LECTURE ON DESTROYING
by Alistair McCartney
YOUR OWN BOOK
Writers shouldn’t write books. They don’t have the constitution for it. Writing a book—why, that’s the last thing a writer should do. It’ll shed your nerves so that they sting like nettles. 1
If a writer is foolhardy enough to write a book, as soon he’s finished, as soon as he’s placed the final period, like hammering the last nail into a coffin made from the cheapest wood available, he should bury the book in the garden, beneath the chrysanthemums.
Or he should blindfold the book and have it shot by a firing squad, like in Goya’s painting El tres de mayo de 1808 en Madrid, the one with the man wearing the open white shirt and yellow pants, his arms raised, about to be shot by a line of men in gray coats and black, sort of pill-boxy hats. 2
1 According to my memory, one day when I was a child I went out into the front yard to find my mother crouched in the garden, grasping at nettles and weeping. She claimed that she had come across them accidentally, but somehow at the time I suspected that she had done so on purpose. I never found out if this was true, but that afternoon she did teach me something about that plant, which I retain an interest in to this day. “It’s not the leaves themselves that produce the sting,” she said. “It’s the poison residing in the fine needle-like hairs.”
2According to my memory, this image of Goya’s, who is my favorite artist, was in a book of paintings we had in our family bookcase. I would spend hours there, sitting on the floor in front of the bookcase, stooped in wonder, poring over that book, particularly this picture. As I recall it, the man about to be shot was not blindfolded and stared at his executioners. I would like to write a book that makes a boy fling his arms up, as if about to be executed. I would like to write a book that fills a boy with the same wonder, a book that compels him to read it for so long he develops a hunchback.
Another option is to take the book on a long drive, to a desolate area.3 Once you have found a place suitably remote, you can rape the book and then murder the book, then dispose of the book in a spot so secluded not even the best cadaver dogs will be able to sniff out the scent. 4
Perhaps I am being too extreme. After all, writing a book requires a ridiculous amount of effort. Perhaps the writer should be allowed to read his book aloud, only once, to a captive audience made up of highly influential literary figures: noted critics and more established writers, writers who are both more successful and more respected.5
3 According to my father, “Writing requires intimate knowledge of desolate sites.”
4 Just like Mack Ray Edwards did in Los Angeles in the 1950’s and 1960’s, burying his approximately 18 victims beneath freeway construction sites during the freeway building boom here in California. Edwards would later be sentenced to death, though given the inevitability of death, such a term is redundant, essentially we’re all sentenced to death, and God is our executioner, God is a being whose face we cannot see. Whilst waiting on death row, Edwards took the situation into his own hands and hanged himself with the cord of a TV set, which is a bit like an umbilical cord, in that it connects us to something warm and fuzzy, in 1971, which was the year of my birth, incidentally.
But be warned. According to the California section of the Los Angeles Times—the only section of that rag of a newspaper worth reading, it contains news items of local interest, essentially violent stories-- one of Edwards’ victims, a boy by the name of Dale Madison, is about to be exhumed forty years after the fact. Earlier I claimed that tragedy had disappeared in our century. But perhaps I am wrong. A sixteen year old boy getting a ride from the father of his friend one night in 1968, then getting murdered by this man, and buried in something called a compaction hole, which apparently is a hole used by freeway engineers to determine if the soil can support the structure being built above it—by the way, I’m writing this from a compaction hole, for I’m not sure the structure of this book can support itself—a boy brought into this world only to be disposed of somewhere along the 23 freeway, only to be found forty years later, that my friends, is a tragedy. I mean God, what were you thinking? But remember, dear reader, my heart is so numb, just like yours, that reading this story gave me yet another idea for a new song for the Jonas Brothers. Nick Jonas will sing this one, “The Teen Victim of the Serial Killer.”
I’m the teen victim
Of a serial killer
I’m about to be unearthed.
Am I the teen victim or the serial killer?
Am I the teen victim or the serial killer?
5 I’ll never be respected.
When I say captive audience I mean this literally (I am an extremely literal homosexual, despite appearances to the contrary.)The audience should be locked inside whatever space has been used for the book launch. I recommend Beta-Level in Chinatown here in Los Angeles, as it would be easy to contain the audience.
As soon as the reading is over, and applause has been given, once books have been bought and signed, the writer should find a way to slip discreetly outside, and, locking the door, set fire to the building, burning the audience alive, so they can’t tell anyone about the book, and of course burning the only remaining copies of the book.
If the writer would prefer a gentler method, he might consider poisoning the beverages, following the noted example of Jim Jones and the mass suicide of his cult on November 18, 1978, at the so-called Jonestown in Guyana, in which Jones and 908 members of the cult died after drinking grape flavored Kool-Aid laced with cyanide. 6
6 Has anyone else noticed the remarkable similarity between the last names of the infamous cult leader and the US’s current number one pop sensation, the Jonas Brothers, who, given the fervent nature of their young female fans, in all senses function like a cult? Perhaps like Jim Jones, the Jonas Brothers should relocate somewhere exotic and rename the spot Jonastown. (Aim: to write a book which would give me hordes of nubile male fans as fervent and devoted to me as the fans of the Jonas Brothers.) However, at Jonastown, when it came time for the mass suicide, they would have to choose another drink to dissolve the cyanide in, given Nick Jonas’s diabetes. According to the wretched Wikipedia, which has replaced the World Book Encyclopedia as the source of information for young people, and is essentially an encyclopedia you cannot hold in your hands, an encyclopedia which academics sneer at, and forbid their students to use, but, secretly, do all their research on, there are audio recordings of this suicide. I’ve taken some of the lines Jones is heard to have said, pretty much verbatim, and fashioned it into yet another song for the Jonas Brothers, which I’ve called, to paraphrase Jim Jones’s own term, “Revolutionary Suicide”
Don’t be afraid to die
Death is just stepping over into another plane
Death is your friend!
Don’t listen to what they say
We didn’t take our own lives,
We committed an act of revolutionary suicide!
However, if the writer is a liberal humanist and concerned about the ethical or moral consequences of killing, he can also choose to destroy the book in a more stylized manner, like a boy in a band destroys his electric guitar, just as Kurt Cobain did numerous times with Nirvana, destroying Stratocaster after Stratocaster, before destroying himself.7
Short of self-destruction, there is always self-mutilation. Compared to writing a book, writers would be far better off cutting out their own tongues and feeding them to the stray dogs that roam in packs, then cutting off the hands they write with and replacing them with hooks, which they could then sharpen daily on slabs of gray or blue slate. (If employing this method, I recommend you use one of those nice paper cutters that can still be found in many offices, the kind with the metal handles. You could first mutilate the book, then cut off your tongue and then destroy your hands. 8
Writers should do everything they can, especially to avoid writing the book that lies in wait for them like a short, muscular rapist in an acrylic black ski-mask, crouching behind a bush beneath your bedroom window, or like a big black furry highly poisonous and vindictive spider, looking down on you while you sleep, the kind of spider that populated many a night of my Australian childhood. Writers must ensure that such a book does not come to light.
7When I become the manager of the Jonas Brothers, and take over their career, become their evil Svengali, like Phil Spector with the Shangri-La’s, at the end of each of their concerts, I will have them destroy, first their guitars, then themselves.
8Though the question remains: how to destroy memory?
Whatever method you choose, destroying your book should not be a sober endeavor. It should be done joyously. It should be carried out with glee, the same glee with which sullen, greasy haired, full lipped juvenile delinquents vandalize private property, cumming, pissing and defecating on the tasteful features of your home, on the furniture you have arranged so carefully.
Though if you’re lucky, no such exertions will be necessary; without your having to lift a finger, your book will vanish9 and you will accompany it.