Monday, October 18, 2004

"The problem with the Argentines is their imaginary weapons work."

Amidst my morning perusal of blogs and such, I found this astounding little piece of fiction by Chris Nakashima-Brown. It's a bit of Borges in a pop culture blender:

...The episode starts out as a typical variation of the formula. Following the eternally lounge Paul Williams theme, we meet the week's cast as they board. Barbara Billingsley plays a melancholy divorcee. Her kids have bought her a week on the boat; they didn't mention they bought one for Dad as well, played by Tom Bosley. Stella Stevens is Honey Spitz, a hard-partying Vegas girl searching for rescue from imminent spinsterhood. She will spend much of her time conferring with Tony Randall as Emmett Graham, a Capote-esque playwright who finds the muse in her story, and engineers a competition for her affections among Dick Shawn as a comical advertising executive, McLean Stevenson as a shy, sarcastic Midwestern arms dealer, and Marjoe Gortner as an aging rock star. And an enfeebled Jorge Luis Borges, as himself.

Four minutes in, Gopher leads the blind Borges up the plank in his incongruous vintage wool suit, hand-tailored by an Anglo-Italian master haberdasher in the Distrito Almirante Brown.

"So, Mr. Borges," says Gopher, "are you traveling alone?"

Borges' lazy, whitened eyes stare through the chipper Iowan, reimagining the universe in the nautical vignette cresting the Purser's cap.

"Can you not see the massing armies of the Heresiarchs?" queries the author.

"Uh, gee, fella, we have a lady who brought her Shih Tzu, but I don't think that's quite enough to make it an Ark. But you should talk about that with Dr. Bricker. Maybe he can give you something to help you take a nap."

As the episode proceeds, we learn that Borges and Mrs. Cleaver were married once, briefly, in the years between 1969 and 1970, adding complication to her efforts to explore a reconciliation with Mr. Cunningham. In the karaoke lounge, as Stella Stevens soothes the passengers with an otherworldly rendition of "Wichita Lineman," the episode takes a dark turn. The camera closes in on Borges' Magus eyes. The boom of nearby naval artillery rattles the ship, causing a panic. On the bridge, Captain Stubing radios out a Mayday when a squadron of Delta-wing fighters bearing strange insignia buzzes the Lido Deck. Romantic interludes are suspended as a dashing boarding party scours the ship, rounding up Robin Leach (as himself) and a handful of forgotten English character actors.

In the final scene, Isaac is in his cabin, drinking absinthe with Dr. Bricker and reading excerpts from a musty book Borges left in his cabin. The Anglo-American Cyclopaedia, Thirteenth Edition (Volume XLVI: Uqbar-United States).

"The Hrönir of the perpetually broadcast American television reruns are infinite in power and proliferation," reads Isaac, "enabling those who can discover them in plain sight to recast the subtext and reinvent the world."

"What the heck's a Hrönir?" asks Dr. Bricker.

"Darned if I know," shucks Isaac. "But says here they're some kind of imagination made real in some country in the Middle East called Tlön or Uqbaristan or something. Maybe some kind of terrorists, you think? Listen:

"'Centuries and centuries of Tlönian idealism have not failed to influence reality. In the most ancient regions of Tlön, the duplication of lost objects is not infrequent. Two persons look for a pencil; the first finds it and says nothing; the second finds a second pencil, no less real, but closer to his expectations. These secondary objects are called hrönir. . . . The methodical production of hrönir . . . has made possible the interrogation and even the modification of the past, which is now no less plastic and docile than the future.'"

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