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 (The Merry-Go-Round is Beginning to Taunt Me[1])

 

1. Author As [not circus] Dog Trainer (Cris)

You can’t lie to a dog. Or you can’t lie badly. While training dogs, you need to be “telling” them, with both body-language and voice, that they are the center of the universe to you, and that what they do for you—and what you’re doing together—makes you happier, and means more to you, than anything else in the world. They can tell if you’re lying. If you’re unconsciously communicating to them that you’re disappointed or upset because you’re thinking about something else, something offstage—whether your life’s true dilemma or your most current disappointment—they take it on as stress. To dogs, it’s all about them. So the trainer has to be able to convince the dog of that, whether it’s true in the trainer’s larger life or not. Problem is, the dog can usually tell. A good trainer doesn’t have “a larger life.” It’s never “just a dog” and therefore easy to lie to.

I was asked recently to explain what I’m doing here. At first I thought the inquiry was directed at some big cosmic question, like, What are you doing here, on earth? Or, likewise, What is the meaning of your life? Assuming that to be the question, I answered honestly: I haven’t a clue. But my interlocutor was not asking the metaphysical question. The question was directed to my writing, as in, What do you write about? It is a more embarrassing question to answer, actually. Embarrassing because, again, I haven’t a clue. People really don’t expect you to be able to answer the big cosmic questions. The questions have been around too long and everyone knows there aren’t really any answers. But the more focused question, like what do you write about? or the dinner party question, What do you do? those questions are due an answer. (The dinner party question drives me crazy. What do I do? I do what everyone else does: eat, sleep, shit, work, die. The real question being asked is: Are you above or below my socio-economic caste?–a disdainful and not-so-coy method of evaluation. But, for god’s sake, just come out and ask it straight-up.) The question, again, was What are I doing here? Here being this forum, TNB, or likewise my blog, or other such efforts. What do I write about? What am I doing here? The question achingly begs the sad answer: I haven’t a clue.

“In all radical parties, I enjoy a strange, almost mysterious respect.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

This is a curious business, this matter of writing about a book, and at that a book written about a book, or books, or even more curious, the writer of books. This “meta” business is potentially so tedious. I guess we have the French to thank for that. Yet, it is something I am drawn to, a thing I am compelled, for reasons which escape me, to further in my own singular  fashion. So, I layer on, like a hiker going out into a New England winter, layer upon layer: the writer writing about other’s who have written before him. And it is so that I come to a biography of a writer who took the writers and their work before him and tried to make sense of it all. And someone writing about him writing and me writing about that writer and the writer of which he wrote. It does make sense, however; is that not what we all do, try but to make sense of what precedes us? And make sense of that sense? What if in doing so, we are driven, like some wild beast gone crazy, to a center that cannot hold, that makes us mad, that renders us to the world inchoate, such as the subject of this biography, Friedrich Nietzsche. What if then?