Sunday, July 5, 2015

On The Road Again

She decided to find out what all the fuss was about. She had heard enough and it was time to do it. She went to the site and bought the book.

Two days later it arrived. The book. She picked up the cat and she put on her slippers and she walked to the mailbox and found a tag saying there was a package for her in the supers office. She went to the office in her slipperfeet while holding the cat in her catarms and she found the door closed because the super wasnt there. She waited for ten minutes but still the office was closed. Then she realized the box was right there. It was right there from amazon, the website amazon, the popular website amazon, in the familiar box, tucked under the bench outside the supers office. He hadnt forgotten about her and hed remembered that she liked to get packages sooner rather than later. She picked it up into her arms.

I was thinking of you. I didnt forget you or your package.

She smiled a secret smile. The super hadnt actually left a note but the feeling was there. All at once they were connected like a light from heaven, an invisible message no one had ever written or spoken or even thought about but it was as important as gold and it meant everything in the world. She started up the stairs.

On the stairs she bumped into Agnes from upstairs.


I didnt see you there. What are you doing?

I just bought a copy of the new book. Well, new to me, anyway. What are you doing?

Just going downstairs.



They met eyes and when they met eyes they each understood the other more deeply than a really deep ocean.

And where are you going?




Back in her apartment she opened the box and took out the book. She got a bagel and took out the toaster and toasted the bagel and buttered the bagel. She got some coffee. She made the coffee. She sat down to drink the coffee and eat the bagel and read the book.

It was long but it wasnt deep. It used one or two less commonplace words like skeins and variegated three or four times in very jarring places but otherwise the vocabulary was perhaps fourth grade level and this trend carried over into the speech of every single character also as though there was only one distinct voice in the entire narrative.

It was simple and to the point and, for all its length, it flew by and was over in three hours. It used apostrophes seemingly at random and sometimes it didnt use them at all. Most times in fact. It had no pictures and it looked like it was supposed to be for adults but it was less verbally complex than teen paranormal romance and the structure didnt vary from one place to another and the setting and characters were without any but the most sparing description to ensure that it was only comprehensible by people who had lived in that place and who already knew that place and who superimposed themselves over the characters instead of learning about what other people might actually be like. It was fast food literature and suburban development literature and minimall literature that relied on a context of preloaded information in order to be remotely decipherable. It used as many conjunctions as it wanted to and it eschewed commas when it wanted to and it had no qualms about starting several sentences in a row with the same pronoun. Sometimes it used fakewords by putting two or three words together into a singleword.

It was a story she had already read before and a story she had already watched before and a story she had already seen in comic books and scripts and vignettes and it had become a cultural trope already in hundreds of ways. Yet it was presented as though it were brand new and none of the characters in the story seemed to be aware that they were living a cliche even in a story defined by its extraction from a culture wherefrom that very cliche had been derived.

She finished her bagel. She finished her coffee. She put away the plate. At the sink she washed her hands and then she went into the bathroom and she brushed her teeth. She hadnt brushed her bagelteeth so she brushed them and put the toothbrush away and turned off the bathroomlight.

She was nearly overcome by despair. She was being assaulted by the passivevoice and the repetitive drone of the fakewords and the staccato sentences even when the book had been finished. Everyone said it was a goodbook but it wasnt affecting her like a goodbook and she began to wonder if she was mistaken about the nature of reality itself. She checked the Oxford dictionary and made sure the rules hadnt changed but the rules were still the way she remembered them. So it mustve been an act of artisticlicense on the part of the artist so she wondered if it had been particular to this one book, just this one book out of manybooks so manybooks with industryacclaim. And she went to amazon and she ordered another and in two days it arrived and she went down to get it from the supers office just like before. She toasted a bagel and she buttered a bagel and she made coffee and she tried again with another one, a completely different one.

But it was no different. It started sentences and paragraphs with conjunctions and every character spoke the same and every place and person and event and time was described in the same way and after that and a few more books she realized it was endemic to all of them and that it hadnt just been the first book but was apparently the way the author had been writing for over four decades. And she realized even more strongly that it was the fast food literature all throughout and that its defining character was its stilted and childish nature and that its plots were utterly derivative and simplified and that this simplification was what made it popular because it made it easy for people to digest something they already understood. She had already seen this in books and television and movies of course but it felt no better to see it again particularly when the verbiage was so mortally anodyne and so selfunaware all at once. But then so was the acclaim itself, the movement itself, that swept it all up like a tidal wave of deadly cliche selfunaware nothingness, crashing into a hundred million dutiful heads all at once, like a road grader scraping gummy blood and crushed pieces of skull away from tender gray matter to make way for the endless monochromatic asphalt parking lot outside another talk show qualitative easing hamburger joint at the sunset of culture.

~ . ~ . ~


  1. Awesome.I think I've flung more books at the wall than I've read. And you know why.

  2. nice touch with the oprah book club cover

  3. Oh boy, this was particularly depressing :'(

  4. The russian bookstore i remember from my eastern block childhood occupied about 2000 sq ft on two stories, give or take. Still, it contained 95% of books worth reading. Winning, while it lasted.

    Now, I'm not even sure it is a good idea to take my daughter to a bookstore. Yes, there are some book-like objects in B&N, but, the 'worth reading' share is 0.01% and dropping fast