On the Conspiracy of Blind Submission

Tuesday evening Alice got a call from Gary. “I’d like to invite you out for dinner — tonight,” he explained. She told him she had dinner on the table already, in a tone of losing patience. “I really want to meet you at the Boiled Lobster,” he said, not really sure if there was one nearby. “I’ve got those pictures we discussed.”

Now let’s get everything out on the table, folks. There is a set that feels my misogynism has no place in this story. “Why do you insist on repeating the palest of stereotypes when telling a story for the ages? Can you not see how you denigrate the woman character, always qualifying her appearance and her attitude, as if she were a boutique animal or a household pet, and not a person with as much will, integrity and sense as any of your males?”

This criticism, I have to tell you, has me thinking like Gary — what more can I do to show my good intentions — but in the interest of reconciliation between me and any feminist fans let me say this: Alice can run mental and spiritual circles around poor Gary. The guy is a sorry excuse for a protagonist — let’s at least give him the chance to desire Alice as an ideal. Which of course is just a hop, skip and a jump away from seeing Alice as the object of all his longing, indeed of his entire existence. Does it pain you to see him with a purpose?

Back to the story, you say. These authorial interjections add nothing to a limping story, you add ruefully, shaking your head, looking out the window, wondering why you’re still at the screen. But what you don’t realize is that your looking out the window is even more predictable than this prose. Don’t you feel it, the sense in which the predictability of your actions presages the danger. — The danger, you ask disdainfully? — Yes, the danger that you yourself are as solidly predictable as the text that you reject, that you are just another citizen beneath the threshold, neither particularly useful nor so disturbing that action would be necessary to remove your negative influence. You are the minion of the deepest, darkest conspiracy of all, one to which you acquiesce in utter submission and blindness: the conspiracy of blind submission itself.

All that is contained in your impatience. Take care not to let it be seen too easily.

Alice herself wanted nothing more than to hang up on Gary and go on with her life. Reggie was looking askance at her, as if an explanation were overdue — although perhaps she could not be sure that his expression was not simply a calculated mask, intended to create an effect rather than mirroring an internal condition. Perhaps she was never sure of his internal condition at all —

“Two criticisms,” someone wrote recently, “seem to relegate these three weeks of tripe irrefutably to the dustbin of pseudo-documentary writing. First, there is simple fact that the story he is telling with such great secrecy and caution already tells more than enough to uncover both his identity and that of any of the players who might still be alive. Alice may be a perfectly anonymous individual to me, but to the dapper man she is a suspect with a file and an address. He makes that agency call without delay, follows the chain of possession of any memoirs that Alice or Gary may have penned, and voila, our anonymous blue-ball fan is in the crosshairs and dead. That he is still alive is, indeed, the best evidence that his precious story is pure fiction. Second, Alice doesn’t make any sense. Either she is a mother fixated on her domestic life and her love for her child, or she is an adventuress waiting to find a cause — and to discover her repressed sexuality, I don’t know. But we can’t have both people with one name; these are not part-time jobs that you can pick up and drop like a timecard. It’s all fictitious and correspondingly boring.”

Ah the fresh morning air of substantive criticism! Sometimes a bracing dose can really clear the bronchial tubes and let the oxygen flow intoxicatingly.

I won’t bother to answer the first point; I’ve addressed that already. There is no direct line to me from the principals, and at the same time, the arrow of accusation is drawn, should something happen to them, at least while I live. Alice too fictitious? Perhaps. I’ve worked hard to change necessary details to protect the social anonymity of those involved. This includes to a degree changing the principals. Perhaps I have changed too much, but I hope you’ll agree, at the end of our tale, that I’ve endeavored to be true to the spirit of those chronicled here. — Like Alice, our critic begins to wonder if there is anything beneath the mask. But I ask, if the mask tells a story, must there not also be a storyteller beneath it?