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On the Way to the Forum 6

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Continued from

Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman
—But who is that on the other side of you?

―T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland

On the Way to the Forum
a gory allegory

Is this a good time to note that what we are reading here, this little allegory of ours, is “inspired by true events”? Is that the wording? Or is it “real events” perhaps? Or “actual events”? I can’t seem to recall. I mean I don’t recall the precise wording as it has come down to us today. Used to be this note was much more direct and to the point: “This is a true story.” Then it became a bit more cautious: “The following is based on a true story”—and with that we were off to the races! I mean, to be sure, a story can be true, but can events be true? That is where we are today. That is the slipshod semantic space we occupy today. And that, mutatis mutandis, is how characters like that perennial asshole Chopi and that Überslut Btzby and, yes, even Little Miss Hottotrot sucking her crème de menthe through a cocktail straw tonight—how they come to believe, cue the musical sting, that they are real. I don’t suppose it matters very much. We get it. Readers that we are. But it comes down to us from cinema, doesn’t it? The convention, I mean. Against a black screen before the movie proper begins. Sometimes over the opening shot. Never later in the movie. Never late in the movie. Never at the end of a movie certainly. I mean, how would that read? The preceding was a true story? The preceding story was inspired by actual events? What would that add to the experience? A fillip?

Circus Maximus. Roman ludi. Shafts of light sweeping the silhouette horde. The Rainbowspinners come out for another set and Btzby out front of a contorting primal scream. The apotheosis of Skank. .

I pick my way through the crowd, into the lobby, and take the elevator up.

The door opens on a spacious lobby-like hall out of an RKO Depression-era musical comedy. I expect Fred and Ginger in evening clothes and gown to come waltzing out.

I surprise Chopi in his office. Caught at the wall safe or cleaning out his desk. You know.

He reminds me of Peter Lorre. Sort of creepy. Shifty. You know.

He doesn’t recognize me. How could he? We were but avatars to each other back then.

I remind him.

His breath becomes labored. Beads of perspiration studding his forehead. A visible panic rises in him.

His bulging eyes drop all too obviously to the half-opened desk drawer, and the handle of a luger inside.

So I tell him.

I’m Beerbohm, I say.

A musical sting.

Close on the face.



Very close on the eyes.




A long beat.

Then he makes a sudden grab for the gun...

You know the rest.

To be discontinued...

Updated 09-15-19 at 04:24 PM by Angel

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  1. Angel's Avatar
    For lack of interest, JB. To answer your question. Enjoy the BBQ. Love to Barb and the kids.
  2. Angel's Avatar
    Yes, thematically, it looks back to that tremendous climactic line Topor gives Claudia Draper in the play and in the Martin Ritt movie.

    "But what if he's wrong? What if he doesn't know his ass from his elbow? What if he's just an asshole with power to lock me up? What if that's all he is? An asshole with power."
    —Tom Topor, Nuts (1987)
    Updated 12-01-18 at 04:35 AM by Angel
  3. Angel's Avatar
    Yes, JB. Lack of appreciation. That too. Always that too.
    Thanks for noticing.
  4. Angel's Avatar
    You ask of models, JB.

    Here is Beckett on Joyce's "Work in Progress," the eventual Finnegans Wake:

    "Here form is content, content is form. You complain that this stuff is not written in English. It is not written at all. It is not to be read--or rather it is not only to be read. It is to be looked at and listened to. His writing is not about something; it is that something itself.”
    ― Samuel Beckett

    I think Beckett himself, in his prose fiction, had Joyce as his model. This culminated in his trilogy: Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnameable.
    These novels, if they are about anything, are about aboutness.
  5. Angel's Avatar
    Without putting too fine a point on it, every piece of writing is allegorical in nature.
    How so?
    You well may ask. But if you start with experience, then you start with mind; and if you start with mind, the hard problem is the existence of matter.
  6. Angel's Avatar
    That's right, JB. Yes, the mise-en-scène or visual theme combines an affinity for art deco and film noir with a visceral aversion to rave culture. The latter provides an adequate objective correlative for the internet, I fancy, the locus of the real-life experience allegorized in the piece, a chaotic, impersonal, narcissistic, orgiastic entertainment in which moral constraint becomes nugatory.

    The world of art deco and film noir, by contrast, is the ordered moral world we abandoned for the techno orgy. It is there that moral order is restored in the piece.
  7. Angel's Avatar
    My favorite writer? Hmm. That's a tough one. I'm going to have to be cute and say: The One I'm Reading.
    What was that old rock anthem called, "Love the One You're With"?
    That's me the reader.
  8. Angel's Avatar
    I like self-referential texts. I've always found self-referentiality interesting as a literary device. Off the top of my head I'd say it goes back to Tristram Shandy but don't quote me on that. I like the technique because it removes the outer layer usually necessary for "the willing suspension of disbelief"; it does this and yet still elicits the suspension, if done effectively. If done really well, it eliminates the necessity of suspension altogether. Beckett's narrators, particularly in the trilogy, all are self-conscious in this respect; all call attention to the text they are ostensibly producing right before our eyes. What's more they all call attention to their own fiction, to the fact that an author is channeling their voices. The Unnameable is Beckett's lament that Beckett himself is inexpressible, and that all he can do is channel these fictive voices. It's wonderful stuff!
    Updated 12-06-18 at 03:31 AM by Angel
  9. Angel's Avatar
    Conrad, remember, in his novels, gave the narration over to a character. This framing device is another form of self-referentiality. It says: mind you, you're being told a story. But that framing device is itself a narration. Someone is telling a story about someone else telling a story.
  10. Angel's Avatar
    Yes, Topor's concept, that of the "asshole with power," is as important an insight into the human condition as any that has come down to us in the course of five thousand years of human civilization. When you consider the course of western civilization in this light, which is all about the empowerment of man, you can see the catch. Not quite a Catch-22, but catch enough.
    Updated 12-07-18 at 07:37 AM by Angel
  11. Angel's Avatar
    That's right, JB. It's all "hook"; no "money shot." The legitimization of superficiality in our time is answered. Yes?


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