The problem is everything
Is anyone terrified of going to prison for hurting someone, but you had no control and have no recollection of it?
About to finish The Ice at the Bottom of the World. So simple but the way he words things is cunning at the same time.
Do you believe that objects retain memory? As in a house retains the events that happen in the house, and carries those events with it, which is interpreted as being haunted. I love this idea because I love old beat up things.
I really enjoy the use of thin places, human interactions, and loneliness in fiction. In one of my favorite animes Evangelion, the hero characters use what is referred to as an AT-Field to protect themselves from harm during battles with angels. This "Absolute Terror" Field is the light of their soul and keeps them from truly being connected to other humans. A physical barrier that is our bodies. In one of the series endings the "Third impact" takes place and the whole of the humanity loses their physical forms and becomes this massive sea of souls in a giant ocean with no barriers to prevent loneliness or isolation. All of humanity is combined together except for 2 of the main characters. An Adam and Eve of sorts.
The persona video game series uses thin places and Japanese folklore to generate this mysterious alternate realities that our hero has to conquer. One game the alternate place is at midnight normal time stops and a 25th hour takes place while everyone else is frozen in coffins. This is where monsters roam and rare people that are left conscious during this time typical get murdered by the creatures in bizarre ways. One thin place is inside the TV on this special channel that broadcasts only on rainy nights. Another is inside the souls of other people but tied to a physical location that they believe they have a strong influence over. A place that they rule.
In the shower this morning, I was thinking about how it's difficult to absorb the lessons of dead words. A flurry of facts. Architecture and dialog. Stories, especially well-told ones, liven up our lectures. We need to be placed in the physical world and given something to hold onto.
I can attest to Britain being haunted. It’s cold, depressing, and the constant wind makes it seem like someone’s breathing down your neck.
Calls to mind your line near the beginning of “Nonfiction”: “All my books are about a lonely person looking for someway to connect with other people. In a way, that is the opposite of the American dream ...”
A Christmas Carol draws from one of Jesus’ parables (Luke 16:19-31) in which a rich man, condemned to hell for being wealthy and not caring for the poor, pleads for a ghost to be sent to warn his five brothers. No ghost is sent in the parable, so Dickens sends them.
Hope you got a chance to see the post! Marla's in on this one! A.I.'s version of Marla. Is it her, Mr. Palahniuk? https://magazine.lensvid.com/size/fb/1159127368/movie-characters-recreated-with-artificial-intelligence/?uvv=750&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=z3-us-d-aIpplfb-23853107804760579&fbclid=IwAR1rc3kyGI5josuGGWgysWoXNVeajx_rPWe-zz78XX6kXqujnzk7xk2LZBM&pg=22
The article paints a fascinating picture of loneliness. And since you've asked our thoughts, can isolation in some context prove to be better than presenting an inauthentic self? Can it also be used as a prolonged moment, to rebuild that core an individual loses as a result of that survivalistic functioning to fit the describtion of a close circle, and a society (that is collective by nature)? Loneliness can seem like a step back but, at times can also be the only step forward.
I feel like I'm going against the grain. I could be so wrong.
Great read but is there anything we can do about loneliness. I feel better in solitude and try to avoid people.
So, is that why people who love rom-coms love them so much? Because their biggest fear is loneliness, and those movies give them the catharsis of watching someone overcome it and couple up with their perfect significant other?
Come to think of it, this article is the best explanation I can think of for why Christmas rom-coms are so bland and formulaic that people make jokes and memes about them, yet every year Hallmark cranks out more of them and people continue to consume them.
Happy New Year!
There is so much in the article to unpack.
While reading— I kept thinking of Charlie Manx’s Christmas Land with the constant abduction of children to fulfill his own loneliness and youthful appearance. “N0S4A2” is a strong story by Joe Hill that has given me nightmares about the longing to be with others and establish friendships— which seems to be harder to do as I age.
One quote he uses— about being alone, in need of help, but having your face turned up to the stars— all that glittering abundance— so many— but no one there to help and to die with your face and eyes turned up to the stars— that is humbling. That is real.
Another part, he mentions— other ghosts, wandering and chained like Marley— is that— other ghosts looking to redeem themselves because they too chose to be alone and work— rather than the company of people? I agree— technology has hampered human interaction. Even serving people food— when everyone is sitting together but all on their screens— when I walk up to the table— bubbly and friendly— I’m met with screenfaces that desperately want to swipe me away and just drop off the pizza without any communication. A robot will take my place one day to make them feel more comfortable. The worst— the table is always so cluttered— I have to clean a place off to set the pizza that’s burning my hand while they’re still in shock that a stranger just talked to them—- sometimes, they snap out of screen face mode and help— but it’s rare. How dare I interrupt them. It’s dehumanizing.
I agree— I wish there was more to read on this. Extremely insightful. Thank you for sharing. I saw the author has 2 books available… I might need to research further. I’ve already read the article twice. Soooo much rhere!
Chuck— what stood out to you? Almost reminds me of how solitary the act of a woman having an orgasm became in “A Beautiful You.” (Still one of my favorites.)
Great essay. Re: the "empty rooms filled with nothing but technological phantoms" point (which I realize is not the main point): I work from an empty room at home, spend much of my free time in this same room writing, and have lived as an expat for five years in a country where I don't speak the language. So this resonates with me, on a few levels, actually.
On the one hand, when I look at a platform like Twitter, which I think is largely and detrimentally performative in a country like the US, and from which I jumped ship long ago, I see it as one of the big drivers of the kind of atomization and loneliness the writer described. That is, I see it that way from the outside. On the other hand, I write and post to my Substack pretty regularly. That has become my main communication/expression channel with almost all of the people who are not living in my house with me (i.e., my wife). And I do often wonder if Substack is basically just Twitter without a character limit or a need for threads. Long-form Twitter, if you will. It feels different to me, but I imagine it goes the other way, too, and that Twitter feels different to many of the people who are on it.
What are your thoughts on this? As a writer and novelist who also posts to Substack often, are the platforms really that different in their "technological phantom"-hood? Other than the fact that writing a novel to share with others is significantly harder than writing a Twitter thread, are the two things really that different? Writing (a technology itself) and the printing press and all that caused panic in their times. I do think today's tech seems worse for society, if nothing else just for the instant gratification and immediacy on offer to so many at all times. But is it really worse? Or is it just the latest scapegoat for the real monster in the room: our human nature and behavior playing on loop? And if it's the latter, then what, I wonder, is the way out?
Ghosts, Christmas and religious rituals are suggestive of the concept that everything, past, future, present all exist at once. Our perception of time is just our limited view of now - but all the events are in existence NOW. So, it makes sense that the ghosts, which aren't really present now, could lead us to different parts of our timeline because it already exists. To change that timeline requires real deliberate change, which is possible, but hard. I realize I sound a bit like a TEDtalk but I think it is a helpful way to look at it. I had a friend who had a personal loss and it affected her deeply. It was helpful to her to realize that her family member still exists in her timeline - that the past is real and exists.
Sorry for intruding, but if I send an email to the webmaster, will Chuck read it? I don't need a reply, it's more of a thank-you note.
I liked it.