Editorial by Arthur Graham

The following is my editorial of Arthur Graham’s Editorial (Bizarro Press Edition,  149 pages).
The following (edited) definitions of editorial are from Dictionary.com:

noun — an article presenting the opinion of the editor.

Whoever the editor is–the unnamed narrator, a young orphan who remembers “days of reading and masturbating in my room” but doesn’t remember, at the time of telling, what his age was (17 or 28)–is dumped by auntie and uncle into the cruel sea of the outside world with his heavy burden, a suitcase filled with dirty magazines. The narrator assumes that the reader is surprised:

Honestly, I’m surprised you’re so surprised. You didn’t think I was rubbing myself raw to Faulkner, did you?

I do remember being surprised by a Faulkner corncob rape, but, like humor, surprise is personal and varies with experience. Or, the narrator’s irony is beyond me.

…So there I sat… for the first time in my life I no longer felt abusing myself in such a manner. I could barely feel anything at all, frankly, oblivious even to the billowing clouds of dust that were now beginning to whip across the high desert plateau. Though I wasn’t cognizant of it at the time, my skin had begun to resemble the scales of a certain reptile native to the area – fine, brown grains of sediment adhering to the sweatiest patches, while the coarser, yellow component formed layers over the drier spots.

How can the young narrator be oblivious to what he describes, dust clouds, and not (at the time) cognizant of scales? Does the narrator need an editor? OK it’s a story. For now, the narrator is a reptile, a snake.

Slithering across the harsh desert…sliding on one’s belly over the hot sands…is a markedly more pleasurable experience when one’s soft, vulnerable skin has given way to hard, unfeeling scales…see the world from such an ideal vantage…

Humanity’s legendary scale-bellied creep is also a creeping sex machine on the earth:

…bite it in the ankle while looking up its skirt…caress…every surface, delve… its deepest crevice…

Mr. Snake hunts, eats bumworts (an Editorial cross-breed), then returns to human form. He finds a handy blue tarp:

…the so-called “wise ape” – the only one that bothers to cover its ass. It is also the only species that purposely poisons its environment and murders its own kind en masse. Meditate on that one for a moment.

“Meditate” is one of many directives from the author-narrator-snake, who-who-which shares his tongue-in-cheek (do snakes have cheeks?) opinions with the reader of this, his editorial. After prostituting himself and making an easy buck, he gives his opinion:

It might make more sense for us all to start sucking each other off for our goods and services…cut out the middleman and save everyone a boatload of time – time that could be spent with friends, family, and communion with God…I wonder if the world’s churches…are even aware that priest, priestess and prostitute were all once one and the same?

The snake in human form is suddenly a salesman and pleasures himself while watching abominations (the news from Iraq) on TV.

…I must admit that I’d given myself quite a hard-on just thinking about the carnage…

Just as suddenly, the year is 2482 CE, a woman is US President. Then it’s the expected consequences of global warming reversed: sea levels are down while Budd (Billy and beer?) float around the story, and dolphins mistake a man for one of their own and treat him to an “impromptu gangbang”:

…a long, prehensile dolphin penis has wound its way around his neck and into his mouth…

Where are we now? Old New Orleans, suffering radiation burns in that “endless deadness of ocean,” then back home, to auntie’s house. Are we in a story?

Somewhere, sometime, a small black book is closing…A resounding thud as the leatherette covers meet, and their contents are returned to their hiding place, beneath the editor’s desk.

Finally, true romance – narrator meets, at a diner, a female snake:

…cold, golden eyes…yellow and brown…matching snakeskin purse….

And because snakes enjoy sucking eggs,

…I don’t think I’d ever been sucked so deep in my life!…only my testicles remained unswallowed…With our merging now complete, the yellow and brown snake …gave a belch…hauled its sated bulk in the direction of Washington, DC…

Then, catastrophe!

editorial
adjective — pertaining to an editor or editing; pertaining to the literary and artistic activities or contents of a publication.

At this point, the intelligent reader is surely wondering how killing off all but 5% of the Earth’s population could’ve possibly been in the best interests of the NINC. Didn’t the corporate state NEED poor people, and lots of them, to turn the wheels of its great profit-producing machines?

At this point, some readers, not necessarily intelligent, but seeking, perhaps, an iota of indication that these episodes of disaster, jerking off, unexplained (that’s OK) transformations, orgasms, sucking snakes, cocks (not the chicken) in the shape of the Floridian peninsula, plus that leatherette book might start to make a modicum of sense. And if not sense, an emotional tie-in. When? After all that radiation stuff, that black book is back:

Somewhere relatively close in the space-time continuum, yet inconceivably far away, a book is opening – a small, black, leatherette book…

OK, it’s a story. The female US President, sole Ark (sound familiar?) survivor is now a snake and “must be FED!!!”

Haha, FED. President Snake and Ark crash in the backyard of auntie’s house (sound familiar?) The narrator, who was also at sea, watches as the “great leviathan” (sound familiar?)

…releases the hermetic seals lining its entrance hatch, revealing a tall woman in executive attire…they disembark…in the shadow of the great jaws closing around them…the world (is) reborn.

Reborn, in Editor Land. Rival editors — a stolen book eaten by one of them, then the thieving editor is cut – like so many of a writer’s perfect passages – slashed, and there is that leatherette again, extracted “from stomach and small intestine.”

Jump to 3117 CE.

… a strange virus destroyed all written material… It might be more accurate to say that books were destroyed by fire, after this was identified as the only means of killing them…

Them must refer to virus, unless I don’t understand, and them refers to books. Editor?

…but we never would’ve had to burn them all in the first place had it not been for the virus. One day without warning, every piece of paper between two covers seemed to develop a taste for our blood…there was no other solution but to stage mass burnings of books, the scale of which would’ve made Joseph Goebbels cream in his pants.

Vonnegut 451, edited for the common era, 3117. Next, an editor is on trial. Exhibit A: The original snake story is retold:

…Adam was a prick who never paid Eve much attention…while Adam was off fucking a “goat”…Eve came upon a serpent…apparently fellating itself…forming a perfect circle of pleasure…

Eve learns fast, sucks herself, Mr. Serpent slithers inside, Eve gives birth to snakes. We are all snakes. Even within the story this snake edition is received as a bad joke, but later we are told:

…What would really be interesting would be if mankind actually managed to overcome its their inherent flaws…

Editor?

…And if there is one thing that editors are capable of doing, by virtue of their very nature, it is changing things, usually without permission from the “original” author…lies of the author are thus supplanted by lies of the editor…

More future, more history, more sex. It’s 4438, then it’s 1967. Edward Tor’s mom has changed the locks, cast him out. Sound familiar? What does Ed do? He writes, about Mom’s “sexual adventures” Ed, Tor. Do I get it? Are we closing the snake circle? We jump (Ha) from snakes to Frogman, who says to Ed,

Hewwo…Wet’s be fwiends!

Ed – that’s Ed Tor I – (or Ed I Tor) — becomes a “literary giant.” His son, Ed Tor II  (edit-tutorial, maybe) wonders

…if we’d all be better off blowing each other in exchange for our goods and services.

Sound familiar? On a plane with a little black notebook, Ed has flights of fancy. The plane is going to crash. What to do?

Ed II was the kind of writer who was obligated to write imaginatively…Ed II had no choice but to write the plane out of the scene…

But he

…caught a glimpse up (or down) the flight attendant’s skirt, causing his cock to stiffen…

which is followed by Charles Chuchowski (sounds like CB) “flying on a crapper of his own.” There’s a Pynchon-style phallic rocket. Ed II lands in Miami and lands (ha) a job: to write a biography.

Ed II had to shape the boring old truth into something more palatable…Over time, Ed II was able to concoct an entire history in which everything that could conceivably happen…did happen…people were generally willing to believe quite a lot…

There is more sex, more aunt and uncle, a completely X’d-out chapter, then Ed II is writing his client’s biography. Client was a salesman. Client buys cookies from a kid, and this kid, the salesman says:

…I’ll be damned if he ain’t got fangs in his teeth…this whole damned city’s been arranged in a circle…asphalt has been replaced by brown n’ yellow cobblestones…the folks in here…all got these hideous RATTLES hangin’ out they pants n’ skirts…INSANE eyes like they fixin’ to EAT me alive…the scales of the street are POSITIVELY the scales of a snake…SNAKE right before my very eyes…

Ed’s client is pleased. How could writer Ed have known all of this?

…on a long enough timeline…all things become possible…in fact inevitable…

I agree. Finally, after too much narrative and dialog for me, after too many flights of fancy, too many snakes as cocks — for me — Ed Tor summarizes:

…Victrola plays a snake scale song of leatherette labia passing bear balls from books on birch bark to salesman ships heading down the coast to Himalaya heights, over calm waters and under rough roads with a yellow-brown checkered sound, like the screeching of my first memory. Dolphins emerge from energy mind magic while Mardi Gras beads spill into the bumwort blast radius filling bottles of booze with the snakiest days.

Ed Tor’s writing is singing at last, with rhythm and sound. This wonderful paragraph would make no sense — not to me – without Ed Tor’s story. The “energy mind magic” is here, close to the end.

I’ve quoted extensively because I wanted to understand Editorial better, as I reread, wrote and reviewed. It’s a biography, a screed on writing, a history of the world, stories within a story, a literary jigsaw puzzle with images and themes used again and again. The snake sucks his tail, and we are back.

Why was it difficult? The humor in Editorial is not mine, nor is its approach to fiction. I dislike lectures and repeated jokes. Body parts and bodily fluids bore me if there is no emotional connection; and most important, there was none, for me. Whether that is the point – no connection from you to me? – or I have missed out on something, I don’t know.

Jeffra Hays, author of ParaDick Sharry, 2011

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