The Skeletal Eschatology of Soft Narration

An Exercise in Authorized Compartmentalization

Or, A Dog and Pony Show, Authored by the Writer






A wunderkammer of beautiful garbage and natural artifacts. A cabinet of curiosities, including petrified wood, scary bones, weird pebbles, and faulty scientific equipment (hidden in the background). Also, small boxes and vials, and a map of an ocean, probably real.
Photograph of the Museum of Detritus by Bryan Edenfield


Clarity is nowhere softer, nowhere safe. Someone needs to take care of this before it spirals out of control and burns the whole place down. It doesn’t matter if animals die and it doesn’t matter if they have cells or don’t have cells. Some animals are gentle and some cause disasters. The body is an apparatus for consciousness but that doesn’t matter. One body stands next to another body and what concerns those bodies is none of my business. I’ve been to the market today. I’ve seen things decay beautifully. That’s old news. A song is not a clear thing but actually very confusing to me. If you, dear reader, are not confused, I’m not sure what to tell you. You’ve got it all figured out, pal.


The narrator decides to take linguistic foibles and turn them into metaphysical blanks. The narrator doesn’t understand what the big deal is. We do this sort of thing all the time in the literary arts, says the narrator. The reader disagrees. The reader says to the narrator, I’d like something a little more solid. To this, the narrator replies, Then why don’t you go and write a tome of your own? The narrator is in a bad way. Recently, tragedy befell the narrator. The reader, on the other hand, is fine. The reader is always fine. They come to the text with nothing inside of them. They come emptied out. The reader is a divine spirit. The narrator needs therapy. The reader is a holy fool. The narrator has a lot to get off their chest. The reader is a good listener. The narrator never listens. The narrator talks and talks and talks, mostly about dear theories of narration, theories close to heart, crowding other organs, taking up vital resources, skewing the trajectory of blood, sapping oxygen of essential nutrients, and redirecting the distribution of vitamins and minerals.

The Reader

If you’re listening, I know a lot about you. The reader is a good listener, though these sounds are silent like bones. Sonically skeletal, they hold together a troglodyte framework of phonemes and whistles. The reader isn’t interested in throat singing or anything too weird and out-there. The writer, a jerk, wants the reader to care about throat singing, atonal composition, the ambiguities of self and other, the vicissitudes of identity in relation to the unremarkable thrust of mundane history, the banality of nouns and the fever dream of verbs. The reader just wants to have a good time, and doesn’t mind a preponderance of funny silly wacky adjectives, because those pesky and delightful critters make reading a fun happy surprise. The writer wants clarity, simplicity, purity. In that regard, the writer resembles an authoritarian. This is why we call a writer an author. The reader is radically democratic, anarchic even. The reader would never make blanket statements or make presumptions about another person. The writer doesn’t do this either, of course.

The Writer

Some writers are authors and some writers are bores. An authority on a subject is someone the reader can trust, but any good author knows that no one can be trusted, especially the reader, who comes to the text not knowing anything at all. The reader is empty and dull. The author is an expert. The reader asks the author, What is your area of expertise? The author shrugs. My area of expertise is. The author stalls. Look at the notch in the hawthorn tree and see the swallow die there because of a feral cat. This is an imaginary scene designed by the author to distract the reader from what really matters. We have problems to solve, the reader says. Give me something to chew on, the reader says. The Author becomes a writer and writes. It doesn’t matter what order the words are in as long as they are connected. But the reader is annoyed and would like a simple order, without filigrees. Both the reader and the writer fall in love with paradox but the author has better things to do, like become an expert in something, like birds or trains or eschatology or echolocation. If the author doesn’t have anything useful to say, the author better shut the fuck up for once.

The Listener

The listener is a bad expert. Experts need to ignore things to become experts. I am an expert in post-antebellum economic models in the Southern United States. That’s very specific, says the impressed listener, not an expert in anything. Because good listeners are unable to make decisions. Should I ignore this person, the listener thinks, or should I ignore that person? Oh I can’t decide, so I suppose I’ll just pay attention to everyone, and let wisdom flood into me, me a great big empty stupid abalone shell. The listener doesn’t understand most of what they hear but the listener appreciates the advice of experts and does their bidding without question. The expert thinks the listener is a rube, and they are right. That’s pretty sophomoric behavior from those plebian listeners. The expert explains post-antebellum economic models in the Southern United States, knowing nothing of the economic models that came before. That’s fine, says the expert. This is how we come to know things: compartmentalization. Not I, says the listener. I compartmentalize nothing, and that is why I know nothing, and am an idiot.

The Author

The reader is superior to the author, though the reader is very stupid and not an expert in anything. The author knows this. The author is an absolute mess, and not very moral. Most successful people are not very good people, because being a good person is stupid. The author is, of course, very successful. An unsuccessful author is not an author because they are not an expert because to be an expert you must be recognized as such. A person cannot be an unsuccessful authoritarian: they are either an authoritarian, or they are not. They may want to be an authoritarian, but that doesn’t matter. An expert is recognized by their peers as an expert and then we call them successful. And then we call them an author. And then the reader can listen to them through reading. Is reading the same as listening? I don’t know, I’m just a simpleton when it comes to such matters, not an expert in anything. I am at best only a writer, still an absolute mess, but with nothing to show for it. Being a writer is aspirational. Being an author is despotic and essential. Being a listener requires complete emptiness. Being a reader requires this, plus literacy. To be empty and literate is very difficult. Books on tape are amazing.

The Expert

If the listener listens to only some people by accident and not others they might become an expert too if they’re not careful. But probably not, because a non-expert person must bribe another person, already an expert, to become an expert too. Experts call this tuition. Even then, the person, after bribing, must perform a song and dance. Experts call this a dog and pony show. Actors are illiterate experts, and they are plagiarists. Plagiarism is the only way to become an expert, in the end. It is a form of flattery, and experts love to be flattered. This is called gate-keeping.


Clarity is a form of certainty and certainty is a form of obedience. Experts are good at defining words. You are an idiot because you are reading this. I am brilliant because I am writing it. That’s how it works, because of definitions. But you, the reader, are Good, whereas I, the writer, am Evil. The reader is moral and empty of sin. Sin gets in the way of listening but innocence gets in the way of pontification. The wise are immoral. The author sins and then invents logic to pretend that they did not sin. All authors are wise men but not all wise men are men; some men are women and women who are wise men are authors too. Everyone knows this. Logic dictates it. Does this upset some readers? The writer hopes so. The writer needs to upset people because the writer is cruel and evil and had a bad bad childhood. Logic wouldn’t be necessary if we weren’t so traumatized. Logic dictates, like a dictator, like an author.


One day, the experts will burn. The meek shall inherit the earth. The experts know this because of course they do. Thus, they do their best to remain in charge until that day comes. If only they’d let go, relinquish this desire to be in charge. Then, they would no longer be experts, and would become meek, and would thus inherit the earth, eventually. Experts know this too because knowing things is what they do, but experts are impatient thieves. Being moral and good is an act of patience and listening, and it is very very stupid and boring. Meanwhile, the listener is so empty that they have almost no identity.


Listeners can never be wise. Even potential wisdom is wisdom enough to destroy the moral core of the listener. If a teacher says to a student, You’ve got potential, kid, the teacher dooms the student. The student will now never get to be a true listener, but depending on circumstances, may never become an expert either. There can be only a small number of experts because if there are too many, they begin to eat each other. This is called cannibalism. Thusly, those poor souls, not listener and not experts, stuck in the middle forever, are called failures. Most writers are not experts but are failures. If they weren’t failures, they would be experts, and so they would be authors, not writers. Is there exception to this? I don’t know, don’t ask me! What do I look like to you, an expert? Certainly not! I’m a failure, clearly.

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Published by Bryan Edenfield

Author, Mistake