Donating money generated from Kindle sales to charity

I suffer from depression. From suicidal depression at times. Officially, I’m diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Since my diagnosis, I’ve been on medication, which helps. But last year, before my diagnosis, things got dark—real dark. I ended up hospitalized for three days in the behavioral medicine ward.

So why am I telling you this?peculiar

Recently, I self-published a collection of short stories on Amazon—on the Kindle format. I wrote three of the stories in this collection at the height of my suicidal depression. Those stories still haunt me, and they haunt several people who’ve read them.

Since mental illness and suicide are close to my heart, I’ve decided to donate half of all proceeds generated from sales from my ebook, starting today and running through the month of September, to suicide prevention charities. If it’s successful, and if I can raise a decent amount of money, I’ll continue to do it.

This book isn’t just about me, or helping myself—it’s also about making money to donate to charity. If you can, and if you’re interested, will you help me spread the word?

Here’s a link to the book.

Thanks.

Who’s On Hoth?

by
Daulton Dickey.

(With Apologies to Abbott & Costello)

Stormtrooper 1: Alright, now whaddya want?

Stormtrooper 2: Now look, I’m the head of the reconnaissance division for the Imperial Army, and we’re looking for the Rebellion’s hidden base, which we hear is on either Tatooine, Kashyyk, or Hoth, and we’ve been told that you know the names of the three divisions of the Alliance on each planet.

Stormtrooper 1: Oh sure.

Stormtrooper 2: So you go ahead and tell me some of their names.

Stormtrooper 1: We have Who’s on Hoth, What’s on Tatooine, I Don’t Know’s on Kashyyk.

Stormtrooper 2: That’s what I wanna find out.

Stormtrooper 1: I say Who’s on Hoth, What’s on Tatooine, I Don’t Know’s on Kashyyk –

Stormtrooper 2: You know the Alliance’s names?

Stormtrooper 1: Certainly!

Stormtrooper 2: Well, then who’s on Hoth?

Stormtrooper 1: Yes!

Stormtrooper 2: I mean the Alliance’s name!

Stormtrooper 1: Who!

Stormtrooper 2: The section of the Alliance on Hoth!

Stormtrooper 1: Who!

Stormtrooper 2: The rebels!

Stormtrooper 1: Who!

Stormtrooper 2: The rebels attempting to overthrow the Empire!

Stormtrooper 1: Who is on Hoth!

Stormtrooper 2: Now whaddya askin’ me for?

Stormtrooper 1: I’m telling you Who is on Hoth.

Stormtrooper 2: Well, I’m asking YOU who’s on Hoth!

Stormtrooper 1: That’s the division’s name.

Stormtrooper 2: That’s who’s name?

Stormtrooper 1: Yes.

Stormtrooper 2: Well, go ahead and tell me.

Stormtrooper 1: Who.

Stormtrooper 2: The division of the Alliance stationed on Hoth.

Stormtrooper 1: Who!

Stormtrooper 2: The rebels.

Stormtrooper 1: Who is on Hoth!

Stormtrooper 2: Have you got a data readout of the rebels on Hoth?

Stormtrooper 1: Absolutely.

Stormtrooper 2: Who does it say is on Hoth?

Stormtrooper 1: It says Who is on Hoth.

Stormtrooper 2: When you enter this information into the Imperial archives, who do you say is on Hoth?

Stormtrooper 1: Who is.

Stormtrooper 2: That’s what I’m trying to find out.

Stormtrooper 1: Who is on Hoth?

Stormtrooper 2: All I’m tryin’ to find out is what’s the rebel’s name on Hoth.

Stormtrooper 1: Oh, no – wait a minute, don’t switch ’em around. What is on Tatooine.

Stormtrooper 2: I’m not askin’ you who’s on Tatooine.

Stormtrooper 1: Who is on Hoth.

Stormtrooper 2: I don’t know.

Stormtrooper 1: He’s on Kashyyk – now we’re not talkin’ ’bout him.

Stormtrooper 2: Now, how did I get to Kashyyk?

Stormtrooper 1: You mentioned its name!

Stormtrooper 2: If I mentioned the alliance on Kashyyk, who did I say is stationed on Kashyyk?

Stormtrooper 1: No – Who’s stationed on Hoth.

Stormtrooper 2: Never mind Hoth – I wanna know what’s the name of the division of rebels stationed on Kashyyk.

Stormtrooper 1: No – What’s on Tatooine.

Stormtrooper 2: I’m not askin’ you who’s on Tatooine.

Stormtrooper 1: Who’s on Hoth.

Stormtrooper 2: I don’t know.

Stormtrooper 1: He’s on Kashyyk.

Stormtrooper 2: Aaah! Would you please stay on Kashyyk and don’t go off it?

Stormtrooper 1: What was it you wanted?

Stormtrooper 2: Now who’s stationed on Kashyyk?

Stormtrooper 1: Now why do you insist on putting Who on Kashyyk?

Stormtrooper 2: Why? Who am I putting over there?

Stormtrooper 1: Yes. But we don’t want him there.

Stormtrooper 2: What’s the name of the division of the rebels on Kashyyk?

Stormtrooper 1: What belongs on Tatooine.

Stormtrooper 2: I’m not askin’ you who’s on Tatooine.

Stormtrooper 1: Who’s on Hoth.

Stormtrooper 2: I don’t know.

Stormtrooper 1 & Stormtrooper 2: KASHYYK!

Stormtrooper 2: You got names of other rebellions on other planets?

Stormtrooper 1: Oh yes!

Stormtrooper 2: The rebellion on Dantooine?

Stormtrooper 1: Why.

Stormtrooper 2: I don’t know, I just thought I’d ask you.

Stormtrooper 1: Well, I just thought I’d tell you.

Stormtrooper 2: Alright, then tell me who’s stationed on Mustafar.

Stormtrooper 1: Who is on Hoth –

Stormtrooper 2: STAY OUTTA THE INNER RIM! I wanna know what’s the name of the division stationed on Mustafar.

Stormtrooper 1: What’s on Tatooine.

Stormtrooper 2: I’m not askin’ you who’s on Tatooine.

Stormtrooper 1: Who’s on Hoth.

Stormtrooper 2: I don’t know.

Stormtrooper 1 & Stormtrooper 2: KASHYYK!

Stormtrooper 2: The name of the division stationed on Mustafar?

Stormtrooper 1: Why.

Stormtrooper 2: Because!

Stormtrooper 1: Oh, he’s on Bespin.

Stormtrooper 2: Look, you gotta name for the leader of the rebellion?

Stormtrooper 1: Now wouldn’t this be a fine rebellion without a leader.

Stormtrooper 2: The leader’s name.

Stormtrooper 1: Tomorrow.

Stormtrooper 2: You don’t wanna tell me today?

Stormtrooper 1: I’m tellin’ you now.

Stormtrooper 2: Then go ahead.

Stormtrooper 1: Tomorrow.

Stormtrooper 2: What time?

Stormtrooper 1: What time what?

Stormtrooper 2: What time tomorrow are you going to tell me who the leader is?

Stormtrooper 1: Now listen. Who is not the leader. Who is on Hot –

Stormtrooper 2: I’ll disintegrate you if you say Who’s on Hoth. I wanna know what’s the leader’s name.

Stormtrooper 1: What’s on Tatooine.

Stormtrooper 2: I don’t know.

Stormtrooper 1 & Stormtrooper 2: KASHYYK!

Stormtrooper 2: You got a second in command?

Stormtrooper 1: Oh, absolutely.

Stormtrooper 2: The second in command’s name.

Stormtrooper 1: Today.

Stormtrooper 2: Today. And Tomorrow’s leading.

Stormtrooper 1: Now you’ve got it.

Stormtrooper 2: All we’ve got is a couple of days of the rebellion.

Stormtrooper 1: Well, I can’t help that.

Stormtrooper 2: Well, I’m a second in command, too.

Stormtrooper 1: I know that.

Stormtrooper 2: Now suppose that I’m second in command, Tomorrow’s leading my rebellion, and their heavy frigate blasts off.

Stormtrooper 1: Yes.

Stormtrooper 2: Tomorrow devises the space route. The heavy frigate escapes Imperial shields. When it gets into hyperspace, its pilot wants to know who to contact on Hoth. And I say to contact who on Hoth?

Stormtrooper 1: Now that’s the first thing you’ve said right.

Stormtrooper 2: I don’t even know what I’m talkin’ about!

Stormtrooper 1: Well, that’s all you have to do.

Stormtrooper 2: Is to say Who on Hoth?

Stormtrooper 1: Yes.

Stormtrooper 2: Now who’s going to tell him Hoth’s exact location on the star map?

Stormtrooper 1: Naturally!

Stormtrooper 2: If I want Hoth’s location on the star map, somebody’s gotta give me the coordinates. Now who’s gonna give me the coordinates?

Stormtrooper 1: Naturally!

Stormtrooper 2: Who’s gonna give me the coordinates?

Stormtrooper 1: Naturally.

Stormtrooper 2: Who?

Stormtrooper 1: Naturally!

Stormtrooper 2: Naturally.

Stormtrooper 1: Yes.

Stormtrooper 2: So I travel to the solar system, and contact Naturally.

Stormtrooper 1: NO, NO, NO! You contact Hoth and Who answers.

Stormtrooper 2: Naturally.

Stormtrooper 1: That’s right. There we go.

Stormtrooper 2: So I travel to the solar system and contact Naturally.

Stormtrooper 1: You don’t!

Stormtrooper 2: I contact who?

Stormtrooper 1: Naturally.

Stormtrooper 2: THAT’S WHAT I’M SAYING!

Stormtrooper 1: You’re not saying it that way.

Stormtrooper 2: I said I contact Naturally.

Stormtrooper 1: You don’t – you contact Who?

Stormtrooper 2: Naturally!

Stormtrooper 1: Well, say that!

Stormtrooper 2: THAT’S WHAT I’M SAYING! I contact who?

Stormtrooper 1: Naturally.

Stormtrooper 2: Ask me.

Stormtrooper 1: You contact Who?

Stormtrooper 2: Naturally.

Stormtrooper 1: That’s it.

Stormtrooper 2: SAME AS YOU!! I contact Hoth and who answers me?

Stormtrooper 1: Naturally!

Stormtrooper 2: Who answers me?

Stormtrooper 1: Naturally!

Stormtrooper 2: HE BETTER ANSWER ME! So I contact Hoth. Whoever it is intercepts my communication, and contacts Tatooine. So I travel to Tatooine to try to intercept my communication before the leader gets it. So Who relays my communication and sends it to What, What sends it to I Don’t Know, I Don’t Know relays it back to Tomorrow. The rebellion wins.

Stormtrooper 1: Yes.

Stormtrooper 2: Another guy travels to that Solar System and gets intercepted by Because. Why? I don’t know. He’s on Kashyyk and I don’t give a damn!

Stormtrooper 1: What was that?

Stormtrooper 2: I said I don’t give a damn!

Stormtrooper 1: Oh, that’s the rebellion’s third in command.

A Bunch of Bullshit: A Brief Play

by
Daulton Dickey.

Jimbo: Oh, this is bullshit. Absolute bullshit.

Woman: I tole you it wouldn’t work.

Jimbo: What’s not to work? It was a foolproof plan. A foolproof plan, I tell ya.

Man 2: Oh, yeah; it was genius.

Jimbo: Well, I didn’t hear you come up with no better plan.

Woman [to Man 2]: He’s right. Where was your bright idea?

Man 2: Where was your bright idea? [points to Jimbo] Or his?

Jimbo: I thought it was a pretty good idea, myself.

Woman: It was half a pretty good idea.

Man 2: Pretty good …? Is ya’ll listening to yourselves? Break into a midget’s house, replace all his clothes and shoes with stuff from the big and tall store, make him think he’s shrinking? That’s your pretty good idea?

Jimbo: Indeed it was.

Woman: Well, I, for one, thought it was hilarious. At least in theory.

Man 2: Course you’d think it was hilarious. You still laugh at knock knock jokes.

Woman: I do not, and you know it.

Jimbo [to Woman]: Hey, that reminds me: Knock knock.

Woman: Not now, Jimbo.

Man 2 [to Woman] Don’t go putting on airs on my account. I know it’s all eating you up inside, wanting to hear that joke.

Woman: Like I’m going to sit here all tormented ’cause I can’t hear the end of a joke meant for toddlers. Puh-lease.

Jimbo: So back to the issue at hand: [to Man 2] My plan was not flawed.

Man 2: Making a midget think he’s a-growing?

Jimbo: You laughed when I presented it. And you sure as hell went along with it. It was the execution was flawed.

Man 2: The execution wouldn’t’ve been flawed if you’d a told us that little man owned a dog big as a house.

Jimbo: I’d a-tole you he owned that monstrosity if I’d a-known it myself. Besides, it twitterheader (2)wasn’t that big a deal.

Man 2: Not that big of a deal? [points to leg] You see those silver-dollar-sized holes in my leg? Not that big of a … I swear on the good book if that thing has rabies, I’m a-biting the holy hell out of you.

Jimbo: Hey, now: don’t go threatening to spread your rabies to me. I was just the idea man. Ain’t my fault, his dog …

Man 2: What you mean, “threatening to spread my rabies”? You know something I don’t know? Did that big sons a bitch have rabies?

Woman: Hey, Jimbo …?

Jimbo: Do I look like some kind of rabies detective, able to diet egg nog or whatever …

Woman: Diagnose.

Jimbo: Thank you. [to man 2] Like I’m able to diag … what she said, rabies on the spot?

Man 2: I’m not kidding, Jimbo. I ain’t messing around …

Woman: Jimbo. Hey …?

Man 2: You is in for a world of hurt and pain if that big burly bastard done infected me with the rabies.

Jimbo: I don’t see why I should be punished. Didn’t nobody force you by gunpoint to break into that little man’s house.

Woman: Jim. Hey Jimbo …

Man 2: Don’t matter. It don’t matter …

Jimbo: It most certainly does …

Woman [yells]: Jimbo, goddamn it, will you listen to me?

Jimbo: Tarnations, woman, what do you want?

Woman: Who’s there?

Jimbo: I did up.

Woman: I did up who?

Jimbo: Get it? Like “I did a poo?” Like “poop?” Like you shat yourself? I did up who? Get it?

Woman laughs hysterically. Man 2 stares at them. Long pause.

Man 2: I hate you both.

Book Review: Primordial: An Abstraction—D. Harlan Wilson

by
Daulton Dickey.

Primordial: An Abstraction
by D. Harlan Wilson
Anti-Oedipus Press • September 3, 2014
Paperback: 167 pages • 5×8 • $13.95 • ISBN 978-0-9892391-5-8

In “Giles Goat-Boy” (1966), John Barth used universities and academia as the launching pad for an allegory of the cold war. Written in the style of a hero’s journey, and injected with liberal doses of absurdity, Barth’s story stomped across and skewered the cultural expectations, and evaluation, of academic and university life—which in his case doubled as the factionalism and jingoism of competing ideological and military powers.

Where Barth’s novel was a comic, absurd, metafictional romp through a city-sized university, author D. Harlan Wilson’s “Primordial: An Abstraction” is a more visceral—though equally absurd and darkly funny—evisceration of academia and college life, and the strangeness of life in general. It is unrelenting in its absurdity, it’s vitriol, it’s energyprimordialfront—and it’s also a meditation on the redundancies of life, of academia, and of intellectual and individualistic pursuits.

“Repetition is just as good as karma,” the narrator tells us. “Once you embrace it, once you ingest it—you’re bound to wallow in it.” (Wilson: 151)

The story is relayed in the first person by an unnamed professor and academic whose Ph.D. has been revoked. He had been “practicing a questionable mode of pedagogy […] writing a toxic strain of theory.” (Wilson: 11) Without his degree, without his work, he has admittedly lost his identity, so he must return to university to regain both.

This is the coil around which the story is wound, and from it springs humor, farce, and social and cultural commentary, and even brief didactic and philosophical asides. It is a short, minimalist novel told in deceptively simple yet beautifully rendered and subtly complex prose.

From his tyrannical control of his roommates, to his dismissal of his professors, the narrator flows from one facet of college life to the next. But this isn’t your average novel, and it’s not a detailed account of the ins-and-outs of college life. Instead, it is, in a way, an evisceration of academia-as-bureaucracy.

It’s also a book willing to take jabs at boring or uninterested—probably tenured—professors. And it takes a few pot shots at the sexually promiscuous culture, too, in which the students at this university forego casual sex in lieu of making pornos—in the library, the cafeteria, everywhere; a logical progression of sex obsessed, and sexually explicit, youth culture.

“Primordial: An Abstraction” is, in some ways, a Kafkaesque jab at bureaucracy where the acquisition of knowledge, even trivia, becomes the narrator’s castle. Through inquiring about details of his courses and his curriculum, the narrator is confronted with confusion and scorn without getting the answers he requires. Like Kafka’s doomed K., the narrator here can’t even get a straight answer when seeking trivia, in this case about a long dead pop star:

I say, “Did Mama Cass really choke to death on a hamburger?”

The grad student looks at the Professor. The Professor looks at the Dean. The Dean looks at another Dean. The other Dean looks at another Dean. That Dean looks at the Provost. The Provost looks at the President. The President looks at his mom.

His mom shrugs.

I say, “Well what good are you people? What good is any of this?” I gesticulate at the University. (Wilson: 94)

One subtext that sticks out is the juxtaposition of violence and academia, as if Wilson—or the narrator—is lobbing complaints against the diminished cultural stature of intellectualism and academia in favor of violence and war. The violence is also what you might expect when you force a brute—whether it’s a homo sapien or a simian—into a rationalized, institutional setting.

But in “Primordial: An Abstraction,” the violence largely springs from the once-and-future academic himself: the unnamed narrator. Muscular, he can bench 300 pounds, and he sticks to strict exercise and dietary habits. He also possesses the temper of a banshee on meth.

In many ways, he’s like a cross between Raoul Duke, Henry Rollins, and Jacques Lacan. He possesses a fiery intellect and an inability to refrain from ridiculing—or even assaulting—those he feels worthy. He is, in a sense, the muscular, short-tempered incarnation of Ignatius J. Reilly—if Sam Peckinpah had directed an adaptation of “A Confederacy of Dunces.”

But despite its aggression, the book is funny, with dialogue veering into Marx Brothers, Monty Python, and Donald Barthelme-esque territory—but devoid of puns or other cheap humor. It’s farcical but not whimsical or—the dread of all dreads—zany. It’s funny the way Hunter S. Thompson was funny: vicious, cruel, aggressive. But this book possess the spirit of farce absent fdharlanwilsonrom the works of a writer like Thompson.

Also, like the works of a writer like Thompson, or even Anthony Burgess, much of the humor is born out of a combination of the situation and the character of the narrator himself:

Sometimes, when I am revising my manuscripts, I forget to breath. My roommates have to remind me. I don’t like it. I don’t like them to talk at all. But they see my face go red and then gray and finally purple and despite how much they hate me they can’t shoulder the burden of my potential death. Stockholm Syndrome.

Some of them enjoy it when I flog them.

One of them asks for it.

I don’t enjoy flogging people. Not for any reason. But the Law is the Law and somebody must uphold it.

I use a cat o’ nine tails that I purchased as a Boy Scout. I can’t remember where I purchased it. But I had my uniform on when I gave the cashier my bills and coins.

I never stop flogging my roommates until I draw blood and they are sufficiently terrorized, i.e., happy. (Wilson: 73)

School life and the rigors of academic pursuits are presented vaguely—an abstraction. Work is never mentioned in detail. Classes are never mentioned in detail. This vagueness is possibly a commentary on the routine—the redundancy—of college life; or, perhaps the narrator is too narcissistic or solipsistic to dwell on anything other than himself: this is a fiercely subjective narrative.

Classrooms, although presented vaguely, are still presented as farcical—where the farce is the product of the narrator’s aggressive personality and the professors’ tired routines. He beats and bullies teachers, he dismisses or bullies students; and when he gets on with students, he ignores everything around him in lieu of conversation, even if it disrupts class. Also throughout the novel, there’s an underlying shot at the state of the hierarchy of modern, corporate-influenced universities.

In the hands of a lesser writer, a book like this might be bloated and long winded and tangential. But in Wilson’s hands, it’s navigated brilliantly and smoothly by Wilson’s mastery of the craft and his sparse, concise prose.

None of the faculty retire. They work until they die, often in the middle of lectures, barely able to articulate a coherent sentence or even stand up straight.

Administrators typically retire after two or three years, at which point they generally become fulltime Rotarians, spend more time on the golf course and the tennis court, and live forever.

This is not the case with the President, Provost, and several other kakistocrats.

They never retire.

They remain in office until somebody shoots them and claims their thrones.

I don’t know what happens to the staff. They lack one of two vital ontological components: the power of capital or the awareness of intelligence. Hence nobody at the University cares about them. (Wilson: 130)

Through its jabs at university life, through its invocations of violence, through its didactic tangents, brief as they may be, something close to humanity punches through every now and then, and the narrator is cast as more than an aggressive bully.

At its core, the novel is an existential examination of life, knowledge, and the pursuit of what once seemed graspable. Memories pop into the narrator’s mind, and they tend to show him as vulnerable, naive, uncertain. On the rare occasion he lets down his guard, he reveals himself as confused and as vulnerable as everyone else. “I write because I’m weak!” he shouts at one point.

And though, like K. in Kafka’s “The Castle,” or like George Giles in Barth’s magnum opus, the narrator continues to pursue a goal not likely attainable, and although his anger and aggression more often than not defines him, he continues his quest. For, in the end, the quest is all he has. It defines him. After losing his Ph.D., his identity, what does he have left?

“Most of adult life is spent discovering the mystery of how very little you matter,” he says early in the novel. And it’s a profound line smuggled into a fierce, aggressive, and philosophical gem of a novel, which is one of the best books of the year.

Click here to buy the book (and you should buy it here; this is an indie publisher; support them directly)

The Role of Expectations in Kafka’s “A Country Doctor”

by
Daulton Dickey.

“I was in great perplexity”—or so the narrator of “A Country Doctor” tells us at the start of the story. On the road to visiting a patient, with a gig and without horses, his perplexity is understandable. He is a doctor, after all, and he is in need of transportation to visit a potentially sick patient. 

The story, it is worth noting, is written in the past tense, so the narrator is recounting these events from a vantage point sometime after the events he describes. It is possible that the opening statement—”I was in great perplexity”—is an expression of his state at the time the story begins; however, it’s also possible that the statement is an expression of something we would now call existential angst. 

From where does this “existential angst” spring? The nature of roles and the perception of roles might supply an answer.

As frameworks for viewing the concept and consequences of roles, we can appeal to two thinkers: the sociologist Charles Horton Cooley and the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Cooley, working in the early decades of the twentieth century, posited what he called “the looking glass self.” Briefly, the looking glass self is a theory suggesting that our personalities are derived from how we perceive others perceive us. As Cooley once remarked, “I am not what I think I am and I am not what you think I am; I am what I think that you think I am.” (Hood :72)             

In his philosophical treatise Tractatus-Logico-Philosophicus, the Austrian philosopher kafkaLudwig Wittgenstein delineated an ontology that might be useful in viewing the concept of roles objectively. In the Tractacus, Wittgenstein distinguished between things in the universe and the language we used to describe those things, arguing that the language used to describe a thing does not equal the thing itself. To put it simply, the word “matter” is not a component of the thing it is meant to signify; instead, it is a picture of that thing, distinct from it.

We, each of us, play roles. Life is a series of theatrical stages onto which we are thrust, and the roles we play depend on the situation and on the audience, so to speak. Anecdotally, I am different in isolation than I am at work, as I interact with other people. Using “me in isolation” as a baseline, then we can say that I am different at work and different still around friends. Given the situation, given the people with whom I am surrounded, my personality shifts from situation to situation. 

This phenomenon is not unique to me. It occurs to each of us. How we encode and retrieve memories, how we select information, how we spin information to loosen the tension of cognitive dissonance too often blinds us from these situational-personality shifts.

Anticipating Cooley’s “Looking Glass Self” theory, the poet and filmmaker Jean Cocteau once encouraged us to embrace the way the public reproached us because, he claimed, their reproaches came closer to signifying who we really are.

In “A Country Doctor” we find several roles cast, and too often we find expectations met and affirmed, by either the people cast in those roles or the people casting those roles.

Having kicked open an uninhabited pigsty, the country doctor discovers a man inside. The man crawls out on all fours—animal-like—and asks, “Shall I yoke up?” (Kafka: 220) This behavior might be a joke, it might be a gag, but to a man in search of a horse, and to man living in a pigsty, it is an interesting pun on roles.

Expectations of roles play a part in this scenario as well. A few minutes later, when this man is helping to yoke real horses, he lashes out and bites the doctor’s servant girl on the cheek, leaving visible teeth marks. The role he had earlier cast himself in, and the role the doctor might have unconsciously cast, brought about subhuman behavior from a man living like—and joking about being—an animal.

We are who we think other people think we are—if this proposition holds true, then it can help shed light on the man’s behavior, on why he bit the servant girl: he was playing a role, that of a horse, and he was performing as he, or others, might expect him to perform.

Calling on Wittgenstein’s ontology, let us distinguish how things are from the language we use to describe them. For the sake of argument, let us presuppose that this story is true. Now consider the following: seeing a man living in a pigsty, crawling around like an animal, how would you expect A-country-doctor-by-Franz-Kafka-213x300him to behave: like a civilized dandy or like an animal? Assume the latter. Then assume that he picked up on your expectation: now how would you expect him to behave?

Before the man joked about yoking up, before the man bit the woman, he saw the doctor and the doctor’s serving girl. In a class system, a man living in a pigsty undoubtedly underwent social and culture training inculcating subservience to a person of a higher class—even if it is a doctor. It is possible that the man recognized this, and it is possible that it offered another role for him to perform: servant. So, “of his own free will” (Kafka: 220), the man assisted the doctor and the servant girl in yoking the horses.

The language you use to describe people, even if the language you use is nothing more than body language, even if the difference is perceived class differences, can affect how a person behaves.

On biting the servant girl, the man reverts again to his role as animal when it is implied that he is going to possibly rape the servant girl, who runs into the house and locks the door. The man smacks the doctor’s horses, and the horses race away as the man broke down the door to the house and bolted inside.

We are, each of us, a looking glass. The language we use to describe ourselves does not necessarily reflect our personality or behavior. The language other people use, or, specifically, the language we think they use, can and does affect our personality or behavior.

We can find evidence for this, within the context of Kafka’s story, if we jump ahead in the narrative.

Having arrived at his patient’s house, the doctor is rushed inside by the patient’s family. Lying in bed, the patient says, “Doctor, let me die.” (Kafka:221) The patient’s family doesn’t hear his plea; instead, they watch intently, expecting the doctor to heal their son and brother.

The doctor’s role is one in which he cast himself, but his expectations of this role differ from the expectations of those who do not belong to the medical profession. Here, the patient himself has peculiar expectations for the doctor: by pleading with the doctor to let him die, the patient seems to presuppose that the doctor can save his life—which may or may not be the case.

Yet the doctor has cast himself in another role as well, that of master and protector of the servant girl. While he prepares to attend to the patient, his role as master and protector occupies him, and he contemplates fleeing to save his servant from the clutches of the animal-like man.

We each play roles. Roles dominate our lives. In every second of every day, we play roles, we perform. Do these roles, do these performances, lead to existential angst?

To answer this, we can appeal to the philosophical movement known as existentialism, which in its reduced form makes the following claim: “meaning” is a human construct; it is not a thing that exists independently of human beings; and in lieu of latching onto meaning that exists outside of us, we are free to make our own meaning.

To the country doctor, this triggers an interesting question: what does hkafka complete storiesis role mean, a role perceived by himself and others?

The townsfolk view the role of doctor as almost superhuman, or mystical–or magical. Having surrounded the doctor and stripped off his clothes, they sang, “Strip his clothes off, then he’ll heal us,/ If he doesn’t, kill him dead!/ Only a doctor, only a doctor.” (Kafka: 224)

The role the townsfolk cast is unrealistic, as unrealistic as the role the patient himself cast when he implored the doctor to let him, the patient, die. It is the case such that a doctor might cure people, or at least ease their suffering. This, however, doesn’t necessarily translate to the doctor as the hinge on which life and death always turns. In some cases, it is possible that a doctor can cure or heal someone. It is not the case, however, that, in all cases, a doctor is able to cure or heal someone. Yet these townsfolk seem to assume the latter. Punish the doctor, say, if he does not give us what we want, if he does not fulfill the role he is expected to play, which is the role of superhuman healer.

This is a role he cannot play, this is a role he does not want to play—the situation created for him has spoiled his role as doctor, and now he wants to finish his business so he can escape. However, he must finish meeting with his patient, who is cast in a role of his own: miser.

To illustrate this, pay attention to how the patient behaves when he finally has the doctor’s attention:

“‘Do you know,’ said a voice in my ear, ‘I have very little confidence in you. Why, you were only blown in here, you didn’t come on your own feet. Instead of helping me, you’re cramping me in my deathbed. What I’d like best is to scratch your eyes out.’ ‘Right,’ I said, ‘it is a shame. And yet I am a doctor. What am I to do? Believe me, it is not too easy for me, either.’ ‘Am I supposed to be content with this apology? Oh, I must be, I can’t help it. I always have to put up with things. A fine wound is all I brought into the world; that is my sole endowment.'” (Kafka: 224)

A sense of duty compelled the doctor to visit the patient, duty derived from his role as a doctor. The threats of the townsfolk keeps him by the beside, despite the threats from his patient, despite his patient’s lack of interest in living. The role the doctor plays is as both author of his circumstances and victim of his circumstances, and the expectations he has of himself, and that others thrust onto him, transform his looking glass into a magnifying glass through which rays from the sun pelt and assault him.

His role has thrust him into this circumstance, the expectations others have of him have heightened his circumstance, and he cannot appeal to his role to save him. After all, as he told the patient, “I am a doctor. What am I to do?”

 

Bibliography

Kafka, Franz, The Complete Stories (Schocken Books, 1995)

Hood, Bruce, The Self Illusion: How the Social Brain Creates Identity (Oxford University Press, 2013)

Wittgenstein, Ludwig, Major Works: Selected Philosophical Writings (Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2009)

Bertrand Russell—A Prose Poem

by
Daulton Dickey.

Soft tiled tissue of longing and regret shoot from the prism of circles folding inward from cackles distorting our eyes. Merry go rounds spurt with the juice of ten thousand angels martyred and hung and forced to spend the rest of eternity* spinning in endless circles. Through caves in the universe emerge miasmas of rock and salt, of thoughts brimming with annihilation, and through circles in time, through gaps, they slip in and devour the moment without expression.20140817-163629.jpg

Slurp slip sloop, the heavens cry as they distend and droop into the flowers and soil below. And the stench of honeydew permeates the air before flames disintegrate the spirit of neglect. The worlds in the silence of the motion of atoms hum and hem and haw and drum slowly the output of trillions of neurons and sketch flames into the canyons of organic machines too blind to notice the empty gazes in their reflections.

Where concrete and gold flow into the wombs of pregnant cultures, corruption creeps into the smiles of the machines, each of whom trade gold for reflections better suited to their images of hungry and explosive gazes. But nothing is ever complete, and grapes hang on vines and pop and bleed onto the ground; fire ants hatch from the cells of traipsing blood and scurry along the grass, trying to evade their inevitable rise. And sure enough: they do rise. Each ant shifts and evolves and transforms into musical notes and soars onto the tablature of the moment as it skips along the tremolo of the spinning planet.

And we’re left alone, deaf to the songs played by the wind and blind to the black holes devouring our reflections.
________

*’The rest of eternity’ is, of course, a pun: you cannot quantify that which does not end. Men have tried, and they’ve exalted in the fountains of their newly found neuroses.

[copyright 2014 Daulton Dickey]

Charles Blackstone: The Proust Questionnaire

by
Daulton Dickey.

The Proust Questionnaire is a notorious questionnaire meant to gain insight into a person’s psychological makeup. Although the writer Marcel Proust didn’t invent it, he is purported to have provided the greatest answers to it on two separate occasions, which is why it now bears his name.

The second subject to answer the Proust Questionnaire on Lost in the Funhouse is—drumroll please—Charles Blackstone.

Charles Blackstone is the author of Vintage Attraction, a novel, and the co-editor of The Art of Friction: Where (Non) Fictions Meet. His recent prosblackstonee has appeared in Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row Journal, Fiction Writers Review, and The Millions, Currently, he serves as managing editor of bookslut.com.

Visit his website at www.charlesblackstone.com

And if you want to follow him on Twitter (you should definitely follow him on Twitter. I mean, seriously, why wouldn’t you?) his handle is @cblackstone

1.What is your idea of perfect happiness?
I’m not really a fantasist. I’m pretty okay with real life.

2.What is your greatest fear?
Heights?

3.What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I can’t like what other people like.

4.What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Insincerity.

5.Which living person do you most admire?
Martha Stewart.

6.What is your greatest extravagance?
I eat out a lot.

7.What is your current state of mind?
C+.

8.What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Smalltalk.

9.On what occasion do you lie?
Perennially.

10.What do you most dislike about your appearance?
My giant Jew nose.

11.Which living person do you most despise?
Too many to list.

12.What is the quality you most like in a man?
Giving a shit about me.

13.What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Giving a shit about me.

14.Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Shit. Fuck. Ostensibly.

15.What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My pug.

16.When and where were you happiest?
Right now isn’t so bad.

17.Which talent would you most like to have?
I’d like to speak French.

18.If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Speak French.

19.What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I’ve made it this far.

20.If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
A pug.

21.Where would you most like to live?Vintage-Attraction-front_WEB2
Here, in New York.

22.What is your most treasured possession?
My computer?

23.What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Mediocrity.

24.What is your favorite occupation?
People who know how to sell shit really well.

25.What is your most marked characteristic?
I don’t think I have one. You’d have to ask a marker.

26.What do you most value in your friends?
Authenticity.

27.Who are your favorite writers?
Cheever, Carver, McInerney

28.Who is your hero of fiction?
Celeste Price from Alissa Nutting’s Tampa

29.Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Kurt Cobain.

30.Who are your heroes in real life?
Martha Stewart.

31.What are your favorite names?
Hunter Flanagan, Peter Hapworth

32.What is it that you most dislike?
Food you have to process yourself, like peel-and-eat shrimp or shelled peanuts.

33.What is your greatest regret?
Not reading as a child.

34.How would you like to die?
Dramatically.

35.What is your motto?
In medias res.

Click here to read The Proust Questionnaire answered by author Jacopo Della Quercia.

Robin Williams and Suicide

People who say suicide is an act of cowardice or an act of weakness lack empathy. People who say that suicide is neither an escape nor a solution lack an understanding of the darker sensations experienced by human beings.

Suicide was the spring that released the tension coiled around the Thing devouring him.

Suicide isn’t a solution, it isn’t an escape—it’s more like a painkiller.

People who don’t suffer from suicidal depression can’t understand how thoroughly it devours you.

Hollowness and emptiness, grayness and death, ashes and isolation; nothing feels real yet everything feels hyper-real; everything is bleak and bad, destined only to get worse: these thoughts, these feelings, these emotions consume you until they become you. They soak through every fiber of your being.

20140812-232812.jpg

Every minute of everyday is a struggle to put off that overwhelming sensation to end it all, and to function. Every action that keeps you functioning is an act of resistance. Every action that keeps you functioning is a skirmish meant to overcome the urge to kill yourself.

A person suffering through this wages the battle on a second-by-second basis. But it takes its toll, and it wears some people out, and they become too exhausted; they can’t resist the overwhelming urge any longer.

We shouldn’t view suicide as cowardly—or ignoble. We should, instead, view it as the tragic culmination of years—sometimes decades—of a seemingly endless battle, the final bugle call screeching over the remains of an internal battlefield.

We shouldn’t pity or condemn him for how he ended his life. Instead, we should praise him for how long he managed to successfully wage his battle.

Jacopo Della Quercia: The Proust Questionnaire

 by
Daulton Dickey.

The Proust Questionnaire is a notorious questionnaire meant to gain insight into a person’s psychological makeup. Although the writer Marcel Proust didn’t invent it, he is purported to have provided the greatest answers to it on two separate occasions, which is why it now bears his name.

The first subject to answer the Proust Questionnaire on Lost in the Funhouse is—drumroll please—Jacopo Della Quercia.

Jacopo Della Quercia is ajacopo writer and scholar. His writings have appeared most notably on cracked.com. As a scholar, his field of interested is in the medieval and renaissance periods. Recently, his debut novel, The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy was released by St. Martina’s Griffin.

To find out more about his novel, check out its official website here.

And click here if you want to follow him on Twitter
(You should definitely follow him on Twitter. I mean, seriously, why wouldn’t you?)

1.What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Being so overwhelmed with beauty that I can’t even describe it.

2.What is your greatest fear?
I don’t know! It changes every day. I guess a solar flare destroying the planet. That would be lame.

3.What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I am pretty hard on myself when I don’t need to be.

4.What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Selfishness in all its forms.

5.Which living person do you most admire?
My cousin Evan. She travels the world like a superhero doing incredible things and refugee work. She’s also one of the most talented writers I know. Watch out for her!

6.What is your greatest extravagance?
Much like Ron Burgundy, I have many leather-bound books.

7.What is your current state of mind?
Active. And kinda hungry.

8.What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Oh, they’re all overrated in the grand scheme of things.

9.On what occasion do you lie?
I don’t like lying. Being honest with people makes your life so much easier.

10.What do you most dislike about your appearance?
Oh, don’t be so vain.

11.Which living person do you most despise?
I don’t really despise people. I’m too busy.

12.What is the quality you most like in a man?
Generosity.

13.What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Generosity.

14.Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
#PopQuizHotShot, but it’s all in good fun.

15.What or who is the greatest love of your life?
What are you trying to do? Get me in trouble!

16.When and where were you happiest?
Outdoors when without any worries.

17.Which talent would you most like to have?
I wish I could play guitar as well as my brother.

18.If you could change one thing about yourself, w20140809-222925.jpghat would it be?
I tend to procrastinate.

19.What do you consider your greatest achievement?
The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy. It is definitely the best thing I have done with myself so far.

20.If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
I’d definitely want to come back as a woman to see what I’ve been missing out on. I think I’d also like to try things out as a different race just for my own betterment.

21.Where would you most like to live?
Florence, Italy.

22.What is your most treasured possession?
I don’t have one. I try not to get too attached to materials around me.

23.What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Damn, that’s a deep question…

24.What is your favorite occupation?
I am loving life as a novelist! However, I also enjoy teaching quite a lot.

25.What is your most marked characteristic?
I do tend to talk about history quite a lot.

26.What do you most value in your friends?
Reliability.

27.Who are your favorite writers?
I have too many to list!

28.Who is your hero of fiction?
Again, there are too many!

29.Which historical figure do you most identify with?
I’d like to say Machiavelli, but I don’t think I’m a fair person to judge that.

30.Who are your heroes in real life?
I have a pretty cool family.

31.What are your favorite names?
Hercules Rockefeller and Rembrandt Q. Einstein.

32.What is it that you most dislike?
Pettiness.

33.What is your greatest regret?
I don’t remember. Besides, I try not to get hung up on regrets. Life offers countless opportunities you’d never expect.

34.How would you like to die?
Peacefully?

35.What is your motto?
“The secret to getting things done is to act!” – Dante