Robin Wyatt Dunn
The Great American Novel
I'll fuck you in the ass for a dollar. Do you remember Ginsberg's Sphincter? Ever-receptive to phallus? That old war machine Ginsberg, howling for cock and blood and justice for all, eternity in a good Jewish loaf?
Lover, tie me to the horse. It's time to ride.
Yes, lover, yes, sweetie, and the romance of Bill's dung was that it steamed of ancient things, mixing self with ancestor, earth with ocean, you see? He was glad he was not named Jacques, it would have been too French, though later he learned to love them, for their improvident displays, for their lust for tyranny, blood and chaos. Who are we if not Normans? Improbable, despised, the con men of con men, eager to invade and then govern by proxy,
For who is Our Chancellor,
Who is Our Grand Chancellor, O let it be Our Dubya, Worst President who ever Was,
Let it be him who ushered us before Caesar the Hairy's Throne to Cry:
Damocles, why does your neck bend so? Stand up, stand up, son! Your heart is pounding for American Pussy.
Bill Damocles, strong American son. Beautiful heart, beautiful ass, wandered o'er this old and cold world, bold blaster of arrogant apologies and atrophied sentences in good American Slang:
— Have at you Beauregard — dint I see you at the races?
Is it not so? Did we not remember, here? Did we not remember and are we not remembering? Or did we really forget so soon? As they say on Broadway, Into The Woods, baby. The Woods is where I Fuck you in the Ass. It's the woods.
And she gasps, for who knows what bears or Romans may be lying in wait beneath those fatal boughs, ready to abduct an eager Sabine? Only in America, honey, made for washing, made for mashing, ready-made for your desire, the first continent to carve faces on the mountainside.
Dearest gods of this heaving continent, you who'll know Severian's son Severian on your highted heights, what can you tell us of Bill, eh?
Old Bill, Jamaica's son?
He was a big man. For a big world. Had a big cock in his pants, with big dreams, and a big style about him: an American. What for do we fend our way through miles of angry suds and soap duds? What for have we this ecstasy of miles on earth for bender-fed with lines of whores and sheens of thousand-desire? For beauty, child. For empire, and for you, for the novel you never wrote, or the girl you never fucked, for that pagan mountain you worshipped as a boy and now as a man, for the Indian and his Asian eyes who you loved, and killed and loved again, like Gilgamesh his Enkidu. Girl and slave come from the same Indo-European root, after all, only a way of living, only a lifestyle, only a gathering of small landmasses into A Big One.
Our hero. Bill.
Let us hear him speak!
"I'm Bill. I've been around some. It's a good town if you like women. Do you like my new shoes? Genuine leather! Good for walking in. Ever been to England? Such a place, such a country! You know what my father told me? Son, he said, son, you sell something people want to buy. But I never listened, it's true. I was never practical like him. I'm a wanderer! Never satisfied! It makes me want to cry!"
We're not afraid of crying, we Americans. Or hugging. Sometimes we do both at the same time.
And this tale, boys and girls, this tale of old I tell you true has what you might call ironies, one or two in their places, such as:
We loved Europe. Good old Europe.
And they feared us, calling us degenerates. Weak animals and plants, they said. Jefferson had to sort that one out for them.
And we feared Europe. Old Empire, old Empire, far away. Coming soon to a theater near you, to a jukebox near you, to a grocery store near you, to a mailbox near you, to your heart, child, to your empired heart, to your empiric heart, to your scientific heart, right for you and to you, gladfully presented as "Yours Truly, Corporate Identity, the First One's Free" and will you buy?
Are you gonna buy? Are you gonna buy, Bill? Chrome filters. Secondary loans. Juke divers! Melon palingas. Joppedy doos and all that.
"Well I don't know. Let me think about it."
Oh, Bill. Aren't you gonna buy?
Oh Great American! You old troubled Victorian. We know her real good, real long time, she's right to the north, Elizabeth the Second! Not far away, we remember, we remember, we remember royalty. We remember their long shine, their long traffic and train and wherewithal. Where would be without?
No Virginia, no Georgia, just for starters. (That would be Queen Elizabeth the Virgin and King George, folks, you knew that).
Big, big, I can do big. Bill is big. He's in a big country (America) and he's got a big dream! He can't tell you what it is, but he knows what it is! Isn't that just like us? Dunno what it is or was, but it's big! Oh, size. You beautiful immensity.
But greatness is about more than size, isn't it. More than size, isn't it. Isn't it? Isn't it about something more than size?
I'm afraid we're gonna have to talk about the French again.
Oh, French! Oh France! Vive, Vive, you old sclaperous scoundrel! You hideous surprise! You Northman come again, you impudent jack! You radiant shallow, you horrendous paragon of heat and pain
! Oh companion. Who was it dreamt of your cherries and fairies and berries of wheat absconded into fiery delight? What bread, eh?
Come and sing a chanson with me, old brother of our musical night!
Come and sail with me to tires divine on Routes Unnumbered Through Our Vast Sadness that is Freedom!
I come from Wyoming! I sing of Bob! I sing of France! I sing for you! I sing for you, Time Magazine! I sing for you! I sing for you and yours! Oh, Wyoming. Named for French trappers.
Grand word, grand
. Means big. Let's just pick that mother apart, in honor of that corrupt Frenchman, Derrida! Derrida, ugly like Socrates, only not as smart! We can take him apart and put him back together different (he's flexible, and French! that way).
can mean great. And it can mean big. And it can mean grand. Great, grand and big, all at once! What a word. Those crazy French. Never satisfied with one meaning, why not give it three! The more the merrier in France, rather like peasants! You can never have too many serfs (until that day arrives and you starve a few). France, the original absentee landlord! Oh la la La Grand!
Picky pick: but it's trickier than that isn't it? Isn't it always? We can skip right past the Charlemagnes, the Charles the greats! Because this isn't the Grand American Novel or the Magnificent American novel, not the Magnus Roman Americain
, non, non, ce n'est pas possible, monsieur, tu vois, I am a Pineapple. I assure you, I am a wooden apple of the finest pine and I will teach you, I will teach you, sire, I will instruct you, O my Norman Lords of Lore and Lorn, in this our New American Century of Despair, I will instruct thee fell and fair and full of care for how to do this Glorious Thing Called Losing, and so let us begin, let us begin, monsieur: Great.
Great: Great. Isn't the Internet wonderful? Etymonline, my friend, writes of great:
O.E. great "big, tall, thick, stout; coarse," from W.Gmc. *grautaz "coarse, thick" (cf. O.S. grot, O.Fris. grat, Du. groot, Ger. groß "great"). Said to have meant originally "big in size, coarse," and, if so, perhaps from PIE root *ghreu— "to rub, grind."
For those of you who do not suffer from etymological addiction, PIE stands for Proto-Indo-European, a tongue of 5,000 years back, perhaps? Beautiful, isn't it? Coarse. Rubbing. Grinding.
Give me some rock and roll, baby. I know it's only a dream. It's only a dream. It's only a dream, Marie, come back and see, you'll be all right! After the magic dancers' fast, after the plutocaster's mast has slung us new jewels to love, after we croon our last supply of freedom off to uncenturied shores, only then—
Oh, great. Oh coarse tongues of Iowa wheat grinding away against your secret trees in your teens like in The Piano
. (Just a little harmless fun, eh?)
And then poor Vespucci. An Italian. Empires are big (and great, peut-être), and so Italian. So multifarious surprise. So wont of ash and memory and haunts and haints and harrowed things like government and tax and waste and shake the bum for mastered ash at fort and knox and hold me fast as we come to crock at your pot, Primitive, as we come to crock at your pot, Primitive, over the Alps and into:
Vespucci Land. Vespucci's Land Supreme, we gave him half the Earth! Half the whole Earth for an Italian? Did we go mad? What were we thinking?
Great God! (Bill knows nothing of this, he's a good anti-intellectual. And he likes pizza). Great God Amerigo!
Our friend Etymonline again:
The name Amerigo is Germanic, said to derive from Goth. Amalrich, lit. "work-ruler."
I'm disturbed already. Ruler of Work. America. God help us: two continents of work-a-holics, indentured or otherwise. America, land of sweaty brows.
Fitting, though, that Vespucci should bear a Germanic name, having invited in the barbarians every century or so. Make the bar-bar-bar yours, isn't that what we say? Out of the melting pot and into the fire?
And finally, to confound our wit-soul: novel. Ah.
"new, young, recent," dim. of novus "new"
In French, of course, it's roman
, a romance, those old French romantics, we love them. But here, here in America it's novel, new, little new. A less threatening new, like a good product. The new you already know. The pussy you haven't tasted but you've smelt, the remake of the movie you liked last time too. Novellus, novellus. And young too, let's not forget that.
Non-threatening, new yet familiar, and oh, great gods, young. Young like her cunt. Is there anything better on the earth?
Where can we go with The Great American Novel, if we're speaking of synonyms?
The Coarse Work-Ruled Youth?
The Grinding Upwardly-Mobile News?
The Big Plutocrat Coming Soon?
Ye gods I'm terrified of what we are, but not of what we look like. We still look innocent, god help us! We still do somehow. The spell is not yet over. (We just keep asking her to wiggle her nose, and her tits) —
And so, without further ado, I bring you:
The Story of Bill and What He Knew When He Knew Maria
(chapter one of the great American novel)
Achilles' wrath, to Greece the direful spring
Of woes unnumber'd, heavenly goddess, sing
How tricky a work ruler. Like a nerd with a slide rule. Like Emerson, old Self-Reliant himself. Half pharaoh, half demigod bezerker wielding knives for brothers in combat. Do you rule by work or through work? Do you rule or are you ruled by work? Always already both?
O Bill Damocles. But Bill has taken his anger management classes, unlike Achilles.
What ho, Muse? Androgyn? Wyrd? Fate? Lemon-Scented Meringue Spatula Surprise? (A little respect please: )
Well, if it was good enough for Washington it's good enough for Muses:
Excuse me, Miz Muse, would you mind singing of Bill, and his heroic quest across a continent? His quailful querky rays of light from his soul? His arrogant diminution towards a little sleep in a little land of a little town with a little Tiny Tim Maria waiting for him? O Miz Muse. Would you sing? Would you sing like Gibraltar? Would you sing like the Erinye? Would you sing like this universe? Would you sing for Balliol College, or for Joyce? Would you sing for Faulkner and his rich heartached lies? Would you sing for Jesus, that old paragon? O Miz Muse! We've longed for you!
Joseph Smith longed for you so long and hard in Provo. Oh he longed for your cunt so long and hard! His dreams were your sweat! His smiles your cum!
O Miz Muse, Mnemosyne and your Quiet Quail of Kale and Vales of Vengeance Bright. Would you sing like Dawn Upshaw, muse? Like you did for Samuel Barber? Would you?
You'd melt a farmer's heart.
That's the great thing about muses, the bitches take orders.
Sing for me, Muse, of the tireless terrain and the great-stitched hand of fate that swept us here from Damocles to Detroit, from Damascus to Los Angeles in our Long Sun under this Earth now long delayed and Many-Rayed for Fat, for Dick, for Horselover and his Apostrophean Moon, his Holy Gloom, the Wrang you Wrought for us When we Begat our Continent on that Italian's smile.
Sing for me. Dawn! Dawn! Dawn! Like Dawn you're gonna sing, bitch, cause these men are mining.
We're mining for you!
O Columbus! Oh yes, Columbus, in the interior are mines of metal! And there are natives without number, Evan Carton you cunt! There are natives without number straightshooter Carton, a man who was named after a box and he taught me that and it was enough, to read Columbus and know us for a time. It's getting personal, now.
You know what I've been taught? Write for others. Write for others. Write to save them, like that old Arabic bitch. Well I am. It's bigger than both of us, Scheher, it's bigger than both of us now baby so let me slip you into the backseat while Mnemosyne sings for us, cause we've got gold and silver holes to dig.
In the Interior.
(Of Bill's Heart.)
On horseback, no less.
Sing for me muse, of his first automobile, a Honda. A huge man in a small Japanese vehicle! Sing for me, Muse, of his wrasslings with feminists and his nature hikes. Sing for me, Muse, of his deflowering, and his finishment in the Old World.
Sing for me, Miz Mnemos of your opinion of it all.
(she's getting angry)
Come onnnnnnnnnnnnn, Mnemosyne, did you think this would be easy? You're West, baby. You're the fucking West, baby. This Land of the Setting Sun, you old Achaians!
So here we are. And we like opinions in America.
I do not know. Who is Bill?
He's an American, baby. One of the roughs.
Where is he going?
Nowhere fast, honey.
He's going nowhere fast in a Honda, all hundred horses of it, he's leaving Houston and he's headed for college in Austin, baby, the little innocent Berkeley of Texas, burning bright in its oil fires of the night.
(That's right, Oil Fires in Texas, Chancellor Dubya, Sieg Heil you old Connecticut son)
O Mnemosyne, O you beauteous cunt. I sing for you too! I sing of the arms and the man and the muse and the American son! O American son Bill! Bill Damocles who never learned to fight!
Bill Damocles who never lost Desire! Bill Damocles who had many opinions about politicians, products and tariff policies and shared them freely! Bill who got some new shoes and a used Honda.
Bill Damocles, would you tell us please, about Maria? Oh, Bill.
"Well, I met her at a gas station."
That's appropriate, Bill.
Nothing, sorry to interrupt.
"Well, yeah, I met her at a gas station, not exactly classy I know, but she was looking so good. She hit me up for money right away and I didn't have nothin' but I gave her a cigarette and watched her smoke it, right at the end of the gas station, her Mexican lips were so sexy I just about came in my pants, I tell ya. It was beautiful. She was beautiful. A real American girl, Maria was, brown but not too brown, sexy and sweet and ripe, my God, I can smell her now. In my mind's nose . . ."
What was that, Bill?
"Nothing, just remembering. Remembering Maria . . ."
May we hoist Fagles on a petard? And why not? Let him lie at eleven too, right next to Fatal Blank the Eastman Kodak shot, the Number 22 and All of You to Crew on the game afoot, Faigles translation, this one goes to eleven:
Oh muse, you oldest of liars. Oh Dawn. Why not buy the most beautiful lie ever told, eh? We'd love to, honey. I bid for you on the dance card, sweet stuff, I want your voice around my cock. (We call those ones Hummers).
I sing for you, Samuel. I sing for you, Agee. Low on your lengths of lawns. They are not talking much, and the talk is quiet. They're starting to tell us who we are, fathers. Can you believe it? Never believe it!
Rage-Goddess, sing the rage of Jeffrey's son Bill,
Murderous, doomed, that cost us our very soul,
Hurling down to the House of Ishtar many Japaneezies,
Great fighter's souls, but made their bodies radioactive,
Feasts for the eye, and the heart.
Bill and Marie. Jackie and Jack. James and Dollie. An American couple. Fond of one night stands. Committed for life. Fearful of God. Fond of automobiles. Full of desire!
In awe of the horizon. The American horizon. Bill and Marie, a Mexican and an Anglo in Texas here in modern day, a light brown and a pink complexioned couple, fond of fucking, courteous in public, too loud, boisterous, their susurrus of night awake in their young ears, hungry for another dawn, another fright and another salary (someone else's), hungry for Union.
Alas, poor York, I New It well! (It blew into the sea, it's alternate history after all), we never needed them anyway.
Let Connecticut rule us again! (It's where Marie, is from). Alas, poor York, I New It well! But that was not to be.
And so they set off, he quits his job (he never even calls), and follows a young brown hottie and her sweet round ass back to Connecticut in his Honda.
How did she get there, you may ask? I don't know! How did she get there, Mnemosyne?
It's your story, asshole.
No, it's our story, honey, cry some tears for me. And I'll lick them up while I slip it deeper in, into your body of my mind, into your mind of my body, under a dream in a park by a roadside, in a Drive-In . . .
And Bill fucks Marie in a Drive-In! (The last in Texas).
Oh great gods! O Pallas Athena! Bourn from Zeus' skull, did you ever see the like of a Drive in?
It's gonna hurt, Pallas. More than you hurt your Daddy. Because when you name a Hemisphere you name a world, and when you name a world the bears get angry.
Have you talked to any Grizzlies lately? Well they are a-gettin cantankerous! Because Muir rolled an ocean down to thunder under in that old world beneath the world and some old Barkonaut forgot his sleep medicine when crying about Hetch Hetchy, and it's basically the old Vegas surprise, like saying, hello, atmosphere and solar system, Poltergeist, we're heeeeeeeere!
We're here, my god, we're here, children. We're there yet.
We've arrived in New Haven just in time for the Latest Meeting of the Old Cross and Bones Society! A white and a brown! Marrying up and fucking down! The American story of hard work and industry, of shooting the white hat in the back.
You're going down, Shane. I'm gonna blow you away. My name is Dubya and I bought this six-shooter last week, only paid two bits for it, I'm sure it's already killed a man or two so you'll make three and what the hey? The killing's free and the whiskey ain't too steep, not in New Haven. Not in Connecticut. Land of dead cowboys. Land of second houses and second mortgages and second leases on second lives. How many lives do you get in Connecticut? And how many second wives? (No bigamy, please, but polygamy's okay if you're a billionaire).
And Dubya will officiate, won't you Dubya, you cutie?
Well us yassuh, yassuh Massah, yessuh I-uh will!
That's a good boy.
Robin Wyatt Dunn
lives in The Town of the Queen of the Angels, El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles, in Echo Park.