The River

Saturday, May 01, 2004

The great molecular comedown

Hello again. It's Saturday. Audrey is napping, Eleanor is on a play date, and Leigh is out of town. I am in our newish home office, or study as we call it. I'm quite literally, except for the large double window in front of me looking out on a dense canopy of green leaves, surrounded floor-to-ceiling by hundreds of books, all Leigh’s.

I just noticed the book Bomb Culture by Jeff Nuttall on the shelf to my left and behind me. I didn’t even know she had (we had) this book. Anyway, I just glanced up, was intrigued by the title, and opened to the table of contents (Pop, Protest, Art, Sick, The Underground, Index) and turned to “Sick," and found the following material quoted from a Jack Kerouac piece called “The Time of the Geek”:

Everybody in the world has come to feel like a geek…can’t you see it? Can’t you sense what’s going on around you? All the neurosis and the restrictive morality and the scatological repressions and suppressed aggressiveness has finally gained the upper hand on humanity – everyone is becoming a geek! Everyone feels like a Zombie, and somewhere at the ends of the night, the great magician, the great Dracula-figure of modern disintegration and madness, the wise genius behind it all, the Devil if you will, is running the whole thing with his string of oaths and hexes…

You feel guilty of something, you feel unclean, almost diseased, you have nightmares, you have occasional visions of horror, feeling of spiritual geekishness – Don’t you see, everybody feels like that now…

It’s the great molecular comedown. Of course that’s only my whimsical name for it at the moment. It’s really an atomic disease, you see. But I’ll have to explain it to you so you’ll know, at least. It’s death, finally reclaiming life, the scurvy of the soul at last, a kind of universal cancer. It’s got a real medieval ghastliness, like the plague, only this time it will ruin everything, don’t you see?

Everybody is going to fall apart, disintegrate, all character structures based on tradition and uprightness and so-called morality will slowly rot away, people will get the hives right on their hearts, great crabs will cling to their brains…their lungs will crumble. But now we have only the symptoms, the disease isn’t really under way yet – virus X only…
Listen! You know about molecules, they’re made up according to a number of atoms arranged just so around a proton or something. Well the just-so is falling apart. The molecule will suddenly collapse, leaving just atoms, smashed atoms of people, nothing at all…as it was in the beginning of the world. Don’t you see, it’s just the beginning of the end of the Geneseean world. It’s certainly the beginning of the end of the world as we know it now, and then there’ll be a non-Geneseean world without all the truck about sin and sweat of your brow. He-he! It’s great! Whatever it is, I’m all for it. It may be a carnival of horror at first – but something strange will come of it, I’m convinced.

It was the psychopath, the ted, the mod, become policy. It was the post-Hiroshima evils stripped down and acknowledged. It was the napalm-scorched world. It was the filth of our humiliation, and it was the point of cultural development at which all three previously separate traditions of pop, protest, and art began to merge. We heard the sound Ginsberg had prayed for:

Your clean sonnets?
I want to read your filthiest
secret scribblings,
your Hope,
in his most Obscene Magnificence,
My God!
[from "To an Old Poet in Peru"]

-- ppgs 124-126, Bomb Culture by Jeff Nuttall, copyright 1968, Dell Publishing Co., Inc., Trade paperback, $2.25.

(well, there's another one for the nightstand pile...this one goes to the top)

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