Existentialism, Literature, sweetness of honey, Truth

Go Forth My Book Into The Open Day

Happy, if made so by its garish eye.
O’er earth’s wide surface take thy vagrant way.

They love not thee: of them then little seek,
And wish for readers triflers like thyself.
Of ludeful matron watchful catch the beck,
Or gorgeous countess full of pride and pelf.
They may say “pish!” and frown, and yet read on:
Cry odd, and silly, coarse, and yet amusing.

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From Chandelier Press

When a skirmish of practical jokes escalates, three men learn the boundary separating pranks from vengeance is drawn in dust. An eye for an eye becomes a worthless guide once they’re lashing out blindly. Caught in the crossfire of their reprisals, Vicki, a sarcastic hairstylist, must decide whether to take sides in a war or play Gandhi to madmen.

The bullied becomes the bully when Nelson pays Duncan and Tyler back for childhood torments. Such scores never stay settled. Duncan, an obsessive bobblehead collector, sees practical jokes as art. To Tyler it’s all about honor. After they retaliate, the sleep of forgiveness brings forth monsters: a blitzkrieg where suspicion dissolves alliances, mutually assured destruction is no deterrent, and unintended consequences mock all battle plans.

With war comes collateral damage. Hypnotized by a bobble-wielding Duncan, Vicki perpetrates a cruel prank against Tyler. Upon realizing she’s being used as a human IED, the enemy of her enemy becomes her boyfriend. Unknown is whether she’s chosen the right side, or if there is one.

Fantasies of Revenge are indigenous to a shadowy land where nightmares, archetypes, and bestial yearnings vie for dominion. The Sweetness of Honey charts this territory, offering the forbidden fruit of schadenfreude. “Revenge is sweeter far than flowing honey,” said Homer. Bears aren’t the only species willing to endure hardship for a taste.

One: Requiem for Gorillas

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GIWWPN Genius Fellowship Grant

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Existentialism, Ontology, sweetness of honey, Truth

Sweeter Than Honey

Sweeter Than Anything

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From Chandelier Press

If I abandon this project I would be a man without dreams, and I don’t want to live like that. I’ll live my life or I’ll end my life with this project. Herzog

Someday, life will be sweet like a rhapsody. When I paint my masterpiece.  Dylan

To what shall I liken the creative process, birth or death? Yes!  Luigi Zeripaldi

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Chapter Three: The Sorrows of Nelson

An ancient sage said no man should own more than he can carry. Clutching a Hefty bag and watching the dawn rain brimstone on Milwaukee, Nelson makes a virtue of necessity. One of his boots has no laces, forcing him to favor the other leg, signaling a weakness he doesn’t have. If consciousness is a stream, compassion is a rivulet that appeared yesterday and could dry up this afternoon. Don’t count on it during droughts. Don’t count on it ever.

He walks behind a drugstore and leans against a dumpster and searches through his bag and pulls out a pair of jeans. Is the split in the seat too big to be worn in public? Once upon a time. Not now. Amazing how standards change, like a yardstick warped by humidity. The ragged cuffs don’t reach his ankles, but they’re less awful than what he was wearing. He folds those sour shreds and places them in his bag, a tomb of Bethany from which they will one day arise with new life, when the jeans by comparison are worse.

Sunlight oozes over walls painted with cryptic symbols and spreads an orange growth in the alley, irresistible to a one-eyed cat. It makes a pact with gravity and plunges from a windowsill. On its back it stretches and writhes, in the throes of a feline vision quest, perhaps napping with a pride of elders. Contrary to popular belief, pleasure is the absence of pain. Blink and it’s gone. Don’t blink and it’s gone too.

Back on the street Nelson limps with great resolution. In lieu of rage or bewilderment or resignation, the remains of dignity smolder in his eyes. Avoid the inference. If it can happen to him …

He stands across from a bank and studies the digital clock, outraged by its testimony as if arriving from a place where Time’s obscene striptease is prohibited, the wanton display not tolerated.

Drivers watch him. Disgust hops from one host to another like some condemnation from a Universal Mind using individuals as vessels. It inflames a young man driving a pickup, possesses a woman in a Camry, then fills the faces in one shiny vehicle after another until Nelson yearns for the paradise of invisibility or at least the stupefied indifference of his fellow homeless travelers. With what talisman do they deter this demon or aren’t they superstitious?

Funny how you care what others think even when critical issues vie for precedence. A wise man said consciousness is an illness. Then being concerned with the consciousness of others is a fever in a funhouse.

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A yellow Mustang detonates hip-hop tremors across the pavement. The passenger inspects Nelson and looks away as if recanting belief in his existence. A hybrid runs the light to avoid idling next to him. For this they’re saving the planet? Should have bought a Hummer. It requires no psychic to detect thoughts piercing as screams: sentences of exile commanded by dozens of petty dictators each day. Maybe his cohorts who argue with unseen tormentors are practicing soliloquies of innocence. But their energy nourishes the scrutinizers, transforming lowly magistrates in the court of social norms into executive editors deleting names from the Book of Life.

He spits in the gutter and crosses the street. His reflection in the bank window flinches. If only some telescope could have seen this apparition approaching from the distance of ten years. He could have taken another direction. Or were other future incarnations worse? Maybe there was only one. Cold comfort until you think about it. Something made this happen. This. Hard not to take it personally.

The people inside tend an abstraction that grew from the exchange of beads for food, the way sacrificing goats to stop thunder morphed into Mozart’s Requiem. Small changes accrue, leaving few fossils. Remember that. The rest is trivial.

“We don’t have public restrooms,” says the security guard, followed by a disastrous attempt at a smile. Any juries deliberating whether pity is worse than cruelty are dismissed.

“That’s alright,” says Nelson. “I piss and shit outside. Like an animal. There’s something wrong with your clock.”

“It tells the time, temperature, and date. You can watch it for free. Outside.”

“Are you sure my eyes won’t wear it out? I’d be happy to pay for the depreciation. I have some underwear in my bag I could trade.”

On his first day the guard must have thought he’d be foiling robbers, negotiating with kidnappers, and seducing tellers who instead act as vessels of the same harsh judgments haunting Nelson. Some of the patrons turn away from the confrontation, declaring neutrality or at least indifference. Those who watch find succor from the pain that living brings, mollified by the ultimate antidepressant: Schadenfreude XR, time release, a natural tonic used by all people at all times.

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“I want to call your attention to the fact that it’s not showing the same temperature as the credit union,” says Nelson.

“I’ll be sure to mention this to the president.” The guard hands him a pen. “I’d like to thank you for your support.”

“You don’t have to be an ass. I’m trying to help. You need to check and see if anything’s wrong with it.”

“Nothing’s wrong with it. Ours is the correct one.”

“How do you know? Prove it. What if they’re both wrong?”

“Maybe you could keep an eye on our clock. Outside. If you do I’ll give you another pen tomorrow.”

“Can I fill out an application for your job? I promise I won’t mention the grade school diploma that makes me overqualified.” Nelson unzips his parka. A ghastly stench seeps out like some malevolent genie escaping a cracked bottle.

The guard steps closer until his face contorts. He remains a few feet away as though blocked by a force field. Revulsion is an instinct. And judging. He can’t help blaming Nelson for stinking and dressing this way. Everyone naturally believes we choose our traits. Some thoughts are as essential to survival as lust and thirst. Most are lies.

“There’s a restaurant three blocks up the street with a bigger sign,” says the guard.

“It has the same temperature as the credit union. This isn’t a matter of consensus. If it were, your bank would have some explaining to do.”

“Maybe the temperature is different from place to place. Why does it have to be the same everywhere?”

Nelson covers his ears and screams. Two of the guard’s neckless comrades approach, chomping gum. A teller with shooting stars tattooed on her neck and a swarm of earrings grimaces and looks away. Some tribal chieftains killed subjects who walked in their footprints or made eye contact. Talk about privilege. Bank tellers have no such rights.

“The thermometer here is wrong,” Nelson yells to the patrons. “They’re lying to you, you stupid sheep. Don’t you care?” He retreats through the revolving door. This one doesn’t lock when he’s halfway through, trapping him like an insect in a Tic Tac container. Distorted by the tinted glass, the guards watch him like mad scientists performing a biopsy of his soul. He doesn’t wait for the diagnosis. Far above, all those chemicals failing to clot in the silent and beautiful reaches of space have no idea how good they have it.

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Chapter One: Requiem for Gorillas

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Existentialism, philosophy, Schrodinger's Dachshund, Truth

Gus Sanders, Segmentarian

The gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight. They had thought with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor.  Camus

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The archetypal resemblance between the Grim Reaper’s scythe and your lawnmower, surely it’s no coincidence the Big D carries a yard tool rather than a metal-detector, .357,  or pool cue. To explain the particular, start with the general. Take a step back with Gus Sanders, founder of Segmentarianism. During a Peak Experience (aka Satori) he realized the gods made Sisyphus push a boulder because their mower was in the shop. Based on a true story.

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Gus Sanders rested his hands on bulbous knees jutting above black socks and  gulped for air. With desperate eyes he sized up his abhorrent foe, his Goliath. Its silence, a snide boast of invulnerability, mocked him more than howls of laughter. Unknown muscles in his shoulder and back twitched. He spat and probed for weaknesses. Then the fifty-sixth attack met the same ignominious fate as its predecessors.

He sought sustenance in Hate, which is not a fickle flame contingent on the fuel of man’s misfortunes but a great wind impelling warriors in all ages. His Aussie slouch hat provided scant protection from the jaundiced eye in the heavens. How many conflicts has it beheld, delighted or appalled but never indifferent. That would be intolerable. If  it doesn’t care, who does?

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Impervious, the start chord awaited, an Excalibur only the salesman could effectively extract from the LawnMaster Easy-Start Deluxe Mulching Mower. Gus shielded his eyes and looked to the horizon for strength, for perspective. The earth, is it not a vast coliseum?

Rivulets of sweat added a shimmering gloss to what he saw, but they didn’t create it. Certainly an electrolyte deficiency played a role, but not as a sufficient cause. When he attempted to stretch, the crackle from his back was disturbing but extraneous to what followed. Not all  enigmatic visions can be dismissed as pathologies. The smug little skeptics who deify first principles forget that philosophic fundamentalism is as inbred and ill-kempt as its bucktoothed religious cousin.

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Above a Bucky Badger weather-vane on the garage, cumulus clouds morphed into a ghostly figure pushing a mower across a lawn punctured by iridescent dandelions. He dissolved but the grass remained, as if to ridicule and defile the purpose of his fleeting existence. Gus collapsed. “How many hours of my life have I spent cutting the lawn?” he cried, recoiling from the leprous growth surrounding him.

Mentholated smoke wafted through the den where his wife played Mah Jong on the computer amid the sonorous thunder of “Song Sung Blue.” “Why don’t you wait until the sun goes down?”

“Because it will be dark then. We’d need to add a guide dog to the other five.” He tottered to the kitchen and poured  a gin-and-tonic sans tonic and found a scratch-pad. “Must have started when I was twelve. That’s an hour each week walking behind a deafening machine, choking on exhaust in the scalding sun. Have to do it at least twenty times a year. Forty years times twenty equals … sweet Jesus. That’s over  a month of cutting the lawn non-stop. Look at that segment of my life. Stolen. And I never would have known.”

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“Gussy, what are you shouting about? Why don’t we pay one of the neighbor kids to do it?”

“Because cutting the grass isn’t a video game, and we can’t afford the special helmets they need.” He stared at the numbers like a scientist examining a lethal virus through a microscope. “All the evidence is right here. Anyone could have found it. Unless they’re afraid or brainwashed, why haven’t they? Maybe it’s like people stuck in a communist country who have no idea how restricted their lives are.”

He poured another gin-and-tonic sans tonic and looked out the window at the insidious LawnMaster Easy-Start Deluxe Mulching Mower. Its chrome handle extruded from an orange plastic shell: a monstrous, rapacious crustacean waiting to attack him and devour more of his life. “You’ve been sucking up my time. What sane man would consent to being born if he knew his life would involve an entire month of cutting the grass?”

Propelled by the mysterious dynamism animating all beings, the analysis took on a life of its own. During his weekend shifts, Gus ignored college football, Cops, and even the adventures of Mary Weatherworth to begin a Segmentarian Critique. The calculations were simple to perform, but contemplating the sums proved no less daunting than the observation of crime scene photos. Worse than the outrage was the lack of a culprit.

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“Shaving averages out to five minutes a day since I was fifteen. If I live to be eighty that’s … Who would consent to being born if he knew he’d have to spend three months shaving?”

“Tossing and turning in bed is at least four hours a week, which comes to … another twelve months. After all these segments are chopped off, what’s left? And if the government isn’t behind this, who is? It’s too organized and systematic to be a coincidence. Has anyone else calculated  it? Maybe this is what pushed John Nash over the edge.”

With the weariness of all lonely soldiers of fortune fighting a war of ideas, Gus wishes his LawnMaster Easy-Start Deluxe Mulching Mower had started on the fifty-sixth try that afternoon. Once you start exposing life to the terrifying clarity of Segmentarianism there is no turning back. Amazing how a happenstance brush with an idea can change a man.

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“Some day all the grass will look like this. When there’s no one round to cut it, it’ll just grow and grow, all long and messy.”

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To remedy the Lawnmower Blues, contemplate things less ephemeral than your absurd chore. You, dream of a shadow, while you change the length of your lawn each week, devoting your fleeting days to glorifications of futility, the cluster of gasses recently nicknamed Jupiter remain chaotic as they were in the Permian. Oblivion is patient; permanence, relative. That even it shall die, this cherub who shone in a wondrous way for billenium, should its mortality bring you comfort, a sense of familial affinity, or despair? If nothing be permanent, then only Nothing is permanent. And ultimately triumphant. There is no Ontological anchor in Heraclitus’ rapids.

Watchman & The Mystery Box

Shi Tzu, Cosmic Yak Dog

Plato’s Cave? Big Whoop!

 

 

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Annals, philosophy, Truth

The Dialogues of Supernatural Individuation

A Deductive Exorcism of Ghosts

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So that the Reader may fully share in this glorious triumph against superstition, it is essential that he understand and fully acknowledge the theoretical impossibility of ghosts. To the philosophic novice, being theoretically impossible is a far graver offense than being physically impossible. The latter is a misdemeanor against the laws of nature; the former is a desecration of logic herself. Unfortunately, a straightforward descant would expose even the most learned to arguments intricate and arcane. Despite the technical perfection, my exposition would prove insufficient to infuse the Reader with the perplexities that assailed me or bring him to his knees with the unique awe of a grand philosophic revelation. His loss would be of tragic proportions: the argument I shall unveil is as original and profound as the introduction of amino acids into the primordial soup.

To clearly elucidate and explore this point, I have decided to demonstrate it by means of a dialogue. If the format was good enough for Plato and David Hume it is good enough for me. The Reader is encouraged to imagine himself seated at the table with the participants, actively following (perhaps even participating in) the discussion.

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The Participants

Sophia represents the voice of Reason. Scatius is a wily philosopher whose views are in diametric opposition to mine. Cretinius holds the views of the common man.

***

At a picnic table in Pulaski Park sat Sophia, Cretinius, and I. The morning sun or Sophia, which article of Creation deserved greater reverence, which was more conspicuous and inexplicable in its beauty and power? Though she was barely eighteen, to look into her dark green eyes was to confront Wisdom itself. We shared a bottle of peppermint schnapps while giant but gentle Cretinius worked the morning crossword.

“Sophia, a fascinating problem vexes me. In the realm of the supernatural, how in theory would we individuate things? How would we recognize one entity as being distinct from another?”

“What’s a two-letter word for alternative?” said Cretinius, rubbing his salient brow.

After some thought, Sophia leaned forward, revealing cleavage from the plenitudinous bosom concealed beneath her toga. “It couldn’t be the same way we individuate natural things. Consider five coins. What distinguishes each of them is their occupation of different spaces.”

“Exactly,” I said. “Now I am not asserting that spatial continuity is the only consideration, but it is essential.”

“Cretinius, that’s a terrible habit,” said Sophia, her radiant features grimacing as his finger excavated his nose.

A loud belching interrupted her as Scatius staggered into the park. His spindly legs seemed incapable of supporting the humpbacked torso upon them.

“I fear he is in his cups again,” I whispered.

“Those are sandals,” said Cretinius, his lazy eye looking up and away from the crossword.

“I wonder what views Scatius holds on your position,” said Sophia.

“And what position is that?” he said, taking a seat. The black caves of Scatius’ eyes provided the only contrast on his forbidding face to his pasty skin. Though his hair was thin to the point of endangered, his skeletal arms were covered with dense patches of beastly fur. He helped himself to our schnapps, guzzling it from the bottle.

“Driving, page-turning force” Publishers Weekly

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“I was maintaining the theoretical impossibility of ghosts,” I said. “My critique is more severe than the assertion that they do not exist. I maintain that it makes no sense to even speak of them.”

“Ah, the cheap solvent of logical positivism,” he said with a hiccup. “That’s about as original as breathing.”

“Scatius! Don’t touch me there,” cried Cretinius.

“My argument owes nothing to the lazy and arrogant positivists,” I said. “They assert that statements are only meaningful if they are verifiable. My position is that we cannot coherently speak of ghosts because they cannot be individuated by the criterion of spatial continuity. The difference between one and three of them is not a feature of the distinct chunks of space they occupy. By what criterion can they be separated?”

“Your argument is fascinating,” said Sophia, cradling her chin in her hand and batting her long lashes.

“It is interesting,” agreed Scatius.

“What about Casper the Friendly Ghost?” asked Cretinius. “He takes up space. So do the ones on Ghostbusters.”

“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” said Sophia.

“Be patient,” I said, stroking the celestial crop of sun-bleached down on her arm. “Something good will arise, non-Phoenix-like*, from his point. Cretinius has voiced the common perception of ghosts. Although we say they do not have spatial dimensions, we conceive of them as gaseous or luminous beings who occupy space in a mysterious fashion that allows them to float through walls. Unable to conceive of non-physical, non-spatial, invisible beings, we are reduced to the conceptual level of tabloid sightings and cartoons. Oh, what can comfort a man who finds himself in a town of ghosts, a town where the stern sheriff of logic is not obeyed?”

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Plato’s Cave? Big Whoop!

Scatius belched. “The answer is both obvious and devastating to your cute little argument. Ghosts can be individuated on the grounds that they have unique minds or personalities.”

Sophia turned to me and put her hand atop mine. So soft the skin. So unequivocal the yearning in her eyes. The sun beamed on its masterful handiwork: sporadic freckles on her nose, shoulders, and in the heavenly valley of her mountainous bosom.

“What’s a three-letter word for opposite of later?” asked Cretinius.

I winked at Sophia and clasped her tiny hand and prepared for triumph. “On the contrary, we cannot speak of distinct personalities unless individuation has already occurred. ‘I have seven minds but my bother has only four,’ is a ridiculous statement, but if physical embodiment is not a criterion how can we criticize it? From this it follows that we have no means of individuating disembodied minds.”

“Sophistry,” groaned Scatius, reaching for the schnapps. He finished the bottle and smashed it on the bike path. “Let me think,” he said, massaging his temples.

“Oh Petronius, your arguments shine with the light of Truth,” said Sophia.

“Here is the fundamental difficulty,” I said. “Terms such as two, many, some, and few are coherent insofar as they refer to distinguishable items. If we have no means of theoretically distinguishing one ghost from another, what sense would it make to say that there are many of them as opposed to a few, or one as opposed to three? When we attempt to determine the autonomy of entities in a domain where spatial and physical considerations can not be applied we are, to put it politely, speaking gibberish.”

“Gibberish indeed,” said Scatius, pounding his fist on the table. “You would deny what all of mankind has believed since the dawn of time?”

“He’s angry,” said Cretinius.

“Mankind does not know that what they think they believe is conceptually impossible,” I said. “It is the philosopher’s task to demonstrate this, not to encourage their folly with trickery.”

“Writer’s throughout history have documented the tragic plight of ghosts,” said Scatius, putting his head on the table. “Trapped between planes, ignorant of their condition …” He began to snore.

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Shi Tzu, Buddhist Yak Dog?

“You mean cynical hacks know a good gimmick when they see it,” I said. “The lost-ghost cliché is absurd on the face of it. After a full day without hunger pangs or trips to the restroom even Cretinius would figure out that something special had occurred. And what should we make of the supernatural dimension that stands as the basis for these tales? What could possibly transpire in a bodiless, non-physical realm? The traditional answer is the experience of bliss or a reunion with deceased family members. Has no one noticed these are mutually exclusive?”

“But wouldn’t you want to see your father again?” said Sophia, running her fingers through my hair.

“Exceptions only prove the general rule. Regarding the plausibility of the former answer: compile a list of all the types of bliss you have experienced without the use of your body.”

Sophia giggled. “There aren’t many, and the best one isn’t included.”

“Something smells bad,” said Cretinius.

“Oh my,” cried Sophia, pinching her nose. “Poor Scatius has had an accident.”

“He pooped,” agreed Cretinius, and we all abandoned the table with its slumbering defecator. “Petronius, look at the bugs,” said Cretinius with glee. Attracted to the sweet liquid from the broken bottle, a squadron of yellow jackets darted about the shards.

“No Cretinius, those are –”

I put my finger to her lips. “Sophia, when I establish my Academy, Experience shall be granted an honorary professorship. Hopefully all my pupils will be as receptive to my teachings as you. And as lovely.”

Cretinius screamed and lumbered away flailing his arms.

“Now, even if we can conceive of a disembodied state of bliss, what do we mean by bliss in this context? A state of schnapps intoxication? For all eternity? As much joy as that syrupy nectar can bring, would you want to feel like that forever?”

“Oh Petronius, let’s go for a walk in the park.”

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Petronius Who?!

*On principle I avoid all references to Egyptian mythology. As clever as they were in covering a desert with giant triangles and gruesome half-cat half-man monstrosities, their obsession with the afterworld was preposterous. How did they expect a mummy to untangle himself once he arrived in the next kingdom? Did not the removal of his vital organs and brain bode ill for his health and vigor? What were those silly people thinking?

As the legend has it, after the Phoenix set its nest afire and burnt itself to a crisp, it was reborn. Why can no modern hack go within a mile of a keyboard without making a reference to it? Verily, it is the true curse of the Pharaohs. That such a story persisted longer than one generation bespeaks the appalling poverty of imagination rampant in Egypt at the time. Worse, it is frighteningly evocative of the Buddhist monks who practiced self-immolation in protest of the Vietnam War.

A conscientious writer will only use a mythic allusion to bring clarity. If there exists even a remote chance of it evoking irritating questions regarding mummies or horrific images of suicides, then he must look to other means to make his point.

Even ignoring the preceding (and utterly damning) objections, it is not clear a Phoenix reference would have been appropriate. I want something good to arise from inferior questions. There is nothing whatsoever in the Phoenix legend about a superior bird arising. It is the same tedious, self-immolating one each and every time.

A question we shall not pursue here is how a bird can set anything on fire. Did it strike a match? Did it rub two rocks together? The Egyptians were aware that birds lack opposable thumbs, were they not? Perhaps they should have spent less time carving gibberish on their gaudy tombs and more time observing the natural world. What manner of brain-disabling deadline did the author of this puerile legend work under? Had the Pharaoh commissioned him to write a new one by the morrow? Or did he compose it after hours in the broiling sun?

In summary: a reference to a Phoenix arising would have been inappropriate, subjected the Reader to needless trauma, quite possibly ruined my otherwise splendid dialogue, and covered my hands in filth from the crime of perpetuating this cheap, contrived, and all-around deplorable myth.

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The Mushroom of Consciousness

The-Sweetness-of-Honey-cover

A Novel of Vengeance, Honor & Bobbleheads

 

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Literature, Ontology, Truth

GIWWPN Genius Fellowship Grant

Great Irish Writers with Polish Names (GIWWPN) Awards Petronius Jablonski their Genius Fellowship Grant “not for previous art but as an investment in his future.” In 2017 they nominated Mount Silenus: A Vertical  Odyssey of Extraordinary Peril for novel of the year.

Petronius Jablonski adopted his pen-name while undercover with the Sentinels of the Chandelier. His exposé of this modern cult with roots in ancient Greece was released as Schrodinger’s Dachshund to avoid punitive legal measures and worse. He regrets his nom de plume insofar as it discloses the true source of his literary excellence. In celebration of this prestigious award, plug in, pass out, and discover it’s clovers all the way down.

Jablonski “employs secrets and intrigue as a driving, page-turning force.” Publishers Weekly

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The Irish Tymes: You’ve said your ethnic-sounding name has subjected you to racism. How can you tell it’s not directed at the man who exposed the Sentinels of the Chandelier? Who else would go ought of there way to insult an author of literary fiction?

PJ: I’m not a mind reader. I don’t posit motivations beyond what the evidence warrants. I’ve deleted dozens of ghastly, heartbreaking comments from my blog, one from a “Polish homosexual” who tried to “give his girlfriend a b_____ b.” He sought advice on the proper technique. Another left an interesting comment about one of the paradoxes in Annals. I complimented his thoughtful analysis. After a scholarly exchange, he asked if it was true the Poles didn’t discover sex until the twelfth-century, having reproduced by raiding warthog litters before then. This is hate. It chills the blood. It’s changed my view of  human nature and the focus of my writing.

The Irish Tymes: It’s like you changed your identity to avoid one type of hate only to exchange it for another.

PJ: I understand the attacks from the Sentinels of the Chandelier. I know why security guards resent murderous caricatures.  Expecting any other response would be naive, functionally illiterate of how people behave. But to target a man because of a Polish-sounding name is to hate an abstraction; it’s like detesting a Platonic form. I’m baffled by this. I was corresponding with someone I thought was a Polish fan. He wrote that he was going to Rome for a vacation. Following his adventures wasn’t what I’d call exciting, but I was happy for him. Then he wrote that he became so intoxicated he kissed his wife and beat the Pope’s foot to a pulp with a shovel.

The Irish Tymes: That’s an Irish joke.

PJ: So he was a thief and a bigot. It was a cruel thing to do. Why does my misfortune bring another joy? That should be the fundamental question of Psychology.

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The Irish Tymes: Does it seem like your Genius Grant is good karma coming back to you?

PJ: Until I question the concept of karma. I’ve heard of delayed gratification but this is ridiculous. I spent much of 1993 – 2015 writing The Annals because it’s the book I’d want on a desert island. I wrote it for me. This isn’t some prescriptive declaration for other writers (quite the contrary). The idea that I deserved something for my efforts is philosophically incoherent. I’m ecstatic that GIWWPN saw enough potential in my writing to justify a generous grant. Three agents devoted years of their lives to this book. One threatened to go on a hunger strike to avoid changes an editor wanted. I’m proud to have elicited noble sentiments in others.

The Irish Tymes: Are you obligated to write something, or do they simply hand you the check?

PJ: I can’t confirm this, but I’ve heard they run background checks for evidence of “Writing OCD.” They want the writer who couldn’t stop if you put a gun to his head. Throwing money at him might have interesting results. Instead of writing and reading twelve hours a day, I’ll be shooting for twenty. The grant is a means of enabling Irish writers with serious addictions.

The Irish Tymes: How bad (or should I say good) is your Writing OCD?

PJ: Schrodinger’s Dachshund went through a thousand drafts. I’m not exaggerating. Every word was the subject of lengthy debate or violent conflict. Civil warfare scorched my soul. At one point it was fourteen-hundred pages. I went many months without sleep sketching that strange land, developing an ontology to accommodate the physics and mythology. The whole damn thing was a compulsion, like I’d been chosen to write it and phobic of telling it the wrong way. Writing novels is like filming Fitzcarraldo.

The Irish Tymes: Was it worth it? Publishers Weekly raved.

PJ: I struggle with the coherence of free will. The question is a category error if I had no choice. I haven’t been able to live like a normal man since it was published. I’m not rich. I’ll never fully recover from the years spent thinking of nothing else. I’m still in shock and fear I always will be. Some blocks of time are so vivid, so blindingly bright and real it’s impossible to distinguish between Now and Then. The past is not the past if it never recedes. That it occurred before the present is a trivial property, accidental and irrelevant to the sovereignty it wields. The rest of my life feels dreamlike by comparison.

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The Irish Tymes: Can you talk about the lawsuit with Tryposoothe?

PJ: I can’t. Wink wink.

The Irish Tymes: It’s an unsubstantiated rumor of course. One of the big pharmaceutical companies is suing you for defaming a product they haven’t yet released, a treatment for Trypophobia.

PJ: Name an unpleasant feature of human existence that couldn’t be improved — in the short term — with a benzodiazepine. This is science? This is medicine? And I didn’t defame their beloved Xanax Junior, Tryposoothe. I merely suggested an alternative explanation on Wikipedia and it went bye-bye down the memory hole. Here’s the consensus of the experts: unless you’re whistling contentedly in a cubicle you’re insane and need potent brain drugs every day for the remainder of your life. 85% of the population is “mentally ill” as of last week. Don’t question this or you’re an anti-science loon!

The Irish Tymes: I’ve actually heard estimates as high as 25%, but they qualify it into oblivion. Your next novel, The Sweetness of Honey, deals with mental illness and homelessness. What kind of research did you do?

PJ: Research? That was subtle. Well done.

The Irish Tymes: I wouldn’t assume you made it up out of whole cloth.

PJ: Of course not. And you’d never just ask, “Has that ever happened to you? Is that what happened after the mountain fiasco, or while hiding out from the cult? Isn’t that the central theme of Annals? I don’t want to tell tales out of school, but some people say …”

The Irish Tymes: One early review says it’s the most distinctive novel of the twenty-first century, prophetically dealing with tribalism, madness, and redemption from nihilism.

PJ: Novels don’t deal with issues; that’s for dissertations and Cosmo articles. I create Art.

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Petronius Who?

An Odyssey of Historic Proportions and Priceless Treasure of Philosophy

Serial Killers Who Worked Security

Who Is Maestoso the Dachshund and Why Is He Following You?

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Climbing, Existentialism, Ontology, Sloth, Truth

The Abominable Unau

MOUNT SILENUS: A Vertical Odyssey

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In search of a legendary prehistoric sloth, Jablonski developed Post-Traumatic Mountaineering Disorder. The past is not the past if it never recedes. Journal therapy didn’t help. Developed in the 1940s, it uses second-person POV to create a distance from the ordeal. Note well: brooding isn’t therapy. Calling this a novel is little more than denial.

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When we try to conceive of Nothing, whatever preceded all Existence, we invariably imagine some infinite darkness. But it could have been white, like the storm engulfing you. The spirit of chaos freed, a tempest rages, obliterating the forms of things and returning them to blurry potentiality. Nature’s volatile moods and the devastation they wreak, her apocalyptic fury in all epochs and places, a teleological interpretation must choose between wrath or regret.

Onward you hobble. The tent has to be around here somewhere. Was it necessary to walk this far in a blizzard to defecate? A dark shape solidifies in the icy static ahead. Is that the tent or are the curtains parting on the burlesque of life to allow a character from an earlier act to take a final bow? Thirty feet tall it lurches toward you, sickle claws protruding from furry stumps, long front legs stretching like the arms of a witch reaching across a table to read a palm. Through veils of snow appears a nose with the contours and padding of a leather recliner, infringing on space that should have been reserved for its tiny eyes.

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Get down, you fool! You can’t outrun it in your condition. Do you think it will understand you were screaming in agony as you collapsed, not provocation.

Allegedly erased from the ledger of life, presumed to have plunged into that mass grave awaiting us all, it stands triumphant, in absolute defiance of Time and Nature and all man’s theories and measurements, which measure nothing at all, not even man. The wind howls in disbelief at this zombie returned from the dead. It throws back its head and makes a deep gurgling noise that sends tremors across the ground.

In lieu of girding your loins, you wet them. It stoops until its nose is inches from your face. The breeze from its inhalation sucks your hair straight up. How do you appear to it, as the pinnacle of creation, the raison d’être of existence, the summon bonum of Being, a member of the almighty species who spread its fungal growth to the moon, erecting temples to vanity in the dark heavens? Does it know man hath dominion over it, or does it see a bug too big to eat in one bite?

Digging through your jacket for the knife you neglected to bring you find a burrito. Characterized by indifference to death, consoling thoughts emerge. This is no worse than any other way of dying. And I get a last meal.

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Perhaps the rigors of dialectic aren’t welcome at times like this, but being mauled by a behemoth is immeasurably worse than drifting off in a Jacuzzi or going out with a Bang! during a tryst with one of the locals. (Keepsakes such as your watch and credit cards would facilitate closure. This is an occupational hazard in her line of work.)

You take a bite of the burrito. The veggies so crisp, so scrumptious. How is the inner essence of food transmitted by your tongue to the theatre between your ears? During how many tens of thousands of meals have you never wondered? Now is the time to take stock of your life. What lasting good have I accomplished? How many times have I made love? What about the times I can’t remember because I was drunk? Was there some point to all this? 

The Abominable Unau’s nose pulsates, taking on a life of its own. How does the burrito smell to a creature whose olfactory powers are a million times greater than yours? Analogous to how Ulysses seems to you but not your cat. You offer it the rest and yank your hand back from rubbery lips. It makes a slurping sound as it chews. You reach up and touch its thick fur and rub its chest. It emits a baritone purr and licks your head with what feels like a waterbed wrapped in sandpaper. Without any deliberation you clutch its underbelly. And this is not an instinct. Momentous decisions throughout history were often free of planning, as if generated spontaneously, as if preordained or fated.

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“Jablonski is able to inject a sense of immediacy and intensity in the story by using sparse description that suggests more than it tells. An engaging narrative.” – Publishers Weekly

***

Mount Silenus is not a part of the earth but a prodigal son staying away in contempt of its lowly origins. Proof that man is not the measure of all things, it derides every notion of harmonious design. Behold this mockery of all human configurations and tremble.

Under the anesthesia of routine we slumber, impervious to life’s true nature. The constant yearning for what we lack, the urge to be free of what we loathe, chasing pleasures that vanish like dust. Are these life’s limitations or essence? Men go to absurd lengths explaining the problem of evil. In the process they sound like half-wit attorneys defending a mass-murderer. They say happenstance is a robber, free will a mixed blessing, joy more abundant than pain. Look deeper. There is a mighty force opposing our every plan, a cruel gravity smothering us, the heel of a boot grinding out the embers of our souls, a sadist cloaked in the dark fabric of existence. It is the implacable colossus of Fate. We scarcely have time to stumble onto the battlefield, much less comprehend our plight and mount a counterattack. In a few twinklings of the sun, on a day no different than all that came before, the cosmic ogre squashes us. Those convulsive growls that rend the sky, they are not thunder. They are laughter.

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Everest? Big Whoop!

Some say Fate cannot be fought, that it is entrapping as quicksand, omnipresent as the ether. Notice how the cleverest excuses and slipperiest arguments are used in defense of cowardice. Through capitulation to routine man dies an ignoble death long before his mortal coil makes it official. He forgets he is living. Combat is the supreme reminder. What is that putrid stench? Is it not the rot of man’s spirit, the smell of lies told to assuage the failure of those too craven to fight, smoke wafting from the languid den of routine addicts? To wage war against Fate one must locate the most auspicious outpost and launch an attack. That fortress is Mount Silenus. A battle calls. Warrior, arise!

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Petronius Who?

Serial Killers Who Worked Security

The Temple of 11,111,117 Holes

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Existentialism, Nihilophobia, Ontology, sweetness of honey, Truth

The Sweetness of Honey

A Novel of Vengeance, Honor, and Bobbleheads

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One: Requiem for Gorillas

“He will be remembered for his sense of humor, his smile, how he loved to fish,” says the priest, as if citing an obscure beatitude. Blessed are they who cast their line from crowded piers. Memory of their deeds shall endure. Bonus points for smiling.

A hulking police officer walks across the altar and whispers in his ear. They confer, a pantomime of confusion and urgency. The officer takes the microphone like a reluctant karaoke singer. “I regret to inform you that we need to vacate the church. Starting with the back row, everyone please head to the parking lot across the street.”

A man scrambles from the first pew and stands before them. His suit leaves few details of his physique to the imagination, a reasonable goal for bodybuilders, which he is not. “What’s going on?”

“We’ve received a bomb threat,” says the officer.

“Is it real?”

“The people who call them in never say they’re fake. Wouldn’t be much of a threat.”

“This is Duncan Brandle,” says the priest. “It’s his father’s funeral.”

“No offense, but our concern is the rest of the gathering.”

Clouds of incense swirl above the departing bereaved, tie-dyed by a stained glass window where Michael the Archangel tramples Satan. If victory is assured, the game is rigged. What’s the point in playing? Two representatives of Schroeder & Sons push the casket toward the door.

“He’s not at any risk,” says Duncan.

“That depends on the blast,” says Schroeder Jr.

“Only the Althea Deluxe is designed to withstand explosions,” says Schroeder Sr.

“It would be disrespectful to leave him,” says the priest, putting a hand on Duncan’s arm. Center stage to all acts in the burlesque of life, a classic venue almost giving them respectability, the church is soon empty, no different than it would be after a baptism or wedding. The show must go on.

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Beneath a neon taco across the street, a dark veil of mourners shrouds the hearse. Duncan stands on the curb watching cars drive past. To everyone else this is just another day. Blaring rap and dragging its muffler, a rusty Honda parks in the lot. A man with the body of a chicken emerges like some mythic creature the ancients neglected to chronicle, its deeds eclipsed by centaurs and gryphons. It attaches a chicken head and retrieves balloons from the trunk and skips toward the gathering honking an air horn.

A cloud absorbs the sun. Gasps from the crowd could be mistaken for the hissing of its extinguishment. The Schroeders study this unusual expression of grief. Is it a form of denial, anger, bargaining, or an eccentric cousin from New Orleans? Hard to say. The path of life offers no guidance for the impending cliff, only distractions.

“Is there a Duncan Brandle here? I’m Chirp the chicken.”

Some cultures acknowledge the shame of misfortune. Some pretend not to. Duncan sees the others watching, feels the third-degree burn of their judgment. “Who sent you?”

“Are you Duncan? Turn that frown upside down.” The balloons it releases expand and diminish like Jellybeans thrown into a pool. It blasts the horn and hops around on scrawny legs wrapped in yellow spandex.

When it squats and shits a silver egg two officers run across the lot and tackle it. “This might be the bomb,” shouts one. “Everyone get down!”

An armored man from the bomb squad waddles toward the egg. His partner circles it on a Segway scooter. Splayed bodies surround the hearse like linemen after a botched play. An ant crawls across a sliver of sun on the concrete beneath Duncan’s arms, from darkness into a patch of light back into darkness. Sound like anyone you know? Others follow, their paths labyrinthine, their obscurity abrupt.

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Navigating a gully between Taco Hut’s parking lot and Walgreens, five adolescents peer over stacks of boxes. “Who ordered the pizzas?”

Duncan stands and removes his jacket. Sweat stains have transformed his shirt into the globe of another world. Drops trickle down his sunglasses, leaving crystal footprints. “Where are you supposed to deliver them?”

“The party outside Taco Hut. We had to park a block away. The cops got half the street closed off. Double anchovies and pineapple, right? They’re paid for but you can’t get them until you say hurray for Peppy’s.”

Duncan removes his shades. Red capillaries surround black holes with blue halos. He rubs his eyes as if massaging a sprain. What’s the right thing to do, or is this a singularity where social norms no longer apply? “I’m not saying it.”

“You have to. The guy who paid used the promotional coupon.”

“Did he leave a name?”

The boy puts his boxes on the ground and rips a label off the topmost. “It reeks like something died,” says one of his fellow deliverers.

“Anchovies are foul,” says another.

An elfin woman with white hair puts a vein-mapped hand on Duncan’s shoulder and apologizes for leaving. He apologizes for her need to apologize. Schroeder Jr. says he’ll take care of the pizza misunderstanding, says that’s what he’s here for, says, “Hurray for Peppy’s.”

“I don’t want the damn things,” says Duncan. “Who’s going to eat them?”

“Some people like anchovies.”

“But not pineapple.”

Like a tortoise trained to walk on its hind legs, the armored man places the suspicious egg in a metal drum on a trailer with a long hitch. He goes across the street where the police are interrogating Cluck. One officer speaks to the priest. The arched entrance of the church dwarfs the two watchmen, sentinels of different territories. Through a bullhorn the officer calls everyone back.

Duncan walks behind the others, alone with his thoughts like a blind man in a stampede. Some wonder why his father is dead, why now rather than in ten years, why this type of cancer instead of another. No one asks why he was alive, or why anyone is. Perhaps the ceremony quells the anarchy of Reason, the way coronations prevented revolutions.

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The priest extends a hand to Duncan. “Come on inside,” he says, mouth agape, his eyes captive to a hijacker demanding an impossible ransom from his senses. Duncan turns to the source but the discreet elements fail to congeal.

Some things are not the sum of their parts but only the parts and cannot be melded by our minds or caged by our concepts: a gorilla, a pink tutu, a safari hat, handfuls of glitter. “Sorry I’m late. Is there a Duncan Brandle here?”

“That would be me,” says Duncan, looking over the ape’s shoulder at a Walgreens employee smoking a cigarette and playing with her phone. The day Icarus fell from the sky was just another day too.

“I’m going to do a little dance, then I want you to try.” Several mourners form a semicircle. The gorilla does the Boogaloo, the Swim, and the Mashed Potato. Duncan watches as though mesmerized by the shaman of some primeval tribe.

Far above, illuming ants and primates alike, contingent and transitory as both and cursed with the fragility this entails, the cluster of gasses recently nicknamed the sun seeps across the boneyard of Time toward its own demise.

Available from Chandelier Press

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Sweeter Than Anything

 

 

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