A Peculiar Arrangement of Atoms

by Daulton Dickey.

a face like a Picasso painting, not one of the cubist or bizarre Picasso’s but more like a woman in a painting from his so-called ‘blue period.’ Her eyebrows were turned upward and her eyes seemed to excrete sadness. She seemed on the verge of tears. Any minute now, I wagered, she’d start crying, just blurt out something inane or insane and lower her head and sob.

She sucked on the filter of a cigarette but the cigarette wasn’t lit. Was she a smoker? reformed? And at one point she pulled it away from her mouth and parted her lips into a pruned ‘o’ and mimed an exhalation of smoke. Then she sucked on the filter again.

Something inside me compelled me to talk to her. It propelled me to my feet and I glided across the room and sat beside her. Not motivated by lust or desire, I turned to her as soon as I sat down and I held out my hand and introduced myself.

‘Sadie,’ she said as she shook my hand.

‘Loud in here,’ I said.

Music played, some modern dance bullshit.

Her eyes fluttered and she glanced at the ceiling, as though fixing her gaze on the sound waves.

‘I hadn’t noticed,’ she said.

‘Listen,’ I said, ‘I couldn’t help but notice—from over there, on the other side of the room—but … is everything all right? You, and I don’t mean to sound rude or anything, but you look like a woman who just buried her husband.’

Her gaze broke and unspooled. She blinked.

‘Excuse me?’

‘You just … I couldn’t help noticing how sad you look.’

‘Do I?’

‘Like you’re going to start crying.’

She touched her cheek, and she gazed at the bar top, stared at it with a fixed yet empty gaze.

‘You know what?’ I slid out of the chair and backed away from her. ‘I feel rude or like I’m intruding. I’m sorry. I don’t know what …’

‘No.’ She reached out to me. ‘Don’t go.’

‘I feel like a jackass now,’ I said.

‘Please.’ She stood and clutched a handbag. ‘Come outside. Will you come outside with me?’

She walked with a stiff spine. Her head didn’t move and her arms stayed up, curled at her chest. I followed her, and from my vantage point I saw less of a human being and more of a skeleton, of the stop-motion variety you’d see in old fantasy movies.

Following her put me into a kind of … I don’t know how to describe it. It’s like something about her prevented people from glancing at her. It’s like no one even acknowledged she existed, like crossing the bar, heading for the door, she’d become a bubble or a void, and not even light penetrated this bubbly void. And following her, trailing in her wake, I felt enmeshed inside her bubble. No one acknowledged her and no one acknowledged me. And I was aware of it. I sensed it, like the exact opposite of agency detection—the ability to sense when people are oblivious to you.

She pushed open the door without holding it for me, and I latched onto it and flung it open. Without glancing back at me, without stopping to wait for me, she cut through the parking lot and wound her way around parked cars and ended up at the far-end of the lot, a sort of rock-strewn cul-de-sac. There, she removed a lighter from her handbag and torched the end of her cigarette.

‘These no-smoking-in-public laws are a bitch, aren’t they?’ I said.

The moon was full and white and the craters scarring its surface were a sort of purple or blue. She craned her head back, just enough for her gaze to reach the moon. I traced her gaze with my eyes and landed on the moon. But I wasn’t certain that it had snagged her attention. She could’ve been searching the constellations for all I knew. Or she could’ve been spacing out, thinking without fixing her gaze on anything.

‘Are … I hate to ask, but is everything all right?’ I said.

‘Funny how we do this.’ She didn’t peel her eyes from the sky. ‘Day after day, month after year and so on. Funny how everything just … is … How nothing is how we think it ought to be.’

‘Blame Hume,’ I said, ‘for cursing us with his whole “is-ought” distinction thing.’

It was admittedly a bad joke, but I’d hoped it’d elicit something like a response.

‘How many atoms do you think there are in the universe?’ she said.

‘I wouldn’t begin to know. An obscene amount, probably.’

‘Of all the atoms in the universe, it’s a coincidence that the atoms inside us are configured in such a way as to make me me. And to make you you,’ she said, still gazing at the sky. ‘Given the age of the universe and the uncountable number of atoms it contains, I think this has happened before. All of it. I don’t think it’s impossible to suggest that these same atoms inside me right now, these same atoms that make me me, have previously combined in such a way as to configure me. Previously. Maybe a billion or more years ago. Maybe in a galaxy we don’t even know exists.’

A train track ran alongside the back end of the parking lot, on the other side of the woman. Two teenagers ambled along it. They said something, shouted something, and laughed. Then they shouted again and ran off.

Still, the woman didn’t break her gaze.

‘My life,’ she said, ‘every second, every minute, is old to me. It’s stale. My entire life is one long, prolonged feeling of deja vu. Nothing is new. Nothing is surprising.’ She broke her gaze and twisted toward me. ‘I saw you earlier. Watched you walk in and order your drink and sit down. And I knew you were going to approach me. I even knew what you were going to say. And I knew—I don’t know why, but I knew—that you were going to comfort me. That voice. Or the way you kind of awkwardly stood and shuffled your feet. Nervous, the way certain children tend to act when they’re introduced to strangers. And it did,’ she said. ‘It did comfort me. But the sensation of being comforted wasn’t relaxing in any way. I anticipated it. I expected it. And so when it washed over me I felt like I was experiencing it through a mirror, as though I were watching myself experience comfort more than actually feel the sensations of the experience.’

She dropped the cigarette and crushed it by stepping on it and twisting her heel.

‘Do you think it’s possible? What I said about previously being me? this specific configuration of atoms?’

‘Anything’s possible, I suppose.’

‘Yet you don’t believe me.’ She glanced at the sky again. Fixed her gaze again. ‘You don’t believe me about the déjà vu,’ she said. ‘About constantly anticipating and experiencing things I haven’t yet experienced? You don’t believe me.’

‘I never implied that.’

‘Yet you don’t deny it.’

‘I don’t … This may sound strange, but I actually know what you’re talking about. I mean, I feel the same way. Like, I knew when I woke up this morning that I’d come to the bar tonight. I knew, while I was at work, that I’d meet a woman here. And I know what you’re going to do in a minute, in a few minutes, when the train comes. I can’t vocalize it, I can’t say I really even think about, but it’s just a feeling, you know?’

She didn’t turn to me, she didn’t smile or break her gaze.

‘So do you know why I’m going to do it?’

‘I don’t.’

‘But you want to know.’

‘I do.’

‘I know you do,’ she said. ‘If you’re like me, and I mean if you’re really like me, then you know how awful it is. You how know how tiresome and dreadful life is, how horrible it gets when you expect and anticipate every action. Day in. Day out. You wake up and take a shower, brush your teeth, follow this routine. And even if it’s new, even if you do something you’ve not done before, it’s still a routine, you know? So even if it’s theoretically new, it still feels like you’ve done it before. Because, in a sense, I think, you have done it before.’

A train horn blew. It blew again, louder this time.

My stomach hollowed out. Vomit threatened to climb up my throat.

‘You don’t have to do this,’ I said.

‘I don’t. But you know I’m going to.’

‘But you don’t have to.’

She glided toward me and touched my cheek. Her hand was warm and soft and, I don’t know, comforting somehow.

‘What a peculiar arrangement of atoms we are,’ she said.

The train horn blew. It blew again, louder this time. And the ground rumbled this time.

‘But then what about me?’ I said. ‘Don’t make me live with this.’

‘You’ll live with it for a while, and then you’ll do the same thing, and then you’ll no longer live. Then in a billion years or more, atoms will coalesce into a certain configuration, in a part of the galaxy we don’t even know exists, and you’ll be you again, and you’ll live your life again, more or less the same life you’re now living. And then we’ll meet again. At a place like this again. And we’ll have this conversation again.’

‘It sounds awful, this never-ending circle.’

‘But it’s the way things are,’ she said, ‘and it’s the way things will always be.’

‘I can’t …’

‘And when we meet again,’ she said, ‘when we have this conversation again, you’ll protest. As you always do. And I’ll touch your face like this,’ she ran her palm over my cheek again, ‘and a tear will slide out of your eye again. Just like that. And then the train will approach again. And I’ll jump. And everything will begin again.’

‘Please don’t make me endure this alone.’

The train horn blew, louder. Louder. Then a train rocketed into view. The woman smiled and backed away from me, and she turned and leaped in front of the train. The horn sounded, screamed, and the wheels screeched.

And then life went on. And I felt that empty feeling, the feeling of knowing and expecting and anticipating everything. Life passed by and I didn’t experience it, really. Instead, I kind of stood outside and watched it roll by, or like I watched life through a two-way mirror: I saw it, interacted with it, but everything always remained familiar.

And then in my forty-third year I woke up and took a shower. I got dressed in the walk-in closet in the spare bedroom. And after I got dressed, I put the barrel of a shotgun into my mouth and pulled the trigger.

The earth died and the sun eventually swelled up and consumed the earth, and it fired atoms into the solar system every now and then, when flares erupted on its surface. They lingered, the atoms, and then they flowed through the galaxy. And after an indiscernible amount of time, the atoms coalesced and merged on a planet in the outer rim of the galaxy. Life flourished. Dinosaurs evolved and died. People evolved and prospered. Civilizations rose and fell, rose and fell. Then I was born. And pretty much from birth onward, I expected and anticipated every experience. And I kind of more or less drifted through life, drifted through it as though I were gazing into a two-way mirror. And one morning, in my thirty-ninth year, I woke up and felt a sensation assault me, and I knew I’d go to the bar that night. Then, while at work, I knew I’d meet a woman at the bar. And I wondered briefly if she’d be the one. I wondered briefly if she’d fall in love with me and save me. I wondered briefly if she’d make things feel new and unexpected.

So after work I went home and ate and took a shower. Then I got dressed and drove to the bar. I ordered a drink and crossed the room and sat in the corner, below a flickering light. My drink was strong, so I sipped it. And then I noticed her. Across the room, at the end of the bar, she stared into space, as if thinking but not thinking. The woman had

Guest Blog: John Edward Lawson On the Difficulty of Conjuring Possibility

On the Difficulty of Conjuring Possibility
by John Edward Lawson

1.

It is easy
to imagine you.

It is hard
to imagine you…

It is so-so
difficulty
to imagine you:

2.

Clouds scold us
overhead, but do not
make good on the threat

Aganippe perches, shaded
nearby, wind-swayed

Watching with a loving
smile despite unseasonable
cold, chewing leaf buds

Behind the storefront
we are warm, well-fed

Basking
in your radiance
as you read

to the little ones
attentive, still

In your mouth
a leopard coils
on a box

while a boy gazes
up in admiration

A cough, a tremble,
the crowd shrugs off
bodily considerations

For you and your Bed
Book, and its siblings

Piled high around,
dozens of titles
teetering, all yours

The poster backdrop:
your cartoon shows, films

Replacing your frail
body before us are
two generations of dreams

And friends, little
animals, monsters, kids

The toys spawned
by your children’s books
line our hearts and minds

Hand cupped at mouth one
parent asks another,

“Didn’t she used to
be a poet?” The other shrugs,
lost in a word-trance

Yesterday’s papers tumble
into unwashed gutters

As the wind
picks up, ushering
in new-sprung exhaust`

Thunder in the distance
brings a sigh of relief

The families will have
plentiful crops
to sustain them

3.

My wax girl, accept me, Anasi
Your companion among the brambles.

Gorging on crow pie, digging up,
Up, up the moors, finding all
Is gone; forgiveness has a
Long grave-robbing streak, and an alibi.
Today there’s no need to explain.

Bowdlerize those stories
Up until now, forget.
The dark thing fait accompli
We’ll call it an accident, a fall–
Everyone knows kitchen dangers well.

Remedy my stiff upper lip with impromptu
Evanescence, darling, little moments between
Milestone and grain, monolith and grass.
Apercu in our children, in me and you.
It shouldn’t take such extremities for
Nuptuals to overtake the trickester in me.

Never again, love.

4.

Assia Wevill escaped the Nazis
but not you. Ach, du…ach du. The fury
Hell hath it returned, unopened, but you
had no fear of tugging that red ribbon,
tearing that paper anniversary wrapping.

Vulcan of words, hammering, heating
and cooling, punctuating and cutting
altogether, you were introduced to a new
variety of sentence: death, in itself
lusterless after decades of familiarity,

but imposition by a judge lent it
a bit of sparkle. The life of a second-
woman was not enough to turn heads,
but the pup spiraling out of control
in her belly, to cut it short doomed you.

In 1964, after muckrakers decided not
to revive their flashbulbs for you
anew, you found residence in Oscar
Wilde’s old haunt…HM Prison Holloway.
All the unmarked dears withering

in the ground out back, they lullabied
you. The non-reading public wrung
their hands in anticipation; literate
types held their breath, hung
their heads. With each passing

day your smile broadened. As an artist
you had already mastered removing
the unwanted. Acetate, sponge,
blade. The other woman vanished
from your landscape, by your hand,

as you soon would, by the masked
man’s command. What a shock, then,
when your death day also disappeared,
erased by Briton’s repeal of capitol
punishment. Art traders, eager to
cash in on your “retirement,”

had already pumped your value
to treacherously high levels,
purchasing your every watercolor
and doodle. Thus you were reborn,
sylvan phoenix, caged

bird of too many colors for this
world, too many treasures.

5.

On this season of Dancing
With the Stars: Sylvia Plath!
Nothing scintillates like
geriatric, forgotten celebrities
of yesteryear sprung from the crypt
to prance and pose one last
time. Sylvia the repackaged
product is shaven down
to the hairlessness of a lab rat,
or prepubescent girl, save
for the scalp…or is that a wig?
Hair dye and extensions, at the
very least, woven as the Fates weave:
with glittering silk coaxed
from prehistoric worms extinct
as pride. The strokes arching
over each eye in place of brows
delineate Its willingness to subject
Its body to the dominion of willpower,
as do the twin sculptures
that are Its 38 DD enhancements.
Eyes surgically tightened to
the stranglehold of desperation,
the deer-in-Athena’s-crosshairs look
of petrification so alluring
to marketing executives. Laugh
lines and sorrow creases and anger
cracks smoothed away by chemical feng
shui. What vintage is this side
of beef? 1933, let’s call It belle
époque. Will you tap that ass, siphon
that blood, it is $103 per bottle–pricey
enough to impress the audience, those
trundling Hungry Man dinners into
their digestive tracts by the
truckload. Full Figure Five,
Its “home movie” shot with a tattooed
young male celeb, has “somehow”
leaked onto the Internet, generating
more buzz than a horde of bees
overwhelming stern German biologists.
Ubiquitous in rap videos grunting
“Yo papi, papi ya biz-asturd I be
through!” and nabbing the catbird
of prey position in Maxim. Shuffling
from the tabloid back burner
to the lower front cover to the sidebar
to the Bradjelina blowup. Who will be
eliminated this week: Hope & Legacy,
or Readership & Respect? It flaunts
Its flexibility within the rigid formulas
of Meringue, Fox-trot, the Jerk,
and Cantor. The whip cracks. Onetwothree
step. Onetwothree step. Don’t dare
contemplate what comes next. The whip
cracks. It is the oldest product ever
to make the cover of Playboy,
“One of the highlights of my life,”
It informs readers. It can talk,
talk, talk. The late night circuit
awash with false camaraderie and
frothing drool of advertisers,
the morning radio circuit drenched
with sophomoric innuendo, the 4 o’clock
self-help hour loaded with sensitive
hosts and book clubs to hawk Its wares.
It has risen as a golem, not a Lazarus,
clunk-clunk-clunking along with
the rhythm pounded out by white-collar
handlers. It has not written in years;
It has not published a commercial
success in decades; It has not published
a critical success in scores of years.
Onetwothree hop, onetwothree skip,
onetwothree smile and wave. The whip
caresses, scourges wet-cold as
the evaporating saliva of a lover’s kiss.
Nodding in unison the judges
and crowd are glad that Sylvia
lived long enough and well
enough to be dancing
to the top today.

About the A9fdcd4a5f3e9e4fb03ca5beb61b19334uthor:  Lawson is the author of fifteen books, garnering nominations for the Dwarf Stars, Puschart, Rhysling, Stoker, and Wonderland awards. He is a founder of Raw Dog Screaming Press, has done freelance editing for National Lampoon and Double Dragon Publishing, served as editor-in-chief of The Dream People, and edited six anthologies. You can spy on him at JohnLawson.org.

Excerpt from an Untitled Novel (A Work-In-Progress)

by Daulton Dickey.

Her touch recalls the fermented air of youth, how when I wanted to dream about my future I’d only go so far as to spray my come into the phantom writhing on my lap. Only now the phantom is real. She’s a brunette, and she’s on top of me, bathing in the silk of night as my milk darkens the pink of her flesh and makes it somehow transparent.

She moans and pushes down on my chest, and her tits bounce. Her eyes are closed, her hair disheveled, bouncing, bouncing, and she twists her neck and groans and howls.

The specter of youth fades, fades. Everything becomes pale and blue and illuminated: her flesh on my skin, her breath in my face, her hair interweaving with mine. The past is an eyeball concealed behind a colorless lid. Nothing means anything except right now. The world vanishes and the light and sounds pouring into the window are the forestalled harbingers of newly hatched universes.

She rides me, she moans and rides me, and the coil in my stomach and chest relaxes and unspools. My head throbs, but the pulses are echoes, and they fade; they fade.

She’s lying beside me now, and the sun screams into the room, announcing the dawn of the post-industrial age. Cars whine and buses howl and feet slap concrete as voices rise and harmonize and crescendo.

Stories unfold on the ceiling, but they’re incomprehensible. They’re incomprehensible because I’m too busy reading the prose encoded in the breath tickling my neck.

Her breath is soft, controlled, as if she’s too self-conscious to breathe, as if she’s afraid her breathing will trigger annoyance or concern. She’s lying near me and leaning into me. My arm is beneath her and curled around her, and I interpret her breath and tighten my bicep and forearm and pull her to me. And listen. I listen.

Then words obscure images. Syntax and grammar, and refined imagery, unspool and dissolve in a sea of blackness: a hand fingers an open wound as the sky withers and droops inward. High overhead the sun blinks and the absence of light shimmers in the moment of the essence, when all things shrink and freeze and grope and gripe and convulse on the acid of tongues swimming in a sea of oblivion. A man with a blank face skitters through a window—the glass ripples—and rushes toward me, but then he stops and spins and freezes: on his back are breasts concealed in a halter top, and a blank face is in the back of his head. Hair curls down around the cheeks and chin and breaks against the shoulders. Shadows push into the face and a fist emerges—the wrist hangs where the nose should be. The woman convulses and collapses. She lands on her stomach and the fist protruding from her face uncurls its fingers and crawls across the room, carrying the head and body. And it stops in front of me and trembles. Then the woman’s legs, now at eye level, twitch and bend, and the hand pushes up, propels away from the floor, and the woman arches her back and lands on her feet, and — We’re in a glass dome submerged in water. The woman and I are seated at a table, sitting on toilets, each shitting. Our shit floats through tubes and pollutes the water outside the dome. The woman watches her shit dissolve into the water and she smiles—she’s grinding her teeth, moving her jaw horizontally. Then she opens her mouth—to speak?—and rocks tumble out and smack the tabletop. Each rock cracks open and spills snot onto the table. The snot bubbles and foams and transforms into a few dozen worms, each baring the head of a kitten. The kitten-worms mew, mew, and the sounds pulse and crack the glass on the dome. Water races through the cracks and fills the dome, fills the dome, and— and—

I listen. Listen.

Anne is still lying beside me. Her breath taps the melody of a poem I can’t deconstruct. And the tones of her message, shallow and oblique, slip into the pores in my face and neck and lull me back to sleep.

Anxiety

by Daulton Dickey

Emptiness: the sorrow of bloom; despair: the excitement of emotions
Collapsing like waves over you
They slam into you and push you through the vortex of vertices pinpointing
The moment of derision, when
Everything split open and the illusion of meaning vanished into the swelling
Carcass of immortality,
That bitch of a delusion carved
From the fruits of fear and uncertainty; Anxiety: the rush of gloom in full
Bloom as it traces the history
Of the genealogy locked inside the generations of information swirling inside
You, passing through your
Heart and racing to your brain, and fueling the emptiness as it wilts and decays.

Logical Atomism

by Daulton Dickey

Sorrow is a mask you wear
When plucking tulips from the
Grave of continuity

Some things continue and
Some things fade and the burden
Of enlightenment shimmers beneath
The contusion of mimetic realism—
The fantasies and phantasia of ancestors
Too far removed from the indelible and
Intelligible source of
The inspiration for their own
Mimesis

Dread is the resolve you bare
When you stand on the ruins
Of a rung on the continuum
Interwoven with the crescendoing
Symphony of illusion

The notes are intangible yet
Experiential and the synthesis of
The conception of solidity quakes
The gaps in the matter fluttering inside
And beneath you
And these permutations vibrate in
The frequency of the optic nerve—
Then the sorrow transforms into
Flesh
And the mask becomes
You

Metastasis

by Daulton Dickey

Light drifts on a wave as it flows through
The point where space and time converge,
A sea from which images are disassembled
And reconstructed
The waves converge with the maelstroms
Spinning in your eyes
And the point of the sea blossoms,
Blossoms—a model assembled
Inside you, a moment reflected and
Filtered by you
Then you reject it: you cast light onto
A wave and watch the current
Drag it away from you
More models assemble and
Disassemble
And the points where space
and time converge
Shift and transform
And they alter you
And you, them

Remorse

by Daulton Dickey.

How I waft the air and fold it inward
And curl it around your neck:
One eye, one lie, one spider-like twist
Of the blastocyst in time
Impregnating
The clock on the wall
the trembling wall
Then the sounds
like the spectrum
Screaming and spitting color
Splintering it and jabbing it into
The open-faced pigments
Swallowing everything—from the
Walls to the floor to the gaping
Fragments gasping in your cheeks,
And those fragments absorb
every color but red

How the sounds stretch into fluttering
Waves and dissolve into the wall of
Flesh writhing inside you
And those sounds raise creeping
Archipelagos and everything
Collides and uncoils and
The nausea and anxiety twists and
Unnerves you—like the
Ziggurat
Sprouting from your eyes:
The temple doors fling open
And invite the chaos of movement
To marry the perfume of
Anger and sadness, of
Love and despair
And every piece
Disintegrates and reforms

This cannot end:
How the moments freeze and
Unlock and the shimmering
Gray sadness of sleep
Deprivation undulates and shivers
In a ring of opaque anger
And confusion
And eyes slip down and fall
Away and fingers twitch—
The meanings of rings melting into
fingers and slipping into streams
of mechanical impulses that
Slide into the Hippocampus and
Slip away
Monuments twist and
become unhinged
But this no this cannot end

Plasticine Shells

by Daulton Dickey.

Everything is broken and old and plasticine fetuses
Rot inside writhing wombs—where nothing grows
From the darkness of an eggshell morning whose sisters
Break the dawn and shatter the night and rain ruin on the
Brows of forgotten children—
Whose eyes coat the tears and streak the years and burn
Neurons in brain cells while the slates of amorphous genes
Reek of sinister decay—yet everyone burns and boils
And the sky turns and broils the eyeballs lurking in
Darkness—
And nothing holds anything, though no one can say the same
About the madmen exploring the niches buried in the streets—
Everyone runs and screams and no one is aware of the
Kaleidoscopes churning overhead—
Colors react to the fiery storm of twisted lies fluttering through
The air, all gloomy and bespoken and choking on the remnants of
Ash and debris floating through the membranes writhing between
The earth and the sky—
Men sit and wait for permission to die as women run and race
All around them—nothing grows from the meat in their heads
Although flowers sprout from their foreheads and reach for the skin
Of the sun—then they fail, and they wither and coagulate
And the songs of the lonely and the dying and the ill-informed
Pulse and hitch a ride on the waves of light exploding in the
Atmosphere—no one is solid or certain or confident in their
Broken and scaly woven plasticine shells

Thinking about modern novels

by Daulton Dickey.

Sometimes writing is an exercise in hollowing your brain. Like digging a trench in a concrete parking lot with a dowel shovel, it seems more like healing yourself through bloodletting than anything else. The notion of writing for other people is alien to me. The notion of entertaining people is alien to me.

untitled

Still a romantic, I hold the opinion, or the hope, that ideas and concepts can change people. Or that they can change the world. And so I go cross-eyed when considering people who aspire to write formulaic gobbledygook. Simplify and entertain—that seems to be the motto nowadays. Simplify. Entertain. Plug information into a grid, into formulae, and produce a book you think is different or unique. Where’s the fun in that? Where’s the challenge or the adventure?

Rules and formulae have trained readers to expect to encounter certain experiences while reading, and so the author’s job is to facilitate those experiences without deviating from the systemic training an industry and discipline have forced on unsuspecting readers.

Where’s the fun in that?

To deviate from the rules to counter or to dispel readers’ expectations—of what they’ve been trained to expect—seems to occur to few writers. Deviating from such rules would or could serve a purpose: to circumvent the readers’ expectations without resorting to some sort of metafictional gimmick.

Conform to their expectations and then dispel them. That seems intriguing. That seems fun and interesting. Entertainment can’t be the sole criteria on which fiction and literature is founded. It can’t be. And if it is, then we’re all doomed. I’m not suggesting that fiction or literature can’t or shouldn’t be entertaining. But I am suggesting that it should aspire to something greater.

Fiction and literature should entertain, inform, and, ultimately, break people. Only when they’re broken, or when they realize they’re broken, can they begin to piece themselves back together.