MISFIT DOC: Why This Essay Matters—And What You Should Think About It

Recently, if I may be so bold as to open with a personal anecdote, I was attacked by mechanical flying squirrels. How exactly this misfortune came to pass—whether the squirrels were remotely controlled, or had somehow coordinated their swooping and biting by way of artificial intelligence—is entirely beside the point. What matters, of course, is whether I can turn the incident into fodder for a glib, generalizing essay that blows your feeble mind into slippery chunks. Caution: fair warning. Fair warning: you’ve been warned.   

Quick timeout; let’s backtrack a bit. I’ll bet you’re wondering just what in the hell was going on with that daft first paragraph. To be honest, so am I. And that’s the truth I’m trying, however poorly, to convey. (Self-effacement always works; you can thank me when you’re married.) What was I saying? Ah, yes: Do you see what happened there, that I did there, just now, where you were reading the things I put there? Because I wasn’t paying attention either. That’s the untapped power of whatever it is I’m supposed to be writing about. Checkmate.

If you’re still struggling, think of this argument as a Magic Eye painting. At first it’s merely a jumble of neon static, or like a complicated sweater, except you aren’t wearing it, or even nearby, or indeed relevant, I’m assuming based on some websites I check. But the harder you stare, the more you realize: Life is utterly true. If that makes you angry, good—we need more people to get angry, and to use that anger constructively, for example by donating it to a homeless shelter. Too bad you won’t even do that, simply because you don’t know how. The sad, broken education system in this country has failed you. Or is it “whom”? It is not.

“Sure,” you mutter, sipping the dirty martini I ordered for you in the swanky hotel bar of my fevered imagination. “I agree with the pseudo-thoughts you’ve so far transmitted via laptop keyboard and am prepared to die gruesomely for any radical ideals you may espouse in the future. Yet I can’t escape the sense that I could do more, and also did you poison my dirty martini?” It’s too late for such questions. That you’ve tasted the toxin means you’re already dead. Send my regards to Charlemagne, if you recognize him. He’s not as tall as they say.

At the end of the day, in the final analysis, what it all comes down to, in conclusion, the end. Kidding! Unless you’ve tabbed over to something else, which only serves to legitimize my confusing position on commercial space travel, which you’ll recall from the previous column. Here’s a broken link to it. After that piece came out, I found myself cornered at a conference by a film scholar who said that the film Barry Lyndon was Kubrick’s way of confessing that he faked the Enlightenment. To explain why I mention this would be too pedantic.

Non-sequitur: Often I dream of having my own tropical island, jetting around to other islands. The island I’m on has a motor, see. I know, deep down in the pit of my groin, that this isn’t realistic—and it’s not especially cool. Admitting that my fantasies are lame was the toughest thing I’ve done in life, and I once punched through a wall of butter. Don’t believe me? I’ve got the greasy knuckles to prove it. Nevertheless, we’re stuck in a world where I’m expected to be ashamed about these things. I’m sorry, I refuse to apologize. For anything. OK.

And yes, I’m getting paid to articulate these views, thanks for asking. In my experience, which I’m sure you’ll agree is the only kind that matters, people rarely ask anymore. Have we stopped being so intrusive? Loose lips may sink ships, but we die unless we pry. Just ask Fredericka Dominic Tully, the Archbishop of the Church of Interrogation, a twelve-person cult whose unpopularity won’t stop me from using them as a broadly illustrative example here. Tully and her followers believe in “sublimating polite silence into raw curiosity,” a concept I never asked her to explain. Journalism’s not for everyone, and certainly not you, dear reader.     

“When is he going to explain the title” is what you’re doubtlessly wondering now. Excuse the cliché, but you need to hold your fucking horses. It’s not as if we’ve hit my required word count yet. We still have room for a racist aside or a grasping attempt to make my wife pay attention to me with some light mockery. Well, here goes: She doesn’t throw away trash. I’m not talking about taking out the garbage—I mean she doesn’t throw things in the garbage. Just leaves old tissues and plastic wrappers and iced tea bottles wherever. Really! Ha!

Anyway, down to business: This essay matters because it exists, and you should think it’s a terrific, searing success. You should print out copies to use as underwear and other kinds of clothes. You should force friends, family, and estranged lovers to digest the whole thing in front of you, adding, “See? I told you so, you absolute twit” when they’re done. With a little luck, they’ll deny you’ve proved anything whatsoever, and your social standing will (further) crumble. You don’t need their approval. You have the Internet for that. And mechanical flying squirrels, too. I’m told they make excellent pets—it’s mainly me they can’t seem to stand.             


Miles Klee is author of the story collection True False and the novel Ivyland, both from OR Books, as well as an editor at web culture site the Daily Dot. His essays, fiction, and satire have appeared in Vanity Fair, Lapham's Quarterly, Guernica, The Collagist, Unstuck, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, The White Review, and elsewhere.

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