When the Tale is Told by an Idiot; or, How You Imagine Fiction Gets Said

Afterwards; or, an Afterword

[a short story]


This is not an ordinary tale told by an idiot, but by a person who imagines his readers charitably. Should this stand instead for a good repast; should this tale be told by one who seeks to keep his readers sane, that is sanitized to the condition of conditioning persons to be good citizens? I do not know what you imagine is the role of author or narrator or any other -or you could imagine with respect to this writing and your reading. Be it as it is for whatever is, is; however, I am not going to venture a rightness or a wrongness for what is.

I, Thomas Sarebbononnato, have herein written an essay under the auspice of my creator, my author, who you will know by name, and I only can know by role, his role as author, writer–I am not so sure how they differ, although, I do know that you the reader might have some idea where and when a writer differs from an author–everyone knows how writer differs from narrator, thus how author does or could differ from narrator, thus how expositor does and could. But let me now say what I have come to say . . . the question, of course, would be to say or not to say, what I say in speech and what I say when I set pen to page, fingers to my keypad on my laptop. Words, words and more words, what we need are more words, just words, well-formed, well-founded words, having thus weighed the words, suiting them without sawing, and again reciprocally, suiting action to word–as you must have already suited, first the one to word, the former then to action–to catch the conscience of the reader–the layers that are wound, man, person, writer, author, expositor . . . what or when the expositor creates an expositor, narrators inside narration inside other narration we have seen in fiction before.

Why haven’t we, though, seen exposition in fiction or as fiction–fictional essays I have said before (by my author, his authority–what do you say now concerning this thing, a fictional essay . . .). What does it mean to call a piece of writing a fictional essay–essay does mean something, fictional less fixed in form than what we say when we say essay . . . essayer in French means to try, to put on trial, we were told back in college–yes, my author has set it that I have been to university . . . does that mean an essay as a short story or does it mean an actual essay with a fictional context or pretext or expositor–expositors are things made up, anyway, are they not? I am surely fictional, but that does not mean I carry no truth. What then am I saying about the boundaries between fiction and non-fiction? Why cannot essays be written on subjects serious or flippant that are contextually fictional? Why can’t an essay tell a story like a short story does, as authors do create stories to be told as fiction? Whatever the manner, the means, the method–and there is madness in my essays, as much as there is method, if you will. Herein then is an essay I have written under the guidance of my creator, the author, a child of his brain, if you will–we can only speak of my mind as you cannot speak of my brain . . . but then that is not true I have just realized. You can speak of my brain as you speak of what I see, what I think, what I expose, not myself as would someone in a raincoat . . . you do see the image, do you not? You can say about me–what? When? How? And the voice of this essay is an expositor myself as an alter-ego of my writer, I have hoped; at least in his brain, I am sure I have hoped . . . there is so much of any part of fiction that an author must know the all-about, even if not in the piece as written. All inferences must be concluded in the writers brain–or he must be able to if ever called upon, no? What is all this about multiple personalities in a person; am I not many persons? Are you, the reader, not many–is not the world a stage, and are we not the players of many parts? What then is it that needs to be said about this thing my author has created, announced, pronounced, adopted–the fictional essay, another form, one where exposition is used in the service of telling a story, much the way Woolf uses Lyric in the service  of, or to stand in stead of, narrative.

Wherever you see my name know that what you are getting is some of the life and a lot of the opinions of one Thomas Sarebbononnato. What’s in a name? Perhaps for you a load of freshly laid dog shit by another name would still smell like shit, but herein I cannot say it is the same, and that me by any other name would be equal to what I am with my name. Do I say that all is in my name? That my name tells you everything? No, I cannot say this. However, names in fiction as names here, do say more to you the reader, than they do to the characters or in life. Nonetheless, if someone were named Michael, there might be something that person could take from the symbolism one would derive from knowledge of the Arc-Angel himself. Yes, the Life and the Opinions of T. S.

Yes, Mr. Sterne, I am sentimental about my education, as I am about education, proper; but not the pandering today that masquerades poorly as education. What is if you were I, and not what if I were you, is what you should be considering when considering all the considerations of me, a character with more or less character . . . what do you call it when you question how a story unfolds based on imagined possibilities and probabilities you have all twisted up, when you question what a character does or says based on that character being you, rather than what would happen if you were the character. Hamlet makes much more sense when you say what if I were Hamlet, how would I order a hamburger at McDonald’s than what if Hamlet were I and how should he act accroding to me in Elsinore.


Before the Law, or, From the Notebook of Chiara Finestra, April, 1995 [a Short Story]

How much more do we need to know about Ms. Finestra? What esle should I say, or allow her to say–I do not feel that I am impeding her from saying anything that could be said about her, or in her defense, or in aside. Whatever she would need to say would be said. Whatever she could have said she would have said. What we have herein is really enough for you–and if you do not think so, then so be it. We really can tell a lot about person by what she says and how she says it. Diction does tell us more than we are often willing to accept, or are able to understand by what we have read, often times each of us no more than sweeping the page the way a tailor would with those hand held corn straw brooms he would use to sweep clean a suit or a coat. The inferences should be clear, but only if you have really been taught to read, what reading is, what reading can accomplish when done correctly, effectively, yes, correctly and effectively, to read or not to read has to be every literate person’s to be or not, whether or not to endure the slings and arrows of outrageous texts–civilization depends on what we have lost as part of our art of teaching, and teaching is and should be considered an art, and it wouldn’t be so bad if it were scientifically approached, but is that what we have, science, or is it pseudo-science, which is what most social science is anyway, unavoidably invariably. And what we really have is pseudo-social-science which is a mock of a mock, lost are the arts, are they not, drunk as we are on the lies of what our technologies mean, signal, portend. 


“Before the Law”

The Emancipation Proclamation did not give human rights to the slaves. The slaves emancipated by law had human rights before the proclamation. Lincoln did not make slavery immoral, religion did not do that. The immorality of slavery and the un-alienableness of the human rights of slaves was and is irrespective of what the society said or says. Jim Crow did not and cannot mediate our humanity or the necessity to treat other human-beings humanely. I have acknowledged this before in other essays. I have chosen herein to repeat myself. I have used the theme herein with slight modification of an idea from another essay–it might be others, plural. I must reiterate this notion of unalienability of rights and their universality and their precedence before the law. This idea that rights–human rights, civil rights, woman’s rights (which are not apart from or other than human rights)–yes, that these rights we hold to be true and self-evident–or at least we must do so to ensure we perpetuate a respect for them–yes, these human rights precede any law that supports them. They extend beyond any attempt to frame them, to articulate and thus support them–they are, as we would have said in a time that did not bow to the dogmas of empiricism or Positivism, transcendent human values.

I know how difficult it is for many of our educated to handle metaphysical arguments and metaphysical thinking, as persistently as we have attacked the veracity of metaphysics–and we have attacked it. I am not here to launch an assault on Positivism or positivist thinking of any close or remote association to the Positivists, themselves perhaps only strict scientists. This truth I do hold to be self-evident–thus I no longer put it on the table for debate–and that is that the law can only uphold human rights, thus women’s rights; they can protect them; they might even ensure they are universally respected; however, it is our humanity in itself that guarantees our unalienable rights, these rights transcendent of and discrete from all practical attempts to deny them or support them. If all the world were to forget this maxim, I hold that it would still be true, although the truth of such a maxim in light of a worldwide and absolutely pervasive amnesia would be moot. This latter point is the one that compels us to keep vigilance with freedom, keep vigilance and constancy with our humanity, a persistence for the humane treatment of all human beings. We must be clear what we are saying, as we have said above that ‘The Emancipation Proclamation’ did not give the slaves their unalienable human right of freedom–likewise, Jefferson having owned slaves, slaves he freed in his final will, is not a refutation of the principles he established for our civil society. In fact, Jefferson’s wording in a bill he introduced as President, preventing slavery from entering the northwest territories of the United States, was the wording used in the ’13th Amendment’ outlawing slavery throughout the land. We must be very careful how we address our past and interpret that past.

The law in the United States currently stands behind the right to choose an abortion, which I assert is part of the great human-humane, the imperative to act humanely toward other human beings irrespective of race,religion, ethnicity or nationality or gender or sexual orientation, or whatever else we have or might have in the future that defines us as human-beings. Human rights as Human Rights, unalienable, are not subject to the whims of democracy or of how law gets administered. The majority in voting whatever policy in society gets enacted or made into law do have the last word on Human Rights. Law is distinct from rights; rights transcend situation, culture, power, authority, influence, courts, judges, popularity, the will of the people to go to hell in a handcart.

For Human Rights to flourish, yes, for Human Rights to be actualized and not remain the great humane potential, law must be put in the service of Human Rights . . . but once more let me insist that we should not confuse legal protection for absolute sanction nor for deliverance. Now, everything Jefferson proclaimed in “The Declaration of Independence” was true and is true with or without the Constitution. They would have remained true irrespective of our winning or losing the war for independence. Winning the war and ratifying the Constitution gave other valency to human rights. Women in West African Muslim Theocracies who have enforced clitoral-dectomies have the right to control their own body; they do not have law on the side of their rights. Their bodies are violated; their human rights are not protected. Power works against them. And some metaphysical systems are more hostile and violent to women than others, and if they’re not some times, then that’s the accident.

I know that abortion is still a complex issue filled with contradictions on the sides of either pro or con. I am not herein going to enter a litany of redressed grievances against a culture narrower than it should be, needs to be, could be but can’t because . . . on and on and on once more the petty paces, each of us, more specifically, each woman the poor player who struts and frets her hour upon the stage of having to dance a dance of control in return for the privilege of acting on some of her human rights. I know what this is like–I am sure every woman knows what this is like.

Is the theater of life going to be another Grand Guignol, Artaud’s theater of cruelty taken literally. It is cruel and unusual punishment to subject a woman to unsafe non-medical procedures that mimic mechanical procedures in an auto body shop when she wants to exercise her basic human right to choose what she wants to do with her body–and any repetition herein about what a woman wants to do with her body should only instill with vigor the necessity to respect this right. I am not critiquing Artaud here–he has a lot to say to women in the manner with which they perform their lives as actors on the stage of their lives, but here is not the place to explore this.

Choosing is a woman’s birthright, as it is any person’s birthright, and this choosing to have an abortion is not an easy one for any woman or teenaged girl to make. Forcing women to make choices that are unavoidably illegal would be for what reason, to what effect? I would not want to be in her place if the choice were legal and unanimously accepted across all classes and persons in the society; no one would. The horrors of illegal abortions cannot be made to stand as a rebuttal for abortion–that’s grotesque, just as grotesque as any back-alley gynecological surgery. I cannot be in her place, as no other woman could either. And this is important to understand–because no one can be in her place, only she can decide. I repeat myself when I say she alone is faced with this dilemma, conundrum, problem, issue, rock and another hard place. I know that I am no one to speak for her–but I am speaking for a protection of her rights to decide what no one can decide for her, least of all men, least of all men who have nothing left to help them at least imagine they could be in her shoes. I know am not one to speak for anyone. I am never more certain of the trueness and rightness of my convictions than when I pontificate on what another person should do. Seriously articulating how every should, would and could the person I’m talking at ignores will cost him dearly is an occasional indulgence. I don’t imagine others are any different than I am; in fact, I see too many who are far worse, and they are also sometimes the ones who put bombs where their mouths are. I don’t see the future; I can’t imagine anyone else does either, but if someone does have a crystal ball, let me have a look and then maybe I’ll change my mind about telling others how they should live, but I don’t think so. It’s interesting how a nation founded on the idea that we should live free or die, be given Liberty or Death should put women in the position of being offered liberty curtailed. I am just as tired of other women telling me what I can and should do with my body as I am tired of men thinking they have the right to do so or that they have acquired a proxy for me through their money or their power or their positions of authority.

You cannot possibly want to know more about her, or should I say that you cannot possibly need to know more facts about her, as if knowing where she was born could help you in what way I cannot imagine now; or, as if knowing where her parents came from could help you in some other impossible-to-imagine way; or, as if knowing what her politics were, what her opinions on abortion were, or on gay marriage, or her opinions on the geo-politics of the United States in the middle east–what any of these could do for you or for another and another and another each one of you creeping in your petty paces until the last tolling of the bell you should not ask whom it is for . . . you know this too as you already know the answers to many of the questions I have posed herein throughout the prefatory remarks made and now the afterwards-words.

I do not want to know and would not desire to know if I were you (or, really, if you were I) what her religion is or what her ethnicity is–what could any of these fore mentioned things that sopme imagine are things to know–what could they do to help you know better what you already know from having read this essay, and re-read it, as you most surely should. Who does not know that all good reading is re-reading? Does it matter of she is Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh or Shinto; does it mater if she is an Atheist, a Communist, an Anarchist?

You have to know the answer to these questions already–they have an answer contained in their asking. The form is rhetorical; how could anyone not know this? Why do I think you need me to say this? Why do I imagine that there must be enough readers who will misunderstand what I am trying to say here, what I have said here, what I assume everyone who calls himself a reader must know? I know that I think believe imagine that there must be too many from among who we call educated who have little idea, an idea that I have taken to be self-evident to anyone I would call educated, higher education educated–yes, who have little idea just what reading actually is, what the process, the operation, the engagement is. I’m wrong? I doubt it.


Having Forgotten the Cork Screw [Flash Fiction]

A man on the Alewife-bound Redline to Harvard Square from Park Street Station at Boston Commons down the hill from the gold-domed Statehouse Building and right next to Park Street Church whose graveyard has the grave of Paul Revere is reading Lowell’s Notebook 1967-68. He is on his way to Harvard Square to meet a friend for lunch at he Red House Restaurant at 98 Winthrop Street. He loves their smoked salmon BLT.

He will have it with one of the local beers they always have on tap. The gluttony of eating out alone or with friends here in Cambridge, he thinks to himself but almost out loud, yet under his breath. What he would he himself say, barely audibly, at this time, of course, he could also write in his journal, one he always carries with him wherever he goes, recollecting an afternoon with his friend Giovanni in Ginsberg’s office when the author of “Howl” was teaching at Brooklyn College, and the notion of discipline for a writer came up, and Jack Kerouac’s good friend said that the only discipline a writer needs is to carry pen and paper with him wherever he goes, and he smiled in recognition that he had already acquired the correct discipline for a writer, always having both with him wherever he went, continuing this over the years.

And now with his pen in his journal about Lowell’s poems and the afternoon spent in the Park Street Church graveyard, as well as some time in down-the-block investigation of King’s Church, he writes “I love Boston and Cambridge;” yes, he writes at the close of an entry he enters in his journal at the table he has gotten for lunch, waiting for his friend to arrive over a pint of the Farmhouse Saison they have on tap at the Red House from the Portsmouth Brewery which he visited last summer on a trip there to get away, as he likes to say, as he likes doing with his friend in Montauk, land’s end, as he likes to say to her, his friend, the one he is waiting for at the Red House with a pint from the Portsmouth Brewery. He has not yet made it to the Southhampton Brewery in Long Island, the South Fork, the East End, no time any time he has been out there, the east end (I wonder if I am supposed to capitalize east end?). He would like to this summer.

How long the ride takes he does not notice, almost never notices no matter how many times he takes this trip from South Station to Harvard Square. In noticing he rarely notices  he remembers the last time he was in Montauk how he had forgotten to bring a cork screw for the wine they intended to buy, one liquor store in town having quite a few good Alsatian wines and German Rieslings. They bought a bottle of Alsatian Pinot Gris the last time out and got all the way back to the room when he found out that he had forgotten to pack the cork screw or even his Swiss Army knife which has a cork screw attachment. He had to walk back to town to get a cork screw, all the while intermittently saying fuck or shit or asshole or isn’t that just like what the fuck would happen. 

On the way, and while saying fuck or shit or motherfucker or son-of-bitch, he sees a rabbit and pauses to watch the rabbit and considers the rabbit running in and out of the dune grass on the road along the dunes and stops to think about saying fuck and shit and piss and bastard and thinks that he should stop and be grateful he is alive and has to walk on the road to get a cork screw to see the rabbit who pauses longer than other rabbits he has seen here in Montauk, and thus has time to consider the rabbit’s eye that the rabbit seems to be staring at him with, fixed as the rabbit seems to be on him standing as still as he could, not wanting to scare the rabbit or scare him off. This goes on for a duration uncounted, unmarked by his watch on his cell phone that he has taken out to take a few photos of the rabbit. While doing so, the rabbit runs off and then he continues on his way to get a cork screw for the Pinot Gris they have had before and liked. They are having shrimp salad with the wine, shrimp salad and fish tacos from a new place that used to be where O’Murphy’s used to be.

A Man in a Bistro Talks of Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn” [flash fiction]

A man in a bistro on a chair at a table across from a woman sitting on the banquet in the far corner diagonally opposite the entrance on the right as you walk in is talking as they have been talking about this or that or some other thing, now another, then yet another, whether it be the politics of the middle east, or the current situation in Europe concerning some of the backlash after the most recent terrorist attacks in Brussels, or what they have been reading of late, or what they used to study in college, or what their favorite films are might be could be but are not really, or the weather, or their most recent vacation, or the rise of inconsideration while riding the subway; or poetry, for which the man says something about John Keats, as Keats has come up in conversation, as Keats always comes up in this man’s conversations about poetry–how could he not, he would say about Shelley’s younger contemporary: “Keats is not saying Beauty is Truth at the close of his “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” no. When he says “Truth is Beauty,” he follows with “Beauty Truth,” no comma between the words. Yes, “Truth is Beauty” means what it says, that Beauty is the complement of Truth, the verb ‘be’ we know does not take an object–Beauty, the subject complement in the fore stated syntax. Of course, we should say; but that is not where it ends for Keats. Beauty, in the fore mentioned construction is the complement of Truth, yes; however, what follows we must look at more closely and carefully: “Truth is Beauty, Beauty Truth.” The comma in the fore going syntax quoted sets off an appositive phrase for the complement, Beauty. Thus, Truth is not only Beauty, but it is Beauty Truth. It is an intrinsic and an inseparable unity. What kind of Truth is Truth, it is Beauty Truth; and if it is not this, it is not Truth. If it had been written “Beauty [comma] Truth,” then it would have meant a parallel clause was introduced, the comma indicating in that syntax the inferred verb to be. “Beauty [comma] Truth,” if written this way would have pointed to another conclusion, that being Truth is Beauty, Beauty is Truth; but that is not what Keats did. Instead of each being the other, instead of the subject complements being inverted and shown to be mutual and reciprocal, Keats shows us just what kind of Truth he is referring to, and that is Beauty Truth, one and only one metaphysical Truth, and that is the unity of Beauty Truth. They are a continuum as is space-time. I guess Keats could have used a hyphen, but then their would be no orchestration of ambiguity. Now, to discuss either without the other is impossible in Keats’s aesthetics, but also in his metaphysics. For Keats, aesthetics has profound implications for epistemology, ethics and metaphysics. In this way, Keats just might be the spiritual kin of Schiller–but I do not want to stretch things too much here.”

How to Read the Face of the Man Across from You on the Train

A Specimen from an Anatomy of Melancholy

Sun in the train through the window, shadows cast–a woman plays with her braid, sitting. There, a face of a man asleep, across from me on this train, Manhattan-bound, to meet her after theater class, to go for a drink. I had a slice before I left. Margarita. A small seltzer. I chewed and sipped as the Mexican clerk counted my change. He miscounted and corrected himself. The sun angles itself through the window it seems. The train turns on its approach to the 9th Avenue Station. I am on the D train here in Brooklyn.

Time passes . . . passing time in minutes or hours; time passes in hours or days or weeks maybe months, perhaps years, decades, centuries ages periods eras eons . . . and I recall how I heard a preacher commend us to the notion that time, as we understand it geologically or even astronomically, for God, is as we measure time in instants, those happenings in the blink of an eye . . . and here Democritus the Third speaks to you for himself and others, but as you may assume, for his author, himself other than the narrator here, who tells you something of the events, the happenings, the thoughts, the incidentals, the what-else? Questions I have many. Answers I have few. Responses, themselves at times other and at other times the same as answers, I have too many. What else is the question? It is always about else, elsewhere, when else, what else from who else?

A woman, tall, slender with striking eyebrows who got on at Pacific Street gets off at Canal. The next stop is Broadway-Lafayette. I will walk to the Public Theater to wait for her. The woman with striking eyebrows also had gorgeous legs. I realize that the pleasure I anticipate feeling from imagining what going for a drink should be like will have nothing to do with what will take place, and certainly for no fault of my own, but only because the woman I love at the moment is fucked up in the head, just a little bit. This I take to be self-evident to me even though my explication of what I take to be evidence in observation rarely convinces anyone who listens. I am convinced that I see better than many of these fools who have been corrupted by a corrupting age, an age whose corruption is so disseminated throughout all of society, only someone whose acumen and vigor is like mine, in avoiding this corrupting influence that going along to get along insists.

A Matter Of [Flash Fiction]

The sun this morning yellow through the curtains of the living room windows looking east; this morning looking out the window with her gone, my coffee is bitter and lukewarm in the cup on the saucer on the sill, no spoon, as I take my coffee black, no sugar, espresso from the espresso machine that I bought a few years ago in Macy’s Herald Square, the same day after the last time I made it to the top of the Empire State Building, daytime ascension, the 86th floor, thus making my way around the cardinal points of the compass, taking photos of the Chrysler Building and Rock Center and the then Twin Towers, looking south then as I look this morning east; the sun just up and over the tops of the buildings between my window and the horizon, and through the branches of the trees this mid-spring. I had a manual focus AE-1 then, and another auto-focus zoom lens Canon I used for several focal length shots of the the Twin Towers all the way at the tip of the island from where I was in midtown, not the middle of the length of Manhattan. All colors we see are the result of the reflection and the refraction of light. Her dress this morning was lavender, with red and yellow flowers in pattern.