reception at Columbia Universitys Low Memorial Library
was unbearably lavish the day they awarded William the MacArthur
Foundation grant. Dirk was up in the front row, clapping and burnishing
Williams apple, knowing the that enfant terrible, unsung genius, outlaw
man of letters would need to take a bite the moment his speech, which he
had written on a cocktail napkin as Richard Powers introduced Gillespie
as the fluxists, the beats, the left bank
and the black mountain poets, the OuLiPo, the Faulkner, the Grisham on acid
of our day, all trapped in one unheralded author ended.
Ive always been an outsider, Ive always toiled in obscurity, Ive always been unnoticed and I worked hard, I worked harder than any other living author. But writing is my job, you see, and Ive remembered that every day. Ive taking on challenges, like writing a novel without vowels, like writing a sestina using only conjuctions, like writing translations of French novels in Russian without having deep knowledge of either language, Ive remained true to my vision and Ive remained unknown.
Dirk got some tears in his eyes. Scott needed to excuse himself when his damn cell phone went off. Only to hear that Michael Joyce wasnt happy with his suite. Quickly making another phone call, he chewed out the concierge at the Five Seasons, got some Dom sent up to Joyces room and dashed back into the ornate rotunda, not wanting to miss another word.
. . .what thanks is that? They spelled my name wrong on the dust jacket. And I have continued to toil in obscurity while lesser writers wore the laurels of the day. I have amassed volumes and volumes in these years, and all I have wanted is to share them with you, my adoring public. All two of you, and the crowd roared with laughter.
But thanks, thanks for the money. I couldnt have done it alone. Well, thats not entirely true. When you break it down. But my friends, my friends have helped me to get to where I am today. Which is not very far. But thanks, Dirk, for doing my laundry for all those years when I was composing ETCETERA,that infamous work known to every graduate student in the world, written about in thousands of critical journals, and yet read only by a few because of the difficulty of its complex iambic pentameter palindromic structure. I could not leave that desk for the intensity of it and Im glad you kept up the stream of imported beer and exotic cheeses as well. Im still the outlaw poet I was when this all started. I havent forgotten that. You still dont know my name. The money helps, but I remain truly unpublished in the deep sense of the word. Why just the other day, I hear a conversation about the work of William Faulkner in which my own work was not mentioned.
Scott coughed. Dirk glared at him from across the hall.
And some fuckers still call me Bill. I ask myself the immortal question and leave it to you to decipher: Why am I not loved? Better yet: Why am I not loved more? Still better: Why love not better I am not known better loved better published and feted better why I you know not love I am? But this money is good and you have done good in giving it to me good. Good Good Good. God good goo goo koo koo ka chew? Ive not been shot, like John Lennon, and Im thankful for that. I love you, Powers, youve been good to me, man, and I can only hope that I spend this money wisely, wisely on my writing which is wise in the sense that we are all wise, that we are wise fools. Phil Ohcs was dead when he was my age, man. Shakespeare had more written and it was better than the bulk of my shit but he had like a whole committee working on it. I havent had actors but for the puppet things in my head. MacArthur men and women, you have chosen wisely. I deserve this. And the wine better be good folks, cause Im a thirsty man.
William grinned broadly and the world basked in his boyish charm.