I am not a man of letters. So what I have to say about literature may not mean very much, *meaning* being something of quality that gets transmitted between people. Between us is what I mean, and what I want you to understand is that it means something to me. So that should be worth something, as every human life has some value.
The same way because of everything, you mean something to me.
Had I gone to school to study liberal arts, and should I then say to you, "Everybody should be made to read 'Breakfast of Champions'," you'd probably think there was something to it. After all, I'd have a degree in the arts I earned as a young person at university. But in university, I learned about lightwaves and gaussian fields and riemann geometry. Though there's poetry in those things, it's not the e. e. cummings poem I didn't quite "get" but sent to the woman I would marry in the hopes she wouldn't get interested in somebody else while I was away.
I love Breakfast of Champions. It's one of my favorite books of all time. My favorite part in the book is when Kilgore Trout goes to the deserted porn theater and finds the switch to the projector and realizes that he has the power to start a whole crew of porn stars into action at will. And he says it like that--fucking and sucking. In the mind of Trout, what could be better than to bring that kind of visceral happiness to people with the flick of a switch?
Of course, Trout's life is all about porn. As a science fiction writer, he can only find a market between the pictures in extremely low-quality porno mags.
I don't feel my life is like that, by the way. Not at all. That's not what I'm trying to say.
What I'm trying to say is that for some reason, the idea stuck in my head. I wasn't even in university when it got stuck there. I was in high school, which is when my brain was at its softest. The height of malleability.
Now that I'm older, stuff doesn't sink in as well. My mind is like hardening jello. By now, after 44 years, it's kind of like the really thick jello you forgot to eat and is almost like glass. Try to put anything else in there, it's so full of math it's just going to shatter. And that's why even if I was to go and try to learn about character development and plot device and imagery, I'd get no credit for it.
People would say, "Yeah, but just look at your brain."
Even though I'm not a man of letters and my brain is full of math, I'm still really pissed at Richard Brautigan for killing himself. Really.
So my plan is to find a way to get through to him. I'm proposing to go back in time. Cruise right back through iDeath. Sneak in through the mound of forgotten works, come out in his cabin right at the moment he's pressing the .44 barrel to his brain and scare the living shit out of him.
As much as a person wants to kill himself, scare him, and suddenly the reptilian brain springs into action and self-preservation kicks in.
If I play my cards right, I can appear to him as inBoil, whatever that looked like to him, come right out and lunge toward him with bared teeth and flashy talons, and make him point the gun at me.
This can be done. I know it because I'm a fucking engineering genius with the degrees in scientific studies and the 'A' grades to prove it. A man of letters can not cut it when it comes to time travel. For that you need someone with a solid background in tensor math and non-riemann geometry.
If you want someone to save Richard Brautigan's life, I'm your man.
Richard Brautigan did not write Breakfast of Champions, by the way. My other favorite writer, Kurt Vonnegut did.
Unlike Brautigan, Vonnegut is still alive. He decided to withstand the infirmity of old age and hang out with the rest of us. I'm not mad at Vonnegut. I'm loving his books, and loving that he's still seeing the same sun and moon I am.
That son of a bitch Brautigan, however, has really tweaked me.
Today I picked up the copy of A Confederate General from Big Sur and demanded my children turn off Jimmy Neutron and read about Lee Mellon, a man who at one time or another, had 175 teeth.
They declined my literary entreaty, so I shut down the television and told them to go away from it. So they went to their computers to IM their friends.
I shoved the book under the nose of my middle daughter. She's in high-school now, just where I was when Brautigan got stuck in my moist, gray pink brain. My mind was the consistency of snot back then. Anything could get into it and get stuck. So I have a brain full of Bablyon and frogs croaking and books that have 186,000 endings per second right between the simultaneous differential equations and equations of motion in gravitational fields.
Brautigan was not a man of many words, though he wrote a lot of them. He was not afraid to have a person scream across a page.
"'AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH,' he screamed,"
is one of Brautigan's classics. I showed it to my kid. She wanted to do IM.
How can I explain this to her with Brautigan dead? I need the man to be alive. That's when I hatched the plan to go back in time to save his life.
Locating Richard Brautigan is not an issue.
I think if I can get back to iDeath, to where they get the Watermelon Sugar, to where the trout hatch, there'll be a door there. I've read through his books again and I'm seeing it. The reason for iDeath was because it was, indeed, his version. That's where he thought he was going to wind up at the other side of the .44 bullet. I can say this with a high degree of certainty because I have been living inside his brain for a while, inside that pink jellified glass his brain became. I can see through his eyes, and it's pretty clear to me.
He thought by dying out of this earth, he'd get to iDeath. It's even called that for a reason. The math in my jellified brain tells me this.
I am not a man of letters, so when it came time for me to learn to become a psychic, I did not go to a palmist or a witch doctor. Instead, I went to some ex-CIA people in the mountains who explained to me how a guy with a head full of equations could see past all that to become a psychic. It was all very scientific and plausible. When I saw the ghosts and invisible spiders, I understood all the equations of the heterodyne that made the patterns in my brain that enabled me to meet the angels and disembodied spirits of the earth.
I just lay there and let it happen.
Reading, on the other hand, while very psychic in nature, is a "doing" thing, instead of a "laying there" thing. You have to "do" to read, and when you do, if the author is right for you, she or he manages to stick their thoughts inside your very brain. It gets past all the solidification, mostly, and goes right in there so that you can think a thought that wasn't yours.
So you actually wind up constructing a little city made up of the author's brain inside your own brain, and for a while you lose yourself in that city and forget you have your own somewhere.
You're actually thinking someone else's thoughts. That's what reading is, when it's good for you.
My lack of literary upbringing, however, has prevented me from thoroughly assimilating the thoughts of certain writers. The Russian classicists, for example, have a way of thinking that's so much like a huge gray brick wall, they could describe group sex with a bus load of Swedish fashion models, and the arousal factor for me would be on par with that of an instructive washing machine manual.
Some writers are as opaque to me as some people are themselves. I just don't enjoy having them inside my brain.
I loved having Brautigan in my head, though. He would say things like,
"Sometimes, when you meet someone for the first time, they stare at the sky. He stared for a long time. 'What?' I said, because I wanted to be his friend,"
and that simple stupidity felt like molten reality dripping over me. Like those thoughts were mine.
Because they are. I think things like that all the time.
Everyone should not read Breakfast of Champions, by the way. As much as I like it, it doesn't mean it will have any meaning at all to anyone else. I think that. And that's why when people say, "How can you have never read Crime and Punishment?" I can say,
"Because it would make me want to tear out my own eyeballs," and know that's a legitimate excuse, even if it causes my exclusion from artistic, cultured, circles.
This is how I'll do it. I plan to use all my powers as a psychic and mathematician. I will apply the full force of my chi, coupled directly to the light of my heart chakra after a full day of yoga and meditation. Then, accelerating my thoughts to 99.9999% the speed of light, I'll jump the time-space continuum, and wind up square in the middle of iDeath.
If my readings are accurate, I'll dodge the inBoil gang and arrive at Brautigan's cabin just as Margaret arrives in chapter 2. Instead of her, though, when he answers the door it will be me.
I'll push my way in. Force my palms against his chest and slam him up against the far wall with all my might and then jam my forearm across his adam's apple so he's nearly choking.
His eyes will be wild with fright. To him, I'll be a soul-sucking demon, but I'll know I'm me.
I'll scream, "AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH." Right in his face. It will be so loud, his hair will be blown backward.
I'll say, "You have no right, you fucking son of a bitch. You have no right to push your thoughts into other people's brains and then check out. You filled my mind with weirdness and pain and the most beautful feelings so that every time I finished one of your books I felt like someone had painted everything in the world all over and I had to run around to see what color everything was.
"You fucking asshole. You made me fall in love with a girl I thought was from your world.
"I don't care how much it hurts inside your head. I don't care how much it sucks to be you.
"You spread little pieces all over like a virus and if you kill yourself you become sharp bits of broken glass instead of droplets of never ending rain.
"Goddamn you, Richard Brautigan.
"Take your finger off the trigger or I'll kill you myself."
And he'll say
"Our lives we have carefully constructed from watermelon sugar and then travelled to the length of our dreams, along roads lined with pines and stones."
In the end, we'll each have our own life.
I'll leave him in his watermelon sugar. I'll decelerate back to this world, this time.
I'll close the door to his cabin, head back across time to the ice.
Close the book. Pretend I don't hear the shot.
You can't really make anyone do anything. We're all separate people, in separate bodies. We have separate wills. Different paths of our lives.
But we can get into each other's heads.
So be careful, one. Instead of laying around, I wrote this for you. It's about the owls and the pine needles. Very boring. Something that happened down at the Forgotten Works.
take a deep breath--here is my hand
I want to show you something.
Take you somewhere I imagined.
Dinner's ready at iDeath.