Friday:

I have to read this evening at the Diabologue Multicoulaire. Until recently, my presence has gone unnoticed because that sort of observation would require these people to operate at sub-reverie levels of intellect. They cannot afford to observe, or notice, or interact with anything that does not contribute directly to their work, or at least agree with it. (One is free to address them, provided agreement is offered. Disagreement is considered combative, juvenile, and, in the rare cases of ouvre-doubt, barbaric).

Every evening, the other inhabitants of this obstacle course meet in what they have come to call The Façade (others term it the more pedestrian Mess Hall or Big Cabin with the Open Fireplace). Wine is shared, cheese is offered and politely refused, and one of the brave souls offers his minds fondest imaginings on the altar of literary judgment. What this amounts to is a petuli maddened pack of mangy grad strudels arguing over whichever version of “Why people don’t understand me” the poet has decided to shit upon the listeners. The other prototype that one hears is the feminine version of this poem, “Why can’t people fully appreciate my genius.” I recently considered this underlying theme in my article (for which I received a MacMannis award) on gender identity in the modern poetic idiom. Entitled “I don’t suck” : Poetry as Transparent Attempt to Garner Peer Approval, it lays bare the eternal struggle between overtly desiring the approval of ones peer group and the antithetic lack of desire, which itself gains approval.

Unable to decide on an exact course of action, I will bring two sets of work. The mood of the reading will determine which of this pair I expose.1) cavalcade of failure 2) exactly/does this make you uncomfortable/if I hit a grown man in the head with this, would it kill him? The first, which I hope I am forced to read, consists of a series of rejection letters. Every person at this colony, including me, had applied for many grants and scholarships in the past. Benevolent funding is the spine of creative writing. However, for each vertebra successfully won, there are several which slip from the grasp of the master. It turned out the folks at this colony, despite their interminably snobtastic flair, have a long and many-faceted history of rejection. Not “our readers are not ready for this” rejection, but “this is crap. Stop writing.” Thick-necked, full court press, 150% rejection-ass rejection. Fortunately for me, I have many friends in various positions of university and foundation employment, and most owe me favors. That is, I have access to the bloody footprints in the colonists’ respective paths to this hallowed ground. I cashed in about half of these debts to receive, via carrier swallow, the following:

  1. tiny leatherette cylinder, of the type often seen on the bony legs of carrier foul.
  2. a sharp bite from its angry beak (in my haste to open item 1, I dislodged a couple of feathers)
  3. mites—the poor swallow had slept in a fraternity house the night before (I could see it in his eyes) and had managed to carry off a few of the local parasites.

The cylinder, which could only be opened at the hour hammer-stenciled on its base, contained the following:

  1. air that smelled of shrimp (I suppose the last of the senders was in a bay city).
  2. a few bread crumbs (perhaps the last sender was muffin happy)
  3. instructions on the proper manner of greeting the next messenger, who could be recognized by his dress. He was to wear a silk top hat. An ill-fitting, but unquestionably expensive top hat. The exact type of top hat one would not be able to procure in a writer’s colony (unless a pair of hat hungry writers decided to go halfsies on it, each contributing whatever portion of his Fullbright had not been spent on a conspicuous lack of cologne1). I was to proceed to the piers at dusk. There I would meet my contact. The one in the hat.

I quickly realized that this meeting, though necessary, would be difficult to complete if I was to read tonight. Cavalcade of failure would have to begin a bit late. This is exactly the sort of thing these colonists thrive on--they would be frothing by the time I got to the fireside. They could spend the evening raving on about how my stupidity had kept them from their work. I decided to send word that I was maddened by the demands on my time and would only read when I was less likely to attack someone. This explanation would probably buy me about half an hour. If I was lucky, someone else would be so insulted by my tardiness that he would make the reading his own. (All of the writers brought their own work with them, even on nights which were not their own.) After the makeshift reading started, I could savor the interruption of his masterpiece.

A light afternoon shower made the trip to the pier a little more perilous than I had expected. Trails in the colony ran from paved and safe to muddy, rutted, and potentially lethal. Oddly, none of the funding for the colony seemed to get spent on the upkeep of the grounds, except for the scale models of the globe theater (of which there were seven) which stood constant ¼ - scale watch over all the cardinal and semi-cardinal directions except north). The semi-miniatures, made of pine and mahogany, unsealed and untreated and therefore unable to survive even one winter without constant renovation and repair, marked the edges of the property. They are treated with an odd reverence by the colonists, but the locals used them, with hilarious freqency, for more earthly concerns. Mostly teenagers drinking, sitting around tiny fires in the groundling yards, and making out, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone found a meth lab or a weapons stash in one of them eventually. The piers were just beyond the southernmost Globe, a particular favorite of the locals. I rested for a bit in the shade of one of the miniature stage columns and made a quick count of empty Oly cans and ashpits. One.Two. Three. Four. Five.Six. Not much of a party, but enough to upset the colonists.

Continuing slowly to the lake, I considered how to best describe the debris in the south globe. After finally deciding on “A philistine intrusion” I saw the messenger—a silk top hat. I had expected the hat to be placed on a messenger’s head, but there it was, alone on the dock. Inside were the rejection letters, some printed, some handwritten, some only photocopies and mimeographed roll-offs. I hadn’t planned on this rendezvous going so quickly, so I strolled around the lake for a while to make the listeners wait.


1 "Ne Rien" by Eau Rimbau. A favorite of the thinking elite for as long as any of them can be troubled to remember. When an artist goes into hiding in order to perfect his craft, most of his funds are spent on artistic supplies like wine, cigarettes, and scent. The first, and still most effective, commercially available cologne for artists was "Ne Rien." Its popularity lies in its ability to render the wearer "indistinguishable from the void--at one with nothing."