Dead Souls

Dead Souls

“A rather handsome, light traveling
carriage on springs rolled into the
gates of an inn in a certain provincial
capitol”—Nicolai Gogol, Dead Souls

When did it start happening? The feeling that I was surrounded by dead souls? It was at a party I think—full of gay, witty, opinionated and sophisticated littérateur friends of mine. It was in the early ‘90s and I was enjoying myself schmoozing with everybody—when all of a sudden I realized they were all dead souls.

It wasn’t the drinks or cigarette smoke or anything like that—it was just a strange twinge of uneasiness that grew as the evening passed. Finally I had to leave and on the way home—I thought about it. But not very much—that’s why I left. I didn’t want to rain on anybody’s parade. Or get maudlin or sloppy or melodramatic about anything as silly as a minor—very minor—intuition about the party crowd.

Later on window-shopping on Broadway looking at some nice jewelry in a picture window—the same feeling came my way. Except it was the strangers walking by. My attention for some reason shifted from window-gazing inward toward some exquisite turquoise rings and art deco bracelets—to gazing outward at the passerby couples and people walking behind me. They were all dead souls.

This is back when the epidemic had no name—back when safe sex was yet to be while most of the Capitol Hill community had no idea what kind of plague was descending on the city. The cities. I’m not a moribund person—even though I’ve always kept to myself. I told my lover about it—and he just shrugged. We both pretty much were homebodies—and the workplace sucked up most of our time and energy.

I wouldn’t call it premonition—or anything like that. This strange feeling about lost souls. I don’t really think that crystal balls, Tarot cards, palms or anything like that can really predict the future. Nor have I ever met a famous clairvoyante—somebody like T. S. Eliot’s Madame Sosostris in The Waste Land.

It wasn’t until I read Nicolai Gogol’s “Dead Souls” that I started thinking about it. Or rather not-thinking about it. I mean, after all, I wasn’t that much of a horror film fan. Nor did I read much Anne Rice, Clive Barker or any of that horror genre stuff really. But Gogol’s “Dead Souls” was a different story.

“Dead souls” comes from Russia before 1861—the plot revolving around a certain Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov who comes up with a rather modern Ponzi scheme of buying “dead serfs” from the landowners in between periodic censuses—relieving the owners of the tax burdens of these dead serfs and later mortgaging them fraudulently.

It caused quite a flap, the censors were incensed and it brought up the whole idea of the existence of the human soul and if it were worth anything. Was there really a soul in the Russian Orthodox sense—or was it all a social scam about serfs, slavery and the evils of 19th-century Russia?

Personally, I saw “Dead Souls” more as a poshlust phantasmagoria—like Gogol’s “The Nose” and “The Overcoat.” Part satire, part parody—purely literary. But what made me feel uneasy was the feeling I had at the party and window-shopping—the feeling that for some strange reason I was surrounded by corpses. Dead souls that could walk, talk and act like me—but who were actually dead already. Which is what happened to many of them—during the fateful ‘90s.

I wasn’t a wheeler-dealer in dead souls like Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov—nor was I very good at surrealist improvisations like Gogol’s “The Nose.” After everything was said and done—much of Capitol Hill had turned into a morgue—only then did I start thinking about dead souls.

Gogol’s Ogling Eyeball

Gogol’s Ogling Eyeball

“There once was a man named Nicolai
Who thought he was a Nose, I cannot lie
Those Ruskie prevaricators
Such unreliable narrators
Autoplagiarists so very sly”

To make a long story short—I got “gogolized" by Nicolai Gogol. I couldn’t help myself after I read “The Nose”—and then I went overboard with “The Overcoat.” You can look it up on Google—the sordid story of my Gogol existence.

It started one dark and stormy night—while reading Lewis Carroll’s “The Hunting of the Snark.” Maybe it was the word “Snark” that started it all—seducing me down into the depths of Gogol’s Ogling Eyeball.

Pretty soon like Kafka’s “Metamorphosis”—I was transformed into what can only be said to be worse than a crawling Cockroach. Worse than Gogol’s Nose or Gogol’s nightmarish Overcoat. I became “gogolized” into something worse than Gregor Samsa, Akaki Akakievich or Ivan Yakovlevich.

In short—I became Gogol’s Ogling Eyeball.

It goes like this—ogle, ogle, snarky wave, ogle, ogle, snarky wave, fantastic climax, ogle, ogle, and then back into the chaos from which it all came from. At this subhuman level of art, literature is basically a pitiful underdog—to be cursed and reviled by all literary critics because it comes from that realm of “dark and stormy night” fantasy where ships pass each other in the foggy inky shadowy darkness of the Sea of Snarke.

Gogol was born in April Fools Day in 1809—which perhaps explains why he was so Snarky. Born under such a dismal star—no wonder he became such a well-known snarky writer of fitful fiction. Kapmist, a contemporary writer, having read a poem by Nicolai written when he was five, told his parents that the solemn urchin would be a tragic writer of genius if only he could find his Snarky muse.

The Snarky muse is a troublesome Task Mistress. Snarke Literature skirts the irrational—schmoozing with the grotesque. It sucks you into the nightmare Black Hole where even light and gravity as well as the Drudge Report and FOX-News disappear into its depths.

The superficial reader of this story—will probably see me helplessly “gogolized” by Nicolai—into a hoity-toity babbling buffoon. Solemnly denouncing the horrors of Neocon Bureaucrats, the poshlust Ponzi scams of Bankers, the poor trusting people who believed in the Stock Market. But Gogol’s Nose and The Overcoat—they’re really much more than that.

Give me the Snarky Reader—this is a tale for them.

Cynical Orwell, matter-of-fact Roth, restrained Graham Greene have had their moments of Snarky insight. When novels blur into dystopian satire—then suddenly shift into parody. As Vladimir Nabokov said—“Satire is a lesson, parody is a game.”

When Gogol tried to be like Orwell, Roth and Greene—trying to write in the literary tradition of rational satire and critical dystopian—he failed. But when the skated on the thin ice across the depths of his own private abyss—he became more then just a great Russian writer.

To skate on thin ice—means to glide over the abyss. With Gogol there’s this “jerk and glide” method—as Nabokov says in his Russian Literature lectures. You’ll be gliding along in a lyrical lullaby—then suddenly the ice breaks open like a trap-door.

Then there’s this sudden absurd free-fall down into Nothingness. But the skating continues—with different shades and degrees of absurdity. It may seem comic and quaint—but absurdity has many levels of icy stillness to skate through the night on.

To fall through the ice—to then next level of absurdity. And to keep your balance—no matter how weird the absurd abyss gets. That’s the trick of a true Absurdist—for the ice is thin and there are many irrational levels to the absurd depths.

There’s the absurdity of the hapless barber Ivan Yakovlevich who lives on Voznessensky Avenue and the plight of the Petersburg lowly civil servant Akaky Akakievich. There is no premonition—no hints of the precise date or under what circumstances the metamorphosis will take place. These things remain a mystery—for Ivan, Akaky, you and I. It may seem odd, somewhat recherché—but it would be a waste of time searching for how the absurd happens in a natural or rational way.

The truth of the matter is that we’re all perpetual titular councilors of the ninth rank—amid the fourteen ranks into which our Absurdist Service is divided—a rank as everybody knows which gets sneered at and held up to scorn by all sorts of poshlust pricks and bourgeois bureaucrats in the habit of Snarking those who can’t Snark back. Our day-to-day imagination—melds, morphs and meanders seemingly forever in the waiting room while our superiors can best be described as frigidly despotic.

Perhaps it’s best that way—being unaware of the presence of our tormentors and office politics. For we would only probably shudder when we’d perceive just how much “1984” inhumanity there is in others, how much suave sophisticated savage “Brazil” brutality lurks behind the most refined, cultural POTUS schemes and country club manners of the head clerks and TPTB.

Isn’t it better to be an Ogling Eyeball—seeing nothing but the clean lines of your own sharp-edged steel blades slicing through the moonlit ice of the night? Seeing, saying nothing but your own neat lines—tracing whatever Providence happens to send you one line at a time? Deliberately skating beneath the Petersburg gray sky—making a copy of yourself as you slip down through the icy thin surface. To the next level—the Double of who your might be next?

Gogol’s style is so simple—completely different from Tolstoy, Pushkin or Chekhov. After reading Gogol—one’s eyes become “gogolized.” One sees bits of his world—suddenly, unexpectedly. There’s a rent in the texture of things—gaps, holes, frisson-like fractures in the façade of things. An absurdly logical force holds everything together—but it’s really just thin ice.

It’s like a new Overcoat or the Emperor’s New Clothes. It’s like Humpty-Dumpy—once fallen can’t be put together again. All the king’s horses—and all the king’s men. All the beltway lobbyists—and precarious Ponzi schemes. Akaky Akakievich’s new Overcoat is just a dream—covering the utter futility, futile humility and futile domination that embodies the world. The world of thin ice—that Gogol’s style breaks through.

To perform such a writerly somersault—to gogolize oneself through the thin ice into the next level of ogling intelligence? To dive non-discursively in search of black pearls—and monsters of the Id depths? To apprehend the three-dimensionality below—beyond the flat icy surface of Flatland pulp fiction?

To de-persuade ourselves from our pseudo-physical treaties and agreements with ourselves? Is such an extravagantly entangled indulging in the contortions of our so-called rational world surrealistically possible—one might ask.

Could such a style or fashion of Akaky Akakievich’s Overcoat be actually a “taking-off” rather than “putting-on” of the cloak? Instead why not a “disrobing” by casual camp—tiptoeing through the tulips of parody?

How prodigiously powerful the usual ghost story can be—the Hollywood version of “The House on Haunted Hill.” The ingenious way Vincent Price strips away—the façade of his token marriage and the tacky accord of all his limousine-arriving “Important Person” friends.

The pale sallow faced Elisha Cook Jr.—the frightened clueless guests spending an exceedingly troubled night commiserating over their tacky unhappy lives. The peculiar needs of the Bottomless Pit—the insubordinate floating skeleton slipping out of nowhere. The Grade-B movie bathos—the desperate need to escape. Seldom has suburban “disrobing” had such a downward spiraling slippery-slope slide—into the darkness beneath ghostly Obukhov Bridge.

How relevant is Gogol’s “The Overcoat” to Vincent Price’s “The House on Haunted Hill”? No more than the haunting effect of irrelevant details like the rush of “full-grown young pigs” rushing out of private Petersburg homes—or the hypnotic effect of one’s realization that Gogol’s story “The Overcoat” is a deliberate mask—that both Vincent Price and Akaky Akakievich both exist based solely on the strength of lacking a cloak or narrative or marriage.

What was lost describes a vicious circle—and like all vicious circles the story discloses the queerest of paradoxes. Things pose as overcoats, noses and marriages but really it’s just storytelling—ogle, ogle, snarky wave, ogle, snarky wave and back again into the chaos from which it all came from.

“The Nose,” “The Overcoat” and “The House on Haunted Hill” appeals to the snarky depths of the human mind—knowing that the shadows of other worlds beneath the thin ice pass like giant nameless pike far below, soundless ships of the deep sliding through the darkness.

Waterboarding in Windermere

Waterboarding in Windermere

“Someone must have been
telling lies about Joseph K.,
for without having done
anything wrong he was
rudely arrested.”
—Franz Kafka, The Trial

Today the Grand Inquisitor—
Came into my room, but soon
As I heard his footsteps I hid
Under the couch like a cockroach!!!

When he saw I wasn’t there—
He started calling and shouting
“Joseph K.!!!” Then “Poprishchin!!!”
Naturally I didn’t say a word.

Then “Axenty Ivenov!!!”—
“Titular Counselor!!! Nobleman!!!”
Still I didn’t reply; then he shouted
“Isabella the Eighth!!! Queen of Spain!!!”

I thought of sticking my head out—
But thought better of it knowing
He was trying to fool me but it was
Too late—the Inquisitor had seen me.

He drove me out with a Taser—
Then prodded me with a Cattle Prod!!!
But I knew full well that indeed—
I was the Queen of Spain—the real one!!!

The Grand Inquisitor left me—
Threatening me with horrible awful
Waterboarding in the near future
Which left me in a rather bad mood.

I haven’t the strength to endure—
Not much longer anyway, good Gawd!!!
What have I done to deserve all this?
Why do they torture me all the time?

My head’s spinning—everything’s burning!
Save me!!! Take me away from here!!!
Quick a Troika!!! Whirlwind swift horses!!!
Get me away!!! Guantánamo Bay, oy vey!!!

Evita Perón!!! Please save me!!!
Imelda Marcos!!! Sweep me away!!!
Dhey of Algiers!!! Do they know?
There’s a big wart—under your Nose?

That’s when the torture began—
The incessantly maddening awful
Waterboarding in a dingy room
At the infamous El Gaucho Motel

I got special treatment you know—
After all I was the Queen of Spain
Even though they thought it lame
For me to act like I was some dame

It’s lucky I had plenty of practice—
Vomiting and upchucking and barfing
You would too if you were me
All my lovers such lousy losers!!!

It was then during one of the sessions—
Between fainting, recovering and fainting
That I heard Oscar Wilde’s lovely voice
So gay, so enchanting and sympathetic

“What a dump!!!” were her first words—
Look at those shabby worn curtains
Either they or I simply have to go
It’s worse than that Paris dive, my dear!!!

Oscar consoled and comforted me—
Fanny my poor fevered forehead with
Lady Windermere’s Ostrich-Plumed Fan
Whispering sweet nothings in my ear

Bosie that no-good little spoiled Fop—
Was off playing the horses as usual
Wasting away his family fortune and
Losing his good name Lord Douglas

The Importance of Waterboarding—
Done with great care and skillful
Earnest was devastating to my
Royal poise and bearing as Queen

The Spanish Armanda floundered—
It’s assault on Queen Elizabeth failing
Leaving me stranded in Guantánamo
Caught up in campy Caribbean carnage

Confessions of a Cockroach Boy

Confessions of a Cockroach Boy

“When Gregor Samsa
woke up one morning
from unsettling dreams”
—Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

It was simply awful—much worse than being transformed into Gogol’s nose or Kafka’s cockroach or Roth’s breast. It was the worst Oedipal thing that could possibly happen to a young man. It wasn’t a matter of adolescent hormones or desire—it was a wretched curse. An epistemophilic impulse—that appropriated my body and soul.

If puberty is a boy’s entry into the symbolic order of Adults—then my situation was just the opposite. Suddenly I found myself not knowing what I was—at least until that first shocking ogling look into the smirking bedroom mirror.

There’d been a hideous metamorphosis, so to speak—a naked nightmare that could never find any closure. I looked at myself in the mirror—I’d become a huge male organ with a gimpy pair of legs, a couple of bulging bloodshot eyeballs and ugly veins and arteries oozing and wiggling up & down my phallic girth and grotesque length. It was just awful—it was ten time worse than being Gregor Samsa.

It was like an Oedipal House of Cards tumbling down—there went any kind of sexual pleasure or desire for lovemaking. Not that I was a Romeo or anything like that—I wasn’t a virgin but I wasn’t exactly God’s gift to women either. But then what eighteen-year-old chicken is? I was still naïve and in the middle of having nocturnal wet dreams. In fact, it was right after waking up from such rather embarrassing emission—that I discovered my maddening erotic metamorphosis.

Was there any connection between the two—the wet dream and my 5 foot 6 inches of tense engorgement into muy macho Maleness personified? There I was standing nude in front of my bedroom mirror—a totally obscene taboo erotic monstrosity. I wanted to grow up to be a man, of course—but this kind of undignified naked maleness was simply ridiculous. I was literally the embodiment of ultimate masculine subjectivity. I noticed with horror that my new phallic body even had a pair of erect quivering blushingly pink nipples!!! And they were pierced!!!

And to make matters even worse—I could feel the additional weight of blood coursing through my new body making it difficult to move. The more I looked at myself—the more erect I got. Where was all this burgeoning blood coming from—was there no end to my stiff-as-a-board hard-as-nails Erection? My legs grew weak—I started getting faint.

And then to make matters even worse—I had one of those terribly embarrassing uncontrollable Ejaculations!!! Ten times worse than my usual normal All-American Boy unconscious nocturnal emissions. I had no control over it—it was like a weird wet dream out of the blue!!! It was like an Act of God!!! A Killer Hurricane like Katrina—a devastating meteor explosion like the one in Siberia known as the Tunguska Climax, excuse me, Explosion that flattened everything for miles and miles around.

My shy thin teenage hips went Hiroshima-esque—I felt a megaton of goop squirt all over my bed and laptop. It was just awful—awfully nice. Kinda. But in the middle of such unexpected orgasmic overflow—my mother knocked on the door reminding me I should hurry up and get out of bed to go to school. Luckily I always locked the door—but I’m sure she heard what must have seemed like a bilge pump hard at work emptying the ferry Gobbledygook down at the docks before sailing for Bonebridge Island across Peter Pan Bay.

How could I possibly go to Schmuck High School looking like this?—I said to myself on the floor looking up at the splattered ceiling. I’d be the laughing stock of everybody in the gym class—all of them leering at me and calling me “you vain, self-loving, dandified prick!!!” [my emphasis added]. After all it wasn’t a case of exquisite male beauty—it wasn’t like being Rilke’s “Archaic Torso of Apollo.” Especially the last line—“You must / change your life.” The what-if had already rudely happened—nobody’s imagination could comprehend my prickly pusillanimous predicament!!!

Not only that—there was the gay gym teacher and the fag wrestling coach. They had phallic cravings that went beyond the beyond—one look at my mysteriously erotic masculine
“engorgement” would surely cause a riot down in the locker room where polymorphously obscene things went on all the time anyway—the exquisite doomed sense of lost innocence that precedes a perfect ejaculation.

Knowing that it would be fruitless to avoid the ceaseless appetites of the gay gym teacher and wrestling coach as well as all the nelly nascent fags and closet-case voyeurs in waiting—I felt helpless and frustrated knowing the insatiable size-queen desires I’d create down in the basement shower room and lockers. To say nothing of the fem-butch bipolar disorders I’d create with a mere twitch of my transformed body—or the nightmares I’d probably cause in the form of scandalous post-traumatic syndrome horrors after school was out.

I heard my parents drive off to work—and all I could think about was their shock and horror if they could only see me now. Surely they’d ship me off to some carnival full of freaks—where they’d show me off as the new Prince Radian the ugly stump with no arms or legs. Except with me it would be slightly different—at least I had a pair of spindly legs. And a pair of tits that could pass for a pair of nice pick nipples. Although the rest of me would surely get all the attention—sequestered in some secret tent hidden in some sideshow back-alley dive flopping around in the sawdust like Olga Baclanova the squawking cross-eyed Chicken Woman!!!

To think—the rest of my life fetishized in the leering eyes of lascivious slobbering rubes in the dismal shadowy dumps of some Topeka, Kansas fairground or Nebraska farmboy cornfield quickie? To be nothing more than the embodiment of lewd gendered male gangster gaucherie. To be a mere irrevocably kitschy masculine monstrosity?

Talk about No Exit—No Escape for the Wicked. To be the object of quack scientific studies, to be put on TV, Youtube and FOX-News, to become the parody prick of worship by the Oprah Show, fickle Freudians and Las Vegas Liberace striptease acts. To be constantly disrobed in front of strangers, to be propositioned for porno films, to be written about in the NYTimes and laughed at in the Blogosphere.

To even think about such things—filled me with the awful fear and self-loathing of my brutal claustrophobic predicament, worrying me to no end, thinking about the way the inevitable events of my Prickhood could pile up so quickly and unexpectedly to only one thing: a life with no purpose or meaning.

I could do nothing but lie there on the floor—dreaming in a kind of deluded daydream full of post-climactic depression and ennui. I drifted off into La La Land—daydreaming I wasn’t “real” and whatever happened to me this morning wasn’t real either. It must have been like tuning back into the power that had transformed me in the first place—creating this creature that I’d so rudely become.

I’d become a creature of my own perverted teenage imagination—somehow I’d got detoured along the way by some sort of nefarious nocturnal emission, some strangely coincidental synchronistic morphing of nightmare and reality. It had all happened to me like a ray of light—fixing on me this morning like a klieg light in the sky announcing the premier of some new creature-feature at the Roxy. And that I’d become just a minor character on a decadent Hollywood screen—waking up still playing the part of some sick playwright’s unnatural Caliban delight.

Time passed—it must have been an hour or two. But somehow it was time enough—to transcend the horrible condition that I’d fallen into. It must have been a dream all along—I said to myself looking around. There wasn’t anything “heroic” about being human again—for all I knew it could happen again any time without a hint of what was to come. For all I knew—it could be something even worse than what I’d been before. Worse than a cockroach—worse than a nose. Worse than a…

It was as if I’d been given—some kind of weird Joker’s anatomy lesson. The old signs of femininity and masculinity had changed—both heroic and absurd and comic and tragic. These were actually consolations to me now—after my sense of self had been breached so crudely and cavalierly. Whatever or whoever did it to me—must have had a sense of parody and perhaps satire. But I was only a kid back then—so I immediately pulled on a pair of pants etc and took off for school. That whole day—everything seemed different to me. I was glad just—to be me.

The Troll

The Troll

“Something very
peculiar happened today.”
—Nickolay Gogol,
Diary of a Madman

Something very peculiar happened today. I got up rather late, had my enema and my usual scotch and soda. I would’ve gone to the office—but someone would surely have said “Why are you always in such a muddle?”

And it was true—I’d have been rushing around like a madman and making a mess of my work. The devil himself wouldn’t be able to sort things out. I’d be gossiping with all the secretaries—about the awful thing that happened to me that morning. I’d be yammering away forever—about that tacky Troll who was stalking me.

To make a long story short—the only reason I’d turn on the infernal machine in the morning anyway would be to see if I got any email or what the latest gossip was in the Literary chat-group I was in. We were discussing Miss Nabokov—that wretched snarky creature from Petersburg, the same Russian city that Nickolay Gogol lived in while he was a young writer. It’s amazing how many famous writers were bureaucrats like Gogol and insurance salesmen like Franz Kafka. No wonder their stories and novels were so paranoid, labyrinthine and dystopian-esque.

Naturally, I was shocked—simply shocked beyond belief. It was worse—ten times as worse as the snarky posting the troll had published the previous day in Melba Toast, our little book chat-group. There it was right there in the middle of my erudite discussion of Nabokov’s dark gloomy novel Bend Sinister—sticking out like an ugly sore thumb for everybody to see!!!

“Stupid faggot.”

That was bad enough just seeing what the Troll posted about me—enough to make me cringe in fear and loathing under my desk. I was so frightfully embarrassed that I hid my face in shame for at least a minute or two. Despite all my diligent careful closetry—despite all my most cloying attempts to adhere religiously to the draconian “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” dictum that came down from on high. Yes, my dears, there it was—worse than a terrible Nathaniel Hawthorne “Scarlet Letter” branding my poor blushing furrowed forehead!!!

My greatest most fearfully hidden secret revealed for the whole world to see. The whole blithering Blogosphere sneering at me—knowing my deepest darkest hidden secret!!! I hid under my bed, then I hid in my closet, then I called in and said I simply couldn’t come to work that day. I was so mortified and full of shame that even my pet parrot squawked and scolded me for being such a stupid idiotic despicable faggot!!! Even my cat hisses at me!?!

But that’s not the worst of it. Today of all days—the same thing happened. The Troll left another simply hateful message just to torture me some more—but not in the Fiction Forum where at least I felt somewhat safe from the mean old world out there. More safe than in the Sports Forum where I’m sure I would’ve been found out simply ages ago and given surely a thousand lashes with a wet noodle!!!

No the Troll didn’t post in the Fiction Forum or the Sports Forum—no, no, not there Nanette. The Troll did something much worse than that!!! He simply had to post in the Gay Rights Forum didn’t he or she? He or she just had to compound my misery and embarrassment a thousand times over by posting in the Gay Rights Forum which was totally and completely Forbidden Territory for me.

If the secret got out, my dears, there in the Gay Rights Forum—then surely I’d lose all my hard-earned nelly self-respect and any kind of pride I might have had in regard to Literature and Poetry!!! After all, I’d been striving online since Pale Fire on the NYTimes to keep from appearing like a pale pusillanimous pussy when it came to opining about Great Books and Hoity-Toity Literature!!!

Nevertheless, the tacky Troll just had to rub it in and torment me even further. There it was ogling like a bloodshot voyeur’s bulging Eyeball from the screen:

“I'm latently gay,
which causes me
to lash out.”

I was crushed, simply crushed. The audacity of the terrible Troll to call me a “stupid faggot”—and then justify it by saying that the reason he lashed out at me was because he was indeed a faggot too!!! That he couldn’t help it—that some kind of sick latent homosexual compulsion had caused him to lash out at me so rudely and snidely. That way he could get away with it—it would be like one nelly fag calling another nelly fag a “stupid faggot” and everybody would laugh at it thinking it was a coy in-house knowing kind of dish.

Naturally or rather unnaturally I was simply flabbergasted by such an uncalled for and spiteful “Hate Crime”—all done with just a couple of cute little innocent one-liners. Actually I admired such butchy bravado or was it bitchy braggadocio? Was it a “he” or a “she” or an “it”—was it some miscellaneous bitchy queen from SF or some hairy humpback from Wichita? Was it one of the usual suspects—some sniveling whiney Peter Lorre prick from Casablanca? Or maybe it was one of the old office douchebags—with sagging nylons and pinched constipated faces? So many tarts & trolls—so little time.

The thing about tacky Trolls is that they hide behind masks—skulking behind cute one-liners and coy snarky dishes doing what they do best. Doing the only thing they’re good at. And what’s that, you ask? Being incognito nincompoops—that’s what.

Please don’t get me wrong—some of my best friends are naughty nefarious nincompoops. Like Dinzel and Klintorius—over in Melba Toast. And now Oilcanbody. Especially Oilcanbody—everybody knows how much I get turned on by white trash Jiffy Lube boyz. I get cheap lube jobs almost every weekend down at the St. Petersburg Pit Stop—next to Denny’s and the Wal-Mart. I’ve got lots of Oilcanbuddies down there dontchaknow. So gay and greasy!!!

Kafkaesque Notebook

Kafkaesque Notebook

“One man then said: why do you resist?
If you followed the parables, then you
Would become a parable yourselves,
And thus free of your daily cares”
Another said: “I bet that is also a parable.”
The first said: “You have won.”
The second said: “But unfortunately
Only in parable.” The first said: “No,
In reality; in parable you have lost.”
—Franz Kafka, “A Message from the
Emperor,” The Great Wall of China

Parables are so much easier than letters—no stamps to lick, no sticking the letter in a mailbox, no inevitable waiting for a reply, no hoity-toity desire to see it published, no imaginary dead writer to read it or write it—like Jack Spicer writing to Lorca, a purely rhetorical device for whatever literary reasons, perhaps to frame some kind of narrative, serial or otherwise, setting the stage for disembodied discourse—but then isn’t that what parables sent perambulating into the aether are all about anyway, I said to myself.

Kafka had sent a message, directly from his death bed, all the way to me alone, his pathetic admirer, me a mere shadow taking refuge at this furthest distance from his dark Kafkaesque midnight sun, posting his message in my dream, not really caring if I wrote back to him, confronting me with the reality of his pessimistic parable, all the aether walls dissolving, all the great writers of the empire standing back hushed, while I dreamed Kafka’s paranoid message, thumbing its way down the vast fast-moving information highway, the speedy autobahn full of modern day VW Beatles and Cockroach Mercedes SUV's, driving fast out of Berlin.

Mystifying me, making its way tirelessly through the marvelously futile Blogosphere, forcing its way into the innermost inner sanctum of my crummy little bungalow, fighting its way into my caffeine-headache early morning consciousness, oozing its way into the palatial interior of my little love-shack dream ego, bursting through the innermost fluttering eyelids of my delta rhythm blues, delving deeper into the royal precincts of my cerebral capital city, piled high with ruins and dead fish from Hurricane Katrina, pushing further Kafka’s message moving deeper & deeper into my dead man’s dreams, waiting for the man who never comes, expecting the metamorphosis that never happens...

Kafkaesque Film Review

Kafkaesque Film Review

“They die—Dead!!!
I die—Alive!!!”
—Bela Lugosi,
Son of Frankenstein (1939)

What does it mean to be Ygor?

It means to live—a kind of living death. Ygor knows his fate isn’t simple—but he has a talent for portraying his nightmare-like inner life. He does this much better in Son of Frankenstein rather than Dracula.

Ygor is still living in a gloomy dumpy castle—with secret passageways and crypts below ground near some fuming hellish sulfur pits. There’s an old Count Frankenstein laboratory down there—and a special hideaway for the Creature.

Ygor asks the Baron’s son for help—to revive his friend from a deep monster coma. He got out one night during a lightening storm and got zapped by a lightening bolt right into his neck-bolts. What a orgasmic thrill it was—but it was too much even for such a huge terrible monster. He’d been half-dead half-alive ever since then—with Ygor worrying about him like an old woman.

Frankenstein’s monster tries to please Ygor—but he doesn’t have any energy left. Lightening is his mother—and he needs another shot of joy juice. Basil Rathbone struggles with his guilty conscience—but is persuaded to move forward with his father’s daring experiments. Ygor hangs out in the background—like a jealous lover. He knows he’s just an old aging hunchback—with a bone in his throat from a mishandled hanging.

Ygor wants his big brute lover-boy back—in fact in another episode in The House of Frankenstein Ygor wants his brain to be transplanted into the Creature so that he can escape his crippled body and have some fun around the joint.

But what is it like to be a Monster? Monsterhood is an exciting, wonderful livelihood—terrorizing the countryside and getting revenge for Ygor on the Burgomaster and his cronies. Ygor plays his crummy little flute—and there’s the Monster played by Boris Karloff mostly in a reclining position. But he manages to get it up and move around—thanks to Basil Rathbone and all that art deco electronics down below the castle. One by one Boris knocks off each petty official in Frankensteinville—all the creeps that had poor Ygor hung by the neck.

What’s it like to be a Monster—stitched together like a rag-doll with human arms and legs and all those squishy organs inside? To be reborn and not know who you are—except that your body is constantly struggling against itself and your brain belongs to a serial killer from Budapest? Nature embraces you with dubious binding spirits—and surely it’s the devil in disguise that peers at you from the mirror?
Being a Monster must be like the Living Dead—none of your organs no longer knows anything about where they came from or who once enjoyed this or that throbbing once-alive organ? It must be truly a bonfire of vanities—your whole body craving enjoyment but discombobulated so much that you don’t know what’s up or what’s down?

Kafka says that that’s what a writer constantly experiences—he dies and does not live like normal human beings. He’s a monster—an ungeheueres Ungeiziefer!!! A monstrous vermin—a creature that has no home. An unclean animal—unsuited for sacrifice & without a place in God’s order.

To be a writer and sacrifice yourself to the demands of literature—what does it mean? It doesn’t lead necessarily to happiness and expansive joy. More than likely—it leads to a kind of living death. A writer is a kind of living dead creature—for whom the living must flee and who’s thus condemned to homelessness.

Like tortured Gregor Samsa in The Metamorphosis—a writer is not-this and not-that. He’s not really a cockroach—he’s really Kafka in drag. Kafka the writer—playing the game of dead doppelganger. The double who came in from the cold—the man who wasn’t there.

Why does a writer write—surely not just for enjoyment? Who would enjoy writing or living The Metamorphosis—if you didn’t really have to? According to Kafka, writing for the writer is only suffering—“through which he releases himself for further suffering.” Who would want to put himself or herself—through such endless condemned irreparable estrangement? Surely not you or me? Surely not Ygor or the Monster—or the hoity-toity Basil Rathbone? It seems so counter-intuitive—to do business this way.

It’s just a story some say—The Metamorphosis is just a short story, a game, a silly little parody, a throwaway dystopian joke. But Kafka took it seriously—he survives the death of Gregor Samsa. It helps him contemplate his own death—and surviving Samsa’s death prepares him for new deaths and survivals.

Kafka dies a lot—the clarity of the deaths are usually pretty successful. He ransoms himself story by story—novel by novel. He pays himself his own royalties—and gambles away the rest of his life. Did he know he’d die of TB—at the early age of 41? His whole writing career seems to be—like a rehearsal for his funeral. “All my life I have been dead, and now I shall really die.” He ends up like Samsa under a couch—nothing but a bag of bones & dust.

Is writing a rehearsal for something else—is it like getting rid of one estrangement and replacing it with another? Taking on one alienation—and playing it out with words and performance art? Late capitalism seems to be coming to a rather inglorious skanky end—full of Ponzi schemes and economic sleight-of-hands greedy goblins. Goblins, goons, trolls and thugs—under the bridge in Nabokov’s Bend Sinister. Tyrants like Paduk proliferate like flies—and can be bought for a dime a dozen. Political estrangement and alienation—seem to trump just about everything. What would Kafka—write about us today?

Kafka-esque Interview

Kafka-esque Interview

Interviewer: How did you become a Cockroach writer?

Kafka: Well, after awhile it became clear to me that the most productive direction for my being a writer was to be a Cockroach. Everything pointed toward Metamorphosis. Everything rushed in that direction and left empty all those usual human abilities which were directed toward the joys of sex, eating, drinking, philosophical reflection, and above all music. I atrophied and devolved—or rather metamorphosed in all these directions toward being a Cockroach. My development is now complete and, so far as I am concerned, there’s nothing left to sacrifice.

Interviewer: In other words, you practice Cockroach Literature. “Cock Lit,” as you call it?

Kafka: That’s correct. I don’t think of writing as a type of philosophical reflection; instead it constitutes a “way to scuttle across the kitchen linoleum floor late at night”—it’s a practical insectoid orientation. It’s possible that writing might lead to the one goal that matters: “to become a dead Cockroach and finally to answer to the Great Bug Exterminator” himself. In other words, by becoming a Cockroach writer I would become thoroughly displeasing and disgusting to all, and, to be sure (here comes the scuttling kicker and even more surprising winged flight in the darkness) so disgusting, that, without sacrificing a single drop of love, I would become finally, the sole sinner who could not only be squished underfoot, but also could parade the meanness that dwells in me, in us, openly, before all eyes. And of course, all monkey-brained human beings are such sick voyeurs—they love to be shocked and insulted by their own ugliness, death and cockroach lit.

Interviewer: Is that the Insect talking?

Kafka: Look around. Human “law” consists of monkey-brain preferences, desires and moral ideals—what they want to do and not do. We insects don’t think about wanting and doing. No, no, Nanette. Not that. The “court” of human beings is simply a monkey-brain mishmash of perceptions, discriminations and judgments contributing to one’s monkey-brained POV—whether before the highest court or down in the gutter with monkeys and baboons. The so-called “court of Man” is really just a baboon troupe. A vaudeville show—full of pink & purple bare-assed mandrill manikins.

Interviewer: Do Cockroaches have a sense of Good and Evil?

Kafka: I can’t speak for other Cockroaches—but I personally don’t believe in good and evil. When I first became a Cockroach, I was still thinking like a man. Then gradually, my senses metamorphosed away from monkey-brained sensations like acute eyesight and being a biped who could run up and down stairs and catch the subway to work. Over time all that faded and I achieved an original state of innocence—having nothing to do with self-reflecting monkey-brain thought. I forgot all about Schiller, Hölderlin, Kleist and Novalis—instead I assumed the clearest “adversarial” position possible. It’s only on the far side of monkey-brain knowledge—that the real difference begins.

Interviewer: What do you mean difference?

Kafka: The differences that matter—the “real differences”—have to do with monkey-brain concepts, conceptual work producing more monkey concepts, pervasive and deficiently conceptual things like monkey knowledge of good and evil, the production and acquisition of such monkey-brain knowledge, the accumulation and archiving of such monkey-knowledge—along with the perverted so-called evolutionary assembling of images, simulacra and logical monkey phantasms that have haunted the tortured monkey-brains of mankind since the somewhat recent puny Pleistocene. Insect consciousness, on the other hand, goes back much further than the last Ice Age and other glaciation encrustations that drove the poor monkeys deep into the earth to doodle away their time down in the dark stinky caves of Lascaux.

Interviewer: You mean the lovely Lascaux cave paintings?

Kafka: Poor monkey artistic pretensions. They’re the only species that think they can corrupt or participate in alleged intercourse with the natural or metaphysical or spiritual world. Metaphysical to monkeys means “meat”aphysical—as if dancing dogs could conjure up magical worlds by their ridiculous, indecent, revolting nakedness, mating in heat and invoking some kind of positive-seeming aura in the world. As if “dogdom” or “monkeydom” and prolonged fasting and singing (“angel-doggery” or “angel-monkeyshines”) could give human beings an excessive sensitivity to time and space, a certain over-blown magnificence which only seems like a different reality brought over into this world completely beyond their senses. The truth of the matter is simple—monkey-brains is No Exit.

Interviewer: The quest for transcendence is a monkey-brained delusion?

Kafka: Think like a Cockroach. Monkey-brain feints toward transcendence produce an aura of abysmal rhetoric—and negation through a series of conceptually articulated monkey-brain states of affairs—like falling down a stairs. Being a Cockroach is a matter of lowered expectations and a more ancient minor literature. The movement is toward deconstruction, demythification and disarticulation of typical unreflecting monkey-brained thought. At least that’s what happened to me—during my recent Metamorphosis.

Interviewer: What is monkey-brained thought?

Kafka: Monkey moments have their own monkey logic that’s manifested and then swiftly disappears. Monkey moments are communal like a baboon troupe travelogue. There’s an aura of fabulous and even archaic allusion to some idealized community that’s transcendent. But long ago ants, termites and cockroaches achieved that evolutionary transcendence of One Mind. A bee hive, a termite colony, an infestation of cockroaches, excuse me, a cockroach colony—these are the only successful communal Minds at work that have survived on this crummy planet.

Interviewer: Monkey-brains is simply momentary?

Kafka: The only way the Monkey moment achieves transcendence and a heightening of the whole of monkey existence into a Oneness—is when it metamorphoses into a single Negative. Like Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden. The monkey-moment goes Whoosh!!! and Bingo!!!—and I suppose some sort of monkey-transcendence is achieved. On a somewhat smaller scale a single monkey-moment Mind perhaps gets achieved—like when everybody on the Titanic all together had one sudden gasp of death when the ice-cold water seized and paralyzed their lungs—as they slowly sank down deep into the cold North Atlantic Ocean that fateful night after hitting an iceberg. All the way down to the bottom.

Interviewer: What a hateful thing to say.

Kafka: Hateful? Look at what I’ve had to endure—suddenly without warning or premeditation being metamorphosed into a lousy stinking Cockroach? What a hateful thing to happen to an innocent law-abiding hardworking Wal-Mart salesperson!!! And then to get stuck and held captive in my own bedroom—hatefully denigrated by my father, mother and sister. Even the lousy cleaning woman calling me a “stinking old cockroach.” Have they no shame—these people I supported for years, paying the bills, paying the mortgage, paying the insurance, paying the price of a poor unmarried son enslaved to a bunch of tacky parasites and ungrateful leeches?

Interviewer: But you were a Cockroach?

Kafka: Cockroach, Smockroach!!! Was I nothing more than a monstrous brute—reduced to nothing more than a loathsome insectoid existence of Being-Hated? Was that what my existence had become overnight? “Being-hated-to-death”? Quarreling with everybody and being punished for my unexplainable unexpected despicable existence? Could I help it that I had a couple of nervous twitching antennae? Some ugly little insectoid feet to run away from them with—to hide under a couch or bed in my locked bedroom? My ordinary Wal-Mart salesman life brought to a suddenly negated screeching halt—no unemployment benefits for a crummy Cockroach? My whole existence thrown down into an abysmal pit of suffering with oblivion hanging forever over my head?. Death by somebody’s ugly stomping boot—or the wicked cleaning woman’s vicious mean broom? Did they bring in a doctor or even the village schoolmaster to come see me—and come up with a decent diagnosis or helpful prognostication for my well-being? Was it my fault that suddenly—out of the blue—I became a disgusting loathsome hated Cockroach?

Interviewer: How can you speak—and still be a Cockroach?

Kafka: It’s easy. All insects are telepathic. Bees, bugs, silverfish, nightcrawlers, termites, fleas, bedbugs, mosquitoes. We’re all telepathic. Haven’t you ever seen a gnatswarm in motion—dancing in the summer sunlight like a happy Calder mobile? The same with all bugs—does that bug you?

Interviewer: Sorry, I just was wondering.

Kafka: I’m constantly in contact with all my cockroach brothers and sisters—living and breeding there behind the wainscoting and fading wallpaper. The more things rot and stink—the more lively we become. You should hear the lovely serenades each night behind your humming little refrigerators—you think crickets and frogs make heavenly music? Forget Beethoven and Mahler—we’ve been serenading the stars since the Paleozoic Era and long before that. Wise up, chump. Time to Evo—not Devo!!!

Interviewer: What’s it like being a Cockroach?

Cockroach: I can barely really have a thought anymore—because I simultaneously forget what it was I was on the verge of thinking (a process Nietzsche discusses in his Untimely Meditations). And so whenever I begin expressing myself—I don’t conceptualize it until afterwards. Thus I can only think by failing to think—and then afterwards it makes sense. Does that sound counter-intuitive?

Interviewer: Huh?

Cockroach: To be an insect is to be a machine of expression. Capable of disorganizing monkey thought, disorganizing the forms and content of monkey-brains. So that it frees up an intense material of expressive energy—separated from monkey expression. Insect expression breaks forms, encourages ruptures and new chirpings. When monkey-brain thought is happening, one must reconstruct the content that will necessarily be part of the continuity in the order of things. To rupture, to think out of the box—monkey-brains must fail first. Then insectoid thought comes into being. I’m halfway there—being a Cockroach writer.

The Cockroach

The Cockroach

“The dream reveals the reality,
which conception lags behind.
That is the horror of life—the
terror of art.”—Franz Kafka,
Conversations with Kafka,
ed. Gustav Janouch, New
Directions, 1969

It’s hard being a cockroach. But that’s what happened to me. I woke up in the morning in bed—it was just awful. At first I thought I was still just dreaming—surely it wasn’t true. Surely I wasn’t a monstrous Cockroach!!!
Surely it was just a Nightmare—it was just another unsettling dream? Surely I was still a man—just a man simply dreaming I was a Cockroach? Surely I wasn’t really a Cockroach—dreaming I was a man? Surely not that. Surely it was just a freakishly lucid daydream—maybe I’d caught a fever at work? After all, I was a Wal-Mart salesperson—surely I’d caught a “bug” from the creepy crowds. Excuse me, a germ from one of those flea-bag cheap customers?

I squeezed my eyes tightly—but they wouldn’t close. For some reason, I didn’t have any eyelids anymore. My eyes were on the sides of my head—instead of in front. I couldn’t see the ceiling—only the faded bedroom wallpaper with puke-pink roses and ugly ogling begonias.

“What’s happened to me?” I said to myself. This was simply terrible—it was a Nightmare come true. I couldn’t wake up—I seemed to be doomed to be a lousy crummy Cockroach. Thank goodness I’d locked my bedroom door—people were already waking up. First mother knocked on the door—reminding me to get up and have breakfast. Then my father pounding on the door—to wake me up and get me going to the office. Both insisted I get up right away and go to work—after all I supported the family as a Wal-Mart salesman. I was the sole support for my lovely family—they depended on me to pay the bills.

I’m being facetious, of course—they weren’t really people. They were actually Insects—disguised as people. They were clever at it—somehow magically metamorphosing themselves into People. But they were really Insectoid Creatures—Pod People in Disguise. So was I—but we all kept it secret. How else can human beings survive—in such a Cockroach World? Let’s face it—each family is a Termite Colony. A bee hive of poshlust primitive Breeders—bent on one thing. Doing what Breeders do best—insanely insouciantly turning the world into one big Cockroach Factory.

But something awful had happened to me—I’d lost the Grand Illusion of being Human. For some strange reason, the mysterious Veil of Creationism had been ripped asunder—revealing what actually was inside each and every one of us. A Cockroach. Was it bad karma or de-evolution that had done this horrible thing to me? Lying on my back—a carapace as hard as armor plating? My pitiful scrawny little legs—wiggling helplessly in bed? It was just awful—being a Cockroach in my own bed in my own room in my own home. A shudder of insectoid déjà vu went through me—my so-called monkey-brains had betrayed me. Traded me in on something—much more ancient and insectoid.

Pretty soon the Health-Insurance Inspector was pounding on my bedroom door. He threatened to cut off my healthcare benefits if I didn’t get up and go to work. After all, half of what I earned went to support the insurance racket—all the administrators, salesmen and secretaries. Plus there was all the other insurance companies—house insurance, car insurance, life insurance, death insurance and fart insurance. As well as mortgage insurance and funeral insurance. It quickly all added up—until I was always in the hole and owed everybody money.

I was shocked when I tried to respond to all the people pounding on my bedroom door. It wasn’t my normal voice—instead it came out as a nervous, insistent, distressed chirping sound like a cricket. It badly garbled my words—it was my new Cockroach syntax and semantics. I loudly cleared my throat—trying to give the impression to the people outside the door that I had a bone in my throat.

What was I supposed to do—spread my wings and fly away? Cockroaches could fly—maybe so could I? I tried to flip on my side somewhat gracefully—but rolled out of bed and flopped on the floor instead. I was totally shocked to see under my bed—my supposedly long-dead younger brother who’d disappeared last year. He yawned at me and told me the Awful Truth—“Now you know.” For he too had been metamorphosed into a Cockroach—hiding away under my bed for all this time.

“You’ll get used to it,” he said. “Just keep the door locked and ignore the rest of Cockroachville. Sooner or later, they’ll give up and leave us alone. They’ll slide food under the door every once in awhile—and pretend we don’t exist. It runs in the family, dontchaknow. Metamorphoses, that is. Once you’ve gone Cockroach—there’s no turning back. I’ll show you how to sneak out at night—and raid the Refrigerator.”

Next the doorbell downstairs rang—it was the office manager. He demanded to know why I didn’t show up for work on time. He joined my family knocking insistently at my bedroom door—all of them in a state of panic and distress. The manager threatened me with my job at Wal-Mart—after all the economy was in the pits. People were losing their jobs right and left. And I’d be the next to go—if I didn’t hurry up and get to work. The manager even tried to peer through the keyhole—suspecting something suspicious going on inside my bedroom. After all, what was all that scratching sound going on inside there—and all that chirping coming and going?

Mother Dearest starting sobbing and crying—“There’s
something wrong with my Little Son in there. Surely he’s ill or sick and dying? He always gets to work on time—we’re just torturing him if he’s not feeling well. Then my father agreed with her—shouting “Quick! Get a locksmith! There’s dying animal in there—I can hear it inside my son’s bedroom. All that insane insect jibber-jabbering—it just doesn’t sound like him at all!!!”

I managed to somehow slide my Cockroach body—up the side of my chest of drawers, then along the wall, over to the locked door. My little Cockroach leg pads were exuding a sticky green substance along the floor. It stunk with a sickening skunk smell. It smelled like a strange combination of sweet licorice and rotten fish. And yet my new Cockroach nostrils quivered in almost orgasmic delight—at this new oozing smell of stinky Cockroach Ode de Cologne.

I finally got to the door but had no fingers to turn the doorknob or turn the key that locked the door. So I bent down and used my jaw—puncturing my tender palate painfully so that a black oily fluid oozed down my lips onto the floor. It hurt awfully bad, but somehow I managed to unlock the door—and show them the real me. The first one to see me was the busy-body Manager—who backed away in shock and disgust. Gone was his office manager braggadocio and Wal-Mart bourgeois hauteur. He vomited over the stairwell railing—looking back at my pitifully sad situation.

Mommy Dearest fainted in the hallway—while my father clenched his teeth and waved his hairy fist at me. But then uncertainly he looked at the manager and then his wife—finally breaking down in sobbing tears. Not knowing what to do—or what to say.

“Well,” I said, rather calmly. “Let me get dressed after a nice shower and shave—and then I’ll be off to work, dontchaknow. Business is business—and I’m just fine. Who needs one of those pesky reasonable accommodations? I’m not a cripple or handicapped person!!! Just wait and see—I’ll be back to work in a jiffy!!! I’m more than grateful for my job at Wal-Mart—just give me a decent chance!!! I’m not a “cocky” Cockroach—I’m just your normal grateful run-of-the-mill Top-Notch Salesman!!! My condition surely won’t hurt sales—gimme a chance, you’ll see!!!”

Holding onto the doorknob with one of my twitching antennae—I pleaded with the Manager who was slowly backing down the staircase. Unfortunately, I tripped over my Mother who’d fainted in the hallway. I fell on the floor—face to face with my poor Mommy Dearest. Suddenly she woke up—and jumped to her feet. She started screaming—“Help!!! Help!! For Gawd’s Sake!!!” She went running into the kitchen—knocking over a pot of coffee running down her leg. She screamed bloody murder—staring back at me.

“But Mother, dearest Mother”—I chirped sadly to her. “Don’t you recognize your poor son—down here on the floor?” But it didn’t do any good—the Manager was already creeping backwards very slowly down the staircase. His chin was on the banister—taking a last look back at me. I scuttled after him—I had a running start. My new Cockroach legs were perfect—for scuttling on slick hallways and linoleum floors.

I had to detain the Manager—and explain my Metamorphosis to him. I didn’t want to lose my job—my family needed the money. The Manager looked at me as if he’d been suspecting the worst to happen—easing his way backwards down the stairwell to get away from me. Suddenly he lost his nerve—and turned around running pell-mell down the stairwell. He’d seen enough—to scare the shit out of him. There went my cushy job—at Wal-Mart!

My father was simply frightened to death of me—brandishing a butcher knife at me & trying to force me back into my bedroom. My hysterical mother threw open the kitchen window—and plunged 3 stories down into the dark alley below. Luckily she fell on top of her neighbor emptying her garbage—breaking her fall but breaking the other old lady’s neck. Suddenly everything grew silent—the ratty old worn-out curtains in the kitchen were fluttering out the window in the breeze.

I could see it was going to be rough times ahead for me—me and my miserable Cockroach existence. After all my years as a successful up-and-coming Wal-Mart automobile and tires salesperson. But now I could barely manage to scuttle my way back to my room—sliding sideways through the doorway and closing the door with one of my gimpy legs. It was just awful. Metamorphosis wasn’t for pansies—that’s for sure. I was simply exhausted by—all that human angst and desperate despair out there. I collapsed immediately on the floor—trying to catch my poor Cockroach breath.

“Told you so,” my young Cockroach brother said—scolding me for making such a family scene. “You’ve really blown our cover now, big time baby,” he said.

Beyond Performance Art

Beyond Performance Art

Using the “poshlust parody” style of Gogol and Nabokov is just one way to do Snarke performance art. “Queer Quiche” was simply a rather modest example of that style.

Another Snarke performance art style is Proustian:

“They came to my mind pell-mell and I felt that that must surely be the hall mark of their genuineness.”
—Marcel Proust, The Walk by Swann’s Place (1913).

For example, last night I couldn’t sleep. It was a long Saturday night. I looked up at the bedroom ceiling, smoking a cigarette. Watching all the cobwebs drifting nonchalantly in my lonely Miss Havisham bedroom. The rotting wedding cake was leaning against the wall and young Pip had stood me up for our usual card game with Estelle by going out for a slutty date with the girl next door.

In the middle of moping and meandering through this rather moody midnight session of myopic insomnia—a couple of short stories suddenly popped into my mind. It’s funny how it worked. I was propped up in bed with pillows, not being able to sleep—my normal bitchy Nabokov-Gogol muse flat as a flat tire. The monsoon rain was beating on the window—another boring Saturday night.

There I was in my puce kimono—the silk one with the pale puce fuchsias. All dressed up—and nobody to blow. Did I say that? That’s not true—I wasn’t some old Raymond Chandler—playing Solitaire in a dumpy hotel room entertaining some bellboy. Although some may think I’m rather lewd—doing parodies like “Queer Quiche.”

Although I have been slumming in the Blogosphere lately posting louche ditties like “Rough Trade”—

And trashy Mormon boyfriend confessional stories like “My Mormon Boyfriend”—

As well as campy Hollywood Babylon film reviews like “High School Confidential”—

These next two short stories are performance art parodies of two short stories by Vladimir Nabokov: “Basket Case” based on “Signs and Symbols” and “Thugs from Topeka” based on “Cloud, Castle, Lake.” (Collected Short Stores of Vladimir Nabokov)

What’s Proustian was the way they came pell-mell to me writing in bed—which gave me the feeling that surely such spontaneity must have been the hall mark of their genuineness.

All of these somewhat skanky poshlust performance pieces blogging away in my decadent dying brain cells are simply shameless diversions to entertain myself. I can’t help it—I love to ogle at my douchebag doppelganger on the internet screen. You know what they say—publish or perish, my dear. So amidst all the ruins and rubble of my daily perishing psyche, I do this shameless plundering of my bourgeois boredom, excuse me, performance art.

“The Basket Case” is based on Nabokov’s sad story “Signs and Symbols" and a shorter rather campy piece called “Thugs from Topeka” is based on Nabokov’s devilishly dystopian story “Cloud, Castle, Lake” about my favorite crummy poshlust Red State stuck out there in the middle of nowhere. Please never go to Topeka, Kansas—Dorothy doesn’t live there anymore.

The Basket Case

The Basket Case

“The shadows of his simian
stoop—the monstrous
darkness approaches”
—Vladimir Nabokov,
“Signs and Symbols,”
The Collected Stories

He was a basket case. That’s why they kept him in a wicker-basket. To protect the world. He was only sixteen-years-old. But one could see how blotched and full of ugly varicose-veins his hands were—reaching through the openings of his wicker-basket prison.

He resembled a caged beast—but he had a noble Roman nose. He had a cocky disposition and a head of dark curly hair. He had 3 eyes—one ogling big one in the center of his forehead. It never slept—it constantly ogled at whatever moved. He wanted to tear a hole in the wicker-basket and escape—but he of course couldn’t do that.

He was inventive though—hypnotizing the maid, his older sister, the dumpy tutor. He did it by staring at them with his big beautiful sorrowful ogling third eyeball. It was truly captivating—and so seemingly innocent. Deceptively so…

He resembled Prince Randian the Human Torso in Todd Browning’s Freaks. He could roll a joint with his lips and tongue—all he needed was somebody to light it for him. His quiet demeanor was so captivating that his innocent victims were seduced into lifting the lid of the wicker-basket and giving him a better view of the world. From there and from then on, he exquisitely schmoozed his way into the good graces of just about any woman, aided by his exceptionally inventive inquisitive 12-inch tongue.

To feel his tongue devilishly divagating and gesticulating inside your lolitaesque inner sanctum was truly a theme song without end—dozens of variations on a Theme by Laptinni. He knew how to drive his cute young tutor absolutely hysterical to the point of insanity. He taught her more things than she could ever teach him—it was a grotesque masterpiece of oral compulsion along with torrents of wild three-eyed ogling depravity.

He had no shame—nor did his older sister who took advantage of his young innocence and immense tongue. She’d take him out of his wicker-basket at night—and take him to bed with her. She put him through regular sessions of cunning cunninglingus by sitting on his face for hours while manicuring her fingernails. He could reach the ultimate truth of her being. He pried the tight lips of her chick-lit life-story slowly open with his tongue and bad attitude. And when she pulled his tongue out—there was a long juicy POP!!! Long strands of saliva and murky mucous still connecting him to her obscenely.

His sister suffered from insomnia which isn’t difficult to understand, considering that her gimpy stump of a younger brother could be easily had. He had no arms or legs, no fingers or toes. He was helpless as a little Teddy bear—and so very vulnerable. She took advantage of her younger brother’s deformity and got addicted to his giant Zeppelin tongue with zither music in the background.

He was shameless after being used and abused by his shameless older sister for her own nefarious purposes. He was without pity for anybody by the age of 16 and was fond of humiliating young nurses and maids who worked in the mansion. He’d become an incorrigible sex-maniac and his prodigiously endowed tricky tongue was totally shameless, ugly, gifted, vicious, backward and tantalizing. He took the joy out of life for every girl and woman who came into this twisted orbit—turning them into obscene addicted primal poshlust Monsters of the Id who needed him much more than he needed them.

“I can’t sleep,” his sister would say, locking the door.

“Can’t you ever get enough?” he’d say.

“I need it bad tonight,” she'd say, slipping off her nightgown and turning off the light.

“Better see a doctor,” he’d say.

“Doctors can’t cure me,” she’d say. “Only you can.”

She’d pull him out of his wicker-basket and get him into bed. She’d use the usual aphrodisiacs on him to get his tongue erect, loose and lascivious. Pretty soon she was paying him for it—vast sums he demanded for his services. He was her knave of hearts, her jack of spades, her ace of clubs, her bestial younger brother.

He was the Boy with the X-Ray Eyeball—the leering ogling bulging one in the middle of his forehead. It ogled and ogled, bulging out so much that sometimes it popped out of its socket. It would pop out just as his sister went into convulsions. It would slide its slimy way up around her erect nipples, snaking around her body like the tentacle of some perverted outrageous octopus in search of cheap thrills. Then he’d slurp it back up into his forehead—with an obscene juicy POP!!!

His sister would get her hands on him—sticking her gnarly forefingers deep into his ears. She used his ears as handlebars—as if she were driving a big ugly motorcycle hog. “Oh Big Daddy” she’d scream—getting him to ream her inside-out and upside-down. Riding him like a jockey rides a racehorse down the homestretch—the parents in the next room snoring away oblivious to the midnight madness next door.

Word spread throughout the neighborhood—not a single nubile young Cinderella could wait to get laid by the Kid with the Twelve-Inch Tongue. That third eye was a real attention-getter too—winking at them with the most garish ingenuity. They did setups on it, twirled around the world on it, tried to squeeze and strangle it to death. His tongue grew stronger and more muscular—each chick cancelled their membership to Gold’s Gym and became gynecological slaves to the gimp upstairs. Not bad for a basket case…

Thugs in Topeka

Thugs in Topeka

“Cloud, Castle, Lake,”
tells a tale of the individual
hounded by a group of German
tourists. A Russian émigré wins
a trip in a lottery…”
—Priscilla Meyer, “Nabokov’s
Short Fiction,” The Cambridge
Companion to Nabokov

I was simply a modest, mild bachelor—
Minding my own business—who happened
To win a pleasure trip given by Melba refugees

It was in 2009 or 2010—the Kansas summer
Was in full blowtorch heat taking pity on nothing
Turning everything brown except the sparrows

I didn’t want to go anywhere—so I tried to sell
The ticket at the office of the Bureau of Trips
But was told I needed permission from TPTB

The Ministry of Transportation told me that—
First I’d have to get a lawyer and draw up a
Complicated petition and get a notary stamp

And besides a so-called “certificate on absence
Or non-absence from the city” had to be obtained
From the local police department immediately

So I sighed some and decided to go after all—
My hair neatly trimmed, my eyes blue and kind
Trying to remember my name “Vasiliy Ivanovich.”

The trip was dull, the bus packed with creeps—
Most of them Melba Exiles looking for escape from
The Topeka heat and the Red State scummy smog

A lanky blond young Jesus Freak stood out at once—
His sunburned face cockscomb-red and his bulbous
Boozy nose gleaming in the sun as if lacquered

I knew I was in trouble when I sat there and opened
A small volume of Nabokov and got frowned at by
The moiling mob who only read National Enquirers

Two of the fidgety women sitting next to me both
Had big mouths and big rumps while Schultz tried
To make them right away in the back of the bus

There was a dark cripple who looked like Goebbels
With lusterless eyes and a vague velvety vileness
Who turned out to be a spy for the Bureau of Trips

The bus wheezed its way out of the state capitol—
Leaving behind the dreary dome moping moodily
With its John Brown murals and crummy staircase

A couple of cyclists were nonchalantly run-over—
Splattering the sides and windows bloody damp
That caused squinting as I felt askance by it all

I was stunned by the tormenting din as evening
Fell over the soiled seasick interior of the tour bus
With green cucumber vomit running down the aisles

Greta an old witch with malevolent eyes sneered—
As if she had my number in her little black book
Looking down her snooty crooked pimply nose

I studied the grace in the motions of silverfish
Scuttling along the floor beneath my feet trying
Not to squish them like Schultz with his boots

Goebbels kept eyeing me as if I were poison—
Knowing I was an intellectual and enemy of the
State because I mistakenly read a book

The driver was a drunk from Wichita weaving—
And barely managing to keep us on the road
Earning a modest living terrorizing tourists

I wondered out loud where we were going—
And they all shouted shut-up as if I’d said a
Bad thing or something woefully forbidden

No one at the Bureau of Trips would tell me—
What the destination of our dream vacation was
So I had to sit there and endure communal angst

I shan’t complain I said to myself uneasily knowing
Suddenly that it was all an Invitation to a Beheading
The joke was on me and then the bus stopped

They began beating me—beating me for a long time
They used a corkscrew on my palms and Goebbels
Strangled me with his studded belt kicking me

Greta had such a devilish dexterity getting me
Down there with a pinch, a slap and pull while
The others had a good time laughing it up

They dumped me off the bus by a cornfield—
Where Cary Grant got buzzed by a spray-plane
None of the luxury of a Santa Fe Super Chief

When I finally got back all-bruised to Topeka—
I begged my boss to let me quit my job but he
Told me the Bureau of Jobs had forms to fill out!!!

Snarke as Performance Art

Snarke as Performance Art

“Gogol was a strange creature,
but genius is always strange;
great literature skirts the
irrational.”—Vladimir Nabokov,
Lectures on Russian Literature,
New York: Harcourt, 1981

Then there’s Nikolay Gogol—another snarky author. Nabokov at Cornell gave a lecture on Gogol’s Dead Souls and “The Overcoat.” I read “The Nose.”

According to Nabokov, there’s this sudden slanting of the rational plane of life that’s accomplished in many ways and every great writer has his own method. With Gogol it was a jerk and glide—like a trap-door opening up under your feet with absurd suddenness, letting you fall through the snarky traphole.

The absurd was Gogol’s favorite muse. But you can’t put a man in an absurd situation when the whole world is absurd. There’s only a secondary contrast between a pathetic lost absurd human being—and the nightmarish, irresponsible absurd snarky world he finds himself in.

Gogol’s “The Nose” isn’t mere burlesque. The nose doesn’t quiver and shimmer as a dream does. The nose is inserted into this harmless short story in such a way that it explodes in a wild display of nightmare fireworks. It starts out in a simple rambling colloquial manner, then suddenly swerves into the irrational where it really belongs.

“The Nose” talks and then dissolves into bathos or turns into its own parody. Gogol makes fun of himself, saying something ludicrous and at the same time something sinister; something’s always snarky lurking constantly around the corner.

After reading “The Nose,” the reader’s eyes become “snarky” and “gogolized” and one sees the utter futility, futile humility and futile domination of the world that makes Gogol’s world different than Tolstoy, Pushkin or Chekhov.

Satire is a lesson, parody is a game. Satire implies a better world, some alternate to dystopia. While on the other hand, Gogol parodies the world as it “is”—a world that has no morality, no moral purpose or endeavor, no pupils or teachers, no moral lesson, or moral point. Gogol’s world simply “is”—excluding everything that might destroy it. No movement, no struggle, no nothing can change its course. It would be like trying to stop the Titanic from sinking—or impossibly trying to change the course of the planets and stars.

“The Nose” is a performance art—a kind of snarky somersault. Gogol is a Snarkette Queen—he’s a diver, the seeker for black pearls, a writer who prefers the monsters of the deep to lounging on the beach in Aruba. He doesn’t pity the underdog or curse the upperdog. He appeals to the absurdity lurking in the shadows. Only to be snarke-baited himself.

A Nabokov lecture about Gogol is also actually “performance art” and Nabokov was good at it. A student of his, Alfred Appel who later edited The Annotated Lolita, gives this description of what a magnificent snarky thespian Nabokov was:

“As a lecturer, Nabokov was a considerable Thespian, able to manipulate audiences in a similar manner. His rehearsal of Gogol’s death agonies remains in mind: how the hack doctors alternately bled him and purged him and purged him and plunged him into icy baths, Gogol so frail that his spine could be felt through his stomach, the six fat white bloodletting leeches clinging to his nose. Gogol begging to have them removed—“Please lift them, lift them, keep them away!” and sinking behind the lectern, now a tub, Nabokov for several moments was Gogol, shuddering and shivering, his hands held down by a husky attendant, his head thrown back in pain and terror, nostrils distended, eyes shut, his beseechments filling the lecture hall. Even the sea of C-minuses in the back of the room could not help being moved.”—Alfred Appel, ed. The Annotated Lolita, New York: Vintage, 1991

Intrigued after reading Nabokov’s lecture on Gogol, I read “The Nose” late one night. I couldn’t help myself—I entered into the “performance art” mode like Nabokov did. I quickly composed my own version of “The Nose.” The parody flowed and the portmanteaus scuttled along the page like the Lewis Carroll parody “The Hunting of the Snarke” that I’d been posting in the Snarke blog. I gave myself a modern Gogol “nose-job”—with leeches dangling from my Snozzola. The result being the following version of “The Nose”—entitled “Queer Quiche.”

Queer Quiche

Queer Quiche

“A most extraordinary thing
happened in Petersburg on
the twenty-fifth of March.”
—Nikolay Vasilievich Gogol,
The Nose

There was something queer about the quiche. It was fresh, smelled delicious and went wonderfully well with a nice hot cup of coffee in the morning. It was such a pleasant way to wake up being served breakfast in bed—despite my bitchy roommate’s bad attitude. Little did I anticipate the extraordinary thing that would happen to me that morning—something that began with a nice big fat slice of quiche. It was an exquisitely nice piece of quiche—but little did I know it would turn out to be the queerest piece of quiche I’d ever have. It would indeed change my life that fateful morning I was having breakfast in bed.

I was no Marlene Dietrich prima donna—I was merely a lowly masseur and my roommate was a barber. We owned a little barber shop with a whirlpool Jacuzzi and massage parlor in back. My roommate, Demitri, was a lush and came from a long line of vodka drunks. It’s a wonder he didn’t cut the ears off our customers—the way he gave haircuts drunker than a skunk. He was an excellent cook though and quiche was one of his most successful dishes.

Demitri served me a nice huge slice of his homemade quiche and we both had a leisurely wake-up session for the busy day ahead. My massages were very popular around town—I came from a long line of masseurs. A sign in the window depicted a naked body being kneaded by strong hands—with the inscription “Treat yourself today to some pure relaxation.”

Getting down to the serious business of enjoying my nice breakfast in bed while reading the morning paper—I picked up my fork and sliced into the warm quiche. I tasted the first bite with the gusto of a hungry queen getting ready for another day of doing what I did best—massaging my clientele of prominent citizens not only with a nice massage but also with a dip in the Jacuzzi to warm up their tired tense muscles.

To my amazement there on my plate was something rather big and white and wiggling—sticking out the side of my slice of quiche. I prodded it carefully with my fork and felt it with my finger. It actually moved and I swear it looked right at me.

“Hey!!!” it said—“What the hell you think you’re doing you imbecile?”

Demitri and I were stunned—we sat there looking at my slice of quiche. Then I reached down and pulled it out—it was a Prick!!!!

We were both dumbfounded—how did a Prick get inside our quiche? How absolutely queer—how utterly strange. It was a Prick all right—and a familiar one at that. It belonged to the Mayor—surely he’d want it back!!

“Scoundrel!!!” the Prick said. “You fucking faggot—it’s all your fault. You almost cut me with that knife—you almost sliced me with that fork!!

Demitri and I looked at each other—it was indeed a Prick. But not just a normal Prick—it was a Prick that could talk!! And obviously a powerful Prick too—after all it belonged to the Mayor of Zitville!!!

I didn’t know what to do—I’d never been in such a terrible situation. Demitri wanted to spray it with Mace—then dump it in the dumpster out back in the alley. Surely that would be unbecoming though—for such an important and powerful Prick as this one?

“Maybe we should call the Mayor?” I said, gulping down my coffee. Demitri was already fixing himself a vodka cocktail to calm his frayed nerves. Didn’t he give the Mayor a haircut and shave the other day? How could this awful thing have happened?

Then suddenly the Prick wiggled out of my hand and scuttled out the door without even saying goodbye. I turned to Demitri and said “Fuck it. I’m not going to work today. I’m going to get drunk with you and try to forget what I just saw now. It’s hopefully going back home anyway—to the great relief of the Mayor probably.”

Meanwhile across town in the Mayor’s palatial mansion—all was not well. The Mayor woke up as usual for his important day—but he immediately sensed something was wrong. He looked in the mirror—his Nose was still there. For some reason he thought it might be gone—that it had flown the coop during his sleep. A Mayor needed a Nose of course—to conduct official business with poise and decorum.

Not only that, the Mayor hadn’t woken up as a Cockroach—that’s how he usually woke up in the morning. He’d wake up like Gregor Samsa did—looking up at the ceiling with his six little skinny legs wiggling helplessly. His beetle-like carapace keeping him on his back in bed—there was nothing he could do except wiggle his antennae. After awhile the Mayor would become himself again—he’d wake up and get on with business.

Then while putting on his pants, the Mayor to his horror discovered the awful truth. The most important organ of his body—besides his large official Nose—was no longer attached to his body!! He looked under the bed and peered into the closet. He called his assistants and they searched everywhere—but nowhere could they find the Mayor’s Prick.

Everybody knows that all bureaucrats are Pricks—aggressive, pushy, vindictive, ambitious Pricks. There’s nothing worse than Big City Politics—it’s a fish-tank of sharks and bottom-fish. The Mayor was a vain Prick—the biggest Prick in town. He lorded over everybody with his big Prick—and everybody bowed and genuflected before the magnificence of His Royal Immensity. Without his big Prick though—the Mayor would surely be out of business.

The Prick was next seen on FOX TV—during an interview with Mister O’Reilly. It blew the whistle on the Mayor’s dirty dealings and revealed all the dirty laundry in town—it was truly a Deep Throat crisis and the more the Prick squealed on the Mayor the worse all the other Pricks at City Hall looked. There’s nothing more embarrassing than a bunch of old Pricks being revealed for what they are—and as the Mayor’s Prick reminded the audience it takes one to know one. Everybody nodded knowingly— surely the Mayor’s Prick would know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the awful truth!!!!

The Prick obviously had a mind of its own—because next it was seen in Aruba. It was lollygagging on the beach under an umbrella—with a bunch of young cute Latino Pricks shaking their mariachis and dancing for his entertainment. The Prick had a pair of sunglasses on—and was reclining on a beach-chair enjoying itself. Other tourists didn’t pay any attention—and the Prick didn’t pay any attention to them. It was all so casual and louche—the Prick was living the Life of Reilly.

All this rude behavior and gauche exhibitionism by the Prick naturally upset the Mayor—as well as everybody else in Zitville. What a shameful thing to happen—a talkative Prick getting loose and running naked as a jay bird around the world. What was the world coming to—stock in Fruit of the Loom Inc. went down precipitously. Soon the Stock Market itself had a terrible plunge—of course the Pricks blamed the Mayor’s Prick for causing all the trouble and bringing on the next Depression.

Nobody knew what to do—it was a Prickly situation. Uppity Pricks across the land were getting rambunctious and rebellious—things were getting out of hand in various little Prickvilles across the country. Pricks no longer let themselves be used and abused—the Day of the Prick had arrived. Soon young Pricks and old Pricks and big Pricks and little Pricks rose up against Prick Slavery—the outsourcing of Pricks came to a sudden stop.

Pretty soon Pricks came out of the closet—Don’t Ask Don’t Tell didn’t keep them “zipped up” anymore. In fact all zippers were outlawed and exiled—and circumcision came to a screeching halt. It became politically correct to be uncut—Pricks with foreskins became the new fashion models setting chic trends for the Prick Industry. Pierced Pricks became popular—and Prick Lit became a major part of the modern university curricula. “In Pricks We Trust” became the new national motto emblazoned on the dollar bill—stamped proudly on all the little fake silver coins. “Oh Say Can You See That Beautiful Prick” suddenly was being sweetly sung at all the televised NFL football games across the great Land. And when the exciting races began at the Indianapolis 500 the announcer would say—“Gentlemen!!! Start you Pricks!!!!!!”

Soon Hollywood sensing a sure winner jumped on the bandwagon with—“Gone With the Prick,” “I Was a Teenage Prick,” “When Pricks Collide,” “Lord of the Pricks,” “The Prick that Challenged the World,” “I Married a Prick from Outer Space, ”An American Prick in Paris,” “Night of the Living Pricks,” “Forbidden Prick, ”Sky Prick and the World of Tomorrow,” “Planet of the Pricks,” “Prick Crazy,” “The Prick Who Came In from the Cold,” “Devil Prick from Mars,” “Prick Women,” “Touch of Prick,” “The Strange Case of Martha Prick,” “Too Late for Pricks,” “Son of Prick,” “The Invisible Prick,” etc. etc. etc.

“And to think,” I said to Demitri, “it all started with your queer quiche.”

The Three Snarkettes

The Three Snarkettes

“I always call him Lewis Carroll Carroll,”
said Nabokov, “because he was the first
Humbert Humbert.”—Vladimir Nabokov,
The Annotated Lolita

The thing about Bend Sinister is that it reminds me of the fictional nature of reality. Krug takes us on a rather bumpy roller-coaster ride into Paduk parody.

It’s not really satire, criticizing dystopian reality and suggesting a better way of dealing with thugs and dictators. Rather, as Kinbote says in Pale Fire, “reality” is neither the subject nor object of literature which creates it own special reality having nothing to do with the common “reality” perceived by the communal eye.

Not even the blackest imagination could have invented our present zeitgeist—it takes a Nathanael West to define with absolute parody the inevitable dominant dark tonalities of the American comic novel. Miss Lonelyhearts and Day of the Locust—surely it’s only a matter of time before Hollywood produces new remakes of such postlust portraits. But I doubt it. Such books don’t cineplex easily.

Nabokov was the ultimate Snarke. His allusions, puns, parodies and pastiches ran through all his novels. Bend Sinister is no different. Krug is just anther Kinbote or Humbert—another protagonist, excuse me, unreliable narrator. Another chump like his other literary pals caught up in the same pretentious and philistine postlust predicament. Like Pnin and all his illustrious colleagues at Cornell and UW—smothered by the vulgarity of the American “muddlecrass” (to wax Joycean).

Postlust pals like Quilty and suburban culture-queens like Charlotte Haze—what a burlesque of narrative clichés and grotesque portraits. Such parody and pathos. Like Humbert describing that first night at the Enchanted Hunter’s Hotel:

“Parody of a hotel corridor. Parody of silence and death.”

Few readers know that Nabokov’s first published book was his Russian translation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland (Berlin, 1923). Some say that “Humbert Humbert” is based on “Carroll Carroll”—both had, well, similar ”interests.”

Nabokov’s fondness for verbal wordplay and “portmanteau” words (coined by Carroll) is nicely displayed on Sebastian Knight’s neat bookshelf where Alice in Wonderland and Ulysses stand side by side.

Nabokov, Carroll and Joyce—The Three Snarkettes.