Fat Man Singing
I adored the blurb you gave me so much
I wrote you a thank you blurb, all in italics
now sitting cross-legged in the faculty parking lot
the sky the color of tenure
conifers and elk-upchuck envigorating the pine-scented conservatism
nothing ma! no, we’re not enriching uranium!
oh only in dreams do I get to relapse
--from Jim Behrle's "I Can No Longer Be Friends with Professors"
Ah, the reciprocal back scratching, house of mirrors, glass bubble existence of poebiz, all tucked nicely into the military-industrial complex! Well, thank you, Jim! Soon enough, though, it will be goodbye to all that.
Memo to Kenny: We will not become more machine-like in the future. Quite the reverse. Like it or not, we'll be yanked from our virtual, surrogate existence and plopped into the splendor and squalor of life in the flesh. Down with the tyranny of the eye! Make some room for the nose, will ya?
As for the 18th century, it will reappear momentarily, but don't count on wearing a wig, fanning yourself and lounging on some country estate. Pick up your hoe, born again peasant!, even if you have multiple degrees of higher learning, because we're chuting towards the mother of all depressions.
Like dog food, university writing programs will quickly be phased out of existence, to be replaced by workshops held at someone's home, a maestro who's likely just a village explainer, local yokel but with a gift for angular assonances and weird metaphors. Compensation will eventually be in barter, say, an old ring, rare can of tuna, lumps of coal or unadorned, funky human contact, after class.
With increasing destitution, certain themes will become more prevalent in literature: crime; class anger; racial or ethnic hatred; deceit and hunger. And prostitution, the literal kind, even performed by those who are now merely versed in its more abstract, allegorical offshoot. You will hear more about corruption. In the U.S., there is monstrous thievery at the top, but very little at the bottom. As we slide downward, you'll find much more petty graft like in the third world.
You will hear more voices talking, often over each other, and more yelling, because each home will have to accomodate more bodies, from returning adult children to close, then distant relatives, to boarders. More and more Americans will have to share their kitchen and bathrooms with strangers. Bedrooms will be partitioned. Familial conflicts will make a huge comeback.
Science fiction will become a genre about the past. Pondering those who needed machines to do just about everything, from brushing their teeth to writing, to self pleasure, future readers will be amused, disgusted and only seldomly envious. Imagine a world where music was a nuisance because it had become repetitive and could not be silenced! Imagine people who could barely walk, yet flew!
Like a fat man on his last leg, we are consuming our own stored, congested lard. Our autophagous, regurgitating proclivities are finding outlets in the oh, so au-courant group thinks of flarf and uncreativity. Don't generate, just recycle. (I love you, Kasey, but we don't need your clones!) Always, by the time you've heard of a movement, there's no more room for you. Are you comfortable? Well, do something about it!
Images are from my photo blog, State of the Union: Philadelphia; Los Angeles.
Linh Dinh was born in Saigon, Vietnam in 1963, came to the U.S. in 1975, and has also lived in Italy and England. He is the author of two collections of stories, Fake House (Seven Stories Press 2000) and Blood and Soap (Seven Stories Press 2004), and the novel Love...