Monitoring is both the source and the function of internet spectacle. When graphic death footage via surveillance is released for public consumption, the structures in place for social order become the means by which the public is controlled by the spectacle they feed on. We are “allowed” death, like a taste of the forbidden, and numbed by its intensity. We move from death videos to death-video parodies to WeChat Wallets to state-sponsored news: the most and the least mundane are totalized in one mesmerizing feed.
It’s an unbelievable amount of pressure to put on one thing. A period of disinterest, even just an hour, might send the whole thing toppling. How can you claim to love something that has the potential to bore you? How can you make any claim on it at all? Plagued with boredom, the Desert Fathers were also wracked with guilt for feeling bored and doubtful about their calling, which had heretofore been the very reason for their existence. This compound of bad feelings was known as “the ‘demon of noontide,’” according to the theologian Michael Raposa, “a powerful boredom that ‘besieges’ the devotee, resulting in distraction from, sometimes even abandonment of, the spiritual life.”
In 2008 I published a short piece in Cabinet magazine on the fate of writer Thomas Browne’s skull, stolen from his coffin 158 years after his death. It caught the attention of an editor at a small press called Unbridled Books, Fred Ramey, who contacted me and asked if I would develop it into what became my first book. He particularly praised the final line of the Cabinet piece, saying that line showed him I was a strong writer. I didn’t have the courage to tell him that the line in question had not been written by me but added by my editor at Cabinet, Sina Najafi.
Who can properly claim credit for such a line, written by the editor but appearing under the name of the writer? Where is the editor’s hand evident—if at all—in the writer’s work? Ramey asks these questions in The Insect Dialogues, a book-length conversation with another writer, Marc Estrin, on the role and responsibility of the editor.
But this current danger was exciting. I became nearly delirious in my desire to sell The Satanic Verses, spellbound by photographs of Rushdie’s daunting eyebrows and pungent gaze. The tapping of cash register buttons was swiftly upgraded into a campaign to save literature from the forces of darkness. I blazed with excitement.
Each day my coworkers and I reported for duty to get the latest instructions, direct from corporate headquarters. Copies of Rushdie’s book were to be kept near the cash registers. No, behind the cash registers. No, now in the back of the store, the stockroom, where only management could tread. Employees who did not feel safe selling the book were allowed to be taken off the schedule, no repercussions. People were bombing bookstores!
Drinking water out of a mug feels kind of like trying to eat soup off a plate or cutting steak with a spoon; it just doesn’t make sense. But of course it’s not like these things. When you really think about it, drinking water from a mug is perfectly logical. Just like a glass, a mug is a receptacle meant to hold liquid, and it gets the job done. So why am I so averse to this relatively harmless action?
They say a dead woman can’t run from her coffin.
How moonshine can orchestrate nuff wild thoughts!