30 April / 1 May Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment. Many years ago, James sought advice from Lyle after critics kept saying that the fatal flaw in all his work was plot. (An endnote here contains a “transcript-fragment” from Helen Steeply’s interview with Orin in Moment magazine. Orin explains how James slowly lost his sanity and that it was “funny” to watch. He discusses James’s filming style.)
If readers are actually reading the endnotes, then the beginning of this chapter serves as a false start. The story about James and Lyle is merely the frame within which a completely different story is nested.
(In the same endnote, Orin says that he and Hal always called James “Himself” or “the Mad Stork,” although when he first mentions this, he accidentally says “the Sad Stork.” He then explains a genre James invented called “Found Drama,” where a person is picked at random (by throwing a dart at a sheet of the White Pages) and becomes the protagonist of the drama for the next hour or so. Orin says that no real Found Drama cartridges existed, but critics still embrace it as “the ultimate in Neorealism.”)
“Found Drama” appears to be a film version of the objet trouvé or “found object” subgenre of sculpture, wherein the artist displays a found object as an artwork with seemingly little modification. In the case of film, this type of practice suggests a dissolution of the boundary between life and art/entertainment.
Back in the main narrative, a woman speaks to the AA meeting about how she was not able to quit crack even while she was pregnant and ended up giving birth to a stillborn baby. She was so traumatized by the event that she went into total denial and cared for the baby as if it was alive for months. In the end, a police officer called the Department of Social Services, and the DSS agents forced her to bury the baby. She spent four months in the hospital in withdrawal, and when she emerged, she started drinking. When she asks the people at the meeting to pray for her, it doesn’t sound corny; everyone present is deeply moved.
This is one of the most horrifying stories in a novel full of horrifying stories. What is most disturbing is arguably not the physically disgusting factor of a mother caring for her dead baby’s corpse, but rather the emotional turmoil and detachment from reality that the woman clearly experienced during this time.
When James would go to seek help from Lyle, he spent hours drinking whisky while Lyle drank caffeine-free Diet Coke. Mario would be there too, drifting in and out of sleep. During one of these nights he heard James tell Lyle that he would give his marriage a grade of C—. Lyle would get drunk from the whisky James was sweating out and would sometimes read aloud from William Blake.
This account of the surreal scenes involving James, Lyle, and Mario somehow manages to be quite moving. There is a rare sense of trust, vulnerability, and openness within the way that these three characters share space with one another.