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William Gass & Radiohead

Below are examples of incomparable artists eviscerating, in an eerily similar way, our consumerist society, or, as bell hooks put it in Ain’t I a Woman?: Black Women and Feminism, this “white-supremacist-capitalist-patriarchy” in which we live. First, William Gass from “Even if, by All the Oxen in the World” (Fiction and the Figures of Life, 1966):

Must we be drunk or doped or mad, must we be dunced and numb to feed our animal selves? So it appears. The average man does not want to know how he looks when he eats; he defecates in darkness, reading the Reader’s Digest; his love has an awkward automatic metal brevity, like something sprayed from a can, and any day his present sex may be replaced with plastic; his work is futile, his thought is shallow, his joys ephemeral, his howls helpless and agony incompetent; his hopes are purchased, his voice prerecorded, his play is mechanical, the roles typed, their lines trite, all strengths are sapped, exertion anyhow is useless, to vote or not is futile, futile…so in almost every way he is separated from the centers of all power and feeling: futilely he feeds, he voids, he screws, he smokes, he motorboats, he squats before the tube, he spends at least a week each year touring and a month memorizing lies—lies moral, religious, and political—he beats the drum or shouts hurray on cue, he wears a neon nightie, swallows pills, and chews his woman’s nipples now because a book he’s read has told him that he ought to; my god, he jigs, he swigs, he sings the very latest tra-la-las and send his kids to scouts and all-white schools, he rounds his bottom to a pew, loves pulpitry, and contributes yearly to a cause; with splendid sexlessness he breeds—boards receive their nails with greater sensitivity—he kites the lies he’s learned as high as heaven where they sing like toads in trees, yet he sickens just the same, and without reason, for he’s been to bridge and bingo, said his rahs as well as anyone, never borrowed on his insurance, kept his car clean, and put his three sons twice through Yale; but age, which is not real, hangs like a dirty suit inside his freshly pressed tuxedo; thus he fails, assumes another slumber, and dies like merchandise gone out of season.

And now, Radiohead:

John Madera's fiction may be found in Conjunctions, Opium Magazine, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His criticism may be found in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, John Madera lives in New York City, where he runs Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.

2 thoughts on “William Gass & Radiohead

  1. John – nice video I have not seen. “slower and more calculated” – I have tried t live by that phrase ever since I heard it (more than a decade ago?).

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