The Unknown: The Red Line.
  This was Utah. They had strange rules about drinking there. Like in order to get a decent drink, we had to join a club and pay a temporary membership fee. Intoxication was clearly frowned upon, and the people all seemed very clean. We had to drink like sixty 3.2 beers just to start feeling warm. There are no neighborhood taps in Utah.

We got kind of drunk anyway.

The audience had not been kind to us at Brigham Young. That is not to say that they were purposefully unkind in any discernable way. They were all very polite. Quiet, uncomfortable, wooden, slightly repulsed, slightly repressed, smiles. Very brief round of applause, three four claps and out. In truth, we walked out feeling kind of dirty, as if we’d unleashed Sodom in the Tabernacle.

They did pay us though, cash in hand, the very second our reading ending. Then they escorted us off campus, politely but quickly, four athletic men in blue suits forming a phalanx until they got us to the edge of campus. Quarantined like some kind of alien virus from outer space.

But Clark Nelson, former Mormon performance artist, polaroid photographer and collector of Iron Man memorabilia, was in town for a wedding and we had eight hundred fresh dollars and it was his birthday and I had vowed to buy him drinks in Utah so he had led us to this club where we were surrounded by people who looked very ashamed of their drinking. Clark threw back three shots of Tequila (the Unknown were drinking Jack Daniels, they didn’t have Booker’s or Jamesons).

Clark explained a little about the Salt Lake and told us about the secret details of the Mormon wedding ceremony, which involves some kind of Adam and Eve thing with fig leaves. Dirk furrowed his brow, and then, somehow, we got into a conversation about self-reflexivity. Scott looked concerned. William looked nervous.

—Right, so I mean obviously choosing to name the characters after ourselves was a self-reflexive act.

—Navel-gazing 101.

—Yet, for me, that’s just a kind of trope, one which we used collectively to arrive at some rough and quick outlines for characters, who then naturally developed their own contours, quite apart from us, as we as writers immersed ourselves in a story world that we were developing.

—About us.

—Yes, but only in part. I think it has more to do with setting up rules of play before beginning a long and involved narrative game. Needling each other along the path to some decent writing.

—But could we call such a thing art?

—I guess not. Or we could. But only if somebody wanted to pay us for it. Anyway, the inclusion of pseudo-journalistic flourishes and primary source materials, correspondence etc. introduces a certain level of ontological uncertainty that’s—

—Bound to confuse the reader.

—The making of the thing built into the thing and you’re not quite sure which is the made and which the making—and which is the aftermath of the made, or that which is made in the aftermath of the aftermath of the made, for that matter.

—So I hope that’s what we call a rich ambiguity. But the storytelling is still storytelling.

—Yarn spinning.

—Granted, we are taking a kind of easy way out, but writing in the picaresque mode.

—It worked for Chaucer, Voltaire . . .

—Thomas Nashe.

—Go suck an egg.

—You got something against Thomas Nashe?

—Another shot? Will you guys stop with the dead guys already?

—Uhhhhhh? . . . so we can’t talk about Joyce? Come on Clark, let me talk a little about Ulysses, it’s a great book.

—I didn’t read fucking Joyce, and it’s my birthday.

—Just one last thing, I wanted to say this whatyoucallit frisson thing . . .

—That’s it, you’re talking French, I’m going to set my hat on fire.


—Whatever, man, you gonna film it?


—There’s the thing in Ulysses with that horse, Throwaway. And the Aeolus chapter, what he was getting at with the line between fact and information, or how misinformation takes on the structural efficacy of fact.

—Holy Shit.

—Clark, be careful.

—I’m just gonna shoot a couple polaroids here.

—Well, anyway, that parts of this text are real and parts are made up and that the two complement each other and that we involve the rhetoric of different um media.

—Christ, you’re gonna burn—

—Take it easy, I’ve done this before—

—Like for instance, it may be that we never read in Utah, but that we did sit with Clark, or that we didn’t sit with Clark but that he did set his hat on fire and take polaroids of his own hat aflame. I think that’s what Brecht called a gest, or is just plain jest, I don’t know, here they come with the fire extinguisher I think we need to go. . .

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The Unknown at Spineless Books.