minions. Not power, but responsibility. At least in Merriland. I did not have much power, but I did have responsibility, and that is how it should be. There was a hierarchy, but the hierarchy was based on responsibility, not power. I was responsible for my department, while my bosses were responsible for me. The job also made it so that I could read a lot of interesting literature. It gave me the opportunity to read nice books, good books and rare books I had never heard of. Literature for Sweden, from Pakistan, from Tanzania, from South America, from the entire globe! I got myself a cup of coffee on the way home and thought to myself; “Life can be nice, life is beautiful! It’s great here in Merriland” I came home and Irene and I went to a restaurant together. We had Tapas for dinner and Crème Brulé for dessert, a perfect meal, if I am allowed to say.  A perfect meal, a perfect day, a perfect life in a perfect country. I love Merriland! I woke up the next morning aware that I was alive, the sun was up, so was I. The days at work were great and I felt that I amounted to something, I was a human being. Not an insignificant human being either, because no human being is insignificant. We are all one unity, we are together about this, and Merriland has shown me.

 

One week Irene went to a culinary course in Paris. She was going to be taught new tricks from the best chefs in France. I had my first night alone, it felt nice, and it was only me. I played the accordion and watched foreign films on TV. I was all by myself and it felt good. I was quite happy at work the next day, I smiled to the others at work, and everything just felt terrific. I looked at a picture of Irene in my office and considered myself happy to have her. When I got home I felt a little sad, I really missed her. She was now in Paris, a city where people get murdered, most likely every night. She is not used to that sort of thing. What if she witnesses a murder? What if she sees a dead body? The solitude drove me crazy, I really missed her and my suicidal thoughts were back. Are not people going away for courses all the time? Are not their significant others missing them when they are gone? Do they not have the ability to miss people in Merriland? I teared up, another night alone. A record or a movie meant nothing to me. I cried and I cried. If I were in the states I would feel pathetic, but also a bit cute, but if Irene knew I cried for her she would be heartbroken, possibly even angry. Why cry? Who the hell cries in Merriland? I was happy for her, she got to go to this great course, but I really missed her. Would she have missed me if I were away? Maybe!, but would she cry? Definitely not! It was the worst week ever, well, at least in that year. I cried every night. I could keep myself together and smile as usual at work, but I broke down the moment I got home. I stared at the pictures of her and all the times and the tears were flowing. I was a sad, sad person. When she got back I gave her a huge hug, I felt so happy. She smiled because I was smiling and she laughed when I laughed. I asked her how she liked Paris and she said it was fantastic. In spite of all the suffering, she thought it was a nice city and the lights were glittering. She told me she might sacrifice some of her happiness just to see such lights in Merriland. She was joking of course.

 

The joy of seeing Irene again was the only that kept me happy, the only thing that made me feel alive. The only thing that made me feel like a true Merrilander. There is no feeling like seeing someone you have missed again, it somehow makes the time missing them worth it. Maybe as an American I could never adapt to life in Merriland. I was used to awful headlines in the newspapers. I was used to murder and abuse and people committing suicide. I was also used to those moments when a certain smile or laugh could make me forget those headlines. There are some keywords that burn themselves into your brain and never disappear, even in Merriland. Maybe Merrilandians do not have these keywords stuck in their minds, because most of their headlines are good news. Maybe it is also so that they do not miss people here and the feeling of longing is nonexistent. Maybe none of these happy people has ever felt the happiness I felt when I finally saw Irene again. It was a strange thought. I of course envied them because a word like “murder” was a foreign word to them, something you are just not used to, but to people elsewhere it is a word you probably hear every day. Other places you will never know when a terrorist attack might occur and you will never know if you will attacked or robbed. In Merriland, there is no such thing as terrorism, but there might be something I have that they do not. In one tiny moment, I might have been the happiest person in Merriland. It was a very strange thought. Possibly the only person in Merriland who ever considered committing suicide, was for a couple of hours the happiest person there. I almost get the chills thinking about it. I was happy! I was a Merrilander.

 

After a couple of months things started to get bad again. Irene noticed it; at least that is what I feared. I walked to the highway and I saw life pass before my eyes. I saw a truck and I almost ran toward it. If I am going to be completely honest, it was not my will to live or my survival instincts that kept me from going through with it. It was Merriland. I liked the goddamn place. Just one tiny place in the world where horrible things do not happen. Where the people can be happy without worry about the horrors that might occur. They really had something nice there and I did not want to ruin it for them. If I brought my Sand Lake-infected sadness to Merriland and told Irene about, it would defile her and Merriland as well. If I had actually taken my life, I would have changed Merriland forever. I knew I had to get away, but how would I tell Irene about it, make her sad, and ruin the happy harmony of Merriland? I told her that America had corrupted me, she did not understand, there was no way for her to understand my sadness. I told her that I missed living with sadness and that happiness only made me unhappy. I told her that I loved and that I would miss her, but that it was for the best for the both of us that I left. It was also the best for Merriland. She told me that she would miss me and asked me to send her letters. I did not know if I will be able to do it. It might be the absence seem worse.  I still do not know if missing someone is common in Merriland. I have a little selfish dream that when I am gone she will leave Merriland and come live with me. In that way, we can live together, aware of our unhappiness. If I have indeed defiled her with my pain, we could indeed live together and be miserable. We could be the modern Adam and Eve, defiled and expelled from paradise. We could live together in sin and destruction. It was of course a dream. A selfish yet beautiful dream that made the longing and heartache much easier.

 

I have of course missed the both of you over the years I have been in Merriland. I hope one day to return to Sand Lake: The armpit of the world! I will soon be on my way and my arrival in American might be right around the corner. The forgotten son returns to his hometown to finish his unfinished projects or get a fresh start. I apologize for not writing sooner, but it would probably make me miss you more and increase my homesickness if I did stay in touch. It was better just keep up my Merriland happiness. I think I am going to be happier now. Maybe I find my own little Merriland someday. Maybe there exsists such a place inside of me as well.  Lots of love.

 

Dearest,  Kenneth.

~Readhard

Guest Lecture: American Idiot: Political Rock Opera? Rock Opera? Brilliant? Overrated????

In 2004 Green Day released their multi-platinum selling rock-opera American Idiot. It’s the band’s second best-selling album after the 1994’s major label debut Dookie. The album is both loved and hated and put them back in the mainstream after years of commercial flops. The album won a Grammy and inspired a Broadway musical, which will also be made into a screen version. The album is known for its socio-political imagery and has been said to capture the zeitgeist of Bush-era America.

I think the rock opera format is interesting as it gives an album a dramaturgic or narrative angle as a whole, and many bands and artists have tried it. Most notable are probably David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, Queensryche’s Operation Mindcrime*, Rush’s 2112, Frank Zappa’s Joe’s Garage, Pink Floyd’s The Wall and The Who’s Tommy and Quadrophenia. A problem with the format is that it often gets way too pretentious and overly pompous, and often lose the original spirit of rock n’ roll. Sometimes the overly ambitious story might sabotage the songwriting. Done well, however, rock operas can be great and make the listener appreciate a story in addition to the music.

*Operation Mindcrime might be more of a concept album than a rock opera.

Back to American idiot.

Is American Idiot a political rock opera? Is it even a rock opera? I’m not going to look too much into the latter at the moment, but it could probably be questioned. I feel like we should take this quote with a grain of salt, being from a Green Day fan-page, but I’ll include it anyway: “2004 was a year of conflicting views(sic) and political statements. Green Day were adding their on self-certified speech to a declining nation. Creating a product of retaliation, unearthing a fresh new source of backlash from a country swamped in scrutiny. As a band of authority, Green Day weren’t lying down to big ego’s (sic) or presentential(sic) stronghold. A feature so potent in American Idiots underskin. Green Day disapproved of their government(sic), and a catalogue fuled(sic) in profound belief(sic) and superioty(sic) would change a Country and a band forever. « I would say that there is no doubt that songs like the title track and “Holiday” are political statements. Vocalist Billie Joe utters as he introduces the song in Milton Keynes 2005: “This song is not Anti-American, It’s Anti-war!!!!!”. The legendary, merciless music reviewer Robert Christgau views war as one of the issues that the album references (“War (Not any special war, just war”). Christgau later goes on to say about the whole album: “There’s no economics, no race, hardly any compassion». “ and he’s right. In my opinion neither “American idiot” (The song) nor “Holiday” offer any real ideas and are both just random political musings and half-baked statements (“I don’t want to be an American idiot” and often trying really hard to offend (“Zieg Heil to the president gasman”/”Subliminal mind fuck America”). The songs are also quite detached from the actual story in the rock opera and to me seems a bit misplaced on the album as a whole.

Outside of the politics, I think a lot of the songs are a bit weak and depends too much on obvious theft. Quite a few songs border on plagiarism. I would also say it’s quite an overrated album. The songs that are great are, however, really great, “Whatshername” is a perfect ender and really makes a perfect finish to the actual story as well as being an incredibly beautiful song. It starts “I thought I ran into you down on the street/ Then it turned out to only be a dream”. The Whatsername character, as seen in a dream by the protagonist of the story, brings on the entire story and the entire album would not make sense if it weren’t for the song. In that regard it also starts with the end.

The actual story is also pretty good and might hold up better than the music does. Even if the story also borrows a lot from the Who’s rock opera: Quadrophenia. Green Day singer Billie Joe Armstrong even made a joke or a prediction that they were going to make a rock opera about a guy named Jimmy, an obvious reference to the Who, in an interview from 1993, before they had even made it into the mainstream. The huge difference is that Jimmy is the main protagonist of Quadrophenia and St. Jimmy is one of the other characters in American Idiot. I’m not much of a fan of Quadrophenia as an album, but it’s actually one of my favorite movies. The title is a play on the word “Schizophrenia”, meaning splitting of the mind and bases on the misconception that it means split personality, ”Quadrophenia” means in the rock opera that Jimmy’s mind is split in four. The connection is that it’s often assumed that St. Jimmy is just a part of the main protagonist in American Idiot also known as “The Jesus of Suburbia”’s(Taken from “The Buddha of Suburbia”) split personality. Still St. Jimmy seems even more destructive than Jimmy, and in the “Jesus of Suburbia” music video he resembles a Sid Vicious (Sex Pistols member) inspired character, making him some sort of Punk Rock version of the troubled Mod. In Quadrophenia, Jimmy drives his Vespa off a cliff into the ocean, while in the Green Day song “Homecoming”: “Jimmy died today, he blew his brains out into the bay” and the Jesus character continues, “In the state of mind/ It’s my own private suicide”. This connection is maybe my favorite part of American Idiot. Later in the song, the Jimmy character is gone and “Jesus is filling out paper work now”. Jesus has now gotten a job and left the life behind him and daydreams of something better.

The reason Jesus seem to move on is that the girl he is in love with sends him a letter bomb saying that nobody likes him and she certainly doesn’t seem to either.  The girl is Whatsername from the song with the same name. It’s uncertain whether he actually refers to her as Whatsername when they are together or if that’s how he refers to her in retrospect, it is said that they all call her “ol’ Whatsername”(“She’s a Rebel”), but in the song “Whatsername”, he claims to have forgotten her actually name and forgotten all about her, yet seeing her in a dream makes the basis for the entire story told. Outside of “Whatsername”, “She’s a Rebel”, “Extraordinary Girl”, “Letter Bomb” and “Homecoming” are all about her, it seems. “She’s a Rebel” and “Extraordinary Girl” shows Jesus/Jimmy’s love or fascination for her as a person and a fighter for her beliefs, while “Letter Bomb” and “Homecoming” are about her leaving him. “She’s a Rebel” is also the song where the imagery of the album cover comes from “She’s holding on my heart like a hand grenade”. In “Letter Bomb”, she seems to be the one to tell him “You’re not the Jesus of Suburbia/ St. Jimmy is a figment of/ your father’s rage and your mother’s love”, establishing once again that St. Jimmy really doesn’t exist.

I definitely think that the story between the split personality or identity crisis ridden character and Whatsername is a far more interesting angle than the political aspect, which is slim, if it exists at all. Still as far as politics and social commentary goes, if we can distinguish a difference there, I would say that the rock opera (especially in songs like “Jesus of Suburbia” and “Letter bomb” which discuss divorce, drug use and commercialism) are much more of a comment on the situation, thus captures the spirit of the times in the Bush-era America than it offers any ideological points or solution to the observed issues. That being said, the reason it captures this particular time is because it was released in it, the war in “Holiday” as Christgau mentioned is not talking about a specific war, and unless we are relating “idiot” to George W. Bush, I wouldn’t say there is actually that much to go on if one is to claim the album is restricted to take place in the Bush-era. I think, it being an opera and all, the album would be more interesting if it had a libretto (a book attached to the album), but then again that might ruin the imagination the songs themselves produce. I think maybe the most positive part of the rock opera is that it actually does tell a story, and a pretty good, relatable story too!, unlike so many other rock operas, including American Idiot’s successor 21st Century Breakdown, where it’s unclear there even is a story. In spite of my slight negativity when it comes the album, I’m actually going to see the musical in Stockholm! So I’m looking forward to that.

~Labbetøs

 

***
Thank you so much for the insightful article on American Idiot, and for being our guest lecturer. I hope we’ll see more of your stellar work again sometime.
– Peanut.

 

 

Possessive Aggressive

I left the house on a Wednesday (If you feel like you need to know the day). I then drove the car to a store-it garage just outside Chinatown.  The rest of the trip was going to be strictly on foot. No rides, no hitchhiking or transports.  I guess piggybacks would be OK, but only if I’m asked I guess.

On my epic quest for self-discovery I met some girls. They were pretty. One of them had a skirt and a top, but you could clearly see the belly. Around her bellybutton she had a tattoo of a narwhale. I asked the girl why she had a narwhale on her belly.

“It a piercing animal” she said, and gave me the old ‘are-you-stupid-you-old-cunt’ look. The girl next to her laughed, and lightly tapped her tattoo, as to make it wobble. “Look, it’s dancing”. We laughed.
“Are you locals?” I knew they were. Anyone is this damn city are locals. I know that’s an obvious remark – but I mean that they are locals in the mind, and in their appearance and in their way of living.
“We live @ the trailer park, but right now we are evicted.” The tattoo less girl said to me. “We live together, her and I”.
“I think you mean “she and I.”” I said, immediately regretting it. “Stupid, stupid, stupid”. Truth been told, I do not even know the first thing about grammar. Grammer?

“Are you for real, old boy? Nerds like you need to chill the fuck out. ”The tattooless girl smiled condescendingly, and put her hand down her skirt. She retrieved it, but now she had a small bottle in her hand. She began drinking it, and shared with her tattooed roommate.  “It’s gin.” “The best kind.” I looked at the bottle. It was called “Gin-ie in a bottle, baby” and had a picture of a Genie with starry eyes and an electric guitar. “You should have some.”
“Should I really?” I thought. I haven’t been drinking for ages. But then again, it wasn’t like I was going to drive anywhere, so I answered. “Yes please”. I think I paused to think for too long. Mere seconds later, I was given the bottle. They nodded in a way that said that I could have some, but not too much -just enough to warm my body. Their eyes followed the bottle, greedily watching my every move with their now runny eyes complimented by their red cheeks and pale lips. I felt like kissing them with my gin soaked lips. Especially the tattooed girl.

My stride had to continue. Besides, I was really cold, and I had to keep moving. Always moving. Always getting farther. I bode the girls farewell, and thanked them profusely for the swig. I have always felt that gin clears my head. The air feels more airy after a small sip. A small amount like that shouldn’t really make any difference, but then again, I almost never drink anymore.

The city was busier further down the block. Some dodgy youngsters stood on a corner wearing what I assume to be a gang identifiable outfit. They all had basic colored clothes, but with purple accents, be it their shoes, belts or bandanas. The old me would be terrified to even look in their general direction. Now however, it didn’t seem so distressing. Not that I would go over and tell them to fuck themselves, I would never do that, but I could, if I wanted to.

**********************************************************************

This soulful wandering down the city – it’s been done so many times before in books he liked. The bitterness of not being original in any aspect of his life, whilst he was desperately trying to be, slowly drained his childhood cheerfulness. In addition, being this self-shallowed; it’s such an outdated thing.

**********************************************************************

Some cars drove slowly past me. It was, as if they wanted to take some time when driving past. Looking at me, analyze the type of man I am. They don’t know me. For all they know, I could be the son of the President, or an unstable maniac baiting in people with my small and insecure body, for only to lurch at them with a knife. But I don’t have a knife anymore. I don’t have anything.

“The fewer the possessions you have, the freer you are” was an outstanding quote I once read. I can’t remember where, but it spoke to me. I can never tell anyone that I get feely by quotes of that standard. Personally, I despise people who live by motivational and inspirational quotes. It is simply beneath me. I wish I read books instead of keeping myself alive by remembering cheap quotes.

It got colder now. Luckily, my jacket was padded, and the cold night breeze bounced off the gore-texy fabric. I should have brought along a scarf or a beanie. Oh well. A slight cold won’t matter. I’ll just keep on walking. Somewhere must be better than this place. Fresh beginnings and so on…

The streets became less crowded with parked cars, benches and other items that you usually see in city centers. Despite getting colder, the air felt fresher. WAITAMINUTE! Have I really so little to ponder? The air quality and the temperature? I’m supposed to have this life changing experience, where I denounce all my possessions and leave to explore the world with my own eyes, and all I can grasp to think about is the weather? I should be having complex philosophical and poetic thoughts and discussions with myself. If I only read books.

  • I’m Kerouac
  • I’m Thoreau
  • I’m Supertramp McCandless
  • I’m Rousseau.

It’s been awhile since I talked to the girls. The narwhale girl was the prettiest, even though girls without tattoos generally are more beautiful. It’s more of a healthy choice to abstain from ink. Would it be lame if I went back and asked her for a date? Yes.

**********************************************************************

For the first time this evening he took a cigarette up from his pocket, and lit it with a cheap gas station lighter. He adjusted his jacket, and if one were around to see him, like the old Chinese woman who stood by her door, you’d see he was slightly shivering. The Chinese woman probably took him for a meth-head or someone jacked up on alcohol. He did have a swig of gin, so she wasn’t complelty in the wrong. Mysterious psychic Chinese lady. How spooky.

**********************************************************************

The moon is up, and I’ve walked at a partly leisurely, partly busy pace without any stops for several hours. I’m way past the city. From now on there’ll be forests, hills, ponds, bridges and fields. I can breathe. I can talk loudly. “The fewer possessions you have, the freer you are”. “It’s a piercing animal”. I’m tasting the words. “P-pier-piercing-cing”. I wish I read the books.

I guess I have to return at some point. The feelings I can’t seem to well up through traditional narration of my own thoughts must pass, or die down at some point. I should get a dog, and a backpack, and books, and new cigarettes, and a small cottage, and weed. I need possessions as much as I need freedom. But I want freedom and no possessions. I want the narwhaled girl. Hell, I want her friend. I want her to read the books for me.

“I should turn” I tell myself. I can’t do this, I’m not strong willed enough. I should turn and go back. Back to –

I should go back. The gravel under my feet makes the most soothing noise. “Crunch crunch crunch”

“I should go back.”

  • “I should go back.

**********************************************************************

He should go back.

**********************************************************************

“I should go back.”

 

 

 

~Peanut

Two texts

# 1: – Sam:

Sam looked at himself in the mirror. He pointed at his reflection and said, slowly “This is not me. You are not me.” His reflection followed the movements of his hand and his mouth. After having said it, he felt relieved and like he could finally relax – like he did`nt have to wait for anyone anymore. He felt like his body was a hollow shell, a something that is not his, that could have been anyone`s; a shell where `he´ lived, where `Sam´ was supposed to spend his entire life. “Maybe there`s a monster hidden inside of me” he thought while standing motionless looking at the something in the mirror. Sam wondered whether the something was aware that he, Sam, was looking at it now. The something might be looking back at him. Like looking at the abyss. Then he realised that for it to be aware of that, there would have to be an actual entity inside of him, making the shell un-hollow again. Sam shuddered at the thought.

“Does he want to escape or does he want to stay inside me?” he wondered. He thought his body was probably a good place to live in, and that if he had had the opportunity, probably would want to live there himself.
He went to bed again and closed his eyes. His body felt detached from him, like it was situated far away from his head. He would wiggle his toe and think “This toe is not part of my body. My body is too far away from me for it to belong to me”. The longer he thought about it, the further away the rest of his body felt. Before he fell asleep, he thought maybe he should give the something a name, instead of just `the something´. Several names went through his head, but he was unable to find a suitable one. Then he fell asleep.

Sam was dreaming. He was outside, in a low forest ravine, surrounded by stones and trees and fog. This was a place where time and space didn`t exist. He looked around and was surprised at what he saw. He saw his reflection, the something that had been staring back at him from the mirror before he went to bed, sitting alone at a table, eating. Sam wanted to walk over to him and talk to it, but he was unable to move; he could only move his head. In a corner he saw a little girl who was jumping rope. Sam saw her jumping in slow motion. With each stroke she would count “one” aloud over and over. And with each stroke, time would go slower and slower, the rope taking longer and longer to complete one arch over her. She finally stopped altogether and suddenly collapsed on the forest ground. A man dressed as a clown appeared from out of the fog, picked up the little girl and disappeared again into the fog. Sam could hear someone clapping from behind where he stood.

When he woke up he went to the mirror in the bathroom again and said aloud “Is the monster `me´ or is he someone else?” and then he said “I feel alone” to the emptiness that surrounded him. “I am happy.”

Then he ate breakfast.

– – – – – –

# 2 – Little Scotty:

It was around the time that Rachel was training for her first marathon that Little Scotty just could`nt take it anymore: he had died, only three years old, after having spent half his life in a coma. It was March 28th. The marathon was August 2nd.

Rachel was devastated but also not surprised. She had heard the news from Jen. Jen was her best friend, they had know each other “since forever”. Jen was Little Scotty`s aunt. “He will be cremated.” Jen said. “It is what he would have wanted.” “Why do you say that?” Rachel asked. “I.. just know.” Jen answered. Little Scotty died when he was three, and had spent half his life in a coma. He was barely able to speak when he first came in a coma, how is Jen able to know “what he would have wanted”, Rachel asked herself. But it didnt`matter. Never did it matter.
Being his aunt, Jen now was the one responsible for Little Scotty`s after-death care. Jen was his mother`s sister and by default also his closest relative. Both of Little Scotty`s parents had died; his father died in a car crash the day after he had gotten his mother pregnant, and his mother had died giving childbirth. The doctors could not explain how it happened, or how it was possible in this day and age. They could only briefly share Jen`s despair, give her a pat on the shoulder, a hug.

“He deserves a proper funeral. Everyone who knew him should be there.” “But Jen, that`s like … five people..” “He deserves it.” Jen repeated. “You, me, the doctors and the nurses. That`s seven. The funeral will be held a week from now. A week and a half. Here, in the hospital. That`s best for everyone. Cheapest. Closest. Everyone knows where it is.” Rachel nodded.

The next day Rachel went for a run. She tried to run four or five times a week. Today she thought she`d run 12 – 15 kilometers, and tomorrrow she wanted to try to run the distance of a half-marathon. Rachel wanted to try to run the distance of a full marathon at least once before the actual marathon. She was a firm believer that the actual marathon should not be the first time anyone ever actually`d run a marathon. While she ran she listened to music; Iron Maiden. She had listened to the band “since forever”; she had practically grown up listening to them. Song: “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner”, oddly fitting to her current activity. Jen didn`t listen to them. She was more into soft rock etc. Which was fine with Rachel. She, too, occasionally enjoyed listening to that kind of music. But Rachel was more into the fast, and the brutal. Iron Maiden was only the beginning; the more brutal (brutal-er?) the music, the better. As much as she loved them, compared to the other stuff she sometimes listened to, she had to admit Maiden was “soft”. But it wasn`t about being brutal. She couldn`t care less what people thought of her, who she was, or what she listened to. It was about the way it made her feel, and about how she was able to “just let go” when listening to music. People often complained that they could never hear what the bands Rachel enjoyed, were singing about. Rachel could never understand why that was a problem. What`s the big deal about always being able to hear what they sing she thought. If they actually could hear what they were singing, people would probably change their minds anyway. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss. Besides, it`s not about the lyrics, you know. It`s about the brutality, and the being able to letting go of whatever anger or sadness or whatever you might have bottled up inside on some days, just letting it all go through the loudness and the screaming and the running she thought as her pace unconsciously fastened while hearing Bruce singing. (ruuuuuuuuun on aaand oooon, ruuuuuuuuun on aaand ooooon THE LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONELIIIIIIIIIIIIINEEEEEEEES OF THE LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG DIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIISTANCE RUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUNEEER)

Rachel did not think about Little Scotty even once during the following week.

April 13th, the day of the funeral, one week after Little Scotty died, came and went. It was a Friday. Everyone Little Scotty had known had been there. Everything was as Jen had wanted it to be. After the ceremony, the body was driven to the crematory. Rachel was one of the people carrying the coffin to the car. It was a weird feeling. The coffin was very small, and very light.

Jen lived with Rachel for a little while after the ceremony. It was a way for her to recuperate. “I didn`t know him for long,” Jen started “but he sure made an impact on our lifes”. Rachel was thinking that the only way Little Scotty had made an impact on Jen`s life, was a negative one. She had always needed to be around in case something should happen to him. This affected her work life and her social life. Rachel kept telling her that if she ever needed any help with anything, she would be there for her. But Jen had never asked for help. Although Rachel could tell she wanted to. But Rachel didn`t want to intrude, either. In the days after the funeral, while she was living with Rachel, there was no doubt that Jen was relieved of not having to keep thinking about Little Scotty. It was as if a giant weight had been lifted off her shoulders. But she never said anything about it. Rachel thought Jen felt bad for being relieved about his death. “There was nothing more you could have done, Jen” she would say. “You did everything you could”. Jen agreed to this. She would say things like “Yes, I know.” and “Thanks, Rachel.” “He was in a coma for all his life. It`s sad, but it`s also kinda good. Remember what the doctors kept saying; `if he was not in a coma, he would have been in a severe painful state´, remember?” Jen remembered, and it gave her some sort of closure. At least he didn`t suffer, she would say.

During the weeks she lived with Rachel, they would get drunk together, and watch old, cheesy horror films. They laughed and, Rachel thought, had a great time together despite the circumstances. “It`s what needs to be done” they would tell each other, then laugh. They would order pizza and eat half of it, then order a new one and eat half of that one, too. They would bring the rest of the pizzas to homeless people on the street, and they would smile and thank them profoundly. Then they would repeat the process. Somedays they ordered chinese or indian food, and would eat everything themself.

One night, after Jen had fallen asleep during an extremely boring movie, Rachel decided to go for a run. She didn`t listen to any music this time. Sometimes Rachel, too, enjoyed silence. She ran the complete length of an actual marathon. She never felt more ready in her life.

~ Milk

An Uneventful Post About An Uneventful Story.

I accept the challenge, Ellen, even if it means me over-analyzing your seemingly uneventful story.

Ok, so some context would be nice, right? My blog partner Milk showed me some years ago another blog called Muumuu House. This is a place you’re probably going to hate or love. There is no middle ground. It’s like if marmite was a blog. I don’t care for marmite, but I do like this blog. One of the posts on said blog, is a story by Ellen Kennedy. The URL calls it a poem, but I rather think it’s a short story, or to give them the benefit of the doubt, perhaps a prosaic poem. You can find this text here: http://muumuuhouse.com/ek.poetry1.html.

Let’s talk about the title. AN UNEVENTFUL STORY ABOUT A PERSON AND A DOG IN AN APARTMENT THAT THE MAJORITY OF THE POPULATION WOULD REACT TO BY SAYING ‘I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT THE POINT OF THIS IS’. What a title! It reminds me a bit of old novels, where the entire plot is told on the cover, so that the consumer could decide on the purchase. Like in Robinson Crusoe, where the subtitle is something along the lines of …or the story of a shipwrecked Scotsman who survives on a deserted island for many years, whilst still maintaining to keep his faith and by cleverness and help by a savage finally goes back home. Perhaps this was a bit over exaggerated, but I think the point still stands. We understand the basics of Kennedy’s narrative only from the title. Or, a part of the title does generalize the dog. In the proper text, the dog is a toy poodle.

The title challenges the reader. I don’t want to be a part of the “Majority of the population” if they are in the wrong. If the majority of the population has a large dick, I’d like to be a part of the majority, because then they are in the right, or at least in the normal. The majority of the population react to this story by saying “I don’t understand what the point of this is.” She calls her own story uneventful, so she’s kind of joining in with the majority of the people. One can argue about whether or not the author has more authority over her own reading, but I think that when she’s just a reader, she has to apply to the readers rules, given by the implied author, she no longer is.

The whole poem starts every line with the subject of the sentence, and it’s often either the person or the poodle that starts the sentence. We are as a reader just observing it all, like we are at the theatre. There’s no dialogue, but there is one instance of thought. “’fungus, i’m eating fungus’” notice how the ‘i’ is in lower case. Is this a power play, or does not the upper case I need to be so when only in a thought?

The person lives a life of bare necessities it seems. The mattress is directly on the floor. And the apartment is just one room containing the basic furnishings a home needs. Can we from this assume that the person is bohemian? Is the person perhaps poor, or just not that interested in luxury? I feel like the person is a bit contradicting. (S)he is eating a raw Portobello mushroom for dinner. Instead of eating the whole thing, (s)he eats just the helmet and top part of the stem, and throwing the butt to the dog. Just like one throws bones and scraps to a dog. The fridge is also containing vegan burgers. And our person is deciding to eat them, but later on, the mushroom is the winner. Our person of poor living conditions sure do have some fancy foodstuffs.

Thea eating and throwing away of the mushroom can be read as a sexual thing. The mushroom works as a phallocentric object, and it is subject to the persons habits. It’s washed, and then eaten raw. Saying that this is a metaphor for oral sex might be a bit too simple, but it sure plays with our sexual thoughts, and how we readers can find filth in pretty ordinary things if we set our minds to it. The Toy poodle gets the stem. The Toy poodle is also alive, and has from the beginning witnessed the person walking over to the toilet, and stared at him/her peeing. This is another reference to the human organ, the one that pees that is. The toy poodle is submissive, and is just lying around, eating the thrown out stem, and returning back to its corner to sleep. The person is introduced by doing the action of just waling over to the toilet, and the last action is feeding the toy poodle. This is the story, and it is quite uneventful, but it’s still compelling. It might be the shortness of the story, and our want of meaning that bears this narrative, and makes it eventful just because we are being told it isn’t.

I won’t pick it further apart. I just wanted to shine some light on this story. I really like the absence of action, and the absence of eventfulness. This isn’t that weird to be honest. Perhaps more stories should be this uneventful? Some stories should be, to contrast the ones that are eventful. We can also learn that events doesn’t necessarily provide meaning. The absence of meaning is still meaning.

I’d advise you all (4 readers) to check out Muumuu house. It’s so hip that if you ever need a hip transplant, they’ll have plenty to spare.

All for now,
~ Peanut