Volume 74, Number 10 | July 7 - 13, 2004


Summer reading and forensic sex

By Andrei Codrescu

If you read like I do, a mishmash of poetry, novels, political tracti, economic analysis (my lips moving on this) and forwarded e-mails about politics, you’re bound to have weird dreams. You dream, for ex, that you’re carrying a feathered suitcase full of small bills to a hacker in London to distribute to a political party known as Magnus. It’s a movie you’ve seen before, except for the feathered suitcase: it’s ostrich.

As the summer gets deeper and keeping your eyelids open becomes heavy work, some things are clear: everybody except you has it all figured out. The chairman of the Federal Reserve Board is going to make it harder for you to pull out your credit card like it was Kleenex. There is no stopping the Chinese economy. Even the unpredictable is predictable, like the predictably unpredictable poetry you skim before opening your fortune cookie to find out that, “You must stay open to opportunities at this time.” O.K., but how do you stay awake?

The thinkers you used to read for their cleverness in dismantling beliefs are writing that “clever” is passé and that you must now make bold statements about what you believe in. And then they tell you what they believe in: some of them believe in human kindness, others in social justice. A few still believe in selfishness. Which makes Rodney King the most profound thinker of our time.

Maybe I’m reading the wrong stuff. I should be watching TV. But when I do it’s like visiting a post-nuclear wasteland: everything looks drawn on cardboard by a clunky psychopath. The most interesting action is in forensics. Employing machines not yet in public use, genius cops are deciphering bloodstains and navel fungus. Between their revelations they flirt. Some of them have sex right among the maggots and the barbecued corpses.

That sends me right back to Baudelaire, who was better at seeing the romance in those things than all your TV detectives combined. He also had the good sense of knowing beforehand who the perp was: Boredom. Since the middle of the 19th century when Baudelaire nailed the culprit, the world’s been washed out in blood several times, a few dozen systems for fixing societies have been flushed down Duchamp’s toilet, and the cure for being human still hasn’t been found. For all that, if you stay on your toes long enough to make it through the summer, the future is still amusing.

For now, I’ll just give up the books and stare at this ant crawling over my arm as I type. I have a sense of deja vu, but I know it’s not the same ant. Only it’s hard to be sure.

Codrescu wrote “Wakefield,” a novel about modern ants


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