I can offer provisional proof of this in the simple fact that the sun has addressed me for years in human speech . . .

-Daniel Paul Schreber

 

1

 

A thousand years before any of this happened, I was rich and bored and living in the famous city of Z. Something came over me. Even before I got the bad news from the five trustees, something changed. For several days I felt a paralyzing frustration, sexual, occupational. I longed—the longing was so balky it wasn’t clear what exactly I was longing for. I longed for a subject in my life. I hunted sex but came up with nothing. I cravenly abandoned my idiosyncratic numismatic research. I stopped calling people I knew. The fifth day was eerily overcast and warm. A friend who’d been wondering about me stopped by. We drank a few bottles of beer, and he innocently bored me. I hustled him out. Just before it set, the sun dropped below the distant margin of the cloud layer and cast a pale, swelling glow on a table of photographs in silver and leather frames. Mom and Dad, some famous but staid ancestors, the house I’d grown up in, me as a camp counselor showing a crowd of boys a leaf of edible yarrow.

I realize this may sound like an outburst instead of a question, but . . . Is the sky falling? Literature is in flux . . . or WORSE! Isn’t it? People have forgotten how to read or don’t have the time. Technology is destroying our culture! What’s happening? WHY?

I guess a lot of people in the arts feel haunted right now—haunted by what we sense is starting to happen, the cultural continents pulling apart. You can’t sit down with another writer and not get into some wild-eyed back-and-forth about tempora and mores. Ultimately, I don’t think it’s very important what we think. It’s a purely journalistic fixation anyway. Or worse, a business one. I laugh when I read so-called “Arts” reporting and it’s all about box office and Ipads and 3D-graphic-novel-delivery-systems (I made that one up). Don’t writers have more important things on their minds? That’s not to say I don’t wonder about the future like everybody else (though I believe that all the anxious wondering itself is a symptom of paralysis). I’m trying to enjoy as much as I can the feeling that we’ve entered a barbarous age.