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Fred boarded the school bus and felt the tingling in his groin from the coke he had just snorted in detention. It was 1987, and he had the self-awareness that this day would be emblematic in his future. He would later say that the day was “characterized” as having had “a certain sentiment”, in a conversation with friends at a bar in his hometown in 1993, a conversation in which he was prematurely nostalgic, he realized as he wrote the short.
Fred’s memories folded back on themselves as he continued writing. “Fuckin’ Motorhead are speed freaks,” barked the school bus driver, and did a bump of the coke from the small yellow canister Fred gave to him. Fred’s strategy then and now was to build up a meta-elegy of these emblematic moments that cloyed impishly at his consciousness. He would write his way out of these essentially specious memories that suffused the present day reality with a doleful subtext of regret and longing.
His gambit was a constant reference back to himself, and the paucity of other material in his narrative was a willful decision. But was it? - or did he have to understand it that way; was he merely blowing on the weak flames of his own creative indigence, in a baleful attempt to give his burnt offerings a veneer of authenticity? Fred’s hope was that his fucking ‘meta-elegy’, dutifully bracketed there in strategic single quotes, pejoratively qualified, would eventual collapse into itself under the weight of its own irrelevance and implode like a tiny black hole, leaving a vacuum. This would exculpate him from his own tongue in cheek self-loathing once and for all, and would occlude any future recollection from beginning in the first place ever again. “Rod,” said Fred in a hushed voice to the school bus driver, “Can I buy any more of that coke from you today?” Once these recollections were played out, as it were, Fred imagined that he would achieve a kind of ataraxy, a suspended state of bliss maybe similar to what some chick described to him when she was meditating.
Fred, though, could not willfully short-circuit his own damaged, constipated faculty of memory, as he had already mused that night in 1993, driving drunk back to his parents' house from the bar where he had been. He fancied that he could at times, and imagined a starkly beautiful act of self-immolation. With increasing dismay over the years, though, Fred saw that this wish to jump out of his own self-referential hamster wheel was in itself just so much self-obsession, the most ultimately contemptible wish of them all, the one that liquidated any remaining pride he felt for himself. “I am a maladroit fool,” Fred thought, once later that day in 1987 while doing more blow, once drunkenly in 1993 driving home, and then that evening writing the short in 2004, dead sober.
Date Written: April 26, 2004Comments:
Author: Phony Millions
Average Vote: 4
04/30/2004 Benny Maniacs (3): Ambitious and richly toned, but perhaps one too many flash-backs. I liked the juxtaposition between detention and coke.
04/30/2004 TheBuyer (3): I like the last sentence a lot, actually the entire last graph. Maybe the pot calling the kettle black, but i thought this could have been more concise especially given the author's clear command of the language.
04/30/2004 Ferucio P. Chhretan (3): nice and meditative. I like the multi-angled flashbacks.
04/30/2004 Ewan Snow (5): Benny, this is an example of what we were just talking about. Doesn't fit the short short rules so you give it a three? Are you guys crazy? I think this "meta-elegy" is first rate. The author confronts the past and his own (anti-)nostalgia for it in a delightful mobius short. Great overall idea, certainly one of the more complex shorts ever attempted, and the writing is excellent as well.
04/30/2004 qualcomm (5): good old fred. i know it's 'not cool' to bring the author's personal life into analyses, but the 3rd graf explicates what i've always suspected about the author, especially the "tongue in cheek self-loathing".
04/30/2004 Maxwell Demon (4): I’m not sure if the narrator’s use of the term “meta-elegy” and overall tone elicits an empathetic wry grin on my part, or something more along the lines of a bemused irritation with his sophisticated navel gazing. This short has the feeling of being slightly too aware of its own juxtaposition of situation and sentiment in mining for an emotional response. That said, the interest and skill of recording these emblematic moments from multiple points of experience and intent touches me on the inside where I’m soft like marshmallows.
04/30/2004 Mr. Pony (5): What witchery is this?
04/30/2004 John Slocum: I read this without looking at the ratings/comments, and then headed down to 3-star this. I thought either I was stupid or this short was stupid and figured it was about 50/50 in either direction. The 5's rolled by and gave me pause. Processing.....
04/30/2004 Ewan Snow: I could write a good essay on this one. Might have to...
04/30/2004 John Slocum: Upon re-reading, I feel the balance has tipped, 70/30 in favor of me being stupid. Processing....
04/30/2004 Ewan Snow: You're not stupid, John. Don't you ever say that! Just because Fred has visions of a "a starkly beautiful act of self-immolation" and tells himself he's a "maladroit fool" doesn't mean you should. If Fred jumped off a bridge...
05/1/2004 John Slocum (5): 100/0. Gets better and better the more I read.
05/1/2004 TheBuyer: Go with your gut, Slocum; I blanched a bit after my own vote, thinking I'd missed THE pont. The language is top drawer, and the images crave to be in paintings but on the whole, your instincs mirrored my own. Kind of like reading an article in Harper's Magazine that you know is good because they published it, but it doesn't mean you have to like it.
05/1/2004 scoop (3): I usually enjoy with "extreme prejudice" everything Brad does. And have always loved how he playfully paws at the debilitating emotional paralyisis that comes with this kind Vegas Strip vivid self-awareness. Yes, as Ewan said it is very bold and complex. But I think no more bold than much of Brad's other impressive work. "Tuesday night at driving school I saw Jason Summers..." and "Bad Mozart" I think are as good snapshots of this post-post-modern "self" self-aware type of writing. However, I have a real problem with this. I had the same reaction to this short as I did to "Lost in Translation." I feel like I'm being asked to trust the fact that this is really importanat, all this morbid bourgeiois self-reflection, but there is nothing there to give it any substance. I feel like scremaing in his ear to get on a plane back to America. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I can't help but think that I'm supposed to be moved by the last line, and not that it's an ironic send off. The whole thing feels too manufactured, I can see the gears and motors turning and it prevents from identifying with this Fred. I just can't feel anything but contempt for this guy, and that otherwise well written last line feels like a calculated cry for self-pity, as fake as all of Freds's bull shit.
05/1/2004 Mr. Pony: Seems to me that the chemicals in one's brain are as real as the chemicals that make up a hydrogen bomb or a squirrel or an Emmy Award.
05/1/2004 scoop: Yes, I couldn't agree more.
05/1/2004 Phony Millions: I like the buyer's comment about the Harper's article that you know is good but might not dig anyways...Clearly Fred's self-loathing is wearing thin; this was kind of an attempt to make a break with this self-referential kind of stuff; but I can't promise that you've all heard the last of poor Fred...thanks for insightful comments...
05/1/2004 John Slocum: TheBuyer: I'm glad I waited and re-read several times before rating. Some of my 'instinct' to 3 star was a reaction to what I thought was sloppy writing in the first paragraph (emblematic 'in' not 'of'; characterized 'as' not 'by'; conversation 'in which' not'for which'). Being toilet trained at gun point (as I've said before), these things rankled me and I read the rest without really getting into it. I realized later that some of these things in the first paragraph were necessary to set the time-shifting of the short; the author, very impressively, has enough command here to do things purposefully wrong for a reason. AND it works! In addition, he employs words in a rich, satisfying, downright pleasurable manner. The sentence about 'burnt offerings' is fantastic. Finally, this short is structurally complex and the author, to me, executed it very well. If you, The Buyer, think the writing and images were so good but didn't see the point, why not 4 stars? Why take 2 stars for your perception there was no point? And how many shorts have a point? What's the point of expecting a short to have a point?
05/1/2004 John Slocum: Scoop, so many questions for scoop.
05/1/2004 John Slocum: Must brad continue to be more and more bold with each short? Do you think this is less bold than others?
05/1/2004 John Slocum: How does not identifying or liking Fred partially ruin this for you? I feel the same way about Fred.
05/1/2004 TheBuyer: Damn you, Slocum.
Point made, corrective rating for reasons cited below. Four stars.
05/1/2004 TheBuyer: this is the part where i figure out i can't change my rating.
05/3/2004 senator (4): I've got a soft spot for Bus Drivers that do blow. 4 stars!