the vampirical Unknown thrived on its own blood as the critics shed it.
The day Kakutani tore them a new one in the New
York Times they would later remember as the one of the fullest
they had lived, firing off impassioned defenses of the choices they
made while writing The Unknown, choices that not a single one
of them had realized they were making at the time.
Truth be told, the patting-dog praise occasionally and casually tossed
their way never roused them as much as the bitter faceslaps ripe with
envy. In the end those were more fun, in that they elicited a response,
inevitably generating new writing that absorbed the criticism itself
rebirthed it as fiction.
And always the critics had some good points. The link does bleed. The
editorial process was shoddy. To a comment I cant see why
anyone but the Unknown and their friends would want to read this,
a pensive Dirk would reply, You know, Ive been thinking about
that . . . To a charge of excess, a drunken Scott would reply, Goddammit
I should have listened to my mother and stuck to post-Carver minimalism.
When he heard of the review that accused the Unknown of exercising poor
content control, Frank Marquardt would nod his head in rapid and ferocious
agreement and mutter, Drivel. Slander. Absolute bloody drivel.
Gillespie would sneer at Rettberg and look shamefully to the dirt every
time the Unknown was accused of namedropping.
And so the Unknown welcomed the poison of even shoddy criticism into
their systems, and built antibodies of text within the body of text
them. The rhetoric of failure was always already hopelessly intertwined
with the forward progression of the story The Unknown was always
becoming. And as the landscape spread ever wider the Unknown were hot
dwindling on an abandoned campsite somewhere off in the distant horizon.
At times little more than an imperceptible speck in the rearview mirror
of a squalid VW bus. Until the wind came, another critics stinging
rebuke stoking the fire just as it was
stoked every time one or another of the Unknown would shoot some angst-ridden
diatribe to his fellow authors. Sturm and Drang fueled the Unknown. Never
penitent, always in catharsis.
And the Unknown always bought drinks for the graduate students who wrote their
masters thesis on The Unknown, whether they agreed with the conclusions
or not. Expensive drinks, in classy bars. The Unknown were known to blow a weeks
wages on surf, turf and accoutrements for any doctoral student who had the courage
to make The Unknown the subject of their dissertation in