a novel

Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

November 1997

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

From: Nichelle
Date: 2 November 1997
Subject: fine internet writing...

I wish I were ice water
poured on your sleeping genitals
or blood dripping
from your sliced thumb
so you would notice me..

(I couldn't have said it better myself.. some poems come straight from the soul. Know what I mean?)


From: Nichelle
Date: 2 November 1997
Subject: The Mating Practices of the North American Stonybill

Along the wild a rocky coastal regions of the Pacific Northwest, the female Stonybills build their nests of small twigs and leaves. From March to May, they fly distances of up to thirty miles to bring the right building materials to their rocky homes by the water. Once completed, these nests measure between twelve and twenty inches across! These little chickies really have their work cut out for them.

But where is the male Stonybill, you might ask? Scientists have not been able to determine exactly what the males do during this nest building season, but there is some evidence to support theories that these fellows are hanging out at the bar.

When the nests are finished, the males fly past, circling them, then land a few feet off and give the mating call. "R U M or F" they seem to say, relentlessly calling, singing the sweet songs of summer love.

At last one Stonybill is successful. Scientists call this process of acceptance to the female's nest "scoring".

(bleah, I need a life)


From: Bob
Date: 6 November 1997
Subject: Great site!

Hello Scott,

I just visited your Web sites-they look like a lot of fun.

My company, The Mining Company, has an opportunity that I hope will interest you. We're looking for someone with expertise to run some of our sites, pointing people to the best Internet resources and leading a growing online community, and we're hoping you'll consider applying for a position.

The Mining Company is the largest consistent network of special-interest sites run by people, not machines. Our goal is to rescue consumers frustrated by search engines, useless links and "information overload." We aim to help people find what they want and trust what they find, within the context of a community of people who share their interests. We currently have over 500 live guides running Web sites that cover a huge variety of topics and draw visitors from all over the world.

Guides share in the income generated through advertising on the sites and participate in other revenue opportunities, including a partnership with Amazon.com. With partnerships and distribution deals with access providers like EarthLink, NETCOM, AT&T WorldNet; other networks like MSN; and services like PointCast and PlanetDirect, The Mining Company has access to over 5 million people who are using the Internet to get information and entertainment. And the number of consumers who rely on The Mining Company as the best way to use the Net continues to grow.

To learn what it takes to be a Mining Company Guide and obtain application information and templates, please visit The Mining Company For more about the people and concepts behind The Mining Company see The Mining Company (I'm there, under Guide Support)

If you aren't in a position to apply to run the site yourself, please feel free to recommend a friend or colleague with expertise, passion, and basic HTML skills. And please feel free to ask me any questions you may have.

Thanks for your time -- hope to see your application soon.

Best wishes,


From: Columbine
Date: 6 November 1997
Subject: Re: Fw: Great site!

This must just be my week to hear about, have fights with, or otherwise encounter The Mining Company.

What you WON'T see is the bitter correspondence which was exchanged over the next two days following the column. But there's a clarification in the next column, which was today's.

Gabriel: I dunno if you posted that for us to have a good laugh or whether you were actually considering signing up - after all, it does look like fun, doesn't it? (The Fetishes site is looking for a guide ...:) Be warned that it will demand a very large chunk of your time while offering little in the way of remuneration. -c

From: Murder
Date: 8 November 1997
Subject: Fw: Spam Haiku

I have no idea who or what the original source of this is. Maybe you all know? I got this from a friend.

> 1.
>Blue can of steel
>What promise do you hold?
>Salt flesh so ripe
> 2.
>Can of metal, slick
>Soft center, so cool, moistening
>I yearn for your salt
> 3.
>Twist, pull the sharp lid
>Jerks and cuts me deeply but
>Spam, aah, my poultice
> 4.
>Silent, former pig
>One communal awareness
>Myriad pink bricks
> 5.
>Clad in metal, proud
>No mere salt-curing for you
>You are not bacon
> 6.
>And who dares mock Spam?
>You? you? you are not worthy
>Of one rich pink fleck
> 7.
>Like some spongy rock
>A granite, my piece of Spam
>In sunlight on my plate
> 8.
>Little slab of meat
>In a wash of clear jelly
>Now I heat the pan
> 9.
>Oh tin of pink meat
>I ponder what you may be:
>Snout or ear or feet?
> 10.
>In the cool morning
>I fry up a slab of Spam
>A dog barks next door
> 11.
>Pink tender morsel
>Glistening with salty gel
>What the hell is it?
> 12.
>Ears, snouts and innards
>A homogenous mass
>Pass another slice
> 13.
>Old man seeks doctor
>"I eat Spam daily", he says.
> 14.
>Highly unnatural
>The tortured shape of this "food"
>A small pink coffin
> 15.
>Pink meaty temptress
>I can no longer remain

From: Nichelle
Date: 8 November 1997
Subject: vr...

Cast of Characters
I hate the women men love.
until all sex are gone.


From: Columbine
Date: 9 November 1997
Subject: Transience

In the subway usually there is a man in his late sixties who plays the saxophone. He's not a bad saxophone player, but he never plays more than a few measures of anything. All the songs he plays slide into each other without advance notice: from "Misty" to "Stardust" to "Over the Rainbow" almost too quickly for you to identify them individually. Old songs. He plays these songs from memory and I think that's the way he remembers them, that in his head they are all actually one large meta-song that continually changes form and never ends, that his saxophone is just reporting on what's playing inside his head.

I cannot remember what I was doing a year ago. I don't keep a diary. I have to use the paper trail: paystubs, web columns, and other miscellany. I didn't remember the text of some of the things I saw on Nichelle's pages that I wrote: once vented, it is gone from my brain to make room for new things. Now I wonder why I didn't keep a copy. Probably because I think of email as being especially transient: I'm not one of those people who keep a huge backlog of saved messages. Although this seems to be changing as I grow older and more and more scared to forget.

My current job will probably not last long enough for me to become eligible for benefits. I like it, but I got my first paycheck Friday and the amount on it was unacceptably low. Oddly enough, a year ago I would have had serious qualms about deserting a job after a month. I'd have said that I felt an obligation to stick it out for a while. Perhaps I am finally accepting the rapid turnover in the computer industry as a way of life. This is probably a good change, but it makes me nervous.

I require rapid adaptability. But I crave permanence.

From: Nichelle
Date: 9 November 1997
Subject: critics: part one

Crimson_Guest wonders if you're not talking to him anymore?
N: Sorry, i lost my connection... what did you say?
Crimson_Guest ahs. "I was wondering if you are (or were) an English major and about how old you are?"
N: I'm 24 - no, not an English major..
Crimson_Guest ahs. "You write, though. That's interesting."
N: It's a bad habit that I really ought to kick.
Crimson_Guest smiles at you. "No, it's not. Writing helps us think."
Crimson_Guest thinks some of your writing looks like logs.
N: some of it is.
N: as a matter of fact, I'm going to send our conversation to alt.sex.fetish.stories.logs.crimson_guest
Crimson_Guest chuckles.
Crimson_Guest reads...
Crimson_Guest hrms..
Crimson_Guest is amazed how much better his logs are than yours. ;)
N: it never looks good later
Crimson_Guest shrugs. "The poses are just not very descriptive."
Crimson_Guest sorries for being critical, but you should know that something better exists.
N: I'm sure you are an expert.
Crimson_Guest shrugs. "I can do better than that, anyway. You might want to check out a few roleplaying MUSHes sometime. The quality of writing is far higher than that of MOOs."
N: Role playing is bullshit.
Crimson_Guest nods. "Yes, we may as well get rid of drama too. And poetry and literature while we're at it."
N: what do they have to do with role playing, or do I misunderstand you?
Crimson_Guest hmms. "I think the word 'role playing' has a very different meaning here than on MUSHes. There, it's akin to impovisational acting. People spend days developing their characters and weaving incredibly complex plots by their interactions with other characters."
N: I don't have a character. I have a keyboard. My real name is the same as my MOO name. I don't want to be a 5'7" redhead with 36DD breasts.
Crimson_Guest shakes his head. "Lots of women play men on MUSHes."
N: you're missing the point
Crimson_Guest shrugs. "Or children. Or whatever. It's an evolving storyline."
Crimson_Guest thinks you are.
N: you think I am what?
Crimson_Guest thinks you're missing the point.
N: I am interested in people who can talk and think.
N: If I am missing the point, then what is it?
Crimson_Guest nods. "And I'm telling you where to find some."
N: why should one type of role playing interest me more than another when what I am interested in is real people, not their childish fantasies?
Crimson_Guest ohs? "And cybersex isn't a childish fantasy?"
N: most of the time it is quite childish.
Crimson_Guest notes most MUSHers considers MOOs beyond redemption.
Crimson_Guest nods. "It's fantasy roleplaying."
Crimson_Guest thinks if you're going to do it, you may as well do it well.
Crimson_Guest shrugs. "Or don't do it at all."
N: I'm losing interest. If you have specific criticisms of my writing, I would like to hear them. "I can do better than that." tells me nothing. You can reach me here or at my e-mail address on my web page.
Crimson_Guest nods. "I'm losing interest too. Pity too, because we actually live in the same area code."
Crimson_Guest waves. "G'night, Nichelle."
N: Good night.


From: Nichelle
Date: 10 November 1997
Subject: critics II: the sequel

I don't take criticism well. It's easy to criticize cybersex, I guess. Different things turn on different people, I suppose, and if my plot doesn't interweave enough... well...

I'm not the kind of person who has story-fantasies with plots and characters that I could actually describe... I think most porn would be much better without pretending to have a story line- especially films. As a matter of fact, visual porn could do away with scenery, costume, and makeup. Unfortunately, it's not as easy to do that in cybersex. But who cares if I take off my blue satin dress or if I take off my wetsuit with flippers? I've always found that silly. I also think it's silly to ask people what they're wearing or what they look like irl. Who cares? Imagine what you like. There's a good chance they're lying or exaggerating anyway.

This is not to say that I don't have a sense of fantasy. It's just that I don't have a sense of fantasy.

I'm on the mega diet. The other day I bought the junk food thing and couldn't bring myself to eat it, yet couldn't throw it away. It sat on top of the fridge until Gabriel found it and started to take it outside to the dumpster? "Why are you taking it out there? Do you think I'll take it out of the garbage and eat it?" "If I wanted a smoke, I'd dig cigarettes out of the trash and smoke them. If there was a bottle of whisky in the dumpster, I would get it out and drink it." I was hurt, offended.


From: Nichelle
Date: 10 November 1997
Subject: learned behavior

For_No_One walks off and discreetly pees in the corner.
Magenta_Guest says, "wow, the MOO lets you pee in the corner!!!"


From: Columbine
Date: 10 November 1997
Subject: Re: critics II: the sequel

>I'm not the kind of person who has story-fantasies with plots and characters
>that I could actually describe... I think most porn would be much better
>without pretending to have a story line- especially films. As a matter of
>fact, visual porn could do away with scenery, costume, and makeup.
>Unfortunately, it's not as easy to do that in cybersex. But who cares if I
>take off my blue satin dress or if I take off my wetsuit with flippers? I've
>always found that silly. I also think it's silly to ask people what they're
>wearing or what they look like irl. Who cares? Imagine what you like.
>There's a good chance they're lying or exaggerating anyway.

I feel the exact opposite. If I want real sex I can always get that without having to watch it. But real sex doesn't have a plotline. I'm in cybersex for the theatre, since obviously the sex itself is going to be a little anticlimactic, with the people sitting on opposite coasts.

Each fulfills a completely different need. Those parts of my life don't overlap.

The problem with "cybersex" is that it has the word sex in it. That leads people to think it's something it's not. If we called it improvisational erotic dialogue, would that make it more worthwhile?

From: Nichelle
Date: 10 November 1997
Subject: sex plots

"Everyone to his own taste, said the lady as she kissed the cow."

I see no reason for cybersex to have a plot any more that I see the need to tell people in the Living Room that I'm smoking a pipe or drinking a make-believe milkshake. (There are too many imaginary calories in those anyway, and I'm trying to maintain my imaginary hourglass figure.) It has always annoyed me when men tell me they are slipping off my red high heels, or unbuttoning my see-through blouse. I don't like to answer the question "What are you wearing?", I would die if the people on the MOO could see my ratty blue slippers, and why would I want to pretend that I run around in stockings and five-inch heels when the thought of doing so disgusts me, even if it turns on my moo partner?

Also, this plot making and role playing is not a part of my normal fantasies. I am aroused my ideas and images, not storylines. It doesn't matter why the painter is painting the inside of my thighs red with a two-inch soft brush. (oops, I didn't mean to tell you about that one) But seriously, it kind of annoys me to try to tell my fantasies to people, and I am often asked to do so, because I don't exactly have fantasies. I can make them up, but that's something I would do for the benefit of someone else.

Costume (what R U wearing) and location, two big parts of moosexwithaplot, don't do much for me. Beyond those things, I really don't get the idea of plot in moosex. Maybe you can explain it to me. Crimson_Guest said something about poses, but the idea of posing seems far away from real sex, into the realm of the internet porn with girls posing in cheerleader outfits. I just don't get it.


From: SAGReiss
Date: 11 November 1997
Subject: Scarlet Nights

A Rutgers alumnus dies and leaves the school his prospering local brothel. It is renamed The Scarlet Nights Motel, and staffed with students on scholarship. A big-time madam is brought in from Las Vegas, Nev. There is controversy, but officials at Rutgers point out that the program, which is very popular with alumni, stimulates donations as well as a steady revenue stream that will help support the library. Besides, how else would these student-prostitutes get college educations?

How indeed? As the wise old man of sex and letters, even if my output in both fields has fallen precipitously since I've been devoting my energies to scheming and plotting a pizza e pasta ristorante, I would suggest that we concentrate on defining empirically what happens during cybersex or "improvisational erotic dialgue" rather than worrying about how many adjectives are used. (The rule for parts of speech was nicely formulated for me by one of the meanest, most psychopathic French professors I have ever met: "More nouns than verbs. More adjectives than adverbs. In other words no adjectives and no adverbs.") Assuming we restrict ourselves to verbal means, cybersex is the real-time, intersubjective creation of a linguistic representation of sex. Whether it is plot-intensive, description-intensive, figurative or abstract does not really matter. We don't say that a book is not a novel because it has too many or too few adjectives. The Marquis de Sade was not particularly interested in plot and character, but he was reading Richardson. How could he have read Balzac? Character, description and plot typify the bourgeois novel as it grew in the industrial nations (particularly France, England and Russia) in the nineteenth century. That people continue to read and write books based on a hundred-and-fifty-year-old model is an anachronism based on the merciless triumph of that social structure. The bourgeois novel has long since outlived its usefulness as art. Pnambic has made the specious argument that a novel written today might be every bit as good as a Dickens or Dostoievsky. But why would anyone want to write such a novel in the first place? In any event the internet is changing these things. Hypertext literature generally will fall into new genres, of which cybersex may be one. The question for the artist remains the same. How do we represent the world in a given medium? How do we exploit the resources of that medium? That MOOs, MUSHes and MUCKs are not producing texts worth reading is only to be expected, given the skills and education of the democratic masses who dominate (by sheer numbers alone) the new electronic media. That RL MOO was a wretched failure is no great shame. I tried. Perhaps I'll try again. Nichelle is up for a review of "vr:hypertext fiction" next month on some mailing list composed of "professors and published authors". She tends to forget that I am a published author, but nevermind. I'm s'posed to praise her bran muffins (with raisins and walnuts) and her five-hundred-dollar-a-pound risotto (with porcini and saffron). Today I'm going to try to make pollo in pane, a whole chicken stuffed with vegetables and baked inside of a loaf of bread. If only my evil mother would lend me ten thousand dollars (vide 12000 Virgins), I'd earn money, enjoy my work and tell funny stories in my e-mail. It's just too depressing trying to write about a minister and his illicit lover who order a chicken sandwich, potato chips and a small salad TO SHARE.

From: Columbine
Date: 11 November 1997
Subject: The Violet Hour

You climb up to the loft.
Loft Bed(#68827RJ)
You are on a very soft, large bed.

The sheets and quilts on this bed are not any sort of fabric. Their smell and soft feel, combined with the locale, leads you to believe they are large petals or leaves, grown for the task. The "mattress" was probably also grown in place; it feels different, and is longer than a normal king-sized mattress.

The canopy over the bed has curtains which appear to also be plant matter. They are usually kept closed. The top surface of the canopy is also covered with the same material. Since this material is completely opaque, the bed area is fairly dark. This is, in fact, the purpose of the canopy. The greenhouse, of course, has a transparent roof, and sleeping in the daytime would otherwise be difficult.

The side of the loft which is against the wall of the greenhouse has a low shelf. It holds a few paperback novels, a small lamp, an assortment of bedroom toys, and a plush toy shaped like an orchid.

Violet doesn't normally sleep here; she sleeps in her garden, out back. Exit by going DOWN. If you want privacy, you can 'raise' and 'lower' the ladder to the bed.

Overheard below: Violet climbs up to the loft.
Overheard below: Violet has left.
Ariel ascends to the loft.
Ariel has arrived.
Overheard below: Ariel climbs up to the loft.
The ladder has been raised.
You say softly, "You didn't tell me what your dream rooms would look like :)"
Ariel would be more of the 'in the cage' type. ;)
You say softly, "Hmm. A severe case are we? Would you care to elaborate?"
Ariel hmmms. "I like being unwilling at all times. Just an object to be used."
Violet pushes Ariel backwards, flat onto the bed, exerting just enough weight against her to keep her down.
Ariel gasps, squirming, trying to get back up
Ariel whispers, "Ariel loves mind control...and watersports. And anal play. And anything unusual" to you.
Violet leans forward, bending close over Ariel, and studies her intently.
You say softly, "So."
Violet leans down and brushes her nipples slightly against Ariel's torso, and kisses her, forcing her tongue into Ariel's mouth.
Violet sits upright astride Ariel.
Ariel gasps, squirming, trying to push you off... she mmmmmphs as you kiss her
You say softly, "I think I would like to determine the extent of that claim."
Violet moves off Ariel.
You say softly, "Sit up, please."
Violet speaks softly, but there is an edge in her voice.
Ariel sits up, eyeing the door
You say softly, "Remove your sandals."
You say softly, "Throw them out of the bed onto the floor below."
Ariel shivers and nervously takes them off, throwing them out
You say softly, "Remove your T-shirt. Leave the scarf on."
You say softly, "And no protests."
Ariel shivers, slowly shaking her head
You say, "REMOVE IT!"
Violet raises her hand threateningly, but does not actually strike Ariel.
Ariel gasps and lifts off her tshirt, exposing her smallish tits well."
Ariel shivers as she tosses the shirt away
Violet looks Ariel up and down slowly and carefully, watching as her face flushes.
You say softly, "Very good. Now sit with your legs extended in front of you, unfasten your jeans, and slide them over your legs."
Ariel squirms as she slowly unzips her jeans, pulling them off
You say softly, "Don't remove them completely. Just push them down nearly to your feet."
Ariel pushes them down to her ankles
You say softly, "Now you must describe the panties you're wearing to me. Will that embarrass you?"
Ariel blushes redly. "Y..yes
You say softly, "Good. Well? Describe them aloud, please."
Ariel blushes... "T..they're frilly... pink...
You say softly, "So they are. Cotton? Rayon? Or are you the sort of evil girl who wears lace? Silk perhaps? You have to do better."
You say softly, "I can see them, but I want you to say it aloud for me."
Violet waits patiently, but not for very long.
Ariel says, "Th..they're just ordinary run of the mill panties... Rayon... or one of those fabrics"
You say softly, "Thank you. Now push them down your legs and expose yourself."
Ariel blushes as she pulls her panties down... you can see her cunt lips... and just the start of her anal crack
Violet inches forward, kneeling on the bed next to Ariel, knees touching the side of Ariel's hip. She tugs the panties roughly until they slide down and bunch up against the jeans.
Violet twists Ariel's jeans so that they wind around her legs, still being worn, and pull her legs close together. Ariel now cannot move her legs more than an inch or two apart.
You say softly, "I don't want you getting nervous and thinking about making any flying leaps, you see."
You say softly, "Now, can you guess what I'm going to ask you to do next?"
Ariel whispers, "Ariel needs to leave in a moment. :(" to you.
Ariel shakes her head
You whisper, "Darn :( That's the trouble with theatre after midnight." to Ariel.
Ariel whispers, "Ariel nodnods. :( *hug*" to you.
Violet sighs, and untwines Ariel's jeans.
Ariel whispers, "Hold the place for next time?" to you.
You say softly, "The ultimate safeword on a MUCK ... 'I have to leave' :)"
You say softly, "I certainly will."
Violet kisses Ariel.
Ariel grins.
Ariel has disconnected.

From: Columbine
Date: 11 November 1997
Subject: Sex, plots, and literature

Gabriel, you and I will never agree on this. I can't think of a compelling reason to read a book without a plot and you can't think of a compelling reason to read a book with one. I am a Philistine. I read novels. "Literature" and the pompousness therein bores me to tears. I have read books with minimalist language and books with rococo, ornate language and found examples that I love and hate of each type, so I agree with you that the adjectives are a red herring. But let us get this clear: I read to amuse myself, and what amuses me is what you would probably deem to be trash.

Dickens is a double sinner; not only is his language like a bowl of soggy cereal, but his plots are especially tritely set forth. I agree with you that there are only a handful of plots available in the universe, so it becomes especially important that a writer place a fresh spin or a fresh style on an old potboiler. The fun is in the retelling. I see nothing in Dickens that Shakespeare didn't say with more flair. Dostoyevsky I have never read, having had my brains boiled by a crowd of other Russian writers who have tried to make a virtue of a tedious gray universe, and failed miserably.

Of the "classical" works as I think of them I will read Shakespeare and Ovid and Dante and Victor Hugo, people whose primary goal was always keeping the audience on the edge of their seat. I want storytellers. Of the people who are more interested in the words than the story, I am respectful, but I either have to process their books as extended, abstract poems with tone but no sense (James Joyce) or am unable to read them due to sheer tedium (Proust). This does not mean that I don't make exceptions - I will attempt to read anything once. Faulkner is an exception. Tom Stoppard, whose plots are never the purpose of his plays, is an exception.

So on literature we must part - you to analyze a text and me to reread a Sherlock Holmes story for the eightieth time even though I know every word in it by heart and Doyle wasn't that great a writer to begin with. How can I like his potboilers and not Dickens'? I couldn't say.

Poetry is worse. You'd think that with a common love of Dickinson we could reach some sort of accord, but in poetry my tastes are even pickier and more random. I do tend to prefer poems which sting like a slap in the face. Sensual language alone doesn't get me off unless it's Rilke.

Which brings us to cybersex and an about-face. I suddenly realized in reading your mails that I am defining "plot" differently than you two are in this case. I don't want a storyline for my cybersex; in fact, I think that the elaborate plotting some people play out (I'm the beautiful princess being chased and ravished by the Black Knight) would get in the way except in, yes, exceptional cases. I've done some elaborate sexual role-playing in real life, but not often.

What I mean is that I want people to be consistent about the illusion that two entities are actually physically embracing each other, and, yes, that does mean actually having to take off the nonexistent clothes and keep track of where your partner is on the nonexistent bed and all the other things. It means taking care of continuity - if at some point your penis is inside me, I expect you to at least make a statement about how you're withdrawing it before you get up and suddenly move to the other side of the bed. Nothing is allowed to be implied. Spell it out. That's what I mean.
 Plot is also introduced in another sense because I am frequently playing either a very dominant or a very submissive character, and it is (to my mind) the responsibility of the dom to have a clear idea at all times of where this is going to go, what she's going to ask the sub to do next. If the dom stops driving at any time, the situation flounders. To a certain extent a limited amount of "plot" in the sense that you meant is useful here, as a help: I'm on a lab table and you're going to experiment on me, I'm the ingenue in the jungle movie, tied to a tree as a sacrifice, and all those other stock scenarios which don't ever go away because they're useful shorthand symbols.

Imagination and verbal articulation are my two big criteria in an online sex partner. I want people who can make me quiver with their bare words. But they're hard to find. Having props of some kind (being able to remove your clothing, etc) is an icebreaker - it helps when your partner's zeal outstrips his or her imagination, which is to say, the first few sentences. Getting an online sex act started is always the hardest part - since most of the elements which are real-life cues for "we're going to have sex now" are either missing or not nearly as powerful.

If I met more people online, Nichelle, who talked about painting their inner thighs red with a soft brush, I'd trust more to their words and less to trickery. That one will inspire me at least for the remainder of the evening. Congratulations. You've just shown in one sentence that you have more imagination than about ninety percent of the people on SPR.

Which, along with my new job which is destroying me, is why I haven't been on a MUCK in two weeks.

Eleven nineteen. I am obviously not going to write that damned article about the damned Louise Woodward case tonight. I'm going to do something mindless before bed. Eat cookies, play Quake, and masturbate. That sounds like a plan. I could do something intelligent, like having another go at PALE FIRE (a beautiful book made inaccessible by its own art) ... but after hearing Gabriel pour water on fiction for the fifth or sixth time, I'm feeling a little anti-intellectual right now. -c

From: SAGReiss
Date: 12 November 1997
Subject: The Poets' Corner

Charles Dickens did not steal his place next to Chaucer and Milton. His generation wrote for the first time in history for what may be called a mass audience. This is one reason we tend not to take him as seriously as we might. Another is his vulgarity and broad characterization, which he shared with Shakespeare and Dostoevsky. I long had a theory, since confirmed by reading Dick and Dost in French translation, that the familiarity of the language breeds contempt in certain authors. I am told that Dost seems not quite so deeply philosophical in the Russian. Please remember that he also wrote The Possessed, a brilliant and hilarious book. Be that as it may, Chas was the Man. As surely as Tolstoy wrote the great saga of the Napoleonic wars, Dickens alone captured the French Revolution in A Tale of Two Cities, that least Dickensian of books. Great Expectations gives a first-person voice to social and psychological guilt more poignantly than any other work before Freud. But I'll choose another text as an example, one that has been rewritten in Disney and comic book form, stripped of all its majestic tragedy. We can look into this passage, if you like, but I don't want to have to do all the work by myself. This is s'posed to be a collaborative medium... I should think that even some diligent readers of Dickens, to say nothing of the television audience, might be stunned by this utterly restrained mastery of phonetics and syntax:

Without one pause, or moment’s consideration; without once turning his head to the right or left, or raising his eyes to the sky, or lowering them to the ground, but looking straight before him with savage resolution: his teeth so tightly compressed that the strained jaw seemed starting through his skin; the robber held on his headlong course, nor muttered a word, nor relaxed a muscle, until he reached his own door. He opened it, softly, with a key; strode lightly up the stairs; and entering his own room, double-locked the door, and lifting a heavy table against it, drew back the curtain of the bed.

The girl was lying, half-dressed, upon it. He had roused her from her sleep, for she raised herself with a hurried and startled look.

“Get up!” said the man.

“It is you, Bill!” said the girl, with an expression of pleasure at his return.

“It is,” was the reply. “Get up.”

There was a candle burning, but the man hastily drew it from the candlestick, and hurled it under the grate. Seeing the faint light of early day without, the girl rose to undraw the curtain.

“Let it be,” said Sikes, thrusting his hand before her. “There’s light enough for wot I’ve got to do.”

“Bill,” said the girl, in the low voice of alarm, “why do you look like that at me!”

The robber sat regarding her, for a few seconds, with dilated nostrils and heaving breast; and then, grasping her by the head and throat, dragged her into the middle of the room, and looking once towards the door, placed his heavy hand upon her mouth.

“Bill, Bill!” gasped the girl, wrestling with the strength of mortal fear,- “I- I won’t scream or cry- not once- hear me- speak to me- tell me what I have done!”
“You know, you she devil!” returned the robber, suppressing his breath. “You were watched to-night; every word you said was heard.”

“Then spare my life for the love of Heaven, as I spared yours,” rejoined the girl, clinging to him. “Bill, dear Bill, you cannot have the heart to kill me. Oh! think of all I have given up, only this one night, for you. You shall have time to think, and save yourself this crime; I will not loose my hold, you cannot throw me off. Bill, Bill, for dear God’s sake, for your own, for mine, stop before you spill my blood! I have been true to you, upon my guilty soul I have!”

The man struggled violently to release his arms; but those of the girl were clasped round his, and tear her as he would, he could not tear them away.

“Bill,” cried the girl, striving to lay her head upon his breast, “the gentleman and that dear lady, told me to-night of a home in some foreign country where I could end my days in solitude and peace. Let me see them again, and beg them, on my knees, to show the same mercy and goodness to you; and this dreadful place, and far apart lead better lives, and forget how we have lived, except in prayers, and never see each other more. It is never too late to repent. They told me so- I feel it now- but we must have time- a little, little time!”

The housebreaker freed one arm, and grasped his pistol. The certainty of immediate detection if he fired, flashed across his mind even in the midst of his fury; and he beat it twice with all the force he could summon, upon the upturned face that almost touched his own.

She staggered and fell: nearly blinded with the blood that rained down from a deep gash in her forehead; but raising herself, with difficulty, on her knees, drew from her bosom a white handkerchief- Rose Maylie’s own- and holding it up, in her folded hands, as high towards Heaven as her feeble strength would allow, breathed one prayer for mercy to her Maker.

It was a ghastly figure to look upon. The murderer staggering backward to the wall, and shutting out the sight with his hand, seized a heavy club and struck her down.

Our disagreement, Columbine, may arise from the fact that we're looking for different things in a work of literature. I specifically said: "The bourgeois novel has long since outlived its usefulness AS ART." If you're looking for something to dance to, you're not using the word "music" in the same way that Nichelle uses it. Charles Ives did not write ez-listening. If a good book is an alternative to cookies, Quake (?) and masturbation, then of course anything that suits you will do. If one wants to explore new ways for the medium of language to represent the world, then one has to look further.

From: Columbine
Date: 12 November 1997
Subject: Re: The Poets' Corner

>Our disagreement, Columbine, may arise from the fact that we're looking for
>different things in a work of literature. I specifically said: "The
>bourgeois novel has long since outlived its usefulness AS ART." If you're looking for
>something to dance to, you're not using the word "music" in the same way
>that Nichelle uses it. Charles Ives did not write ez-listening. If a good book is
>an alternative to cookies, Quake (?) and masturbation, then of course
>anything >that suits you will do. If one wants to explore new ways for the medium of
>language to represent the world, then one has to look further.

Fair enough. I am indeed looking for something to dance to.

I am still not going to like Dickens, I don't think. I like A CHRISTMAS CAROL despite its maudlin treacle; that's about the maximum dosage of Dickens I can take at one time. I should admit, though, that although I don't care for A TALE OF TWO CITIES either, it is so unlike the serialized material he wrote for the magazines that I forgot he wrote it. Dickens is the man who wrote about disgustingly sentimental characters, Pip and Oliver Twist and Little Nell ... it's hard to imagine him writing anything else. So mea culpa on that one.

Quake is a computer game. You shoot things. Not much else to it.

From: SAGReiss
Date: 13 November 1997
Subject: Who the fuck is Camille Paglia?

I have no Dickens fetish. He has never been among my favorite authors. Of course my personal taste is quite irrelevent. I hate to see the old man so unjustly maligned. The last and following quotations are from Oliver Twist, not a great novel, but half of a great novel. You are quite right to point out the well-known trouble with the book. There is a vaccum at its center. Oliver is an empty narrator. On the other hand, Shakes could never have written either of these passages, nor could he have imagined Fagin, the Artful Dodger and their world. That procurers and prostitutes lived and died, sometimes at the hand of one another, Shakes might have known. Marlowe certainly did. It is said that a barkeep stabbed him because he wouldn't pay his tab. I've always thought something more must have been involved. Be that as it may, neither Shakes nor Marlowe could ever have written the deaths of a whore and a pimp in the elevated style. It was socially unthinkable. The birth of the bourgeois novel (Moll Flanders) brought these elements to the fore. Never before Oliver Twist was the underworld so fully represented in a work of art. That Dickens had a political ax to grind is besides the point. Shakes could also never have invented Pip. Again the social conditions simply did not exist in the sixteenth century. Pip's voice, stewed in the social guilt of the undeserving parvenu, is the creation of a master. Great Expectations, assuming we do away with the foolish Bulwer-Lytton ending, is a great novel, unlike Oliver Twist, because at its core is this voice of self-hatred that not even Swift could have wrought. As to A Christmas Carol, it highlights the one area in which Dickens is far superior to every other author I have ever read, in English, French, German, Latin or Greek. While Dickens had many ways of drawing his characters, some might say caricatures, he is the best I have seen at doing it in purely linguistic terms, that is defining characters by the way in which they use words. In a linguistic medium this has special merit. The "Bah, humbug," of Scrooge, the "'umble," of Uriah Heep, and we could all think of other examples, represent an astonishing degree of skill and imagination. Fitzgerald created the "Old sport," of Gatsby, but I doubt there is any other author so adept as Dickens in giving so many of his characters an idiolect, so able to describe them not by what they do or think or look like, but how they speak.

The man had shrunk down, thoroughly quelled by the ferocity of the crowd, and the impossibility of escape; but seeing this sudden change with no less rapidity than it had occurred, he sprang upon his feet, determined to make one last effort for his life by dropping into the ditch, and, at the risk of being stifled, endeavouring to creep away in the darkness and confusion.

Roused into new strength and energy, and stimulated by the noise within the house which announced that an entrance had really been effected, he set his foot against the stack of chimneys, fastened one end of the rope tightly and firmly round it, and with the other made a strong running noose by the aid of his hands and teeth almost in a second. He could let himself down by the cord to within a less distance of the ground than his own height, and had his knife ready in his hand to cut it then and drop.

At the very instant when he brought the loop over his head previous to slipping it beneath his arm-pits, and when the old gentleman before-mentioned (who had clung so tight to the railing of the bridge as to resist the force of the crowd, and retain his position) earnestly warned those about him that the man was about to lower himself down- at that very instant the murderer, looking behind him on the roof, threw his arms above his head, and uttered a yell of terror.

“The eyes again!” he cried in an unearthly screech.

Staggering as if struck by lightning, he lost his balance and tumbled over the parapet. The noose was on his neck. It ran up with his weight, tight as a bowstring, and swift as the arrow it speeds. He fell for five-and-thirty feet. There was a sudden jerk, a terrific convulsion of the limbs; and there he hung, with the open knife clenched in his stiffening hand.

The old chimney quivered with the shock, but stood it bravely. The murderer swung lifeless against the wall; and the boy, thrusting aside the dangling body which obscured his view, called to the people to come and take him out, for God’s sake.

A dog, which had lain concealed till now, ran backwards and forwards on the parapet with a dismal howl, and collecting himself for a spring, jumped for the dead man’s shoulders. Missing his aim, he fell into the ditch, turning completely over as he went; and striking his head against a stone, dashed out his brains.

From: SAGReiss
Date: 15 November 1997
Subject: Mary Kay calls it quits

6-month sentence issued in child sex case

KENT, Wash. - A teacher who had sex with a sixth-grade boy and gave birth to his child was sentenced Friday to six months in jail - counting 100 days she has already served.

The judge also ordered Mary Kay LeTourneau, 35, to undergo three years of outpatient treatment. She had pleaded guilty in August to two counts of second-degree child rape.

Mrs. LeTourneau must serve the 80 days remaining in her six-month sentence before she is released for community-based treatment.

"I did something that I had no right to do," a tearful Mrs. LeTourneau told the court after sentencing. "I give you my word it will not happen again. ... It was wrong and I am sorry."

Turning aside a prosecution recommendation for a 6 1/2-year sentence, Superior Court Judge Linda Lau said she was persuaded that the defendant "does not pose a risk to the community under this sentencing option." She noted the boy and his family had urged lenience.

Lau ordered Mrs. LeTourneau to have no contact with the victim or any other minor unless it is expressly authorized by those treating her for her sex-offender problem.

Any violation of conditions set by the court or the Corrections Department would result in a 7 1/2-year prison term, the judge said.

At the sentencing hearing, the mother of the boy - 13 when the sexual
relationship began - read a letter to the court supporting Mrs. LeTourneau, saying she is aware society does not approve of the relationship.

The mother's name was not disclosed to protect the boy's privacy. With the permission of child welfare authorities, she is caring for the baby girl born in May. The boy remains in the household, too.

"Society does not wake up at 2 in the morning when the baby cries," the boy's mother said in her letter. She said her son will feel guilty about his role in the liaison "as long as she is in jail."

In urging treatment, defense attorney David Gehrke said his client has already endured "massive punishment."

The prosecution's recommended sentence was in the middle of the standard-range penalty of from 5 1/2 to 7 1/2 years in prison. Mrs. LeTourneau remains in denial and is a poor candidate for treatment, deputy prosecutor Lynn Johnson said.

"She is an adult who sexually abused a boy" and she still "does not appreciate the wrongfulness of any of her behavior," Johnson said. She contended Mrs. LeTourneau "blames the victim."

Gehrke said Mrs. LeTourneau knew her actions were wrong morally and professionally, but took the risks in part because of her diagnosed "hypomania," a type of bipolar mental disorder. Bipolar disorders, such as manic-depression, are characterized by mood swings.

He also said her crime was "much less harmful" than those committed by other child rapists, because the boy doesn't consider himself a victim.

Mrs. LeTourneau was a teacher in the Highline School District south of Seattle and a married mother of four when she began a sexual relationship with the boy in the summer of 1996, after his sixth-grade year.

"There was a respect, an insight, a spirit, an understanding between us that grew over time," Mrs. LeTourneau told The Seattle Times last summer.

The boy, now 14, has said he was a willing participant, and that he and Mrs. LeTourneau exchanged rings and planned the pregnancy to affirm their bond.

Mrs. LeTourneau said she still loves the boy, and he has told interviewers he hopes they can be together one day.

The affair was revealed when Mrs. LeTourneau's husband, Steve, found love letters from the boy. He has moved to Alaska with their children and is seeking a divorce.

"I just want her to get help," he said in an October interview with the Orange County Register in California, where Mrs. LeTourneau grew up. Her father, John Schmidt, was an archconservative Republican state senator and one-term congressman - a fiery opponent of sex education in the schools. His political career ended in 1983 when it was revealed that he had two children with a mistress.

From: Nichelle
Date: 18 November 1997
Subject: never post a personal ad






From: Nichelle
Date: 20 November 1997
Subject: on my machine, 6:59 PM

ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring
ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring
ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring
ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring
ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring
hel-lo... I must have your breasts
ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring
ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring
ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring


From: Nichelle
Date: 22 November 1997
Subject: 1-206-fag-riot

Did you know our phone number spells fag riot? Hmm...


From: SAGReiss
Date: 25 November 1997
Subject: Deadbeat Dad

There's a lovely family staying at the hotel. They're in town to attend a wedding. There are three or four elderly sisters, a son, the doctor, and lots of children. They are not easy to wait on because they come in streams, a table of three becomes five, then eight, then twelve. But they are a pleasure. Usually when someone pours half a cup of cream in his coffee and waits ten minutes before tasting it, he complains bitterly that we're serving "ice-cold" coffee. These ladies smile apologetically and ask for a new cup. Of course we are stealing them blind. Typically waiters add a fifteen-percent gratuity to parties of six or more, unless they think they can do better, or something went horribly wrong. (I think it's rude to add a tip if I've totally fucked up the service, though some don't care. In this case I don't "write it in" and hope for a gesture of sympathy.) Unfortunately these people don't go to restaurants very often and don't seem to notice. Yesterday I wrote in a twelve-dollar tip and they added another eighteen because I'm such a good guy. I feel bad about it, but thirty dollars is thirty dollars. I'm too poor to be honest. Nichelle thinks I've given up on the World. This is untrue. I haven't been writing because nothing funny or interesting ever happens at the University Plaza, and I never go to bars anymore, and I guess I've spent a lot of my energy scheming and plotting for Pulcinella pizza e pasta. I now know that my mother will kick in the ten grand we need to get started. If we ever decide that this is the way we want to spend the next five or ten years of our lives, we can get married and plan on opening six months later, the time to secure a loan, find a place and BOOM, one month later we're open. You're all invited to PizzaBash. In the inimitable words of Columbine: "No substitutions. Please pay server."

From: SAGReiss
Date: 28 November 1997
Subject: Thanklessgiving

The Rainier Club, built in 1905, is a private, members-only club for rich white boiz, a social club, if by "social" we understand primarily eating. It's a union house, not that I derive any benefits from the dues I pay because I am part-time, on-call banquet staff. We wear tuxedo shirts, bow ties and black vests, while the girls wear grey housekeeping dresses with oversized white collars. I'm not sure why this is. Yesterday afternoon we served this large, extended family their Thanksgiving dinner. I must admit I felt more sympathy than scorn for them. Part of the charm of family holidays, and the reason they occur only once or twice a year, is the shared work, the casual atmosphere and, yes, the drunken brawls, the insulting one another's husbands and wives. This was a party of twenty-six adults and ten kids, the men dressed in suits and ties, the ladies in everything from power suits to harlot gowns. No alcohol was served. No one had any fun. The whole thing was rushed so fast that there was no time. We passed hors d'oeuvres at half past four, served appetizers at five, entrees at half past five, desert at six. It was madness. We couldn't get one course served before the next was coming out of the kitchen. This could never happen at home, because enough people would have to finish before momentum could be generated to clear one course and fire the next. I recall family Thanksgivings as lavish affaires sprawling untidily from noon to six, with playtime, cleaning, screaming arguments, burnt dishes, spills, tears and enough excitement so that no one wanted to see anyone else for at least a few months. This little get-together, with no menu item that could not have easily been prepared at home, cost our friends a thousand dollars. My cut came to forty. A twenty-five-pound turkey would have fed these people. Nichelle and I could have catered it out of our fifty-square-foot kitchen for five dollars a head. The poor microwave TV dinners, while the rich eat out, and nobody has to do the dishes.

From: Nichelle
Subject: Thankless, etc.
Date: 30 November 1997

This is my first moment alone with the television off since I got here at 12:22 early on Thursday. I don't want to tell you what I ate. You can't say no to the sweet potatoes when your brother brings those, can't say no to the rolls when Mom made them from scratch this year. (I was impressed.) I haven't seen much of my so-called friends. Jen and I went to the famous bar at Europa on Friday night and spent several hours talking over roasted garlic and chianti, then walked around Riverfront Park together, talked by the river on the Opera House steps, then headed off to Hobart's (a jazz bar) to listen to the mighty Jim Templeton Quartet. She and I are both making the same mistake in our current relationship- we're trying to force one person to meet all of our needs. If only the two of us lived in the same town, we wouldn't have that problem. It amazes me that after all of the years, misunderstandings, changes in beliefs (She used to come to my house on Thanksgiving for turkey sandwiches, and now she chains herself to the supermarket freezer case shouting "Don't gobble me!")we still know each other, have things in common. She is the only woman I can talk with about sex, or held hands with walking through the park. Before my family comes in to read this over my shoulder (you see where I get my habits, sweetheart?) here is what I wrote about Thanksgiving when I was nine years old:

Thanksgiving is the most wonderful day! It gives you a chance to be with your family. being within your family is like going to any special occasion or outing. You get a chance to be loved and you are happy. I like Thanksgiving.

The very best part of Thanksgiving was the food. The turkey was very tasty! I especially liked the potatoes. Smothered with butter the vegitables were scrumtious. Boy what a meal.

See you soon, sweetheart. Please forward this to the list.

Muchas smoochas,

From: SAGReiss
Date: 30 November 1997
Subject: Soy sauce

I set off to work this morning with the idea of screwing my fellow worker. There was a reservation for fifteen to twenty, and I had decided that I would do that, clean up and go home, which is pretty much how it worked out. By the time he arrived at seven, I had already set up ten deuces in the bar. The cook was grumbling about the large party. I told him: "Don't worry, brother. I'll take care of you. No stupid-ass orders. Trust me." For all I knew they might have been Jesus freaks with English muffins and seperate checks, or old fuckers with Entertainment cards. What they were was seventeen Orientals who couldn't speak a word of English. "Great," I thought. "Everyone gets a large orange juice and coffee at the lunch price." Which was fair, since Orientals like orange juice, and I only screwed them out of seventy-five cents plus tax a head, well a little more, since not all of them drank both juice and coffee. When it came time to order, someone mentioned toast. "There's no fucking way I'm serving toast to seventeen people," I thought. "You mean French toast? With sausage and fruit?" I was laughing all the way back to the kitchen. "Yo, Eric. I can't make it much easier than this. There's only two items. Eight French toast plus and nine farmer's breakfasts. You can make all the eggs scrambled. Fuck 'em." I didn't want to use our little-ass syrup decanters, so I poured the shit into gravy boats. When I brought it out, I tried to explain what maple syrup is, which it isn't of course. It's some kind of corn syrup, but whatever. "This ain't the Four Seasons, honey." I was enthusiastically describing tree biology, the spring harvest and the ancient maple forests of British Columbia, when one of the chinks looks at me, smiles, and says: "Soy sauce?" "Whatever works for you, bro." They enjoyed themselves, and so did I. The only sour point: some asshole did tell them about gratuity included, so I only got my fifteen percent, but it was fun, definitely worth twenty-five dollars. This job isn't so bad...

October 1997

December 1997

vr: 1997

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