The mailbox is lit with streaks of filtered sunlight from the overarching canopy of street trees. The letter hops inside, relishing the moisture of the air, the playful currents of wind. For now, it undertakes a 7-day voyage of darkness, wherein it is buffeted by impersonal machinery, groped by sweaty-fingered, low-paid shuffle artists, and finally deposited into an airless metal tray.
At long last, exposed to light, the letter crinkles dazedly in faux relief; for here comes the giant horizontal guillotine of the Opener. But the letter has not given up; in the hour of its greatest peril, its corners stir; for it has remembered The Paper Cut.
The howls of the bleeding do not trouble the letter. Nay. To preserve its contents, the letter bears the scarlet banner “Return to Sender” with an illegible address. From mailbox to mailbox, from postal code to zip code, from wind-swept prairie to rain-soaked British sea-town, the letter will never be opened. Is it a proud letter? Of course. Is it a foolish letter? Undoubtedly. Is it a letter of integrity? Of this, there is no doubt.
It is as if all the elements that make for a truly effective journalist—i.e., skepticism, depth of reportage, humor/style—have been divided up and segregated by publication. You can funny, you can be serious, you can be deep—but you can no longer be all three. So dies journalism.
He remembered Janet’s marriage to Hollis, in which drinking, unauthorized sleepovers and garden-variety mental cruelty had made their divorce proceedings read like a blog on “How to Lose Your Enthusiasm for Intimacy.”
There is the oft-cited story of the Hollywood B-movie starlet who, having happened upon her lonely 80s, died in front of her computer and was not discovered for over a year. But go back far enough and you discover that hermits have been dying alone in rural cabins for centuries without the use of “socially-isolating” status updates or tweets.
And then eventually I stopped liking things altogether, which was when I started liking Reggie. He foamed out of the earth and into the leather swivel seat next to me. It was March; the bar was grotesque with paper shamrocks and green streamers.
Once you duck under the whispered rubber chorus of the overpass, you get into the street noises: little streamlets, from the drains, carrying away laminated postcards and bottle caps and things that look interesting when crushed.
Naturally, by writing ponderous fire hazards that pose as literature, novelists are losing their market share to art forms that combine visual poetry with wounded Teddy-Bear introspection. It’s fashionable to say that we have outgrown history, but I believe that we are living in the Era of Atomization. Overarching concepts Occupy us daily; we crave heart-warming minutiae.
We make emotional connections with people because we feel something. We use social media with the same reluctant frenzy that gerbils use wire wheels. Someone, somewhere, is getting a kick out of watching us use it, but it’s doubtful that it’s either strengthening or weakening our actual emotional bonds.
It is not difficult to imagine the ending of civilizations; what is difficult is imagining their beginning. How do people agree to believe in progress again? How do we collectively shake off the baggage of the past few thousand years and start again?
Writers want to be stationed just outside of the crowd, or at least at the very edge of the room. If you’re right up front or wedged into a booth, you’re going to miss half of what’s going on and probably get drunk or flirt or cause the chair to break from your accumulated pomposity. No, it’s best to hover by the exit sign.
"My theory is we don’t really go that far into other people, even when we think we do. We hardly ever go in and bring them out. We just stand at the jaws of the cave, and strike a match, and ask quickly if anybody’s there."
By using history as a structural template, the stories themselves are little more than pale webbing between well-researched spokes. Literature is supposed to explore the human condition, not the archival stacks.
In the culture of business, customers are always perceived as belonging to the “other.” Pretty much everyone on the business side of the counter, whether that counter is a pitted sneeze-guard or a mahogany desk, feels that they are fighting the good fight, and that customers are whiny, ignorant and abusive. The only difference is that instead of a small hot dog stand where a 17-year old mocks his customer base with fart noises, people on Wall Street serve up derivatives laden with financial loogies.
While privacy has become the 8-track of the 21st century, it still seems like it’s worthwhile to note how Google’s “Project Glass” augmented reality glasses could be used for unpleasant ends, much as Einstein’s well-intentioned discovery eventually helped to burn shadows into stone.
The problem with a device that essentially sees the world through your eyes and communicates this detail with larger, unknown entities (like, say, a giant server farm nestled in the hills of a restricted part of New Mexico) is that you no longer have sole ownership over the most basic choices you make on a daily basis. While it may not seem to matter what subway stop you take or what sort of conversations you have with your girlfriend, eventually there’s always someone who will take this information and turn it to his, and not your, advantage.
No amount of Instagramming can prevent the next Power Hungry Dickhead. Despite the online proliferation of Kermit-like good will, there is a whole raft of folks—like the 2011 London rioters—who are not enjoying themselves in a world where friend is a verb. We need to stop worrying about maximizing our page load times and start worrying about creating a sustainable standard of living for those who think hurtling bricks through windows qualifies as an excellent rejoinder.
There is the clanking of cutlery and glassware, a round of condescending praise for our assorted absent lieutenants, a new coarse joke, a thorough appraisal of the female waitstaff, the presentation of the sundials, and finally—finally!—the cigars. I find myself seated with Benningfield in the library. A roly-poly dog licks the stopper of an empty brandy bottle, the enthusiastic motion of his tongue pushing the bottle further away from him until it rolls under a chair. The dog disappears under a chiffon lacing, and Benningfield and I have no choice but to engage in conversation.
-From The Chronicles of Captain Perlin, SeaFarer, Scientist, and CrossDresser