A Personal Apocalypse

I used to think that if I had to classify my fiction in one specific genre, I would call it a literature of personal apocalypse. I’ve always been attracted to stories of peak moments. The climax is the point of the tale, and the rest is mere denouement, required (by most people) but fundamentally inconsequential. I don’t care about the “ever after”. I only care about “the” moment. Everything leads up to it, and I always prefer a story to stop right then and there, without the trickling bullshit that typically follows. I’m told that normal people don’t work that way, but all of us are somewhere “on the spectrum”. It’s a continuum, as my wife likes to say.

I came up with this heady notion while still a youngster, of course. In my early twenties, when I was writing my fingers down to the bone (literally, with pen and paper. I had a callous the size of a peanut on my right middle finger), I wrote a novel in “subway-surface” style that was subtitled “A Personal Apocalypse”. I later completely rewrote that novel, “Phantom of the Mall” and converted it into a personal/robot apocalypse, perhaps the only story I know of where the happy ending consists of androids becoming alcoholics.

I bring this up because I am currently reading an absolute masterpiece of the genre of personal apocalypse, “The Passion According to G.H” by the astounding Clarice Lispector. This is a story of a rich, bored woman who goes into her former maid’s room to clean it up and finds in there, in the wardrobe, a rather large cockroach. Lispector takes this germ of a notion and presents a vision of a person transformed unlike anything else you’re ever likely to come across. There is tremendous depth in the telling but also just some brilliant writing. Lispector says things that stop you in your tracks and make you wonder. I love it.

Turned in upon myself, like a blind man listening to his own listening

I ask myself: if I look into the darkness with a magnifying glass, will I see more than darkness?

I was for the first time becoming drunk with a hatred as clean as water from a spring

I was all acid, like a piece of metal sitting on your tongue, like a crushed green plant


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