A small, but growing, minority of contributors to Continuum's excellent 33 1/3
series of short books about single albums have opted to use fiction to search for larger truths about their subjects. This group includes me. My contribution, Shoot Out The Lights
, features a fictional narrator describing the real events around the making of Richard and Linda Thompson's landmark album. Those were not happy times for the real people involved, and I wanted both to give them their space and dignity and to still delve into the rich wellspring of emotion on the album. Ergo, fiction.
One could point out that the songs themselves are fictions. Indeed, Richard Thompson himself claims that the songs on this album ? many of which take place right at the emotional event horizon of a bad break-up ? are entirely separate from the events of real life, despite the reality of the Thompsons' divorce a few months after the album was recorded. I think Thompson's claim is both true and false (or neither true nor false, depending on your outlook), which my book discusses at more length. But it's inarguable that the songs deal with made-up people in made-up situations saying made-up things to each other. In fact (I hope you are sitting down!), it's entirely possible that almost every song ever written, even the confessional ones, are like this.
With this in mind, the powers-that-be at 33 1/3 Industries granted me permission to assemble a crack team of superscientists, caterers, and theoretical ontologists to explore the possibility of fictional cloning. Fictional cloning, as I'm sure you're aware, involves reproducing something that never quite existed before, such as the remainder of Schu-bert's Unfinished Symphony or Dick Cheney's soul. I am proud to announce that, after months of work, we have reached the final stage of the project. This news is quite a relief to everyone involved, as a recent audit found that 84% of our funding seems to have vanished in a haze of cheap beer, lottery tickets, and dubious "massage" parlors.
Our research found that the best method would involve something the theoretical ontologists call a Schrödinger's box, in which we would place the objects we intended to clone, along with our desired outcome, and then close. As long as the box remained closed, they reported a 50% success rate, but opening the boxes proved these results theoretical at best. Come to think of it, the theoretical ontologists themselves may or may not have existed.
Finally, one of the superscientists hit upon the idea of reproducing the transporter from The Fly, itself a fictional construct, and hoping for equally untroubling results. I am proud to report that this has worked as well as anything else we've tried. This morning, we stuck a book and album on one side and successfully created the following abomination, which we now present for your reading pleasure.
From Hex Enduction Hour by Flannery O'Connor:
The next night, Haze parked the Kraken in front of the Hotel Aggro and climbed up it and began to preach. "I tell you that this is the home of the vain!" he called. "Too much romantic here! I destroy romantics! Actors! Kill it! Kill it-ah!" He'd begun to slip on the slick rust, and his arm made a vague motion describing the crescent arc of English longhorns. A short man with a feral look stopped to listen.
"I say happy memories leave a bitter taste," he called. "I got a prison in me! Our bodies weren't made for times like these, and I ask where are the obligatory---" A bottle, tossed almost carelessly from a passing car filled with dark youths, shattered on the hood near Haze. One boy leaned out and pointed at Haze. "Hey there, fuckface," he said. Then he pulled back into the car and off it sputtered, leaving blue smoke in its wake.
Haze felt the deep conviction exhaling from his lungs. The feral man looked disgusted and shouted something at Haze. "Speak up! I can't understand you!" called Haze. The feral man shouted something else. "Speak English!" called Haze, pinpointing the source of his confusion. A fat woman passing by with a baby carriage paused, and said to Haze, "That's English like they speak in England." Haze didn't believe this and said so. The feral man spit on the ground, walked around to the other side of the Kraken, and urinated on it.
"I don't think he likes being unappreciated," the woman said. The feral man pointed at Haze and said something that sounded to Haze like a threat. "What'd he say?" he asked the woman. She said, "He said you were in the band, but you're fired now."
"I can't play nothing," said Hazel Motes. The woman looked down at her sleeping baby. "These two are nuts," she said. "I never seen no band where people who can't play get hired and fired by people they can't even understand."
Of course, all that makes more sense if you're already a fan of The Fall and know about Mark E. Smith's proclivities towards obscure lyrics, firing band members, and getting arrested for peeing in public. There's a great moment later where the feral man (for he is indeed Mark E.) and Hazel Motes have made an album together and Motown Records wants to hear it. The Motown executives make it about 20 seconds into the first song. It's fiction! Except that this really happened, albeit Flannery O'Connor's blind preacher wasn't involved, to the best of my knowledge. Anyway, when we found the text in our cloning device, there was a note with it that read:
"SOMEBOD PUT MY NAME ON THESE SONGS BUT I DONT LIKE NONE OF THEM DONT SAY I DO OR YER A LIAR AND YOU WILL BURN I KID YOU NOT"
With a message like that, I'm not saying you should go listen, but I don't see how you could resist.