Strange Promises from the Badlands…

Figure 1. “I stopped on the merry-go-round and hurried around the bar, approaching my attorney on his blind side–and when we came to the right spot I pushed him off. He staggered into the aisle and uttered a hellish scream as he lost his balance and went down, thrashing into the crowd…rolling like a log, then up again in a flash, fists clenched, looking for somebody to hit.I approached him with my hands in the air, trying to smile.’You fell,’ I said. ‘Let’s go.’ By this time people were watching us. But the fool wouldn’t move, and I know what would happen if I grabbed him. ‘OK,’ I said. ‘You stay here and go to jail. I’m leaving.’ I started walking fast towards the stairs, ignoring him. This moved him.’Did you see that?’ he said as he caught up with me. ‘Some sonofabitch kicked me in the back!”Probably the bartender,’ I said. ‘He wanted to stomp you for what you said to the waitress.”Good god! Let’s get out of here. Where’s the elevator?”Don’t go near that elevator,’ I said. ‘That’s just what they want us to do…trap us in a steel box and take us down to the basement.’ I looked over my shoulder, but nobody was following.’Don’t run, I said. ‘They’d like an excuse to shoot us.’ He nodded, seeming to understand. We walked fast along the big indoor midway–shooting galleries, tattoo parlors, money-changers and cotton-candy booths–then out through a bank of glass doors and across the grass downhill to a parking lot where the Red Shark waited.’You drive,’ he said. ‘I think there’s something wrong with me.'” -Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson————– figure 2. “A remarkable book, at once outrageous and compelling, fanatical and brilliant… One must be awed by Paglia’s vast energy, erudition, and wit.”-cover blurb on “Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson.”—————- I use these two figures to suggest a radical disconnect that may or may not be apparent on first reading. As samples, they represent not only different styles, but different projects entirely. And it isn’t only ragged outsiders versus smug insiders. What is the first about? I don’t know, exactly–and it’s never mattered–but for some reason the word “cryptozoic” comes to mind. I think I read it in a science journal somewhere, and when I looked it up, I found that it referred to species that live alongside the rest of the world, but secretly. In some cases, these animals have intricate connections to other species that don’t even know they exist.The second one heaps all the praise on the writer, and none on the book itself. That is telling enough, but anybody who submits to widespread praise for his or her loftier qualities and personal attributes is a patsy, pure and simple. A play-along. Thompson doesn’t even want to hear the song. And why should he? Surrounded by people who would surely crucify him, yet as lost in their own minds as he. His crime is that he sees it, admits it, relishes in it, and ennobles it. This is troubling to many. I don’t behave like he does. As far as I know. But his writing makes me realize how bizarre most of the things I read and hear are, the messages broadcast to me in a everlasting 24-hour barrage of soundwaves, color, light, and sex. In the book, Thompson himself isn’t strange. Not a bit. Everybody else is insane–and he makes a powerful case for it. In connecting over that strangeness, I feel that my voice is also heard.I’m thinking about this to remind myself that I can write however I want, for whoever I want. Quality should be as high as possible, but authenticity of the message must be preserved at all costs. It’s this kind of dedication that a real story offers. My greatest fear is that I’ll realize I don’t have to be fancy and qualified, just good. If that happened, I’d probably wind my way into a den of inscrutable symbols and filthy observations trying to tell the truth before realizing that I don’t know it yet. Frankly, I feel disgraced. I should be trying harder to find it. And when I do, hold it up against the sky, set it on fire, then drop it in the street and burn rubber. There’s no other way.

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2 responses to “Strange Promises from the Badlands…

  1. I think you make a strong point about the “authenticity of the message”… it’s all we’ve got… I am most definitely tempted to read Fear and Loathing now. The last line of your entry is killer good.

  2. And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Las Vegas. And a voice was screaming: “Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?”

    Then it was quiet again. My attorney had taken his shirt off and was pouring beer on his chest, to facilitate the tanning process. “What the hell are you yelling about?” he muttered, staring up at the sun with his eyes closed and covered with wraparound Spanish sunglasses. “Never mind,” I said. “It’s your turn to drive.” I hit the brakes and aimed the Great Red Shark toward the shoulder of the highway. No point mentioning those bats, I thought. The poor bastard will see them soon enough.

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