Farewell Virgil, My Guide
The first eleven or twelve decades burst with beauty. I never had enough time or money in my life to see the Museo del Prado, read George Eliot’s collected works, or attend all the Tony-winning musicals of a given year (2016 excepted, but it’s easier when all your statue are belong to Hamilton). To have the House of Earth’s Collected Works, all on the same cloud, was by far the most overwhelming part of the afterlife. I could hardly have begun to navigate it without my Virgil 4.7: the best guide an artistically inclined soul could ask for, at least until the Virgil 5.0 drops in a century or so.
In those decades I saw, listened to, and read everything I ever wanted to experience. After that I read the Twilight series. The well was clearly dry, but I needed fresh water and would turn over any stone, no matter how forbidding. In great pain, I began walking into a theatre screening Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon, but my Virgil realized what was happening.
“You don’t have to do this,” he said.
“What else is there?”
“Come with me,” Virgil said. Within moments, I saw a whole other structure: The House of Earth Works that Weren’t.
“What is this?” I asked.
“For all of humanity’s creative output,” he explained, “there should have been more. This is where we hold it. I recommend John Keats’ Hyperion, as a starting point.”
The simulated heart in my chest pounded rapidly. “Hyperion? I can read the Hyperion Keats would have written if he lived?”
“Why didn’t you show me this before, Virgil?”
“You will understand,” he said.
And I did. It was as gorgeous as I had dreamed, but there was a sadness to each line. I felt not only the beauty, but the loss of the Earth that could not read such a masterwork. I could never have borne such sadness when I first arrived in heaven; I really did need every artwork I had experienced to prepare me for this new emotion.
I found out who killed Edwin Drood, and whom Austen would have married off in Sanditon. I heard Mozart’s completed Requiem. I saw the works of Basquiat, ages 28-64. I felt wonder again, always weighted with the bittersweet emotion of what untimely death had denied Earth.
“There’s more,” Virgil said, “now that you’re ready.”
“Ready for what?”
“To move past the death works. For the works that humans denied themselves,” he said.
“What do you mean?”
He sighed. “I shall start small. You watched Glee on television, correct?”
“Is this some sort of test to see if I actually deserve to be here?” Virgil looked at me quizzically. “OK, yes, I watched Glee.”
“We have seasons 7-10 here.”
“There were only six!”
“There would have been a revival.”
“Oh,” I said, “but then Cory Monteith died.”
“And Mark Salling and Naya Rivera, but no. It was Kevin McHale.”
Virgil sighed again. “No – he even crowned his career with an appearance on Nailed It. But he was not, in fact, a disabled gentleman in need of a wheelchair, and networks believed that reviving the series with McHale would lead to charges of ableism.”
“I mean, there are disabled actors who could have played that role, and I get that. But they also cast Lauren Potter to play Becky instead of having someone fake Down Syndrome. Doesn’t that count for something?”
“These debates grew heated and permitted no such nuance or balancing of scales. Now, knowing that there could have been four more seasons of Glee with older cast members, do you feel the loss of what humans cost themselves?”
I thought hard – mostly to make sure I wasn’t missing something obvious. “I mean… no?”
“But now you understand the Principle Principles Principle, and being slightly prepared, this will oppress you less mightily,” Virgil said. “Here,” and he handed me An Alabama Tragedy, by DeAndre Morris.
“Who’s DeAndre Morris?” I asked.
Virgil only tapped the cover. I read. The original Virgil would have slowed me down with regular commentary in unrhymed dactylic hexameter, and even Dante’s Virgil 2.0 couldn’t have resisted the odd burst of terza rima, but my trusty 4.7 knew how to shut up, so I finished before long.
Then I read An Alabama Tragedy again. And a third time.
“Yes,” Virgil commiserated. “I know.”
“I think it’s the great American novel.”
“It wasn’t,” he said. “Because it never was.”
“What happened? Could it have been a race thing? I mean, I just can’t see it—I know I’m a white guy from the North, but the complexity here, the honesty and compassion… could this really have offended someone?”
“No. The book’s racial politics are impeccable as they are insightful.”
Virgil sighed, for once with more pathos than pedantry. “DeAndre Morris never wrote it. The inspiration for An Alabama Tragedy would have been Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, had DeAndre read it. He would have loved and criticized it in equal measure as he grew, and he would have vowed to write his own narrative about an unjust trial one day. But his school removed it from the ninth grade curriculum.”
“Atticus and the white savior thing? Racial slurs?”
“Yes,” Virgil answered. “The complaining parents also took issue with elevating a white woman’s novel so that it became the alpha and omega of American racial literature.”
“Look, the book gives an incomplete picture and has its issues, but it’s still a great work of art,” I protested. “Wasn’t there another solution beside cutting it entirely?”
“Of course,” Virgil said. “The parents and principal met with the teacher, who gave assurances that other material would be taught alongside Mockingbird – Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, a Randall Kennedy essay on language, an article considering how Go Set a Watchman darkens Atticus’s character. One parent was satisfied. One remained angry—her daughter would have been provided an alternate text, and the parent sought another school for the following year. But the remainder of the class, including DeAndre Morris, would have read To Kill a Mockingbird alongside the other texts."
“Why didn’t they?”
“Word of the contextual lessons spread on social media, and at the next school board meeting, a few other parents demanded to know why the school had cancelled Atticus Finch.”
“Which is their right,” I pointed out, “just like those other parents had the right to raise their objections.”
“They held a ‘Rally for Atticus’ across the street from the school. The predominately-white group read the whole novel aloud,” Virgil said. “Every word of it: slurs included. They used a bullhorn.”
“At that point, everyone took a side. Fights moved from social media to the hallways. With the political conflict over the novel obliterating its intended theme, the school sidelined it. Lee’s novel never enthralled and troubled DeAndre Morris, and the world lost An Alabama Tragedy. Morris became an investment banker.”
I felt it fully now: the ache of what might have been. I was nearly afraid to ask. “Is this the worst of it, Virgil? The worst loss?”
He shook his venerable head. “Follow me.”
We passed through a hall of paintings and assemblages I had never seen, with music I had never heard softly playing, and I felt a trickle descend from my eye. I hadn’t known eyes in heaven could still do that.
We halted outside a security door with a keypad. “This is the greatest loss,” Virgil said. “The most lamentable artistic victim of what was termed ‘cancel culture’ is held behind that door. You must enter the security code of your own free will; I am forbidden.”
Virgil said nothing.
“What is the code?” But I found I knew it after all, somehow, strange though the symbols on the keypad were. I stepped into the darkness, Virgil followed while a light snapped on, and I saw an enormous poster. Virgil knelt in reverence while I froze with surprise.
He knelt dumbly.
“There seems to have been some mistake. This existed. I saw this movie while I was still alive.”
“You did not,” he said, still genuflecting. “Look closer and see what was taken from you.”
I had not noticed at first, but the Space Jam 2 poster did have a difference. “Do you mean…” I scratched my head. “Are you talking about the D cups on Lola Bunny?”
Virgil had this weird look in his eyes when he finally turned them on Lola Bunny. I didn’t think I’d ever seen it before, until I remembered him taking me to the Secret Museum of art from Pompeii where he examined that statue of Pan with the goat. “If only the naysayers had not demanded her shapely form be flattened…” he said. “She would have been this perfection.”
“My dude, she’s a curvy rabbit.”
“She’s an apotheosis!” he countered, gesturing emphatically with his robed arm. “In Love and Death in the American Novel, your critic Leslie Fiedler wrote, Our great novelists, though experts on indignity and assault, on loneliness and terror, tend to avoid treating the passionate encounter of a man and a woman, which we expect at the center of a novel. Indeed, they rather shy away from permitting in their fictions the presence of any full-fledged, mature women. Lola Bunny is the most complete encapsulation of sexuality your American culture could ever have produced. She is a vision!”
“That sounded insulting. Virgil, should I be insulted?”
“She would have been a new archetype. She could have inspired so much… behold!”
A vast series of screens flicked on around us, all depicting Lola Bunny. At least half seemed to be tuned to PornHub.
Who was I to judge? I stood for a moment while Virgil gazed raptly at sundry unprintable acts performed by and upon an anthropomorphized rabbit. I reflected, and then I left Virgil 4.7 in the eternal bliss of his bunny porn.
My guide had left me with many experiences and more questions, like all great teachers. What common ground can be found among people whose most foundational perceptions clash? How do we draw the shifting lines of propriety, and what do those demarcations cost us? Who watches the watchmen? And in the end, who among us can truly claim qualification to weigh healthy body images for children against the sexual gratification of a facsimile Roman poet?
I could say with certainty only that I would reread An Alabama Tragedy often, and that I would mourn literature’s loss of it each time. And whenever I receive my Virgil 5.0, I’m keeping him the hell away from Space Jam 2.
Shallow plastic people
Living shallow plastic lives
With shallow aspirations
Believing shallow plastic lies
With these shallow aspirations
They obediently follow along
To their corrupt and lying leaders
Whom they believe can do no wrong
Wearing polyester clothing
With an eerie plastic sheen
Reveal the shallow reality
Of their shallow plastic dream
With artificial smiles
Upon all their plastic faces
Betray the tragic reality
With shallow plastic traces
If these shallow plastic people
Might one day, if they dare
Wake to the harsh reality
Then they could become aware
That their shallow plastic lives
Have no real meaning
Living lives without any value
With what they are believing
In an artificial economy
Where lives don’t really matter
With importance upon the former
But less upon the latter
Until these plastic people
Wake to the wisdom of the truth
That the real things of value
Are that all lives have great worth
Announcing: The Official Prose. Blog
To our voracious Readers, Scribblers, Scribes, Wordsmiths, and Partners:
It's been nearly a year since we began notifying you here with news, updates, and articles about the literary world. Since then, we've taken steps to put Prose ahead of the fold with an end-game of setting trends rather than following them.
This is a delicate process that requires in-depth research, sleepless nights, a commitment to destroy the confines of censorship, and a passion for breaking the mold.
By making observations and taking countless pages of notes, we've discovered that we're a bit behind-the-times in the "blogosphere."
Just think: ten years ago we'd probably be telling you about our new MySpace page. How ridiculous is that?
Because of you, this community grows stronger every day. It's a living, breathing organism that constantly changes and evolves, so why should our blog be any different?
Today we're pleased to announce the launch of The Official Prose Blog on Wordpress. It is there that we intend on showing our truest literary colors.
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How do comedians script their stand-up sets? What are the top 10 most popular excuses for missing deadlines? Is it against the law to Prose while driving?
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High on vibration
Right in the
I had no idea
It was there
Place the distance
Between the impact
And the consequence
You got me
From every single word
Filling the void
Poised with elation
High on vibration
From the piano
Of your story
Of your character
What swells the fury of Heavens wrath? What fuels the frozen fire of my soul?
This passion that drives mad men sane, and beckons them to fly amongst the clouds of their fevered dreams. Why am I tortured with this serene anxiety and chaotic and frivolous sensation of devotion, that is inculcated so severely that my heart is unabashed and lamentful?
Here I stand, in front of a road that forks to the points of the compass and burden my soul with the options, endless options.
The path North leads me to war, and a great warrior shall I become, vanquishing all that stand before me. I will have no mortal weakness for I will be endowed with the blood of Achilles, but with this great power comes no end.
I will be forever trapped within this body without love for eternity. Shall I cast all thoughts of love and passion to the wind and live forever in the glory of battle?
Shall I head East, to the Land of the Rising Sun, where knowledge and the power of the mind prevail over brute force and thirsty weapons edge? The Land of the Rising Sun holds the power of pen and ink on high. Shall I live there, and become lost within endless libraries of the knowledge of ages past? Shall I come to wither like a rose in the Sun? Will I fade as the ink does from the parchment?
Or will my soul be pulled West, where the coastal mountains echo with the ageless whispers of love. Shall I live without pride or honor and only in an others passion? Will my soul continue on when its container does not? Will my love hold forever as the Moon rides high in the middle of the Night? Where will I find this true end to this mad existence full of pain and sorrow, of love and happiness?
For the one I love most, the one I hold so dear, feels so far away this sorrowful soul. I'm torn in all directions, without a guiding star.
When you and nature become one
You claim cigarettes can ignite your soul but have you ever met a firefly that doesn't try to do the same?
Summer nights are never ending and your smile could save me and every single breath I take that aligns with yours feels like I'm slipping in quick sand and never getting out.
I wouldn't mind being suffocated by you, not if kisses replaced your hands and wrapped around my throat.
You say the smoke you breathe out helps you relax but what about the ocean tide and its waves that crash endlessly onto the sand? I want you to love me like that. I will not cry if you leave if I know you will return every time and wrap me in your presence.
Do you think you will ever give me a chance to brighten your bones the way you believe your cigarettes do?