Confessions from a Dark Wood
by Eric Raymond
Sator Press, 2012
204 pages / $13.00 buy from Sator Press
1. The book begins with a section of “Advance Praise.” Among the quoted, all characters from the story about to unfold, is the deceased father of the author (or co-author, we are told), who gives what is perhaps the first indication that the world you have entered is not only darkly satirical, but propelled forward by something urgent and deeply felt. We may not yet recognize this as the complicated love between father and son, but we catch a glimpse of it and it startles:
“Oh, so you finally have a book. You must be so proud. Congratulations, son. You know, in the afterlife, books are our toilet paper. I’m saying we literally wipe our asses with books. Go figure.”
2. There is little sentimentality here. We meet Nick Bray at his father’s memorial service, which he likens to a church tag sale. He describes what has been left out of the haphazard displays of the artifacts of his father’s life. An empty table, he tells us, “might have stood for all that was omitted from a memorial, i.e. a few decades of filching undergraduate panties, a pyramid of Miller Lite cans, a tape loop of doors slamming around our house, and the amputated legs below the knee, which had shuffled off this mortal coil six years ahead of my father.”
3. At this memorial, a stranger approaches Nick with a potentially lucrative, albeit mysterious job offer, which he dismisses.
4. Back home, after he is fired from his job at an internet porn company where he writes promotional copy, he is forced to assess his situation. He is aimless. He dresses poorly (consider the white Cuban shirt and slip-on shoes he wears to the funeral). He is broke. He reconsiders.
5. One of Nick’s new coworkers is an orangutan. I am not speaking in metaphor. “Shelby” is an advisor to Pontius J. LaBar, CEO, LaBar Partners Limited. He has his own office, of course.
6. Full disclosure: I consider Eric Raymond a friend and fellow traveler although we know each other almost exclusively through twitter. I had coffee with him once at Four Barrel on Valencia. There was a taxidermied moose head that was later stolen. It was nice: the coffee, the moose head. In this book, there is an unflattering portrayal of a Korean adoptee. I am trying not to hold it against him.
7. I am a Korean adoptee.
8. Friend or no, unflattering representations or no, it is difficult not to be drawn into this bizarre world, to be seduced, as Nick himself is, into a surreal landscape of glittering surfaces.
9. After the limousine rides and the custom-made suits; after the commissioned “superfixie,” the apartment overlooking the city, the DuMol Viogner, Nick is well on his way to his new life of airports and minibars in highrise hotels. Expect jargon-laden client meetings and self-annointed brand experts. Expect furious email messages at all hours of the night from the buffoon Pontius. Paranoia. Buffoonery.
10. What do you do when you open the door to the airplane lavatory only to find your dead father waiting for you? If you are Nick Bray, you ask him for advice and then watch as he flushes himself down the toilet. READ MORE >
November 28th, 2012 / 1:01 pm
It’s like this: you’re working for a potentially—fuck it, most likely—criminal enterprise, morally criminal if not legally, and details start to coalesce as a guide that saves you from the impending organizational explosion.
I began to feel the details swarm in my first official meeting as LPL’s VP of SEBA. We were in the offices of a major… bottled product conglomerate. The receiving executives were young, fresh faced, their dumb smiles free of the shitjargon that was to blast out of Pontius’s mouth when given some nod, the masochistic invitation to pitch. At this point, if you can’t tell, I’m starting to hate myself.
“The brandlandish—but true!—claims your previous executive product development team failed to recognize have come around—luckily for [COMPANY NAME REDACTED]— and I praise you infamous men for giving it a second look,” Pontius began, advancing past the slide with long-necked giraffe I’d come to loathe.
“The era of terroir tap water is about to begin. You can either claim to own their flavorful pipes, or lose out to your competitors. Who will bottle nether-regions of Brooklyn? Who the Western Addition of San Francisco, The Missionary District? Gentlemen. You already own the glass, you own the distribution… now own the tasting notes for America’s nuanced tap-water economy!”
He advanced the slide again, and the precious mock-ups (hand-drawn?) of “The Taste of America” bottles appeared on the flatscreen.
It is very hard not to palm one’s face in a meeting like this. And this was just one of many. READ MORE >