Wednesday, December 26, 2012

capturing the incomparable life

Bob Rochester, diswived by the freedoms that have made this country great, decides that he is going to resurrect his personal morale with the help of a good deed: he will save the Devil's Hole pupfish. He puts it in a bucket and the pupfish is saved. "What else can I do for Nevada?" he wonders. He attends a Preserve Nevada symposium where a man insists that Las Vegas does have a history though nobody thinks so. "And you don't have to dig deep either to find it. It's sitting in the old part of town, in all the old casinos there. The bones are there. You just have to look under the shell to see what you can find," he says, and his speech is noted in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Las Vegas loves its old historical bones so much that it puts them behind walls where nobody can damage them. Lucretius tells us that sight is possible because all visible objects spew little balls, which we take in with the assistance of the wonderful dark pupils that have punched two holes into our faces with unnoticed efficient modesty. The concealed sections of Las Vegas have been saved from the wastage of atomic spewing. They can keep all their molecules. No one looks at them. Preservation! But the catwalks in the Imperial Palace ceiling are still visible from the blackjack tables. Security used to dawdle there and stare at the customers through darkened glass. The owners have decided to destroy the ceiling and rename the casino. History is everywhere! One of the metal accoutrements outside Planet Hollywood has rust.

Rochester decides to make up numbers at a cultural evening. He takes a forty-minute walk from Planet Hollywood down Harmon to UNLV where a biographer is giving a talk in a room attached to the museum. I know that he was there because I attended the same lecture. On the screen above the biographer someone has projected a picture of her book with this line printed above the blurb: "A biography capturing the incomparable life and times of one of America's finest writers."

He is chilled by the thought of this incomparable life, which would not be able to be described or measured, because, without comparisons, you would lose your place in the world: you would not be able to say, "My life is tempestuous," because you would not be able to compare it to a tempest, and you would not even be able to say that your life was good or evil, deprived of the ability to compare it to other lives. It can't be an impressive life, or a boring life, or any kind of life; if it is incomparable then you can't even describe it to yourself, and you never know how well or badly you're doing and can't guess, because every time your brain tries to make a comparison your estimations are blanks. Even the Elder Gods can be descr -- I want to stop mentioning H.P. Lovecraft, this is ridiculous, back to William Hope Hodgson: even the demon in Hodgson's short story The Hog can be compared to something, namely a hog, and a giant pig coming through the floor, and Carnacki, although he has found this comparison, is still desperate and keeps asking his friends if they see, if they understand? And Bob Rochester tries to imagine Katherine Anne Porter, who was the subject of this biography, desperately asking her friends what they thought of her, but she would not have any friends because they would not know what to think, and she would have to go through life like a black holes asking like Carnacki, "Do you see, do you understand?" but she would not be able to help or prompt them with even such a sketchy definition as, "My life is like a giant demon pig."

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