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Archive for January 15th, 2010

more flight

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The conceit of this virtual world is that you fly from place to place. There are resorts and shopping malls, sectors devoted to polymorphous sex and others where you can worship the god (or gods) of your choice. Condominium complexes range around amusement parks and zoos full of dinosaurs – a entire world where adult infantility reigns supreme beyond the darkest (brightest?) dreams of Houllebecq.

At first the flying goes fine – he is soaring about a zone of chain restaurants, then a meticulously reconstructed Mayan temple. But soon enough, as he heads out over a beach where thousands of volleyball teams are holding a massive double-elimination tournament in the nude,  he starts to slow down. He slows down… or the frame rate of the world he is in slows down. He seems to hang in place for seconds at a time and then lurch a few meters forward. Eventually he comes to a complete halt, his eyes locked on nothing but the sun and the deep blue sky.

He hasn’t the bandwidth for this sort of thing, he lives too far from the central servers.

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January 15, 2010 at 2:25 pm


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He is co-teaching a seminar with one of his colleagues. Just before the session is about to begin, she asks him to produce his handouts, the images that he has chosen to distribute. But he only has one copy with him, and so he lies and says that he had thought he would show them a Powerpoint presentation (he never does Powerpoint presentations) but there is no computer in the room. He even takes a memory stick out of his pocket to underscore the point.

She scolds him – It’s your job to check the room before you teach. You know that. Look at the copies that I’ve made. You can’t just pass around a single copy of the images – there are thirty students in the class! He responds, first, by saying that no, yes, he’ll just pass around the single copy that he brought, he’s done that sort of thing before and its fine, and next by standing up and walking out of the room. On his way out, he tells her he is going to make copies. But then he calls her a foul name just loud enough for the students, now starting to fill the room, to hear.

He leaves the building and goes to the Modern Language Association conference, which as it happens is being held this year at the nearby State Fairground. Offseason rates. Tents, corn dog stands, beer stands, hay… After some time wandering around with a pack of friends, academics acting like Nebraska teenagers, he realizes that he’s past due to go back and finish the seminar. It’s a three hour seminar, and he had planned upon leaving to return after the break at the middle. But now there are only thirty minutes left…

As he flies through the air, over the tents and attractions, and then sparse winter forest, he thinks to himself that this is the first time he has ever flown in a dream and that he’s not sure he really knows how to do it, feels safe doing it. He clips branches and flies slower than he might, and when he has made it back to the classroom he discovers that everyone – his colleague, the students – is already gone.

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January 15, 2010 at 12:32 pm


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When a certain book becomes a treasured object, when he wakes in a sweat about having lost it like he does about his passport, the stack of cash, or his Macbook Air.

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January 15, 2010 at 1:07 am

what katie roiphe missed

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It occurs to him, suddenly but while reading Handke, how much fiction writing must have changed – or at least should have changed – since the advent of ubiquitous pornography.

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January 15, 2010 at 1:05 am


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The facebook update, and the low round of applause it brings: symptom of our meager times and meager, parent-applauded selves. “I visited the toy shop and didn’t buy anything!” Thumbs-up! “I am here where I am and can you see?!” Thumbs up! All of them! “I ate my whole dinner tonight!” Yay for you!

Desperation that inhibits work, or bends work back to the banal patter of mice running through the walls, clapping while they stop to gnaw.

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January 15, 2010 at 12:55 am


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A beautiful but aging woman in front of Waterstones across the street from his office. She is talking on her mobile phone. Statuesque, perhaps an actress, perhaps a famous one. (He wouldn’t know). But impossible to imagine her ever having sex with anyone, so dignified is her beauty. In fact, her dignity makes the desire to have sex, let alone the practice of having sex, seem like a symptom of some sort of genetic anomaly, a mineral deficiency. Only deformed people do or want to do it, he walks away thinking.

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January 15, 2010 at 12:46 am