Poetry provides a minimum security work camp, where the yinsane come and go as they please. But fiction is less kind to the yinsane. Fiction is a maximum security lockdown.
By fiction I don’t mean experimental fiction, such as the logolepsy of James Joyce. Mainstream fiction, including science fiction and fantasy, is a facility for maximal restraint of the irrational. No matter how colossal the lobster-man that comes through the wormhole, it is sentenced to the sentence, and it walks that line sober as a judge. Fiction writers are mental bondage freaks.
Like an obsessive-compulsive counting steps with a rational, arithmetic strength that accrues, step-by-step, into the irrational, fiction writers bind their craziness in the straitjacket of linear thinking. What would possess a mind to contort itself into the subject-verb-object subjugation of the written line?
Prior to 5,000 years ago, there was no writing. Humans lived for over 150,000 years without writing anything. Is it a coincidence that the mental constraint of writing appears simultaneously with the origin of cities? Dr. Piotr Michalowski, professor of Near East civilizations at the University of Michigan, says, “coercion and control were early writing’s first important purpose, a new way to control how people live.”
Sumerian proto-cuneiform, the earliest writing, doesn’t conform to the syntax of language, of narratives, but rather serves to generate lists and inventories of properties and taxes. “Lists are a form of cultural hysteria,” the fiction writer Don DeLillo comments. The same dominating elite who corralled people into the maze of streets and walls in Uruk, the same sorcerer-priests of the Tigris-Euphrates river valley who transfixed time with their sexagesimal (base-60) system of magic, the same grain-keepers of ancient Mesopotamia who invented banking, receipts and taxes, originated the delirium of getting-and-spending that has swept the world – and that sweeps our entire species toward oblivion.
People are dying for this delirium in the very land that originated the madness 5,000 years ago. The river valley of the first cities, where time became money, today is a war zone, and people are killing each other there in a contest for coercion and control that began with civilization. This is factual proof that writing – all writing: lists, catalogues, nonfiction, poetry and fiction – all writing accomplishes itself not with ink but with human blood.
Who am I to write this?
Who are you to read it?