Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid… of the Trees

It occurred to me a few weeks ago when I stupidly walked into the Strand Bookstore looking for a used copy of Mary Crow Dog’s Lakota Woman, only to be assaulted by huge, cinder-block tomes of the new giants of Mainstream Book-dealing, the Graphomaniacs, with laudatory graffiti penned by Times, Time, and Time-and-Again “reviewers” and odd and sundry professional blurbistas, that one of the worst realities about the murdering of literature — and it is certainly dead, according to autopsies by reliable, independent forensic technicians; i.e., those not “on the take” — is that “in the day” one could skate past the “book reviewers” (i.e. failed journalists) of newspapers and magazines owned by the same conglomerate as one’s publisher, but you could not escape the wrath of your colleagues.

In fact, lampooning collaborators was a part of the tradition, from Fielding’s Shamela lambasting the original Graphomaniac, Richardson, or whoever the fuck wrote Pamela — and might very well still be at it, adding further chapters to torment us in Hades — to Byron’s “English Bards and Scotch Reviewers” to Thackeray’s Vanity Fair to passages of Ulysses and beyond. As much as I detest reading novels (as opposed to long mind-trips of the sort Sterne, Joyce, Gaddis, Burroughs, Kathy Acker, Pynchon etc. composed) the thought of writing one might even be worse — HOWEVER, I would love to write an absolutely vicious lampoon of the Graphomaniacs, which like Shamela, would be about one-fifth the length of its Target Tome, but enough to “capture” the dead-souls of its targets (forgot about Gogol; his Dead Souls was a satire on the official literature as well as the official society that condoned it; and one could fit about four Dead Souls into a single volume penned by even your run-of-the-mill Graphomaniac — and still have room for a couch, a television, which even the most stalwart bibliophile will turn to for relief, and a micro-wave oven).

Problem is, of course, this small bit of revenge, like anything else human and worth reading, has long been declared Streicht Verboten, unless penned by a David Sedaris-type collaborator and suitable for serialization in The New Yorker…of course, one can write whatever one wishes — so long as it’s on a blog or Friendbook or some such (“a chicken in every pot, and a soap-box on every desktop”)…

So… Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid… (unless you’re fortunate enough to be an unknown loser, such as myself, though a grateful one in terms of the coming pay-back by you-know-who. They wouldn’t touch me. I’ve only published three short books — and nobody read them. Some of my best friends are trees, honest…)

Ain’t no jest.

While that David Foster Wallace did the right thing by hanging himself before he could be brought to trial, just one copy of his Infinite infinite infinite Joke totals about 1500 unreadable pages — as if they were actually meant to be read!

These fuckers, these shameless Graphomaniacs (David Franzen and David Eggars, to rat out a few — are you listening, Trees?) have declared all out war against the trees. This is nothing less than sylvanicide — they’re clear-cutting every forested hill, knoll, ridge or gated-community they can find — out west. But these geo-structures, no matter how far out, ain’t as dumb and dis-organized as they used to be.

Sooner or later, a bunch of pissed off mountains (with crew-cuts, no less!) are gonna come looking for someone…

Poets should be relatively safe, cause they write short books — and who the hell reads poetry any way? But these Graphomaniacs packing shelves with paper pachyderms of puerile, purple prose (not to mention gushing “reviews” by the NY Times, et al. and cover-stories in Time magazine etc. (which goes out to millions and millions)… they’re gonna have to answer for stuff…

Wallace got away easy, as far as I’m concerned…

Graphic artists should also be out of harm’s way.

Technically, no matter how many pieces any artist produces — even prolific graphic artists like Picasso, Georgia O’Keefe and Matisse who all lived past ninety — it’s negligible compared to the paper used just to publish just one “review copy” of a Graphomaniacal Monster — usually around the size of Anna Karenina or The Brothers Karamozov, though some, like Infinite infinite infinite Joke, go beyond War and Peace (not including the last 200 “philosophical” pages in which Tolstoy denounces his own work, or the basic Russian diet, or something — no one knows really, cause no one born after 1925 has actually read these pages…).

Salinger, Carver, Grace Paley, Ralph Ellison and Tillie Olsen were all seriously sharp dudes/dudettes. All wrote a helluva lot, allegedly, but only allowed three or four short books to be published…

Note: Thomas Pynchon is safe, cause first of all, the trees actually dig his stuff and consider real art/music/philosophy/literature etc. worth the “ultimate sacrifice”; and second: Tyrone Slothrop, “hero” of Gravity’s Rainbow, was sold, at birth, to the evil Pavlovian government scientists by his family in order to “pay bills” after the paper mill that had been in the family since the pilgrims landed went belly-up cause they killed all trees in the region and couldn’t afford to import more…hence the refrain, repeated throughout GR in description of the “American” reality as well as ideal, “shit, money and the word,” has much significance for the trees, who do not believe legal tender — which according to supporters of the world-wide gold standard Nixon quashed in ’72 to bulwark the “mighty dollar,” is neither legal nor tender — to be worth the “ultimate sacrifice.” So Pynchon’s safe –or was — until he too started publishing long, boring books, though not as long nor as boring as the Graphomaniacs…he’s flirting with danger.

William Gaddis is also off the hook because a) he’s dead — though that didn’t stop the Graphomaniacs from pissing on his grave and making “Corrections” to The Recognitions and b) his three huge novels and two thin ones are worth every page…more or less…

William Burroughs and Kathy Acker are also safely dead. But Ishmael Reed’s still alive.  Then again, they wrote short books — great ones, but short…like Thomas Bernhard, whom Gaddis himself honored in his last work…but in this era of LONG ATTENTION SPANS, why shouldn’t The Market be saturated by Graphomaniacs?

The coupe de grace?

Let ‘em read cake recipies!

Adam Engel lived for your sins -- and he lived well! -- in Fear-and-Trembling, Brooklyn, one of the last gangrenous toes of NYC not yet severed and replaced with a prosthetic gentrification device. Engel has traveled the farthest regions of cyberspace, where Dark-matter meets Doesn't-matter; and Anti-matter, despite its negative connotation and dour point-of-view, excercises rights of expression protected by Richard Stallman's GNU/Free Software Foundation and CopyLeft agreement, if nobody and nothing else. Having spent many years studying Boobus Americanus (Summum Ignoramus), allegedly the most intelligent mammal on earth -- after its distant relative, Homo Sapiens -- in various natural habitats (couch, cubicle, bar-stool, ball-game -- televised or 'real-time') -- Engel has thus far related his observations of and experiences with this most dangerous of predators in three books -- Topiary, Cella Fantastik, and I Hope My Corpse Gives You the Plague (the combined international sales of which have reached literally dozens, perhaps as many as seventy, with projected revenue to top three digits by decade's end! Truly a publishing phenomenon). Engel is Associate Editor of Time Capsule Books, a division of Oliver Arts & Open Press, published in limited editions for a tiny, highly specified, though eclectic, target-audience: people who actually read books. He can be reached at Read other articles by Adam, or visit Adam's website.