Found Pages Of Physicist Aleksandr Stoletov’s 13thCentury Experimentations With Monocrystalline And Solar Panel Skin In A Snowy, Komi Republic Russian Town Named Vorkuta That Lies North Of The Arctic Circle In The Pechora Coal Basin

Sunday, January 6, 1312: Cut Poly Vinyl Butyral laminated glass with an extended 2.5 inch width at the heels. Increase anneal temperature to 700 degrees. Mrs. Sidorov’s feet shattered like champagne flutes on fishmonger’s tile floor. Shards beyond repair.

Saturday, January 12, 1312: To clean body scum residue: Fill warm bathwater with 1 cup of vinegar, 1 tablespoon of fluoride toothpaste, a spray of Windex. Squeegee light. Pat body dry with newspaper.

Monday, January 14, 1312: Empirical observations:

Pensive: Cerebellum shifts orange, to red, to yellow, to brown. A fall foliage.

Orgasm: Vagina bursts out like a umbrella. Takes 2 hours 15 minutes to close again.

Cigarettes: Lungs gnackle black. Mulch down to toes.

Death: Stomach shrivels. Raisin dimensions.

Wednesday, January 17, 1312: Proposed mandate with city governor: A siren alert for storms, hail, flood, high winds. Pietr Alkelsov’s chest cracked like a windshield.

Thursday, January 18, 1312: Revised cleansing solution: orange oil and terrycloth.

Friday, September, 15, 1319: Solar panel interlayer laminate to protect heart from noise pollution, heat reduction, ultraviolet UV rays.

Monday, September 18, 1319: Hypothesis: If blood carries as many electrons as electric current in telephone wires, then blood could convert sunlight into energy.

Saturday, September 30: 1319: Construction of photovoltaic celled skin:

Materials:

  1. Monocrystalline
  2. Polycrustalline
  3. Amorphous Silicone
  4. Cadmium
  5. Telluride
  6. Copper Indium Selenide
  7. Sulfide

Skin sheath: 180 micrometers thick.

Thursday, October 5: 1319: Proposal: Clients brushed with high silicone of choice (ranging from white to brown to black). Skin may be dipped in a solution of nanocrystals, creating vibrant shimmer. Quantum dots pressed about body acting as pores. Manufacturer’s warranty of 20 years. Price range: 65- 98,000 based on wattage output of cells and square footage.

Saturday, October 7: 1319: Proposal: Allow nipples to serve as transistor knobs. When twisted, increase amplification of electrical current to heart (such as transistor radio).

Monday, October 9: 1319: Amend dimensions of solar panel. Light passing through glass epidermis causing organ abrasion.

Monday, October 16: 1319: Empirical observations:

On days of rain, of overcast grey: paralysis epidemic.

Tuesday, October 17: 1319: Immediate mandate with city governor: Unlimited population access to incubators, light bulbs, flashlights, nightlights, lamps, candles, fixtures, streetlights, fluorescent, incandescent, neon, led lights, floodlights, headlights, kerosene lamps, whale oil lamps.

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Danielle Lea Buchanan pursues poetry in Baton Rouge.

Untoward Stories: Entropy / Thomas Pynchon

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire,
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

                                                                                                                               —`Fire and Ice’
                                                                                                                                    Robert Frost

‘A screaming comes across the sky.’

Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, with that memorable opening line, captures a mixed bag essence of the devastating unmanned rocket attacks on England during WW II, the Blitzkrieg. Across a gamut of styles ranging from baggy pants whimsicality to the sober intricate prose of death and destruction, the novel stays true to its apocryphal underpinnings. With broad based complexity and prose structure throughout that are as the cover hype proclaims, `dazzling’, GR is smart, funny, well-crafted and intriguing, written with a highly honed narrative touch that surely puts it among the best novels of the 20th century. Like Proust, Rabelais and the writer whose New Yorker story a few years back went on for a page and a half of HAHAHAHAHAs, Pynchon probably isn’t for everybody. GR’s hero, the slovenly, libidinous, redoubtable Tyrone Slothrup, is among the least heroic of the Twentieth Century protagonists, right up there in the anti hero galaxy with Sam Spade, Holden Caulfield, Yossarian and Leopold Bloom.

Slow Learner; a short story retrospect, (1984), collects six early Pynchon stories, including the ‘disagreeable’ Low-Lands’ and our untoward nominated `Entropy’ (which takes an irreverent look into the eye of annihilation at a time when the world was perceived as drifting uncomfortably in that direction). With technique and vision tempered by experience as a tech writer at Boeing (a model for the corporate Yoyodine in his novel ‘V’) and at Cornell, where he was an undergraduate and later taught writing,  Pynchon notes that having to look at ‘Entropy’ again brought on a ‘bleakness of heart’. The story, he says, is ‘a fine example of a procedural error beginning writers are always being cautioned against’, noting: ‘It is simply wrong to begin with a theme, symbol or other abstract unifying agent and then try to force characters and events to conform to it.’

Fair enough, but maybe it’s okay to have deviated from good practice for one story, if only to better understand in retrospect the soundness of the prohibition. Dostoevsky, lauding the value of mistake, notes (from the underground) that two times two makes four is fine, but that ‘two times two makes five is sometimes also a very charming little thing.’ Because there are so many intriguing aspects to Entropy apart from its origins as a backwards literary contrivance and because it links up well with the times and traditions depicted, it still ranks with the best of Pynchon’s early work. He recalls writing the story ‘in 58 or 59’, and notes, ‘when I talk about ’57 in the story as ‘back then’ I am being almost sarcastic. One year of those times was pretty much like another.’

Indeed.

The story is set in those pre-sixties Neverland times when Ike was president, the Cleavers were running America, and everybody knew they might wake up to news that a major city had been annihilated by a preemptive nuclear strike. A study at the time reflected that two well-placed fifty megaton bombs could effectively destroy 90% of Chicago, leaving a barren radioactive wasteland. A few years later came Kubrick’s cold war dark comedy, `Dr. Strangelove’ where the good doctor, while barely managing to stifle a reflexive Nazi salute is asked if an all out nuclear exchange might very well destroy civilization. He responds with watchwords for the era, ‘Yes, —regrettably.’ Proliferation was an issue as well, as it is today. Humorist Tom Lehrer reminded everyone in song that China would soon be getting the bomb, ‘but have no fears, they can’t wipe us out for at least five years.”

Entropy’s season is ‘false spring in Washington’; `false’ in the traditional February sense, but also false when account is taken that doomsday will be preempting the ‘real’ spring. Washington, D.C., a rich source of cold war malaise, is a good setting; where Meatball’s place is ‘a tiny enclave of regularity in the city’s chaos’, where an ongoing lease-breaking party, in the loose anti-establishment tradition of the beats and the yet-to-be sixties hippies, ‘was moving into its fortieth hour,’ and ‘Meatball himself was sleeping over by the window, holding an empty magnum to his chest as if it were a teddy bear.

The easy-going fluidity of the prose, the underplayed, slightly irreverent tone, the casual reference to the temperature outside as ‘still 37’ all work to create a kind of low key, numbing resignation to the fact of imminent universal extinction. Somebody is trying to break in, meanwhile ‘a second story man’, but Meatball says not to worry. “We’re on the third floor.” Soon, three George Washington philosophy major coeds drop by, `each holding a gallon of Chianti,’ the party continues.

Callisto finds in entropy ‘an adequate metaphor’ for application in ‘his own world’, that is, ` the younger generation responding to Madison Avenue with the same spleen his own had once reserved for Wall Street.’  Saul, meanwhile, tells of slugging his wife after a fight over ‘communication theory’, admitting: ‘She ended up throwing a Handbook of Chemistry and Physics at me.’ She stormed out, and Saul seems to have accepted she isn’t coming back, not that it matters so close to the heat death of the universe. A bunch of drunken sailors pop in from Mr. Roberts, convinced that Meatball’s place is the ‘hoorhouse’ their chief was telling them about. Duke’s far out miming musicians and other assorted oddballs wander through, stopping to play cards, do pills, guzzle champagne, smoke weed or just hang out like the Lost Generation of old getting drunk with the perpetually partying rich, like the hippies who’ll soon be dropping acid at the anti-war rally, all united within the mosaic of the great contrarian tradition, all inside an isolated bubble of existence, carrying on in the face of impending doom.

 Meatball manages to stave off the chaos temporarily by restoring a semblance of order to the party, giving wine to the sailors, getting the girls calmed down and calling a repairman for the refrigerator, but upstairs the bird is dying in Callisto’s hands. The whole ‘private time warp’ is pierced by something, `a scream, an overturned chair, a glass dropped on the floor’, the girl shatters the glass bubble, and we see that the 37 degrees will prevail ‘outside and inside, and forever.’  Little gloomy at the end maybe, but it is, after all, a doomsday story.

Sometimes he’s tossed in with the post-moderns, but Pynchon is sui generis, and marking him down as just another smart-ass post-modern messing with literary conventions sells him way, way short. He’s one of our finest modern writers. His sense of history, science, pop culture, the arts, literature and a dozen other disciplines is genuine. On top of all that, he’s known to value his privacy, a most refreshing posture in this era of shameless self-promotion.

Of Plagues And Destroyed Hearts

I had just ejaculated into Gina when the phone rang.

I’ll get that, she said.

No, I said. Rest.

There was a phone in the kitchen so I grabbed it and a beer out of the fridge. I was half drunk already, having spent the afternoon shotgunning Miller Lites and smoking meat on the back porch. Hello, I said into the phone.

Hello, said Andrea, my longtime ex-girlfriend.

What do you need? I said.

Everything, she said. You. A life together. Children. The whole shebang.

Well, I said, you can’t have it.

Why not? she said. Have I used up all my chances?

Years ago, I said. Around the time you rigged my car to explode.

That, she said, was a token of love. I was trying to get your attention.

Well, I said, you got it.

I’m not dangerous, she said. I’m just in love.

Your kind of love, I said, isn’t something I need.

She paused. I drank my beer. I grabbed another.

How is the missus? she said.

Fine, I said. Swimming with me.

Oh, she said, how I miss that.

I know, I said.

I looked in the fridge and saw it was mostly bare. There was a lemon though, so I pulled it and quartered it while I waited for Andrea to speak. Speak, I said. Speak or I’m getting off the phone.

There’s nothing to say, she said. I’m distraught and ready to give it all up.

Good, I said. It’s been a long time coming.

Remember that night, she said. You’d spent the day cooking on the porch and drowning in Miller Lite. You came in of the evening and ravaged me. You said it was harvest and you were hungry.

I remembered that.

I remember that, I said.

Why can’t it be like that anymore? she said.

Because you’ve tried to kill me too many times, I said.

Three times, she said. I’ve tried to kill you three times. Once with the pistol, once with the TV in the bathtub, and once with the car.

The TV was something, I said.

You were watching it all the time, she said. Baseball and golf. Bowling on Sundays.

Your conversation, I said, was too much to handle. Plagues and destroyed hearts.

It was a rough time, she said.

Don’t call here anymore, I said.

I won’t, she said. Until next time.

Damn you, I said.

Damn you, she said. Damn you and your wonderful organ.

Enough with that talk, I said. I was sucking on one of the pieces of lemon and chilling a beer from the pantry.

There’s never enough of that talk, she said. It’s the only thing I ever want to talk about. I was telling my mother about it earlier today.

That’s awful, I said.

It’s not, she said. Something that beautiful has to be shared. Has to be appreciated.

Enough, I said.

I mean it, she said, you got the Louvre between your legs.

Then I came close to hanging up the phone, but I knew she’d call back.

I have to go, I said.

Meet me at a hotel, she said. Tonight. I’ll be discreet.

No, I said. I’ve just performed and I’m tired.

Just a Best Western, she said. I’ll pay. I’ll have them send up some champagne or liquor.

No, I said. I’ve just performed and I’m tired.

Please, she said. It’s been too long. I heard her take a drag of her cigarette. She sighed exhaustedly. I’ll be yours, she said. I’ll let you do whatever you want.

What hotel? I said. And what kind of liquor?

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Jared Yates Sexton is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Georgia Southern University and serves as Managing Editor at BULL. His work has appeared in publications around the country and has been nominated for a Pushcart, StorySouth’s Million Writer’s Award, and was a finalist for the New American Fiction Prize. His first collection, An End to All Things, will be released by Atticus Books in November.

The Naked Mole Rat

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The Naked Mole Rat promises a letter is forthcoming. Reserved, soft-spoken, the Naked Mole Rat has been more or less forced to acknowledge the fact that the service at Cheron’s Dine and Eat has become practically intolerable. The servers are downright rude. Hateful, even. For the most part, the Naked Mole Rat keeps to himself. He works from home. He cooks most of his own meals, or eats them cold. He’s not particularly interested in relationships, romantic or otherwise. But every now and then, he reasons, one must go out, if only to maintain a socially acceptable level of decorum. The Naked Mole Rat finds Cheron’s Dine and Eat to be the most palatable restaurant on the block, and the most affordable. He likes the arrangement of the tables and chairs. He likes the look of the menu. There are a variety of edible textures from which to choose. He has never ordered anything complicated or asked for any kind of special treatment. But the wait-staff at Cheron’s Dine and Eat prefer to treat him as a burden, rather than a paying customer. He is often left standing at the front door for twenty minutes or more, on nights that are not particularly busy or crowded, while the wait-staff passes him by, over and over again. The Naked Mole Rat blames his size. He blames his looks. He is not charming or even friendly, really. He may not be interesting to others, but he knows he’s not bothersome. At least he hopes he isn’t, or hasn’t been. The Naked Mole Rat feels the wait-staff at Cheron’s Dine and Eat can only see him one way: as a small, unpleasant-seeming creature. He is hard to look at, hard to understand. He is not like the rest of the clientele at Cheron’s Dine and Eat. This makes it very hard for the Naked Mole Rat to go back, time and again, as he does, when he feels it is right to do so. When he feels it is right to do so, he feels, on some level, that he must, but he is afraid as well. He is afraid to be mistreated. And the Naked Mole Rat resents being made to live in fear. Recently, the Naked Mole Rat went back to Cheron’s Dine and Eat thinking, This time, it will be different, and he waited nearly fifteen minutes to be noticed. A waitress passed and he said, Excuse me, Miss. She turned, but did not stop walking. Sir, she said. She nodded once, her eyes fixed on something just above the Naked Mole Rat. The Naked Mole Rat promises a letter forthcoming. This is intolerable, he thinks. This is intolerable, he will write. Just as soon as it feels right to do so.

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Colin Winnette is the author of the novel Revelation (Mutable Sound 2011) and a collection of short stories, Animal Collection (Spork Press 2012). He was recently the recipient of the Sonora Review’s 2012 Fiction Award. His newest book, a collection of novellas entitled A Long Line of Diggers, is forthcoming from Atticus Books in March 2013. He lives in San Francisco.