#17 The Confessor of Littlefield: Plot and Alienation

In this installment Adam is working out the theme of alienation and self doubt as he brushes these vignettes. He makes his living as a free lance illustrator.  I am 55 years old, my character, Adam is 44 and confronting his own individualization and alienation. He is a 44 year old free lance illustrator who is creating a novel based on notebooks and journals that were left by a 45 year old in 1985.

This presentation also begins to pivot the rest of The Confessor of Littlefield from the story of Adam. Adam symbolically kills his alter ego, Edwin, once again, and again asserts his faith in an Emersonian transcendence. The personal histories of his characters are summarily revealed, as well as the interpersonal dynamics of the milieu of their lives.

With the idea of transcendence, I wanted to explore the history of a small town from 1900 through today, and examine the moors and values at play with the alienated individual, and how some of these prejudices are filtered out, and some stay the same. With Adam’s identity more established he is able to transpose the battle of his philosophical adversaries to the personal milieu of his characters now.

In The Confessor of Littlefield, transcendence is an Emersonian theme, and any faith (not just speaking of religion) requires a dogged stick-to-it-iveness regardless of logical disputation. Every person has faith in himself to understand things without logically being able to defend themselves at times. It is this faith that is shaken when a man (can’t speak for women, they are more than capable of speaking for themselves) reaches his first identity crisis in his 40s. The mindset is much different when he goes through another crisis in his 50s. That is something that my younger reader should keep in mind.

I was thinking about Salinger’s Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters, and, although it seems like a sort of lazy attempt at authorship by a bored writer who couldn’t come up with much worthwhile to write about, when I put together these sequences I am taking the lead from that novel for Salinger’s narration. His presence as omniscient author is unmistakable, yet he does a masterful job of interacting through the narrator. He does it so fluently that I accept the authorial voice as both, Salinger’s and that of the narrator while being able to distinguish each.

Z

 

The voices speak to me like the back row hooligan:

You don’t understand Descartes.

You don’t understand Locke.

You don’t understand Calvin.

You don’t understand Hobbes.

You don’t know Jack

You don’t know Jill

Blah blah blah

I don’t read philosophy so I can embrace a system, or advocate a theory. I am interested in intellectual history. I order historical patterns for recognition. The voice of self awareness recorded in its own context. The same clucking, puckering, hissing, enunciating fluctuations of breath from the humans around me for now and for all generations before. The same bodily needs and desires. The same warring We. I have to visualize things; place ideas into compartments of contemplation. Intellectual history, epistemology, ontology, philosophical spiritualism, all honor me with knowledge. To have faith in something in the absence of knowledge is one thing; to have faith in the professional priest as a representative of a higher power is unreasonable to ask of me. Still, I feel the energy of togetherness while singing Christmas carols or going to any cultural folk ceremony. Only, now when I go to a church service I locate the other loners. “There’s a brother, or there’s a sister,” I say.

Z

I, Edwin Umbrian, being of sound mind do hereby bequeath my predestination to the Calvinist heaven and sell my original sin to that generation of men thousands of years into the future, who will look upon us as mere animals who lucked out, surviving evolution by not having our infinite potential snuffed out finally by superstitious fear; fear of self culture, fear of self education, fear of not belonging to some greater We. 80,000 years of life without a Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Communist penal code . We will drive the We onto center stage where it says to the I, “yes, Ma’am, or Sir, how may I serve you?”

“You can’t! Get thee hence!”

The politician of America, telling rulers of Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, and Jewish nations that America is praying for them is emblematic of the dogged puritanism that spooks our political and justice systems. The commoner advocate who doggedly asserts that all is politics needs to be seen for what he is; not a voice of intellectual, philosophical understanding, but a servant of system for which we are born to through no choice of our own. Government as sanctioned by God, this and that thing of life derives ultimate meaning from deductionist debate over proper ceremony or interpretation of fairy tales, legends, myths, allegories, stories told by story tellers whose very tales were simply tales resold.

Z

John Hapflik was raised a Lutheran by his mother, but he becomes atheist during combat in Vietnam. His father, as far as I can envision, was a sort of deist. He rejected religious ceremony but believed in God. John’s chaotic writing shows anxiety, sensitivity, enormous potential for success or failure. He’s thoughts are given like a bag of marbles thrown on the floor. He is anxious, moody and emotional, dwelling mostly on his own thoughts about everything. He doesn’t talk about other people as individuals. In his letters to his mother he doesn’t say things like “I met a girl,” or “I was talking to this or that person.” His phrases are all descriptive of his own thoughts. He gives little environmental descriptions, except to use in association with his moods. The red and green of the mushroom or blooming bush in one mood isn’t the same when seen in another mood.

Z

 

The Littlefield library kept class photos of all of the students enrolled during Bill and John’s childhood. John, with his blond brush cut, peachy face and hazel eyes seems vaguely familiar, and then I realize it is not unlike any other face when you look at it and say, “hey, my generation had a few faces that look that.” I was met a man who was the chinese version of Louis Rukeyser. A dead ringer.

I draw a picture from the photo in the yearbook of John catching a fly ball with his 1940’s style baseball glove. Bill Dinklpfuss appears sort of simian, with light blue runny eggs eyes and with pork jowls. His lips are soft and plush. With his shaggy, long hair he looks poor, sad, resigned.

John’s mother, Rita Hapflik is not too difficult a person to imagine. The housewife of an auto industry foreman moving to a small town and taking her place in the pecking order among the Lutheran ladies during the 1920’s through the 1960’s. There is the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, Hitler, Stalin, two World Wars; America of the 1950’s with its baby boom, pop culture, and the 1960’s. I can imagine the idols of the local tribe: General MacArthur, Senator Joseph McCarthy, Calvinism with its original sin and Aristotelian propensity for quibbling and disputation; Lutheranism with it’s Augustinian evangelicism exemplified in the characters of Calvin Dyme, both Junior and Senior.

John’s letters home from overseas reveal more than the struggle of a young man coming of age far too fast in a foreign land. The topic of most importance in his letters seems to be in settling his own belief in God, or lack of it, against his mother’s constant assertions about God’s will and faith. He is bucking the language translation of the tribe. I am aware of projecting my own experience into my character but the story isn’t about me, I say to myself again and again. He is tired from growing up under the religious rhetoric of either pleasing or displeasing God. God is what the I’s create in order to say, “if you won’t do it for me than do it for It.”

Rita lives by the rule that belief in God is all that is necessary, to be forgiven and go to heaven, but we are still besieged by a war between good and evil. John is bothered, thinking about the vanity of war and just what it was he was supposed to be sacrificing himself for. John is skeptical, if not cynical about the future of mankind. I imagine him being treated for his wounds by a fat nurse who looks like a near replica of a clerk I worked with who asked me if I was a christian and I said I didn’t know, because it was none of her damn business, and she laughed and said, “you either believe in Christ or you don’t,” as if that was supposed to mean something to anyone with a brain. And then she continued laughing and snorting like a pig. She was the daughter of a Lutheran minister. I can still see that stupid look of disgust and hear that idiot pig snort in my head while her fat ass waddled out the door in her beige slacks and red blouse with her fat, hairy arms flapping. But then the Administrator’s secretary, who witnessed the dialog, said to me, “wow, I can’t believe she said that.”

My Bill and John, Rita, Hiram, Virgie and Rupert, and the other narrator for the voices of Mr., Mrs., and Connie Cliffnut, Jimmy and Sgt. Ross all establish a visual environment for my author, the would be storyteller, to reveal characters as though lumps of clay waiting for the author’s imagination to show the possibilities of presentation. He is a writer interested in the intellect and its ability to create, despite the body’s cranky moods. And by separating the mind and body he is not enjoining the realm of science but the realm of the humanities, where it is metaphor, allegory, prose. The story has been gestating in his mindwomb (again, allegory, not science), and like the dog in the morning, whimpers to be let out.

Z

 

I know why the ratscum done didit, Darryl.

Darryl?

Alliteration. Playing with syllables

About whom?

Hhhhhh. This is getting old.

If you’ve got something to get off your chest…

I don’t “got” anything to get off my chest. Just made this picture, wrote a poem, a story, a novel.

Let me see it. I like it. What’s it about.

Language, communication, identity.

Ahh. I see,

(I am doubtful.)

I don’t know why you are worried about such things.

I ain’t worried about a goddamned thing!

Whoa! Ease up, no need to get your panties in a bunch (from the guy who has been arguing and debating, not with me, but a personification of me, like a schizophrenic, totally oblivious to the other as a solitary unit. He has a concealed weapons permit in case OTHERS should be getting their “panties in a bunch.” I mean, goddamn, professor…

“Let it go. I would say you’ve got the dialogue fairly accurate. The way that person answered a straw man instead of you; it seems like a theme you’ve been chasing. I mean, this whole, I, We thing is how we address the straw man. The voice of We, not I, and I, not We. Oh, and We as I, and I not as We.

Hah! But, yeah, that’s about it. Everything is personal. All language is personal. It is only the voice of the We that says something is “not personal, just business.” It is the voice of another trying to get you to accept its superimposition.

So maybe you can explore how you, yourself, interpose a would-be We voice on another when you apply communication. Just observe yourself doing it, how you both manipulate yourselves around what you perceive as the common We voice. There’s an implied sensibility toward another, each knowing the other is a voice of theatricality, either to deflect superimposed language, or to superimpose it.

Exercising my own will to power.

Ideation. I can’t say I know what is on another person’s mind just by looking at his face from a distance, but the author describes it to himself nonetheless. I can feel uncomfortable at what appears to be agitation, but if I associate appearance with language that is entirely ideation and totally ignores this other person. He is simply a figment of my imagination. He is what I am conjuring simply by looking at his face. All language is a tool for material communicating with itself, just to remind you of your themes.

Z

The We appropriates all text for itself, just as the I does. Nietzsche’s will to power of the “I” is appropriated as the language of war, eugenics, atheism, nihilism by the We. It is Nietzsche’s shadow context; Nietzsche’s humunculus grown, not by him, but by an appropriating We. His talk of the death of God is allegorical, not unspiritual. With Nietzsche, we are infinite, with Christendom we are finite. The infinite I cannot help but be cynical when it sees its creation taken in the opposite spirit it is given, as with Nietzsche’s work appropriated for propaganda by the Nazis. It is the We who are hopeless, not the I. It is the We who must be saved. Christ only saved the I.

Z

Christ is the petulant asswipe who cursed the tree for not bearing fruit out of season; who, from childhood, asserted himself to the scholars, theologians and jurors. I’m sure he was no John Boy at home either. And Calvin Dyme asks, what would Christ do? For myself, I wonder where in the bible does Christ ever say, “yes sir?”

Haha, you missed, Daddy, with that attempted open hand slap, but a judge bruised my tailbone giving me a steel booted corporate kick in the ass one time.

Edwin Umbrian shows me that no character can quite support all of his becoming. There are parts of him scattered everywhere to annoy me. At the moment he is in the bird that has to start chirping and screeching precisely as the sound and structure of this sentence is formulating. Images are congealing and then Christ sends the demon Edwin into the bird to make a noise, and to keep it up until it takes too much focus to black out the noise. It always pisses me off to notice that, like the jakwad that appears out of nowhere in the passing lane on the highway, the bird chirps begin just as I stumble upon a clearing with every symbol laid out for me. Christ, Edwin, Calvinism, Catholicism, the voices of tribal comraderie, all are in that motherfucking motorist, the bitch who has to scream up on slowing traffic, trying to swoop around and getting pissed off when you prevent her by casually making a lane change; only to have her shout and gesture at you and try to speed around you and cut you off. Christ loves that bitch. Edwin doesn’t love that bitch. He can’t; Edwin doesn’t love anybody. His grandiosity makes him love every moment for himself. He isn’t even slightly aware of the actual inner world of another person. But he is certain that he can size anyone up with a glance.

I am listening to the ballgame on the radio – brought to you by corporate Christ. He loves banking, beer, auto financing, semi-automatic weapons and senior living. A commercial comes on for chewing tobacco. The sponsor is a homophobe major league baseball player who says he is offended, as a Christian, by homosexuality. I picture him listening from home during his annual 60 day stint on the disabled list. “The third out this inning brought to you by Christ Chew, Christ Chew, just a pinch between your cheek and gum for that real moral flavor (tastes like ass.) Disclaimer: taste may vary from pack to pack. May cause dyspepsia, constipation, ill temper, split personality, and delusions of grandeur. Let your doctor know if symptoms persist for more than 48 hours. Avoid watching major league baseball while consuming as it may lead to an obsession with gay pornography.

Z

 

 

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