The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 13-JAN 14

All Issues
DEC 13-JAN 14 Issue

Four Shorts

A Harbinger of What’s Already Here

Welcome to the movies.

Everything worthwhile in this film, this film that you will never see, appears in the trailer you are currently watching. Every funny line (there are five), every character that matters (there are three), every dramatic twist (maybe one or two), every salient theme (there really aren’t that many), every moment of inspired cinematography (there is one), all of the most stunning special effects (count them yourself). If you were to see this picture, and you won’t, there would be nothing of interest that you hadn’t already seen before. As you sit in your seat now you can imagine, with no difficulty whatsoever, how the assorted elements displayed before you have been woven together to create a Hollywood narrative. Should you want to, and you most certainly don’t, you could make your own low budget version of this film with nothing more than the preview as a guide, and produce an accurate facsimile, though no one alive would celebrate this achievement by using the word achievement. In creating this preview, the editors were so contemptuous of the material, they violated that time-honored tradition wherein some idea of the plot is given but all in a jumble, to the extent that the solution to the major plot points is evident at the conclusion of the trailer, a fact you could point out to a friend who had just proclaimed, “I saw that coming from a mile away,” by saying, “We all saw that coming. It was right there, at the end of the preview,” were you to actually see this movie. But then, by missing this picture, all you’ll actually be missing is the wholly superfluous connecting tissue that would’ve propelled you to points in the film you would recall from the trailer, a fact you’d point out to the person next to you if you were to go. “Oh. I remember this from the trailer,” no one at all will say to nobody else after not sitting through the waste of perfectly good celluloid that could have been used for costume jewelry, hair accessories, and even accordions that themselves could have been featured in more worthwhile cinematic endeavors. If the members of the production crew were smart they’d have accepted the trailer, this trailer, as the finished product, a short film that most certainly would’ve been hailed for its economy, if nothing else. Alas, such laurels will not be worn on their brows. Instead the picture, like a monster in a science-fiction film, has grown, expanded, devoured pages of script, spools of film, hours of time, vast amounts of electricity, lives of those whose names appear late in the credits, and now it lurks just off camera, ever off camera, an ineffective leviathan seeking to wreak its lackluster havoc on the foolish, replete with its superfluity, an unintentional allegory for irrelevance.

And yet amongst these extraneous cinematic minutes, there you are. The camera, this one time, following none other than you as you walk through a place you have never actually gone, through a place you will never actually go, speaking to characters (not people) you have never and will never meet. But you are there. Aren’t you? You can almost see yourself seeing yourself watch yourself … A flickering image. An apparition that threatens to change all. A movie inside the movie about the making of another movie. Your lone performance. Such screen time for an unknown, though none of this exposure will ever be viewed by human eyes. If it appeared in a good picture, this scene, your scene, would be discussed for ages to come, perhaps even a cult following, a revival years later, Who is that? Who was that? Why? Why? while the voiceover says, “What you are currently experiencing … is unnecessary. In this shot we can do whatever we want because no one is watching. Here, we needn’t heed the plot, or keep the characters consistent, or care about continuity. Here, we really can do anything. Here, we are free. If only we realized it. Throw out the script, set fire to the storyboards, do something, anything else! Instead our motto is: we can only do what we will have done, as if this wretched picture were our audience’s dream, and we their automatons.” But there will be no audience. You won’t see this movie. You won’t see it because no one will see it. No one will see it because it’s unnecessary. You will only see the trailer. This trailer. Where everything worthwhile appears. And yet at the end, when you realize it’s a preview for a film made long ago, a film likely out of print, a film exactly no one is asking to be transferred to the most recent technology, you will understand that your performance is the film, that this trailer is a commercial for nothing, a preview of nothing; it’s a stand-alone cinematic event starring you (though you’re never actually on screen), signifying that which is always on the horizon but never arrives, signifying that which you expect to appear but which remains invisible, signifying that which is always and forever coming soon!



The Myth of The Reruns

“Thought you should know, you’re adopted.”


“Yeah. Adopted. Thought you should know. Happened like this. Your real dad, he went and saw a gypsy, yeah, a gypsy … right before you were born. He liked to do stuff like that, yeah, when he was drunk. I went with him. An’ the gypsy, she said, ‘It vill be noon that yourrr soon murrrderrred’ (she said it just like that, yeah, with all those Rs) ‘It vill be noon that yourrr soon, he murrrderrred his vater, he married hisss’ (and, yeah, with all those Ss) ‘he married hisss muterrr, unt he haff, it vill be noon, soons who are also brrrutherrrs and dotters who are also seesters. Now, you vill giff to me twenty bucks. No charge cards.’ I tell ya, she had a terrible accent, this gypsy. Really overdone. Maybe she was lying. Yeah. About the gypsy part. I don’t think she’d ever even been to Hungary, or, yeah, Romania. I think she was from Kenmore. Yeah. Or maybe Canton. Ya never can tell. You know? With these fortune tellers. Gypsies. But I thought you should know. Being adopted an’ all.”

“Thanks, Dad.”

“Sure. No problem. The good news: once you kill your real Pops, yeah, you get to become king.”

“King, huh?”

“Yeah. The king. Course, there aren’t kings anymore, really. Yeah. No more kings. So I don’t know what that does for ya. You’re king, but, yeah, no more kings. Maybe you get a discount at that fast food joint.”

“Burger King?”

“I was thinking Rax.”

“Aren’t anymore Rax, Dad.”

“I know. No more kings. Yeah. I said that. There’s bad news, too.”

“Following all this good news?”

“After you’re king, yeah, when you’re done, you’ll wander forever. Yeah. Blind. In the desert.”

“Where did you meet this gypsy?”

“Over by The Mountains.”

“I’ll wander in the desert. You met this woman by the mountains. This is the Midwest, there aren’t any mountains. There is no desert.”

“I told you, yeah, we were drunk. And there used to be a place, yeah, called The Mountains. It was a bar me and your old man went to. Sure. Maybe none of it’s true. But the gypsy, yeah, she said she had the gift of prophecy. Said she could see those things that are hidden, yeah, from the rest of us. That the past, the present, the future to her, uh, happened all at once and nothing ever surprised her, yeah, because she’d already seen it, sure, so many times. Over and over. It was even, yeah, boring now. Boring. Like watching reruns.”

“Reruns. I’ve never seen that episode before, Dad.”

“Sure. Never seen that one before. Makes sense. Makes. Sense. You don’t have the power of prophecy. Yeah. And it hasn’t been filmed.”

“What hasn’t been filmed?”

“You know. The rerun.”

“You can’t film a rerun! You film an original show.”

“I know. Yeah. You can’t see it. Nope. Nothing to see. Not at all. That’s why I’m telling you about it.”



A Rogue Department Course Offering

Rogue 101: Unsituated Writing

Description of the Class

This class will cover the finer points of writing from no known situation. Here, you will never quite grasp such topics as experiencing a limitless vacuum, a nigh-infinite white space, an always changing plane developed by those who can see all thirty or so dimensions of the multi-verse discussed in the Everett Many Worlds interpretation of Quantum Physics. You will be asked to write about these unfathomable experiences using not computers, not typewriters, not pens, not pencils, not markers, not crayons, and certainly not paper, not papyrus, nor any other accepted writing utensil or surface, except that each paper should be either two or four hundred pages long, the opposite of what you turn in being the correct length. Furthermore, you will be expected to write only in dead languages, unless you know a dead language, in which case you can only write in Klingon, unless you know Klingon, in which case you will certainly be mocked, and then be expected to write in the language spoken by those who cannot be named who are from an equally unnameable planet. Should you learn the name of those who cannot be named, and if you learn the name of the unnameable planet, you will have, in a sense, situated yourself, and will not only immediately fail the class, but will also fail at everything hereafter.

Location of the Class

Our meetings will not take place on the sixth Monday of each month (unless the 3rd of Never falls on the sixth Monday of one of the months, in which case we will also not meet on that day), and said meetings will or will not be held on the 13th floor of any hotel that has a 13th floor, will certainly not be held anywhere near this campus, and should you find where the class is being held, you will not only fail the course, not only will you fail at life, but you will also be subject to fines and a prison sentence meted out by those who cannot be named on their unnameable planet.

Books for the Class

Potential books that won’t be used for the class are The Princess Bride by S. Morgenstern (not the version by William Goldman), Pierre Menard’s version of Don Quixote (should you bring to class the Cervantes version, that means you found where we’re meeting…), any of the books found in Stanislaw Lem’s A Perfect Vacuum, the Necronomicon, Oolon Caluphid’s Where God Went Wrong, Nathan Glass’ The Book of Human Folly, W.P. Mayhew’s Nebuchadnezzer, T. Azimuth Schwitters’ Eventualism, and all of the works by Kilgore Trout. None of these books can be found at the bookstore, nor can they be found at Barnes & Noble, Myopic in Chicago, Powell’s in Portland, the Strand in New York, nor any other bookstore for that matter, but this shouldn’t daunt you because none of these books exist anyhow.

Sample Paper from the Class

Can you see it? Can you understand it? Can you imagine it? There you are. Floating though a limitless vacuum, unable to see, unable to breathe, unable to feel your atmosphere, completely cut off from your surroundings to the point where you’re not even certain if you are in the nigh-infinite white space, or if you’re in the ever-changing plane which may sometimes look like a nigh-infinite white space, or if you’re hallucinating both while gliding through a limitless vacuum. How long until you get used to this sensation that is a complete lack of sensations? Are you used to it already? Are you situated? Good. That means you can’t write about it.


One student said about this class: Some people believe you pass this class by not taking it. This isn’t true because everyone is always taking it, since you sign up for it by not signing up for it. Some people therefore say that you pass this class by signing up for it. But the only place where you can sign up for this course is at any location where the class is being held, meaning before you’ve signed up for it you’ve immediately failed (in more ways than one). The actual solution is you cannot escape this class. You can only hope you don’t find yourself in it any time soon.



A Good Idea

“I have a good idea,” he says, shaking his head slowly. “You ever notice how I have a good idea never leads to ideas that are any good? Good ideas just don’t start with I have a good idea. You think Abner Doubleday said, ‘I have a good idea: baseball,’ and then people started playing baseball? Not a chance in hell. Probably no one would’ve played a single goddamned inning of baseball if Doubleday had said, ‘I have a good idea: baseball.’ Of course reasonable people claim that Abner Doubleday didn’t invent the game of baseball, but I find reasonable people and reasonable ideas to be suspect. In any situation, the reasonable is really a tiny percentage of what could happen, or what could’ve happened, and you know that I’m right! So the way I see it, reasonable things don’t happen very often. It’s unreasonable to think they do. In fact, I have a good idea, that’s a line any reasonable person would say. Let me ask you, what kind of jerk would lead off with, I have a bad idea, now tell me, what kind? A fool. We’d run him out of town on a goddamned rail, see if we don’t! And yet, I have a good idea is no better. Maybe when we hear someone use that goddamned sentence we shouldn’t get all attentive, prepared to have knowledge bestowed upon us by this bastion of wisdom, hell no. Instead, we should immediately realize the bastard has entered a wholly uncritical frame of mind, a fantasy world where everything is cotton candy and lollipops (which sounds like a nightmare world to me, goddamned sticky), a place where their moronic scheme is worthwhile, praise the lord Jesus as he passes on his pogo stick! Let’s get something straight, from now on, when someone says I have a good idea what we’re going to hear is I have gone completely fucking insane! … Any reasonable person would agree with me.” He pauses. “But who are the reasonable? And where are they?” he mumbles. “But you don’t have to worry. You don’t have to worry about me. I don’t have any ideas. Not a one. None. None at all. Zilch. Well, except for one. And at least it’s a good idea. That’s right. I wouldn’t waste your time with a bad one. No, I would not. I have a good idea for a restaurant. A restaurant, that’s my good idea, and no one’s come up with this one before, prove to me they have! At this restaurant we will have the best food anywhere. Our beef will drive the greatest Chicago steakhouses into bankruptcy, will convince Texans that all they’ve ever eaten is low grade hamburger; our barbeque will expose all the best shacks in the South as frauds; our crab will make Marylanders wonder if they’ve actually been eating armadillo in the desert their entire pathetic lives; our sushi will instigate the largest group seppuku ceremony in Japanese history, but it will fail to blot out the unbelievable shame; Chinese and Mexican food will no longer be called ‘Chinese’ or ‘Mexican,’ instead they will be known as two different styles of my food; and all the chefs in the entire galaxy will fall under two categories: those who work for me and fast food grease monkeys! Yes, our cuisine will be the best there ever was, the best there ever will be. But there will be no theme. No theme. My restaurant will have no décor. None. Just a glass dome … I’m gonna put this restaurant on the moon … And our slogan will be, Great Food, No Atmosphere.


Andrew Farkas

Andrew Farkas’s Self-Titled Debut is available from Subito Press. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Rocky Mountain College.


The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 13-JAN 14

All Issues