Surrealist Doodle

Surrealist Doodle
This was used as the cover of Karawane in 2006 and I have included it in on a number of bags and postcards over the years. Someone on the subway asked me if it was a Miro. I was very flattered!

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Chapter 2 of My Accursed Novel

CHAPTER: Revolution and Social Upheaval in the Twentieth Century.

Clark put away his books and papers and went upstairs for the night. It was four o'clock in the morning, and he had a class to teach in six hours. He still hadn't heard from Maureen since she had left the previous evening. His sleep was filled with visions of her being pulled into vans or beat up old station wagons by men with cold or wild looking eyes. Every time the phone rang he jumped, terrified it would be Maureen's parents or the police. Or Maureen to say she wasn't coming back.
Right now, though, even that call would be welcome. He could talk her out of that one. He just had to get the chance.

After an hour, Maureen still hadn't turned on the light in her room. With the curtains open, she a view of a giant lighted rodent, a gopher on a pole. She began to jump up and down on the bed, her red spirals flopping up and down. She stopped for a moment to take off her tennis shoes. Then came the jeans. And the t-shirt. In a bra and panties, she climbed back up on top of the bed and jumped some more, holding the remote control in her hands turning on the television and running the channels while she jumped. She had come t the motel room with only the clothes on her back and whatever was in her backpack. She wasn't sure what she running to or from, and so wasn't sure when she would go back. She spread out on the floor, on all fours, and did a yoga cat stretch, arching her back out and in. She sat for a few minutes with her back to the bed, perfectly straight and closed her eyes, but jumped up almost immediately and grabbed her notebook. She had the urge to write down everything she could possibly remember all at once.

until my life falls away and I can float through a world

until my life falls away and I can float through a world

until my life falls away and I can float through a world

I want to sit perfectly still and meditate until my life falls away and I can float through a world where nothing I know exists, until there are no rallies or causes or classes or internships or obligations, no cliques and no one to impress and no one who can make me feel inferior about my choices and my mortal coil which I've never given much mind to yet is asserting itself so much into my psyche as inadequate, as ugly, as not good enough, I want to find emptiness and I want it now.

Maureen had been a student in one of Clark's senior seminars. He was 33 at the time, and she 21. She was just shorter than medium height, with dark red spiral curls and brown eyes. She schlepped to class every day in faded jeans, tennis shoes, more often than not knotted together and slung over her shoulder in warmer weather, a second hand olive drab army jacket, and a new slogan on her t-shirt every day. Emma Goldman. "If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution." Gloria Steinem. "A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle." "U.S. Out of North America". She loved to confuse people, to make people laugh, but also to think. Somehow, she managed not to come across too preachy or self-righteous. Not that she had throngs of apostles. No one had those anymore. But everyone did seem to like her, even if she was unable to turn that sense of goodwill into an organizing tactic.

Maureen was always in motion. She organized anti-ROTC rallies on campus. She led the anarchic shout-down of G. Gordon Liddy's campus speech. She idolized Abbie Hoffman and she desperately want to be able to create something new. When she talked, he didn't just smile reminiscently indulgent of her enthusiasm. She was the new prophet on the block, the one with heaven still in her eyes. The Shaman, whose vision Clark could enter into.

Clark and Maureen kept their friendship at a distance while she was in the class. He wanted no hint of impropriety, and she didn't want the uncertainty of whether or not she had earned her grade. But the spark between them and their mutual admiration was clear. When the semester ended, they continued to get together for coffee. When they started dating, many in the department suggested, not entirely to themselves, that it was something other than an "honest relationship." They accused Clark of trying too hard to stay an "eternal student"-- a way to deny that he was a grown-up and professional member of the University and not just some young person observing the whole process from the outside.

On the other side was Maureen, chiding him for hiding behind safe Theoretical University. He always contended that was reaching young people like her, raising up the next generation to follow her leadership.

"Clark, no revolution has ever been won in the universities," exasperated, her hands waving in the air, conducting her words like an imaginary orchestra. "That;s why the 60s 'radicals' couldn't sustain it. Once they had to live their rhetoric, out in the real world, they couldn't apply it. Look at the Russian intellectuals, the provisional government. The Bolsheviks, the revolutionaries of action, ran right over them. The Bolsheviks were elitists every bit as much as the Tsarists, Clark, but they acted. They fucking got things done. Look at the Spanish Civil War, where the intelligentsia actually did get down in the trenches and fight, and they still couldn't pull out a victory."

"That was much more complicated than George Orwell or Ernest Hemingway running over to Spain with a musket. Besides, they lost, remember? Intellectuals don't always make good soldiers."

"Exactly. Soft intellectuals make lousy warriors. Theory is the death of the revolution, Clark. It's in the coal miners and the workers and the peasants dying for the king. There's no revolution at the blackboard, on the page. . . " She became more animated, slapping her palm down on table, leaning forward and looking into his eyes, as if to hypnotize him into seeing her point.

"Slow down. You don't need to convert me. I'm already on your side."

"Yes. And no."

"What does that mean?"

"Whoever is not with us is against us."

"How are you going to build your movement with that kind of divisive rhetoric? Not everyone can take up arms. We all have our role to play. Revolution with no reason, no theory behind it, is just mob violence."

"It sucks the life out of us, Clark. Don't you see that? We're spread too thin as it is. We can't afford to lose one person to inaction. Theory allows you to sit on your ass patting yourself on the back and saying 'Of course I'm a good radical. I teach about Emma Goldman.'"

In Maureen's eyes Clark was just trying to make his views more palatable to the head of the college and his colleagues across the ideological aisle. As a true liberal, and someone who now had a stake in his position within the University, he was expected to appreciate and understand everyone else's viewpoint. Maureen didn't always find this tolerance reciprocated. And she hated sharing his attention with the receptions and the journal publishers and sometimes even the students. If Clark had been reduced to a charming anachronism, Maureen could feel the eyes of Clark's fellow faculty virtually patting her on the head, thinking "I was 20 once, too". She wanted to stop him from becoming what he hated, what at her age, he had sworn never to become.

"If I don't teach about Emma Goldman, then how will people who come after me know about her. Where would you be if you hadn't had me as a professor?"

"Living with my girlfriends?"

"I'm serious, Mo. There is no shame in what I do. It's important to make sure this knowledge gets passed down. And whether you agree with me or not, it's important that I manage to keep my position in the department. It's important that I be able to teach what I care about."

"But at what cost? Even if you're a joke?"

"Who am I a joke to?"

"Students, other professors."

"Is that what you think? That everyone thinks I'm a joke?"

Maureen slumped back into the booth and sighed. "No. Not yet."

"What the hell are you talking about? I work very hard, who thinks I'm a joke? You?"

"I've just seen it before."

"What have you seen before? You're twenty-five years old."

"Fuck you. That doesn't mean that I haven't seen things. That I don't understand what's happening. You know, it's bad enough I have to put with this crap from Harry and the other faculty, but if you don't respect me . . . "

"Well, Mo, you don't seem to respect me."

"That's not what I'm saying. If you'll let me finish . . . ?"

Clark nodded at Maureen gingerly. "Fine, go ahead."

"I just don't want people to be able to say that you teach one thing and live another. That's all. If you're always kissing the asses of people who work against you just to get some tiny little crumb thrown to you, what kind of credibility do you have to talk to your students about changing the world?"

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