Newly minted blogs are like rows of shining suburban tract homes, radiant with banality, waiting for their audiences, like young couples, to move in and make something of them. The realtor can provide a lovely array of designs and pre-made arrangements for the positioning of furniture, yet most blogs – like actual houses in the US – remain untenanted by an audience, although for altogether opposing reasons. And yet the seething blogosphere mimics the overcrowding of urban apartment buildings in cities such as Hong Kong, what Michael Wolf calls an “architecture of density.” (The metaphors that come to mind to describe this packed electronic architecture tend to be biological, and aquatic: crabs in a barrel, sardines in a can.) Blogs are suburban in that the majority of them are superfluous, vacant, and uniform, but urban in that they are packed together in a manner worsening the underlying condition – in this case, the deafening hum of surplus cultural noise.
Today’s contribution to cultural sprawl comes in the form of a fictional improvisation I wrote a month back. I gave myself half an hour, and chose the two words “time” and “rain” to go from. It was brought about by coming across a quote of Jorge Borges’ I had written down in a notebook. I think I originally found it in an anthology by Alberto Manguel. I’ve always found it an oddly moving statement.
“And yet, and yet, time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river that carries me away, but I am the river; it is a tiger that tears me apart, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that consumes me, but I am the fire. The world, alas, is real; I, alas, am Borges.”
‘There was rain over everything, rain that pirouetted up and down eaves, cascaded across hillsides, suffocated avenues and clogged parking lots, rain that came inside, did not know the boundaries where it was allowed to rain or not, rain that trickled through shut casements, rain that screamed out of ceilings like an angry mouth, rain that poured into glasses of milk, rain that soaked freshly made bread, rain that ruined crown molding and formed bacteria which later killed the owners of houses, rain that destroyed various pieces of fungible electronic equipment, rain that drowned small animals and gave children colds.
Then as quickly as there was rain, there was no rain left. The world ran out of rain. The rain shortage became a drought, and crops began to die, and the spaces of the planet that had been laid aside, demarcated, and given permission to be land, were swollen and parched like a tightening throat.
Salt water was brought up from the oceans and boiled and then used to irrigate fields, but this was expensive and took a lot of time. But fortunately the shortage of rain was replaced by an excess of time, and time itself began to slide down the sky like a smear of blood, and time introduced itself to hot plates of food, and dribbled and sopped and spattered all over vacuumed carpets, and groaned down entryways.
Because the human species is constituted by time, rather than moving in it like a liquid, like rain, some of this gross excess of time turned into flesh. Flesh that wrinkled itself and tumbled over steps, flesh that sat green on white tablecloths, flesh that burned redly on cement, flesh that grew sores and pimples, flesh that dissolved as if with acid and left awful smells lingering, flesh that convulsed and throbbed, flesh that reproduced, etc. Some of this flesh began to be used as food, or at least, the flesh which did not fall rotten from the time, or which was not horribly mangled or injured – as the flesh for some strange reason did all the things and had all the things happen to it that normal flesh does.
This soon became the main diet of everyone, but still there was so much time that everyone kept eating because there was nothing to do. But there was too much to eat. The days sat wide and open like a vastness of plains and never seemed to end. Soon the days became so large they dwarfed everything else, and the entirety of human existence winked out like a dead star under the hugeness of the days.
Soon no one even knew they existed, they were so small. And some time after that, as the days outgrew the universe in every direction like a boy hitting puberty, maybe they didn’t.
Let’s say they didn’t.’