JOHN DIFELICE — LURES, CAREFUL WHAT YOU FISH FOR — 2017
I am going to review this book the way I entered it and ran through it, at first w<ith amazed eyes and surprised wits and then little by little finding some depth. I might vene get to some conclusions that should surprise you. Note I WILL NOT psychoanalyze the author, which would be ridiculous and frivolous.
DOES THE WORLD MAKE SENSE?
Strange story of a solitary, isolated, uncommunicative and non-understood or even non-understandable man who is married to a crazily jealous woman. The upstairs shower over the kitchen moans every time the man is taking a shower and imagine his wife in the kitchen who hears that sexual music of some kind of orgasmic event: meet Ernie and Dora. Don’t you think it would be simple to change the flooring under the shower? Not for them indeed. The end of this absurd situation of non-communication comes when the train Ernie is going to take is blown up meaning bang and smoke over debris by another woman. Terrorism is the home pacifier of awkward couples because Dora finally understand communication is better than phantasmagoric ranting about some surreal raving of the material world.
ICH GROLLE NICHT
Sarah and Abraham and their pregnancy problem. Using a fertility doctor instead of an Arab slave, or even just plain God’s visitation. A certain Dr. Sperm who has no real name and just very dark and florid chest hairs flowing out of the open neck of his medical scrubs, is the pro(fessional)creator of the miracle of this test tube artificial insemination. A dream about God of course. Very Jewish but cleaned up of the second woman Hagar, replaced by medically monitored onanism (that does not seem to cause hair loss), something severely condemned by Mosaic law, but, well, there are so many strange things in this godless world. Spoiling oneself. And yet we all have known that angst and fear, that desire made perverse by the procedure. The deep pleasure of fertility tests. The title is of course an allusion to Schumann and his lieders. “Ich grolle nicht und wenn das Herz auch bricht.” “I bear no grudge, although my heart is breaking.” But why on earth is his heart breaking? Probably because of the sad, extremely sad story of Sarah and Abraham behind this sad tale of a fertility doctor playing God with gullible parents. Please visit Genesis 16–21. Let me give you just a few verses of the saddest part.
16 Now Sarai Abram’s wife. . . had a handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. 2 And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai. 3 And Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian. . . 4 And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes. . . 6 But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thy hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face. . . 15 And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son’s name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael. 16 And Abram was fourscore and six years old, when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram.
17 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. 2 And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. . . 15 And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. 16 And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her. . . 19 And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. . .
21 And the Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did unto Sarah as he had spoken. 2 For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him. 3 And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac. . . 9 And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking. 10 Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac. . . 14 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beer-sheba. 15 And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs. 16 And she went, and sat her down over against him a good way off, as it were a bowshot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him, and lift up her voice, and wept. 17 And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is. 18 Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation. 19 And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink. 20 And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer. 21 And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran: and his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt.”
What a strange story of a woman who is going to get married to a man she does not love at least not any more. She finally finds the courage to tell him. He leaves speaking of pre-wedding jitters that will go away with time. She ends up looking at the light in some other apartment across the city wondering if there is something there, someone there. She is like a moth, attracted by a light in the darkness, a moth that gets light burnt in the night. Is that Hagar in her wilderness? Probably but what a sad solitude again.
THE PERILS OF BELIEVING IN SANTA CLAUS
Santa Claus is the new god of this godless society of ours. He can only be God since Christmas is the birth a child that will not live beyond thirty-three years. A nine-year-old boy still believes in it and his mother is so happy and keen about it, nostalgically probably because it means setting up a tree, sharing presents and some kind of ritual that is more perverse than religious but it is charming. The husband and father finds that primitive and childish. The father finds nine a little bit late and old for such “faith” in a babyish tale. His wife is revealed as pulling his leg and she tells him she believes in it too in spite of the fact she buys all the present. But she finally reveals the truth: she overheard her son explaining to a friend of his he still believed in Santa Claus because he does not want to hurt his parents who consider that old man a very big deal. And the wife goes away alone in her truth and the husband knocks his whisky bottle down but it is empty anyway, implying he is a drunk as a skunk. But that is a happy ending, isn’t it? No cleaning to do. This life is so empty, so cold, so inhuman in a way without some simple beliefs in maybe impossible things but sweet things like Santa Claus. And since Santa does not exist, life definitely is empty, cold, inhuman, the desolate trinity of this godless life of ours.
STAN SLADE AND THE CASE OF THE KILLER MEME
The man Stan wants to experiment how a meme can crossover to a gene, or vice versa. Meme-gene-crossover caused by anger, first hypothesis, or by fear, second hypothesis. He fails in his experiment and discovers people react only the way they are tamed, conditioned by not even education but by simple repetitive memes. They follow lines that have existed for years, millennia, forever. The girl he meets in the subway on the way to his experiment is trying to write something from what she observes in the subway and in the street. She fails too because she cannot find the final twist of a story by observing real life that is not comedy. Think of Grenfell Tower in London, or the Manchester Arena in Manchester. Fiction is not real life. Real life is a lot more dramatic.
What’s left is a vision of life that is nothing but repetitive enslaving to quotations, memes that are repeating themselves, without the repeaters even knowing they just repeat sentences that enslave them into prefabricated reactions and behaviors. Pretty sad story after all. Note though the OBa-Di Obla-Da meme from the white record by the Beatles — or is it McCartney? — shifts from the man to the girl thanks to a poor street violinist who more or less repeats it just to make the money she needs to survive. Pretty sad spectacle with such a total self-regulating mess that follows lines and rules that are not even human, just physically unavoidable. The concept of meme is too cultural for these “rules”. And the concept of gene is just out of scope. Memes pass from one person to another but it has no genetic content. But our intellectual character does not answer the real question though. How are these memes that inform our minds invented and how do they spread, and why? The American Revolution came at a very precise time and cannot be erased. It can maybe be outdated but by what and how? It sure was the perfect safeguard for the USA to remain forever a black chattel slavery society, and yet it only has retained the racism of it, but it sure is difficult to erase that crime against humanity that racism is.
SING FOR THE LONELY
So suicidal! The lonely one is a woman who is “ugly” and visually rejected by everyone till one night she sings a tremendously sad song and everyone receives the song as if it were theirs, sad, loveless, alone, solitary solitude, etc. The meme of the song, the meme of the voice may erase the meme of the looks. But then she disappears from the bar and from life entirely and becomes a haunting recollection that only lonely people can hear, the voice and the words. The memes of the voice and the words, but not the meme of the looks. They can hear her, not see her. Cruel life. There is a tremendous fate in this vision: we are all alone, solitary, isolated, cut off from the rest of the world and we can only survive with that fate if we remember the beauty of this solitude when transposed in poetry and music. Only art can make us strong enough to confront our solitude. Only poetical and musical memes can give us eternal life.
This story (like all the others) is followed by a small poem entitled ZOLOFT. Zoloft (sertraline) is an antidepressant in a group of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). The way sertraline works is still not fully understood. It is thought to positively affect communication between nerve cells in the central nervous system and/or restore chemical balance in the brain. Zoloft is used to treat depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Zoloft may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide. And the she in the poem buys the Zoloft of her prescription and a “home” coming rope and she terminates her life and her Zoloft addiction in the attic of her home. That’s so lofty an end. How will she be remembered. What is her eternal life? She (we assume she is a she) can only end herself by suspending her life in the loft of her home and so loft herself into the other world.
DAD IN THE MACHINE
Settling account with Daddy, and this one is not Father Christmas. He finally died ignoring his two children, the way he had ignored his wife, their mother. The only woman he cared for married his own brother and became his sister in law, the aunt of the children. Tommy, the son, is a whizz kid and he lives in a totally digital and virtual world he has created himself for himself and only himself. The daughter writes plays and she is the master/mistress of the characters as long as they are on the paper. But they may get some free will when actors are good. Both evade the real world, one onto the lamp-lit workbench in the dark basement and the other onto the lime-lit stage in the dark theater.
Tommy, the son, uses a machine to download the psyche of the father and then to explore it and finds out what he wants to get: declarations of love, declarations that were never true or present in real life and that the son has always longed for. In other words, the son rebuilds the father the way he wants him to be, but he was not. The daughter Kelly then discovers that this digital virtual father can be a nice man after all, though he had ignored her right to the end in spite of all she did to take care of him at the end and she brings forward the final desire of hers. She wants her brother to make the digital virtual father says the same loving things to her, that he has never said. . . ever.
For these two grown-up kids to fall in such a trap they must have suffered a lot under the blind, cold, freezing and frozen rule of their father. More generally though these stories explore the implacable, impossible, inhuman and un-human world of people who are completely isolated, alone, unable to have any contact with anyone and who can only dream such contacts through fantasized or imagined beings that have no reality. So sad. So pessimistic. So void.
LURE OF THE UNATTAINABLE
CRUEL IS A EUPHEMISM. Two mothers raised together from the first day. Their two sons raised the same way. One girl loved by Michael, dated and married by Freddy. Michael goes to California to become a doctor and comes back only to replace his father when he retires. He has an affair with Freddy’s wife. She stops it after a while and asks Michael not to tell. But She tells Freddy who invites Michael — who does not know how to swim — to go night fishing. Freddy reveals his knowledge about the affair to frighten Michael and then they laugh. Freddy forgives him. But Michael insists to have a real proof of his forgiving. He jumps into the water and requires Freddy to come and save him. Freddy gets ready for it but he does not. He just looks at Michael drowning.
There was an allusion to Abel and Cain when the two men were boys, but here the “vengeance” is so cruel, cold, calculated and yet not calculated, purely circumstantial. By the way Freddy will have some difficulty explaining why Michael took off his life-jacket before “falling” in the water and why, though he turned the boat’s light on, he, Freddy, did not rescue him.
In this case two men who are so close that they could have developed some intimate adventure which might have clarified and simplified the rivalry or made it more complex hence more human. They did not though and in fact they remained so solitary, so alone, so isolated that Michael in love with the girl lets that girl be dated and married by Freddy and then a long time later he betrays Freddy’s friendship and seduces the wife or lets her seduce him, and then Michael challenges Freddy to let him die — or save him — and Freddy lets him die. The world is horrible. Life is hateful. Life is also lethal and death is the necessary outcome for life to go on.
SPREAD MY ASHES LIKE WE PLANNED
A morbid threesome. Three men going on a canoe trip on the third weekend every August, till one of them dies, Ballgame, leaving Nickels and Diggs behind with the mission of spreading his ashes in the face of all the bartenders of the bars they visited on their canoe trips and it unavoidably rained every single year. Their whole life was dedicated to dreaming of going to Dublin one day, which they did not do, and to suffering the rain, and doing something they did out of habit and with no conscious reason at all. That’s the dictatorship of a meme for sure.
Morbid, lethal, mortiferous, deadly. Vicious too and this habit that has no real reason or objective or motivation is a caricature of the Obsessive Compulsive Disorderly Life most people are having, the meaningless obsessional order of their habits being the disorder of their life itself. And Zoloft might be the solution with a good rope and a church with a high organ loft.
To conclude there is only one word possible. This author is trying to haunt us with stories that carry, depict and inject in us the poison of life, that poison that makes us solitary people who will die alone, completely alone and those who do not die when we die will die soon and anyway sooner or later. This calamitous fate of ours, reverberating with Biblical fiction, is the very poison of our life that will kill our life in the end. Life is the utmost self-destroying unsustainable dimension of human beings and they do not seem to realize it. And they will cry when their last day comes. They have been warned but the warnings on the cars of their lives is an option, like the blinkers and the reverse gears, maybe the brakes too. I just wonder if for many the wheels are not the ultimate option of their existential cars.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU