Vanitas

Friday, 28 March, Year 6 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

The way computer games - and by reduction all works of fictioni - work revolves around the plot coupon. Once you acquire the key of level 2 you can travel to level 2 ; before you acquire the key of level 2 you can not travel to level 2. Simple, short, sweet and to the point.

One of the major advantages of this system is that you can always know whether you have plot coupon x or not : can you or can you not access area X ? If you can, you've got it, if you've not got it you can't go there. This all flows from a major imperative of all fiction, specifically that it must be organised, and causality is still the simplest and most effectual means to organise abstractions (which manifests all the way to epiphenomena a la Chekhov's gun). Reality needs no such thing, it's there because it's there, whether you can or can't keep track of it, whether you care to or not. Fiction however, should it fail to stick together in some manner would just drift apart, dissolve into a bubbling mass, reduce to clumps. Here's a nice picture to drive it all home :

sea-otters

They have to hold hands, you see, or else they'll drift apart and become forever lost on an endless, silent sea. That's fiction for you.

The place where reality meets fiction is, of course, education, and in that hallowed yet wholly perverse environment the plot coupon mechanism is reproduced, to the best of the gaolers' ability. They do issue diplomas, after all, which are just about glorified plot coupons (and suffer from all the problems of "useful" plot coupons, such as the infinity+1 sword issueii and so on). So it's in a sense excusable that people imagine they will step out of the Halls of Convenient Fiction into reality and encounter some sort of whatever it may be, but definitely organised by the rules of fiction they're so familiar with. And if they don't... well! They can always pretend!

Now leave all that aside for a moment, and consider Henry Miller.

A great author, you say, right ? Mechanically, it's what's been decided, Henry Miller is great. A great author. A genius. A mountain of literary achievement.

Why ?

Have you read what the man wrote ? Sexus consists of bad rewrites of literotica stories, with just enough conjunctive material thrown in to give the appearance of a plot. It is, basically, a succession of fifty or so fucking cameos interspersed with forty-nine plot coupons. I defy you to find one original, worthwhile thought in the entire six hundred pages. "Miller is more mystic than pornographer. He uses the obscene to shock and awaken, but once we are awake, he wants to take us to the stars.", Erica Jong says. Who is she ? You don't know. You don't care. Nor should you, she's nobody in that many words. Have you read Miller ? Why ? Do you remember anything from Miller ? What ?

And yet the man has had a huge pile of plot coupons dumped on him - genius, and all that jazz - to the point he became a plot coupon himself, like that soviet general that had received so many medals by the time the unavoidable conviction came they took him out straight to a scrap yard. Why ?

Well, it just so happened that at the time Henry Miller was writing, a large number of literate men (and some woolwomen) wanted to have sex but lacked the means to have sex. Because it was still expensive, and dangerous, and "frowned upon". So they jacked it instead, like everyone since forever. But, unlike exactly like everyone since all time before, they didn't want to jack it on the dry. They wanted to jack it to better material than their fathers had. Just like you do. Just like they did, reading Playboy for the articles and whatnot.

So these people picked up Miller, and decided they shall argue for his literary value. Why say "I must jack it, and I enjoy reading a couple of pages of smut right before" when you could say "He uses the obscene to shock and awaken, but once we are awake, he wants to take us to the stars" instead ? Certainly for a New Yorker, and certainly for a New Yorker of the 1950s this substitution is a no-brainer. And so, for the sake of a very significant social problem, a random man was crowned a genius. Many others were writing in the 40s, and many of them much better in any conceivable sense. Henry Miller however didn't become famous because he was "good", a meaningless concept anyway. He became famous because he was useful, always and everywhere a quite meaningful concept.

And so, to wrap up these two threads, tie them nicely in a bow by referencing the article on art and the article on ideas, and close : you can not become a great writer like Henry Miller. It's not up to you. You can not become a great entrepreneur like Bill Gates. It is also not up to you.

You can learn to write, from someone who knows how, and practice at it as long as you'd like. You will end up someone who writes well, exactly how well depending on how good an orgasm your daddy gave your mommy, and other things. But you won't get your plot coupon, because reality doesn't have plot coupons. And you can learn to do business, from someone who's a businessman, and you can practice it 'till the day you die. You may die an excellent business man, and perhaps die rich, but you won't die Bill Gates. Because, again, reality doesn't have plot coupons.

Reality isn't about plot coupons, there's nothing hollower than "recognition". Recognition of what ? And by whom ? No such thing.

Vanitas vanitatum.

———
  1. By reduction of computer games, not by reduction of whatever novel. It should be quite obvious to the naive observer that the computer game is the superset of the novel, not the other way around. It should be also quite unexplainable to the entrenched mind, so I won't bother. Feel free to formulate your objections, should you be able to, in the comments section. []
  2. "By the time you've earned this, there won't be any evil left to use it on." []
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