Long Live The Author
Ladies and gentlemen, please, could I have your attention, please? I’m afraid I have some bad news. The author is sick. Very sick, actually. The author has a cancer. Or else a blood disease, a virus, an ailment of the circulation. The author is jaundiced, he is in pain, he suffers gastrointestinal misfortunes, heartburn like you wouldn’t believe, lymphoma, shingles, Crohn’s disease... the author is simply not himself today. Do I know how far many of you have traveled? Do I know how long you’ve waited to tell the author exactly what you think of him? I do, believe me I do. I see that some of you are carrying torches. I see women among you with bibles, children clutching charms and garlic. Not a few among you have brought flowers—and irises at that, the author’s favorite. At the back there I see what looks like a catapult. Is that a catapult? And up there on the hill—archers? …Well but it will do you no good. The author has had an accident. The author has slipped on something slippery. He has sustained concussions, contusions. He has swollen testicles, a swollen heart. The author is stricken—like his hero Ivan Karamazov—with a bout of brain fever. The author has hemorrhoids, halitosis, a distended thyroid, chronic arthritis, the author has multiple citrus-sized goiters, the author is a cantankerous monster and he cannot bear your gasps or your stares or your derision. Least of all your derision, ladies and gentlemen, and least of all today. It is the author’s birthday after all. Or it will be soon, or it was already—surely someone here has the fucker’s bio. In any event, the author is very very sick and he will not be able to answer your questions or strum you a ditty or assuage the justifiable rage or love or pity that has led you here to our canvas tent on this glorious Sunday afternoon. I am sorry to turn you away, but turn you away I must.
Murmur all you want, ladies and gentlemen. Grumble, grouse, voice your dissent and bruit your misinformation. But the fact is you’ve read the author’s work and sickness is not its prevalent theme by mere coincidence. The author is not, I assure you, trying to avoid your attentions. The author wants to be held accountable! He cherishes your visits as much as he cherishes their absence, which is to say, not much. But the author is sick more often than he is well, and he is well more often than he is happy, and he is never happy. And I was of course only kidding when I said you’d read the author’s work. If you had you’d have arrived long before this. Go ahead back there! Fire your flaming arrows! We are protected by a higher power! But please aim for the tent behind me, which maybe I shouldn’t tell you is highly flammable. Incredibly and totally flammable, ladies and gentlemen, and filled with copies of the author’s unpublished manuscripts. He has arranged them in boxes and envelopes piled high like a paper sarcophagus and he lies supine at the very center as if… well, it’s only the sickness of course. He has an infection of the kidneys or of the lungs. Emphysema, he says, or eczema, or cardio-necrosis. His cholesterol is off the charts. His heart is literally encased in fat. He is useless, ladies and gentlemen, more useless than ever before and yet somehow more belligerent too.
I know, I know, you’ve paid good money, you’ve endured background checks, friskings, rectal examinations. You’ve gone the required 24 hours without solid food. You’ve passed the blood screening, the urinalysis. You’ve done everything that’s been asked of you (aside from surrendering your weapons). You’ve wasted hours, days, years, and yet: no author. That’s why I’ve stepped out here, in front of a potentially hostile crowd, to offer up a substitute entertainment. Instead of the author—who is sick, as I’ve said, or whose mother is sick, or who just had a root canal or has discovered a bleeding ulcer or an affliction of the liver or who is right now seizing epileptically, just behind the flap of this canvas tent that by God you had better not touch those torches to; who is truly and totally not himself, is what I’m saying—in lieu of an appearance by the author I am authorized to offer up the following grab-bag of distractions: a reading from the Declaration of Independence by yours truly; a complimentary tee-shirt—you can see here it reads, “The author was sick and all I got was another extended metaphor”; and a year’s subscription to… what’s this? Poets & Suicides Magazine? Christ.
Well that’s not enough, is it ladies and gentlemen? You demand that the author explain himself. All of the riddles, the metaphors, the false transcendences—they’ve worn on you. I understand, they’ve worn on me too. I’m no friend to the author! In fact, had I not hitched myself to his dark star back in 2002, when it seemed he might amount to something, I’d be out there among you beautiful people rather than up here protecting an author who may have hemorrhoids, halitosis, chronic acne, gout. The riddles, the metaphors, the false transcendences… but let’s not stop there! The people the author authors! A man who lives his entire life alone on an asteroid. A woman who survives on an island of black stone no larger than a kitchen. A family of ascetics all born without mouths. A boy whose heart is in fact another, smaller boy, whose heart is… well but what does it matter? We demand satisfaction! And while violence is rarely the answer ladies and gentlemen, and while I am contractually obligated to defer my own opinions and recommendations, I urge you nevertheless to consider—in a wholly theoretical way—that violence sometimes is the answer, and a good answer at that. But please, as I have said already, please do not approach the tent! The author is not himself and the man you disembowel and burn alive right here in the town square will not be the man you seek at all, but some shadowy half-author unable to suffer properly or to fully comprehend your rage. Did I mention disemboweling? Burning? A slip of the tongue, ladies and gentlemen. Please, let’s not disembowel the author. Even if we do hang him. Which we cannot, okay, we absolutely cannot hang the author. Better to burn him than to hang him!
Or else we could just wait for the author to improve. Yes, that’s an idea, isn’t it ladies and gentlemen. We could just stand here like imbeciles and hope for some miracle convalescence, as if we were Christians or something. The author’s sickness, ladies and gentlemen, is almost certainly without remedy. You see, what the author is sick of is you. He is sick of your incessant non-visitations, sick of authoring into the void. He’s sick of the obscurity you cruelly impose. He is sick of your not existing, sick of your objections to work he has not yet authored at all. Frankly, ladies and gentlemen, the author hates your hearts! He wants you to suffer the sickness he suffers. He dreams of your heads impaled on stakes and rotting beneath the blistering sun in this Godforsaken square. He would like nothing more than to lift the flap of his highly flammable canvas tent and see your bodies decomposing in all sorts of gymnastic caricatures as he wastes away beneath his ridiculous handwritten inventions. And all the while here I’d be, the loyal apprentice standing stupidly at his side, again regretting the youthful vows of fealty. Well youth is a fool, ladies and gentlemen, and your absence is a presence of overpowering intensity. And so unleash your flaming arrows! Launch your flaming loaves! Advance upon the author, devour his diseased organs, swallow his black tumescent heart! He is beyond reprieve, but I have manuscripts of my own. Advance, in the name of all that is good and holy, so that a new literature might declare its rightful and long-awaited insignificance. The author is sick! Long live the author!