Monday, April 20, 2009

A Side Note

Yesterday I happened upon a book entitled Manifesto at Book People. I hadn't been to a book store in a long time, so I was happy and ever so willing to wander around the fiction section. I first tracked down all of my go-to authors (to see which books still needed to be added to my collection), then I went back to letter A in the 'classics' and meandered thru Austen and Dante, Kerouac and Wodehouse, then I started at letter Z and sauntered thru 'general fiction.' I stopped here and there along the way and read the back covers or final paragraph to see if it was worth time and money. About ten minutes before I walk out of the store into the setting Austin sun, I find myself at the letter A in 'general fiction.' At this point I already have 3 books in hand and a 4th might put me over the edge. But there it sits, on the next to top shelf, a white book the size of my hand. Peeking thru the professionally-designed-mass-produced-consumer-friendly covers is a blank white 200pg bound book. Well, of course my 4yr old curiosity lead me to pick it up. I opened the first title page, no publication page, not even a page of dedication. A folded up red sheet of paper rests in the crease between page 72 and 73. I open it up thinking it will lead to some explanation of the book. The sheet lists of films, books, quotes, people. Nothing more and nothing less. 

So I buy it. 

And I start reading it. And it resonates with me. And I fall in love with it. And I hate it for all it says. And I think about all it doesn't say. And I cry internally for the way it makes me feel. And I feel guilty for thoughts I've had. And I'm only on page 57 of a 200 page book. 

There are many one-liners that have swept me up, but this paragraph made me stop.

"The books we read were lies; the newspapers were trash; the voices of politicians were twisted; we could trust no one; we were trapped in a chamber of echoing distortions. Injustice made us cry. Stupid people believed in a Messiah. The world seemed increasingly more corrupt, violent, deranged and perverted. Druglords ran the government. Soft and weak people ate microwave dinners and sat lumpy bodies into couch cushions to watch insidious TV shows. Outside in the night in the ghettos of East St. Louis and Los Angeles and Chicago kids walked with guns and knives and throttled each other to stay alive. Occasionally an inner-city school got a good teacher. Occasionally a teacher was killed."

Images of The Wire, Shattered Glass, any political election I can consciously remember, the Million Little Pieces controversy, books I read as a child, school-shootings, LIFE photographs, favorite song lyrics...flooded my mind. 

I think that piece of prose is a very spot on telling of the modern mind. But I can't help but find the beauty in something that seems so American. While these experiences are not strictly owned by American culture, it seems that when they are all placed together in such a linear way that somehow it is an interpretation of modern American life -- there is such a paradox, a duality, a cohabitation of lives. It's not necessarily as pointed as Good vs. Evil in Blue Velvet, but is that same basic principle where 'if this exist then this other thing must also exist.' 

-- Alright, back to REreading The Wire I go. 

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