Vanishing as Metaphor and Violence as Act

in Joe R. Lansdale’s “Listen”

One of the great things about horror fiction is it often is a closer reflection of real life than more traditional fiction genres. Talented writers of the horror genre show us a world that is both scary and familiar. Joe R. Lansdale’s “Listen” is an interesting read as a horror story, but it can also be read as a metaphor of individuals who are marginalized.

A Fist Full opf Stories (book cover)
A Fist Full of Stories (and Articles) by Joe R. Lansdale

Floyd Merguson visits a psychiatrist and reveals a troubling condition; he is slowly fading away. In an extended monologue Floyd recounts a series of events that have convinced him that he is becoming transparent, invisible. The violence that occurs at the end of the story would appear to confirm Floyd’s belief that he is suffering from some sort of terminal illness. Lansdale’s story has the required elements to make it a solid horror story, but it can be read on another level. Floyd Merguson’s vanishing, his invisibility, can be viewed as a metaphor. One does not have to physically fadeout or vanish to feel marginalized and invisible. The forgotten, the neglected, the discarded, and the bullied all feel invisible. These marginalized individuals, like Merguson, can recount numerous instances of slowly vanishing, of becoming transparent, of being invisible. And sadly, like Merguson, may come to a similar violent end.

One of the best elements of horror fiction is its ability to show the reader how scary the world around us is, how real life is scarier than fiction. Joe R’ Lansdale’s “Listen” is a well written horror story. If you take a different view “Listen” becomes a scary metaphor, and if we do not listen to this metaphor it may result in violence.

-K-

“Listen” from A Fist Full of Stories (and Articles) (2014) by Joe R. Lansdale.

Authors on Vanishing

Five Pieces of Fleeting Advice

• “There was not a moving up into vacated places; there was simply an anachronistic staying on between a vanishing past and an incalculable future.” -F. Scott Fitzgerald-

• “I should like to tidy things up and disappear.” -Virginia Woolf-

Demolition #4 (#130-editj20.214)
“Demolition”

• “Leaders should lead as far as they can and then vanish. Their ashes should not choke the fire they have lit.” -H.G. Wells-

• “I do have a sense, and I’ve never not had it, of how easily things can vanish.” -Doris Lessing-

• “Plunder, v. To take the property of another without observing the decent and customary reticences of theft. To wrest the wealth of A from B and leave C lamenting a vanishing opportunity.” -Ambrose Bierce-

-K-

Dose of Dr. Gonzo

“I had come regard him as a loner with no real past and a future so vague that there was no sense talking about it.”

-Hunter S. Thompson-

Some Thoughts on Vanishing

Keeping Track of What Vanishes

Ever wonder where things go? Where do plans, places, old friends, and missed opportunities end up? Sometimes we can pinpoint the exact locations of these things, but other things simply vanish. There is the slow fade that we don’t notice until that thing we admire, desire, or hold close to us is gone. Then there is the quick vanishing act, as if some unseen magician has played some sort of cruel trick on us.

As I grow older it feels as if more and more things are vanishing (maybe I was too busy to notice them when I was younger). We live in a world of vanishing things such as objects, animals, places, and languages just to name a few. There are those things that have a personal impact on us when they vanish for one reason or another, and entire cultures are impacted when other things vanish. As I write this the word “thing” feels vague but when dealing with such a wide array of concepts what other word works (there are probably many better words that could be used but the 90 degree weather and the sixer of Miller High Life may be impairing my vocabulary)? Maybe the best we can do is to remember those things that vanish the best we can.

Empty Hospital (D70-editj17
“Empty Hospital”

Whether it is a slow fade out or quick disappearance things vanish all around us.  Some of these vanishing things impact us on a personal level and the vanishing of others may impact entire cultures.  This month is about those things that vanish and the impact their absence may have on us.

-K-

One More Cup and One Last Smoke

or A Moment to Get Sentimental

June is leaving a heat wave in its wake in the Midwest, and with June’s departure the topic of coffee and cigarettes has come to an end. I feel as if I only scratched the surface of this topic. I started the month mentioning an individual’s relationship with coffee/caffeine and cigarettes/tobacco. Hopefully some of this month’s posts got you thinking about your own relationship with coffee and cigarettes, it did for me.

Caffeine and tobacco are vices for many people, but vices tend to provide some of the best memories. This month got me thinking about how many hours I’ve spent in various cafes drinking coffee while reading books and how the two activities are interconnected for me. I remember reading Still Life with Woodpecker at a Borders Café on a rainy Sunday. The book cover got the attention of an inquisitive redhead and the caffeine gave me the courage to start up a conversation. The redhead and I didn’t work out it but it is a fond memory. I’ve also been thinking about the many nights spent smoking cigars and playing euchre with friends when I was in my early twenties.  I’ve lost touch with most of those old friends, but the cigar talk and trading stogies are memories I’ll never lose.

DV IMAGE
“Sunset at Cafe”

I mentioned at the start of the month that an individual’s relationship with coffee and cigarettes (caffeine and tobacco) can give you a bit of insight into that person’s character. Thinking about your own relationship with coffee and cigarettes can also give you personal insight and maybe stir up some fond memories.

-K-

John Lee Hooker, Black Coffee, and Cigarettes

Something For What Ails You

Another Sunday morning suffering the side effects of Saturday night. I’m no doctor. I have no cure for what ails me, but a healthy dose of the blues does treat the symptoms. My current prescription is John Lee Hooker’s “Never Get Out of These Blues Alive” (I recommend the version Hooker sings with Van Morrison).

The Best of John Lee Hooker (cover)
The Best of John Lee Hooker 1965 to 1974

If you have ever sat up all night drinking black coffee and smoking cigarettes then this song is worth a listen. If you have ever spent your nights pacing the floor then you want to download this song. If you have ever stayed up all night obsessing over a woman (or man or whoever) then this song will speak to you. If you have ever wondered if you will escape the blues then this song should be on your playlist.

John Lee Hooker’s “Never Get Out of These Blues Alive” is quintessential blues (Hell, John Lee Hooker is quintessential blues). Whether you are new to the blues or already have an extensive playlist consider adding this song. There is one important thing to keep in mind when listening to this song (or the blues in general for that matter). The blues isn’t just about how bad things are, the blues is about a hope that things will get better.

-K-

The Best of John Lee Hooker 1965 to 1974 (1992) by John Lee Hooker

First kiss, first drink, first smoke…all dangerous.

-K-

Black Coffee and Cigarettes: The Mix Tape

1. “Coffee Girl”–The Tragically Hip

2. “Smoke Rings”–Sam Cooke

3. “Cigarettes and Coffee”–Otis Redding

Red Cup (Optio-edit)
“Red Cup”

4. “Rum in My Morning Coffee”–Jan Smith

5. “Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray”–Patsy Cline

6. “Don’t Smoke in Bed”–Nina Simone

Apt. Cigarette Break (edit)
“Cigarette Break”

7. “Cigarettes, Whiskey, and Wild Wild Women”–Jim Croce

8. “Coffee Blues”–Lightnin’ Hopkins

9. “Never Get Out of These Blues Alive”–John Lee Hooker

-K-

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