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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Told you so

Hey, can I call 'em? The Boers and Bernstein show on Chicago talk radio just turned ten; it's the longest-running sports radio show in town. I wrote about them for the Reader, what -- nine years ago? Check the archive. But just so you know, I know what's goddamn funny, goddamn it, even if I'm a rejected shit-pile loser myself.

Andy Nowicki, me, and the huge joke called journalistic ethics

You know, I actually spent a couple of days wondering whether it would be ethical for me to write a review of Andy Nowicki's book Considering Suicide. After all, it was printed by Chip Smith's Nine-Banded Books, which is set to release my exile novel, NVSQVAM (Nowhere) late this year.

And then I remembered that DELETED BY GHOST OF MY INTERNALIZATION OF SENSELESS, INCONSISTENT, FAVORITISM-CORRUPTED CODE OF JOURNALISTIC ETHICS DESPITE THE LAUGHABLE OXYMORON. I'm sure ethics have contracted geometrically since then. So I'm good to go. And unlike gentle SHITBAG'S NAME DELETED BECAUSE I AM CHICKENSHIT, OR MAYBE BECAUSE I JUST DON'T SEE THE POINT IN PICKING A FIGHT WITH TOTAL PISSBURGERS, I have sucked down a couple of beers in order to be as vicious as possible in my attack on my label-mate. And not just because I like beer. This is on purpose.

Well, I wouldn't really call it an attack. Because I'm going to tell you first off that it is beautifully written. Compelling. I just read a short story by Nowicki which could have convinced me, in absence of this latter-day prodigy of long-past-the-point theology, that Nowicki could do no wrong.

And don't get ME wrong. My label loyalties aside -- and mind you, I'm a person who's loyal to a great, big, self-destructive fault -- you should do your boredom syndrome (I just made that up, but I really wish I had a PhD in psychology so I could sell it) a favor and read this book. Regardless of what you think about God, if you are capable of thought, it will make you think, and think again.

You may still be scratching your head over the fact that, while the book is called Considering Suicide, I've said you will have your thoughts provoked regardless of what you think of God. That's probably because I read the second half of the book last, as I usually do. The first half of the book is a beautiful novel about a desperately suicidal guy. The second is a theological argument.

Yeah, I know. Takes ya back, yeah? To about 1500. Theological... argument. The two hardly go together anymore. Lately you either get Foucault-type philosophasters who argue about language (which is interesting as hell, of course, but from an honest linguist's point of view, s'il vous plonk!) or religious nuts who think reasoning is tantamount to shooting god in the face.

Nowicki argues from the point of an agnostic who's as deeply doubtful as he is desperately hopeful that meaning, in the form of either accepting life (Christ) or rejecting it (Buddha) must exist. Even after I asked him to re-explain it to me personally, I either don't buy or don't completely understand his assertion that the statement "Life is meaningless" is meaningless, because it's tantamount to saying 'I am not saying this.'

He says that a claim that 'there is no truth' is a claim of truth itself, thus self-negating. Fair enough, but pointing out the fact that we have a conception of meaning, because the word meaning means something, doesn't mean that that meaning has to be anything in particular, including 'living for Jesus.' He seems to be reopening the door to the Camusian assertion that we must make our own meaning, which he argued down to the mat earlier in the book. And yet this is part of his key, closing argument for 'faith in faith,' which to his great credit he gives us the choice whether or not to accept as he finishes the book. The uncertainty of his theological 'conclusion' ties back into the uncertainty of the act of suicide (or putting down the pen?) which polishes off the first half of the book. He's having his cake and eating it in a way that he's a good enough writer to get away with, and to my mind, the fact that the second half of the novel is blatantly philosophical is a daring admission of the mission of a lot of fiction: to create a 'smear of meaning' by setting points of view against each other in order to try to triangulate the author's vague, terrible, subverbal suspicion of what life really might be.

If that doesn't sound like a fun read to you, then I haven't done my job, OR you are -- whatever it is you think about God, suicide, the meaning of life (having read this book -- layered as it is on top of Monty Python consumption -- I can barely type 'meaning of life,' since I now realize how much trouble I have getting my mind around the very concept, since in a way you could bend Nowicki's argument to say that every act or aspect of one's own person has a semaphorical function on some level that humans are incapable of comprehending, to wit:

Oh, christ, what if I'm only a sentence in an argument between Jehovah and Baal? AEHHEWJAWGGRGEHJEGHJRGEHRIU help me) -- really too smug in your opinion, and I hereby kick you gleefully in the crotch.