the Hottest Thing that Ever Happened to Literature – Round 3 : Page 8

February 22nd, 2008

Llewellyn gazes at me quizzically. “I just composed the first line of Ulysses,” I explain.

She looks thoughtful. “James Joyce. I can see it. Desert Trance is very stream of consciousness. Maybe like Joyce on acid.”

Not only that, I realize. “The books are structured alike, too. Eighteen tracks, eighteen episodes. A triad of protagonists made up of two of the author’s alter egos and his faithless love. Christ, I even had a Molly! Why didn’t I see it before?”

I did see it, though. I wasn’t the only one. “A Joycean masterpiece,” one reviewer had commented, noting the parallel. And I had had a fanciful conversation with Molly-my Molly, the model for the character in Desert Trance, where I had gone so far as to teasingly suggest that she was the reincarnation of Nora Barnacle, comparing her promiscuous ways and writer-groupie status with those of Joyce’s albatross-love.

She had, naturally, done me the same as Leopold Bloom-the very same day I closed the novel I had written her as a love-offering, breaking my heart and leaving me to muse on the peculiar ways life imitates art imitates life imitates art…

I never talked about the real Molly in interviews, and as far as I could tell, no one realized she was drawn from reality, without very much alteration at all. I passed the character’s name off as a symbol for Ecstasy,
the drug-molly is a slang term for pure MDMA, also called “molecule” to distinguish it from the adulterated pressed pills.

Everybody wants Molly.

She was, after all, the hottest thing that had ever happened to literature.

Twice.

Desert Trance now seems to be a somewhat inferior epic.

I can hardly regard it as my greatest work, with the lofty company of Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake. Somehow my rave novel seems trivial by comparison.

On the other hand, thanks mostly to the interceding invention of the aforementioned personal computer, I had kicked it out it in a three-month orgy of psychedelic frenzy, instead of seven-to-seventeen year schedule my predecessor had kept. What this incarnation had apparently lost in quality and scope could be compensated by prolificity and comprehensibility.

I am, after all, a young man. I can fill a shelf in the time I have left.

Of course, I understand that I am not precisely “James Joyce,” just as a wrinkled octogenarian is not identical to the toddler of eight decades prior. Our gulf is even greater, having not one, but two interstices of amnesia between us. Rigorous Jesuit indoctrination has given way to secular Jewish indifference. Modernist literature has come and gone. Psychedelic drugs have become widely available. Somewhere along the way the bottle had been replaced by the bong.

Yet apparently some things stick, such as an ironic interest in reincarnation, a mania for innovative prose, a taste for untamable fireballs named-

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