I Know Exactly How He Feels

The authorial intrusions, we were told, do not work. They are alienating, insipid, random, arbitrarily hostile, not working the right material. It is more than forty years, we were told, since John Barth wrote Lost in the Funhouse. Disembodied narrators have chastised readers for a generation now. It is not enough. Perhaps it will work for the science fiction magazines, the ones with spaceships and dragons and marauding scarecrows on the covers. Perhaps their readers have not read Lost in the Funhouse. But the literary magazines? They will be bored.

My oppressor is confused. Does he want the story to be F&SF? in the magazines with the rocketships, the bloated nebulae, the marauding scarecrows on their covers? Yellowed issues from the 1980s line the tops of bookshelves in his old room in his parents’ house; crisp new ones pile by his toilet at home. Or in The Paris Review? The Paris Review would be nice. But he would like a Hugo Award, one of those pointy shiny rocketships designed in imitation of automobile fender ornaments. On a walnut base. They are heavy. They sit well in the hand. Yellowed issues of F&SF from the 1980s line the tops of bookshelves in his old room in his parents’ house. But then, what if he were in The New Yorker? His mother always read The New Yorker, sitting in the orange chair in the corner of the living room, a room too big and all in shadow, except for a pool of light from the lamp on the table by her chair. On the last page, they had profiles of famous people who drank Dewar’s. If he were in The New Yorker his mother would be so happy.

That is what he thought about when they told him the metafictional asides were not good enough.

You see what I am to him?

—Benjamin Rosenbaum, from the story “Sense and Sensibility,” from The Ant King and Other Stories (p. 185). (“My oppressor,” as you can perhaps infer from the quote, is Benjamin Rosenbaum.)

I did not transcribe the above, but rather copied it from the plain-text file of the book on the Small Beer Press site (published there with a Creative Commons license), which you can get to by going to the Small Beer Ant King page and clicking “Free Download.”

Actually, hang on, I got that slightly wrong: the whole book is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 license. That’s awesome!

And actually, what I did was this: I copied and pasted the above from the plain-text file. Then I compared it to p. 185 in the hardcover edition. Then I bolded the text that’s in the book but not in the plain-text file, then formatted the text that’s in the plain-text file but not in the book as strike-through text.

Which are presumably last-minute edits?—if so, they’re interesting ones.