20 Authors I Don’t Have to Read Because I’ve Dated Men for 1

20 Authors I Don’t Have to Read Because I’ve Dated Men for 1

Postby admin » Wed Dec 13, 2017 1:46 am

20 Authors I Don’t Have to Read Because I’ve Dated Men for 16 Years
If you’ve spent enough time around dudes, you’ve BASICALLY read these
by Helena Fitzgerald
Dec 1, 2017

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Certain writers — or artists, or film-makers, etc.— are so embedded into their particular cultures that one doesn’t need to have consumed their work in order to understand its impact. In particular, there are a bunch of white male authors it is possible to just about forget you haven’t read if you’ve dated the type of dudes you meet at an n+1 party. Certain books are so central to this type of dude that getting through a relationship — or even a few dates—constitutes the same level of knowledge of these authors that one might get from actually reading them, and gives you just as much right to hard-earned lifelong knowledge about their books, knowledge that need not ever be fact-checked by actually reading the books themselves (unless, for some reason, you really want to). Presented below, 20 authors on whose work I have involuntarily ended up with a strong opinion due to my unfortunate heterosexuality.

1. Philip Roth: I’ve never read any of Philip Roth’s books, but I have dated enough men who have that I can carry on a decent small-talk conversation about why I don’t like them. (If you would like to achieve this without dating men, you could just read a description of one of Roth’s books, in particular the one in which a man is transformed into a boob). Roth and I live in the same neighborhood, and a friend of mine once ran into him in the local pharmacy, where he was buying hemorrhoid cream or Cialis or something equally embarrassing, and glared at my friend for noticing him. Telling this story, I always imagine Roth holding a box that just says BAD DICK CREAM.

2. Kurt Vonnegut: Honestly, I feel pretty guilty that I’ve never finished a Kurt Vonnegut novel, and I’m sure the thing I say where I call him “the manic pixie dream girl of American literature” is probably wrong, but I’m not gonna stop saying it. Even if it isn’t an accurate description of Vonnegut himself, I stand by it absolutely, and in perpetuity, as a description of every single dude with a tattered copy of Breakfast of Champions on his nightstand.

I’m sure the thing I say where I call him “the manic pixie dream girl of American literature” is probably wrong, but I’m not gonna stop saying it.


3. Tom Robbins: On the other hand, I feel pretty guilty that I have ever read any Tom Robbins books.

4. Arthur Miller: I’m sorry about your dad.

5. Jonathan Franzen: Anyone who really, sincerely loves Franzen’s writing has also probably really, sincerely told someone that “learn to code” was the solution to all their problems. The Corrections also contributed to the obsession with the literal and figurative “big book,” in which the size and weight of a novel directly equals its importance, a concept applied almost exclusively to novels by men.

6. Jonathan Safran Foer: I think the general opinion is that the most Jonathan Jonathan, the Ur-Jonathan, is Franzen, but bear with me here, because it’s actually Foer. Foer is the most successful of the Jonathans, in financial terms, and his personal life is a like a movie about the Brooklyn book world created by the Sex and the City writers’ room. The only thing I know about his recent prose is that scene about the doorknob, which made me unable to have sex for a week after I read a review that excerpted it, which I guess is technically an example of “impactful” writing.

7. J.D. Salinger: I’ve never read Salinger because I suspect that his books are at least 30% descriptions of ways in which women can be small, but I have read the best thing he ever (inadvertently) produced, which is this tweet. A lot of wonderful people love Salinger, but so do a lot of people whose job seems to be staging their meals on Instagram.

8. Chuck Palahniuk: Fight clubs aren’t real, you aren’t in one. (The less flippant thing I have to say is that the horror of the human body is a deeply important and nearly inexhaustible topic for literature, but it is close to impossible to find a white, male, famous writer whose writing on this subject is anything but a thinly disguised demonstration of violent misogyny, and maybe you should read Angela Carter or Carmen Maria Machado instead.)

9. Charles Bukowski: Alcoholism is a disease, not a personality.

10. John Updike: I’m sure that short story was very sad but also you have never had to have a job.

11. Bret Easton Ellis: I don’t like cocaine which is great because it means I have mostly avoided the people who want to sincerely talk about Bret Easton Ellis. A favorite of dudes hoping their sociopathy will be mistaken for genius; a more obvious favorite of dudes who quit their MFA a year in to go to a second-tier business school. A super-favorite of a guy who doesn’t mention his real estate license is how he actually makes money until you’ve known him for a couple months.

12. Ayn Rand: I’m sorry about your start-up.

13. Jack Kerouac: One of the greatest things about getting older is that nobody has tried to talk to me about Jack Kerouac in at least five years.

One of the greatest things about getting older is that nobody has tried to talk to me about Jack Kerouac in at least five years.


14. Thomas Pynchon: I’m sorry about your unfinished novel. (I actually love Pynchon and this burn is very self-directed).

15. Norman Mailer: The favorite author of every guy who loves to talk about bar fights but has never been in one.

16. Tom Wolfe: The favorite author of every man with an unfinished novel and a “writing outfit.”

17. Martin Amis: The favorite author of every dude who hates women but loves telling people about the year* he lived* in London. (*three months) (*studied abroad)

18. Donald Barthelme: Barthelme is a beautiful, strange, important writer beloved by dudes who will interrupt two out of every three sentences you say to them.

19. David Foster Wallace: A list like this wouldn’t be complete without DFW, but at the same time his inclusion feels disingenuous, because when it comes to Wallace, I am the literary bro cornering you at a party to ask if you’ve read him and why not. I love DFW’s work in the same over-personal obsessive way this list is meant to mock. Wallace is also an author whose body of work defies the kind of easy summary that can be gleaned from listening to a dude talk at a party about his favorite writer, or applied independent of actual engagement with the writing. I came to his work on my own without the suggestion of any dude, and I’ve probably rhapsodised obnoxiously about his work to most everyone I’ve dated since then. Furthermore, the circumstances of his death render pretty much all of jokes I could make here distasteful. In a better world, DFW would still be alive and we’d all gleefully roast dudes who suddenly start wearing a sweaty bandana to their undergraduate creative writing classes for no reason. The problem with dudes who love DFW, though — not all of them, certainly, but too many of them — is that they miss the lesson in his work that’s most useful to the type of person — like these dudes, and like myself — who tends toward hero-worship of authors they admire. The things that dudes who aggressively love DFW tend to imitate in DFW’s life and work are the very things that are meant to be openly foolish, interrogative rather than proud, at once offering levity and intense self-skewering criticism. That this enormous vulnerability has been either utterly elided or turned toxic by any of his most fervent fans doesn’t come close to being the greatest tragedy regarding the author, but it’s still immensely regrettable. In unpopular opinions, however, I still think “Big Red Son” is the best essay he ever wrote about America, and I wish he had lived long enough to revise a Large Adult Son joke into it.

20. Ernest Hemingway: The only truly feminist thing I have ever done is never finishing a Hemingway novel.
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Re: 20 Authors I Don’t Have to Read Because I’ve Dated Men f

Postby admin » Wed Dec 13, 2017 1:49 am

Me Oh My!: Can Jonathan Safran Foer write fiction about anything but himself?
by Michelle Dean
September 7, 2016

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You can’t make a woman come just by looking at her. Or so it seemed we all agreed, until the arrival of Here I Am, Jonathan Safran Foer’s new novel. This is a book about a marriage falling apart, but we are granted a single window into the lives of Julia and Jacob Bloch before they tie the knot. Once upon a time, they stayed in a nice Pennsylvania hotel, and Julia asked Jacob to stare into her vagina until, well, you know. “I have this desire,” she says, improbably, at the start of the routine. It is very important to her author that this all be framed as her choice.

Not too much later, Julia decides to masturbate with a stolen bespoke doorknob. She is reported to like “how the warm metal began to stick to her skin, to pull at it a little each time.” This is a novel that makes you puzzle over small questions, not least of them the science of this particular claim. How warm, exactly, would the metal have to be for skin to be “pulled” by it? How long, exactly, does warm water actually last as a lubricant, since we are told that this is all Julia uses?

Novelists get a pass on an odd erotic claim or two, if only because imagination ought to have some place in sex. But Foer’s idiosyncratic imaginings of female sexuality are made worse when accompanied by statements like, “Every architect has fantasies of building her own home, and so does every woman.” This is the only masturbation scene Julia gets. We are treated to Jacob’s fantasies at greater length, though his sexuality boils down to a penis fixation so strong that a minor subplot of the novel sees him wondering if Steven Spielberg is uncircumcised.

It’s hard to say whether Here I Am is serious about any of this. Foer splices these sex scenes into a bourgeois family fantasy, set in a bourgeois neighborhood in Washington, D.C. Jacob works in television, and Julia is an architect. Their children are precocious in a J.D. Salinger sort of way. The middle child, nine, is prone to observations like, “You realize that’s not even honey. That’s agave.” The twelve-year-old turns his talents to the manufacture of an “artificial vagina” from a toilet-paper roll, rubber bands, Saran Wrap, and maple syrup.

Eventually their family romance is disrupted: first by Jacob and Julia’s impending divorce, set off by her discovery that he has been sexting “one of the directors” at his prestige cable television show. Then a major earthquake hits Israel, because no Foer novel is complete without the functional use of a grave historical moment. In Everything Is Illuminated, it was the Holocaust; in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, the September 11 attacks. Jacob spends several chapters mulling whether he will go to Israel to help with the relief effort. Ultimately, he doesn’t, and the disaster proves irrelevant to his personal drama. Slice out the newsworthy catastrophe and you’d have almost exactly the same book.

Typically, we don’t think of the kind of success that Foer has achieved as a punishment. But as one burrows deeper into Here I Am, the solipsism of a gilded life becomes stifling. Anointed fiction’s Next Big Thing in his early twenties, Foer sold his first novel, Everything Is Illuminated, for half a million dollars. When it was published in 2002, the critical praise was rhapsodic: “Not since Anthony Burgess’s novel A Clockwork Orange has the English language been simultaneously mauled and energized with such brilliance and such brio,” etc.

Later, Foer married another serious novelist and purchased an enormous Brooklyn brownstone. His second novel, deemed less thrilling, still sold well. Both novels were made into movies; the actress and fellow wunderkind Natalie Portman found his third book, Eating Animals, so powerful that she became a vegan. Foer is now divorced. All of this is Googleable history.

One likes to keep details of the author’s personal life out of criticism, but Foer has always been set on inviting readers to evaluate him personally. In Everything Is Illuminated, one of the main characters is named after himself, and he is happy to admit the biographical parallels in interview after interview. More recently, Foer published some of literary history’s most fatuous correspondence between himself and, yes, Natalie Portman in T Magazine. “How do you think about freedom?” he asks. “When do you most strongly wish you had more of it? When do you most strongly wish you had less?” If he is unhappy to be the subject of celebrity gossip, he has an odd way of showing it.

Just look at the title of this latest novel. The publisher’s materials are at pains to point out that “Here I am” is a Biblical quotation, evidently hoping to brush off some of the autobiographical implications. It is, indeed, what Abraham says to God after God has tested him, to demonstrate his continued faith. But it’s hard to resist the reading that this is Foer serving himself up in yet another thinly fictionalized form. His characters live in a large house they love in a well-to-do area of Washington, D.C. But no one in their world seems aware of the existence of government and power nearby. Their problems are the problems of the moneyed creative class—i.e., how to derive meaning and love from a world that seems to be structured against the development of either thing. In other words, they are gentrified Brooklyn problems.

Foer writes in the certainty that all of humanity shares universal experiences, so for him the particulars are often irrelevant, which feels like the most Brooklyn thing about him. He doesn’t tell us what Jacob’s show is about, nor anything about the woman he has been illicitly texting. We learn that Jacob’s sole satisfaction lies in secretly writing an autobiographical television show—not that we discover much about it. In focusing on grand, poetic truths about “freedom,” “passion,” and “loneliness,” Foer misses out on the real complications of life.

Focusing on grand, poetic truths about “freedom,” Foer misses out on the real complications of life.


Maybe that’s a blessing. When Foer does try to address large questions, he is able to deliver only clichés in response, and not particularly resonant clichés at that. He is unduly fond of the infelicitous word “aloneness.” “Aloneness isn’t loneliness,” a secondary character informs Julia, and indeed it isn’t, but somehow the word keeps cropping up anyway. “Between any two beings there is a unique, uncrossable distance, an unenterable sanctuary,” he writes. “Sometimes it takes the shape of aloneness. Sometimes it takes the shape of love.”

That last remark is inspired by a dog, rather than a person, and the observation is not made in jest: Fellow pet owners will certainly understand. But following the earthquake and Jacob’s decision not to help out in Israel, this dollar-store insight is confusing. It is the work of a writer too practiced in the painfully self-conscious performance of exuberance and Hollywood-style big emotions, uninterested in the larger territory he lives in.

Foer’s novel has the same shortcomings as a lot of contemporary American writing. Elif Batuman once proposed that writers didn’t read enough great literature in MFA programs, but the echo-chamber problem goes further than that. Many literary writers cloister themselves from an early age, when they either study writing under already-established authors, or immerse themselves in the hierarchies of New York’s magazine and book publishing industries. The Brooklyn literary journal n+1 called this split in American literary culture “MFA vs. NYC,” and celebrated it with an anthology of essays on the subject. The dominant question is always which route is the more favorable. But we discuss much less frequently the possibility that two such narrowly defined career paths might produce airless fiction.

Foer could be a poster child for the “NYC” half of that equation. He attempts to lend more weight to his work by drawing on Jewish history, though not in any searching or committed way. A rabbi at a funeral laments “our choice to have Anne Frank’s diary replace the Bible as our bible,” professes not to find Larry David very funny, and ponders the “persistence of the Jewish American Princess,” among other things. But Jacob never follows up on any of those points. One wonders why it’s so satisfying for him, and for his author, to stop there. There is a question in all this about why we draw the lines of our lives where we do, but the answers Foer settles on could be sections of a greeting-card store: Family. Love. Dog.

Absent the texture of wide experience, the only thing to evaluate in the book is the prose. And there are fragments of prose in Here I Am that stick in the brain. Early on, Foer stops with the sex scenes long enough to depict Jacob and Julia’s daily life:

Jacob and Julia had managed to collaborate in avoidance: you walk Argus, while I help Max with his math, while you fold laundry, while I search for the Lego piece on which everything depends, while you pretend to know how to fix a running toilet, and somehow, the day that began as Julia’s to have to herself ended with Jacob out at drinks with someone-or-other from HBO (or so he, and the calendar, said) and Julia cleaning up the day’s mess.

An unremarkable sentence in many ways, the kind that appears in any number of current domestic novels. But for days after reading it, I found myself thinking about the Lego on which everything depends. Though it’s a small thing, the best novels are built on small, unforgettable things that mount to one seriously unforgettable thing.

Foer’s still figuring that last bit out. Instead of the small things everything depends on, he goes for big jokes. An apple, cored out so that it can be used as a pipe, sits on a table. Jacob thinks, “He understood what Tamir meant, about wanting to fuck it. It wasn’t a sexual longing, but an existential one—to enter one’s truth.” With all due respect: What the hell?

'There are no honest men on this voyage. Get along with you now." Hagbard's full lips curled in a leer. "You're in for a treat."

("Every perversion," Smiling Jim screamed. "Men having sex with men. Women having sex with women. Obscene desecrations of religious articles for deviant purposes. Even men and women having sex with animals. Why, friends, the only thing they haven't gotten around to yet is people copulating with fruits and vegetables, and I guess that'll be next. Some degenerate getting his kicks with an apple!" The audience laughed at the wit.)

"You've got to run very fast to catch up with the sun. That's the way it is, when you're lost out here," the old woman said, stressing the last five words in a kind of childish singsong. . . . The woods were incredibly thick and dark, but Barney Muldoon stumbled after her. . . . "It's getting darker and darker," she said darkly, "but's always dark, when you're lost out here". . . . "Why do we have to catch the Sun?" Barney asked, perplexed. "In search of more light," she cackled gleefully. "You always need more light, when you're lost out here"....

Behind the golden door stood the lovely black receptionist. She had changed into a short red leather skirt that left all of her long legs in view. Her hands rested lightly on her white plastic belt.

"Hi, Stella," said George. "Is that your name? Is it really Stella Maris?"

"Sure."

"No honest men on this voyage is right Hagbard was talking to me telepathically. He told me your name."

"I told you my name when you boarded the sub. You must have forgotten. You've been through a lot. And sad to say you'll be going through a lot more. I must ask you to remove your clothing. Just shed it on the floor, please."

George unhesitatingly did as he was told. Total or partial nudity was required in lots of initiation rituals; but a twinge of anxiety ran through him. He was trusting these people simply because they hadn't done anything to him yet. But there was really no telling what kind of freaks they might be, what kind of ritual torture or murder they might involve him in. Such fears were part of initiation rituals, too.

Stella was grinning at him, eyebrows raised, as he dropped his shorts. He understood the meaning of the grin, and he felt the blood rush hot as a blush to his penis, which grew thicker and heavier in an instant. Being aware that he was standing nude with the start of an erection in front of this beautiful and desirable woman, who was enjoying the spectacle, made him swell and harden still more.

"That's a good-looking tool you've got there. Nice and thick and pink and purple." Stella sauntered over to him, reached out and touched her fingers to the underside of his cock, just where it met his scrotum. He felt his balls draw up. Then her middle finger ran down the central cord, flicking the underside of the head. George's penis rose to full staff in salute to her manual dexterity.

"The sexually responsive male," said Stella. "Good, good, good. Now you're ready for the next chamber. Right through that green door, if you please."

Naked, erect, regretfully leaving Stella behind, George walked through the door. These people were too healthy and good-humored to be untrustworthy, he thought. He liked them and you ought to trust your feelings.

But as the green door slammed shut behind him, his anxiety came back even stronger than before.

In the center of the room was a pyramid of seventeen steps, alternating red and white marble. The room was large, with five walls that tapered together in a gothic arch thirty feet above the pentagonal floor. Unlike the pyramid in the Mad Dog jail, this one had no huge eye goggling down at him. Instead there was an enormous golden apple, a sphere of gold the height of a man with a foot-long stem and a single leaf the size of an elephant's ear. Cut into the side of the apple was the word KALLISTI in Greek letters. The walls of the room were draped with enormous gold curtains that looked like they'd been stolen from a Cinerama theater, and the floor was covered with lush gold carpet into which George's bare feet sank deeply.

This is different, George told himself to quiet his fear. These people are different. There's a connection with the others, but they're different.

The lights went out. The golden apple was glowing in the dark like a harvest moon. KALLISTI was etched in sharp black lines.

A voice that sounded like Hagbard boomed at him from all sides of the room: "There is no goddess but Goddess, and she is your goddess."

This is actually an Elks Club ceremony, George thought. But there were strange, un-BPOE fumes drifting into his nostrils. An unmistakable odor. High-priced incense these people use. An expensive religion, or lodge, or whatever it is. But you can afford the best when you're a flax tycoon. Flax, huh? Hard to see how a man could make such big money in the flax biz. Did you corner the market, or what? Now, mutual funds, that was more down to earth than flax. I do believe I'm feeling the effects. They shouldn't drug a man without his consent.

He found he was holding his penis, which had shrunk considerably. He gave it a reassuring pull.

Said the voice, "There is no movement but the Discordian movement, and it is the Discordian movement."

That would appear to be self-evident. George rolled his eyes and watched the giant, golden-glowing apple wheel and spin above him.

"This is a most sacred and a most serious hour for Discordians. It is the hour when the great, palpitating heart of Discordia throbs and swells, when She What Began It All prepares to ingest into her heaving, chaotic bosom another Legionnaire of the Legion of Dynamic Discord. O minerval are ye willing to make a commitment to Discordia?"

Embarrassed at being addressed directly, George let go of his wang. "Yes," he said, in a voice that sounded muffled to him.

"Are ye a human being, and not a cabbage or something?"

George giggled. "Yes."

"That's too bad," the voice boomed. "Do ye wish to better yerself?"

"Yes."

"How stupid. Are ye willing to become philosophically illuminated?"

Why that word, George wondered briefly. Why illuminated? But he said, "I suppose so."

"Very funny. Will ye dedicate yerself to the holy Discordian movement?"

George shrugged, "As long as it suits me."

There was a draft against his belly. Stella Maris, naked and gleaming, stepped out from behind the pyramid. The soft glow from the golden apple illuminated the rich browns and blacks of her body. George felt the blood charging back into his penis. This part was going to be OK. Stella walked toward him With a slow, stately stride, gold bracelets sparkling and tinkling on her wrists. George felt hunger, thirst, and a pressure as if a balloon were slowly being inflated in his bowels. His cock rose, heartbeat by heartbeat. The muscles in his buttocks and thighs tightened, relaxed, and tightened again.

Stella approached with gliding steps and danced around him in a circle, one hand reaching out to brush his bare waist. He stepped forward and held out his hands to her. She danced away on tiptoes, spinning, arms over her head, heavy conical breasts with black nipples tilted upward. For once George understood why some men like big boobs.

His eyes moved to the globes of her buttocks, the long muscular shadows in her thighs and calves. He stumbled toward her. She stopped suddenly, legs slightly apart forming an inverse with her patch of very abundant hair at the Royal Arch, her hips swaying in a gentle circular motion. His tool pulled him to her as if it were iron and she were magnetized; he looked down and saw that a little pearl of fluid, gleaming gold in the light from the apple, had appeared in the eye. Polyphemus wanted very much to get into the cave.

George walked up to her until the head of the serpent was buried in the bushy, prickly garden at the bottom of her belly. He put his hands out and pressed them against the two cones, feeling her ribcage rise and fall with heavy breathing. Her eyes were half closed and her lips slightly open. Her nostrils flared wide.

She licked her lips and he felt her fingers lightly circling his cock, lightly brushing it with a friction strong enough to gently electrify it. She stepped back a bit and pushed her finger into the moisture on his tip. George put his hand into the tangle of her pubic hair, feeling the lips hot and swollen, feeling her juices slathering his fingers. His middle finger slid into her cunt, and he pushed it in past the tight opening all the way up to his knuckle. She gasped, and her whole body writhed around his finger in a spiral motion. "Wow, God!" George whispered. "Goddess!" Stella answered fiercely. George nodded. "Goddess," he said hoarsely, meaning Stella as much as the legendary Discordia.

She smiled and drew away from him. "Try to imagine that this is not me, Stella Maris, the youngest daughter of Discordia. She is merely the vessel of Goddess. Her priestess. Think of Goddess. Think of her entering me and acting through me. I am her now!" All the while she was stroking Polyphemus gently but insistently. It was already ferocious as a stallion, but it seemed to be getting more inflamed, if that were possible.

"I'm going to go off in your hand in a second," George moaned. He gripped her slender wrist to stop her. "I've got to fuck you, whoever you are, woman or goddess. Please."

She stepped back from him, her tan palms turned toward him, her arms held away from her sides in a receiving, accepting gesture. But she said, "Climb the steps now. Climb up to the apple." Her feet twinkling on the thick carpet, she ran backward away from him and disappeared behind the pyramid.

He climbed the seventeen steps, old one-eye still swollen and aching. The top of the pyramid was broad and flat, and he stood facing the apple. He put a hand out and touched it, expecting cold metal, surprised when the softly glowing texture felt warm as a human body to his touch. About half a foot below the level of his waist he saw a dark, elliptical opening in the side of the apple, and a sinister suspicion formed in his mind.

"You got it, George" said the booming voice that presided over his initiation. "Now you're supposed to plant your seeds in the apple. Go to it, George. Give yourself to Goddess."

Shit man, George thought. What a silly idea! They get a guy turned on like this and then they expect him to fuck a goddamn golden idol. He had a good mind to turn his back on the apple, sit down on the top step of the pyramid and jack-off to show them what he thought of them.

"George, would we let you down? It's nice there in the apple. Come on, stick it in. Hurry up."

I am so gullible, thought George. But a hole is a hole. It's all friction. He stepped up to the apple and gingerly placed the tip of his cock in the elliptical opening, half expecting to be sucked in by some mechanical force, half fearing it would be chopped off by a miniature guillotine. But there was nothing. His cock didn't even touch the edges of the hole. He took another small step, and put it halfway in. Still nothing. Then something warm and wet and hairy squirmed up against the tip of his cock. And, whatever it was, he felt it give as he reflexively pushed forward. He pushed some more and it pushed back, and he slid into it. A cunt by all the high hidden Gods, a cunt!— and by the feel it was almost surely Stella's.

George exhaled a deep sigh, planted his hands on the smooth surface of the apple to support himself and began thrusting. The pumping from inside the apple was as fierce. The metal was warm against his thighs and belly. Suddenly the pelvis inside slammed up against the hole, and a hollow scream resounded from the inside of the apple. The echo effect made it seem to hang in the air, containing all the agony, spasm, itch, twitch, moon madness, horror, and ecstasy of life from the ocean's birth to now.

George's prick was stretched like the skin of a balloon about to burst. His lips drew back from his teeth. The delicious electricity of orgasm was building in his groin, in the deepest roots of his penis, in his quick. He was coming. He cried out as he fired his seed into the unseen cunt, into the apple, into Goddess, into eternity.

There was a crash above. George's eyes opened. A nude male body at the end of a rope came hurtling at him from the vaulted ceiling. It jerked to a stop with a horrible crack, its feet quivering above the stem of the apple. Even as the leaps of ejaculation still racked George's body, the penis over his head lifted and spurted thick white gobbets of come, like tiny doves, arcing out over George's uplifted, horrified head to fall somewhere on the side of the pyramid. George stared at the face, canted to one side, the neck broken, a hangman's knot behind the ear. It was his own face.

George went ape. He pulled his penis out of the apple and nearly fell backward down the stairs. He ran down the seventeen steps and looked back. The dead figure was still hanging, through a trap in the ceiling, directly above the apple. The penis had subsided. The body slowly rotated. Enormous laughter boomed out in the room, sounding very much like Hagbard Celine.

"Our sympathies," said the voice. "You are now a legionnaire in the Legion of Dynamic Discord."

The hanging figure vanished soundlessly. There was no trapdoor in the ceiling. A colossal orchestra somewhere began to play Pomp and Circumstance. Stella Maris came round from the back of the pyramid again, this time clothed from head to foot in a simple white robe. Her eyes shone. She was carrying a silver tray with a steaming hot towel on it. She put the tray on the floor, knelt, and wrapped George's relaxing dick in the towel. It felt delicious.

"You were beautiful," she whispered.

"Yeah, but— wow!" George looked up at the pyramid. The golden apple gleamed cheerfully.

"Get up off the floor," he said. "You're embarrassing me."

She stood up smiling at him, the broad grin of a woman whose lover has thoroughly satisfied her.

"I'm glad you liked it," said George, his wildly disparate emotions gradually coalescing as anger. "What was the idea of that last little gag? To turn me off permanently on sex?"

Stella laughed. "George, admit it. Nothing could turn you off sex, right? So don't be such a bad sport."

"Bad sport? That sick trick is your idea of sport? What a goddam rotten dirty motherfucking thing to do to a man!"

"Motherfucking? No, that's for when we ordain deacons."

George shook his head angrily. She absolutely refused to be shamed. He was speechless.

"If you have any complaints, sweet man, take them to Episkopos Hagbard Celine of the Lief Erikson Cabal," said Stella. She turned and started walking back toward the pyramid. "He's waiting for you back the way you came. And there's a change of clothes in the next room."

"Wait a minute!" George called after her. "What the blazes does Kallisti mean?"

She was gone.

In the anteroom of the initiation chamber he found a green tunic and tight black trousers draped over a costumer. He didn't want to put them on. It was probably some sort of uniform of this idiotic cult, and he wanted no part of it. But there weren't any other clothes. There was also a beautiful pair of black boots. Everything fit perfectly and comfortably. There was a full-length mirror on the wall and he looked at himself and grudgingly admitted that the outfit was a gas. A tiny golden apple glinted on the left side of his chest. The only thing was that his hair needed washing. It was getting stringy.

Through two more doors and he was facing Hagbard.

"You didn't like our little ceremony?" said Hagbard with exaggerated sympathy. "That's too bad. I was so proud of it, especially the parts I lifted from William Burroughs and the Marquis de Sade."

"It's sick," said George. "And putting the woman inside the apple so I couldn't have any kind of personal sex with her, so I had to use her as a receptacle, as, as an object. You made it pornographic. And sadistic pornography, at that."

-- The Illuminatus! Trilogy, by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson


Michelle Dean is a contributing editor at The New Republic and author of the forthcoming book Sharp: The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion
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