15 Jul 2010, 8:38pm
fiction
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East Texas Story

So we went out to the guy’s cabin to negotiate it. Out near the lake. It took damn near an hour to get all the way out there and since Dustin was driving we had to take it easy on the tight, more about two-lane turns. Dusty’s eyesight is so bad now he can barely drive at night. So it’s almost ten o’clock by the time we roll up this long, grass driveway and knock on the screen door and he lets us in and we sit on these big red leather sofas angled toward the obligatory huge stone fire place that all cabins seem to have now, visit this though I doubt he ever uses the thing more than a few days out here in deep East Texas. And the first thing he starts talking about is how he’s old and tired, probably won’t write another book, how he’s kaput, done, and I guess after Saturn’s Child he shouldn’t ever have to write anything. I mean if your name is Ike Bostey and you’ve written Saturn’s Child, what the hell else do you have to prove? I’m not a huge fan of the guy’s work, but of course I know he’s a legend because of that one book. Up there with Bradbury and Asimov, no doubt Bostey is in that same category. But he’s what, 90 now? Not too many folks that age do much of any work at all, so this is hardly news, that the guy’s done. But, after he goes through the complete anatomical breakdown of his physical ailments present and past and what precise degree of tiredness he’s pointing towards currently and then again on how he’s done with, finished, and sick of working ever again, he says that the one thing he does find time for (“besides a shit, shower, and shave”) is reading. Reading stuff he read when he was a teenager and seeing what shit it is now, reading stuff he read in college and realizing how overworked and contrived a lot of it seems, rereading classics he worshiped decades ago and now finding them muddled and limp. The effect, he said, was horrifying. He was actively looking for pleasure, for erudition, for a salve—and none could be found. “What I realized then,” he said, “was that the only thing that matters to me in writing is clarity. That’s it. That’s what gives pleasure, boys. If it’s fancy or too precious or if it takes an hour or two to meander around in surrealism before it lands back on a point, I chuck it. It makes me puke.” Of course I took this to be a direct blast against me as I doubt the old bastard’s read any of my books and only knows them by their reputation for experimentation and avant garde sentence structure and all the other things he’s casually eviscerated here in front of this unused darkened fireplace, but I’m not in the mood to outright rebuke the codger in his own home, in fact I’m getting very relaxed on my soft red leather sofa. It’s getting late, and I start to see that the old man has a few creeping signs of what’s either outright dementia or just a disturbing tendency to overuse non-sequiturs. And I notice that he’s starting to maybe find his stride here, talking about the ways all other writing is not clear enough, “these damn books you see now at that front table out in Barnesinoble have nothing on the back of ’em but blurbs from web-sites or bloggers my grand daughter never even heard of and who the hell wants to read a goddam satire of a Berkeley demonstration told through the eyes of an Oklahoma cowboy watching the whole thing on the Jon Stewart show, what the hell kind of literature is that? And right next to that they got a George Eliot book mashed up with the Jetsons that’s apparently produced by thousands of monkeys working away on their typewriters doing twitter or whatever the hell and . . .” and I slip under it all and start to drift off a little bit, not following the thread of the narrative complaint anyway, but listening to one of our greatest living composers of novels and stories transform ever so briefly into an oral poet, not worried about getting the lines right, but pursuing in his own pentameter an unedited current of thought into all the branches of its stream, and after I let my eyes close and breathe in this for a while, let the words support me as I float, maybe an hour, maybe more, Dusty elbows me and nods toward the paper sack on the little table in the kitchen nook and I look back over and see that Ike Bostey has closed his eyes now and is resting his head on his chin, hands folded in lap, and Dusty walks over to the table and picks up the heavy paper sack and I follow him back out the door and into the car and we weave back through the twisting roads of the night.

 

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