Tag Archives: Thomas de Quincey

Confessions of an American Vicodin-Eater

What?  It’s already most of the way through November and it’s Thanksgiving next week?  How did this happen!?  CRAZYPANTS.  Amazing how time flies when you’re on palliative narcotics.  Which I’m currently withdrawing from.  Laaaaaaaame.  But at least the broken rib is healed enough that I don’t pass out from pain when I sneeze.  And breathing hurts only a little.  At some point I tried to do a take off on Thomas de Quincey called “Confessions of an American Vicodin-Eater” in which I chronicled all my fevered drug dreams in a posh late eighteenth century voice.  I only got two paragraphs in before the enterprise was abandoned because, you know, one’s motivation is not at its peak when on pain-relieving depressants.  Bummer because my unconscious was like Exploding Jungian Theater every night.  (The nightmares: I am trapped between the living and the dead.  I am trespassing on lost places I used to love and getting in trouble with the authorities.  I am always losing my teeth, or bleeding from somewhere.  I wake up to find that I am still asleep and wake up again to find that I am still asleep, thus in an infinite loop so that when I finally do wake up, I am not entirely certain that I am not still asleep.  I dream of babies and wounded birds and tiny fetal animals that fit in the palm of my hand, small vulnerable things that are easily destroyed.  The water is so icy and the shock of it when it penetrates my lungs makes me gasp and draw more of it in I am the wreck Titanic the wreck Titanic the wreck Titanic)–yeah, it was like that.  I might have also written a couple of ill-advised missives displaying atrocious vulnerability to certain individuals while in the more maudlin throes of chasing the dragon.  Seriously, kids, drugs are bad.  Don’t do drugs.

Somewhere in there, I wrote a short story about perfume noses that my agent liked, so it will probably be submitted after another round of revision.  Must get back to the novel though.  Good God, the nights are long all of a sudden.

a palimpsest

Here is, courtesy of Thomas de Quincey, the awesomest analogy ever.  I’ve been reading his collected works all afternoon and had to post this essay (which states, human brain = palimpsest) because it was so good I felt I needed a cigarette after.  Note that this piece was written a full 11 years before Freud entered our roiling world through his agonized mother’s tattered loins.  Also note that I have been immersed in Quincey’s prose for hours, thus you must forgive me if mine is currently ever so slightly empurpled.

Anyway, this kind of awesomeness was why I tried to be an academic in the first place, and a Romanticist specifically.  The reason why I could not stay an academic is that, when confronted with a text such as this, my natural response is not to apply or relate it to other texts, or to place it in a historical context, or to take little pieces of it to inscribe in my own essay.  My natural response is to write a story in which the mental landscape of the protagonist is rendered in a series of overlaid images.  No, wait–my natural response is to squeal in delighted recognition because I am already writing a story in which the mental landscape of the protagonist is rendered in a series of overlaid images (there often turns out to be unexpected resonance between what I am writing and what I happen to come across in my reading adventures).

(And yes, of course, written last week: “Oh how happy they are!  The man has finally made the girl a woman.  Reach out to the image to warm your hand with its soft glow.  But when your finger skims it there is a sound like dry leaves and the music stops.  You notice it is ever so slightly frayed in the corner, you see?  Pull a little and it comes up, it is overlaid on top of something else, another image.  Pull some more, it makes a sound like tape being torn up, and expose what is beneath, still dewy and crinkled and unsure of the light like a butterfly unfurling from its chrysalis.  Blurry at first, snow.  Covering the ground as far as the eye can see, it sometimes stirs itself in rising whorls when the wind breathes on it, and there, in the distance, galloping in from the horizon—a Cossack.”)

Anyway, random advice to aspiring writers out there: yes, support the careers of current authors.  Buy their hardcover editions at independent book stores and go to their readings (especially, ahem, the ones whose first books are coming out next February, wink wink nudge nudge).  But don’t forget to read dead dudes.   Don’t forget that when you’re writing a framed narrative that acknowledges its own “storyness,” you are not being clever in a never-before-seen, post-modern way.  Don’t forget that what you’re doing has been done centuries ago, then erased, then done again.  Don’t forget that you too will be erased.  Yearn for it.  Dream that one day you will be a mere particle breathed in by a text that does not yet exist.