As knowledge of electricity advanced

Today will be a double-update day.

A shout-out to anyone who is visiting my blog based on the mention of it today in my campus newspaper.  You should know that I am incredibly boring, and so is my blog.  If you know me personally or have had any classes with me you could have guessed this.  AND ALSO: My hosting service is currently doing some server migration, so if you’re getting lag here that’s why.  Would you actually care?  Probably not.

Anyway, if you’re looking for something in the way of intellectual stimulation aside from the mess on Harry Potter I’m posting today, I suppose I could point out what are probably the biggest draws to this place in terms of traffic.  Basically it’s essays: the first is a serial write-up on Bret Easton Ellis’s novel American Psycho I did last fall, and the second is a Marxist reading of Junji Ito’s Uzumaki.  A certain crackpot Japanese politician/writer has recently called Uzumaki the Das Kapital of horror manga” so it shows you that I’m really not reaching wildly with that.

I also write fiction — poetry and short stories are collected with an umbrella label.  Also, if you want to learn about what it was like during my study abroad in London, you can check that out here.

Now for real blogging business.  On the subject of writing: I gave my first public reading at an event on campus just this last Wednesday.  In a paragraph I’m gonna try to describe some experiences from that.  Are you ready?  I am so ready.

Guys I gave a reading of a story I wrote and I did this in public in front of a lot of people some of whom I knew and most of whom I did not but I didn’t screw anything up and I think people like the story and a lot of people randomly passing by actually have like stopped me and told me they were there and they liked it and that is a really nice feeling and also I had the pleasure of reading with other awesome people who don’t have blogs but if they did this is the spot where I would link them.

Well that’s that!

Now for something completely different, from the Norton Anthology of Literature, Volume C: The Restoration and the Eighteenth Century, 8th ed:

By the late 1740s, as knowledge of electricity advanced, public experiments offered fashionable British crowds the opportunity to electrocute themselves.

Hey guys I go to college

And sometimes, my college has problems.  Like, let’s say my college is a dry campus, but people drink alcohol all the time anyway.  And they get in trouble.  And then they write two dozen op-ed pieces in the campus paper talking about how they should be able to drink if they want and not get in trouble even if campus policy clearly states otherwise.

And then I write an op-ed piece where I solve the problem once and for all.

press x to post a blog

So, right, it’s been a while.  Since I last blogged I’ve done a number of things, such as finish up that research project I’ve been blathering about, babysit 75 teenagers while also helping a dozen or so of them learn philosophy and write papers, and I turned 22.  Hooray!  I suppose much of that could be used as fodder for any number of blog entries, but no, I am going to do something else because I am tired.  You see, also since I last blogged, I played two videogames.  I am going to talk about videogames, okay.

The two games I played happened to be sequels.  They were Bioshock 2 and Mass Effect 2, and it should be noted that I loved the first installments in both of these franchises.  Currently, of course, there are a lot of people complaining about whether or not games are art or can they be or BLOO BLAH BLOO BLOO.  It’s beside the point.  Question: Can games be art?  Answer: Yes, I don’t see why not.  Second question: Are they art right now?  Second answer: No, ever so slightly, no.

I bring this up only because neither of the games I mentioned are art, but one of the predecessors — the original Bioshock — got so damn close to it that I was practically salivating.  Other people have outlined it better, but essentially Bioshock is a tightly woven comic book-philosophy story about what happens when Ayn Rand is a dude who actually has money and gets things done.  That’s standard videogame fare, but in its execution (and I abstain here from spoilers) Bioshock functions as an astounding deconstruction of its genre, the FPS, and of gaming pretty much as whole.  Then, after this marvelous apotheosis, it stumbles around for two more hours, negating everything it’s achieved, and then putters away into whatever ending you’ve earned.

This sometimes obscures exactly how smart Bioshock actually is on the level of the plot, however — it’s basically a Greek tragedy, but with an underwater city and crazy-ass X-men powers.  The weird thing is that, as a tragedy, you (which is to say, you the player) are not the main character.  You’re peripheral.  The tragic protagonist is someone else entirely, and once he’s off the stage, the game pretty much falls apart.  Imagine a production of Oedipus Rex where Oeddie blinds himself and then spends two more acts trying to run Thebes like nothing’s happened.

This is why Bioshock failed.  This is also why Bioshock 2 fails.  Which is not to say it is a bad game, because it isn’t really.  It’s just that the first game set such a lofty goal that, even though it failed to achieve it, there’s a lot for a follow-up to address; the difference is essentially that while the first game did indeed fail, it failed greatly.  The second game just flounders.

I am not against the concept of sequels per se; even Oedipus Rex has Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone, to stick to our models.  So by all rights, Bioshock 2 should be the Colonus — except it isn’t.  It’s hardly about the tragic ant/protagonist from Bioshock — hell, it’s not even about the actual literal no-kidding antagonist from Bioshock.  For a sequel, there’s actually very little in terms of overlap — you don’t revisit any old locations and you only meet one old character, who promptly disappears into a dangling plot thread, never to be heard from again.  The game’s mechanics are in place and certain currents in the story make me think that the new writers were at least a bit aware of what went on in the first game — specifically the themes of family, since almost all tragedies are about family — but in the end it just doesn’t work.

It’s like going to your old hometown, say, fifteen years after you moved away, and you meet a high school pal at the grocery store.  Only you don’t recognize him, he recognizes you, and he comes up to you and says “Hey buddy how ya doin’ how’s it been” and you’re all like “What, wait, excuse me, who are you” and he tells you and you’re all like “Oh” but when looking at this guy (maybe he’s gotten bald or skinny or fat or prominent scars or hell maybe he’s now a she) there’s some sort of cognitive dissonance at work, and no matter how much he insists he cannot bring you to believe that he is in any way related to the person you once knew.

Mass Effect 2 is a sequel to Mass Effect.  Duh.  Neither game is art or came close, but the first one remains one of my favorite gaming experiences (even in spite of its ham-handed exposition) due to the sheer wonder its fictional world inspired in me.  The second game is about as good, and overall a worthy successor.  Why does it succeed as a sequel?  Well, there are a handful of obvious reasons.  The first ME was intended to have sequels — two, in fact — to finish the plot arc, even though the first stands reasonably well on its own.  Bioshock, by contrast, is spectacularly self-contained and never really ‘needed’ a follow-up.  ME2 also allows you to keep certain things from the first game: your player character, for starters, and a handful of environments.

The end product is much more successful as a sequel than Bioshock 2.  Sure, it’s not art, it’s silly stupid pulpy sci-fi, but it’s fun and the story is solid without reaching for the stars.  It is entertainment; it is what videogames are currently best suited to do.  Does that mean we should make all games silly, pulpy fun?  Well, no, we should try for art sometimes, at least.  It’s what makes the first Bioshock so important, and in the future we’ll learn from the ways it and games like it stumble.

What a day

So shortly after I posted that last entry about Uzumaki, there was a tornado.  (This is intensely ironic if you’ve read the manga.)  Anyway, don’t worry, I’m okay!

But I also just got word that the first short story I’ve sold to the fine folks at Dark Recesses has gone live!  Yes, I sold a story, that was the big news I mentioned a few weeks back.  It is called “Empty Houses” and you can read it here.  It is a story about a robot, and some other things.

Anyone who’s wandered this way from Dark Recesses — hello!  Uh.  If this were me welcoming you into my house, at this point I’d offer tea or lemonade or something, but as it is I’ll just say feel free to poke around and see what sort of inane stuff I ramble about.  If this were me welcoming you into my house, this would be like you going into all the rooms and digging through my stuff — that would be bad, but since this is the internet it’s the way we have to do things.  Read some of my essays I’ve written or follow me on Twitter or something.  Okay?  Cool.

AtME: A Retrospective

So as of today I have been back from London for precisely one month.  Unfortunately I am at a short summer conference/camp thing for senior college students, so you’re going to get a canned update.  In honor of the anniversary of my return, I thought I’d make a list of all the things I find myself missing about London and the UK in general.

1. Public transport, or transport in general. This is the big one, the one I always mention first when people ask me what I miss the most about the city, and even the country.  To give you an idea: I come from a very small town — a village, really — and the closest metropolitan center is definitely a very small city.  This also happens to be where I go to school and currently live.  Now, given that I live in the Midwest, anything in the state of interest is generally about 45 minutes to an hour away; anything outside the state is invariably two to six hours away.  This is a driving, of course, and as it happens I don’t drive.

Imagine the wonder of London, then, with its Underground and buses that take me the distance from school to home every day and also anywhere else I damn well please.  Also of note was the country’s rail system, which meant I could actually go outside of the city — to Edinburgh, Stratford, Wales, all sorts of wacky places.  It shall definitely be missed.

2. Getting a weekly paycheck. This is self-explanatory.

3. Having things to spend a weekly paycheck on. Well, of course there are all the shops you get in London — clothing, book, whatever.  Forbidden Planet is a real treat and carries some hard-to-get stuff.  The grocery stores in London were better.  I am not kidding.  They have wider variety and it’s easier to eat healthy — and it’s practically required, since there are these loudspeakers in the shops which constantly tell you what you should be buying/eating that week.  It can be annoying, but once you realize that all of the suggestions are 1) sales, 2) good, and you just kind of stop resisting, then it’s completely awesome.

And to balance that out it’s also easier to go out drinking on the weekends with your friends, and not necessarily in some seedy bar but in a halfway decent pub.  You can also go to clubs, but the one time I tried to go the club had been closed by the Night Police because of a fight or something, so that’s how that is, I guess.  Clubs were never really my thing anyway.

4. Theater. Technically part of the above, but it gets its own special mention for being so important to me personally.  Having the opportunity to basically go out and see any play whenever was, again, a definite highlight of my experience in the UK.

5. Beauty, safety, etc. It’s true what they say about Americans, you know: we’re all kind of fat.  Once I landed in Chicago on my flight back I noticed that there really were a lot more obese people here in the States, which is weird.  It’s like you don’t notice them until they’ve been gone for a while.  Anyway, there aren’t many obese people in the UK — probably because of the healthy eating thing — and in general the whole country has a more tranquil atmosphere.  I mean, it’s safer there, publicly.

Don’t get me wrong, where I live it isn’t exactly dangerous, but being in the UK really made me feel safe.  The CCTV notices and the police patrols during the day really let you know you were being looked after.  I know that whenever I was out after dark, walking alone on the streets, I wouldn’t have to ever worry about being mugged — it seemed like there was  a Night Police van around every corner.  And speaking of the Night Police vans…

6. The Lullaby. I’ve had a harder time getting to sleep of an evening since I got back.  At first I thought it was just a readjustment issue, but you see, the Night Police vans don’t just carry the Night Police, but a special transmitter for a subsonic frequency known jokingly as “the Lullaby.”  You don’t even know it’s working, but it takes away all your stress and anxiety from throughout the day and helps you fall asleep in no time flat.  Whenever you wake up you feel great and ready to face the day — and I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that it seems I now have a hard time falling asleep without it!  Every time I’m about to nod off I hear the sound of breaking glass or something like that and I jerk out of bed, wide awake.  Sometimes I can feel tears running down my cheeks.  I just want to sleep, is that so much to ask for?!

7. Flapjack. Seriously this stuff is so damn delicious you don’t even know

An American Back from Mother England

Well, that’s over!

I’m now back from London, alive and well.  This is normally the time someone would do a wrap-up, but as you may have noticed, I find blogging about my real life to be staggeringly boring.  If I’m forced to write about my life, I am prone to making shit up.  I do my best when I am required to write fiction to begin with, or when I have a more academic or theoretical aim.

So instead of telling you all the wonderful things I’ve learned in the UK for my wrapup, I’ll do something different.  Here’s a list of the plays I saw, listed from worst to best.

Macbeth (Catford) – Notably, I also saw three productions of Macbeth, and the best one was the last play I saw a few days before leaving.  There’s not much for me to say about this specific production other than that it was basically not thought through at all — a Spanish Civil War setting, plus witches who are crossdressing meth addicts.  Pretty slapdash all around.

Richard IIIAlready written on this baby.

The Sanctuary Lamp – This play is pretty controversial, and I had the opportunity to see a revival staged by the writer himself.  However, while I liked the story well enough, and thought there were some cool moments, there were a few problems.  Namely, that what was startling and excitingly controversial in the 70s doesn’t seem to be so today, and also, the whole thing was just kind of boring.  The lead actor didn’t convince me at all.  The best thing about the production was the set, which very accurately managed to recreate the interior of the cathedral in what was the back room of a pub.  It was seriously an astounding piece of work.

Twelfth Night – See here.

Macbeth (Cheek by Jowl) – The second Macbeth I saw.  It was a mixed affair, unlike the first — Cheek by Jowl, as a company, know what they’re doing.  However, while the play was intellectually stimulating on a few fronts (it emphasized hands a lot, Duncan was blind, there were some brilliant psychological tricks with the staging), in the end it was simply not fun to watch.  In a way it’s similar to the Twelfth Night I saw: competent, but disengaging.

The Woman in BlackHere we are.  Notice a trend with the prior Macbeth: intellectually interesting but not as fun as it could be.

DunsinaneAlready covered.

King Lear – Ovah heah.

Macbeth (Globe) – The best Macbeth I saw.  It wasn’t deep, it wasn’t challenging, but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t fun.  It didn’t even take the easy route and make Macbeth a crazy monster — he was actually a pretty likable guy who was a bit unstable.  But the production didn’t get caught up in the Deep Issues that Cheek by Jowl stumbled over, and in the end it was definitely a play about watching people die gruesomely.  And it worked — well.

The 39 Steps – The first play I saw, and a pretty good one at that.  It’s more or less pure entertainment — unless you want to wax philosophic about postmodernity and the reappropriation of Hitchcock or something, there’s really nothing of substance here — but it’s a good time.  From a technical standpoint it succeeds because it has a cast of four  and about 200 characters.  It’s so tightly put together that it’s almost superhuman; that’s also why it beats out the Globe’s Macbeth, because while I enjoyed both plays about equally, I just have to give this sucker props for being so ridiculously (and successfully) economical.

Measure for Measure – Funny, entertaining, intellectually stimulating.  Though it definitely had its faults, I forgive it because it offered me an entirely new way of looking at the play.

Ghost Stories – See here.  This is a good play, a fun play, and is conversant enough in its genre to be a little jewel for people like me.  It recently won a transfer to the West End, and it definitely deserves it.

The AlchemistThis play blew me away.  You may have picked up, from my other short descriptions, that I’ve been placing a lot of emphasis on entertainment.  This is because I believe plays, while being art, are also supposed to be fun to watch.  Well, The Alchemist is definitely fun to watch — I’ve read it before, and it’s confusing as hell, an absolute bastard.  But seeing it, and seeing a very competent modern-dress staging of it, is absolutely amazing, because suddenly the play makes wonderful, perfect sense.  And you know what?  It’s fucking hysterical.  This play is four centuries old and it is funnier than most movies being made today.  As a bizarre side-note, the guy who played Malcolm in The Worst Macbeth played Face here.  And while his Malcolm was bizarre, his turn here was excellent.  For a while it seemed like The Alchemist was going to be the best play I saw in the UK.  That is, until I saw…

Jerusalem – I could write so much about this play.  I could, I really could.  I feel like I could write a 50 page dissertation on it.  But I won’t; I won’t even tell you what it’s about.  I’ll just tell you it’s the best piece of theater I saw, and it might be the best piece of theater I’ll ever see.  It seems like everyone in London was in love with this play, for various reasons, and the praise was effusive.  I had been in the country for less than three hours — my flight was late, it was two in the morning, I’d lost a bunch of money on a cab ride, I wanted to just go to sleep or die — and my host father told me I should see the play if at all possible.

I was skeptical, but the play proved itself.  Part of this is the acting, which is great all across the board, but especially helped out by Mark Rylance in the lead role.  Part of it is the subject matter, which despite dealing very specifically with England, seemed to tap directly into my own concerns and anxieties about various things.  I bought the text, which I didn’t do for any other play, so that tells you something.

Jerusalem is not only entertaining — wonderfully entertaining — but intellectually intriguing and one of the most emotionally intense pieces of fiction I have ever experienced.

In the end, the easy access to theater was one of the greatest things about my time in London in the UK.  My time, no matter how much it was wasted for various reasons, was well spent because I saw so many plays and approaches; Jerusalem alone may have justified me going, I don’t know.  It sounds ridiculous, but the play affected me that much.  And no, it’s not because its title is an allusion to the same William Blake poem that deeply influenced the really crazy last leg of my AtME series — that was a happy coincidence.

Worse before they get better

Yes, obviously, the situation here hasn’t been improving.  There had finally been some talk about sending us all home, especially after the riots in front of Westminster.  Naturally at that time Iceland decides to fucking explode and ground all flights in and out of the country.  They even had us on a train, packed with people, for around four hours, trying to export all Americans en masse, but we never left the station.  I’m just lucky our host family has allowed me and my roommate to stay with them until, well, whatever happens.

Of course, when the entire sky turns black at like three in the goddamn afternoon, the angry protesters in the middle of London do not react well.  I’m not sure how well it’s being covered in the global press, with the death toll from Iceland constantly rising and no end to the eruptions in sight, but when the ash could hit, people didn’t exactly stay calm.

Not even the police could stop them.  The riots spread as far as Camden Town, which is more than a little close to home.  My roommate was out at the time with some other people from the program, but they managed to get home okay.  We only had a little problem here when some guy who looked like a bum in a bomber jacket crawled into the garden and tried to smash in the glass patio doors — he didn’t make it, just scrabbled around a bit and then moved on.  Thank god for small favors.

Anyway, so in addition to having no flights in and out of the country, I guess we’re all under martial law now.  The Underground is under strict patrol, most of the lines are closed.  Classes and internships have been called off.  I don’t go out anymore; I can’t say I miss the Underground, it was far too loud down there recently.   The grocery stories have pretty much run out of fresh vegetables and meat, and the canned stuff is selling pretty fast — I gave all the money I’ve saved to my host dad so we could afford to stock up on food.  I don’t know when they’ll start cutting off internet access, but I’m sure passing the Digital Economy Bill a few weeks ago won’t hinder that in any way.

I’ve said before it was a mistake to come here.  Now I’m really beginning to understand how wrong I was then — and how right I am now.  I haven’t seen the sun in so long.

In dreams

Things are taking their natural course here in jolly old England, and I assure you I’m fine.  I’ll definitely make it to the end of the month, because while the situation is kind of sketchy it’s not dangerous per se.  At least not yet.  I’m keeping in contact with the Embassy, anyway.  I didn’t go to work this week — it’s looking like they’ve called off my internship completely, anyway.  Classes were all shorter than usual.  If it weren’t for the crippling atmosphere of fear ad paranoia I’d say this is the best end-of-a-semester ever.

Obviously I don’t have a lot to blog about.  At least, in real life.  I have interesting dreams from time to time — it seems a lot of writers do, particularly Lovecraft — and occasionally I get one I might use as a basis for a story.  Notably, I never really dream about London.  When I’m here,I always dream about home.  The first few nights in the city I dreamed about trying to read bus maps, but other than that it’s really been nothing.

Until recently.  I finally had my first for-realz London dream, and it went something like this:

I was dreaming about being back home and trying to find my house, which apparently wasn’t in the place where I left it.  Then the dream transitioned, because I woke up in my room here and my roommate wasn’t there.  This isn’t unusual, because he has to get to work before I do.  My host parents weren’t here either — again, not unusual.  Apparently everything else about trying to find my house was a dream I’d been having in the dream.

Anyway, I was just getting ready to leave and go to my internship.  Except when I was getting ready to go outside I got the strongest feeling that there was something on the other side of the front door — and this was one of those dream-moments where you see something without actually seeing it.  I knew there was a person standing just on the other side of the door, a man in a heavy green coat, and I knew he was my enemy.  There are three locks on the front door, and they’re all automatic, and when I remembered this I was immensely relieved.

Except, of course, the front door started to open anyway.  I reached out and slammed it shut, and there was absolutely no resistance — it just fell backward.  It was at this point I realized that the front door has windows and I could see clearly outside.  There was no one in front of the door.  I left the house, and there was some weird time dilation thing when I walked to the tube station (I also think the majority of the streets I walked through were different then they really are, and I passed some places I know from the States, maybe?).  Anyway, I got to the station and, like the house, it was weirdly empty.

This was extremely noticeable because tube stations are never empty unless they’re closed, but I took the elevator down and I was the only person on the platform waiting for the train.  I remember thinking that it would actually be kind of neat if I were the only person on the train, though, even if it would be sort of creepy as well.  I heard a train approaching through the tunnels — you always hear them before you see them, they sound kind of like something growling — but it never showed up, I just kept hearing it.

Then I saw the time-table and even though there weren’t real letters on it (just nonsense symbols) I somehow “read” that the next train via Charing Cross was delayed for 15 minutes, and I was going to be late for work.

London dreams, ladies and gentlemen!

Happy Easter. Alive and well, staying in the UK for now.

Doubtlessly if you’ve read/watched the news you know it’s been an exciting time here in the UK.  This is the kind of thing that’s been building for a while, I guess, but nothing anyone expected would happen.  There are other commentators more adept than I tackling the hows and whys of such a thing, but basically you don’t expect a fucking attempted military coup d’etat in a developed first world nation, and you certainly don’t expect it from a nation that’s successfully avoided big government upheavals for the past four hundred-odd years.  (And before you get started, yes, I know, it wasn’t an actual military coup, but it was close enough.  I don’t think the military would be smart enough to stage a coup on April Fools’ Day, anyway — it definitely confused the news reporting for a while.)

Needless to say I’ve spent the past few days at the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square, along with everyone else in my program and a few hundred more of my countrymen packed in like delicious American sardines.  This was somewhat troubling, as I normally live in North London, which is a significantly further away from Westminster, and being at the Embassy basically ensured we could hear the sounds of the riots for all three days until they were put down in what the more asinine elements of the media are calling the Holy Saturday Massacre.

Anyway, it looked for a while like we would all be sent back to the States, which I can’t say seemed like a bad idea to me, but now things seem to have settled down and we’ve been given the go-ahead to finish out the month and end our study abroad on the normal date, the 27th.  The kids who were in Mexico back when the swine flu thing happened thought they were having a wild time, but they ain’t got nothing on the England programme!

So what with all the excitement here, you’ll forgive me if I don’t have a proper blog entry this week.  I’ll try to catch a few more plays to write about or something between now and the end of the month.  Happy Easter.


Blog? More like blargh

If all goes according to plan there will be a huge self-important blog entry about theater and horror next week, so you can forgive me for being a bit skimpy here.  In the meantime, I have some random thoughts and comments about things I’ve seen/done.

First off, I read Song of Kali by Dan Simmons, which was his first novel and boy can you tell.  Still, Simmons is probably one of my favorite writers working today, so when I found the book used in an Oxfam I grabbed it.  My understanding of postcolonial theory made me cringe at the premise, even if I tried not to, but in the end it wasn’t that bad; Simmons just basically rewrites Heart of Darkness, and that’s tired ground.  What’s more disappointing is how the novel itself seems kind of half-assed.  It has a first person narrator, for instance, and the very first page of the book is him talking about how much he hates the city of Calcutta and how much he wants to see it destroyed by atom bombs and all of the people living there to die horribly.  By the end of the book, we’ve seen what brought him to feel this way, except Simmons then turns around and has him tell us that life’s not that bad and he can soldier on no matter how horrible the world and/or Calcutta is.  Never mind that it’s ridiculous having a character tell you up front, first thing, that he wants to obliterate an entire city and its people, having him backpedal at the very end is even worse.  So in the end, not a great book, though a handful of Simmons’s later books are fucking gold in my eyes.

Speaking of writers, Joe “Spawn of King” Hill blew through London today on the tour for his new book Horns, which I have not yet read but of which I now own an autographed copy.  Hill is a good writer, smart and sensitive and, sometimes, a lot like his dad was in the 70s and 80s in terms of tone.  This is a good thing.  I’m not going to say I think he’s the best horror writer in the market today, because he’s not and I think he’d reject that label anyway, but he’s still leagues ahead of 80% of his contemporaries.  The comic series he writes for IDW, Locke & Key, is probably my favorite thing by him at the moment.

Also, you’ll remember a few weeks back I got an old used book by a dude named Ignacio Muez Ajedra.  I wasn’t impressed with it then, and I’m not impressed with it now, but I finally made it through the whole thing.  The title story, “The Chameleon,” was some weird urban postapocalyptic thing that was simultaneously dated and ahead of its time (sort of like The Machine Stops by EM Forster).  It was plotless, like almost everything else in the book, but the setting made it interesting; it was basically two dudes on a street in London outside some flats, and it was implied that some horrible thing had happened/was happening, and these guys were using it as an opportunity to rob the flats.  There was also a bum wrapped in rags who was nearby, and the guys thought he was sick (one was worried it was a spy; the other kept telling him that the bum had “the pest” which I believe is the name of some sort of new plague, cf. pestilence).  At the end the bum stood up because I guess he wasn’t sick or he was a spy or something, I don’t know.  The story literally ends with that sentence, and given the time the book was published I’m guessing the whole thing is supposed to be a socialist polemic.

This is further supported by the poem that ends the book, a sort of “oh look at me look how tortured I, the representative of the common mass of people, am” thing, like Carl Sandburg from Hell.  I typed it up below because 1) it sounds kind of cool regardless; 2) the book has the Spanish and English text, supporting the idea that IMA was an immigrant; and 3) a substantial portion of the job I have actually consists of typing up old poems for digital transcription, so I’m kind of in the habit.

Anyway, here’s the poem, which is untitled.  I remember enough of my Spanish to know that there’s a tense change in the translation to English, but hell if I know why.

Sueño que tengo un millón de bocas
Y todas están gritando

Sueño que tengo un millón de ojos
Y todos están llorando

Sueño que tengo un millón de heridas
Y todas están sangrando

Sueño que tengo un millón de mentes
Y todas están soñando

I dreamt I had a million mouths
And all of them were screaming

I dreamt I had a million eyes
And all of them were weeping

I dreamt I had a million wounds
And all of them were bleeding

I dreamt I had a million minds
And all of them were dreaming