Prose Header

The Parasite Text

part 1

by Daniel Green

This is me again. First time forgot to engage lexical sequencer. Once more a testing.

Confirm machine is working. Remember grandfather speaking about these devices, but have never actually operationalized one. Will take some time to perfect the technique. Vocable Text Generators, they are yclept.

Found it in a digital antiquities shop way out in Gatesville. Was doing a routine text search when instead of finding any material inditements I espied this erstwhile gadget. Thought it might prove meet and befitting.

As much as I have dedicated myself to the recovery of our notational heritage (all that has frequently been processed but seldom so well displayed), I confess up that I am not so zealous that I would dismiss by the hand a labor-saving gizmo such as this promises to be.

I will not, howsomever, compose my scholarly scripts with this machine. They I must continue to inscribe in the old way, markings on the page. Every concession made to these digitized, vocalized, or visualized equipment pieces was, of course, a step on the road to perdition — what another of our revered and recovered texts refers to as “the headlong rush to delete humanity’s great collective textfile” — but at this stage in time getting words to fasten themselves down in any durational mode has to be acceptable.

It is my way of thinking that this activity — in one of the texts I recently discovered such a locus of writing is called a “journal,” but I have been unable to track down the origin of this word — might even aid me in the compositional burdens of my scripts. Mayhaps I can essay some prolegomenous and associational thoughts collaterally with the inditement of the exegetical document. A way to phone out to the satellite of inspiration, so to speak. Perchance I may furthermore upgrade my inditing style, exceed my grasp of the syntactical processes, by indulging in the act of glorious writing even outside the scholastic confinements of the Institute.

The Institute is the Institute for Graphemic Recovery. He works there, although “work” is not exactly how the members think of it. They certainly don’t make much money at it, but thankfully money isn’t quite as crucial to one’s survival as it used to be. No one outside the Institute thinks that what they do there is very significant, but they are able to do it without much hindrance.

That they aren’t regarded as important people is really the reason they are mostly left alone to carry on with their self-assumed duties. They aren’t considered dangerous. No one else is really interested in what they’ve appointed themselves to accomplish, which is literally to revive and restore the written word, so the powers that be tolerate their odd and eccentric efforts. Although these powers could really crack down if they wanted to.

This is the way the Institute for Graphemic Recovery describes its mission in the brief statement it presents to those who declare an interest in taking up the cause: “We have pledged ourselves to do no less than to return to humankind its stolen inheritance: that gigantean accumulation of writing that the lexical Archives tell us was relinquished as useless by the human race many seasons ago. We believe that it is possible to recover much of this recorded knowledge and inscripted insight and in so doing demonstrate that the written language — words, in short — is as attractive a portal as any video monitor ever introduced.”

Am especially keen to sharpen my writing aptitude in the face of the most recent discovery. I believe this find may be the most important one I have made since logging on with the Institute. But I want my restoration to be as veracious as I can make it. I need the words to describe these pages, and they need to be the best words. I will not present my scholarly script to the Scriptorium Committee until I have scanned this text with the greatest precision and indited a learned commentary that can be ne’er surpassed nor gainsaid.

’Tis a prolonged and powerful passage o’ prose the likes of which this graphic investigator has not before lain eyes. My preliminary assessment was that it was an example of the inscripted genre known as “fiction,” a format of writing that legend has it was once very popular, although according to the Archives its purpose eventually became harder to understand during the early Visual Conversion era. The use of words to “tell a story” was seen as a poor substitute for the dynamic plot lines displayed on the video and cinema screens.

Most of the texts that have come to my notation have upon graphemic scrutinization resolved themselves to be eminently deletable — although of course they have been properly stored and made available for further scrutinization by other investigators or any literacy geeks who want to add a few words to their language templates. Pages from a cookbook, fragments of thin-sheeted paper with media-type “news,” especially passages describing what we have interpreted to be sport-spectacles, many picture-and-text style adverts, several very curious documents designating themselves “memorandums,” which appear to be the printed predecessors of the electronic mail communications themselves long since obsoleted by the syntactical image projector. These memorandums are especially resistant to scanning , their wordings so peculiar that I have ventured the jesting dictum that they went unread even by their presumptively literate audience!

Until now the most interesting inditement I have managed to behold is a segmentary composition that appears to be the prototype of the self-commemoration tape, a piece of writing that narrativizes the life of its author in pinpoint detail. Although we have so far been unable to confirm the identity of the author, the text nevertheless reveals a great deal about her. (Certain references in the piece make it unquestionable that the author was a young woman.) To be truthful, her life doesn’t seem to hold o’ermuch evident fascination, but she recites her activities as if they were subjects of the most dramatic interest and as if she was herself the heroine of a blockbuster scenario.

I have fetched a digistat of the document in question and shall orate some of it aloud into the Text Generator. This will amplify my previous asseveration about the features of its discourse. Such amplification is not dictated in the guidelines sallied forth by the Scriptorium Committee, but it betokens a fresh inditing trick, so to verbalize it. A verbal illustration, a kind of link from one text of writing to another! I must speak to my colleagues at the Institute and ascertain if any of them have ever stumbled upon this way of navigating. I hereby begin my oration. Perchance following I shall have something further to say about it.

When I turned seventeen, it suddenly seemed that the whole world of my childhood began fading from my notice and a new world of adult concerns began to take its place in my consciousness. My childish romances would be replaced by serious, intimate relationships with men and not boys. Eventually, or so I believed, I would meet the man, the one I was to make my husband and with whom I would bear and raise my children, who would in time come themselves to marry and have children, my grandchildren, who would... Etc. It was the age-old story of life about to happen to me!

But first I had to get through Mrs. Robertson’s English class

I will terminate the recording of this portion, but go to another and also copy it here.

But to my surprise I did not have to wait long to find myself gainfully employed. Only six weeks after graduating from Sarah Lawrence...

(insertion: I have yet to determine to what this appellation is a reference, although clearly it is a Knowledge Retrieval Institute of some sort, probably of the variety once yclept a “college”)

I found a job as an editorial assistant at a medium-sized New York publishing house...

(insertion: reference also not securely established, but it is known that many of the bound documents known as “books” originated in these New York “publishing” sites)

Although it required an adjustment from the relatively unstructured, uncluttered life I had led as a student...

(see insertion above; literally, “one who studies”)

...this new life of work soon consumed all of my attention. Every day new manuscripts...

(i.e. “documents”) log in, correspondence to send out, meetings with the editors...

(unknown, although these personages are referred to in rather hostile ways in some other recovered texts)

...enlightening conversations with fellow assistants. The high-minded arguments during coffee breaks! The insights into the editing process! The office gossip! The drinks after work!

Although he has no way of knowing it, this “document” is in fact a passage from an actual book, My View of Life, written by Angela Ashe and published by one of those New York publishing houses in 19__. The Institute for Graphemic Recovery has not yet perfected the technique of dating their recovered documents from internal clues and external comparisons, so their estimates of precisely when these documents were written (“indited”) are inexact. They have unearthed — in many cases literally: the most common source of such texts are abandoned landfills, the locations of which our friend is constantly trying to identify — pages of Shakespeare, Chaucer, The King James Bible, but as far as they’re concerned, all such works are just additional examples of a common past of writing thought to have vanished but that they have resolved to bring back into view.

Their biggest problem is not the primitive state of their methods, but rather the overwhelming number of competing claims on the attention of the Institute’s intended audience — or at least the capacity to pay attention that remains among those the Institute might hope to reach. In many ways it is already impossible for most of these people to “view” written language at all — they literally don’t see it, except as lines and squiggles and dots and dashes, a visual display without a discernible pattern or a stimulus to apprehension sufficient enough to register it on their sensory field.

At least this is what the IGR’s colleagues at the Institute for Cognitive Rehabilitation would tell them — if, that is, the IGR and the ICR were in regular communication with one another, which, unfortunately, they are not. Each is aware of the other’s existence, but they are separate entities, no longer even sheltered together under the same scholastic roof as in the old-style universities, which have long since ceased to function, a victim of the same conversion to sight-sound communication as writing itself. (No books, of course, and who needs to sit in a classroom listening to a droning oration when what data you need to get along in the modern world can be transmitted right to your television wall or, better yet, accessed on your cyber outlets?)

An even greater obstacle to interaction between these “thought sites” is that neither has the conceptual tools needed to understand the other anyway. The IGR, of course, works, or is working toward working, in “graphemics” — conventional written language, for those of us still clinging to it. The ICR, on the other hand, conducts its business entirely through holographic simulation. Although to be sure the ICR produces its simulations using the most advanced and rarefied techniques derived from quantum digimatics, nevertheless such continued reliance on a purely visual medium of thought is precisely the thing our friend and his own institute are attempting to challenge.

You’ve certainly by now concluded that this is all a projection into the future, although I prefer to think of it as a glimpse into a parallel present in the universe next door. If it is the future, you may be wondering how far into the future we’ve reached.

Does it matter?

* * *

Now that I’ve discovered this innovational update of the scholarly strategy, I am led to consider how it might be operationalized in my scripts for the Institute. Until now, these have been simplistic texts describing how and where the historical inditement under scholarly perusal had been recovered; a provisionary labeling of the inditement and its author, when these are in evidence; a marking of the category of inditement perused and a rationalization of the way this category was determined; a brief description of the meaning-content of the writing; and a speculation exegesis about the role of the inditement in the era in which it was produced, provided it has been possible to mark the era.

A novel segment could be additioned, a piece that excerpts other pieces from the recovered inditement and sallies forth with a “critique.” This is a word that appears in a text recovered by my colleague D.G. that adopts the format of expounding on the meaning-content of a second text, an inditement that is known as “the parasite text” because of the manner in which it seems to fasten onto writing itself as a subject for more writing. To “critique” is apparently to find extra meaning in an inditement that is not just displayed there waiting for us to behold it.

This mutation would need to be approbated by the Scriptorium Committee, and they are a pretty wary bunch, if I so vocalize so myself. The greater potentiality would be that I brandish to them this journal of mine and evince to them that my innovation will dividend itself. Thuswise I shall devote myself to so evincing by attempting to “critique” my latest recovery, which I enunciated earlier. As I announced, I have been vouchsafed a surpassingly curious parchment upon which can be found a section of scenario quite unlike any graphic composition I have before been privileged to peep on.

My initiatory hypothesis is that this inditement is a verbalized version of the type of scenario that accompanies the cinematic stimulation popularly nominalized as “horrifics.” The aim of the inditement, however, appears not to be to incite the sensory reactions with tactile bombardments as is done in most horrifics sensationals, but to draw out the scenario and make the people undergoing it seem like they could be actualized humans. A few ancient cinema celluloids still exist that also narrativize in this way, but I have looked at only one of them when it was exhibited at the Celluloid Archive on their reconstructed projection device. From my glimpses at other indited fictions, this elongated plot line acted out by the dramatis personae pretending to be existent is the expected procedure in this format, although I don’t remember seeing it merged with horrifics before.

No one at the Institute has recovered a text with this feature either, but D.G. speaks of one merging a lengthened scenario in this style with the mysterious murder immersion, as well as one merging such like scenario with the techno-battle simulation. He and I have discussed what might have been the purpose of these fictions and additionally as well who might have been the perusing audience for such inditements. His viewpoint is that they were not produced just to provide the sensory satisfaction now delivered by cinematic stimulations, televisual melodramatics, and cyperspatial reality replacements. He supposes they also acted as message delivery systems, although the messages were not very crystal clear. I am not assured that I am in agreement with D.G., but it is an intriguing idea.

* * *

D.G. is, of course, mistaken. The sort of fiction they are attempting to classify has very little in the way of “message delivery” to offer, aside from the banal platitudes about how life can be “unpredictable,” full of hidden dangers, requires “courage” and “ingenuity,” often turns out well for those who “persevere,” and so forth. Unfortunately, D.G. is succumbing to the fallacious notion that all writing is necessarily an attempt to convey some unequivocal meaning not otherwise communicable by other means, as well as the corollary notion that reading is an attempt to unpack that meaning in an equally definitive way. Once in place, this assumption leads to the further judgment that writing that hides, or attempts to hide, or appears to evade, a direct statement of such meaning must be all the more meaningful even if the reader must work assiduously to find it. It is certainly understandable that under the circumstances D.G. would come to this rather exalted belief about the purposes of writing and reading, but if our hero ultimately accepts it himself, the consequences will be grave indeed.

On the other hand, one wouldn’t want either to hold up the texts he and D.G. have found and are trying to comprehend as specimens of literary art. These works, while certainly preferable to the “stimulations” and “replacements” he speaks of, nevertheless don’t aspire to much beyond the arousal of fairly tawdry emotions, the narration of formulaic if sensational stories, the satisfaction of not very demanding expectations. Meant to be read once and disposed of, they would not in their own time have stood up to the scrutiny to which these graphic investigators must now subject them.

Unfortunately, it is unlikely they will discover many texts that do qualify as literary art, writing that justifies its existence as more than an excuse to print words on a page. And even if they do, it is difficult to see how they would know that this is what they had found.

Continued in issue 135...

Copyright © 2005 by Daniel Green

Home Page