1994: draft of a paragraph for Signs of Life

Listen, I’m not here now. I’m free now. I’m driving slowly through wet city streets. It’s my favourite car. My clothes aren’t old. They aren’t new. They’re just right. The car stereo is playing Tom Waits. The lights of approaching cars are starring out on the windscreen. I am making only the required decisions. Brake lights flare ahead. Traffic lights change. Intersections appear & slowly move away, to the right or the left & always to the rear. In the shop lights I see comfort things, comfort goods: more cars, more stereos, more tapes & compact disks, more adverts for cars & computers & music. Nothing that can happen to me here is significant. I will reach into the glove compartment with a kind of absent irritation. I will be looking for something I have forgotten even as my hand touches it. It will be a cigarette, a paper tube of sweets. A book of matches (Ruby in the Dust, Islington). I will probably even light the cigarette, although I have not smoked for nearly twenty years. I will never leave the city however far I drive. Each pizza house will be succeeded by a Thai palace. Rocket Burger will precede Hip Bagels. Tom Waits will pass on to “Big Black Maria”, just loud enough to block out the engine noise but never loud enough to centre itself in my awareness. I can do that because I’m free now.

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4 responses to “1994: draft of a paragraph for Signs of Life

  1. martm

    You’re the ghost of Harry Crews ..?

  2. uzwi

    Not in this world.

  3. Your ability simultaneously to accept the world as it is and remain at a slight distance from it gets me every time. You take Dick’s kipple and make it a sublime expression of the universe, as well as a manifestation of what’s wrong with it. It seemed to be a strange but unavoidable bafflement to Dick’s characters in an obviously decaying world but in my reading of your novels, the face of the replication and multiplication of ‘stuff’ comes across like that of an old, screwed-up friend lost in a world ostensibly full of flourishing abundance, whom you indulge because familiarity, not intimacy, makes paths straight: a bit like the aura surrounding Choe himself? I dunno.

  4. uzwi

    Thanks, Mike M. Kipple starts out as abundance. That’s what no one gets for the last thirty years. The shops my character drives by are already full of kipple. He’s beginning to understand what Choe’s already learned: the signifiers of abundance fall out of favour & end up–quite soon in consumerist times–as the environment of the unaspirational or failedly aspirational, those shabby people who, like their objects, do the one thing that will never happen to us, ie get old, used up & a bit ew.