A fictional essay is just that, an essay in form, but fictional in as much as it is the mouthpiece of the essayer. Just as we do not confuse author and narrator, not unless we want to grossly abuse the critical process–we do not confuse the author with the expositor of the essay. Please be very wary of a seething and creeping semi-literacy that mistakes a nightlight intelligence for brilliance amid darkness . . . what then do we say–do I say? How then to say what should be said, what should have been said–to say or not to say off whose lips, mine, another’s, this other here in exposition spoken . . . pen to page following line after line of words stretched into paragraph after paragraph is not how we do it when we speak words, ephemeral words.
Who am I here at this moment writing–author, writer, expositor–the novelist is not the narrator? The novelist not the man who writes–I am a different author for every essay written? One form of the essay, whether fictional or non-fictional, is the letter–Somewhere between thesis driven essays and the sometimes meandering of the personal letter (a sub-set of the personal essay? I always get confused or confounded by the concerns of genre–but generic considerations aside, let me set my sites on the nature of exposition, what all essays have in common, the presence or absence of, the success or failure of expository prose in the matter of uncovering; that is, naked or nude representation in the matter of exposition, exposing one’s topic or self.
Exposition in the matter of essay writing is the state of exposing a topic, as I have said, but so would dropping my pants in public be a kind of exposition then. Exposition uncovers, reveals, shows–and this is whether one is a pervert or not. What else is there to say about our politics, though, when we presume to understand politics from our assumed position of being engaged with it and by it; we are a free people, are we not, or so we say, perhaps only think, maybe without words to accompany what we mean, as if that were possible for long. How could we in America not be engaged with politics, by politics–we read about it, hear about it, talk about it, even if only in tweets like birds flocking in the morning on my fire escape twitter about the metal slats?
Politics itself (themselves) is perverted from our nature; or is this the mistake, that the political has nothing to do with our nature, or should we add our better nature? What does nature have to do with media nurture–and we are as we have been for a long time nurtured by our media, broadcast, print, social. Irrespective of how we currently see the Republican Party Primary madness as handled by the media, it has been fostered by the media for higher ratings which always pleases sponsors.
I know we try to dissuade ourselves from the appeal of the circus–and circuses do have their appeal–we do know that the Trump campaign is something rude and vulgar–nonetheless, we have been overcome as of late, these most recently past few decades, by an etiquette of politeness when we face power, deal with power, address the abuses of power, all as ineptly as could be under the stress of a politeness that rules our politique. We must not be frank with power–perish the thought of being vulgar or visceral in our responses or appraisals of power and money, the three estates of the political, Power, Influence and Authority.
Telling it like it is does not happen anymore from the People; telling it like the media wants us to tell it, spitting back one or another received idea, even our liberal intellectuals are as responsible as their lunatic conservative counterparts. We do moo and baa together in one or another social forum concerning our politics, how we address the political in our lives, the conformity to which we bow–perhaps public forums might bring to bear on each of us wanting to say what is needed, and to say again something meaningful–what would it bring to bear on me other than a corrective against over self-indulgence, as if indulging one’s self were not too much to begin with–don’t end a line with a preposition I recall. I wonder if you wonder why I say we and not they as most of you would do?
We must not address Power or Money from any place organically conceived or grown in the mind of an individual who can stand for all, in as much as it is necessary in a Democracy that each of us as citizen must be We the People.
What do we call our Ode to Freedom? Can we articulate any sense of freedom other than by entries mimicking figures and calculations in the ledger books of state? Have we so relativized meaning that we can no longer say anything about anything anywhere anytime other than Who’s to say? Most especially when questions arise that we have been systematically dis-educated to ignore.
Yes, who’s to say is what everyone says when he wants his invalid assertions accepted without question. This, of course, is rooted in an idiosyncrasy of thinking, or what he confuses for thinking, usually a random passing of images or phrases in the mind. It’s a great advertising ploy, this who’s to say, to get everyone to accept anything at any time anywhere; all opinions have become equal in weight, in value–mostly because it’s been the ability to evaluate opinions that has come under the greatest assault in our acceptance of semi-literacy as being good enough; everyone is a genius for fifteen seconds, just as everyone through twelve years of school was special.
If all things were relative, though, there would be nothing for anything to be relative to; so all opinions being of equal weight is absurd. Reductio ad absurdum, more literally a reduction to deafness, which is what the absurd is–a lack of sense, a diminished sense of hearing? What means this? What we need to understand an argument–hearing? When I understand, I see, no? Rhetoric is the Greek root word for the Latin oratory, all argument in classical antiquity arising in its forms in orality. So then maybe hearing has something to do with it, no?
But what then must I do to make things clear? Clarity has so much to do with sight, no? Clarity and gravity–the weight of things we want to know, we wish we could understand–all understanding is to stand under, is it not? I hold things up and carry them when I want to understand them. Of course rocks must have weight otherwise we would see them floating in the air. But what about feathers? They too must have weight, but what kind of weight in as much as we see them floating about. The steps in the process of inferring gravity can be examined–but we do not want to stay put for any revelation that what we have blurted in opinion is absurd. This is very much where we have arrived, perpetual relativity ad nauseum, ad absurdum. With this, we have reached true nihilism, a nihilism at its purest. Infinite possibility does bury as I have said before. In our mass media culture, saying anything makes it so, even if only, again, for fifteen seconds, but that quarter of a minute is enough to sustain us in our thinking for years, or ruin us for life.
There is no truth, only perpetual topicality. If we lived in Bradbury’s world of Farenheit 451, though, all knowledge would be lost, all literature gone, burn all the books–how far from the mob that burned down the library in Alexandria do we imagine we are–not very far. Our Public Schools are reinforcing this nowness and newness as the prime and the last measure of culture, of what we need in what we read. Our Brooklyn Public Library system, where I live, has set its survival, its very existence, its perpetuation, on circulation. All funding and distribution of money to the branches depends on circulation. Books are discarded irrespective of their intellectual worth, of their literary value or their historical significance. But as I have said it’s the ability to evaluate that we have undermined . . . I see the decrease in light in the eyes, who does not see that the light is dying and no one to rage against it dying.
This move toward gleaning the shelves of the branches of books that do not circulate is contrary to a library’s chief purpose, at least traditionally. It sets the library in parallel position with bookstores. Circulation alone is as close to profit that a not-for-profit institution like the Public Library can come. But libraries are not bookstores although they are supposed to store the treasure house of our civilization, of our culture and the many cultures of the world.
I should have seen the hand writing on the wall, as a friend of mine had said, when over the last two decades slowly, but inevitably, America shifted, en masse, to the right. Wherever you might have found yourself in the linear gradations, set horizontally in our political spectrum, that American political spectrum has shifted to the right relative to a fixed and constant albeit absolute evaluation of politically spectral analysis. I have witnessed black people, who had once showed me the value of telling it like it is, stop telling it like it is–although I have noted that many still might think they do; and in addition to this reversal from the days of my childhood, Jewish people have become more conservative, shifting almost en-masse to the right from wherever they were situated on the political line in America . . . how many years ago now I shudder to count.
Even our radicals are less liberal and thus more conservative.
I don’t know what Joe Monte thinks or would think if he were alive, and who he is I know you do not know. I have no words for Joe, just as I have no words for any of the victims I have been taught I am supposed to feel something for, although I often do not as I often forget they have ever existed–most of us do not recall or lose the ability to recollect most of the people in our lives. Most of us are fixed on the moment now and our problems eclipse the world’s problems. How can we remember those who never touched us–or is it we are supposed to be touched by those who have not been present in our lives; butthen if this is what we are expected to feel to understand, in this imagined how, then why do we systematically under educate? Why do we allow semi-literacy to masquerade as literate enough? Why do we denigrate the Canon of imaginative literature as if the only reason it was considered great was because it was white and male in predominance? Why do we defer to a base pragmatism in our pedagogy? Why do we allow so many insipid minds to gain a foothold in teaching, as if the State Bureacracy should be the first and the last barometer to measure good and effective teaching? Why are our curriculums so weighted down by semi-literate pandering to multicultural programatic . . . I cannot restrain myself because it is a decline in civilization. We have become uncivilized.
History is just out of this world. Try as I may to feel for the people close to me in my life, sometimes I fail to feel anything, or most of what I should, imagining some situation where I would be expected to feel something. This lack arises though, when I think about what I should be feeling, which is always a bit in abstentia in abstentia, a kind of absent-presence or present-absence superimposed over itself, an emptiness lingering over emptiness. This thinking about what kind of feeling I should feel is absurd.
I can see the grocery store where Joe Monte worked with his wife and his daughter and his rolled up sleeves revealing tattooed numerals on his arm. I initially did not know what the numerals meant. I subsequently found out and I wondered what I felt. What was I supposed to feel is a question that marks our problems in the world, in our lives; our lives are the world. Sometimes I can see Joe’s wife or his daughter, but principally, Joe, the grocery store owner, and the man with tattooed numbers on his arm, with the sleeves of his white shirt rolled halfway up his forearms, who sliced my ham on his non Kosher slicer to make my ham hero for school lunch when I was going to JHS 285 across the street from Tilden High School. What does being able to see him mean? What does remembering this mean . . . to me to you to anyone?
I still can’t imagine what it was like to have been tattooed as he was, when he was, where he was, and not even another Jewish man born here in Brooklyn, New York, USA, as I was, knows why. The knowing we do, we have is other than Joe’s. Yet, still . . . he had to have been a teenager, the highest percentage of survivors who were not collaborators were teenagers. Children and the elderly were the groups with the highest percentage of deaths.
To feel what another feels is called empathy; sympathy is something else–in fact, it is what in a Romance languages is used as a translation of the English ‘nice.’ Elle est sympathique in French for “She is nice” (of course you can also use gentile for her); or, as in Spanish, tu eres simpatico, if your like your friend . . . but what do I know about it (about anything beyond my reach, beyond my eyes and ears and touch to skin, skin to skin is what I need want know how else to escape the tyranny of my solitary confinement in body than to fuck fuck and fuck again . . .) really, what do I know about it?
I said the same to friend who lived here in America, was born here in New York where his mother and father had been born and where his grandmother had been born, his father’s mother and his grandfather, his mother’s father . . . but his father’s father and his mother’s mother had both been born in Poland but came here when they were children, his father’s father when he was five. Yes, I said, What do you know about the camps–just being Jewish is not enough, and if you can know so can anyone else; but if I cannot because I was not there, then you cannot because you were also not there. If being human is not enough to imagine, then being Jewish or Christian or Muslim in itself alone cannot be enough to know, except equally abstractly.
To be nice or not to be nice has always skirted the acts of foolishness in one evaluation or another. Perhaps there was a time to be nice as we mean nice when we say nice in earnest about someone was to be foolish. Fools are usually nice–business men love fools and their money–flattering customers with ‘nice’ has always been a form of marketing. But just how nice, thus perhaps polite, fits in our pursuit of the Truth or our revelations of truths is a puzzle to me. However, polite has become the new politique, a kind of muzzle put on the people who fear being publicly impolite more than they do the loss of their freedoms and the exercise of their rights that come along with a politique from the people less than straight forward, less than direct, less than honest, less than truthful. We live in a permanent social fog of half-truths and lies, propaganda and advertising.
I am not a pessimist, but I do not hold out much hope for our Democracy . . . the People are dying, like those people in that movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers, all of us falling asleep to wake up in a replica Public . . . we try to mean–I try to mean what I say at when I talk about being free, what liberty means and means to us, sometimes the two are not entirely the same.
The media places pods in all of our homes.
To try or not to try might be the question for the fool who is convinced of his wisdom without knowledge of his foolery; I do try my ideas, to be put on trial, trial sizes no longer in my CVS. The only philosophical question of being is suicide? I do not always agree—sorry Albert. I am sure Hamlet is not only talking about suicide; I am sure he is talking about the mutually contingent yet exclusive yet reciprocal yet displacing ideas of being and becoming. I have discussed this in other essays at other times in other places. Referring oneself to my writing in my literary reviews would be essential to understanding further what I have introduced here at the conclusion, really only an end, exactly in the way that a terminal is the end of the line or the end of a line segment on a railroad. Dams are conclusions; fences are conclusions; walls in rooms are conclusions.