Why is my blog called Inhuman Swill? Because you can unscramble the pieces to make William Shunn.
Laura and I went on vacation to California last week, so that she could compete on the PBS game show MasterChef USA, hosted by British superchef Gary Rhodes. On Tuesday, we returned to our hotel room to find a message waiting. It asked me to call my boss at Sesame Workshop.
It was six in the evening, Pacific time, so I called my boss at home. "Bad news," he said. "Today our department was slashed to the bone. Management decided to change their business plan,
I sat there numbly on my rock-hard queen bed, waiting to hear which group I was in.
Well, well, well. It's been a long time!
I was just looking over my and my friend's journals, marveling at the fact that I hadn't posted for a month and a half, and contemplating this entry when Baldanders AIMed me out of the blue. He had noted my long absence and wondered if I was okay. Strange synchronicity.
Gang, I'm okay. A lot of things have happened that I want to tell you about -- and that I wanted to tell you about as they happened -- but I have this difficulty. I'm rather poor at time management, and a single activity usually comes to dominate my existence. (Baldanders argues that this is good time management, and it may well be.) Right now the dominant activity is writing my memoir; it takes up most of my free time and leaves little emotional energy for anything else. And since my full-time job has to take some kind of precedence it there... Well, you get the point.
I've been to Utah recently, I'm going to California, Arizona, and Florida soon, I've nearly choked to death at a noodle shop on Union Square, I've had a doctor stick an optical cable up my nose and down my throat, I've acquired two more fish, I've finally met my five-year-old son, and I've written about 150 pages since the last journal entry. In fact, it may even be time to post a table-of-contents update to keep myself going (not that I intend to lose momentum at this point:
Today's weather, as reported last night by the A&E Biography sign:
WINDY & COLD
MARQUIS DE SADE
In all the excitement of slagging Vintage (whom I had previously appreciated for reissuing Fawn M. Brodie's watershed 1945 biography of Joseph Smith, No Man Knows My History), I forgot that there was a beautiful paragraph or two from Disch's 334 that I wanted to share:
"Okay, Mickey, it's your life."
"Goddamn right." These words, and the tears on which they verged, were like a load of cement dumped into the raw foundation of his new life. By tomorrow morning all the wet slop of feeling would be solid as rock and in a year a skyscraper would stand where now there was nothing but a gaping hole.
What's the word for something you've experienced time and again but couldn't ever render into language to save your life?
I just finished reading Thomas M. Disch's fine, fine novel 334, in the recent attractive Vintage trade paperback reissue edition. It wasn't until I was almost done, however, that I bothered to read the back cover copy in any detail. Here is how the blurb, written by some anonymous, bitter, and underpaid editoral assistant, ends:
Poisonously funny, piercingly authentic, 334 is a masterpiece of social realism disguised as science fiction.Disguised? I'm sorryexcuse me while I heave. As if anything worthwhile in literature can't possible be science fictioninstead it's masking itself and is really something else altogether.
Disch is one of those writers who has written plenty besides science fiction, but is this the price one pays for literary respect? A Galilean disavowal of one's unsavory roots? I'm tempted to throw the book across the room, if only for the sake of the poisonous, piercing back cover copy. I'm sorry I gave Vintage my money. I should have just gone back and read my old tattered paperback copy, with it's unashamed proclamation of SCIENCE FICTION right there on the spine.
I bought a similar Vintage edition of Camp Concentration at the same time. Now I'm going to have to go back home and read the back cover of that one very carefully. I'm not sure how they can possibly spin it away from science fiction, but I'm sure they'll try.
The way pedestrians traveling in a group always spread out laterally to block the greatest possible width of sidewalk.