Thursday, November 15, 2012

c. 11/2008: The Manager of Stories

I just dug this old story up. I wrote it during my first semester of undergrad as--I wishfully believe but am not so certain--a response to the suicide of David Foster Wallace.


The Manager of Stories
Alec Niedenthal

I can’t kill myself; somehow I’m always already dead; I’ll die, or try to, I promise you, but I promise you also, like I have before, that I can’t and will show you how futile it is, the promissory dying. If I kill myself I want to sense the negation, to feel and grasp and cleave to the wringing of my machinery, die with sovereignty, yes—I want to be a sovereign sort of dier, the kind that leaves no room for ambiguity, not to speak of the ambiguity of ambiguity, the absence of even a presence of absence—this now is vaguely philosophical language and you are thinking, “I don’t want to read this, I can’t read this right now”—the utter death of all domestic meaning, which is also impossible just as the latter is indecipherable, is not possible either to live. I want to die without a lapse in consciousness, without a lull in the brute matter of movement. I do not wish to defeat death, that does not concern me, but merely to die with some irremissibility, if that latter word is apropos to the hasty philosophical matter I am shitting out for you, to the playful jig I am doing (ha ha ha I am dancing), if such a mix of high and low registers is not necessarily outmoded. I want to die and to not die. By my own dumb discretion. I wish to accord an absoluteness to my dying, a grace and fullness of being, a disappearance that is simultaneously felt and fading; I want to walk myself through the door instead of walk through it. But to do so I cannot name the activity of my death. Of my anonymous activity. No, replacing death with anonymous activity is not enough, inasmuch as both you and I know what I mean when I say anonymous activity, that is to say death. As we all know, and we do, the signified and the signifier are two sides of the same coin: signification which is an arbitrary signal. If you do not know this then this is something you need to know. I’m telling this to you for your own good, that you need to know the maps of your speech, that utterance is effectively a metaphor for a chain of different and deferent silent utterances inside of nous—that is French for us, a word in English which indicates, or is, well as I am about to say and have been saying for a while, indicates a first-person plural pronoun, for it cannot be actually that; however, I do not know how to say the French word which performs the utterance of the English word “inside,” which indicates the status of being inside of something, in the French language, I have never read a thing in my life—I did never in my life, which is on its way out, learn the French language, so my knowing the definition, or the proper function, of nous in the first place is an intellectual bravura, a dissolving red dwarf of mental effort, which is to say it is mostly cool and alright—that each word builds its own Babel. Words cannot actually build. That is figurative language, which is not only a characteristic of the literary space but also language in toto, on account of the way in which it forms and remolds and then destroys things, objects in the real world, replaces them with material sounds and the life and selfsame death of the grapheme itself. 

All of which verbs are as well figurative, and are probably recalling images in your head, well not actually recalling but doing the job of the word recalling, okay. 

Words are workaholics. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. That is funny on many levels. Allow me to explain these levels for you. I will now explain them. Workaholics is a funny word, especially in the context of these philosophical ruminations, which I think are excellent so far and you like them, and also we were just talking about the mental associations of words, which is to say that words, which are doubtlessly metaphors for more words, probably have a terminus in images, and thus reside (there are words literally dwelling in your consciousness, spread out on a divan and spooning) in the recesses of memory, which you must employ (employ literally; your consciousness  is a bourgeois shithole) to speak—Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov is an autobiographical memoir written by Vladimir Nabokov, a professional writer who is now dead, and who supposes incorrectly that the reality of the book’s events are exclusively under his own dominion, when in truth the secret of the autobiographical writing has not been elucidated for him, which secret is that a book , even one in which the self seems to have autonomy, writes itself, that writing a book is a passive act of the highest materialism, that what he writes are not memories or any sequel or prequel to reality but a bowel movement of the mind, an incontinent expulsion of the self onto a frame and a canvas—a self-shitting—and a way of capturing  time in image, in space, in form where memory seems to have none (which attempt at form is a very funny joke); the memories are not his; they are assimilated by the work—you needing previously viewed images to achieve word-image interplay (like, for instance, a vulgate for destroy, possibly an explosion or the collapsing of a bridge or a man being crushed by a T. Rex or well generally just something with emotional resonance). Okay.

 So as I was saying before you derailed my train from its track (this train representing the act of thinking and this track representing thought), it is a difficult task to circumvent the ascription of a word—a concept, an idea, an image, a memory, a notion—to death, which is one of the principal ways by which to negate it and thereby achieve independence from it—well I guess I actually am trying to kill death but that is not my principal aim, that being to transcend the impossibility of death, the transcendence not actually being also a transgression nor a violence against death, but instead a simple utterance of, “No,” a denial, and from that an equanimity and an equidistance between death and not-death, a surviving in dying and then a suicide of the soul, tracing my death and then coloring it in, but before that an ability to see beyond it, to walk the tight rope but inevitably fall in rectitude, preserved in the safety net which is my laughter in the night; okay yes, in explanation, to say anonymous activity is also to say death is also to say the act of dying is also to say kaput is also to conjure the way in which your grandfather or hamster died, or otherwise how you would like to die, &c &c. These being philosophical and thus (which is a philosophical term in general) somewhat intelligent things to say, generally. 
Philosophy is great. Literature is great. All of these things are great. These humorous and intentionally broad apothegms are being written for the generation of your laughter, though not an excessive amount. One beneficial technique for whatever writing game you may pursue while being alive is that of serial humor within a serious literary context.  This technique essays to interject humor where before it was absent, similar to the notion, not uncommon in dramatic films and television shows, of comic relief.  In this case, my pithy remarks tend to state, as if novel, commonalities of opinion among a plurality of intellectual circles, namely that philosophy and literature are great in some regard or another. Which pithy remarks, in this particular case of humor-interjection, are funny for the following reasons: they belie the complexity of the issues at hand, which issues neither I nor you (presumably) are in full comprehension of (doubtless I am not, but you don’t understand how important it is for you to let me tell my story regardless, for it is a story to hear), yet in order to palliate a tension of intellectual effort (work, one might say) and give both of our minds a breather, the inability of the brain to breathe notwithstanding (and now I am encroaching on tedium; it was not at all necessary to explain the schema of my breathing brain metaphor; this peculiarly flinty self-flagellation is an occult kind of literary humor; English majors and other very intelligent and cultured people (doubtless you discern a jocular tone now, when the praise of pedants comes into play, a touchy subject in literary space ever since writing has been worth reading)—now I will be as blunt as the work will allow—require a very stupid and ill-conceived sense of humor in order to crest in decorum), and well, now I’ve lost my way in this labyrinth of parenthetical statements, for you see I am no Claude Simon when it comes to the parenthetical arts, indeed Claude Simon is a writer of French novels who quite often enjoys the parentheses (( ); now this is just me being an asshole) in his writings, and who is also identified as a student of the noveau roman school of novelists when in fact he is barely of the sort, indeed he oftentimes is the author of conventional but hardly ever antiseptic, I think, narratives—inasmuch as convention is often imputed an unwarranted connotative safety—in many different senses of the word (conventional); why, were it not for his condition as a Frenchman (in which scenario he would not, however, be Claude Simon), he would most likely be fully liberated from such a label, which may, in the eyes of old and crotchety white male literary critics,  who are reasonably terrified that if they were to stop sucking the cock of the late Saul Bellow and commence sucking the cock of, say, William T. Vollmann, or rather recommence, then they themselves would have to suffer not getting their own cocks sucked, being of course on the tapering end of their sexual lifespans—I’m not sure where I left off but am going to make a stab at finding it—be a pejorative one; and anyway the point of humor is to mitigate stuffiness and induce an often requisite punchiness (and paunchiness—that is a flourish of lingual iridescence  known as wordplay, often attributed by the aforementioned critics to the author of books who is named James Joyce (“[…] and he, this overeducated white male, is a maestro of Joycean wordplay […]”), for he is venerated by very smart and erudite intellectual circles for being the very first individual in the history of the literary arts to split the atom of language; I am not sure what kind of meaning my wordplay has here, but there it goes!) in any given dramatic book or story. You may have noticed that that was only one reason, when I promised a plurality of them. Well, you know what? You can suck it. (That last sentence also functions as an instantiation of the humor claim which I presented for you previously.)

The reason for my haughtiness—or what some may deem wordiness—is that I intend to alienate you, fully and to the greatest degree of my intellectual wizardry. This must be made clear. And know that my intentions are not parodic. I am not attempting anything higher than to die, which is itself the highest attempt there is. It might appear that I am deconstructing literary conventions and, to a lesser degree, the lexicon of language itself—but mostly literary space, as you have often heard me say probably. To consent to this appearance is idiocy and you would be wrong in doing so. I am trying to kill myself. Pure and simple suicide.

Note that I was close to altering all uses of the first person pronoun occurring after my parenthetical hurricane to the third person pronoun, and all uses of the second person pronoun to, “the reader.” I am not sure why I would do that. But seeing as I am simply trying to die here and not impress anybody with symbolic know-how, I decided, probably judiciously, against doing so.

You see, everyone has their jobs, and mine is particularly onerous. The labor is backbreaking, per se. I am not sure why I opted to include per se. The labor also is not backbreaking, mostly. Opted is a word also meaning decided. Okay. My name is “The Manager of Stories.” Well no—that is my title. My name, insofar as I have one, is actually unnamable, unrepeatable, for it is the name of everyone ever who has written anything at all, that name taking quite a vocal and temporal devotion to enounce. So I am the Manager, which word is capitalized so that it is given the grammatical force of a proper noun and also to denote some sort of affectation of the word manager and its life in the mind; I take my job very seriously. I am the taskmaster of stories. I do not enslave, but maintain taskfulness. I drive and energize, galvanize and catalyze; I punish and censure, reprove and rebuke (incidentally, there are many words synonymous to punish, and I cannot hope to use them all). Additionally, I am the judge of break times and weekly hour-distribution. It is a rare occurrence when I must perform the task myself, as you have most likely observed.

And now I wish to quit. Well, not quit so much as kill myself, as you have most likely observed. My job does not define me, you must understand. But I must receive the death which eludes all but the most diligent practitioner of dying. I often supervise dying, but now I wish to experience death for myself. If that makes sense. Doubtless you are weary of my explanations. I should quit explaining and get to dying. This job has exhausted itself and so have I. If you haven’t noticed, the process of alienation has become much attenuated. That is because I have been propelled into absence. This is a literary concept which furnishes meaning outside of this particular text and probably should be disregarded. But basically my intentions have been clouded by my own golden literary dust, swept by the pendulous broom of my receding mind and gently illuminated by a small rectangle of sunlight falling out the pane of an overhead window, whose caressing beam is interrupted by an iron grill attached to the plasterwork, the light and window and lattice just being objects trapped in space and without form, like all that foregoes is but pretends to not be. 

Fuck. The preceding sentence serves as a funny caesura in intellection. The preceding sentence serves a similar function to ejaculate coming out of a stately penis. Tendentially, in this wild and strange line of work, my employees commit suicide—which is their job, incidentally—with the strongest and most profound sense of verve and brio, erupting out of a most curious kind of involution, awakening from a stasis and exploding into the essentially formless debris of meaning, the residue, the marks and impressions of space’s most animal algebra. But these suicides are all kinds of inauthentic, in spite of their evident necessity, mainly due to their ongoing struggle with authenticity itself. And how to instill a sense of it? How to truly and completely snuff oneself out? By matching myself against the high-minded commanders who war with what makes them beat and tick, I am not saying simply, “There is no authenticity or meaning, and those who seek either are stupid and misguided.” That has been said before. There are things, moreover, that haven’t been said before. I intend to find them as soon as I disappear. 

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