with Chuck Aukema in the MaidRite bar across the street from Coe College,
a quick few or so before the reading. The Cedar Rapids air smelled like
burnt Hi-Ho cereal. The MaidRite was pretty much as Scott had described
it, big and wooden, a place where people drink. This Aukema turned out
to be a fascinating man. He had the look of authentic Beat
poet. Scott claimed he would have probably never gotten interested
in hypertext at all, and would have been therefore been unable to help
me write my hypertext novel, The Unknown, were it not for the fact
that this Aukema had told him all about it back in 1989-92, well before
the Internet had become such a big thing. Aukema, it seems, had been writing
hypertext fiction since the 1970s, but had not had the hardware available
to him at the time to make it work properly. His string theory
stories were more than two decades ahead of their
time. It was because of him that Scott had first read Borges,
Pynchon, Raymond Carver,
Robert Coover, and William Gibson.
The MaidRite was filled with college students and ex-cons. William nearly
got into a fight with a car-thief, also named William. As usual, I had
to resolve the problem, just as I resolved many others during
our journey. The resident adult, I put up with both Williams
violent nature and Rettbergs immaturity.
Yet still they scorned me as a mere poet and dragged me through that great
desert of corn. But I am indeed stoic, I will do whatever it takes, and
I will not stop until I have saved American literature.
Gillespie was slugging back the Grainbelt whiskey like there was no tomorrow.
I decided to go light on the LSD that evening, since this Aukema was turning
out to be such an engaging host. They rang a bell every time someone ordered
a shot, and this pleased William no end. Pavlovian, lumpen, William. Pitchers
were very reasonably priced at the MaidRite, and we had a few.
Aukema explained to me, in an intellectual aside while the two youngsters
were playing pool with two felons, that his theory of hypertext was that
it was the true way for writers to achieve immortality, that what would
be possible in the future was a kind of technologically-aided consciousness,
that what writers will do in the future is upload their entire personalities
onto the World Wide Web. My retort was that such a thing was already possible,
and in a more humanistic way. Just look at Jesus, Buddha, and Mohammed.
All that would really be necessary to achieve immortality was to start
a religion, and then imprint your teachings
upon the minds of the gullible many, and thus, via memes, replicate yourself
in a more spiritually meaningful way than
either technological replication or genetic manipulation (i.e.
cloning) could provide. Granted, I agreed with him that it would be
difficult to do such a thing effectively on a large scale, and that it
would take a vastly powerful force of personality. Impossible, really,
but then one never knows, does one? I was interested in steering the conversation
the way of T.S. Eliots influence on Ronald
Johnson, but this Aukema would have none of that. Ah well, another
By the time we left the MaidRite, it was dark and William reeked of cheap
whiskey. Nonetheless, the reading went remarkably well. When we arrived
in the lovely room in Stuart Memorial Library, backed by long horizontal
picture windows and spooky paintings of spooky farm people by Grant Wood,
I was given a piano player, who did a not-terribly-horrible job of accompanying
me on Someones Always Fucking With My
Mirrors. Williams rap song about Iran-Contra went over
very well with the faculty, who were evidently liberal, but not very well
with the students, who were clearly conservative. One thinks of the How
You Gonna Get Them Back On the Farm After They Seen Paris
song that was popular during the First World War, only inverted. Scotts
fairly shallow short-short Bombs Making
Love was well-received but I suspect only because of its shock
value. Such a young writer, is he. Ah well.
Then we read from my hypertext novel, and you of course already know how
well that goes.
We wandered off after the reading to a cement pier on a pond behind some
train tracks in the shadows of the worlds largest cereal factory
and smoked a tremendous amount of marijuana, skillfully rolled into joints
by yours truly. It was the last of the Central Illinois Gold, but Aukema
promised that Coover would be bringing in some killer hydroponic shit
from the greenhouse at Brown for our reading
the next day at Prairie Lights in Iowa City.
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