June 25th, 2013 / 4:29 pm
Author Spotlight & Random

28 points: Sum by David Eagleman

  1. David Eagleman doesn’t have a PhD in Creative Writing; he has a PhD in neuroscience. He “runs a lab,” a known euphemism for being really smart or well-connected or crazy. Like many of us, he is best known for his work on time perception, synesthesia, and neurolaw. I think people should be good at one thing, or none. For example, Lindsey Vohn I wouldn’t tolerate as a neighbor. She is a gold medalist/world champion downhill skier AND has a body like a manifesto, hair of poured honey, and incredible access to the drug stash of Tiger Woods. This seems a bit unfair.
  2. Sum is a flash fiction collection. Forty flash fictions. Forty is a holy number but I’m not sure that’s relative here. (I hate when people use relative when they mean relevant. Several students I don’t admire overuse the term, stench. I have no idea why.)
  3. Sum is a best seller and is published in about 30 languages, so if you contemplate flash fiction as a variety of minor genre, a weed, per say, you can stick it, or you can keep on thinking it, both are fine. Do what you want to do. This life isn’t a dress rehearsal, now is it?
  4. Death and science make sense together, like peanut butter and bread, marriage and secret email accounts, etc. They merge. Science shows us that everything is heading to a worse state. Clean your room on Monday and check it out on Friday. It will be messier (unless you add work/energy, but even then soon as you stop adding work/energy/calories, the first dust mote settles and the room heads towards disorder once again…). We are all becoming messier, day by day.
  5. Klein
  6. More and more we get these flash fiction collections.
  7. This one
  8. Or this one.
  9. Or for example, Facebook.
  10. Ha, ha…groan.
  11. Every flash by David Eagleman has one subject: the afterlife.

In the afterlife you relive all your experiences, but this time with the events reshuffled into a new order: all the moments that share a quality are grouped together. You spend two months driving the street in front of your house, seven months having sex. You sleep for thirty years without opening your eyes. For five months straight you flip through magazines while sitting on a toilet.

11. A flash fiction author just won the Booker Prize, so, seriously, you can stick it.

12. The afterlife is presented in many forms, thoughts, scenarios. This sort of makes sense. We have no fucking idea about the afterlife. It is one and all things. What types of things, in Eagleman’s mind?

13. I am not really concerned about the afterlife because it seems out of my hands, but these flash fictions are whimsical and wonderful and actually make you think about your Now Life (really the most important life).

14. Wittgenstein goes “The real question of life after death isn’t whether or not it exists, but even if it does what problem this really solves?”

15. The afterlife is actually the body of God and we are her/his organs, or maybe like cells, yeh cells, but then we’re actually  cancerous—you and me, because a creator can’t control its creation and that, my friends, will be His/Her undoing.

15.5 I wrote this while on a motorcycle so excuse any typos.

16. Actually the afterlife is a place populated only by those people you’ve met before. So it’s like Earth but with a whole lot less people. It basically makes you wish you’d met more people in your life, life. It’s a lesson that way. Go meet more people.

17. “The afterlife is full of cell phones, mugs, porcelain knickknacks, business cards, candlesticks, dartboards.”

18. The afterlife is a place where Mary Wollonstonecraft Shelley sits on a throne, where she is “…cared for and protected by a covey of angels.” Why? Because Frankenstein is God’s favorite book.

19. The afterlife is a like a Vegas porn/drug vacation, only not really (it’s a complex ruse) and God is pissed about it, too. Why? Because his invention, Faith, is turned against him. If we believe the afterlife is a party, it is, maybe.

20. Here is an interview with the author. You’re welcome.

21. No one comes back from the afterlife to tell us what’s up.

21.5 God is a boy and a girl and then later a married couple.

22. The afterlife is a place where you can have one wish to come back as something else besides yourself. For example, a horse:

You announce your decision. Incantations are muttered, a wand is waved, and your body begins to metamorphose into a horse. Your muscles start to bulge; a mat of strong hair erupts to cover you like a comfortable blanket in winter. The thickening and lengthening of your neck immediately feels normal as it comes about. Your carotid arteries grow in diameter, your fingers blend hoofward, your knees stiffen, your hips strengthen, and meanwhile, as your skull lengthens into its new shape, your brain races in its changes: your cortex retreats as your cerebellum grows, the homunculus melts man to horse, neurons redirect, synapses unplug and replug on their way to equestrian patterns, and your dream of understanding what it is like to be a horse gallops toward you from the distance. Your concern about human affairs begins to slip away, your cynicism about human behavior melts, and even your human way of thinking begins to drift away from you.

Suddenly, for just a moment, you are aware of the problem you overlooked. The more you become a horse, the more you forget the original wish. You forget what it was like to be a human wondering what it was like to be a horse.

23. Beautiful writing, isn’t it?

24. Enough of what the book is about. Only assholes go around asking, ‘What is the book about?”

25. The writing!

25.5 In ER nursing, we called motorcycles “donor-cycles.”

26. Yasunari Kawabata won the 1968 Nobel Prize, so stick it.

27. Or don’t stick it. You still have time.


Tags: ,


  1. Bill Hsu

      I had high hopes for Sum. But it wore really thin, pretty fast. I thought the writing could have been tighter too.


  2. columbusmatt

      “per say”


  3. A D Jameson

      I spy
      with my little eye
      Yves Klein.

  4. youxi211