The man was in that state of consciousness in which, as he sat on the toilet the only thing that seemed real to him aside from the dull weight in his gut that was the reason for his being on the toilet was the recent clang of the insistent alarm clock.  Though innocence is not usually a term one would immediately think to apply to a somewhat overweight middle aged white man sitting on the toilet in the morning there was indeed something natally innocent about him, memory and thought blank but for a jarring impression of having just been dragged out of oblivion into some kind of world in which the call of the excretory is the overriding demand.  And that call was indeed being answered.  As the relief came to his emptying bowels and the stink rose to his increasingly aware nostrils, his thoughts thickened, altered, in fact awoke in a manner that would have to put the image of him as newborn child to rest, for to compare the rather abrupt awakening of his consciousness to the delicate and gradual emergence of a child’s through the development of her years would be to stretch the metaphor beyond its sensible bounds.  The thing itself, a somewhat overweight middle aged white man waking up in the morning, leans of course more towards the prosaic, though not so terribly prosaic as that description suggests, for this man was a writer, an author, a novelist who often amused himself as he splashed water onto his face immediately after the inevitable seat on the toilet first thing, as he did today, with the thought that for all the time spent in real lives doing things like sitting on toilets, you almost never read characters in books doing that sort of thing, either in other people’s novels or in his own, which I think is a neat trick, having him thinking that right at the beginning of the story.  It establishes this great reflexivity in which the reader can see the man commenting to himself on the very thing that I’m doing in my opening.  Because of course that’s true, the man isn’t being silly here, you really don’t get too many bathroom trips in fiction and while of course he isn’t the first to comment on that and I’m not the first to write it because after all who can forget first reading Leopold Bloom getting up in the morning of Ulysses, which probably wasn’t the first time something like that had been written but still seeing it there had to have changed everything for a lot of people.  That’s of course by no means to compare what I’m doing to what Joyce did but that’s really a stupid thought anyway because it’s clear that I’m doing a totally different thing here.  But the idea is to create those kinds of signposts, markers opening up to the reader oddities not just of narrative, of the sort of thing people usually write about, but of form, of these loops where the reader catches characters within the story commenting on the form of the story, letting the reader know that this isn’t closed, cut off, that the words on the page aren’t pointing to some separate world that the characters themselves are inhabiting entirely remote from the reader but that the reader is an active participant, more than that, that the reader is actually the one, that it’s by means of the reader’s interest that a story lives and that it’s inside the reader that all this happens.  But as I consider all this commentary, all this explication, I wonder if it really works.  I mean, I just spent as many words explaining what I was doing as I’d spent doing it.  I know that there’s this idea I’m trying to build, this consciousness I’m trying to unfold in my reader, but I’m afraid it might just be too precious, all that with the man on the toilet commenting on men on toilets.  It’s really not supposed to be a joke, but it seems like it could be coming out as one, David wrote with some satisfaction, knowing that the action and then denial, the consciousness overriding and undermining consciousness, the, if you like, thesis and antithesis difficulties that seemed to overwhelm any attempts at art or literature by his generation was being accurately represented.  There were too many images, too many types of criticism and styles of reading, too much awareness in the minds of his generation for them to just sit down and write a story or paint a picture.  It’s a well known axiom of writing that an author must avoid cliché.  In order to take that sound advice against cliché a writer historically had to practice self criticism to a point, ruthlessly eliminating hints of obvious cliché in his work.  But he did not have the need to be conscious of future cliché.  Dostoevsky, in his time, certainly appears to have had a great many worries, but he did not have the worry that it would become trite to be Dostoevsky.  Martin Amis, in David’s time but of a previous generation, had recently published a collection of essays called, ‘The War Against Cliché’, a most ridiculous title, considering that both the iconoclastic, intelligent individualist who battles against the tide of overwrought sentimentalism or bubblegum pap or pedantic nonsense, and Martin Amis himself, are clichés.  Writers in this current environment, in which art and entertainment are wholly merged, ideas commodities, dissemination rapacious, reaction instantaneous, find themselves seeing all ideologies, all styles, all emotions, and all personalities as cliché.  Faced with all this terrible awareness, a writer cannot take any political stance without imagining it being championed by a rabid ideologue, cannot adopt any tone without sensing its parody, cannot render any emotion without picturing it badly acted on a television show, cannot introduce any character without dismissing it as a type.  His response, as David tried to formulate it, was the highly confessional, apologetic, hyperconscious art of no art.  The writer cannot blithely pass a story off on his readers, as if he is not glaringly conscious of all the readings and ramifications immediately following the story and, perhaps more importantly, as if he is not conscious of his readers’ consciousness of all this.  So he breaks into the narrative, with his confessional and apologetic ‘I’ letting the reader know he is conscious of all this and reassuring the reader that he isn’t trying to pull anything, isn’t using the tricks and devices available to writers to put some subliminal ideology, style, emotion, or personality past the reader.  The effect of all this, naturally, is to give the impression of a narrative built of nothing but tricks and devices.  With each flipping of form there is an attempt to peel away a level of art, of cliché, a level of empty signification that points at something but carries no weight intrinsically.  David would render this difficulty with a narrative multileveled, telling the story both of a man who is a writer and the writer’s considerations in writing the story.  The levels would mirror each other, and the form would wrap up like the folds of an onion, which unavoidable image, the onion, worried David very much.  It is all well and good as a writer to construct something as carefully layered as an onion and as a reader to unfold something as complicated as an onion, but, even as the onion image projects the layers of signification and art through which we all must sift and filter in our search for meaning, so it must be noted that at the center of an onion there is no core of notably different stuff.  One peels away layer after layer to reveal nothing but more layers.  It is with some difficulty, some work and careful consideration, for a reader of a book but even more for a close and skeptical reader of the text that is the world around her, and hence with some pride and feeling of accomplishment with, all too naturally, a measure of contempt for those who lag behind, that one peels away a layer of signification to see and understand that which lies beneath.  But if the onion image that seems so apt still holds, it seems as if there is no indication that one gets any closer to any kind of core meaning, and perhaps an indication that there is no core meaning at all, an idea that seems quite liberating and attractive to those who have become accustomed by the most recent order of things to being marginalized or oppressed by accepted meanings but is really when it comes down to it, David had to beg pardon for the phrase, pretty fucking scary.  When he stepped back from the sort of agitation that led to the phrase pretty fucking scary, David at least found it necessary to admit that this idea of endless layers of meaning, in which one set of information was found to represent some other set of information that now stood as the first set’s meaning, but upon later reflection is found to represent some other set of information, ad infinitum, with no indication of a central, core, certain, solid, unchanging, final meaning, was profoundly dissatisfying.

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Starts on a toilet, ends with frustration.
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