“Are Stories Just Dances We Invite the Reader to Participate In?”

No, Ross, although I see how you might think that.  You noticed that stories are not made of words, stories are made of units of emotional significance.  Want and its frustration, loss and its redemption.   And you realized that story is not painting (not that painting is painting either) because the reader takes part.  When the little tailor kills seven with one blow and walks down the road to seek his fortune, the little reader has killed seven with one blow too and seeks his fortune too.  So naturally having understood these two things you made a very natural mistake, Ross.  You thought that the story put its hand around the waist of the reader and intertwined its fingers with the reader and together they made a dance.

But you made a very natural mistake, natural to those who live in ages when culture changes very slowly — so slowly that it seems to stay the same.

But in actuality although a dancer and her partner may whirl across a ballroom and return to the same place, when the story and the reader dance together everything is changing — the ballroom is being torn to pieces and rebuilt as an aircraft hangar and the floor beneath the is torn up and becomes a freeway on ramp, and every time they turn and return they breathe air full of chemicals that did not exist when they started dancing because the factory that made them had yet to be constructed.

So, could the story be a journey?  A dancing journey that the reader and the story take together?

It could be, and it must.


I got a parrot once who said “mourning is not a competitive sport”

I got a parrot once who said “mourning is not a competitive sport”

Did I say parrot?  I meant parent.  I guess he knew whereof he spoke.

But he did not speak Wolof he spoke the “echt anglais”

And sometimes we didn’t speak to each other for days and days and days.


Now they’re all gone: the parent, the parrot, the Wolof

The dynasty that doesn’t even remember its greatest days

When tyrants in robes of sea-lion and shelk inscribe their punitive laws

And dark mythologies in the intricate hidden whirlings of a whelk.


Easy does it! said the last people left in town when the last train left

There’s no easy way to say this any more — we are just bereft.


Imagining and Acting

Do you live in your dreams or are you a man of action?

Both.  Imagining is a kind of acting.  When we imagine a possibility or imagine our lives in a certain way we are living in a certain way.

Acting is always suffused with imagination.  If you spend your day making money, you imagine that that money will be good for something.  Even if you flee a tiger you imagine the experience of being eaten will be a bad one.

What’s the difference?   An act of the imagination as a rule is easier to undue.  I can imagine I’m a king and then imagine I’m a commoner with very little risk.  If I actually take an action though it’s often hard to go back.  But this difference is on a continuum.  Some acts of imagination take years and take our heart’s blood and are very risky indeed.  Some regular, flesh-and-blood acts are easy to undo.

A related point is that all fiction is magical realism.


Qolik Xolik

“Qolik xolik, Mr. Zolik”

It means “Stay Impartial” In my native Uzbek”

“Verb. sap. sat.” I would have replied.

Were it not already implied.




Verb. sap. sat is short for “verbum sapientibus satis” which is Latin for “a word to the wise is sufficient.”  You say it when you mean more than you are willing to say but you want to encourage your more perceptive readers to dig a little deeper.  It is a somewhat wistfully optimistic phrase that, like such phrases so often do, obviates its own expression.  Obviously, if a word to the wise were truly sufficient, it would be unnecessary to highlight its sufficiency by writing verb. sap. sat.

Verb. sap. sat!


Donald Trump and “Locker Room Talk”

Donald Trump was recorded bragging that he could use his position of power as a television producer to grab women’s vaginas and kiss them without their consent.  His defense in the debate last night was that this was “locker room talk”.   How should we evaluate it?    Does criticizing his behavior mean we are prudes who are unable to accept that people are human and fallible and can express themselves in a relaxed fashion on topics like sex?

Consider the following parallel.   Doctors have a position of power with respect to patients.  And doctors when no patients are around indulge in taboo-breaking conversation.   We could call it “hospital banter”.  Hospital banter might be disturbing: physicians might talk about patients disrespectfully.  My doctor might when he talks to me one on one say “you should really lose weight” but with his colleagues say “patient’s a tub-o — looking to be heart attack central!”   Hospital banter can be rude and disrespectful and even express desires that doctors wouldn’t want their patients to hear, such as “I wish that guy would just die already and stop showing up in my emergency room.”

If a doctor was recorded engaging in hospital banter he would probably want to defend himself saying things like Trump said.  “It’s just talk.  I was just kidding.  I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings.”

But consider the following case in contrast.

You are worried your child has cancer and need the services of a pediatric oncologist, Dr. Jones.  A tape of Dr. Jones surfaces where he thinks he is not being listened to and is talking to a colleague, Dr. Smith.

Smith: How do you like being a pediatric oncologist.

Jones: It’s awesome.  You have so much power.  Sometimes when I’m talking with parents about their children I ask to see their wallet to check their insurance.  And then I reach into the wallet and take a twenty dollar bill and put it in my pocket.  Right in front of the parents!

Smith: Really?  That’s interesting.

Jones: Interesting?  It’s great, cause I love money and I love humiliating people.  Then I return the wallet to them without the money and look them in the eye.  It’s really awesome cause they are so emotionally upset cause they think they have a kid with cancer that they don’t do anything!  Also they’re afraid to because of m position as a doctor!  And I get money!

This is pretty different than two physicians simply engaging in “hospital banter”.  In this case the doctor is doing more — he is bragging about a criminal act.

Trump was bragging about a criminal act — using his power to have sexual contact with  women without their consent.

Anderson Cooper last night asked Trump repeatedly “Did you really do it?”

In the case above if Dr. Jones was joking I believe upon being caught he would say that very very clearly and immediately.  He would not say “It was just talk.” He would unambiguously say “I don’t actually do that.  I was joking.  I was showing off.  But I do not really steal from my patients.”

After being asked I think four or five times Trump finally said “No, I do not sexually assault women.”

That is a clear, unambiguous answer.  The answer about “locker room talk” is evasive, as I hope I have shown.


Double Reflection

Kierkegaard’s “double reflection” is not hard to understand. If I like chocolate, that’s an immediate response, and can occur without reflection. If I think “I like chocolate but if I eat too much of it it will make me sick” that’s reflection. Instead of just thinking about the chocolate I’m thinking about my own response to chocolate, as if I am looking at a reflection of myself in the mirror and judging it. The double reflection is when I think “I worry about food too much — it’s making me hard to live with”. That’s forming a judgment about my own reflecting — it’s like looking at myself looking at a reflection of myself in a mirror, in another mirror. Could there be triple reflection? Sure. Here is an example “My double reflection is just an excuse I use to not deal with my chocolate addiction.”

And yet, it seems to me reflections don’t in practice advance infinitely.  At some point there might be nothing to be gained by further reflection.  I’m not sure if that’s  (what I just wrote) an example of quaternary reflection or just plain old double reflection.  And I’m not sure if it matters!


Ephemeral Indissolubilities, Lyrical Extravagance: Little Known Brooklyn Detectives

There were so many teams of boy detectives when I was growing up sometimes it is hard to keep track of them.  If forgetting is a criminal, my own team of boy detectives Attention and Recollection will solve the case of the forgotten event.  Some of them include

Bol and Sef, who solved crimes of rhetoric, including hiding true emotion through its exaggeration cf. Bol and Sef and the Case of the Lyrical Extravagance

Chum and Wa who solved crimes of ephemeral murder, brief possibilities of human life and flourishing extinguished, possible personalities snuffed out by insensitive husbands “Chum and Wa and the Case of the Canarsie Wife Who had a Fleeting Epiphany of Zeus”

Groolie and Jane who solved straight up cases of misogynistic, homophobic shaming “The Case of the Single Game of Salloji”

Papa and the Clam who solved a single case in their long career “Papa and Clam and the Case of the Ringed Ringolevio”

Hersh and Podel, who solved bribery cases committed by their parents in the Ny state assembly, Hersh and Podel and the Case of the Free Trip to Miami

Thorn and Paco who were adults and solved drug-related homicides “Thorn and Paco and the Case of the Drug Related Homicide”

Leo who worked alone and solved his own issues in silence as he stood between the pillars on platform of the Beverly Road IND playing with nunchuks.