Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Chapter Eighteen


A large sign: "MILANO AIRPORT."

Next door is the train station. "Scusi. Scusi!" Willie bustles among a throng of Italian extras and is shoved into a Prima Classa rail car. Vendors sell Campari and snacks between the train tracks. Willie is too shaken from the flight and the culture shock to eat.

His cellphone rings.


"Willie!" Professor Poofer's voice crackles over the tinny receiver. There's panic in the voice. A desperation, as if in the interim since Willie last saw him, Poofer has learned a terrible secret.

"Roma. Wait there. Further instructions . . . then you'll meet . . . . The barber in May . . . you must. . . . Very urgent. The future of literature, our entire world, depends. . . . Convincing . . . you must be very convincing. Desperate . . . awful . . . nightmarish . . . horrible! You must. . . . Goodbye."

As Willie absorbs the stream of incoherence, the sliding door to the train compartment opens. A tall young woman with flowing auburn hair, carrying a large artist's case, plops down on the seat across from him.

"Hello," she says.

"Hi," Willie squeaks.

The woman is dressed in black from head to toe, and wears large black sunglasses which obscure much of her very white face. She puts out her hand and they shake.

"Melanie. From Toronto."

"Willie. From Connecticut. Via Rhode Island."

His hand has been crushed. Canadian girls are very strong. He puts the throbbing hand in the pocket of his tweed sportjacket.

"Do you play hockey?" he asks, realizing he's an idiot.

Melanie sneers. "Were you born in a bathtub?" she replies. "Were you raised at Starbucks, or Disneyland, or McDonald's? Did you go to college with operatic clowns and Ivy-covered prima donnas?"

She grabs a large glossy magazine and begins turning pages. Willie takes out a notebook to jot down reflections on his experience. He senses Melanie observing him over the pages of her magazine, behind the sunglasses. His notebook fills with nonsense.

The train speeds fast, through tunnels; across the movie screen until it arrives amid the chaotic madness of Rome's Stazione Termini.

"Well," Willie says to Melanie as they rise.

He wants to ask if they can meet later. Melanie slams him against the compartment, putting a red card into his jacket pocket.

"For a nearby hotel," she says. "Three blocks away. Go there. You'll be safe. Wait for instructions. Don't trust anybody!"

She leaves. Gone. Italian extras jam the corridor of the train.

(Next: The Clowns.)


Patrick S. @ RedFez said...

You haven't been defeated. Don't negotiate with those lit blog freaks!

Karl Wenclas said...

?? "The Assassin" isn't a lit-blogger.
Once I realized "A"'s identity I was through-- at least for now.
"Thou changed and self-covered thing." Did you see the mask? It covers a heart of stone.
I seek to figure out what the person wants. A writer has to have a soul buried somewhere; not be merely a programmed robot toying with someone for sadistic amusement. That's my premise . . . I'm attempting to keep a dialogue going, offstage, which should've been engaged in years ago. But how does one reach a cold-blooded assassin?
This is about eight chapters out. Stay tuned.

FDW said...

This lit mystery serial is as good as the movie. What parts are Buster Crabbe and Tom Mix playing? And in the great american tradition of social- Ficciones satire/ parable all the way back before Irving, Cooper and Hawthorne. Can be more so and already is engaging and keeps my interest and o0ut of myself and yje everyday pesterings of"real" life-- that's all I ask of the prose I read-- a good story.
Can be moreover and is already more effective than getting embroiled in schoolastic dialectics like one's time and energy is a freak'n' shuttle- cock in batmitten!
The writing's very good it's very funny on the level of Amis the elder at least and KING just keep it up, the pen being mightier than the sword especially when the Goads and Gaolers are backstabers and poisoners.

May The Fourth Be With You, KING!

none-of-yr-business said...

I miss Harland. Your arguments were good fun. This is some allegorical bullshit only comprehensible to people who know you personally. That's the future?

Karl Wenclas said...

To answer you:
1.) I became tired of dealing with anonymous fakes like yourself.
2.) Your question should be directed to Harland, who I've presumed wants me to cease my demi-puppet activities. Wasn't that the thrust of the person's arguments? That I should focus on my writing?
Well, I'm doing exactly that.

none-of-yr-business said...

Oh, please. You were losing the arguments, so you shut them down.

Harland said he remained anonymous because he knew you'd attack him personally if he revealed himself. He turned out to be right about that, too.

King Wenclas said...

??? This is completely false. I know Harland's identity and haven't named it, nor have I gone after the person in the way I certainly could. In fact, I've shown amazing forebearance considering that "Harland" was attacking me personally.
Lose the argument? No-- I'm merely worn out, and H. is someone I've argued too much with already over the years. I've hoped peace is possible, but I could be wrong about that. . . .

King Wenclas said...

p.s. I'm surprised you're not celebrating the end of ATDP. Isn't that what you wanted?
I've posted a new remark there to address your concern.

Karl Wenclas said...

??? Why are you so curious whether or not I'm discussing things with "Harland"?
In this case, it's none of YOUR business.
Please, don't give me any b.s. about wanting my voice blah blah blah. Fact is that the literary world wants no dissent whatsoever, which is why the literary underground IS blacklisted.
I've merely listened to Harland's logic. Why should I waste my time presenting new ideas to knuckleheads who in their complacency and arrogance will never listen? It's time for me to get on with my life. If you read about the ULA's history, you'll see that I was talked into initiating this aspect of the movement. I had some fun, created some history. . . .
You're antedeluvians-- existing before the deluge, ignoring all warning signs.
The sad truth is that American culture today is awful, across the board; painting, music, literature; poseurs and fakers across the board. Anyone who argues otherwise-- who claims, for instance, that Ann Beattie or Madison Bell is the equal of Tolstoy-- is not capable of thinking. Yes, pods without hope of reform.
Look for me on used car lots.
In the meantime, there are my archives, as well as the rest of the "Plutocracy USA" tale.

none-of-yr-business said...

Oh, you'll be back.

Anyone who claims that there's somebody out there claiming Ann Beattie's as good as Tolstoy (who said this? who? where? when?) won't be able to stay away.

Karl Wenclas said...

p.s. I will say this: the problem I'm having with "Harland" is the person's blatant insincerity, and intrinsic snobbery. I had assumed a modicum of good faith. As it is, I could turn over all my blogs to the person, and be safe, because the person is afraid of the slightest association with me.
So you tell me how peace is possible with a demi-puppet?
I can cave on everything, and it gains me nothing. Stasis. As always, wanting everything to remain the same.
It's like Carthage surrendering to the Romans (in the final Punic War), who decide to destroy the city anyway.
The other question is that of H's motivation. Purely malicious, it now seems to me.
War or peace?
The three options for Harland:
-Nothing to do with each other.
The first seems unlikely.
The second gains nothing.
The only way for me to achieve the third is to cease all literary activity.

Karl Wenclas said...

Er, listen to the radio debate I did in Philly last year, when a caller makes that very argument. (Not with Beattie, but writers even more undistinguished.)
No, when I'm gone, I'm gone. I'm working a new job with more hours already; gradually withdrawing from all literary "noise." Oh, I'll continue reading and writing in my spare time.
I used to have another life, you know.

none-of-yr-business said...

There's a fourth option, King Zero-Sum. You could refine your arguments, rethink some of your statements, create a stance that would stay true to your goals while attracting others to the cause. Your arguments were defeated because they showed little knowledge of how literature and publishing work, and didn't address any possible way of changing the system. A guy who stalks away snarling hasn't been blacklisted.

Take your Beattie comment. You claimed somebody argued that she is as good as Tolstoy. As soon as I challenged you on that, you reply that some guy in Philly once said, well, not that exactly, but something else. So you didn't know what you're talking about. And I predict, if you reply, that you'll just call me some stoogey names.

none-of-yr-business said...

PS, for example here's an argument that goes someplace:


Karl Wenclas said...

Well, will ck when I can, if I care to.
As for your own argument, it's a good example of your sophistry. Pure nitpicking that means nothing.
My argument stands-- whatever example I use, Ann Beattie, or the examples used in the radio show which were equally undistinguished, to the extent I can't recall their names. (Some Brit lady.)
How does this discredit my argument.
Refine my arguments?
I have tens of thousands of words of arguments.
The truth is that it doesn't matter WHAT arguments I could make.
The protests against the mainstream were rock solid all the way. Every t crossed and i dotted.
They have not opened up the mainstream to criticism.
You know this, of course, and are willfully blind to it.
And who are you?
Yet one more ass-kissin apologist for a stagnating art.
THAT's the reality.
Btw, the author's name just popped into my head. Anita Brookner or some such. I looked through her books. Total British crap. Literary boozhie shit.
Now, will you tell me this is equal to Tolstoy?
Or, I give you Madison Bell, whose unreadable trilogy was nominated for a Nat'l Book Award. The best of the status quo. His characters are all dead, his narratives lacking all drive.
Another Tolstoy???
Is that what you're claiming, sophist?
Is that the best you can do?
Okay, okay, you win, I lose. Today's literature is all great.
The fact is, anonymous fake, that YOUR arguments are shit.
Tho I'll likely retire from my blogs, I'll remain available for public debate, anytime you or Harland or anyone else cares to try me.
I'll rip you to pieces.
But they'll never take place, because they would require you demi-puppets to drop your phoniness.
Have a good evening. I will.

none-of-yr-business said...

Let's see...you claim you dotted every i and crossed every t, but then you made a claim about Ann Beattie that you pulled from your ass.

I predicted you'd call me stoogey names, and there I am, an "ass kissin apologist for a stagnating art" and a "sophist."

Then you ascribe arguments to me I never made - Madison Bell is Tolstoy, nope, never said that. Nor did I say that "today's literature is all great." I've never heard anybody say that.

Then you challenge people to public debate but shut down your blog, the one place where public debate could actually happen between people who live in different cities. While meanwhile you're fighting with someone in private while shutting down his chance to challenge you in public.

You're a fraud and a coward, a dishonest whiner who flees at the first sign of argument, taking refuge in these desperate allegories in which you can be the triumphant martyr.

I very much doubt you'll have a nice evening. If you behave this way in private I suspect you have few friends indeed. Myself, I'm going to a reading. There will be fire and bravery on display, and genuine debate afterwards - not namecalling, not "I said one thing but I mean something else," but real human conversation, the stuff of life and the stuff of art.

King Wenclas said...

You seem to be doing your share of name calling yourself.
A fraud and a coward?
Fleeing at the first sign of argument?
Uh, I've been engaged in this campaign for quite a few years, and have engaged in more than a few arguments.
The history of this blog alone speaks for itself.
I have yet to see a standard literary reading with the "thunder" you ascribe to it.
There is, in fact, little thunder to be found anywhere in established literature, which is why people are thrown by my actions and by my words-- and perhaps one reason why you're here instead of at the other venues you so much seem to value.
My question is the source of your hostility toward my obscure doings.
I suggest you address this question with yourself.

King Wenclas said...

Regarding the Blake Butler post:
I wish I had more time to address it, because it represents everything I and the ULA stand against. Moreover, it's defeatist and wrong.
(Putting aside the fact most music today is awful), people listen to music not because it's "easy" but because it touches them in some way.
Acessibility is the MINIMUM for any art-- and Butler admits that current lit is failing this.
Regarding then difficult music, as a way to test his ideas, what does he do with the classical brand?
According to his standards, a John Corigliano should be the epitome of musical achievement.
He's difficult to the point of putting people to sleep.
Interesting that Butler names Peter Markus as one of his models.
From Detroit. Avery nice guy. I attended one of his readings recently. I have enough interest in words to appreciate his go-no-place wordplay. But a way to save literature? Giving it to young people to read??? Are you kidding?
Are you people actually that stupid?
What young people ARE reading is graphic novels/comic books, because they draw on the established features of lit, good, readable lit; such things as good guys and bad guys, and plot, and mystery. They're exciting to read.
Instead of learning anything from their success, MFA lit people go in the opposite direction.
The fact is, May, that with your ideas you're wrong and I'm right.
The only way for me to demonstarate this, promoter that I am, and not really a writer, is to write things which express my ideas. Not an easy task for me by any means.
But your kind of writer hasd abandoned the field.
I'm encouraged reading Butler's piece. It tells me there is no one in literature willing to compete for readers.
I say here to Jeff, Frank, et.al.: maybe after my break we can resolve our differences and come up with new strategies.
The enemy is waiting and willing to be defeated.
We should be able to blow them away.

none-of-yr-business said...

Shutting comments down is fleeing an argument.

Disagreeing with your main points isn't hostility.

Your claiming that you don't run away from an argument while you are running away from an argument makes you a fraud and a coward.

But it doesn't make me May.

You do make a good point, though, when you suggest that I spend less time engaging with you. It's obvious you have nothing to offer beyond namecalling.

(And, watch, your response to me will call me a name and say I'm apologizing for the mainstream, which I have never done.)

Karl Wenclas said...

??? I'm not losing the argument.
My question to myself is whether or not I wish to continue wasting my time on people like yourself who are completely closed-minded.
I think of you as the conformity police.
Think if Butler's twisted logic were applied to another field-- autos, for instance.
An industry announcement:
"We're going to make our cars more difficult! They'll be uncomfortable to sit in, difficult to handle, maintain, or repair, and unappealing to look at."
This, in effect, is what Butler advocates for literature. I can't believe you buy into this stupidity.
He's talking about making literature consumer unfriendly. The inevitable result is a narrowing of the market, and a diminishing of lit's role in society.
I've advocated the opposite.
The central difference between May and myself is that I'm inner-directed and she's other-directed.
Liking the Butler blog is revealing-- a popular member of the slick "in" crowd, recirculating acceptable literary opinion.
May/Harland has always been attracted to the superficial; the beautiful people with cashmere coats and silk scarves. She's not someone who could ever belong to my type of literary rebellion-- and so I don't know why the person keeps hanging around.
I and my ideas are found by people like her to be, frankly, embarrassing, especially now. My ideas are unpopular in the lit world. I'm a literary pariah; as banished as one could be banished in the art form.
On top of this, like hard core ULAers I'm an ordinary person; a beat-up street dog lacking all polish. I've made friends wherever I've gone, yet at the same time I'm not at all bothered by being alone. I'm not thrown if no one agrees with me. I'm not bothered by being an outsider-- a real outsider, as opposed to the Bissell/Gessen brand. I've been an outsider my entire life.
I've promoted this cause of changing literature not for gain (I've seen none), but because I believe in it. My goal is to draw the focus of lit away from the superficial, toward meaning.
The superficial people who've been in this movement, those attracted to the superficial, all dropped out.
Don't expect me to abandon my ideas. It'll never happen. Never, never, never, never, never.
You'll have to excuse me now, May, as I bounce you off. It sounds like you're leaving anyway. Seven years of your hatred has gotten old. Like the mantra "Carthage must be destroyed," your focus never changes. Bye.