Academic journal article Mosaic (Winnipeg)

Quick Fiction: Some Remarks on Writing Today

Academic journal article Mosaic (Winnipeg)

Quick Fiction: Some Remarks on Writing Today

Article excerpt

The rather descriptive and vague character of the sub-title of this lecture doubtless warrants some justification, an apologia or apology in the old sense of that word. I had wanted to speak of pleasure, sex, and death. For several nights I lay awake tossing and turning over the precise wording. My thoughts roiled around the possibility of:

Quick Fiction (Not Merely Pleasurable: If It's Not the Dentist's It's the Podiatrist's, and If It's Not the Podiatrist's)

I wanted to talk about everything, starting with pleasure, and with what is not merely pleasurable. Invoking Wallace Stevens's poem "The Pleasures of Merely Circulating" with its "things [that] go round and again go round" (120), I wanted to shift away, to engage with the Stevensian figure of pleasure as repetition, recognition, and circling, but also to interrupt it, starting with the rhetorical figure of aposiopesis, the unfinished sentence, the interrupted, the statement that has yet--

There would be a series of critical reflections on first-person narrative accounts detailing, first, a trip to the dentist's, then a trip to the podiatrist's, and then a trip to. You can perhaps sense where this was heading. Most people are fortunate or unfortunate enough to go to the dentist's occasionally. Fewer people go to see a podiatrist--and it tends to be something that happens, if it happens, "later in life." The missing figure in the title, the figure perhaps always presiding over aposiopesis, that is to say death, would have entailed a trip to the undertaker's: if it's not the dentist's, it's the podiatrist's, and if it's not the podiatrist's it's--The skip in syntax, the aposiopoetic disjunction, was to intimate that you don't go to the undertaker's, since you are dead. The undertaker comes to you. At any rate, in my febrile state of sleeplessness I pictured trying to talk about a little text called "Today the Dentist's," then another called "Today the Podiatrist's," and then devote the remainder of my time to the question of the undertaker.

In this imaginary projection of my presentation I supposed it might be nice to start with something from YouTube, a version of "Today the Dentist's" filmed a couple of months ago in an anonymous dental office in the United States. But when I try to show the video it's a sort of waking nightmare in which my voice is completely inaudible. So I drop this disastrous teaching aid and read instead, as steadily as I can:

   Today the dentist's. Tist's. Say, tist's. My dentist frightens me.
   Marathon Man meets Wittgenstein. The silent type. Ent, ist. He
   arrived a year ago, the latest act at my local NHS pay-as-you-go
   circus. My dentist is not young. He has big glasses like a snooker
   player. His hands tremble and he has a speech impediment. Ment. He
   hails from up north. I am convinced he was struck off and has been
   rehabilitated, incomprehensibly. Hensibly, he ticulates erely its
   of words, when he does peak. Alcohol-illum, Parkinshun, ental break
   done? I can't help imagining he killed someone. Man's law.
   Accidentist. I have never had any treatment from him, only
   check-ups, till today. But now two cavities, both upper right. No
   mask. He operates as if there is no tomorrow. In goes the
   injection, like a knife in the street. Blue rubber gloves. I don't
   know whether to open or shut my eyes. Out of the picture, the
   indifferent young assistant listens to the radio, looks at her
   nails. I car peak any more, anaesthetic impacts, in pax, hunting
   in, fingers crossing, tighten, tightest, impacted, im-prac-tist.
   And he says nothing, no falsely reassuring
   that-should-be-numbing-up-nicely-by-now, no time for words, he is
   in like a feeding frenzy in reverse. I keep feeling, as in a dream.
   Perhaps hallucinatory his halitosis. Tosis. Fingers shaking,
   perspiration beading inside the aquarium spectacles, he lunges,
   invades, retreats, returns, wielding who knows what, a drill then
   something else, eels, feels, files, patient eyes closed now for
   business, long pause as if in exhaustion. … 
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