Further Reports in a Dead Language
Thoughts that first ran through my head, all garbage now, like scorched paperwork over the harbor: Wow, it’s going to be hard to repair those tall buildings! Couldn’t Clinton just be president again? I mean really, that whole election thing was fun, but the real guy is alive, he’s healthy, can’t we just sort of slip him in there? One of those buildings couldn’t actually fall, could it? Could it? There were people on those airplanes! We just watched a lot of people die! Gore would be fine, just fine. My breath stinks. Didn’t brush my teeth. The people on the floors above the fire. God. The Pentagon, that’s like the ultimate symbol of something: fortress, geometry. Somebody really hates geometry today. Penta-gone. Traffic’s going to be a drag. There are people in the Pentagon. There’s really a LOT of people in the World Trade Center. It only looked like a small plane because you can’t credit the scale. It was a big plane. It’s still there, behind that cloud, it’s an optical thing. Only one tower, gosh, that’s going to look weird! I’d take George Senior. I’d take Nixon. I’d take a player piano, a balloon animal, a windsock. But no, this sophomore Virginia Woolf crap is a failure, another blasphemy and a total waste, I can’t go on with it, very sorry. Write that one yourself.
We’d abided so long in our shimmering impassive skins, sealed like airplanes ourselves, stationary airplanes: climate-controlled, with weather and pestilence and human frailty all sheltered inside. More than just the world’s largest filing cabinets, my other and I were bodies undertaking a long consideration of space, ticking off earth-rotations, swatting birds. When after so very long the new body entered mine I was accepting, more than I might have predicted. Though I shivered I tried to permit myself to learn what it had to teach me, this intersection of presences. Beside me was another struggle with the same knowledge: two brides, two grooms. But the marriages were brief. The lesson opaque. No, J.G. Ballard crap isn’t going to do it either, exaggerated empathy for the machines and buildings won’t help anything, won’t get me out of what I’m still trying not to feel.
I was invited to Turin, Italy last spring for a city-wide book festival. As I was driven from the airport to the hotel by my Italian hosts, I laughed at the billboards for the festival, which were visible everywhere in the city: they showed a face with eyes closed, pushed deep into the spine of an open book, as if to sniff or lick the joint of pages. “I guess that’s the way to get Italians interested in books,” I joked. “You have to suggest they’re something to eat or fuck.” Yesterday, here in Brooklyn, I walked into my local bookstore and talked with the owner, my friend Henry Zook. “People are reading,” Henry said hopefully. When I asked what they were reading he said, “Nostradamus, and books about germs.” Myself, I wanted to buy every book in the store and stack them into a windowless castle for myself, I wanted to stroke their papery bodies, I wanted, a little, to burn the store down. Language is metaphysics, and I hate metaphysics today. I hate the religious and philosophical lies which estrange me from the immediate life in favor of lost or imaginary kingdoms and gardens, in favor of paradisiacal or hellish afterlives, all lies. Today I want to eat and fuck.
Rolling Stone, 2001