The Art(lessness) of Fiction

NB: Paper Cut Flophouse was a group blog that ran in the late aughts. Most posts were written by two contributors: me, using the pseudonym Roman Briton, and my friend Pompeston, the mastermind of the endeavor. This is a cross-posting of a post I originally wrote for PCFH; here’s a link to the original.

A number of years ago, I read a novel in manuscript form, one that had begun life as a screenplay. The novel had been written by a sibling of a celebrity, and it was, I believe, the worst thing I have ever read. The writing was abysmal at every level, from spelling to sentence construction, theme to stage directions, subject-verb agreement to plot—which, with names and details changed, went something like this:

The story opens with two men driving around the desert, drinking whiskey and smoking cigarettes. The weather is lousy. The desert appears to be rather near New York City. One of the men, called Pigeon, is rather feminine; his companion, Hambone, is masculine. Pigeon and Hambone drive and drive and drive. While they are driving, they talk, for the most part—with occasional digressions regarding vegetarianism, hermaphroditism, and the apocalypse—about how they hate women, as women are all either lesbians or deceitful, if not both; the men also discuss how much they would like to have sex with numerous women, both simultaneously and also cumulatively. This dialogue is interspersed with flashbacks to episodes from their shared past of colorful, complex sexual escapades and drug use. After a while, Pigeon and Hambone find what appears, at first, to be an abandoned farm; they are then surprised to discover that the farm is actually inhabited by an ancient prophet, who tells them, angrily, that Hambone is the Antichrist. He begins to chase them. Pigeon and Hambone drive away from the prophet in haste. A rabid bunny appears in the front seat of their car; the bunny bites Hambone, who blacks out.

Hambone wakes up two years later. All women on the planet are dead, due to a viral infection that only affected women. Most men have turned gay. The world has become, as far as Hambone can determine, a nightmarish, dystopic gay sex paradise, a world full of sadness, pornography, and explosions. Many of the remaining straight men—those who, under these conditions, did not turn gay, or undergo sex changes, and subsequently become transsexual prostitutes—commit suicide. The preserved bodies of dead women are whored out by morgues.

Hambone encounters two gay men, Shakespeare and Listerine, who have hybridized Christianity and Islam into a new strain of millenarianism. The nihilistic practice of their amalgamated faith involves blowing things up. Hambone joins them in their quest; together, they blow up a number of important landmarks. During a shootout with the authorities, Listerine is killed; Hambone finds tickets to Argentina in the dead man’s shirt pocket. Hambone, alone, flies to Buenos Aires.

Later that same day, Hambone takes a bus tour of the pampas for fun. At a rest area, he leaves the bus and wanders out into the plains by himself for a while. Jetpack-clad policemen appear, hovering on the horizon; Hambone runs; the flying cops give chase. A sculptor named Rocky appears, pulling Hambone into a secret cave in the ground, saving him. Hambone and Rocky drive to New York on Rocky’s motorcycle; there they cross paths with Pigeon, who has become a transsexual prostitute. Feeling ashamed, Pigeon commits suicide. Hambone and Rocky return to Argentina. Hambone confesses to Rocky that he loves him, even though he, Hambone, is straight. The two men fight each other with spears for some time; Rocky, after both men are exhausted from their spear fight, reveals a number of things to Hambone: that he is actually a she, the last woman alive on Earth; that she loves him; and that she is the second coming of the Christ.

Off in the distance, Hambone and Rocky can hear the sound of approaching jetpacks.

(The novel, to the best of my knowledge, has never been published.)