“The Accursed”, by Joyce Carol Oates


The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates        


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’].


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.


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.



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.”





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

Thoughts concerning The Shining Girls (a review, if you will)

When first I heard of this book, I immediately thought of the popular horror film The Shining, but I must make it perfectly clear that it`s important to note that Lauren Beukes` The Shining Girls has nothing at all to do with the twin girls from Kubrick`s controvisal 1980`s movie – The Shining Girls is a hugely satisfactorical achievement in it`s own right for plenty of reasons, so let`s have a look at it. (Spoilers probably occur, I really am not good at telling whether or not pieces of information could ruin the experience for individuals. Either way, consider this a written warning and proceed on your own risk)

With her novel, Beukes has constructed a thriller traversing across multiple genres. It is primarily a crime-solving novel (with the depictions of murders and corpses and all that goes with it) but included are fantastical elements of magic, time-travelling and supernatural nature.

In an abandoned house – simply refered to as the House – in Chicago in 1931, Harper Curtis finds the name of nine girls who have the ability `to shine`. A voice, seemingly from nowhere, tells him he must trace them down and kill them before they become too powerful. One of these girls, the strong female protagonist Kirby Mazrachi, manages to escape his attack and makes it her objective to hunt him down and avenge herself. The interesting thing is that all the girls are from a different date and time in the 20th century. The peculiar, supernatural thing about the House, then, is that it allows Harper to travel in time.

We never get an explanation as to how the House is able to do this; the time-travelling aspect of the novel remains a mystery. With this in mind we can understand The House as a modernisation of the Gothic castle. Indeed, it is not a “castle” as such; that is not the important thing. The important thing is that it is in the House that the supernatural takes place, and it is here that the laying down of the Law occurs. The laying down of the Law in this instance is the voice`s command to Harper to kill the girls. It is the House that has control over Harper, not he who has control over it.

Another example of supernatural element is just this command from the voice in the House. We never get a distinctive answer as to what it means that these girls `shine`, nor why they need to die. Neither does Harper, but still, he asks no questions about it, he only goes about the tasks set to him to do. It contributes in making his character all the more interesting. Harper succumbs to becoming a murderer without needing a reason. It is as if his life is bad enough already; he doesn`t care and might as well start murdering people. If the House tells him to do it, surely it must be of some worth, surely by commanding the voice in the House he will do some good. Something good ought to come of it?

This Harper`s uncritical way of going through with his actions allign with Beukes` wonderful way of drawing up contrasts between him, the murderer, and the female victims. Harper is portrayed as a tiresome, broken and beaten down person, a drifter, who, after all, is not uncomstumed to breaking into abandoned houses. He, as we have seen, has nothing against taking orders from some voice arguably only he can hear. However, the female characters Beukes depicts on the other hand are wonderful. By giving each of the victims their own little backstory before they are confronted with Harper, Beukes has managed to create beautifully complex, deep and round characters, making it all the more sad for the reader, knowing already about their inevitable, tragic fates.

Together, these two strains of discourse (with the inexplicable supernatural Law, command, the girls`s shining and time travel on one side, and the beautifully constructed, delightful handling of the shining girls`s background story on the other), Beukes has accomplished an appealing, dynamic and interactive read. I have not read any of her other books, but hopefully I will get the chance to try in the nearest future!



Don’t read the entire post.

You never read that book? You simply must read it through! Don’t even talk to me before you’ve completed it.

Chances are that if you read weird blogs on the internet, you probably also read books. It can be fiction, poetry, science or travel guides for all I care. The problem about reading books is that they’re often pretty darn long.

Before you get your pitchfork and torch, please hear me out.
A good book is literally the best thing ever! I love a good, rich and emotion laden book as much as the next, but sometimes a book can be devilishly long, boring and, frankly, badly written. In our day and age we read, I argue, more than ever. Be it internet articles, social media messages and commercials on the bus. These are often short enough to keep us interested in their message, and to keep our relatively short attention span.

Without going to bother with finding the source, I’ll just tell this in the form of an anecdote. I’ve heard that the producer for The Beatles; George Martin once had drinks with John Lennon (This is still believable, I’m sure!). Seeing how they both were interested in music, they began talking about music length. The standard of the day, probably in the 70’s was to have ‘radio hits’, also songs that are about three minutes long (as it is today as well). The duration of these minutes are long enough to make an interesting song, but also short enough to make people remember it. Martin is a fan of classical music (as I guess Lennon were too) and he said that classical music often had pieces lasting from two minutes to forty minutes, and some even over an hour. Lennon admitted to this, and he said something along the lines of “I feel guilty when I listen to classical music, because when it’s being played for over five minutes, I’ve already forgot how it began.”

I’m certainly not blaming Lennon for this. He’s a musician, and a terrific one at that. What I find funny is that shame or guilt we feel towards the arts. “I haven’t read the entire book” you find yourself saying at a dinner party – quickly followed by “But I plan to finish it later” as to justify the action of you not reading it all the way through.

Thing is, when we read a massive book, we might be afraid of losing out on some details, or we might be afraid that we can’t comprehend that much information. We’d rather stick to the 300 page novel, instead of trying to read a 1000 page book. Can this relate to other genres as well? We’re afraid of ancient texts like the Homer’s Odyssey, or Milton’s Paradise Lost? A Lennonesque way of looking at it would be; “We want to finish the book, but we don’t necessary remember what we read in it.”

I think we can learn a lot from those people who leaves the movie theatre in the midst of a movie. Why should I spend my short time on this earth reading this? Is it to win someone’s approval? Perhaps you’re proving something to yourself? If the book isn’t for you, you don’t have to read it through. I don’t want to tell you to stay clear of good literature, no-no! Just be more honest with yourself, your reading and your time.

To crack open a huge tome, and reading it despite your lack of interest for the text can be challenging. On the other hand it can also be super rewarding. No one really ever read their high school physics books and thought “This is good literature!” It can however be riveting pedagogics at work.

The plot is what keeps the ‘telling’ of the story going on. This is achieved by plot structure and plot devices. I’m no expert in narrative theory, mind you. A well-structured plot makes for a riveting story, most of the time. Sometimes an unorganized plot structure might even be the plot-device used. These two forms intertwine in the narrative.
Then comes the part where you read a book, and it’s either really predictable, or you find that the plot devices are weak, and perhaps unnecessary – i.e. a vampire that is also a werewolf and a zombie and can fly and see through walls. It can be a lazy way of getting your character out of trouble, or you can make it interesting. Plot is important. You need a beginning, middle and an ending part to your story. Plot isn’t everything though. Symbolism and poetic language can be used to achieve the same effects. The more ambiguous the plot, the stronger it can become.

Let’s get back to the guilt. Why do feel guilty when we don’t finish something? I think that not finishing a book can be a good thing if you don’t like it. Give it a shot, pick it up later, and try to understand why you don’t like it. You might learn more about yourself if you think about that. Remember that the author has her/his mind-set that they impose upon the text, and you have your own.  Some disagreements on opinions and literature could make for great debates in literary circles. Books and even different directions in academic principles have occurred due to differing thoughts about aesthetics, life and the world.

We are not closer to a solution to the guilt. This is perhaps hard coded into our worker bee mentality. We should finish what we started. Perhaps our curiosity and our naivety keep us reading in hopes that the book gets better?

The guilt and shame of not having read Orwell’s 1984 should not deter you from having an opinion about it. This shame is man-made, and not really a thing of substance. We have it because others have it. It’s a social construct. I can’t prescribe a cure to this ail, but I can at least try to give you a better consciousness. Don’t finish a thing unless it’s super important. You don’t have to watch a bad movie in its entirety just because you began to watch it. Stop it; find another video more suitable to your interests, or a movie you can learn better from. Don’t stop it just because it’s challenging. All literature should challenge you! You learn and experience that way.

Build up your attention span, bit by bit. Try something else than your standard 3 minute song. Listen to some classical music. Try to pick up a classic book instead of your “SOON TO BE A MAJOR PICTURE MOVIE” book. The more you read/listen, the stronger your foundation for attention and knowledge will grow. I guarantee it.


American Psycho

In this text, I will be looking at the narrative structure of the story in American Psycho to see how this relates to the protagonist Patrick Bateman`s feeling of selfcontrol. By looking at his relations, both familial and friendly, can we get a better understanding of why he uses violence? I have also looked at how his relations links up to his own perception of reality, and whether or not the events Bateman narrates are actually real.

There are different ways in which violence is used in American Psycho. One of them is for Bateman to retrieve his lost identity. Berthold Schoene writes in his article that although Bateman`s frequent `panic attacks´ help him in providing momentary relief, they «cannot reassemble his fragmented self into a coherent, viable identity». So, then, the violence may be interpreted in a different, more personal way. Bateman`s violence could be a way of keeping himself sane or even to `reassert´ himself. (Schoene, 2008, p 383) It is an outlet for holding up with his unbearable social relations, which overflow with boredom, repetition and is, essentially, a competition over who has the most expensive suit. During the depictions of torture and mutilations, however, Bateman shows a much more colourful and lively use of language, than in the repetitive and arguably boring parts when he lists up what people are wearing. These passages becomes almost a ritual to him (and to us as readers), that gradually becomes less and less significant, reflecting what the formalist Shkolvsky`s writes when talking about habitualization; «And so, life is reckoned as nothing». Bateman`s obsession over The Patty Winters Show is another example of this. At the end of the book, after continually summing up what the days show was about, he says that, on page 268 of my book: «The Patty Winters Shows were all repeats. Life remained a blank canvas, a clichè, a soap opera.» (American Psycho, p 268)

Let`s return to his reason for violence.  I would like to suggest it is also a way of way to compensate for a dysfunctional childhood. We know virtually nothing of his childhood, and we have to make our own interpretation from what we know of his parents. I am making my interpretation from what we know about Bateman`s relations to his mother. Only one and a half pages are given to his mother, but during this passage we can interpret their relations to be one of non-functional. His mother is «heavily sedaded» and Bateman himself ignores her and is more interested in how he looks like. Through this, as well as keeping in mind a passage in the zoo, where Bateman sees a woman breast-feeding which awakens something awful in him, I suggest that he might have had a troublesome, dysfunctinal childhood, or mother-figure, which may be a source to understand his mysogynistic treatment of women. Another hint that points to this, is how he films his victims in order to «understand them better.» This could all be a way for him to say he wants to understand his mother better.

Of course, this is based on very small passages from the book, and are mostly a result of self-interpretation. Carla Freccero would disagree with my point of view. She writes in her article, «… no clues are provided that would suggest a tortured relationship between the two» (Freccero, 1997, pp 51). She, rather, focuses on Batemans`s father, whom all we know about is through a photograph Bateman looks at, where he stands besides a topiary animals, and «… there’s something the matter with his eyes» (Ellis, 1991, pp 352)

Whether or not Bateman is an unreliable character can be (and has been) interpreted narratologically. (see Jennifer Phillips, 2009) There are hints that point in each direction. There are a number of instances where we can question whether what Bateman says and does are actually happening. More than once does he straight out tells someone he is a murderer, and the reaction he gets is either non-existant, or very unlikely. There seems to be an incompatibility between what Bateman says, and what happens immediatley after. This is a source of his unreliabilty. Furthermore, he keeps talking about his own reality, and points out what is and what is not a part of it. Even his trustworthiness is questionable. But when it comes down to it, whether he is reliable or not is really irrelevant. The gruesome, horrific scenes of violence are still there for us to read. And if they don`t actually happen, they are still very real to Bateman. As we have seen, it is in these events in which he assumes total control over the narrative, and himself.

There is a passage in the book where the narrative shifts from first to third person. It happens while Bateman is being chased by a police officer through the streets of New York. The timing is not coincidental; as we know, throughout the book, being the perpetrator Bateman has been in control over the narration, but in this specific part of the book, it is himself who has become the victim. He loses control over himself and feels chaos taking over him, and thus, fittingly does he lose the narrative authority. This is interesting in a narratological perspective, but we will stick to the notion of Bateman as being in control over himself as a way of maintain his identity. He is unable to do so in this passage. When he gets back his control, the first person narrative resumes.

There is a significant lack of a complex, round character in the book, other than Bateman. This links up to his excruciating obsession of constantly listing up what his friends are wearing in practically every situation Bateman finds himself in. Bateman in this way detaches himself from other human beings, and turns them into objects. Julian Murphet writes that «the people are invisible, swallowed by the products they wear». It becomes hard to distinguish a definite, substantial character that stand out from the book. (Murphet, 2002, pp 28) Humans have become products and merchandise. This becomes painfully clear when reading about the way Bateman picks up prostitutes, as if browsing through a shopping centre. During this de-humanising process, the act of murdering has become routine for Bateman, in the same way (as we have seen) listing up what people are wearing, and The Patty Winters Show. At some point in the book, Bateman doesn`t even bother to specify who says what, he only says «someone says», or «a sound coming from somewhere».

The only character in his social circle Bateman treats with respect, and like an actual other human being, is his secretary Jean. Despite the obvious misogynistic discourse, I argue that Jean is the closest to a heroine this book comes to. Bateman is able to open up to her, unlike anyone else. He treats her with respect, and asks himself what kind of books she reads, so as to get closer to her intellectually.

One way in which the horror in American Psycho is depicted, is how behind a `normal´ shell, there lurks a psychopathic cannibal. The fact that individuality is not longer an issue is also horrorfying, for two reasons. One; because we are no longer able to understand ourself fully. Our subject becomes fragmented, and figuratively eaten up. And two, in the words of Freccero; because of the way American Psycho is «collapsing form and content and [by] eliminating a `moral framework´ for the depiction of `monstrous criminality´» (Freccero, 1997, pp 51) Meaning, this could be anyone. Furthermore, the possibility of an unreliable narrator works as a horrifying element in American Psycho because we constantly ask ourself the probability of Batemans actions, and what their possible effects could be. Whether we can really trust anyone becomes a question. I would like to conclude by including a quote from Ellis, from Freccero`s article, on art: «… art has now become our need to be terrified» (Freccero, 1997, pp 56)


Bibliography / further reading


Freccero, C. (1997) Historical Violence, Censorship and the Serial Killer: The Case of «American Psycho» Diacritics [Online] (Vol. 27, nr. 2) p. 44 – 58. Available from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1566351 [Accessed: 18th October 2015]

Murphet, J. (2002) Bret Easton Ellis`s American Psycho: A Reader`s Guide London: The Continuum International Publishing Group Inc.

Phillips, J. (2009) Unreliable narration in Bret Easton Ellis`s American Psycho: Interaction between narrative form and thematic content. Research Online. [Online] (Vol. 1, nr. 1) p. 60 – 68. Available from: http://ro.uow.edu.au/currentnarratives/vol1/iss1/6 [Accessed 11th October 2015)

Schoene, B. (2008) Serial Masculinity: Psychopathology and Oedipal Violence in Bret Easton Ellis`s American Psycho. MFS Modern Fiction Studies. [Online] (Vol. 54 nr. 2) p. 378 – 397. Available from: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/mfs/summary/v054/54.2.schoene.html [Accessed 16th October 2015]

Shklovsky V. (1917 / 2004) Art as Technique. In Rivkin J. & Ryan M (eds.) Literary Theory: An Anthology 2nd Edition. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing