coda: the duke of edinburgh

Another conference. And I am saying, no, it’s not a thesis,

it’s a proposition. The term “thesis” blurs an important distinction

between theme and claim, deriving as it does from music,

specifically from the toccata, and the recursion pattern.

Like in “Carol of the Bells,” there is a thesis, and it is prosecuted

(slide into carceral metaphor-family already preempted, no doubt)

and the effect of the carol depends upon the proof.

If you don’t like it, you’re probably not persuaded.

And we say that too—“I’m not convinced by that”—

or, conversely, that we are convinced, and that the conviction (n.b.)

has been adequately conveyed. But clearly this isn’t the same

as an argument, which needs something more than narrative,

something more than satisfaction and fit, even if,

as is probably the case more often than we like to admit,

the forms of necessity that govern reasoning are still subject

to the same essentially preferential responses as narrative.

When we’re watching Eastenders, my husband says

“they won’t do this, they won’t make it happen again,”

and of course they would and might even. And my mother,

who is here for Christmas, just hides and clenches

and says that she needs to smoke a cigarette.

Only my response is correct and for that reason

I am not going to repeat it here.

So anyway, I was telling you all this in a dressing room,

where we were hanging out with your other advisor,

the one you like more than you like me (he’s my friend tho)

and you got it at once and the other guy knew things I didn’t

and it all got very “classical gas” if you know what I mean.

Sometimes I feel like a homosexual and like all this

could have been avoided. I can’t remember what you

had written about but it was green and small

and there were many of them of irregular but uniform shape.

It was space age: dressing room, topic, perhaps even conveyance.

And then a short time later I’m seeing a play,

and it’s that older woman, bad mama, the one who scares me,

the one whose life must not be in my future. My friend said

“the clique will kill you” and god knows i know but otoh

what else is there but the socialization of language!

And she’s doing an old Attention Scum routine in an art gallery,

maybe switching into and out of Alan Parker, Urban Warrior,

and I feel expropriated, which is gutless and stupid of me,

and anyway she’s a colonial just like me. I’m a wanker,

but we’ve heard it before, or I have (don’t know about them)

and it sounds more like Martin Luther’s pecker than it used to.

I’m in a wheelchair because why not.

Okay and it’s now “the problem with London is it’s TOO BIG”

and of course I realize that the point is that my mother,

who grew up in London, or sort of did, is here in New York,

and all her great fault is a refusal to cede the center of the stage.

Whenever we mention a place in New York, she replies,

treading on our toes, “yes I’ve heard of that,”

ticking off the checklist of cosmopolitan technique

like a fetishist. And it’s hard to listen but also hard to bear a grudge.

And my girlfriend seems to be pulling away.

I mean clearly the reason I am so obsessed with dreams

is because from a certain perspective life depends

upon one’s willingness to treat material reality as a symptom

of a more fundamental truth available only to psychic introspection.

I don’t know why she needs to do Attention Scum in a gallery,

but she does look a bit like Simon Munnery, who was nice

to me when I met him in Edinburgh to ask his advice

about how to be an artist and writer. I forget

what he said. She bolts and leaves me in charge,

so now I’m doing Attention Scum in a gallery and god knows

I’m lazier than she is, than almost anyone I know really,

and would be even more so if I still took a lot of drugs.

Which I think about from time to time. Were they so bad?

Another sober transsexual tells me she is scared

of being a drunk woman and I know what she means.

I waste everyone’s time with a wheelchair pratfall.

I’m walking away and there’s now an unctuous older gent,

and it’s NOT Edward Fox, because he’s here all the time,

I may as well call him THE INESCAPABLE EDWARD FOX

and Lawrence Fox blocked me on Twitter and I never

even said anything about him and isn’t that hilarious?

(That last part is one hundred percent true.)

Anyway it wasn’t Edward Fox but some guy who made a career

doing one role, and that role was Philip Mountbatten,

the longest serving “royal consort” in history

although one can’t quite imagine him eating her out.

Maybe that’s naive, but my grandmother’s friend

knew him in the Services, during the War, and such a lout

you never knew. Pouring beer into the piano and scaring the girls.

Which may well have meant raping them but far be it from me.

The actor who played him always retained a distance,

and the physical resemblance was not entirely his fault,

though clearly he had done little to change it,

lucrative as the position had become. And we were old friends,

somehow, and he said there was only one question

that interested people, and that was how he felt when

Philip Mountbatten died. His answer suffered from being

over-theoretic; it was hard to deduce, as though composed

in a meta-language that only he could understand.

I sometimes think this about the feelings of aristocrats,

though this man may not have been one, though he was one

by virtue of being a famous actor, albeit an actor

famous only for playing a single role. There was a story

that was doing the rounds about a guy who was into toy crocodiles

which, I don’t know if he means simulacra of crocodiles

or if it’s a class of crocodile much like “toy dog” could be said to be.

Dude was aware of the story, that’s all he was saying,

and then he said he was at the agential draw

(agents pick clients in a draw: actors line up and each agent picks one

at a time, until all the actors are gone, just like sports)

and you have to have strategies reflecting not just absolute value,

but value of a given commodity relative to their

position in the draw.

Nobody outside of the corporate world understands game theory

which is how they all get along so well. Except my one friend.

The actor told me he wanted me to have been at the draw

and he said as much but then I had to remind him

that I’ve got nothing to offer and can’t even play

Attention Scum very well.

The crocodile guy. Everyone loves him. Now he is

a silver ball, traveling on its own steam down the spacey corridor

and he says “My name is Michel Utrecht, and I am

a graduate student at the University of Utrecht,

where I am writing a dissertation on Marxism-Leninism

and contemporary European fiction.” And I guess that checks out

maybe. And a stylish guy leans over to me and says

“I don’t think this will work out well for anyone except Substack,”

and I realize it’s weird that I’m part of this stupid story also,

and the silver ball travels through the air towards a laptop,

and he pauses before the laptop, to tell us that he

believes that Marxism-Leninist doxology continues to shape

the narrative form of the contemporary novel,

and he recites a little bit for us. It’s clear he has a fondness

for Marx but also feels detached and maybe a bit bored

at what the other people think of Marx. Everyone

has a Marx and they’re all fucking awful, except mine.

(Preach.) I’ve read this crocodile enthusiast’s Marx

and he makes the same mistakes everyone does:

he thinks Marx is an anti-capitalist; he thinks Marx is a socialist

etc etc. Not even the interesting wrong Marx, which is

the one with the competing theories of political


although (politics voice) of course politics didn’t interest Marx

very much. Then the silver ball merges with the screen

of the laptop and slowly begins to include itself, and now

it is merging into the screen. And I say to the actor

“this is what they call telepresence robotry,” and he winces,

because surely that can’t be right, and now

the voice of Michel Utrecht is coming out of the laptop

and it says “you’ll pardon my display of telepresence robotics,

but in my view remote delivery will transform the way

we share ideas and organize both our scholarly and political collectivities.”

Oh god oh god oh god oh god,

and really I’m just wondering whether there is a relationship

between computers and Leninism. I think Lenin

might very well have enjoyed the internet, although

I am far from sure that this should change anyone’s view of either.

Maybe I should have been at the draft pick.

I stand on the table and wonder why I did that.