Saturday, May 24, 2014

Another 'Literary' Excerpt . . .

James Reynard as Mephistopheles
James Reynard Photos

James Reynard in this 1999 photo is somewhat how I envision Mr. Em, particularly in this scene of the story I'm working on:
[Mr. Em] appeared to have regained his poise. "I'll find a way out of this 'uncanny' story . . . . I always manage to. And I'll make your own 'story' uncanny," he hissed. "Your weakness is that you don't believe I really exist, so you imagine me trapped in the world of fiction."

I looked at him more seriously, curious what new revelation might await.

His face abruptly expressed a particular solicitude. "Don't believe it then," he said, smiling congenially. "What good to believe in me against your will? Even proofs are no help toward believing, especially the material proof you see before you, such as it is in these stories you think fictional."

"I'm not afraid," I told him. "I'll get the better of you no matter how metafictionally high I have to ascend. I won't be taken in by your mad deceptions."

Mr. Em smiled. "I listen to you," he observed, "and am rather surprised to find you are actually beginning to take me for something real, not simply your fictional fancy."

"Nonsense," I told him. "You just say what I am writing . . . and are incapable of saying anything new!"

"Satan sum et nihil humanum a me alienum puto," he declared.

"I am Satan, and nothing human is alien to me," I translated. "That's not new. It's what you told Ivan Karamazov."

"It was new when I said it then," he replied.

"No," I objected, "that was just Ivan's feverish hallucination."

"Ivan didn't think so," said Mr. Em. "He said it was a rather clever thing for the devil to say, and he was then struck by the thought that I hadn't gotten the remark from him."

"He was right about that," I said. "You didn't get it from him. You got it from Dostoevsky."

"So did you," Mr. Em pointed out. "How do you know you're not as fictional as you think I am?"

"Cogito ergo sum," I replied. "I think, therefore I am."

"Bravo!" cried Mr. Em. "I think, therefore I am." He paused, smiling, and added, "You see, I can say it, too."

"All you did was quote me," I objected.

"All you did was quote Descartes," he retorted.

For a moment, I was stumped.

"Can't think?" asked Mr. Em, shooting me a devilish smile.

I felt light-headed, insubstantial. "Get a grip," I finally thought, grasping my desk and forcing myself to remain alert.

"Having an existential crisis?" inquired Mr. Em. "An encounter with nothingness?"

"Not quite," I said. "Just a momentary misconstrual of Descartes. You confused me with a causal reading of his cogito."

"I?" said Mr. Em.

"Or, rather," I corrected, "I confused myself. That's your best manner of deception."

"My best manner?" Mr. Em offered an ironic smile. "You contradict yourself."

"Not really," I said. "You're a character in this story I’m writing, and even fictional characters have characteristics. I can't make you do just anything . . . well, actually, I could, but that would mar the tale."

"I assure you I am more than fiction," insisted Mr. Em. "Let us recall what else I said in that book Dostoevsky wrote. Like Goethe, he considered me the spirit that ever denies. From the foundations of the world, apparently, I was predestined 'to deny,' to play the role of critic in all creation. As Mephistopheles, I declared to Faust that I desired evil, but did only good. When I recalled these words to Ivan, I pretended I was a different adversary than Mephistopheles, one whose evil worked no good, but those are merely two distinct, diabolical roles played by the same world-negating spirit, my humble self. Like with the poodle in Faust, I come in many forms, as that clever, scrutinizing author noted, for my philosophy regards everything in life as negotiable, exchangeable, even life itself, especially life itself."

"I see you are not above plagiarizing,' I said.

"I've never been truly creative, that's not my role," he reminded me. "But I can do astonishing things. Even if I were but a demon born between the covers of a book, I have managed to jump from book to book and have now landed in that book you call your life. Indeed, you've helped bring me here."

"I can also send you back," I said.

"I'm not so easily gotten rid of," he retorted. "And how do you know you aren't also a character in a book, created by some other would-be deity that every author strives to become?"
As you see, the passage is metafictional and intertextual, but yeah, it still needs some work to work . . .

Labels: ,


At 2:50 AM, Blogger Kevin Kim said...

Sounds fascinating. I'm keen to read the completed opus.

I do wonder, though: are you working out some sort of devil obsession through your writing?

At 5:54 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Even Milton -- once past the exordium -- opened his magnum opus in Hell . . .

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 12:39 PM, Blogger Carter Kaplan said...

Yes, but isn't that hell Milton shows us a deception?

At 12:44 PM, Blogger Carter Kaplan said...

There is an H.G. Wells short story about a painter who begins forming the devil. As the figure takes shape in the paints, the devil begins talking to the painter, encouraging him to bring more of him (the devil) into form. But as the painter realizes what is happening he reverses the direction his painting is heading and paints the devil into obscurity, and renders another image.

I very much look forward to a similar dissolution for Mr. Em.

At 3:17 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Mr. Em is all smoke and mirrors . . .

Jeffery Hodges

* * *


Post a Comment

<< Home