I love The Stranger. It's the alternative weekly tabloid in Seattle (that is to say properly that it's only one of several, but that's only true in theory. In practice it gets a definite article in front of it). It's a newspaper written by people squarely in my demographic, most of whom live in my neighborhood (Capitol Hill--Seattle, like many cities these days, is a very neighborhood-y city). They're unabashedly liberal, gay, offensive, crude, funny--the mouthpiece of the kind of society that gives the Religious Right fits.
But this is not a mash note for the paper edited by sex-advice columnist Dan Savage. The Stranger, like probably every other free weekly tabloid in the nation, runs from time to time full page ads from whomever cares to pay to run them (I assume also there's some manner of editorial screening process, but The Stranger seems generally not the type of organization that would judge you). This week there's a two page spread, consisting entirely of type that appears to be about .000016 point Times New Roman, from this guy. He appears to have, in the past, claimed to be the reincarnation of Christ. On the other hand, in his messianic state of being he also claims that George W. Bush is his opposite number, so it's, you know, hard to argue with that. This week he seems to be claiming that people who reject the idea of incest are full of shame, whereas people who accept the beauty of it are full of love, and that soon the incest taboo that exists in our society will be destroyed, possibly violently. There also seems to be something about Niel (sic) Young and how he's some manner of prophet. Also somebody named Reuben seems to be involved. I couldn't quite understand it all. Though I tried.
It's pretty easy to skip these things over. I assume that's what nearly every body does. It's also pretty easy to read a paragraph or two to your friends, laugh hysterically, take another hit from the gravity bong, and turn back to re-runs of The Simpsons (I'm not saying you're a bad person if that's what you do. Like Dan Savage, I'm not here to judge you). What turns out to be surprisingly hard is to try and figure out, I don't know, what the hell this guy is trying to say.
Maybe this is guy is literally having sex with his uncle on a regular basis, and he's trying to make it okay, hence his fascination in this week's two-pager with incest, shame, and "Niel Young." But I doubt it. Or rather, I hope not, because in that case...well, first he's literally having sex with his uncle (but again, I'm not here to judge), and second, this installment of his on-going, ten-trillion word manifesto has a lot less potentially interesting subtext (literalness is soooo mundane, don't you think?). Whatever the case, this guy is not on the same plane of existence as I, whereas he's clearly got a lot on his mind and has gone to great lengths to say it, whether anybody else is listening or not (though probably orders of magnitude more people are reading his thoughts than are reading mine these days). (Apparently in the process of writing this entry I have been possessed by the parenthetical-comment making spirit of David Foster Wallace. Sorry about that). (Have you seen that David Foster Wallace wrote a book about infinity? It's like irony is dead. Or something that's like irony, only with more footnoted digressions). I can't understand his symbolism, or metaphors, or what his personal shame is, or what he thinks mine is. But what really is the difference between this Manifesto-Man and somebody else with a lot on their mind, say David Foster Wallace?
Q: Um, the difference is that David Foster Wallace is not totally freaking insane.
A: Actually David Foster Wallace is totally freaking insane.
Q: Okay, yes he is, but you know what I mean.
A: Yes. I could argue semantically with you for hours, but I do know what you mean. I'm looking for the other side of the coin, though. Isn't his being insane also equivalent to my inability to perceive reality on the same level as he?
Q: Uh, no?
A: Perhaps you're right.
Q: Can I just say that none of this is making me want to get acupunctured by you, now or ever?