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e-mail trouble

[ Biography/Memoir ]

e-mail trouble

love and addiction @ the matrix

By S. Paige Baty

In this daring, postmodern autobiography, S. Paige Baty recounts her search for love and community on the Internet.

1999

$19.95$13.37

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Paperback

6 x 9 | 167 pp.

ISBN: 978-0-292-70864-8

In this daring, postmodern autobiography, S. Paige Baty recounts her search for love and community on the Internet. Taking Jack Kerouac's On the Road as a point of departure, Baty describes both an actual road trip to meet the object of an e-mail romance and the cyber-search for connection that draws so many people into the matrix of the Internet. Writing in a bold, experimental style that freely mixes e-mails, poems, fragments of quotations, and puns into expository text, she convincingly links e-mail trouble with "female trouble" in the displacement of embodied love and accountable human relationships to opaque screens and alienated identities. Her book stands as a vivid feminist critique of our culture's love affair with technology and its dehumanizing effect on personal relationships.

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Step Three: Make a decision to turn your will and life over to God as you understand (him).

Here is a story about the kind of community and communion I want. It is an ordinary day, and I return home and check the mail. Among the awkward pile of flyers and bills is a gift of grace. I receive a letter in the mail from my friend who is a deaf actress. She has had a nightmare. She cannot call anyone because she cannot use a phone. She does not at this time have e-mail. She writes by hand, and the pages number fifteen. The pages are enclosed in a mass-produced card. The card features a woman standing nude in a tub of water. The word "water" is written upon the drawing of water in the tub. The woman is walking on "water." The caption on the top of the card reads, "Her first steps, though cautious, began immediately to reinforce her faith in greater possibilities." I love this card from my friend, but I love her letter more. My friend Tuesday Grace writes to me:

I decide to try and sleep again so l think of things that make me happy and l thought of you. I miss you. I can't tell you how long the days were when you were gone. l imagined l was going to come to the city and emerge as Miss Intrepid New Yorker--and while l did do some amazing feats of independent organization, I am largely lonely and bored and hungry for friends. Oh sure "Go to the museum, " you say, "You live in the culture capital of the world. " But I have to reply, "There's only so much I can enjoy doing by myself" Eventually I am overwhelmed with dissatisfaction and a terrible anxiety that no one will know how I felt when I was here. Maybe that is why people write "Rhonda was here" on the bathroom wall.

Grace never ceases to amaze me. I am blessed to know her. I think about her moving around in the world with people thinking she can hear when she can't and I think about how hard she tries to talk and connect with people and I am overwhelmed with a desire to call her, which I cannot do. In this case would e-mail be a form of being with grace? Certainly people who cannot hear gain access to communication by the increasing presence of e-mail and Ntalking. But I do not think that a virtual interaction is what Grace was longing for. Grace wanted the impression of human flesh. Grace wanted to transcend the text. Grace wanted to make her own impression: for people to know that she had been here. I don't think that could have happened on the Internet. This single letter from Grace means more to me than all of my e-mail correspondences combined. I will always keep it. It is written by hand. It was written across time and space and it was addressed to me, by someone who loves me and whom I love. And there is the simple truth of it, and I add this by way of explanation and comparison with what is to come.

Date: Sat., 08 Apr. 1995 13:22:08 EDT
To: S.Paige.Baty@williams.edu
From: The Tin Man
Subject: you seldom

seem to get the mail
I send you, so as a
check, tell me if you
get this. it's just science.

Such was the daze of e-mail and my life in virtual reality. I had acquired a tin man's heart, only to find that the man behind the screen was nothing but a projection, What sad song was going through my head those days: "If I only had a heart." I wished to Oz for a heart, and I received one but it wasn't the one I really wanted. I cast headfirst into the Internet. I got hooked. I bled meaning. I tried breathing, but I was stuck at some terminal dock site so I flailed like a fish out of water. Poor fish, stuck in the Internet. I got stuck. This is a story about the wrong kind of wishing. The first rule is: don't wish for everything. You might end up with the tin man, clicking your shoes together, praying to get back home. You might say, "I surrender: Dorothy." You were not a writer: you were a hacker. You were not an achiever: you were a slacker. You were just one in a sea of faces. You met a stranger on the beach. You killed him. You did not know why you did it. Yeah, you did it but you did it as a twisted romantic fiction. You call yourself melancholic, but that's just a romantic pseudonym for what you really are. I am a dead author, writing dead letters.

Topics Of Discourse

I am a Pisces. Jesus told an apostle he would make him a "fisher of men." On the Internet people become fissures of men. Cast your nets upon the waters. Cast your nets upon the daughters. Sacrifice Iphigenia for the "face that launched a thousand ships." This is my s(Tro)r(y?). Am I Cassandra? Am I Iphigenia? Am I Electra? Am I? Why are so many lives versions of the same story? What's in a name?

Date: Sat, 21 Jan 1995 14:28:38 EST
To: S.Paige.Baty@williams.edu
From: Jill Sans Jack
Subject: type in

chfn
to change your handle to something else
like, uh, oedipa maas or something
also, if you want to check who else is on e-mail when you are
type finger
and write
if you want to write to their screen like
write pbaty and then type whatever you will - with the control
c button to quit the process

In those days I changed my handle a lot. I made up multiple versions of myself and cast them upon the Internet. I could be virtually anyone and no one, everywhere and nowhere at once. I was a spontaneous writer, like Jack Kerouac. Only my beat hero was not a computer hack. He was an author, and now he is dead. Mostly I've made Jack up in my head. But all along I knew that man was dead.

An Academic Exorcism

From "What is an Author?" by Michel Foucault

The second theme is even more familiar: it is the kinship between writing and death. This relationship inverts the age-old conception of Greek narrative or epic, which was designed to guarantee the immortality of a hero. The hero accepted an early death because his life, consecrated and magnified by death, passed into immortality, and the narrative redeemed his acceptance of death. In a different sense, Arabic stories, and The Arabian Nights in particular, had as their motivation, their theme and pretext, this strategy for defeating death. Storytellers continued their narratives late into the night to forestall death and to delay the inevitable moment when everyone must fall silent. Scheherazade's story is a desperate inversion of murder; it is the effort, throughout all those nights, to exclude death from the circle of existence. This conception of a spoken or written narrative as a protection against death has been transformed by our culture. Writing is'now linked to sacrifice and to the sacrifice of life itself; it is a voluntary obliteration of the self that does not require representation in books because it takes place in the everyday existence of the writer. Where a work had the duty of creating immortality, it now attains the right to kill, to become the murderer of its author... If we wish to know the writer in our day, it will be through the singularity of his absence and in his link to death, which has transformed him into a victim of his own writing.

Hello, reader. You may recognize me by the singularity of my absence: I am a victim of my own writing. There was no plot. This is not a conspiracy theory. This is an act of contrition. This is written in blood, by a vampire. I am interviewing myself. I am reviewing myself. I participate in the "voluntary obliteration of the self" in my everyday existence. Alas, a lack, I lack a day. A Lass who hacks, who gives away versions of herself: hit/play. The tape is on automatic pilot. I just go over the same things again and again. Repetition. Looking for the signposts on the road to salvation I must have missed. But still, but still, you must remember this. I am haunted by the specter of my virtual history, and by the tracks of the places where I really lived. Can I even use a word like "really" anymore? I think so, therefore I am not sure. I am confronting my demons, or listening to my daemon. One of these demons is San Jose.

San Jose haunted me and Jack. We couldn't get out of the suburban blues. We read the same authors, and discovered spontaneous writing. Jack is my other father, born through the looking glass of a beat generation: we both wrote in burroughs after chasing the white rabbit down the hole, searching for the holy. We were wild cards: we were poker-faced. We were lonesome travelers, victims of our own imaginations. We loved America, or what we thought it was. Me and Jack. We put our hands in the hole and were bitten by a gopher. Errata Stigmata: we were crazy Catholic mystics bleeding and blending or some kind of happy ending. We did it all for kicks. Silly rabbit, tricks are for kids.

Just kidding. I'm a kid. A white kid glove. This is a woman's labor of love. What kind of codes could me and Jack crack? You were a cracker, Jack. What's the prize inside the box? Where can I turn? Can a woman be a dharma bum, or will she just bum herself out? If you meet Kerouac on the road, kill him. Tell another story, lonesome traveler. Is this just kidding? One little girl keeps looking back at me; asks questions with intensity. She says, "Eat me, Drink me." This is my body I ink. This is my blood: I think. It's all about Jesus, and Dylan and fairy tales gone haywire. I'm stuck in the mire. Alice, my friend, I am a post-maiden hobo. I'm not a man, and I didn't work for the railway and I didn't grow up in Lowell, Massachusetts, but I spent a lot of time there once, and I am haunted by the ghosts of your Massachusetts tracks and memories. Playing games for higher stakes than I knew at the time, because I didn't know how much I had to lose. As it turned out, I had much to learn about loss. I have the scars to prove it.

To: S.Paige.Baty@williams.edu
From: Speedy
Subject: i just hecked

checked not hecked, although hexed would be something you're
an authority on, yes?
my answering machine, i checked it, and i laughed really hard in
the library when you said "hi this is paige im not here right now"
and i miss you already.

Hi, this is Paige, I'm not here right now. That about sums it up. I spent a lot of time nowhere. I was making myself a history. I sent an e-mail and called it a book. I was broken from bending, living too long on my knees: one time Alice asked me, "Do you love trees?" We stayed up the whole night scraping this table I found with forks and knives and Jasco fluid trying to get to its American grain. We mutilated that table. Now I write on it. It is my table of contents. Do you remember carving that table? What were we trying to get back to: the tree that it came from, or the final finish?

Date: Mon., 27 Feb. 1995 12:50:13 EST
To: S.Paige.Baty@williams.edu
From: Oedipus Vexed
Subject: I-glasses

I considered myself an optician
my words and deeds the correcting lens
for those who failed to see the truth and beauty
in nature's perfect symmetry
i was an i for the myopic eye-
the rose coloured glass to tint and
compensate for the near sighted
and provide the true blues for Lennons

and Lenins who sadly could never focus
on the melting sand _below_ the horizon
now i see that i am not a king but an emperor
with new clothes and old spectacles-
the vertigo makes me ill as i stare out
over the precipice of infinite knowledge
with my binoculars backwards
making the world seem so small so containable
so compact

i shall overcome this stigmata when my eyes
adjust to the light streaming into the cave
making truth out of shadows and
day out of night

i pledge never again to super-impose my
own image on those who have their own form
my project is to not project or subject
i am la tabula rasa

i am the photographic plate

i am the transparent eyeball

E-mail messages are windows of the soul, just like the eye. Or is it the "I" that is the mirror of the soul? Shall I mix my metaphors? Shall I eat a peach? I have heard virtual strangers singing, each to each. We all wrote; home, alone. We were never together when we tried to talk to each other. We were apart. We were a part of one another. We were apart from one and others. We were our own others. We used the method of addition and turned other people into ourselves. We screened our calls and screeched our drawls. We shopped alone at random malls. Let's go window-shopping.

OTHER WINDOWS OPENING: The couple across the way from my window are fighting again. I hear them fight day and night. I often hear their children crying. Today she is screaming at him. She is saying, "Stop blaming other people. I am sick of the way that you blame other people. You are blaming me. When you blame other people, you blame me. One snide comment after another. Stop that shit. I am not being unintelligible, I am sick of your shit. Stop blaming other people." I am not able to hear what he is saying, as only she is screaming. He is watering the garden, again. He turns the hose on full blast and water comes streaming high in the air, over the fence, into our yard. I am on the second story, at the window. The water hits my face. Baptism by fire? I stop writing to try and figure out why they are at it again.

Date: Fri., 03 Mar 1995 04:07:56 EST
To: "Dr. Rocket"
From: The Thin White Duke
Subject: Ash

The resonance of my feet on asphalt is too silently haunted. I used
to be afraid, under the quilts, I used to hear the noises of my
parents' fights as ghosts. The wind slapping the willow against my
window; the light under the door from the hallway. Now, I've let
the dead, the stripped to the bone and eye, be killed.

I am overwhelmed by the Thin White Duke and so go searching for answers. I am a cyborg, so I stop/scan/Internet access guide for the Delphic oracle. Delphi is an e-mail system. We have confronted Delphic oracles throughout Western history, and they have shot out questions and answers. I read a manual that explained e-mail to me, long after I'd been using e-mail. I was taken aback by the words in the manual. I was led through a textual tour of Delphi-e-mail routes, while at the same time the text was telling me what e-mail was. It was all about connection, disconnection, time, death, and the future.

It was mostly always that way with e-mail for me: I got a list of questions with no answers, and they all pointed to the future holocaust. Or should we say, in virtual time, the hollow costs, the dry salvages? I cannot say I know for sure, but the cost at the time was measured in blood, and life, and flesh and reality for me. Still, I received these dead letters and did not know what to do, how to reply. I am now responding to your e-mail. I am sorry, Virtual Stranger, it took me awhile to digest the soap, the skin, the ashes, the anger, and the anomie. I am not the enemy, just another victim of our century. Perhaps one day you'll *talk* to me. I am not just Dr. Rocket, I am Paige Baty. Keep the difference in mind, gentle, virtual reader. Many are the ways of genocide in our time, many are the ways of terrorism, many are the ways of misjudgment. To err is human, to forgive divine. Deleting people is about killing time. But there is a great danger in killing: you risk losing your self in the process.

Killing time is what e-mail is all about. People kill time as they make themselves up into virtual beings, give themselves new handles as ways of staving off life, or the world at the door, or the wolf at the door. E-mail was about user names. Lots of people use their birth name as their user name, but others create pseudonyms to engage in virtual correspondence. The guide helped explain the system to users. To learn to create an e-mail message, users were instructed to mail themselves a message. The authors tell us, "It doesn't have to be long or meaningful." When the message has been received:

Since this particular message doesn't have far to go, you should almost immediately hear a tone and see a message flash on your screen that new mail has arrived. You probably have a pretty good idea who this message is from and what it says, but let's treat it like a real message and see what can be done with it.

The uncanniness of corresponding with yourself: "you probably have a pretty good idea who this message is from and what it says . . ." What if you don't? Do you have a pretty good idea of who you are and what you mean, even when you're just prompting yourself for answers? Do you respond to the message you sent yourself? Did you lose yourself after you faced the oracle? Did you know who your parents were? Did you wake up one day to find out all those riddles you thought you'd solved were resolved in an ending where you had killed your father and slept with your mother and were both parent and sibling to your children? Do we need some gatekeepers? The sphinx was a gatekeeper and look what happened to her. Do we need a confrontation here? What walks on four legs, then two, then three? Do you see yourself in the answer? Who do you correspond with? Have you cracked the e-mail code or have you cracked yourself? As a cracker of codes I wrote as "Rosetta Stone." Here is a message that Rosetta received in response to a message that she sent. It came from the constellation of bodies we are calling "The Good Man."

Date: Mon., 20 Feb. 1995 14:20:13 CST
To: S.Paige.Baty@williams.edu
From: "Net Worth
Subject: As Per Your Request

sand ...glass ...silicon ...semi-conductor. Am I safe in assuming you already know that On The Line_ became "Rhizome" a.k.a. ch.1 of _Thousand Plateaus_? "We are tired of trees. Paue them all over. Why doesn't the government do something? Doesn't the average taxpayer's view matter anymore?" Did the originally mangled missive show up in complete form? Rosetta Stone: the keystone to the tower of babel; the secret of the return; the conductor with no semi about it. Turn on writing and you turn off presence and you open a space for saying without looking into the other's eyes and you plug your desiring machines into the expressing machine and you transmit a line of flight and then later you fear machines (Freud's moue against Hobbes--no aversions, only desires) that represence the absent even they never met each other and you see the da(n/g)gers in their eyes and you want to run across the lines to erase what was written, to unconduct the semitransmitted (to untransmit the semi-conducted, take your choice) to unplug and recontain your desiring machines and the words have already escaped and so you ask for _something_ back. And you get tortured by the other's cruel self-indulgence as they babble on and on and ... and I liked your letter even if (or maybe because) it was as they say "open and personal." Okay? But I believe in bonding through pain, and I think that our lives and friendships would be much less if we only shared or had good times. Okay, so I'm a Hegelian (however much I try to escape the spirit of gravity): I want (my) suffering to have meaning even if it's only in letting us feel love(d). There it is. And so you see that you are not the only one whose tendencies toward verbosity can be indulged by the fluidity of net-writing. Turn on writing and you turn off presence and you open a space for saying without looking into the other's yawning mouth.

P.S. Get a band aid. "Pray to the god for help. Hold the bloodied glass in front of you. Hold it out toward the god. If you are pure he will add his life to your own, for both are red and holy. He uses his powers upon your blood. He turns your blood clear showing you his words through your blood. Read, believe and know. Now, and only now, wipe the glass on your robe. The message is kept from the eyes of your enemies." Trick from an ancient manual by a helio-worshipping spy.

E-mail pseudonyms and virtual strangers: they all appear to me in the bloodied matrix as versions of the same person. Too much blending in is too much bleeding, unless you're going for a Rothko finish. This still life is not about that kind of writing, or representation. This is imagined more in the figures of Munch. Think of this text as the lyrics to accompany The Scream. It is an instrumental piece. Torture, and horror, and vampires, and demons, and bleeding women inform its making. But it is also about women and men and the postmodern. We are all caught up in an Internet of escape-hatch mutuality. To get out press Control: X/C. You can quit at any time. If you don't like the music, hit the delete key.

The Scream, not the dream, of a common language. Let's go on a virtual tour of the world. Let's simulate love and war. Welcome to my museum of horrors, where I wax poetic or rhapsodic at the sight of a mute, earless figure stuck on some bridge to nowhere. This is the abridged version of the text. These are my dispatches off the cuff, linking together high and low and other stuff. This is a raw story, a war story, or a war of the words. War and dispatches and representation and death and love are all about the same bloody subject. It is a western subject, told in eastern ways. The bad dreams all came true. All of Scheherazade's stories could not keep the inevitable silence from settling down upon us. Things are pretty quiet round here now.

Date: Sun, 12 Feb. 1995 23:24:13 EST
To: "Dr. Rocket"
From: Jean Claude Van Damn
Subject: Re: second try on e-mail

Tried to send you a more comprehensive message and fucked up. I don't feel like writing it over again--the gist of it was that I'm heading home in hopes that I can be more productive there.

Happy researching

Re: Searching? I snuck in through the gates of the academy. I am still not sure how I got here, but the getting was good. I am an electronic version of a Mary prankster. When I was eighteen years old I took a three-week bus ride with Ken Kesey's X-Driver: That is another story called "Bus Stop." Sometime I will tell it to you. It's all about a whore who hopes some good cowboy junkie will save her. She meets a guy who used to be a prostitute and is moving west to do airbrush tee shirts. It is a good story. It is not this story. This is a love story about e-mail: love means never having to say you're there. And now for me it means saying "I'm sorry" to all the people I was never there for. I was somewhere else. I'm trying to figure out where that was. Bad wishing. When I was eleven I was the lead in that play about the fisherman and his wife. She wishes and wishes for more and more. In the end she wants to be god: she ends up a fishwife. There are bad ways of wishing, and worse ways of loving. Be careful what you wish for: you might get what you think you want.

I was sitting in the summer twilight with my friend wishing on fireflies. He gave me this advice: do not wish of a firefly what it cannot give you. Wish on what is in the nature of the firefly: a meeting with a friend, a good dinner, a morning walk, a good sleep. Do not wish for success, or love dying eternal, or capital, or a degree in something or the other. Wish for simple things.

Grown-up women wish for all kinds of things; not the least of which is at times a good man. I wished, at a certain moment in my life, for this. He would take care of me. He would be kind, and good, and gentle. He would bring me eggs and English muffins in the morning. He would not be threatened by me. He would have his own sense of vocation. He would have a sense of humor. For him, life would be a constant adventure. Maybe he would fly planes for fun. He would be a real feminist. He would give me space. He would be a kind and generous lover. He would forgive me my shortcomings. He would always be on hand to lend a kind ear. He would always be there for me. PRESS: SAVE.

I wished and I wished and I wasted my days. I thought that I was in love with someone: the perfect correspondent. Let's call him Racer X: Speed's long-lost brother. Racer X. He was a daring character, the crossed-out sign; racing and erasing. A lot of my relationship with Racer X was about erasure and death. We were never in the same place for very long: we met at the tracks. He had a quick wit. He was a computer whiz. He was my long-lost brother. I met him in *real* life. I have known him for many years. He became an e-mail correspondent, too, but mostly X and I spoke on the phone. We spoke on the phone because we were never in the same place. I became dependent on those X phone calls: I felt I had found kinship, parity, community. X marked this spot. Autobiographies and signatures. X.

From: Speed's Long Lost Brother
Date: Thurs., 30 Mar 1995 12:40:25 -0800
To: Dr. Rocket
Subject: uh oh

How about honesty? Where do you stand? Take a stand there.
of course you are still my friend. to the bitter end
but you are not fully honest with yourself
ad-mit you are torn and need time
and i will give it to you
let's stop playing games
and start learning to trust one another
paige.

I would like to be able to say:

"Hey, Paige, fall in love with someone and still remain my friend.
You can have love. We can do great things together." However,
you have a really poor track record with romance (although a
good one as a friend).

"Why not find someone like .... Abraham.... oh oops."
"Why not find someone like .... Bartleby...oh right [smacks forehead]"

Even the less damaging of the relationships like Soren or Friedrich were bad.
Why do you haue bad romantic relationships?
Why do you always have to look at them as Queen/King pairings?
Why do I sound like a Dianetics ad?
In the case of Soren he could never be the King to your Queen, so you lacked respect for him as a person.
That is a really bad way to look at the person you are in love with.

I understand that you are lonely and afraid that you might not
have the romantic love that you want, but I think that you are
imperiling our friendship and hurting yourself. Relax. Lots of
people love you.

You possess grace in your life, possibly in larger amounts than
anyone I know.

--end of correspondence--

Was it correspondence? I thought so, but at the same time I questioned this form of corresponding. I questioned his questions. It was a series of ridiculous questions, again and again. I thought I was in love. Maybe I thought it was love because it was mostly a one-way relationship. I was told by the fisherman repeatedly that he loved me "as a friend." I wanted love that would transcend. I wanted love that would never end. He saw it differently: he thought that what I wanted was to consume him in a thunderbolt. He accused me of all kinds of things. He thought that I wanted to make him into my audience. He said that I was like Henry Adams, collecting a c/lover that would die. He said that I was not to be trusted. I knew that already. As it was, I doubted my own instincts. I was looking for someone else to take away my doubts, to fill up the hole of myself. I thought that in his gaze if we could see each other I could become real. He would make me happy. He would put me at ease. I craved those moments. He was an Irish ballad sung by the Furies. I was pursued by the furies. Can women have an Orestes complex and an Electra complex at the same time? It sure seemed like it. Oedipus Rex and Racer X met at a series of junctures. Sometimes they worked as a team. Sometimes they fought as mates. The fisherman and Racer X were the same person. Oedipus put out his eyes to save his ego.

Date: Thurs., 30 Mar 1995 11:51:25 PST
To: "Dr. Rocket"
From: Racer X
Subject: Re: uh oh
In-Reply-To: "Dr. Rocket"
"Re: uh oh" (Mar 30, 2:21 pm)

On Mar 30, 2:21 pm, Dr. Rocket wrote:
> Subject: Re: uh oh
> I will not go gently into that dark night.

Rage, rage, against the dying of light!
How apropos, since you have been nicknamed Rage.
"She's literally all the Rage!"

> My birth never stops happening every day I am more alive the
>pictures of me for Veiled Threats are beautiful. I glued jewels all
> over my face. The hot glue hurt but it stuck like blood. We did
> the shoot. She shot me at the cemetery. for the shoot the light
> was beautiful I stood for a time in a timeless mausoleum jesus
> window blue behind me framing me I was shot with light shot
> through with the christ i bleed blood like Jesus

Have any premonitions concerning the LAPD?
Will Leslie play RI Cowlings, loyal until the end?

Consumer Reports says that the Bronco is *the* most unreliable used car to buy. That's why I am not getting one.

You've transcended humility, how about transcending self-pity?

--Oedipus Rex

Why do I share this correspondence, or lack thereof with you? I am trying. I am trying to be honest. I tried to know Oedipus. I was a sphinx who could not overcome his Jocasta and dead father. I am glad that I did not become his Antigone. All the relations were too much for me. The fallen ways of his family could not be soothed by any of my Ivy League attempts at speech. At a certain point I stopped trying. I want to share this with you. Some battles are worth walking away from. You do not need to fight every dragon. You do not need to be a Princess. You need to remember where you came from, and you need to be able to let go. This is a story about letting go, but first I had to learn about what it was to hold on to the edge of the abyss, and look down. You, too, may need to learn this.

Cut/Paste/Love's Body

Separation (on the outside) is repression (on the inside). The boundary between the self and the external world is the model far the boundary between the ego and the id. The essence of repression, says Freud, is to treat an inner stimulus as if it were an outer one; casting it out (projection). The external world and inner id are both foreign territory--the same foreign territory.

The pseudonym is the externalized id. It is an I.D. made up of projection. It is the naming of the foreign territory between the external world and the inner id: the same foreign territory. Who gave you your name? Did you rename yourself? How often do you use pseudonyms? Are all names somehow "pseudo?" Shall I project a world? Where shall I make an address of this "I"? Why does everything bleed into one-ness or nothingness for me? What is for me? What is forming "me?" The Content of the Form is a book written by Hoyden White. Once he told me he liked that title because no one ever gets it right. This makes sense to me. We spend a lot of our lives confusing content and form. There is no difference between content and form; form and content make all the difference. it was a lack of content that got to me. I was not content. It was a lack of form that destroyed me: I did not remember where I had come from. I was absent. This is my meta-history, because that's the only kind of history I could have at that time, or maybe, all the time. What's your theory of your sign? This is a table of contents of the form.

The Author is Queried About Her I.D.

Date: Tues., 11 Apr. 1995 20:49:19 EDT
To: S.Paige.Baty@williams.edu
From: The Good Man
Subject: Re: My favorite, myself

Dear Paige:

You never did answer why you go by the name Dr. Rocket. Or am I
just missing the obvious?

> Lucretia says you look like
> the young Bob Dylan, or did when you were younger.

I did. Unfortunately, I'm older now so I don't look like the young Bob anymore. Fortunately, I don't look like the old Bob (just haven't developed the jowls). I look a lot like myself, only backwards.

> so i don't think either of us is crazy at all that's what
> I think.

I'll take your word for it. I had a lot of fun (although you said you enjoyed that reading of Eliot, and so did I, but that was actually during our much shorter phone conversation on Sunday. Which, of course, goes to prove absolutely nothing, except that maybe sleeping better than you gives me a slight edge in distinguishing one day from the next.)

> Today I listened to Dylan and thought about meeting you and
> was happy and apprehensive at the same time.

Don't be too apprehensive. I am a nice person (at least I think so). I am looking forward to meeting you, and hope that you are as happy to meet me when you actually meet me as you are in expectation of doing so. Or whatever. You know what I mean? What if, after all this buildup, I turn out to be completely opposite of your expectations? Maybe I'm just a convenient screen for certain projections you've got going. I'd hate to disappoint you because I'm who I am and not who you're thinking of. But I am who I am and actually like me quite a bit, so maybe you will too once you meet me and sort me out from who you may be thinking I am.

I had a dream about you the other night. You had short hair that was dark brown at the roots and dyed gold or blonde on top. Your eyes looked very familiar, though. I wonder if this dream image looks at all like you (I know the hair is wrong, but the rest, who knows?)? I am mildly psychic, but not in a linear kind of way.

My officemate Barbara walked into the office the next day and she had a new haircut and I was disoriented for a second because I didn't recognize her and she sort of looked like the you in my dream, but she has short dark hair and dark eyes and high cheekbones and fair skin (which is how you described your current self) and for some reason I flashed on thinking that it was you. Really weird. She commented on how strange I looked at her. My life seems to be full of these small things like this lately. I like it, but it feels strange sometimes.

Maybe you're not crazy. Myself I'm never quite sure about.

Which Dylan album were you listening to?

What's your favorite color?

And why don't you like beards?

The Good Man *end of query*

Dispatches

Talk about impersonating an identity, about locking into a role, about irony: I went to cover the war and the war covered me; an old story, unless of course you've never heard it. I went there behind the crude but serious belief that you had to be able to look at anything, serious because I acted on it and went, crude because I didn't know, it took the war to teach it, that you were as responsible for everything you saw as you were for everything you did. The problem was that you didn't always know what you were seeing until later, maybe years later, that a lot of it never made it in at all, it just stayed stored there in your eyes. Time and information, rock and roll, life itself, the information isn't frozen, you are.

The theorist and the war correspondent do the same work. They think that they can know a little bit about you for their files, and in the end they face themselves, if they are real correspondents. They find out that they are "responsible for everything they saw" as much as for "everything they did." If they have courage, they learn to live with the consequences of what they did. Or sometimes they become Hemingway and shoot themselves in the head. They cannot live with what they saw and did. They cannot find a clean, well-lighted place. They go searching for themselves around the globe. They try everything, but it doesn't work for them. At the end, they feel dried up and dead. They are victims of their writing.

Repetition: I was fighting my own demons; I was writing myself.

I searched for answers posed by Socrates' Daemon. Was I truly no wiser than anyone else? Why was I a woman? When I was eight, the world was my oyster and I was the walrus, or was I the carpenter? I grew up to look for pearls of wisdom in the sands of my youth. I always loved sifting through things: like sands of the hourglass, those were the days of my life. Wind, Sand, and Stars. I lived on automatic pilot: I did not need a match to light my flame. I burned and I burned and I yearned and I yearned. I was Joan of the fallen arches: Joan of the dark night. I fought windmills and mills and everything that stood in my way. I was a super hero: I was Batman, Superman, the Green Lantern, The Silver Surfer WHAAAAm. Barn. Thank you, man. Pow. Kazow. Right kick to the neck. Hard punch in the chest.

When I was eight, I fought in ways that I do not now understand. Now, everyway I look at it I lose. I was a heroine, not a super hero. I stopped believing in super heroes. I searched and searched and was more and more bewitched, bothered, and bewildered. Where was I? Oh yes, I found myself when I was signifying: nothing. Everything was less than zero. Too bad that I suffered from that complex: do you feel like zero when you're not number one? I felt like "O." O my god.

I know that this work is autobiographical. It comes from my perspective. I suffer from graphomania. I tell stories all night to keep out the inevitable ending. On the other hand, what I'm talking about is all over anyway. This is the story of a thousand and one nights. There are stranger fictions, and I know them, or I used to. Many of my correspondents became stranger fictions. They were no longer real. Truth is stranger than fiction. Truth is a stranger to fiction. Fiction is stranger truth. This is the only way I could tell this story, so this is how I told it. What else should I be--all apologies?

Someone Tries to Intervene

Date: Wed, 08 Feb. 1995 18:86:27 EST
To: S.Paige.Baty@williams.edu
From: Speedy Subject: still

feeling guilty, I am, that is
i don't know what i'm supposed to do
but i guess what i think i'm supposed to do is just not right
because i don't write, either way, to you or for credit
maybe i'm just a negligent student and then a bad friend
in that order, a short-order chef.
SO, fry me up some more guilt, I can hash it
together, and maybe it won't be so bad if I catch up
if, when, ever
you maybe don't see how i care
so maybe i don't care as you can see:
ostensible is somehow defensible
but not from my perspective tv
don't change the channel
i'm just on a commercial break

The late S. Paige Baty was also the author of American Monroe: The Making of a Body Politic.

"This is about a society of isolates who all communicate with one another from terminal sites. This is about being disembodied, distanced, distinct, and that sort of boundary-thing. It is not about being present. It is not about being there. It is not about a shared history, or a shared meal, or a shared story, or any kind of mutuality. It is about contact between virtual strangers.... It happens when you feel that you are so alone that you need anybody to talk to—anybody at all—because you believe that your connections have failed you. This kind of connection leaves you cold and dead inside, because it lacks history and a language of belonging."