The concerns of the Non-Spherical Man

Problem as I’ve perceived it has been: how to write something that could be judged historically significant –Faulkner’s Kilroy– Stendhal’s lottery– which is vanity and ego but harnessed hopefully to create a work of enduring beauty, reveal truth.

When the real problem is: that we are likely to enter a dark ages in which even works of enduring beauty are likely to be lost to a society without much capacity for memory left — maybe lost to destruction or maybe just lost in the sense that their significance can’t be discovered among all the other information, let alone one’s own pale efforts.

To write The Waste Land implies a certain idea about what society is and will be like, that an intellectual community and network will exist to appreciate and mull over such things –a poem like that says “catch” and there is, in fact, a society there to catch it – a society to hold “the lottery”– while the Song of Roland (maybe also Shakespeare? Dante?) implies an idea of a less certain future for humanity.

To write with a greater sense of society’s mortality and impermanence and lack of memory…! I’ve been thinking (and this may be a direct quotation from something Richard Ford said) that the only real reason to write was to write a masterpiece — get that ticket to “the lottery.” But I wonder, with a view toward the future, if that idea may have been misguided and if writing, if it remains warranted at all, must be directed toward some other star. Writing popular music, for example, or for television, would seem a more appropriate ambition under the conditions I suspect will prevail.

(Or is the real problem — that one is not “spherical.” That these are the concerns of the Non-Spherical Man?… Now why could that not be one of their superhero movies — Non-Spherical Man. In the early versions of this comic strip Non-Spherical Man is simply a square man who, knowing that roundness is what’s called for in this life, simply can’t manage to find anything remotely radial in himself. We are frequently disappointed in these early strips to find time and again N-S Man briefly acting like someone a little cool, and not a spaz, who takes it as it comes, but the roundness of the world finally works into the angular workings of his soul resulting in a complete freak out. Most N-S Man strips from this period end with N-S Man having some kind of major spastic freak out, revealing him to be totally uncool. Facing flagging sales, the strip was re-envisioned in the 1960s, making N-S Man more mis-shapen than explicitly square, round in some ways, angular in others, each of these stories ending with the same ambiguous picture of the hero, looking out at the reader, so that you couldn’t tell if he was doing a really good job of containing a freak out or just legitimately unflustered or indifferent to the events of the preceding narrative; which events would definitely have been jarring to any actually square person, with established protocols being ignored, authority flaunted, things that were “just not a good idea”…. When sales continued to disappoint, the title was shelved and there arose a massive internal debate among the strip’s authors about how to resolve the ambiguity of the character as represented by those concluding frames: was he essentially square but “holding it in”, or had he actually learned something about resignation and letting things be? The conclusion was — he had a totally massive spastic meltdown, in which he not only freaks out about everything that had occurred in every strip but freaks out about not having freaked out in real time and how could he not have freaked out about it, etc…. Tears, red in the face, knowing he could only blame himself, knowing he was to blame, him….! In a way, it really was the perfect end to this strip, because we leave it wanting really not to see anymore of the Non-Spherical Man.)

Idea that Nietzsche and DFW could be construed as somewhat self-aware instances of non-sperical men, the former with that one note in Will to Power and the latter’s Good Old Neon could be thought of as the overthinking of a person who could not be spherical, resulting in a freak out.

%d bloggers like this: