Wednesday, August 8, 2012

This Appointment Occurs in the Past

photo: The Rumpus
Sam Lipsyte is the flavor du jour. He’s every where and some authors feel flattered when reviewers favorably compare their books to say his novel The Ask. So let’s look at his latest story in The Paris Review entitled, “This Appointment Occurs in the Past, "(Paris Review, Summer 2012). The plot is almost incidental. The narrator who is living and occasionally sleeping with his former mother-in-law, Ondine, in Ypsilanti responds to the call of Davis, a friend who is dying. The narrative is no more than an occasion for the absurdist anti-spiritual maxims and formulations which are the building blocks of a philosophical prose poem. The title of the story, for example, is an app that pops up on his phone, “one of those phones that did everything” whenever the narrator attempts to calendar something. Soon after Davis asks the narrator, “So what’s your life plan?” “Drinking…One day at a time," is the response. It’s plain we are in a counter universe driven by a handbook whose directions are all distortions of familiar  catchphrases. It’s almost like spiritual science fiction, a parallel universe in which all the familiar signposts are turned on their heads. “We were poseurs, but why do you think poseurs pose? Because they want to be invited to the realm of the real, an almost magical zone of authentic sensation, and they know they’re not qualified” Lipsyte’s character muses. Authentic existence is Lipsyte’s subject. Heidegger used the world Unheimlichkeit which literally means not being at home, to refer to  inauthenticity. For Freud the same word connoted what he called “the uncanny.” Umheimlichkeit, in both the connotations employed by Heidegger and Freud, seems like a term that would apply to the world of Lipsyte’s story.

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