An uncontrollable urge to repeat an action over and over again.

An outside urge to complete a daunting or undesirable task.

Contrast with obsession, which is a mental urge that does not manifest physically except by talking or writing.

This will only make some sense if you've been following my Anna story, last installment was Jamaica 1993

"God is never bored. Only man has that capacity."

--Nolan Holland
New Yorker interview, 2002

"Bless the weather that brought you to me,
Curse this man who takes you away."

Bless the Weather
-John Martyn-

This is now. This is Sunday.

Clock says 11:11 and the idea starts like they used to. Little flickers of light that become a screen that becomes three-D thought in your head. In your living room. On the sofa, sections of the newspaper scattered on the coffee table and the cushions around.

NPR comes in on the receiver. It’s an interview. Another of a seemingly endless series of interviews with Nolan Holland.

Get it out of your mind. Think of anything else Think--when your mother was pregnant with the embryo that became you, she read books. The one she was reading when she went into labor was “Compulsion”. She finished it while nursing you on your first extra-uterine nutrient.

Two rich kids who picked a classmate and killed him for the fun of trying to get away with murder.

They had everything else. Murder was the only thing they felt that was left to them that made life interesting. This was a big deal back in the 20’s. They didn’t have drive by shootings and kids blowing up their schools back then.

“Of all the books…” It's what Anna would say.

Don't need this don't need this don't need this in your head.

Catcher in the Rye” Poor Holden Caufield driven crazy by the inerasable memory of his dead sister.

There are the insoluble ideas that permeate life. They may as well be disease. Viral thoughts. There are few cures for viral thoughts—brainwashing, insanity, death.

Poor Mitchell, driven crazy by the inerasable viral thought the woman he should have adored stopped loving him. These are her thoughts.

These are the words leaking from your mouth, "Goddamn me."

She rationed her past like golden tablets from Ararat. She dribbled them out as if your seeing all of them at once would make you die. She is like drinking nitroglycerine.

It hurts. Burning inside just above the eye. Expands to pressure. Can't open your eyes all the way anymore.

"Jesus God save me," is you talking as you down a couple aspirin. "Damn me."

You can't stop it. You will live through this. Just get through it. Lay down on the sofa. Stare at the ceiling and you go back three, four, fifteen years when you were married.

Anna waits to tell you things because she knows you well enough. She needs to tell you everything before you find out some other way. There's a lot. The Empire State Building of all obsessions is in you and she feeds it in tiny rations.

You, Mitchell Dale, are capable of some serious fucking shit, and Nolan Holland's voice is still coming out of your stereo.

So she tells you one Friday night when you’re coming out of the movies.

Did you notice the credit for the writer? You didn’t. You hardly remember the names of the stars. Sometimes you remember directors. You never remember writers. Do they show the writer in the credits?

“Of course they do,” she says as you pull into the restaurant parking lot. Time for a late snack.

Time for infectious ideas to latch onto the DNA of your lifetime and make you overpump jealousy until every single atom of the universe you can perceive is colored with it.

At first you think it’s a little cute until she tells you what you don’t know.

And then you act like someone who should be in a cage.

“You slept with a midget? While you were seeing me?”

"We were fighting. You ran away."

"I didn't go run and fuck the first cripple I saw."

"It's sixteen years ago. We weren't married and he's not a cripple."

"We were getting FUCKING ENGAGED." You slam the fork. You slam the knife. The cola sloshes from the tumbler and saturates your napkin. The noise is so loud the waitress asks you if everything is all right.

Remembering this is embarrassing. You’re face is flushed, your mind set on an unalterable course of reliving what you want to forget. Anna stop. Goddamn it.

You say, "Get out," to the ceiling but visions claw you back to the diner, hear the waitress say, “Is everything okay, sir?” and you know she’s asking because she wants you to shut up.

Anna says everything’s all right. But it’s all so far from right.

She’s smarter than you, which is why she waited so long to tell you. She’s not smart enough, though.

She should have waited until you were geriatric and infirm.
She should have waited until you were dead and prayed it to you.

“Don’t use that language with me,” she says, and then, “Lower your voice,” but you’ve got images of the woman you love performing fellatio on someone the size of a first-grader and she may as well be feeding your guts into a Cuisinart.

It had to be oral because it couldn’t possibly work otherwise.

You hiss at her: “Did it even FIT? Could you tell it was THERE?” Just riding the wave. Sensibility is long gone.

She can’t reply. You made her cry, but if you hadn't just turned into the world's most perfect asshole you’d have done it first. It’s eye-for-an-eye marriage politics, only she didn't put out your eye.

“What’s the difference he was a dwarf?” she manages to say. Chia-fu, the Chinese guy was a martial arts expert. She was too drunk to remember anything about Brian except his dick was bigger than the Chinese guy’s by a lot. She told you about all of these and you didn’t give a damn.

She should have kept Nolan a secret.

A midget. And he’s a goddamned star. On NPR.

He’s just won the Pulitzer Prize for that thing he wrote about the last great polar explorer and they're talking to him about his childhood.

That’s where your lives intersect. Somewhere in there Anna slept with him. Somewhere in the story that comes to you from your own stereo system is your wife getting intimate with the future Nobel nominee for literature.

Did she lower her head and look at him like a lioness attacking the way she did for you? You thought that look was yours. Did she call him the same cute names she called you?

Did she have to invent something different that she’s never told you?

You punch the pillow on the sofa listening to Nolan talk about the million-dollar option he just got on his last novel from, who was it? Alex Baldwin or some other actor.

You remember her saying it wasn’t an experiment. She really cared for him, if only for the 48 hours they spent locked together in his room.

Forty-eight complete hours fucking. You couldn’t do that if they pumped you full of Viagra and put a gun to your head.

The phone starts ringing as it should just now.
You answer.
The voice on the other side is the one from the radio. It’s surreal. One of Anna’s dreams is leaking into your life.

“Nolan,” you say, “long time.”

“Yeah. Look. Need your help, Mitch. We gotta go get Annie.”

“Whoa,” you say. “She's living with you now--" and you add, "big guy," just because.

"Ever the fucker," Nolan says, and you have zero intention of apologizing.

"What the hell do you need me for? She's probably at the mall spending your money. I'm busy."

"Yeah, busy as all shit with the defense, right? Or was that someone else I read about in the Journal? We're both going to burn in hell for what we've done. So you gonna stop sucking corporate cock long enough to do one good thing for someone who actually likes you?"

"I don't know. Could I have better things to do? I think, yes."

Why are you doing this? Why won't you talk to him?

What makes you this way, Mitchell?

"Get the hell out of my god-damned-head."


"Shit. Nolan. You call me out of the blue. I haven't seen Annie in almost two years. You read the story. It's a bad really time right now. What do you think I can do? Tell me and I'll have my assistant set something up. But really, I don't have any time for her bullshit anymore, especially now and in case you forgot, she was the one who left me, and as far as I can tell she has recently taken up residence in, hmm, if memory serves, that would be your fucking bed or can't you see who you're sleeping with from your side of the crib?"

"Anna's not with me. She took off. She's in Antarctica. Don't you ever talk to her? What the hell happened between you?"

"What happened between us? Now you're just goddamned insulting. I don't need this crap."

"Believe me, this is not pleasant for me, either. I didn't want to make this call."

"Then why the fuck did you do it? How about we just call this quits and get together--never."

Phone from the ear, your finger hovers over the "off" button when you hear--

"You promised her, Mitch. I'm not calling for me."

Say to the air, "I didn't make any goddamned promises," now to the phone, "She's not my problem anymore."

"She told me you'd say that."

"Yeah, well she knows everything. Look don't they have dog sleds and snowmobiles to go find people down there wherever the hell is? She made herself not my problem. It wasn't my choice."

“Right” he says, his voice lilting sarcasm. “She was with that McMurdo to pole road building whatever traverse and they missed their check-in. They were covering bits of it on CNN. When did you last speak with her?”

"Hell if I remember," you say. "Last April. Her birthday."

"You didn't just speak with her two weeks ago?"

"Nolan, I'm busy." Actually, you have to pee.

Behind you Nolan’s voice dribbles from your stereo speakers. Terri Gross asks him more about his childhood and his success. This is just a little bizarre: Nolan on the phone and the stereo at the same time. This was the sort of thing that used to happen that filled you up with something like guilt.

Or actual guilt.

“How the hell am I supposed to find her at the goddamned South Pole?” you say, listing the only place on Antarctica you’ve ever heard of.

“I don’t know,” Nolan says. ”She asked me to call you so I did. Now my part is done."

"Gee well thanks a million I gotta get going, Nolan."

"Sure. Ok. Maybe this was a mistake."

"It's gotta be. Can't be anything else."

"We were all friends once--doesn't matter to you?"

"Not since we started fucking each other's wives and as I remember the situation, you never had one."

"Some day we're going to have to talk this out."

"No," you say, "we're not." Hang up.

Nolan’s voice fades from the stereo behind you. A news story comes up. A senator is talking about the North American Free Trade Agreement. Words strobe into your mind. You catch a few.

The word
and the word

When you put the phone down you pull the newspaper off the sofa and the coffee table and reorganize it into a single pile. Then you throw it onto the papers in the corner that Trina will toss into the recycling on Monday when she comes to clean the house.

As you do, you see a picture from the “National” section.

A student from the University of Illinois had been convicted of murder and a hate crime for killing a classmate. The classmate was a dwarf. The student had tried to dispose of the body in the Calumet canal in South Holland. The name of the deceased was Anna Mitchell. The students name was Ned Nolan.

"Goddamn it." Yell it at the clock on the wall that stopped running last time you looked at it.

Like it would make a difference.

Next is Little man in the weeds

Possibly one of the most underrated rock bands of the 1990s, Compulsion produced some of the most addictive songs I've heard, (their best of album 'I like Compulsion and Compulsion likes me' fails to become boring, no matter how many listens one is exposed to). Their music could be categorised as rock, but it is both accessible in a pop-type way, whilst maintaining a punk ethos that never becomes self-conscious or forced (as many latter-day "punk" bands tend to be).

Two of the members of the group were originally in a band called "Three Amazing Colossal Men" in Dublin at the start of the 90s. They relocated to North London and wisely recruited a lead guitarist and a Dutch drummer, becoming Compulsion in 1992. The band was composed of Josephmary Barry - Vocals, Garret Lee - Guitar, Sid Rainey - Bass, and Jan-Willem Alkema - Drums. Initially they released recordings on their own Fabulon Label, but were soon noticed by Interscope and One Little Indian Records who signed them. The first release was an EP, "Safety" in October 1993, and this was followed a few months later by their first LP, "Comforter" in March 1994 and another EP, Boogie Woogie (also 1994). A few singles were apparently released; ‘Mall Monarchy’ was the only single to have any kind of limited success. On the whole, these releases appear to have sunk without trace, except in relatively small pockets of a rock audience still entranced by Nirvana but turned off by the bland and assuming Oasis and mainstream Britpop. Compulsion did tour and their live shows had a reputation for being close to riotous with some bizarre and highly entertaining stage antics; one example being Garrett Lee being hung upside down by his legs from lighting rigs whilst playing his guitar. 1996 saw the release of two singles, "Question Time For the Proles" in March and "Juvenile Scene Detective" in June. Both were taken from their second and final album "The Future is Medium", also released in 1996 and produced by Mark Freegard who had previously produced the Manic Street Preachers "The Holy Bible" album. It was at this point the band took to sporting identical haircuts (shortish, dyed day-glo orange) and all wore black (although not in a "Goth" type way), a symptom of their art-house tendencies perhaps. For reasons that are not wholly clear, the band had split up by the end of 1996 and Compulsion were no more. In 2002 the "best of" album came out, "I like Compulsion and Compulsion likes me".

The reasons for their lack of commercial success and virtual anonymity would seem to be multiple. Whether they were mishandled by the record companies is debatable as the label appeared, (at least from the outside), to have had faith and belief in the band. The fact that One Little Indian released a best of album when the band had only had two LPs, that the album should have seventeen tracks on it, and that none of them are fillers, speaks volumes. As has been referred to, Compulsion existed in a time when Oasis ruled the charts, in the United Kingdom at least. In the USA, where some attempts were made to gain the band a foothold, competition was great. Bands such as Alice in Chains, Smashing Pumpkins, Bush and Stone Temple Pilots had already established themselves and had the professional gloss and financial backing that perhaps Compulsion did not. I could argue that all this is a shame, and had Compulsion enjoyed greater success, perhaps the band would have stayed together for longer and made more music. But I can't deny that there is a small pleasure in the fact that I've only ever met one other person that has heard of them, as though their music is a secret I can keep all to myself (until now, obviously). Ten years on, their music is still as addictive as ever and kicks the arse of many contemporaries that sold millions more CDs, yet whose music now sounds, for want of a better word, crap (Bush are a very good example, although one could argue that their music never sounded good....).

Thematically, Compulsion tended to concentrate on social issues, middle-class life and the more problematic aspects of relationships between people (not just romantic). Here are a few examples:

'Tom's in the bathroom trying to end his life. Sue's in the kitchen hiding all the knives.' (from Rapejacket).

'Harold Wilson says that things are getting better. Maurice Saatchi says that things are getting better for you. Question time for the proles.' (from Question time for the proles).

'Go take a message to Mary. There's no-on in the grave; cause he's already gone and he's taken the up escalator.' (from Easterman).

'Bless our little miracles. Bless the Mommies and Dads. How does Linda Evans deal with life without the shoulder pads And I can deal with periods with lots of help from Dr. Dell.' (from Domestique).


- Safety. 1993 (EP) - Comforter, 1994 (LP) - Boogie Woogie, 1994 (EP) - The Future Is Medium, 1996 (LP) - I like Compulsion and Compulsion likes Me, 2002 (LP)

Com*pul"sion (?), n. [L. compulsio. See Compel.]

The act of compelling, or the state of being compelled; the act of driving or urging by force or by physical or moral constraint; subjection to force.

If reasons were as plentiful as blackberries, I would give no man a reason upon compulsion. Shak.

With what complusion and laborious flight We sunk thus low. Milton.

Syn. -- See Constraint.


© Webster 1913.

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