Philip E. Baruth
During the Southern California rainy season of 1992, I was living in a small shack in Costa Mesa, studying for my doctoral examinations and writing an admittedly bizarre work of fiction then known as Eleven Verses of the Dead. The shack had no insulation, and plants grew through the floorboards and walls to impressive size. The structure and the roof were jury-rigged at best, and when it rained the floorboard plants were watered automatically, by the hand of God. My examinations centered on eighteenth-century British literature and contemporary critical theory; the novel, for its part, was a ‘‘fictional analogue’’ of the Grateful Dead subculture, narrated by an amnesiac Deadhead named Story, who traveled from show to show, parking lot to parking lot, telling a single story over and over again in the manner of Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner.
I look back on it as a fabulous interval in my life. I did not, for instance, have to work. I was simply supposed to read, and I did that religiously every day for five or six hours. And in the evenings, I would turn on the computer and spill whatever energy I had left into the ongoing dreamscape of the novel. It was during the course of those wet months that I wrote the following passage:
That morning—although there was a sun and a line of cars on the highway like any other—a man told us over the radio that the older, grayer voice of the Dead had died. He had died of exhaustion and a small, abrupt hemorrhage inside his brain. A vessel in his head had opened. They had taken his large body to a funeral home in California, there would be only private services. (Baruth 81)