The Role of Fantasy in Franz Kafka’s Amerika

by
Daulton Dickey.

amerikaIn Amerika by Franz Kafka, the character Karl Rossman is shipped away to America by his parents following a scandal with a servant girl. From hotel employee to bum to servant, young Karl experiences a panoply of adventures and emotions as he tries to find his way through life. Superficially, it’s a straightforward tale, a Huckleberry Finn-esque Bildungsroman. Since Kafka rarely wrote superficial tales, however, it is possible that Karl’s adventures mean something else–for Karl and for Kafka.

Interestingly, the title “Amerika” comes to us from Max Brod, who changed Kafka’s original title. Kafka’s title Der Verschollene, however, translates to “The Missing Person” or “The Man Who Disappeared.” Why would he give the novel a title that expresses the point of view of Karl’s family while the narration itself follows Karl, giving only passing mention to his family? (more…)

Notes of a Poor Bastard, parts 1 – 3

by
Daulton Dickey.

a.
It was sometime around Thanksgiving, maybe a day or two later, when my boss wanted to talk to me. He spoke in an even tone, not somber but not enthusiastic. I’d be out of work at the end of February, he’d said. My position–data entry and accounts payable–was going to be automated.

I couldn’t respond, didn’t know how to respond–I’d held the job for nearly eleven years, showed up day in and day out, without suspecting anything, taking my job for granted, and now, over the course of a single conversation, I was obsolete.

Anxiety consumed me. I felt frozen, locked in a state of inertia. Eleven years. Gone. A stable job. Gone. My future: uncertain. With a wife and two kids, with rent and bills, with debt, I couldn’t afford to dawdle. I couldn’t afford to coast through life, hopping from one dead-end job to the next. I had to act decisively.

But I froze.

Time stood still.

Is this the future? Locked into a job only to watch it disintegrate as algorithms replace people? If I’m so easily replaced by reams of code, then am I worthless?

Where do I go from here?

What am I going to do? (more…)

Notes of a Poor Bastard: My Adventures in Unemployment, Underemployment, and Bipolar Disorder, Part 3

by
Daulton Dickey.

(This is the third installment of a series, previously titled Notes of a Miserable Fuck. Click here for the first part. And here for the second part.)

j.

Tour my house, scrutinize it, and you won’t find a single visible universal product code. I

Screen-Shot-2013-10-29-at-10.47.50-PM-300x224

Even this was fucking painful for me to post.

loathe them. If I’m drinking from a can, I spin it when I set it on the table so the barcode isn’t facing me. In the kitchen and the bathroom, the bedroom and the living room, from cereal to toothpaste, books to condom boxes to movies–barcodes never face me.

I detest them.

“What do you know that we don’t?” my friend Chris often jokingly asks, as if I’m aware of a conspiracy few others know or understand.

But there aren’t any conspiracies–at least as far as barcodes are concerned. As far as I know. No, I turn or obscure or hide every barcode in sight for aesthetic reasons. I can’t stand their look. I don’t know why, but I find them aesthetically unappealing. And since UPCs are ubiquitous in our society, I spend more time than I’d care to admit hiding or destroying or ignoring them.

Source amnesia prevents me from knowing when or why or how this detestation started. I’ve despised them for as long as I can remember. As a child, I’d shiver on seeing them. They filled me with annoyance as a teenager. Now that I’m an adult, I tend to treat them as an art critic stumbling on a low-rent art fair might treat the canvases: with revulsion, then dismissal. (more…)

What Have You Been Doing With Your Life? An Excerpt from Homegirl!, a Novel

by
Ryder Collins.

51JCj43iklL._SX308_BO1,204,203,200_Of all her boyfriends or pseudo-boyfriends or even friends, Homegirl liked to hang at Punkboy’s house the most. For a dirty punk rock boy covered in tatts who didn’t like deodorant and who could smell either surprisingly sexy or really really bad when sweaty, Punkboy’s house was extremely well-maintained. Punkboy’s dirty little secret was that he was a domestic punk rocker; he didn’t let many people over. If he was stoned/drunk enough, though, he’d make Homegirl breakfast or even every now and then a late dinner. She’d watch him cook and wish she had a long flowy gauzy skirt on so she could re-enact that scene from Sid and Nancy.

I look like fucking Stevie Nicks!

Homegirl wanted someone to love her so much they could suicide together. She wanted love that was crazy and fucked up. Love that would travel all the way across the country hopping trains just to be with her. Love that would steal baby rabbits from pet stores and then brain them for attention, and love that would leave French bread and brie or Tofutti and tampons on her doorstep. Love that would hide books written just for her in her drawers for her to find later. Love that would actually hide in her drawers and spy on her or just fondle her panties because love couldn’t be far from her, but didn’t want to scare her too much. (more…)

Life is a Stage, So Why Not Screw with People?

Notes on an Essay Concerning Writing, Performing, and the Nature of Reality
by
Daulton Dickey.

[Author’s Note: This is an unfinished essay I vaguely remember writing, the result, I suspect, of having taken too many meds, which I do by accident from time to time.]

I.

My mind reels. Sometimes I lock myself in my head, in my world, and everything around me—my wife, my kids, my friends and job—vanish. Not literally. Figuratively. Everything slips into the background, sometimes into the deep background. Sometimes the universe transforms into background noise, a sort of visuospatial white noise. Other times, it disappears altogether.

I get so locked into my world, the world mutating and transmutating and exploding in my head, that the world and everything in it almost vanishes.

zoar2A strange sensation: living in my head inside, then going outdoors and feeling as if the world itself is indoors, as if the world is a set constructed inside a planet-sized soundstage. Sometimes, when these sensations inundate me, I glance around—at the ground and the sky, cars and buildings and passersby—and marvel at the corporeality of it all. Of everything.

On occasions, when I’m experiencing these sensations, I ask myself two questions, sometimes in conjunction, sometimes in disjunction:

What is imagination?

What is “reality”?

II.

So I’m sitting in a wheelchair on the corner of an intersection, wearing a plaid shirt, overalls, and sunglasses. I’m hunched over in the chair, not moving. Concentrating on steadying my breath, minimizing the expansion and contraction of my rib cage, trying to render it imperceptible.

Try it. It’s a fascinating study, something akin to sociology. People ignore you when you play dead. They amble or scurry past you. Some glance while others act as though they don’t see you. Some joke while others furrow their eyebrows.

I’d probably sell the death routine if “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees wasn’t blasting from a speaker attached to my phone in my right pocket. (more…)

Still Life with Chattering Teeth and People-Shaped Things (excerpt)

by
Daulton Dickey.

[This is an excerpt from the titular story in the new short story collection, Still Life with Chattering Teeth and People-Shaped Things & Other Stories, which is out now.]

1.

Humming fills the air, but it’s the humming of a brain filling gaps exposed by silence. The lights are out. Colors flicker in space–sometimes near the ceiling, sometimes near the floor.

The brain does the math, and this is another case of the brain creating something where something should be.

But listen: the silence. It’s unnerving somehow. Unnatural.

The ceiling throbs. Cracks spiderweb the walls. From these, insects emerge. They’re miniature heads, human heads, crawling on six scrotums. Sperm oozes in their wake. Sadie throws a shoe at the wall and the insects scream and scatter.

She climbs out of bed and peeks outside: a planet-sized eyeball drifts toward a planet-sized eyelid. Twilight. She throws on her robe and taps her skin. It’s still skin. Thank Cruelty. She hasn’t transformed, not like the others.

She opens her front door.

The hallway is empty.

She tiptoes across the hall and puts her ear below “3F” on Martin’s door. Silence. But that doesn’t mean anything. Those creatures are probably in there. Right now. Fucking each other with those tentacles–or whatever the hell you call them.

More humming.

Is it a lightbulb, or is it her brain doing the math, plugging holes?stilllifedaultondickey

She ties her robe and rubs her stomach and tiptoes down the hall, listening in on apartments 3D, 3C, 3B.

She puts her teeth together and hisses, just to make sure she hasn’t gone deaf.

Hiss.

She hasn’t gone deaf.

Door 3B flings open. A human-sized caterpillar pops its head into the hallway. Snot and cum drips from its mouth.

–Everything okay? it says.

–Fine.

–Why you in your robe? Locked out?

–Stop talking to me. Monster. (more…)

Gustave Courbet and The Origin of the World (L’Origine du monde)

by
Daulton Dickey.

Courbet and the Academy

In France in the nineteenth century, an elite group dictated art. The Academy, as it’s known in English, held strict ideas about art–all of them derived from the classical world, the Renaissance, and the baroque era. The men who ran the Academy dictated artistic tastes by preserving the past. New artists didn’t stand a chance if the Academy refused to exhibit their work.

Their power constituted a form of cultural totalitarianism–and few people challenged them. If you were an artist in the nineteenth century and you wanted them to consider your work, then you had to follow their rules. Paintings could only depict mythological, historic, or religious scenes or stories. Artists had to conceal brushstrokes. They couldn’t depict modernity. They could stage models or paint modern landscapes, but they had to present them as ancient or historic stories or allegories.

An artist violating these and other rules didn’t stand a chance with the Academy. And if the Academy rejected you, you’d probably never make it. (more…)

A Brief Manifesto for the Practicing and Emerging Artist

by
D. Cay.

  1. Uproot cultural norms. If something is considered “common sense,” then you daultondickeyshould ridicule or satirize it.

 

  1. Target modesty and decency.

 

  1. Celebrate obscenity, vulgarity, and cruelty.

 

  1. Embrace chaos.

 

  1. Shun “traditional” or “standard” forms or structures. If you don’t want to challenge them too radically, at least tweak them with the aim of upsetting the reader’s, or spectator’s, equilibrium.

 

  1. Have a point. Art for art’s sake, or strange for strange’s sake, or offensive for offensive’s sake should be treated like television: it’s all right in moderation, but too much will rot your brain.

(more…)

The Mortuary Monster by Andrew J. Stone — Book Review

by
Daulton Dickey.

mm-coverGonzalo lives a strange existence. Like his parents before him, he’s a cemetery man. Stuck in rut, Gonzalo wants something more. Bitter at his lot, he stumbles through life, performing his chores and routines, over and over again.

He lives and works at a funeral parlor. Corpses are his only friend–actual corpses: they walk and talk, stuck between here and the other side.

Gonzalo helps them transition from life to death. He treats them as friends, and sometimes even lovers. But everything changes for him when he father’s a halfbreed–half human, half corpse.

The Mortuary Monster by Andrew J. Stone is a novel filled with charm and imagination. It’s more fable than horror. Imagine if Neil Gaiman and Terry Gilliam wrote Night Breed, then you’ll have an idea of the wit and style of Stone’s debut novel. (more…)