[Editor’s Note: This is some kind of an essay that sort of discusses the book, but mostly chews over old obsessions. We took it out of the Preface spot. Should it have been thrown out entirely? We don’t know. But feel free to skip it. The book’s already finished.]
This novella grew out of a freewrite, which you can find towards the end of the book under the title “A Sustainable Schedule / A reasonable compromise with the need to be happy and the need to live in and through shared joy”. That freewrite grew out of wandering lonely, vaguely wondering what perfection would adequately answer the vague longing that gnaws always throughout a thinking/feeling animal.
Of course, nothing can really answer the vague longing: it is there to flare up and attach itself to various specific longings and goad the animal on and on, never satisfied with the amount of safety and thriving its attained. The only adequate response to a never-ending vague longing is adequate insight into the Pure Love shining through all things: that infinite explosion of matchless joy swamps all emotional/bodily hiccups, including this underlying gnawing. With adequate wisdom, the vague longing becomes just another tool to help us navigate this world of mental- and physical-objects. We long for perfect safety, thriving, and decency; only spiritual insight can bring that to us blown-about-leaves, who must mind/body change and fail and perish, but who perhaps as Soullight are already infinitely safe, thriving and decent.
Those of us who aren’t all that wise will sometimes pine for and even daydream collections of mental- and physical-objects that can be sketched up into fantasies that at least starts to feel like some kind of an adequate response to the vague longing. Mostly, we aim kind of low and spend a great portion of our lives imaging if we had this mate, that house, that career; we’d answer the vague longing and all would be well. That, of course, is just what the vague longing wants: to keep us chasing after specific longings until we’ve made and raised babies and otherwise succeeded as mindless animal impulses. However, if we throw in some measure of spiritual insight and OKness, the daydream can roam into the territory of Reality. Although not too far if we’re still focussed primarily on specific mental and physical objects rather than on a push into the realm prior to specifics, where reigns the Light that passes but that does not necessarily refuse to meaningfully connect with human understanding.
The narrator of this novella is not particularly wise. His daydream begins with and does not fully transcend physical beauty, infinite mental/physical youth, and the infinite eternal satisfaction of all animal drives.
A close reading of this text will see many fiddlings with and pokings at a man’s longings after infinite youth — both staying youthful himself eternally possessing full-bloom femine beauty, before the skin tightens, the cracks set in, once upward-yearning flesh meanders downward. This is not an entirely unreasonable theme for a superhero story: invincible, never-ending youth is a given in the comic book genre. Batman is forever 30, built, square-jawed, and unstoppably virile and his love-interests are likewise time-frozen. Comic book villains may age and go homely, but heroes don’t. Furthermore, it could be reasonably maintained that remaining youthful is one way or another a common element in most people’s daydreams about “good enough”; which of course is a major theme in this book, and one that also makes sense for a contemplation of a genre about superheroes and their triumphs.
As this is a work of fiction, we cannot speculate where the narrator is speaking for the author, nor even in what sense an “author” exists. We can, however speculate where the narrator is speaking for “himself” and this allows us some insight into the wisdom of the narrator.
The narrator of this preface is not sure what wisdom has to say about our longing to get to have both pleasure/comfort and decency: it seems obvious that wisdom cannot abandon decency for pleasure/comfort, and so if a choice must be made, pleasure/comfort must be sacrificed; however, so much trouble is caused by people mistakenly supposing themselves wise or at least led by a wise council, and often this self-deception is partly wrapped up in their willingness to make sacrifices, or at least to convince themselves that they are more focused on Goodness than on pleasure/comfort. In short, the narrator of this preface does not exactly know how the narrator of this book should’ve evolved this book’s original daydream, but s/he (preface writer) strongly suspects that his (book writer’s) continuing obsession with softsupple ageless womanly curves in the rough hands of ageless manly vigor shows that he (book writer) is, at least in some sense, still a thirteen year old kid gawking at naughty pictures found in a crumpled-up magazine strewn along a steep and crumbly creek bank; and therefore, taken as a whole, cannot possibly rate above middling-wise.
However, a good work of art is more than the sum of its parts and can offer more wisdom to the audience than its creator. It is “good” precisely because its originator journeyed at least a little beyond himorherself while making it. The notion that an author is always as wise or wiser than his or her creation is a ridiculous fantasy. A good author meditates on the entire human moment through writing and so surpasses him- or her-self in their writings. Therefore, even a work of fiction that only moved a pretty-good author’s total wisdom marginally forward could still be worth reading and thus worth writing a preface for.
In conclusion, after much consideration and soul-searching, this preface-writer does not consider it a dereliction of duty to write this preface.
The novella’s pretty good; it is worth the quick read its few pages and relatively plot- and character-driven prose require. The philosophical asides are fewer and less distracting than those in “First Loves” or “First Essays” (the former being a collection of short-stories a titch oversaturated with philosophical asides; and the latter primarily a collection of philosophical asides). The asides he does permit himself tend to be more mood- and recollection-based and shine some light on the chunk of rock this sculpture was doodled out of.
Anyway, kind of a fun read, some interesting ideas woven relatively well into story/characters/settings/moods; and not at all long!
Sandy Summer, Critic Looming Large (Over Your [Fair] City)
Editor’s Note: For more on the vague longing, see “A Last-Minute Ad for Pure Love!!” in First Essays or First Loves. A slightly different (older) version of the same essay is also available on From-Bartleby.com/pure-love-for-sale/
Editor’s Note: This essay is included in the forthcoming “Superhero Novella”.