I was at the Laundromat today, watching the washing machine turn on its cleaning cycle of water and detergent when I overhead this conversation I kept having with my self:
“I don’t read difficult books. You know, the kind written by whats-his-name? that French writer, M John Harrison, or else that Chinese writer who like stole his name from the guy who wrote Moby. You know what I’m saying, right?”
The rinse cycle starts.
“Sure, I don’t read that stuff because it’s just style and no substance. Forget what Goethe said about having not one style but many styles, you know.”
The bleach enters its chosen hole.
“I know, cause I read to be entertained, to pass the time, or else to be instructed.”
“Wait. I’m not being entirely straight with you here.”
“What do you mean? You’re not like a closet artist type are you?”
“I don’t know. I mean what is genre? It’s like that Russian dog that went into space on board the Sputnik 2 to determine if a living animal could survive being launched into space.”
“Shit, you lost me there. Are we still talking about books or Russian dogs?”
“I don’t know. I’m just feeling ecstatic and feeling like I’m being lifted out of myself, which is why I read.”
The spin cycle begins.
“So you’re saying you do like difficult books?”
“Yes. I mean, why not? We’ve all faced failure and we’ve all been on the edge of destruction time after time through wars, disease, famine, natural catastrophes, political and religious pestilence. So why should a difficult, challenging, confusing book threaten us? Where is the danger? Is it because we fear we might lose our fabricated self for a more fictional self that makes more sense?”
“You bastard! You do like difficult books. Why didn’t you ever tell me? Why?”
“Cause I never really thought of them as difficult books. I just don’t have time to read the low mimetic. I just don’t have an interest in naturalistic fiction unless it’s a fruit or a veg. I want to eat, not sample. I want to drink, not sip. I don’t want to read books that get on the track, run the race, and cross the finish line. I want books to turn the world upside down, inside out, back to front, anything but the status quo. I want an interruption to repetitive thinking and predictable plots, a suspension of disbelief, a disruption to everything that is conventional and linear. I want a jolt to my DNA. I want a language show, dammit, with stage lights and shadows banjaxing reality. Why read fiction where reality and characters and plot are all neatly laid out? There needs to be room for the absolute insanity of our present-day life, the worthlessness of all our values, the beauty, the utter strangeness and complexity and incomprehension of the life around us that cannot be captured unless through a fiction that wants to. And you know, difficult books don’t even ask us to be understood or accepted. They just want to be tolerated, that is enough.”
“Shit, now you’ve made me spill my ice cream on my shirt. That’s one more thing to toss into the load.”
I drop my quarters into the tumble dryer and sit back in the bucket seat, prepared to wait for everything to come out dry and static-free.