away. I donít want you here today. Instead, why donít you
check out the adult insert? Or watch TV like everyone else
for a changeóisnít it almost time for Who Wants to Watch
a Millionaire Eat a Bug? Honestly, thereíve got to be
15 different things youíre putting off right now; go do three
of them. Seriously, beat it. Come back in a couple of weeks.
I want to be left alone.
Itís nothing personal. I mean, itís nothing youíve done, specifically.
I donít even know who most of you are, so donít feel singled
out for criticism. It isnít any one of you, itís all of you
collectivelyóitís you as audience. Itís you as the Imagined
Readership. I donít want to have to consider you today.
Well, then, take the week off, you suggest. Itís not like
we broke in and held you at knife point, demanding another
installment on threat of grievous bodily harm. Do what you
want, you self-aggrandizing, solipsistic twerp. Write the
thing, donít write the thingóitís no skin off our backs. This
ainít Misery. Weíre not going to hobble you if you
write something that displeases us. And what makes you think
that you havenít already displeased us? If you want to know
the brutal truth, weíve always thought you a bit of a flake
anyway. So, write it as haiku, write it in Arabic or pig Latin,
holler it out the window, pull a Tristram Shandy and publish
a handful of squiggly lines meant to illustrate the passing
motions of your typing fingersówhatever you do, itís not gonna
change our order at the drive-thru window, if you get our
Yeah, I get your point. I know you donít hang on these words.
I know itís not that important to you. I know that itís a
provocative diversion, at its best; and an impertinent trifle,
an annoying open-ended question, when not quite up to that
level. And, in some ways, Iím glad for that insignificance.
Really, this isnít brain surgeryóand, thank god. At even my
most delusional, I aspire to tinker with your inner workings
in a mostly metaphorical way, using an indirect approach via
your emotions. I suspect thatís true of mostóto use an only
convenient descriptorócreative types. Thatís why we pick up
the pen (or the palette or the Gibson Flying V, or whatever)
as opposed to, say, the rib-spreader.
To steal a line, I am trying to break your heart. I mean,
Ióin league with all the other writers, musicians, painters,
sculptors, filmmakers, et al.óam trying to seduce you, the
imagined audience, the way someone once (more than that, actually,
many more times) seduced me: the way Somerset Maugham, Frida
Kahlo, Herman Melville, Wim Wenders, Rosser Reeves, Richard
Buckner, Emily Dickenson, Egon Schiele, Vic Chesnutt, Milan
Kundera, Lisa Germano, Jean-Michel Basquiat, both Fitzgeralds,
Alice Neel, Harold Brodky, FranÁois Truffaut, William Irwin,
Dante Gabriel Rosetti, Anne Sexton, Chris Ware, Frederic Tuten,
Jan Vermeer, Zadie Smith, Aristide Maillol and a thousand
others seduced me.
And, frankly, sometimes its gets to be a bit of a bore.
Sometimes, I donít care if youíre coming over, I want to leave
the dishes in the sink and greet you in my underpants. Youíve
got a problem with that? Well, where do you think I keep the
dishwashing liquid, brainiac? What are you standing there
staring at me for? Check under the sink; you can see I donít
have it on meóIím not wearing any damn pants. And skip the
oh-so-clever witticism, because Iíve already told you that
itís under the sink and, as it happens, Iím not all that happy
to see you.
Yeah, sometimes courting you seems a chore.
Because I imagine you as similar to meóonly better. Youíre
smarter, better-read than I, and more worldly. Youíre a deeper
thinker and more logical. Youíre both imaginative and disciplined.
Youíre probably multilingual. You never had any problem understanding
the difference between inductive and deductive reasoning,
and you only had to look up ontological and teleological once
each, then never again. Youíre conversant in the foundational
myths of half-a-dozen cultures, and you take pleasure discussing
theoretical innovations in the field of pure mathematics.
You really understand the workings of the Federal Reserve
and you are familiar with the details of the Teapot Dome Scandal.
You speak confidently about the work of both Terry Riley and
Terry Gilliam. Youíre a graceful dance partner and a better-than-average
dart player. You have a pleasant singing voice and absolutely
no interest in public recognition.
The imagined you is, therefore, difficult to impressómuch
less seduce. And yet I feel obliged, driven, to attempt it
nonetheless, to try to win over, to woo, this vague amalgam
of all the best qualities of my even-possible readership.
Because I have imagined it as the audienceóthe ur-audienceóthat
has conferred greatness on all the successful seducers of
the past, and I want deeply to join their ranks.
Today, though, my cravenly needy artistic Don Juanism annoys
me. Today, I want to be ugly and uncouth. Today, I want to
tell the imagined youóthe imagined you whom I could never
fool myself into thinking too stupid or unsophisticated to
ďgetĒ me, the imagined you on whom I canít turn the tables
and dismiss, the imagined you who is so frustratingly authoritativeóto
go to hell.
Today, I want to drive you away. Today, I want to slurp the
soup straight from the tureen, and wipe my mouth on the tablecloth.
Today, I want to goose the maid, and play footsie with your
dour aunt. Today, in the words of another great seducer, I
want to be ďwicked rather than virtuous out of conformity
But if you do stick around and you find that you enjoy it,
feel free to applaud. I wonít bow, Iím too proud. But backstage,
despite myself, Iíll probably smile.