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Bobbie Ann Mason

October 7, 2012

Tao Lin says that “Graveyard Day” makes him feel calm. I could use some calm feeling right now. The graveyard is quiet. I have had a hard time picking a BAM story I like. Why do I have to like it? So I can read it and comment on it and present it to this class. This class is depending on me.

“Waldeen is tenderizing liver, beating it with the edge of a saucer.” I like that. Something visceral and vital being brutalized so it can be eaten.

I find myself sort of zoning out around the time Waldeen’s friends come over. I want to think there is something underneath the nothing. But this is minimalism. Maybe minimalism doesn’t have to have a deeper meaning, as if this, this surface reality, is enough. Maybe this is why TL finds it so calming, not having to derive meaning or justify anything. I like stories that have at least some kind of implicit meaning. But these stories aren’t meaningless either. Their meanings are in themselves. They don’t point at some other truth because they are truth.

“[Y]ou can’t just do something by itself. Everything else drags along. It’s all involved.” The deeper-meaning, if there is one in any story, can be here in this story, can be in every story, even if it is badly written or about vampires (“Graveyard Day” is neither).

The sentence, “She pours a glass of Coke and watches it foam,” seems simultaneously meaningless and meaningful. It is meaningless because it is ordinary. It is meaningful because ordinary things can have meaning too.

“It is like a poem with a lot of non-sequiturs, and it also doesn’t care about using interesting language or having interesting ideas,” Tao Lin says. Besides the “like a poem” part, it’s an accurate description. And maybe I like interesting language and interesting ideas.

This story isn’t about meaninglessness or meaning. It is about change and stagnation. The pouring of the Coke into the glass and its subsequent foaming represents change, the transformation of carbon dioxide into whatever’s going on there, I’m not a chemist. But without this change, it means the soda is flat and lifeless and doesn’t taste good. Everything is meaningful.

Next week’s story is Kevin Brockmeier’s “The Ceiling“.

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