O, foul insouciance!
O, untethered Gen-Y disrespect!
I harbor you, my former youth,
my brightly imagined future regrettably now undone.
I see your ten and raise you none.
O, foul insouciance!
1) A few weeks ago, a male acquaintance of mine introduced me to an acquaintance of his. My acquaintance introduced me as a fiction writer. The new guy said, “No, thanks, I prefer reality.”
2) Today, a co-worker noticed the novel sitting on my desk. She said that 99% of her reading is nonfiction and that she prefers true stories. I said that all fiction is true. “No, it isn’t!” she said. “I prefer factual things.”
We know virtually nothing about the universe. We know very little about our brains. We know a few things with some certainty (this is called history). We highly suspect that there are some universal, moral truths.
Everything else is conjecture. You are safe reading fiction.
Sometimes, depending on what I’m writing, I search out a website or two that lists major events for whatever year or years I need. I read over all the events and try to just let them sink in. This helps me feel more a part of whatever character or scene I’m writing. Every time I do this, though, other sensations arise—sensations connected to concepts like timelessness, angst, awe, and The Great Human Narrative. I read along for 2008: “On April 14, the Human Genome Project is completed with 99% of the human genome sequenced to an accuracy of 99.99%. . . . On May 10, the May 10 tornado outbreak sequence takes place. . . . On May 26, only three days after a previous record, Sherpa Lakpa Gelu climbs Mount Everest in 10 hours, 56 minutes. . . . And on June 1, The People’s Republic of China begins filling the reservoir behind the Three Gorges Dam.”
And, if all that isn’t enough, on June 27, “The United States National Do Not Call Registry, formed to combat unwanted telemarketing calls and administered by the Federal Trade Commission, enrolls almost three-quarters of a million phone numbers on its first day.”
Then I start mentally putting in exclamation points after all the entries:
“July 2: Silvio Berlusconi, Prime Minister of Italy, insults German MP Martin Schulz by calling him a “kapo” during a session of the European Parliament!”
“July 22: Members of the 101st Airborne of the United States, aided by Special Forces, attack a compound in Iraq, killing Saddam Hussein’s sons Uday and Qusay, along with Mustapha Hussein, Qusay’s 14-year-old son, and a bodyguard!”
“July 30: In Mexico, the last “old style” Volkswagen Beetle rolls off the assembly line!”
“August 10: Yuri Ivanovich Malenchenko becomes the first person to marry in space!”
“August 27: Mars makes its closest approach to Earth in nearly 60,000 years, passing 34,646,418 miles (55,758,005 kilometers) distant!”
I mean, all of this is so incredible(!) And after reading pages and pages of entries, I see how even recent events seem historical, even ancient, as if a story is being told to me about some other civilization, not ours.
Which brings us to the aliens. Clearly, we are their experiment(!)
Physician, n.: Paid assassin.
Intellect, n.: The ability to reason: that which distinguishes humans from superior mammals.
Enemy, n.: Former friend.
Fiction is one of the few experiences where loneliness can be both confronted and relieved. Drugs, movies where stuff blows up, loud parties—all these chase away loneliness by making me forget my name’s Dave and I live in a one-by-one box of bone no other party can penetrate or know. Fiction, poetry, music, really deep serious sex, and, in various ways, religion—these are the places (for me) where loneliness is countenanced, stared down, transfigured, treated.
—David Foster Wallace