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From the Archives: Four Crônicas, by Rone Shavers

Happy birthday, Rone Shavers! Celebrate by reading these Shavers crônicas we published last year!


Crônica No. 1: On the Form

The work of art, like the world, is a living form: it is, it has no need of justification….The same is true of a symphony, a painting, a novel: It is in their form that their reality resides.
—Alain Robbe-Grillet

There is an image of a window in the window, and in that window there is a window, and in that window there is an image. Look closely enough at this image and you’ll find a hole, and down that hole is the one thing we swore we’d hide away forever, the thing we swore we’d bury because it hurt to have it seared into memory. And now, now we never speak of it except perhaps in passing, when we mention only that one peculiar, particular window, always in need of repair.

What is it with Americans and their obsession with apertures? Is it a fear of doors closing, opportunities or possibilities lost—or is it something else entirely? Could it be something as simple as a form of mass hysteria, however tiny, that when opportunity presents itself, what will happen is that they’ll be vulnerable, exposed for what they really are: lost, small, and each one, alone.

So once it became obvious that her successes would so completely dwarf my own and would always continue to do so, all I felt, all I could say was “—.”

No, I’m not afraid of dying; it’s living that worries me more, this mania for coherence, for matter and mattering when we’re just grains of animated stardust. After all, who in their right mind fears death when the alternative is the absence of presence? After all, wouldn’t it be better to know ourselves by discovering everything we’re not? After all, we’re neither absent nor present, just traces of what we used to be.

And yet, who can forget that infamous moment, recorded for all posterity in Vol. 256, #8 of La Revue Annuelle de L’Academie Francaise, when Victor Hugo famously accused Marie-Henri Beyle of an intellectual style reflective of nothing but aphorisms and epigrams, to which Beyle replied, “Au contraire, for wasn’t it Stendhal who said…”

We didn’t stop. We didn’t stop, because there was something ecstatic in the leaving, a scent of the secret breath of life that tells you to keep moving, and so we did. In moving, it was as if our daughter were still with us, all giggles and elbows instead of a bloody handprint on hood of a Nissan Sentra.

Yeah, I did the corporate thing for a while, but only until I found my calling. Nowadays, I run a 100% organic, locally–sourced, artisanal, small batch—very small batch—semen farm. I’m a bit low on stock right now, but stay in touch and I’m sure I can arrange a free sample for you. If you want, maybe even hand-delivered.

To think of it as documentation is to mistake the sign of the thing for the thing itself. Thus, on the twelfth day it occurred to her that what was real could not be represented, only captured or recreated. Essentially, representation was the re-presenting of a stylistic artifice, meant to completely supplant the presentation of an artifact, and so it was necessary to begin anew. The form became the art inasmuch as the art contained the idea of art itself; the artifact as its own eternal synecdoche: the part that stands in for the whole.

To ask what a crônica is is similar to asking what is form? A crônica is both ligament and foundation, that which simultaneously connects and exposes the fissures between connections. In short, the crônica is not so much a transcription as it is a construction; the language of true cohesion.

Fuck it, it’s Friday: let’s get lit.
—John Barth


Crônica Autobiographia
[Autobiographical Cronica]

The name is Rone Shavers. You know, as in your father…

I am the is who aids and abets, the one who assists sin problema—and as for the rest, well, there was someone much smarter than me who, when referring to his literary masterwork, said, “Feelings? We’ll put those in at the end.”

So then, well…

I assume that maybe one day I’ll feel something; maybe one day I’ll care. But alas…

C’mon, as if there were ever any doubt about who I am, what I was, or who I’ve always been. I am the one who said I am: the inverse of a mean machine: an automatic piston, remote control, magnetic, frenetic, to move your soul.

And as always, aka. The son of the Super Ape; aka, the crown prince of mess; aka, bastard child of Eshu-Elegba, aka, the three times dope, that secret bit of Hermes Tristmegistus; aka, a codeswitching, anodyne giggle king; aka Mr. Gerbick, of Gollum Control; aka, Ron-e-Ron-y-Ron, the killer of sheep and the kicker of elves; aka, and also, the only one to have defeated him IN FREESTYLE!!!

I am a metal dog, no lie. This is the first, last, and only time I’ll mention that.

It’s been said that those in the know say I’m…

Good. As in, good for the blood pressure; equally good for glaucoma, arthritis, and any pre-diabetic condition; good for those who fear no adverse side-effects; good for both lactating mothers and pregnant women; kind to obsessives who live by the list; good for cats, chameleons, and corvids, but anathema to ’coons; good for forty bucks toward a night out, or that second pint if you buy the third; good for geese and their ganders; good, as in upstanding, righteous, and just plain nice; good like honey on toast; good where it counts, when it counts; and good on you and good at it, God bless ya—oh, and good to go, except in the AM cause I needs my rest.

Who would believe that there, underneath all those tonal shifts, there were actually secrets imparted under the guise of so much prolixity?

Rumor has it he was named after his daddy but he changed his name so that the differentiation between the two entities would be something permanent. The truth is that thing long since buried, forgotten to history, subsumed by myth. His name is his own, and it’s not by his name that you know him.

But if possible, let’s just get serious for a moment, because there is something implicitly, inherently false to not just the name, but any name. What is a name but a convention, an act of violence, a disservice to the individual, idea, or thing? A name is the opposite of possibility, for it is the way in which we limit ourselves. A name is nothing short of squandered re-invention.

Mob name: Ronnie Mumbles; Gladiator name: Spasticus; Rasta name: Ras Tweed; Street name: Rone $ [Ron dough!]; Time Lord name: Doctor What-Da-Fugg…?; Transformer name: Ronimus Prime; Twitter name: Hashtag Lolz; French name: Jean-Rone; French Catholic name: Rone-Michel; French Canadian name: Rone-Yves; Texas name: Howdy!!!; Midwest name: “Haydare, Run”; Transvestite name: Ms. Ron-E, the lady fabulous; Writer snob name: B. Fillon Notebooks; 90s Hipster name: The PoMo Kid; 1990s Artworld darling name: “DJ Rone Shavers, AKA, That Postmodern Kid”; Intellectual name: Ron E. B. Du Bois; Black Academic Feminist name: Ronetta E. B. Du Bois-Lourde; Black Progressive Womaninst name: Roniesha Ronetta Ronedéllé; Church lady on Easter Sunday name: Hattie Mae Care; Biblical name: Matthew-Mark-Luke-and-Ron; Army officer name: Lieutenant Brawley Fisticuffs; Enlisted name: Sergeant Sunsout Gunsout: New Jack name: Tender-roni; Hotep name: Five Percent; Mumblecore rap name: L’il Consequence; Discotrash name: Roney M; Yogurt pimp name: Sweet Acidophilus

Oh me of little faith, to have once doubted that I, yes, I contain multitudes.

For if I ate fidgets, I’d be called fidgety; if I ate rainbows, I’d be called skittle-y; if I ate muggers, I’d be called thievery; if I ate spinach, I’d be called spinach-y; if I ate killers, I’d be called murder-y; if I ate cans, I’d be called boy-ar-dee; if I ate prisms, I’d be called spectrum-y; but since I eat razors, call me shaver-y.

Is he the sort to abandon everything, to suddenly flee all responsibility without notice? Or is he simply, momentarily afraid, and by abandoning reason, enveloped in the joy of momentarily losing himself to everything he’d once repressed? Is he that guy?

Am I?

I am.


Crônica for Alexis B.

Dear Alex:

It was a pleasure to meet you. Let’s stay in touch…But something is missing from this statement, like…This is not a letter, and this line is not in the present tense…Because we are the best of friends, I won’t hesitate to fuck you up…I cringe at my own relevance, or lack thereof. I suffer through the winter months. If you want me, you can find me at the bottom of a well…Passing and running, running and passing (x2). Shuck. Jive. Rinse. Repeat…I look forward to when we can finally cast aside all pretext. Some day soon, maybe after a few drinks, you’ll invite me over, and that’s when I’ll burn down your motherfuckin’ house…Did you know there’s a go-to rhetorical strategy that never fails to alter a conversation? That’s when you reply to someone with, “What, like some kind of peasant?” Oh wait, that’s just my rhetorical move…At my advanced age, is it silly to ask what will become of me?…Regarding love: I don’t…To label me a narcissist is simply not true. I don’t think the world revolves around me. However, if it were a just world, it would…I fear I shall die a bachelor…And yet, believe me when I say that working to sustain the metaphorical-industrial complex is the dilettante’s best revenge…It’s not that I think people are idiots; it’s that daily, they often prove it to me…He is dead, the rooster, but the cock still crows at dawn, at midday, at dusk, at evening, and always in the warm cleft of the night…Oh Alex, don’t be so naïve. A narrative runs through this, buried deep, like a vein of pure ore. Unadulterated me…To my body, my brain is a government…Once, back in my youth, I broke my arm jumping from a kiddie slide. Another time, I nearly sliced off my thumb by putting my hand through a window because I wanted to flood the house with a garden hose. I think it was some kind of Noah’s Ark thing, or maybe I just wanted to make an indoor swimming pool. All to say that my penchant for self-medication is in everyone’s best interest…Because there are parts of my body I cannot see, I worry that I am not whole. And if I am not whole, then what am I?…I don’t discriminate. I treat everyone equally because they’re all totally beneath me…I cover myself in dazzle paint, so that my enemies can’t tell whether I’m coming or going…Like words, when strung together, have a meaning that sometimes evades me.


Crônica of the Diamond Geezer

“To listen to the sounds of one’s inner ear requires imagination, an imagination that struggles against rational thought.” That was once told to me by Joachim Maria Machado de Assis.

This, then, is the story of our best mate. A ten-pint heaver. A Diamond geezer. And on top of all that, a right rude striker. So when we’s down at the offie, best gird your goolies if you plan on taking the piss.

He’ll appear only at the end. Dressed in a big black veste, carrying a blue notebook with gold stars on it. That’s the grudge book, and should you find your name in it, be afraid, for you are surely doomed.

What is it then, about being in the shade of women in full bloom? Ripe ladies, all. In what language is it best to ask, “Please, swallow me.”

Forgive me for pointing out the obvious, but it bears repeating. Even the tyro knows that poetry changed forever on the day it was written: So much depends/ Upon/ Blue flowers/ growing by the purple pond./ It’s raining yellow.

Let’s fondly recall that moment—you know the one. The one at the Detroit Institute of Art, when the child wept for joy, having taken her first leap of faith and finding herself rewarded with the sense to appreciate dazzle paint on an unknown Ford.

Every hero has a code and motto. Mine states, quite succinctly, “I don’t know what I’m doing.”

He’s always been a witty charmer. A teller of old tales, such as birds fly south for the winter, or that the earth is round.

Stop. Pause. A snippet, and Hoagland sings a song just for us: A warbler on the line/ the referent for/ a new ars poetica.

When discussing climate change, it’s best to remember that humanity, like any other apex parasite, will destroy its host in the name of its own survival. Species-ism trumps common sense.

What he failed to realize, that old hoary one, wizened with glee, was that the world is not a series of puzzles, problems avoided, or tricks to be solved with simple acts of kind enjambment. Definition by negation is still negation.

How often did I crown the grass of my studio, my special, quiet place, with piss? The hot remains of my body, so that at the very least, my legacy would be to leach into the earth and sprout.

The strikethrough is simultaneously an instance of obfuscation, contradiction, and attention. Not everything adheres to meaning, and not every meaning is as rigid as the German tongue.

It will never be finished. The adjustments will lessen and amendments will cease, but the work will evolve, continuing to resonate somewhere, out in the corners of memory.

For any time is the right time to ask: “For whom is the funhouse fun?”

And then, there was that one time he sang every word of “Ziggy Stardust,” pitch-perfectly. It wouldn’t have been so weird if we weren’t in a church bathroom, hiding from priests, taking photos, smoking, feigning innocence. A hero is just a man ignorant of the risks.


  • Rone Shavers's fiction has appeared in Another Chicago Magazine, Longform, PANK, The Operating System, and elsewhere. His non-fiction essays and essay-length reviews have appeared in such diverse publications as American Book Review, Bomb, Electronic Book Review, Fiction Writers Review, and elsewhere. Shavers is also fiction and hybrid-genre editor at Obsidian: Literature and Arts in the African Diaspora. His experimental Afrofuturist novel, titled Silverfish, is forthcoming from Clash Books in 2020.

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