Thursday, March 17, 2011

Aimless Reading: The M's, Part 44 (Henry Miller)

Sexus by Michael_Kelleher
Sexus a photo by Michael_Kelleher on Flickr.

Miller, Henry

I think I bought this at Talking Leaves...Books.

I can remember the summer I read it. It was the summer of 1999. I was alone a lot. I'd spend my days reading and writing, taking walks in La Salle park. I'd just broken up with my girlfriend of a year and was feeling pretty depressed. I also became addicted to a video game that came with my computer.

It was my first Mac. I bought it after the laptop PC I'd bought before coming to Buffalo died. It died in November. I was desperate to have a computer. It had already become an extension of my body that I couldn't live without.

I drove out to the Suburbs to a Compusa store (remember those? I think it's a gym now, after being empty for about a decade). I called my then-girlfriend on the phone to ask her what she thought. She said go for it. I bought the very first iMac, with a translucent turquoise shell.

The game that came with it was called "MDK2." I hadn't played video games since I was a teenager. I'd been so addicted to them then that I would regularly steal from my parents so I could go to the arcade and play until the money ran out.

MDK2 is one of those multi-level fantasy games that you have to figure out how to play on your own. No rules accompany it. You start it up by moving your avatar through various scenes. Along the way you pick up tools, weapons, food, etc. Things attack you. You fight back. You die. You start again. This time you figure out how to use the weapon you picked up the screen before. You kill the attacker and move on. Etc.

It takes a while to figure the game out. Once you do, it is easy to become obsessed with getting to the end. As I recall, the end was at level twelve or so. I played MDK2 so intensely and so often that I broke the directional keys on my iMac keyboard and had to buy a replacement. By that time I'd gotten to level twelve and put it away forever. I haven't played another video game since.

I read Sexus amid all that.

from Sexus

If you persist in throttling your impulses you end by becoming a clot of phlegm. You finally spit out a gob which completely drains you and which you only realize years later was not a gob of spit but your inmost self. If you lose that you will always race through dark streets like a madman pursued by phantoms. You will always be able to say with perfect sincerity: "I don't know what I want to do in life." You can push yourself clean through the filament of life and come out at the wrong end of the telescope, seeing everything beyond you, out of grasp, and diabolically twisted. From then on the game's up. Whichever direction you take you will find yourself in a hall of mirrors; you will race like a madman, searching for an exit, to find that you are surrounded only by distorted images of your own sweet self.

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