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Archives for September 2008

Walker Percy: What else is there?

Bird’s Nest In Your Hair

Chapter Fifteen

Back at the store, Tom did not stay to help the others out. After he hung up the phone he walked out to the area behind the counter. He surveyed the rows of shelves, which had not been tipped over. He felt lousy and relieved at the same time. Everything had worked out about as well as he had a right to hope for, but Julie’s words had still been painful. Why did she have to be so cruel?

“Hey, boss. What’s up with Julie?” asked Sandy, coming up on his right.

“Not coming in,” said Tom. “Not tonight. Not ever, actually.” He was looking down at the glass display counter. Satisfied, at any rate, that it hadn’t been kicked in.

“Wow,” said Sandy. She didn’t say anything else, having a pretty good idea about what had happened. She did a good job of holding back a smirk, although her efforts were lost on Tom, who was staring down at the counter and wiping off some non-existent grime.

“Yup. It looks like you guys are on your own tonight. I’m headed home myself. It should be pretty slow, actually, being a holiday weekend and all. You can handle it.”

He’d only just decided this, but it seemed like the right thing to do. They would probably gossip about it the rest of the night, but that was better than having them looking him up and down all night long. He’d grab another movie to watch after finishing The Vivisection of Vera, something Helen would like. A nice quiet night at home, that was all he wanted.

Still, he took the long way around, taking as long as he could on his drive home. He was more comfortable in his car than he was at home.

When he got back to the condo he yelled, “Honey, I’m home!” He meant it this time, and said it without a hint of irony. He hadn’t done that for a while, but this was a special occasion. He’d fulfilled his mission, more or less.

“I’m back here!” yelled Helen from somewhere down the hall. “You’re back kind of early, aren’t you?”

He found her in the study, looking over the website. He still found it funny to catch her pouring over the thumbnail photos of all the girls on the site, as if it were something other than business for her.

“Yeah, well, I didn’t really feel like sticking around work. It was kind of slow. And after taking care of that business . . .”

She closed down a couple of windows, transitioning between the web browser and Dreamweaver with a skill that in a few hand movements revealed years of experience.

“Don’t you ever get tired of looking at all those women?” he asked, leaning in through the doorway.

“Jeez, I don’t even notice them anymore,” she said, clicking through a couple of frames to check the traffic numbers again.

“Well, don’t mind me.”

“I don’t mind you. Not at all. That’s why we’re going to try something different.’

“Aren’t you worried about the money? We’ll miss the money.”

It’s funny how conversations between loved ones are repeated, streamlined a little more each time so that they can eventually be reiterated in a couple of key words. Helen turned around in the swivel chair, knocking over a couple of big, paperback computer books in the process.

“Money isn’t everything. We’ll keep some of it going as long as we need to. We don’t need it that bad. And what do you want to be known for? Porn? Or something better, like all those movies you’ve been watching over the years.”

“Yeah, well, speaking of which, I brought a couple home for us to watch tonight. I was going to go and finish the one I was watching this afternoon.”

Helen leaned over in the chair and picked the manual up off the floor, grunting as she put it back on the desk. “Sounds good to me. Give me a couple of more minutes here and I’ll be out in a bit.”

Tom went back out to the living room and turned on the television again. He surfed through the channels for a while, not really wanting to watch the movie as much as he thought he did. The television shows moved so much more quickly. Even a horror flick like The Vivisection of Vera took effort by comparison. He started out by taking five to seconds on each channel: cable news, financial news, Headline News, the Cartoon Network, shopping network, another shopping network. After a minute or so of this he just held down the button and watched each channel for a split second. He felt dizzy after going through about a hundred channels this way.

Helen came out after about twenty minutes and found him watching a panel discussion on C-Span.

“Getting political, are you?”

“Getting bored, actually. This seemed like a good match. I guess I don’t feel like watching the movie after all. Couldn’t care less what happens to Vera.”

“Let’s go out then. We’ll get an early dinner and then try to meet up with Roger and some of the others downtown. They’re always good for a couple of laughs. You look like you could use some of that.”

“Yeah, maybe. What sort of food do you feel like?”

“I was thinking of that big Seafood Salad over at the usual.”

“Oof. I don’t know. Too close to work.”

“What’s wrong with work?”

“Nothing. I was just there.”

“Well, no one from work will be at Queequeg’s now.” She looked at her watch. “You’re safe for a couple of hours yet. I’ll call Roger now, in fact, so he can meet us there. Besides, you like that chowder in the bread bowl. That’s just what you need right now.”

Tom frowned for a couple of seconds in contemplation.

“Okay,” said Tom, and turned off the television. “You sold me with the bread bowl.”

Keys to Surviving the Present Financial Crisis

I may not be a professional economist, or even an amateur one, but I know plenty about Depression, towards which everyone and everything seems to indicate we are headed. So I’ve decided to make my own four point plan available to the President, members of Congress, Wall Street tycoons and good taxpayers everywhere. Here it is:

(1) Do your job, whatever that may be.

(2) Eat healthy.

(3) Spend as much time as possible with the people you love.

(4) Get plenty of sleep.

If (1) proves to be a serious problem, your job is to get a job, or a better job.

My Work Here is Finished

I mean, I write about porn and swearing for Doublethink, and suddenly, Ross Douthat is writing about porn for The Atlantic, Mark Shea is writing about swearing for Inside Catholic. (No, I don’t imagine these events actually have anything to do with one another.)

A Dios!

Winding down…

…for a while, anyway. Got some things to finish, and the40 Days for Life seems an especially appropriate time to finish them – or one of them, anyway. This post makes 1999, and 2000 is a nice round number.

But before I go: Cubeland Mystic has been positively ecstatic in the comments of this post. I’m thinking we should haul the discussion up into a post of its own, namely, this one. Please, Friends of Godsbody – have at it. Shall we call it The Garden of Earthly Delights?

Novel Gazing

First of all, I’m calling “dibs” on the title “Novel Gazing” for my future collection of essays on the art of the novel. But that’s later.

Rob Long’s article on Bob Crane has me thinking, and I’m now going to attempt a kind of apology – in every contradictory sense of the word – for some of the pornographic episodes in Bird’s Nest (which, if you haven’t noticed, is being posted chapter by chapter every Friday). To the half dozen or so people I know who have checked in on the progress of the story at one time or another, I’m well aware that there are some fairly … uh, purple passages here and there. I’m sorry if you found them offensive. Mom hardly seemed pleased, let me tell you, so allow me to direct one mea culpa to her especially. However.

Offensive is sort of the point. Scratch that “sort of”. It is the point. Pornography is offensive, or perhaps we should say “still offensive”, no matter what effect you may or may not have noticed it may or may not have had on you. And of course we have long been in the process of piling up some fairly mind-boggling statistics. Apologies if you’ve seen these too many times before. According to

The pornography industry is larger than the revenues of the top technology companies combined: Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, Apple, Netflix and EarthLink.

Every second – $3,075.64 is being spent on pornography.

Every second – 28,258 Internet users are viewing pornography.

80% of young adults aged 15-17 years old have had multiple exposures to hard-core pornography.

The United States leads the world in the number of pornographic web pages, all 244,661,900 of them.

And these figures should probably be understood as increasingly tumescent. But haven’t I written about pornography in a lighthearted manner? Yes, and I suppose I can scratch that “about”. Let me confess here what I didn’t get around to confessing in the novel: Something is happening, but I don’t know what it is. With pornography, with sex, with religion, with science … I’m not so sure I really understand what in the world is happening with anything these days, including novel writing. It just seemed to me that a novel was a good way of looking around.

Here’s another statistic from the same website:

The “Top Pornography Banning Countries” are Saudia Arabia, Iran, Syria, Bahrain, Egypt, UAE, Kuwait, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Kenya, India, Cuba, China.

Please don’t take my citation of this statistic as grounds for going out and exercising your first ammendment rights with the latest edition of Girls Gone Wild. Assuming you’re in the U.S. and have first ammendment rights; if you’re in one of the countries just listed … I’m at a loss for words.

What I do suggest, more than the correlation between bans on pornography and bans of other stripes, and more than a question about the rightful place of censorship (your individual conscience or any of the various archons-at-large), and less than a plea to read my novel Bird’s Nest (appearing in chapter installments every Friday, if you haven’t heard) … what I do suggest is the cultivation of what Keats called “negative capability”.

I had not a dispute but a disquisition with Dilke, on various subjects; several things dovetailed in my mind, & at once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in literature & which Shakespeare possessed so enormously – I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact & reason. ~ John Keats’ Letter to George and Thomas Keats, 22 December 1817

Including such facts as listed above. I think we’d be much better off in any number of ways … in some way, I think our lives may well depend on this “negative capability”. Partaking of pornography probably isn’t a good thing, but I still think partaking of a novel is. Partaking of a novel that is to some extent “about” pornography … maybe that’s okay too, with a certain measure of this negative capability. Being a phrase of Keats, the art is perhaps more poetic than novelistic … but that’s another chapter in my someday-to-be-released volume, Novel Gazing.

Rob Long on the Bailout and Bob Crane

Can you imagine what it would be like if McDonalds were going the way of Fannie Mae and AIG? Rob Long has, and it makes for a damn funny article over at NRO. I don’t know jack about the financial mess – even after reading way too much about it over the last couple of days. I guess I know enough about it to enjoy this article, although I suspect that for some this is just a roundabout way of admitting culpable ignorance. Oh well.

I’ve also learned that Rob Long keeps a blog, Thoughts on Old Media, New Media, which is certainly funny in places but not all the time. That’d be a bit much for a blog. There are, however, plenty of pithy thoughts on show biz ranging from focus groups to Azerbaijan to … Bob Crane.

Crane was a porn freak. He didn’t just like to watch it; he especially liked to make his own. But back then, being a porn freak wasn’t for the casual hobbyist. The sheer weight and bulk of the equipment required – the camera and the playback machines and the giant editing deck – required a certain dedication, a deep commitment to the enterprise. The airline overweight luggage charges alone were suitable barriers to entry, and the enormous cost of what was essentially professional television equipment managed to keep the riff-raff out. Or in, depending …

Pornography, then, is a bellweather. Pornography is a trailblazer. People in search of dirty pictures created a market for new technology, which people in search of less dicey things – like videos of cats, people using pretend light sabres, my funny family, whatever — follow, a year or two later. So if the pornography business is always a few steps ahead of the rest of the entertainment industry – in distribution and business model – why not check in with it and see what’s up?

Long goes on to muse on what this might mean for writers in the future, assuming that (legitimate) show biz follows suit. Which made me feel better about saying “Damn the torpedoes!” and posting the damn novel online. That’s three “damns” in this post. Apologies to the kids out there.

Outsource Your Walker Percy Paper

Walker Percy essays are not very difficult to write, you know.” But if you’re having trouble — maybe you got drunk at that kegger Thursday night instead of reading The Moviegoer like you were supposed to — or maybe you just never learned to write — heck, I dunno, maybe your typewriter broke — or maybe you’re just having a bad week. Don’t despair! Call the friendly folks at Custom

Etsi Deus Non Daretur

I’ve run into this Latin phrase a couple of times in the last couple of days, words that are translated most simply as “even if God were not given”, perhaps more colloquially as “even if God were not a given” (with the philosophical/legalistic tenor it was meant to have, I think, as formulated by Grotius), but not “as if God does not exist”, which would more properly be etsi deus non esset. And perhaps these are all distinctions without a difference, if not deference.

At any rate, the latest appearance is in an article by Michael Novak in National Review Online. Let me emphasize that I think this is a fine piece of writing, but the whole debate … is something of which I’m getting very, very tired. Here’s the evidence:

… proving a negative has long been thought to be, if not impossible, at least unreliable. Necessarily, then, atheism is a belief, not a fact. It may be a belief with (as atheists think) a very high degree of probability, even though we theists judge it to have a low degree of probability. By contrast, agnosticism seems to be a more tenable commitment than atheism. Problem is, in action one must act as if God does not exist (etsi deus non daretur), or as if He does. In action one must make a commitment that one cannot quite make on purely intellectual grounds. It is by our deeds that we show what we most deeply believe.

My immediate response to this fine piece of writing is no longer, “Yeah! Go, team!”, but “How long, Lord; how long?” Then I pause and read that last line over again.

And I am suddenly very, very afraid.

In His Cloud-Hidden Bobservatory

I forget where I first found out about Gagdad Bob and his blog One Cosmos; it could have been from any one of these he refers to for “Honorable Menschen” such as American Thinker, National Review,, PowerLine, which I have perused at one time or another. No, make that, “often”. Check that: almost daily.

At any rate, Bob is quite a righter, which is my small attempt at tribute, which you’ll understand better if you read the following sample of Bob’s own prose:

Your man in Nirvana reporting from the serene of the climb. Before caterpultering your buddhafly, lotus pray: last rung in’s a written gag, so your seenill grammar and gravidad may not be malapropriate for my laughty revelation. Don’t worry, it’s just aphasia go through before the noesis in your head becomes real. Ascent you a son, amen for a child’s job! That’s the New Man, we’re just putting him on. (p. 254 from his book

I’d describe it as Joyce Light, but that might be under stewed as a slight … accept that it’s more readeemable … okay, I’ll stop now. I think Rufus and Silverback would enjoy reading Mr. Gagdad, if they haven’t already.

Amazingly, amidst all the lingdulgence (can’t stop!), the following sentence made me smile (laugh, even, as I think Gagdad would prefer):

There are so many idiots out there, such as Bill Maher, who take scripture literally, and then attack it for being so literal. As such, when he attacks religion, he is really attacking his own stupidity.