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The Exquisite Corpse - A Journal of Letters and Life
Edited by Andrei Codrescu
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the making and unmaking of person
The New Economics of Late Capitalism

Tom Bradley and The Sam Edwine Pentateuch
by Cye Johan

And he arose, and did eat and drink,
and went in the strength of that meat
forty days and forty nights unto Horeb
the mount of God.
--1 Kings 19: 8

How do you go about reviewing a novel that, in the present tense, takes exactly twenty-seven minutes (a taxi's waiting with the meter running the whole time), yet, before publication, occupied the same number of reams of typing paper as the monstrosity by that other nearly seven-foot-tall Tom, which legendarily required a pickup truck to lug it to Scribner's, so Maxwell Perkins could nibble and scratch and worry its balls off?

And how do you (critical descendant of that mincing deballocker you'll never admit to being) even start to sketch out the rough draft of an essay about the so-called "Pentateuch," the new and lawless Torah, of which the abovementioned volume is but the Genesis? How even formulate intelligent questions about a splintering shelf-load of books, amounting to more than a million words--a frightening sport of nature, like all sets of quints?

You steel yourself, is what you do: you buck up your courage, fling out your bosom, throw antiquated "New Critical" theory to the wind, and seek out the lawgiver himself. You try to catch the new Moses on top of his personal Horeb, before he hikes down and trips on the golden calf, after which point you'll never be able to get near him again, except for three seconds every few years at mob-scene book signings.

But how physically to locate this mountain of God? According to the promo-copy, THE SAM EDWINE PENTATEUCH "follows a disruptive Gargantua from the Far West to the Extreme Orient." Finding myself adrift in the latter region of our planet, I thought it might be possible to use the words of the great recluse himself as clues in a kind of scavenger hunt, Tom Bradley as the grand prize. In a recent essay published in London's magisterial Nthposition Magazine (shortlisted for the European Online Journalism Award) Dr. Bradley speaks of being surrounded by--

"...itinerant TEFL trash, who are here just to stockpile money between heroin-soaked trips to the Golden Triangle."

Now there's a solid hint. It sounds as though he's been stranded, or exiled, in some East Asian hell-hole that happens to be prosperous enough, at the moment (thanks, no doubt, to America's noblesse oblige), to support a troop of those white monkeys who feign "the Teaching of the English as the Foreign Language." This couldn't be more fortuitous, because that's exactly what I am (stranded in East Asia, that is--though I guess I might qualify, in Dr. Bradley's book, as a piece of TEFL trash, too).

It occurred to me that my author and I might be within tangible reach. So I went, not bar-hopping (not just yet) but language school-hopping. I tiptoed and cringed through the dockside alleys of a certain port town on an obscure island in the East China Sea where he seems to have been marooned--at least the most recent Bradley sightings have occurred in the sordid vicinity. In dive after pedagogical dive, I kept my auditory meati reluctantly dilated for sounds fitting the following description (from the same Nthposition essay):

"Almost every sentence that comes out of these kids' mouths turns up at the end, like a question, and most of their vowel sounds are schwas."

I came upon one clip-joint in particular whose closet-sized "classrooms" exuded such muffled moans. So far so good. After standing on the sidewalk outside and listening awhile, I had to agree with Dr. Bradley that--

"It's very strange to imagine them at the helms of English conversation classes. But it's reassuring to remember that they're only working in storefront language schools where instruction is but a secondary, or even tertiary concern, if that..."

"Storefront" is right. A member of the faculty was lying on the stoop at my feet in a puddle of chemical beer, tousled braids of pork-sauce ramen swirling from the side of his mouth. Shitzu dogs serviced him like Lazarus, causing me to recall the remainder of Dr. Bradley's paragraph:

"The managers don't seem to care, or notice, if their youthful Caucasoid instructors have speech impediments, but are satisfied if they agree to brighten their hair with bleach and their eyes with turquoise contact lenses, and fornicate with the students on demand, as it's good for business..."

Hardly any dark roots were showing under the educator's regulation platinum dye job, and one of his corneal suction cups remained firmly in place (the other had slipped from between flaccid eyelids and was glistening like a sapphire zit on his chin). His adherence to the dress code notwithstanding, it was hard to imagine this comatose stud drumming up much business. This clearly was not the institution my author had described. So I decided to hit the bars and collect my thoughts. If you're going to step on drunks, anyway, you might as well get in on the action.

I stumbled onto the right track. In a seawall tavern that offered the services of a sad gaggle of early-teenaged hand-job hostesses, some young and youngish American alcoholics said things like, "You mean that really, really, um, huge-ungus-type dude? With the sort of, like, orange beard? He never comes to drink here? But newspaper delivery guys and milk, um, men? You know? They, kind of, whisper about someone? Like on top of that, um, sort of mountain?"

A thumb was aimed over a shoulder at the largest of several dark entities that lifted their cloudy masses from among hovels in a muggy-looking suburb a few blocks inland: not quite the "backside of the desert" mentioned in that other Pentateuch, but wilderness enough for me.

Between rib-splitting coughs, a certain Englishman chimed in. (I didn't see his face because he was slouched in a dark booth and receiving a lap-job from a tiny Filipina white slave who seemed, strangely, at first glance, to have fastened her fingernails deep into his bony chest.) "If this is going to be one of those literary blowjobs, Mate, best be ready to grin and swallow when that 'orrible old cunt squirts spunk."

A subject of Elizabeth II in these special circumstances is allowed to express his thoughts in more developed periods than our own countrymen because, after all, his ancestors invented the lingo. It also helps if he happens to be the manager of the educational institution which furnishes this dive with the bulk of its clientele. I left this Brit drilling his little lap-dancer on today's lesson, which she was obliged to recite to the accompaniment of his agonizing, chronic lung seizures:

You taught me language, an my profit on't
Is I know how to curse. The red plague rid you
For learning me your language.

I'm already tired of reporting the dialog of Tom Bradley's fellow ejectees, with whom he never deigns to associate, but who seem to have made him the main subject of their amphetamined and opiated gossip. So let me just paraphrase the remainder: stomping around on top of that geological formation in the blackest hours before each dawn, someone fitting his description (and who else in this whole hemisphere comes close?) has been glimpsed. I can't imagine how he's been glimpsed. Maybe a pair of those infra-red night-vision binocks the Syrians pilfered from our stalwarts in Iraq have made it here on the black market to please insomniac voyeurs. I doubt many people would sneak up and try verifying his puzzling presence with naked eyes. It would take a foolhardy weirdo or an obsessed stalker type, or a hybrid of both.

All that remained for me was to dig in on a bus bench and wait for the first subtle insinuations of sunrise. This did not require the patienza of Mother Teresa because, around here, it comes at four o'clock. The natives, who are mostly middle-class office-workers (though that's about to change, as their country relaxes deeper and deeper into the trance called penury) are not allowed to go home until the boss does, and it's easier to make the old rooster feel guilty if it's pitch dark outside; therefore Daylight Savings Time is a taboo subject among elected officials.

There. That's all you know, and all you need to know, about the setting of this encounter. (Incidentally it's Nippon we're talking about--Nagasaki, if you insist on pinching and puckering it down even further.) Now you understand why this brush with genius has to happen on top of Horeb East, in the wee hours, elevated in space and insulated in time from the inscrutability, the misdirection, the willful uncommunicativeness, the suffocating group-pressure brought to bear with exquisite obliquity even on the slave masters themselves. So, the boss won't close up at a decent hour? Instead of rising up like other prisoners of major industrialized economies and demanding a contract with set work-hours, let's just quietly cause the sun to go down and come up again with unnatural prematurity, and meantime huddle together, sullen at our desks in the gathering gloom. Land of the Rising Sun, and how.

Why in God's name is our author here? Though craving an immediate solution to this and countless other Bradleyan perplexities, I decided for the time being to tuck them all away, to empty my head as far as possible for a non-zen master or an American over the age of twenty-five, and just start climbing blindly.

* * * *

Through near-pitch blackness my way spiraled up and up, switching back and forth in the foreign air. The track's soggy surface seemed always to bank in the direction opposite to what any sane surveyor would choose, assuming his purpose was to discourage vehicles and beings from falling off the outer edge. Below, in blackish-greenness, fanged with fronds, a bamboo maw gaped and groaned with the breeze, as if some exotic category of the damned were lodged in its throat-thick stalks. And beyond that weedy perdition, steadily sinking from my point of view, our author's adopted city moaned out its own continuo to the chorus. The further each of my steps lifted me above it, the more definitely I could hear Nagasaki's song--and it wasn't Puccini's greatest hit.

Dr. Bradley's mainland neighbors have, for thousands of years, recognized the Root Tone of Nature. A city of any time or nation, if situated far enough away to be apprehended as a whole, produces this note, the same sung by a river in full springtime spate, or a vast deciduous forest when the wind rushes through its boughs. It is said to share the wavelength of F above middle-C on a piano well-tempered and tuned precisely to A at 440 hertz, of which there are precious few in China--and small wonder: imagine the interlocking layers of high civilization required to bring such a marvel into existence. Back in the dynastic days when this notion was formulated the Celestials were using guitar-like contraptions.

"Hast thou attuned thy heart and mind to the great mind and heart of all mankind? For as all Nature-sounds are echoed back by the sacred River's roaring voice, so the heart of him who in the stream would enter must thrill in response to every sigh and thought of all that lives and breathes." Thus says the Book of Golden Precepts, as translated by the mighty Pythoness of Dnepropetrovsk--whom I've long suspected of being Tom Bradley's spiritual guide. (And if it seems strange to you that the author of such works as "Squirting Chubbies" and "Baptizing Dead People for Fun and Profit" should have one of those, imagine how it strikes me, his disciple.)

Did I hear the Root Tone of Nature on this dwindling night? Elijah was privy to nothing less than the "still small voice" when he hiked Horeb; but what about simple Cye Johan? Was he worthy of even a single sigh or thought from anything that lives and breathes? Or perhaps just a whispering hint of the "eternal note of sadness"? I can't say. But I can identify what did get my poor unenlightened timpanic membranes quivering in their merely mechanical way--and dare I admit that the Bradley-possessed "heart of me" did indeed "thrill in response" to it?

I heard "...the dogs and delivery trucks of the distant East Asiatic metropolis; the screams of prepubescent Filipina sex slaves waking chained in attics; the rhythmic sucks of police helicopters circling over some famished housebreaker; a psychotic voice bellowing into a megaphone as the rabble yawns in the face of yet another day's wage slavery; displacements, varied and numerous, of styrofoam smoke and stale fish-breath at overpopulated bus stops--everything, at a grateful distance, blends into a single sigh that strains softly like a half-dead fly against a greasy windowpane..." Thus goes BLACK CLASS CUR, which constitutes the reluctant Exodus of our one-man diaspora, Sam Edwine.

Gradually, on black reptile wings, this made-in-Japan counterfeit of the Big F rose up to the same small number of meters above sea level that I had already attained on foot. There it separated into its constituent frequencies, several of the higher and more piercing overtones grinding together to form a jagged decibel wedge, the narrow end of which drove straight into the hole on the downhill side of my head. I could hear a noisy herd or gaggle or pack or gang approaching--from which of the many directions they were capable of swooping, creeping, burrowing or sidling, I couldn't say; but it threatened to surround me, the wall of cacophony upon which hell's unquiet denizens advertise their regrettable existence and trumpet their approach. And it was played not in the Daoist key of F, but something closer to deteriorated Bud Powell's key of S.

Like the foxes that have overrun the ruins of Jerusalem more than once, these hellions make many different kinds of weird noises at those times when the sun has selfishly forsaken the sky--so they stand accused, at any rate. To make that accusation plausible, their vocabulary would have to exceed any other inhuman creature's--at least those apprehensible by the usual five human senses. Some people claim the deviated beings, whatever their nature may be, took up local tenure on a certain August morning in 1945; others say they were here first, hovering in the foam even before the magma destined to coagulate into Nippon oozed up from between mismatched rocks that grind like the molars of hateful spouses at the bottom of the East China Sea. In either case, hills like this one become particularly noisy right about now, toward dawn, much to the perturbation of superstitious native Shinto animists, as well as secular-humanist violators of the foreigner curfew, such as me.

The rationalist minority in these parts comfort themselves by positing the vociferous presence of Rikki Tikki's cousins--you know, "rather like a little cat in his fur and his tail, but quite like a weasel in his head and his habits...and his war-cry, as he scuttles through the long grass, is 'Rik-tikk-tikki-tikki-tchk!'" The assumption is that the noises must come from the throats of certain sundry razor-clawed but reassuringly material mongooses whose ancestors, ostensibly, time gone by, were introduced into Nagasaki's environs from someplace even more purulent than Kipling's Segowlee cantonment in Gujarat. Tom Bradley decrees it to have been Sumatra, probably because he likes the sound of the name--and therefore Sumatra it is.

All this can be gotten, passim, from the SAM EDWINE PENTATEUCH's Asiatic volumes. And nobody who has been transported into the upper crannies and convolutions of his own frontal lobes by the prose in which these claims are expressed will feel the faintest inclination to check the accuracy or thoroughness of Dr. Bradley's research, if any, into this land and its lore. If the natives want mongooses--more to the point, if he thinks that we, his readers, should be given mongooses--then rest assured that he will supply the most serviceable members of that tribe, and plenty of them, with his usual furious noblesse oblige. The spatial and temporal entirety of Nippon itself puckers to less than nothingness in the presence of the consonants, vowels, syllables, words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, chapters and books in which it has been couched, or rather entombed, by my author. We, his fans, just lie back in the volcanic quicksand and enjoy the sensation of being raped with such doctrine, and are pleased to assimilate it as gospel, secure in the knowledge that nobody with a much bigger readership (at least among our sort) will contradict our man to the particular notice of anyone whose opinion we'll ever value to the extent of bothering to make ourselves aware of it. As he is fond of saying in interviews, "I'll libel a whole race, religion, ethnicity, tribal affiliation--I'll sink a fucking continent--if it makes for a nice transition between paragraphs."

So he makes with the Rikki Tikkis. The notion of such an infestation might not sit too badly with the world-view of a bourgeois homeowner with four more or less solid, if paper, walls to cringe behind (his flesh crawling from the rodent revulsion that seems to cross the broadest racial boundaries with no loss of intensity). But it offered small comfort to a nocturnal pedestrian like me. The frisky Sumatrans, or some entity capable of doing a fair impression of them, began shrieking and dry-heaving in the nipple-deep grass on the slope below. They kept close harmony with the internal combustions of what sounded like several oriental-style motorbikes revving and rolling in concert somewhere in the distance, in definite crescendo, which I chose to ignore for the moment. Then, invisibly crossing my path, they occupied the slope above me, bringing their stridulations with them like cicadas stirring at the close of a clammy night, or blood-sport fans doing The Wave across a stadium overgrown with vines and underbrush. I was surrounded. This prompted me to ask, out loud, the question which, in the unlikely event that the story might be true, addresses the most implausible part of all: "Who was dumb enough to come up with the bright idea to import such skittering horrors?" (I mean the mongooses, not the motorcycles.) As with all such questions, the intelligent hiker will consult the pertinent book of the new Torah, specifically FLIP-KUN, our Leviticus.

As it turns out, this being the Extreme Orient, nobody, not even sage Dr. Bradley, is able to name a specific mortal human on whom the irruption can be blamed; but credit is taken, just as the date is defined, by the living god who happened to occupy the Chrysanthemum Throne at the moment when the shipload of miniature carnivores supposedly arrived from the abovementioned booger of geography in the Indian Ocean: in this case, the emperor's sneezy-sounding moniker was Taisho. It was "his" idea. In other words, the blunder, if it was performed at all, was performed under his administration, and he wound up personally symbolizing it--very aptly, in this case, as that divine and august personage was inbred to a vicious degree, and behaved like a mongoose himself, once again according to Tom Bradley, the World's Greatest Old Japan Hand. (I'm proud to say I helped bury the former holder of that title in my Exquisite Corpse review of THE CURVED JEWELS.)

Therefore, as far as you and I know and care, it is a fact, established solidly as if it were engraved three fingers deep in black diorite, that, in the Taisho era, Rikki Tikki's cousins were brought in for rat control, but wound up being much better at beating the shit out of grannies' lap-poodles instead, so were chased up into suburban hills, like this Horeb, where their kind yet thrives on the steaming contents of stray pets' jugulars. And their liberation is all the more ironic because mad Emperor Taisho himself, their rabid personification, was "kept in a cage...and let out only to get mooncalf princes on his few fecund nieces."

Furthermore, it is a Bradleyan given that the most egregious specimen of imperial mooncalf was Taisho's heir, "...blood-bloated Hirohito, of Nanking-rape fame, whose nibbly buck-teeth and rapacious character suggest that his cousin-mother must have entered upon parturition in the middle of a royal progress into the countryside and been frightened at the key moment by a gang of the helpful little verminators. By the time the nipping godlet hunched on his homunculus-sized coat of skin, the patterns for his physical build and moral makeup had already been driven from the rat- and poodle-rich downtown and were probably occupying the rice terraces with their third or fourth generation."

One can see (or, at any rate, the good doctor, and therefore we, can see) how the mythos of the mongoose was generated and encouraged on several levels by the persons and manners of the sovereigns themselves, just as the Chakravarti kings of India were consecrated by the blood of white horses, and the emperors of China were harbingered by dragons and phoenixes. The bestiarial bathos is deliberate and couldn't be more apropos.

But, even though these living symbols of His Divine Imperial Nipponese Majesty are capable of several scalp-corrugating cries, such as the one cited above, "Rik-tikk-tikki-tikki-tchk" (at fifty paces the sound can nibble the hairs off the nape of your neck), it seemed more and more likely to me, as I labored uphill to keep my appointment with the redoubtable novelist who put all this in my head, that Nagasaki's enormous variety of nighttime snarls and cackles might be attributed a bit too readily to the feral descendants of these strangers from conveniently demon-rife subequatorial regions. If you have spent at least one night in this haggard land, you will know all to well the racket I was hearing now, and will scoff at anyone who attributes it to mere woodland creatures, rapacious though they may be.

Like an audible and perverted version of Proust's cookie, it filled my body with dismay, from the collarbones down to the callus ridges in the soles of my feet, in the instant before my brain had time to put a name to its source. On this night the local damned had chosen to coat themselves not in sleek fur, but in pocked and pitted skins which usually belong to another species of tiny monster, known, in the quaint lingo of the country, as bosozokus: "...those unemployable highway virtuosos, bringers of insomnia to an already sleep-disordered land, teen bikers who spend each night trying to play Marilyn Manson riffs on the throttles of their unmuffled rice-burners," to quote HUSTLING THE EAST, Tom Bradley's Dai Nippon Trilogy.

Such a presence on his mountain in the wee hours was no easier to explain than the mongooses'. There was an overcrowded stomach cancer hospice lodged in a kind of duodenal kink in the foothills; and, one of their few stated functions in life being gleefully to increase the misery of the dying, this particular contingent of bozos (or however you care to abbreviate their name) had probably gotten lost on their way to or from making sure that no in-patients were able to sleep away a few moments of the impending day's agony. The marginally less cretinous bozos, who tend to ride somewhere near the front of the pack, would justify buzzing that sad place with eugenic theories inherited from General Tojo: one must speed the way of weaklings incapable of survival; mouths unworthy of food should be closed sooner than later (timely conceits, ripe for revival, now that this society is graying even faster than Caucasian America). The rank and file bozos, on the other hand, like all gnomes of subhuman rank, require no theory, but just do what they do for sheer dharmic spite. Possibly they derive a sort of superficial annelid stimulation from such pursuits, but this must remain a matter of speculation, as they are inarticulate and unable to account for themselves and their behavior.

I knew, yet again from careful perusals of my favorite author's novels, that it would be best to shield myself somehow, not so much from their noise and knives as their adulation and halitosis. In emulation of their colleagues in more sophisticated places such as Tokyo and Osaka, these troubled teens tend to halt their motorcades and gather around any non-doddering occidental in sight, chatting him up for fashion tips, and also for practical advice on what to eat to make themselves seven feet tall, or pretty near, like a white man--"maple syrup" is what they want to hear, as trees don't lack height (an example of Asiatic thinking). But what they want most are solid LSD connections--ghastly as it is to imagine what might go on in their minds, or any mind at all, while trying to trip on these islands.

I was new around here, and in the Controlled Substances Department was only aware of the Israelis who everyone stumbles over when arriving in town. They stake out their gutterside pitches in front of the train station after shelling out for protection from the Yakuza, who permit them to occupy rectangles of sidewalk precisely circumscribed, not to say quarantined, among steaming-fresh street pizzas of bibulous native "salary men." Exactly as they do in the Bradley books, these sons o' Jacob spread out their quaint tasseled rugs, hunker down in a picturesque manner, and set to work hawking generic middle eastern-style ormolu trinkets, which, you might be surprised to learn, are actually not hand-crafted by quizzical old Hassidic craftsmen in the little town of Bethlehem, but rather churned out by babies in purgatorial Indonesian sweat shops.

Bric-a-brac flogging is the Israelis' stated purpose for being in Cherry Blossom Land, according to their official work permits (purchased no less dearly than their barf-puddled parcels of pavement). But, true to the entrepreneurial instincts for which the Levantine peoples are anciently famed, they also brave Nippon's draconian dope laws in order to part, more or less discreetly, with dog-shit blotter acid, for which they are willing to accept the equivalent of seventy-five American dollars per hit, or maybe sixty, if you are capable of dickering in the noble tongue of King David and Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ezekiel. This earns them the contempt of otherwise knee-jerk philosemites, such as Tom Bradley, who (unlike the present scribbler) is old enough to recall the days when legendary What'hisname, also Jewish, but American and upper-middle-class all the way, used to ramble through the Home of the Brave in his VW van with the portable chem lab in the back, broadcasting little tabs of the purest and most beautiful Orange Sunshine as liberally as Johnny did apple seeds, with a profit margin of comparable dimensions.

Though Orientals themselves, Nagasaki's strychnine peddlers are, after all, Tom Bradley's fellow exiles, and mine as well, and one's heart is prepared, by reflex as well as by Hollywood, to go out to them--especially when, to attract business, they break out their battered clarinets and little violins with the hairline cracks in the varnish, and render simple traditional happy Hebrew sodbuster tunes from Norman Jewison's heartwarming "Fiddler on the Roof." (I'm particularly susceptible to "Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me a Match," which is what they were playing about eight or ten hours ago when I squeezed my love-handles, one by one, through the turnstile.)

But, charming as they are, this particular branch of whichever tribe they belong to hardly warrants the sort of special consideration granted, say, to the gypsies in Europe, which persuades all right-thinkers to turn a blind eye upon what small depredations upon society-at-large their unhappy condition necessitates. Nagasaki's pseudo-psychedelic vomit-squatters may not be comfortable as their cousins the Rothschilds, but they're not particularly to be pitied. I just demonstrated that they have achieved at least one out of the total of three ambitions cherished by so many of their youthful countrymen, as expressed in the famous proverb, "Get high, get laid, get the fuck out." (Of Zion, that is.) One out of three is more than most of us are granted in a single incarnation.

So I felt no liberal guilt in taking upon my shoulders the civic as well as consumerist responsibility to foil these pushers of dangerous narcotics. Proudly as it would have done my heart to watch them burn the noisy bozos almost as badly as my own tribe of intrusive foreigners burned the noisy bozos' grandparents fifty-eight years ago--and as famously as I was sure they'd get along with the night-raiding, misery-sowing, sadistic bully-biker storm-troopers--I deemed it best to steer no custom in the direction of the train station kibbutzniks today. Therefore, self-concealment, at the moment, became a priority, before the acid-starved convoy could overtake me, whether from uphill or down.

Now, when you clamber up a hill in the suburbs of the burg which our author has famously and cruelly renamed "Boom Town II," you cannot but remain aware, at the epidermal level, of the vast pyroclastic vulcanism writhing a few inches beneath the soles of your feet. Besides engendering the temblors and tsunamis for which this quadrant of the North Pacific is notorious, this buried ferment sends up a tenacious mineral vapor that seems almost consciously to clutch and suck at your Achilles tendons. It retards not only forward progress but the sort of sideward mobility required when diving for cover--which, as the stuck-pig Suzuki squeals grew louder, was what I considered doing, on feet enmeshed in translucent tar. But something I recalled reading in BLACK CLASS CUR, the China volume of Dr. Bradley's planet-girdling Pentateuch, or maybe dreaming the night after reading it, told me that struggle was pointless under such mucous conditions, and would only make things worse, as in quicksand.

So, barely aware of doing so, and unable in any case to explain how it was done, I calmly willed the earthly bonds on my feet to loosen, just a skosh, just enough to strain credulity to a degree acceptable in a literary work of this genre (whatever that may turn out to be); and, like my hero Sam Edwine in his rollicking, psilocybin-fueled Oaxacan jungle adventure (see ACTING ALONE, our blessed Deuteronomy), I allowed the perverse gradient of the road to settle me into the downhill shadows of the soft shoulder, like a surfer shooting the curl.

There, deep in mongoose territory, I waited for the kamikaze punks to whine past from whichever direction their scale-model plastic Harley knockoffs were dragging them. Meanwhile, my hold on gravity evaporating as quickly as an adrenalin spike, I found myself sinking deeper and deeper into pulsating jungle mulch, getting moistened up to the crotch, then pits, then beard, by rivulets of cloying dew that filtered and drained like saccharine tea between acid rain-dwarfed banana trees, up-slope.

And on they came, the salamanders--not from below, which would have been odd enough, but from above, rolling in procession down the incline ahead of me. At that point I could hardly imagine what business these beings could possibly have had on Horeb's sacred summit. Huddling there in the writhing mire, I was just on the verge of persuading my mind's eye to picture my author and them in the same frame. I hadn't yet begun extrapolating a cause for their association (was he sending them on infernal errands? Under what compulsion?), when, suddenly, as if in reaction to the sheer incongruity of that attempted mental juxtaposition--and as a psychosomatic manifestation, no doubt, of the violent jealousy it caused me (I, his Boswell, had traveled this far only to be preempted by un-Englished scum)--a nearly complete disorientation slammed like a leaden lid over my head.

It hovered and buzzed in particular around my inner ear on one side--I couldn't have specified right or left even at the time: something like a whole-body, planet-upending, universe-encompassing dose of Jonathan Swift's own Meuniere's Syndrome, vertigo and tintinitis in precise proportions, exacerbated in no small degree by what I can only call visitations from the other world--I mean the one on paper that parallels and surpasses this one, and must forever be closed to juvenile delinquents of any category. Like the "snot green sea" that inundates tourists' awareness when they visit a certain stone tower on a sandy cove near Dublin, imagery from the Bradleyan oeuvre obtruded upon and usurped what I used fondly to call "my own thoughts."

The acne brigade hadn't yet completely passed. Peeking between puckered bamboo shoots at nostril level, I could see the derriere garde, the inferior bozos, if such can be imagined, who hadn't managed, or bothered, to complete the transformation. They appeared to be compounded of unformed stools and styrofoam smoke, in spite of obvious labors to camouflage their semi-solid state under hair and lips dyed the color of old earwax on a Q-tip. Their exhaust stuck out behind them in furry swirls, like cat tails, and, rather than rolling, their wheels half crept, something like weasel paws. I couldn't see the avant garde, but I could hear strange splashes way down at sea level, and squeals.

Conscious that the unwheeled noisemakers, the ones with fur, would at any minute descend on me like piranhas on a dog-paddling tapir and set to work defleshing my skeleton, I decided that I really ought to run screaming out into the middle of the road, even if it meant giving a group-heart attack to these straggler-bozos.

To that end, I fought with the mud-vacuum that encased my lower self. As soon as one foot was freed, another problem struck close to home. Indigo-bellied lizards, also eager to avoid nourishing the ravening Rikki Tikkis, crawled off specific Bradleyan pages, assumed scaly skin, scrambled up inside my trouser leg, and fixed themselves to my poor perineum by means of crusty suction-cup toes--or, at any event, I had been led to anticipate such treatment by reading certain maniacally despairing fiction which gnaws at its author's exiled condition like a rat at connective tissue, and teems with as many tiny bloodsuckers as Grunewald's Temptation of Saint Anthony (a horrifying detail of which serves as the cover of KILLING BRYCE, the abovementioned Genesis of our new Torah).

I think I ran the rest of the way. Or maybe the shudders with which my sympathetic nervous system obliged me were violent enough to bounce me to the summit like a basketball in reverse. "Nature," to mangle once again you-know-who's words, "is too evident in this town. They need an even bigger lake of asphalt."

* * * *

As if in an attempt to fulfill that request, the very top of his mountain has been blasted off to make room for something unnatural. The trauma is rectilinear, but only in the vaguest way, as the edges have been blurred by volunteer vegetation. It's hard to give it a name in the moisture-thickened darkness, but the project obviously went bust, time gone by, or was aborted due to tired tribal blood. Meanwhile, giant tiger-striped spiders have grabbed the opportunity offered by rioting plant life. Hoping to profit from mongoose-horror in vulnerable ground-dwelling creatures like me, they shit high-tensile webs everywhere, thick as deep-sea fishing line, which pluck and ping like koto strings against my marauding shins, raising an alarm, announcing my approach to the author of all this crawling damnation. Enter Cye Johan, to a flourish of untuned ukuleles.

I've been hoping to sneak up on him instead of vice-versa, as that would leave me the option of changing my mind and fleeing in terror, or maybe just shambling off in embarrassment. Instead I dive into the blackness and resign myself to dying of old age while hiding behind something very odd. At first grope, it can only be described as the improvisation of a plumber with a few dozen cast-iron pipes, a monkey wrench, some time off, and an easily satisfied creative urge. No mammoth Prospero yet in evidence, I use the dead time to consider this clanking skeleton. At my touch, various layers of enamel slough off the pipes in lead-rich chips, a different shade of pastel for each receding year of the strangely familiar assemblage's existence, till the bare metal shows through, tortured and orangish-brown among the weeds. My hiding place turns out to be an antique set of tricky bars, or a jungle gym, or whatever kiddies call these places of social resort. Little Cye just got here, and has already been put in his place.

Here's a context that clarifies and shapes the shadows beyond, and I can now situate myself, by the light of a moon that's making one final effort to look alive before the bully looms up and laughs her to nothingness. I've come to rest at the edge of the faintest recollection of a schoolyard, an abandoned country kindergarten just recognizable in ruins hanging off the opposite cliff. The tiny hillbilly matriculators meant to chatter and brachiate upon my sad tricky bars must have been carried off by malignant nature spirits during recess. Or maybe they've just grown up and begun, if not completed, the process of dying off unspawned. Even during the Pax Japonica, sukiyaki-deluxe heyday of the eighties, it's likely this whole RFD route boasted nary a pre-menopausal wife that hadn't been mail-ordered from the Philippines, and precious few of them. Here's a people long gutted. (And I'm not referring to the extra span of small intestine their senile physiologists have bizarrely hallucinated inside them, a proud peculiarity of the race, to supply the void.)

A ring of pulverized grass and atomized gravel is tromped around this flattened peak. Something enormous has been making an habitual, if not compulsive, circuit of the ragged rim. A rogue water buffalo, surely, has taken possession of this poor mountain, which can't be responding well to such rough treatment. Like the humans who failed to homestead it, Horeb East verges on dissolution even at the best of times. Loosely compounded of wild banana rot and pyroclastic sludge, softened by typhoons, undermined by its own constant seismicity, this hill is prone, like all its neighbors, to the geomorphological equivalent of a nervous breakdown: the catastrophic mudslides which several times each year deform the profile of this whole quadrant of the Pacific Rim. An even briefly definitive topographical map of apocalyptic Boom Town II has never been drawn up, before or after the summer of 1945, as far as my most assiduous researches in that area have revealed.

Suspended like a mini-marshmallow on top of a poorly-set jello mold, I'm scared to breathe, move, blink, or think jostling thoughts--unlike the creature which approaches now. I can hear it huff through the pre-dawn inkiness, fart and mumble, spit strangely numerous times, also snort through nostrils "the glory of which is terrible as he paws and rejoices in his strength." Inexorable as a Mack truck in low gear, it's circling around to the point nearest to where I cower behind baby-blue and pink playtime equipment. He's about to heave into my physical sight, finally, for the first time.

I can't help it. After what seems like eighteen lifetimes lugging around a heart and guts crammed with thousands of Bradleyan sentences, I can only find in my head two paltry phrases, and they don't even belong to him: paired prissinesses, a matched set, worthy of Scribner's nanciest scrote-nibbler, which "the present reviewer" once published in Exquisite Corpse (

I was discussing the fictional portrait of Japan's Crown Princess in his roman-a-clef, THE CURVED JEWELS. I had particularly in mind the poor woman's puzzled appraisal, in the moving eleventh chapter, of Hirohito's grandson's procreative member (which is this Divine Nation's spiritual fons et origo, the current incarnation thereof, and strictly speaking shouldn't be treated any more flippantly than, say, Jesus' flaccid corpus is bandied about within Christendom). The passage runs as follows:

"That part of the Prince had looked, to this virgin, like a formaldehyded specimen of the backwater vermin which her in-laws constantly fondled and talked about and identified themselves with in the world's eyes. Such bloodless things, spineless, pale and soggy, were all they knew, for marine biology was the field of endeavor the Imperial Family had fastened onto, in a halfhearted effort to justify their existence. She was dying to know if Caucasoid equipment also looked like something you wouldn't want to step on at low tide..."

With reference to the author's choosing to reside in the land which has deified that "formaldehyded specimen," and in consideration of his occasional but legendary run-ins with extreme rightists eager to defend that divinity with violence, I felt emboldened, on those famous electronic pages of Exquisite Corpse, to suggest that Dr. Bradley might suffer from a "megalomaniacal urge for public self-annihilation" and an "unwholesome Christ complex...which the present reviewer finds a bit unsettling."

"...megalomaniacal"? "...unwholesome"? Can anyone blame "the present reviewer" if he finds his own pedantry "a bit unsettling" at the moment? If you were "unsettled" as "the present reviewer," wouldn't you prefer to stay put among the tricky bars, sheepish as a porpoise drowning in a tuna net, idiot grin fixed on your bottlenose kisser?

Now's the moment he chooses to blast out of the (for him) knee-deep mist--on hooves, from the feel of it. My intellect has been forewarned about his dimensions--behemoth Sam Edwine is obviously a self-portrait. But nothing could prepare an autonomic nervous system, nothing could steel the reptilian subcortex of a mere human brain, for Tom Bradley's elemental appearance on a dark and deserted mountaintop. This is a huge biped, and hairy. I've seen hairier, but never a huger, not in person, neither horizontally nor vertically.

He's a regular one-man Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club, Boom Town II Chapter, and he rolls right past me, oblivious as a legion of bosozokus. Even while assuring myself that I'll nail my author next time around with a tough set of proper interview questions, I know very well that it will take more than one lap before I can persuade myself not to choke. Instead of acting like a man, or even a journalist, I dig in and play the voyeur. Have I climbed this far only to let Tom Bradley get away?

Clockwise, counterclockwise, I am unable to say in which direction he forsakes me, because the leaden lid of disorientation has slammed down on my head once again and twisted everything. I've caught an extra-literary dose of dyslexia. When the clouds part briefly overhead I try to read the constellations, but Ursa Major and, it seems, Orion, too, appear as in a mirror, reversed. Two of the only unchanging items in the whole catalog of mankind's visual experience are catty-whompus. It's as unlikely a sight as even a dyslexic could expect see in several hundred million lifetimes, and inspires small confidence in my own state of mind. I do see some planets, of course, just about where you'd expect most of them to be; but Mars hangs down way too close, like a bare light bulb in a shitty Japanese one-room apartment. My giant author has to duck to get under it, and even so bumps his red head. The two of them melt together into one inflamed bilobular pumpkin.

I see this happen, and have small trouble believing it. Compared to his other accomplishments, merging his head with Mars is trivial. He is, after all, Tom Bradley, the novelist who, according to rumor, has imposed himself on this Mount of God for nearly twenty years, whom the diminutive natives have no doubt been ogling from afar like a circus freak during that endless period, yet whose own attention they've distracted to a preternaturally slight degree. (My textual analysis reveals that he knows fewer than five words of their language, and three of those are hairy-carey, okie-dokie and hunky-dory.) Meanwhile, in an award-winning feature-length screenplay, in scarcely believable numbers of stories and essays (more than seventy have appeared under his name in the past four years: see the Media Page of, and in the final novels of THE SAM EDWINE PENTATEUCH, where he exhausted the subject once and for all, Tom Bradley, the walking, stomping paradox, wrote with more perception and truth about this country than anybody in existence, now or formerly.

So, if it's no longer a fit subject for a real writer, why does he stick around this bleak archipelago, especially now that it's plummeting into race extinction, that terminal withering of the will to press on which has always signaled a nation's utter moral exhaustion? Even mighty Greek Thebes wound up with cattle lowing and grazing on its citadel; so what pitiable weasel-squeaks can our author expect to hear from the gutters of a twice-doomed toy-town like this? Assuming he hasn't died of earlyish old age himself by that time, will Dr. Bradley yet be lingering here in another ten or fifteen years, when his honorable hosts are flat on their bellies, gazing enviously up the asshole of the Philippines and sending their own dwindling granddaughters to Manila as sex slaves instead of vice-versa? In loitering like a crow on this carcass, is our author "indulging his intellectual masochism"? (Such was the accusation leveled at him during a wild online debate at David Horowitz's fanatical neo-con/Zionist Front Page Magazine, after they were gutsy enough to publish the eviscerating essay, "Ethnic Narcissism and Infertility in Japan"--featured, like so much of Dr. Bradley's astonishing nonfiction, in the million-hit-per-month, Webby Award-winning Arts and Letters Daily.)

I'm not the only one hanging around here who's intimidated by the double threat of such a reputation and physique. Also hesitating self-consciously, holding back with craven diffidence worthy of me, is our local yellow main sequence star. That particular wimp fidgets behind a nearby peak, pinching his dick and sending on ahead a couple of expendable junior beams, pale and wan (respectively). So far, peeking between bamboo stalks, they have only been bold enough to scout out the atmosphere several yards over our heads. That's how intimidatingly phosphorescent-orange my author's patriarch-whiskers are, even in shadow, and how glaring the flushed Celtic skin stretched across his balding dome. (Why do I feel on shakier ground referring to his head and mine in the same paragraph than perpetrating a pathetic fallacy on a couple of defenseless sunbeams?)

The good doctor and I remain twilit under a low ceiling of day. Hawks sailing almost within reach (for him) are now pointed out in light. Each of their complex markings looks sharp as a hieroglyph on a freshly excavated graven image. One swoops down upon the inferior plane of existence that I, at any rate, am forced to call home, and latches onto a bit of breakfast among things that mongooses consider beneath eating. Before he's able to resume cruising altitude, huge obsidian ravens consolidate from the residual nighttime and harass this hawk, three against one, recapitulating their rascally behavior in KARA-KUN: "...flapping and pecking alongside until the hawk drops its football-sized rat... [the ravens] are more than aerodynamically capable of retrieving the tidbit in mid-air, but prefer to let it fall down and mature awhile in the languishing stinkweeds."

While my attention is diverted, less by nature than the mirror he has held up to it, Dr. Bradley completes a second orbit without incident--of the physical sort, at any rate. But does he peer, for a nanosecond, into the vapors that still encase me? And does he nail an affectless but sociopathically intense glance right into the pit of my left eyeball, as though in acknowledgement of something that, if it possessed even a single atom's worth of significance, could almost be called my presence? It's clear that he attaches no particular importance to what he sees, if I can be said to have registered on his retina at all. It feels like being appraised by a hawk's lidless orb, and dismissed as unappetizing, therefore non-existent. Have I just been neutralized by a more-than, or other-than, human consciousness? Not a question calculated to settle the nerves. It's best just to pretend the glance never happened, like so much that ostensibly takes place here on the more inscrutable side of the International Date Line. Maybe Dr. Bradley has no idea anyone waits in ambush on this defunct playground.

Flitting about on the hilltop next door, clearly incapable of registering anything like my own pudency, is a colossal Sakyamuni, exoteric adipose edition. Its jadedness has been gussied up with molded-concrete blobs of representational flesh and sluttish silk, and accessorized by the broadest affectation of a tranny-style headdress I've ever seen, with iron reinforcing rods poking through at the worst possible places. The whole cetacean abortion is spray-painted metallic yellow and sprinkled with tasteless Kandy-Kolored tangerine flakes straight out of another scintillating Tom. This god (as I suppose it must be called) touts for a stupa, an off-white dome with a well-placed cowlick, which Sakyamuni straddles primly enough. Like thousands of others throughout Hirohito Land, this stupa is stuffed with the third-hand and shopworn residue of a certain Nepalese, who, we are asked to believe, was dragged across the waterless Tarim Basin, then shunted mongoose-wise across the Tsushima Strait, yet could still muster enough sheerly incarnated testosterone to shed many thousands of bushels of reliquary-quality facial hair.

That's a whole bunch more than the greatest and butchest of American novelists ever could manage, even the extra-fuzzy one presently under consideration. But, even though he's bested in quantity, I prefer the quality of my own guru's whiskers. I haven't yet gotten a good up-close look at them through this lingering steam; but his authorial portraits, online and on paper, explode in all directions with fibers of an angel color hardly approximable by any subcontinental type, pure Aryan warrior-caste or not.

A creature hovers and tickles and flitters in the hollow of our enlightened neighbor's Chunnel-sized left nostril, flirting with a Buddha sneeze that could blow Nagasaki to hell again. It's a tiny bird, much littler than the dog-fighting scavenger-hawks and carrion-ravens that squawk and screech over our mountain, but it's easy to hear his voice clear across the gorge that separates saggy Sakyamuni from Dr. Bradley. The little frizzy-feathered birdy does his morning air-gargle, a sunshine-welcoming warble routine hundreds of times more complex and eloquent than anything I've yet heard from a moonlit mongoose. The tweets and chirps are prestissimo, a series of split-second phrases lasting without rest or repeat, for three whole minutes that could perhaps have been more profitably allocated among the day's first crop of earthworms. It's like listening to a sylph with Olympic lung capacity discourse idly on Heisenberg's uncertainty principle and laugh hysterically at the same time, by means of Rahsaan Roland Kirk's circular breathing technique. Birds of this sort (which have an English name, I'll bet) are said by unsentimental native ornithologists to have a Darwinistic purpose for making such beauty way up there: they are supposed to be cruising for prospective fuck-buddies, i.e., mounting a formalized mating display in the name of species propagation--which is the only other permissible behavior for organisms in a rational universe besides procuring food by whatever undignified means necessary, such as skyjacking half-dead rats. If that's so, their tribe has gone out of its way to select for suppler throat muscles and sharper ears than any loved or unloved soprano saxophonist's I'm aware of.

But who's to say a tidy nest lined with a dozen buckshot-sized eggs is necessarily the end towards which this particular miniature brown Sidney Bechet is working? Why does everything have to be done to impress the broads? Certain old pilgrims have worked off tribal debt, and have shed those unsightly metempsychotic pounds through regular exercise. Do we require the heavy-handed burlesque of a morbidly obese Buddha to remind us that not every spirit is encased in karmic pudge? Some have earned the choice of fending for themselves, if they happen to feel like it.

Not to overextend the avian pathetic fallacy, but what if that ecstatic warbler is choosing to come on like, say, for example, an unfeathered biped who consecrates his life to expressing himself beautifully, when, for all the red-hot action he gets in return, he can do no more than posit an audience--maybe not even hoping, but just willfully hallucinating them, huddled unseen and mute in the mist around his ankles, dazzled to paralysis by his song, consumed from afar with chaste adoration for him, and only him, as opposed to some prospective new and improved junior version of him that can be parturated, possessed and duly pussy-whipped?

Without having come across this notion in any of his works, and therefore confident, as the World's Foremost Bradley Expert, that he has never published it, I am nevertheless positive, one hundred percent doubt-free, that it constitutes one of the reasons why our author behaves so much like the songbirds with whom he exchanges mutual greetings each morning. Furthermore, I can somehow intuit, just from pondering the expression on his face, grinning or glowering, in those authorial portraits, that he himself is unaware of this reason, except as a persistent, life-informing physical sensation of near-perpetual, intense and almost perfect delight, for which I will envy him till the day I curl up and rot and die.

I tell you that Dr. Bradley has devoted his existence to writing, number one, because it's fun (I mean the big complicated fun that none of us can ever hope to imagine, except during infinitesimally brief and rare moments in nature), and, number two, because he intends for every center of consciousness, everywhere, in all planes and conditions (not just terrestrial female Homo sapiens in breeding prime) to love him, forever, starting as soon as possible, though he's prepared to wait thousands of centuries after he's dead, or even longer if it turns out to be necessary. That's the ambition he cherishes. Talk about an ability to defer gratification.

I may not be able to answer the most basic questions about his quotidian love- and work-life (e.g., is Dr. Bradley married? Is he bisexual? Is he sexual? How does he get food? Does he eat food? Is he aware that the laundromat formerly connected to the stomach cancer hospice at the base of his hill is now open to the public and would love to serve his personal grooming and hygiene needs?); but I've been clear to the bottom of all his books and back several times, and am as sure of these two motivations as I am of my own artistic sterility and terminal uxoriousness.

Then again, I could be mistaken, couldn't I? For all I know, he might not be self-expressing at all, but rather selflessly working off some kind of tribal karmic sludge--though, like most ethnic Europeans, my own spiritual intuitions remain as yet too church-blunted even to hazard a guess as to how his solitary behavior could serve such an esoteric function. The big question, for me in any case, remains unanswered: what in the name of God is he doing here? If his soul be untrammeled as that little warbling birdy's, why doesn't he fly off this mound of semi-soft shit, and put an end to the too-long exile which rankles him so?

(Our occasionally inhuman writer is humanized by his homesickness. I find this muted but constant anguish evoked most affectingly in the Harper Collins/3am Award-winning story, "Even the Dog Won't Touch Me." Sam Edwine and his saintly wife Polly--an exclaustrated nun of the Popish confession who "divorced Christ to join him" in what The Journal of Evolutionary Psychology has called "their glorious and tender hierogamy"--are shown to be the New Adam and the New Eve. Though expelled, they "carry the garden with them," Eden being, in this case, a battered Samsonite that stays perpetually half-packed as the couple takes its solitary way through the Far East Asiatic wilderness.)

Speaking of the East, my fellow shy Bradley fan-boy over there seems to be just as befuddled by all this as I am. He still hasn't waxed any braver, the wussy. Now he's starting to twitch behind his nearby peak. He bounces on one leg while continuing to pinch his dick with increasing urgency. One spastic yellow dribble spills down to sea level, staining the dockside stoops of the storefront language schools and the teenage hand-job hostess bars--as if any amount of UV radiation could disinfect those wallows of corruption. A stronger wavelength, tried and true, is indicated.

Nagasaki Bay heaves into view, out there beyond the cliff-edge Dr. Bradley is now skirting. This deepwater inlet of the East China Sea has always been the back door to Nippon, through which undesirables have slunk in an uninterrupted string, like mucus supped from a cuspidor. Today it's TEFL trash; yesteryear it was droves of pound cake-pushing Portuguese and Papist proselytizers. We have the latter to thank for the glamorous Twenty-Six Nagasaki Martyrs, townies all, who got spiritually colonized to that grotesque degree guaranteed to earn the veneration of the diseased Romish mentality. Consecrated beings, they self-consciously allowed themselves and their children to be impaled on spears rather than place their feet briefly on a pair of shellacked laths with a diapered manikin thumb-tacked on. In the blood of these slavering masochists, Tom Bradley's adopted town was christened the "Catholic nerve center of Japan." (Guess which other Japanese town called "Boom" serves the same purpose for protestants, just by random coincidence, of course--unless ecumenical Ialdabaoth was in a particularly vicious mood one summer week almost sixty years ago.)

You could trade that whole gaggle of Nagasaki martyrs for one Tom Bradley and be much safer up here. You could throw a regular weenie roast with all twenty-six lightweights mincing and milling about, so particular about where they place their dainty tootsies, traumatizing no tremulous mud membrane. By contrast, consider my ponderous hero. Only a miracle prevents him from bringing this whole edifice down like hairy Samson. Any other pair of human feet would be cracking under the stress of his trot, arches falling, toes curling backwards in ultimate rigors. But he's my road-surfing instructor, my guru in the skill of loosening gravity's shackles, and appears to be functioning under no special stress. He floats along, legs, torso and head registering no reaction to the violent action of his feet. You could say that, from the anklebones down, Dr. Bradley is coming on like the twenty-seventh Nagasaki martyr, the one they never tell you about, who did the Frug, the Watusi, the Mashed Potato and the Cool Jerk up and down a whole trunk-load of Papist gewgaws, till they had to shove a spear up his ass just to calm him down.

Daylight creeps up from the greasy surface of Nagasaki Bay. It sidles along the docks like a Turkish merchant seaman with unparaphrasable B.O. and offputting mannerisms that you can't quite put a name to. It heads uphill to Japan's second most popular tourist destination. Raised a bit higher than the sloughs of despond I visited in the first section of this essay, overlooking the bay from a terrace covered in cherry trees, world-famous Glover Garden is one fabulously pricey piece of real estate, whose rightful inheritance my author just might not altogether inconceivably have been "butt-fucked out of," as he says, with a modicum of indelicacy, whenever the question comes up in interviews. (Who's the last guy in town you'd ever suspect of being old blood?)

It happens to be the former palatial Raj-style digs of his maternal great-great-great-great-etc. uncle, Tom Glover: none other than the "Scottish Samurai," the gun-running, ecosystem-destroying, sex-slave-disemboweling, emperor-enthroning asshole whom Giacomo Puccini honeyed over in the three-hankie opera, "Madame Butterfly." The natives call him the "Founder of Modern Japan," echoing Der Fuhrer's pronouncement in MEIN KAMPF, volume I, chapter II: "The real foundations of contemporary Japanese life are the achievements of the Aryan peoples--" except Tom Glover, like his present namesake (not to say incarnation) was rubicund carrot-topped Celt, all the way back to the Druids, without a doubt.

If Dr. Bradley is pleased to say something is so, and if the notion yields him some nice transitions between paragraphs, then by all means, so be it. Who's going to check, anyway, besides some pedantic local historian, probably ex-TEFL trash himself, who managed to wangle a neighborhood junior college gig by flattering the locals' self-importance with half-assed "research" into their past? It is, therefore, a solid, indisputable historical fact that a cabal of grasping half-caste rival cousins ganged up and butt-fucked our favorite novelist out of a proper cherry blossom-carpeted veranda from which imperiously to sip the finest green breakfast tea and survey his domains on a bay so rich in familial history.

Unjustly dispossessed though he may be, Dr. Bradley nevertheless subjects himself each morning to the lung-lacerating exhalations of Nagasaki Bay--and I can't quite yet imagine why, as I spend my own morning doing the same. Even from clear up here, it's a smelly toilet, one part dioxin to two parts methyl mercury chloride--thanks to dear old "Unker" Tom, who "singlehandedly industrialized this once gorgeous country, turning it into the toxic wasteland it currently is," according to the scorched-earth essay, "Bloodsucker of Nagasaki" (, written by this dead prick's great-great-great-whatever nephew, which you'd better read if you think pride of propinquity had anything to do with these clashing relatives winding up in the same town.

On the other hand, if you're looking for the answer to my perennial question, i.e., what in God's name is our man doing here?--let's just say it's a bit early for jumping to the conclusion that mere coincidence has drawn both terrible Toms together in space, if not time. Tom the Younger might not make much of a Nagasaki Martyr, but he could be seen as a Nagasaki Penitent. That hypothesis would clear up part of our perplexity. What might have fetched him here is--well, we could call it an intense awareness of the Scottish Samurai's military-industrial exploits, and a certain unhappy identification on Dr. Bradley's part with his voracious ancestor. As so often happens with insurmountable points of shame, this could have been inverted into a matter of pride. If so, I suspect another atom bomb will be needed to knock this Moses off his Horeb. (Pyongyang's working on that.)

Until the next flash of eye-melting light, he will remain here, steadfast, spinning on this turd-colored jello mold, toward whatever expiatory end that may serve--something sort of piously ritualistic, I suppose, like non-orgasmic self-flagellation. Not yet comprehending the exact nature of the atonement our outsized Nagasaki Penitent essays here, we might nevertheless assume, on a provisional basis, the following: that as long as Japan's dwindling economic and deoxyribonucleic momentum continues to falter on, he won't forsake his self-appointed post, not until every trace of his Unker's hard work and discipline and self-motivation and entrepreneurial industriousness and venturesomely capitalistic go-getterism has fallen to pieces; not until Dr. Bradley's religio-magical spinning has somehow sent the Kirin Chemical Beer Works, the mines, the railways, the slip-docks, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and Glover Garden itself, all straight to the murky bottom of the bay. And, considering the headlong speed at which Nipponese "civilization" is declining, these and other submersions will certainly happen, with or without the aid of religion or magic, well within the stingiest actuarial estimate of what's left of Tom Bradley's life, including years deducted for obesity and excessive height (although he should get at least two decades' worth of points for cardiovascular fitness).

And, in that halcyon time to come, "...this muggy waste, un-Glovered at last, will revert to the fishing village it was before my tribal curse descended: a place where the natives can once again develop personalities (will they be able to remember how?); where they can get out the old martyr-impaling spears and have a weenie roast, TEFL trash as the main course, and just forget about forcing themselves to pretend to encompass the impossible task of learning my beautiful language (masticating it to ugly shit in the effort); where they can have time and leisure and silence to play with their children, and chat with them in their own inchoate but, I suppose, adequate idiom; and make more children, at least to the extent their exhausted bloodlines permit; and sleep eight hours a day, and work no more than that, with a two-day weekend at least; and stop their screaming and their crass imitation American-style boosterism and huckstering--" (the latter so poignantly depicted in the essay, "The Nagasaki Literary Scene," now on offer for syndication at; second electronic and all other rights available--editors act now) "--and heal the hole inside them."

Then, and only then, our man's amends will be made, hereditary debt worked off, and Tom Bradley can die, alone, spent, in peace, in the dark, draped over tricky bars, etc., etc., okay, fine, I got it. Apocalyptic this and Sacrificial Lamb that.

As a second, less obvious, not to say mawkish, alternative--since we're talking ex-cathedra anyway--we also might classify his morning constitutional among the Works of Mercy, though not strictly "corporeal" in the catechistic sense. To clarify this proposition, let's consult the man himself--I mean his words, spoken live. Let's squat awhile longer among the tricky bars and listen to what he gasps and rants as he jogs.

For posterity's sake, he happens to hold, in a hand huge, glowing and white as any pagan's chryselephantine hallucination, a Sony micro-cassette tape recorder, which he employs to play himself back every few phrases. One is reminded of Frau Forster's older brother, filling a notebook with aphorisms and constant emendations thereof, while wandering along the brisk Alpine foothills. But our philosopher has reached his summit, and is doing a liturgical dance, having changed the linear hiker's notebook for a whirling mechanism on which to spool and unspool mantras received and given. Here is a prayer wheel far trimmer and more serviceable than the Nepalese-style clunker, about the size of a carny thrill-ride, being swished about by Miss Queerbait Tangerine-Flake Buddha next door. When its reverse button is pushed, Dr. Bradley's compact appliance makes the sounds of words inhaled and taken back, difficult to distinguish from the circularly breathed chirps and tweets of Sakyamuni's feathery booger across the gorge.

I can eavesdrop most effectively on what he replays when he's tracing my particular arc of the grand cycle on his gigantic all-weather radial tire-soled sandals, retreads sloughed in arcs from still other wheels, satellites within orbits in various states of decay. Here are the first, and almost the last, words I have ever heard my interview subject say (he sounds even more like Orson Welles in the flesh than on RealPlayer):

"The dragon's mustache mirrors mine. A commissioned portrait of the one I inherited, it originally occupied the upper lip of my blood Unker, my spitting image, the Bloodsucker, who founded, along with countless other dark satanic mills on the brim of our bay, the so-called brewery that excretes the piss that fills the cans upon which the golden-mustachioed dragon struts, less avatar than advert.

"One mark of his death-dodging pride is this transplantation of his facial hair onto the flying snake's muzzle, thus claiming and bruiting abroad for himself the status of adept, or magus--he put the Naga in -saki. This is not implausible if we assume he took the left path. Look around you. His prideful works were more than human, yet less than a generation after their completion from the ground up, they were cast down, with the requisite confounding of tongues--hence the TEFL trash infestation. His stomping grounds were consumed in flames of retributive Nemesis.

"All the political damage he did, more than 10,000 normal men's worth, did not satisfy him. It wasn't enough that he riled up the pithecoid samurai; not sufficient that he put the nibbling Mongoose Family on the throne, resulting in all of Greater East Asia being flooded in blood. I'm sure he found wreaking mischief among these easy marks about as challenging as shaking insects in a Mason jar to see if they'll fight. But I notice he didn't feel quite up to attempting such incitement among vigorous occidental tribes and nations. Then again, on a literary level, neither does his nephew, the habitual East Asian expatriate, who, likewise unable to make his mark in the real world, hides out on the wrong side of the International Date Line, instead of engaging his own civilization head-on..."

(Tom Bradley's fans, demurring at such self-effacement, disarming though it may be, will point out that the first two mighty volumes of the SAM EDWINE PENTATEUCH are set squarely nowhere else than America, and have engaged some of the best heads of that civilization. No less a personage than Stanley Elkin found ACTING ALONE to have "an incredible energy level," and R.V. Cassill said, "The contemporaries of Michelangelo found it useful to employ the term 'terribilita' to characterize some of the expressions of his genius, and I will quote it here to sum up the shocking impact of this work as a whole. I read it in a state of fascination, admiration, awe, anxiety, and outrage." Stephen Goodwin opined that he'd be "be hard pressed to think of any writer who has Bradley's stamina, his range, his learning, his felicity," and the great Gordon Weaver spoke of the "flawless surface of [Tom Bradley's] stylistic facility," and his "ability to walk the edge of a tone that is simultaneously irreverent and profoundly serious." It's clear that Bradley's tower reaches at least as high as Glover's. But its staircase spirals in the opposite direction, and will bring down no heavenly wrath and destruction. Quite the reverse. As for confounding of tongues, the books themselves lay any such linguistic anxiety to rest.)

The good doctor continues:

"Like sorcerer-Pope Sixtus V recapitulating himself with pathological rapidity as the fearsome Ahkoond of Swat, sidestepping what should have been six or seven thousand years in the devachanic antechamber, my vampire Unker jumped the normal metensomatotic rails to have another crack at what he calls life, but what I call festering. He required a second gross container for his gluttonous spirit, but couldn't fasten his soul-fangs on a lineal descendant. His only son, also Tom (Madame Butterfly's unsuccessfully aborted and ill-reared bastard), strangled the family dogs and hanged his septuagenarian self just because an atom bomb was dropped on him, the pussy. A good illustration of the ill-advisability of miscegenation with the exhausted races, and--"

Its reverse button pushed by what I can only imagine to be a forearm-sized thumb, the Sony micro-cassette recorder makes a peremptory chirp--

"Don't say 'miscegenation,' you moron. And 'pussy'? Have you completely given up on ever getting back to America? Shit. Where was I? Oh yeah--

"Tom Glover craves to take further and bigger bites out of this lugubrious landscape. But a big enough bite was taken thirty-four years after his first death. That's my opinion, and I deserve to be consulted--"

Our author suddenly switches his battery-operated mechanism to the other hand, clenches it tighter against his mustache and, in a whisper never intended for my profane ears, says, "After all, it's my carcass up for grabs."

At least that's what I think he said. Before he can hear me cry, "Huh? What--?" our fallen local aristocrat swings around again on the occult circle which he has woven thrice into the volcanic mush underfoot, and passes me by a third time--and you know how any times it must happen in fairy tales and dirty jokes. He makes more revelations into the Sony's microphone--

"It was Old Man Glover's death, and he duly died it, and he's trying to cheat it through me. But he has made a fatal mistake: he chose a body half-compounded of unmitigated Bradley, Jack Mormon renegade-style, whose nature is to cooperate with nobody and nothing. If the Glovemeister was half as clever as the Nipponese make him out to be, he'd have lit upon a less congenitally perverse set of inlaws. We Bradleys told the bloody desert dictator Brigham Young to get fucked, right up in his face. Did Unker Tom think I'd hesitate to tell him the same in deference to my mom's maiden name? It's good for opening bank accounts, but that doesn't make it the password to my temple of the Holy Spirit."

(If I, Cye Johan, were the type of scribbling academic hack to insert footnotes, I might grab this opportune moment to distract you, and me, from the frankly distressing glimpse we've just gotten into our author's, shall we say, state of mind. I would provide a little solid, non-metaphysical historical background here, just to assure us of our footing, if not his. I'd take us back to the dry, ghost-free, wide-open spaces of the Far West, and point out that Dr. Bradley's agnatic line paid the full price, plus tax, for telling Brigham Young to "get fucked, right up in his face." I'd refer you to the masterful autobiographical essay, "Suspensions of Disbelief," yet another example of our man's death-dealing nonfiction to be highlighted in Arts & Letters Daily. Its arguments organized in paragraphs crystalline and inevitable as Eighteenth-Century counterpoint, this essay, like all his others, would stand up as evidence of our author's sanity in any court of law. So much for forensic psychology.

(For more on his paternal ancestors' courageous flippancy toward the Mormon cult, see, passim, the aforementioned Genesis of our Pentateuch, KILLING BRYCE, which, according to the promo copy, "shows the disintegration of a family of Jack Mormons who get scattered across two continents like bits of rock salt sprayed from the muzzle of a shotgun." No fewer than seven well-shaped novels intertwine in this 300,000-word epic, bouncing off one another, each told from inside a different character's mind, seven centers of consciousness generating their own idioms and idiosyncratic styles, prompting rumors of seven distinct corporeal authors having passed the manuscript to and fro--or, indeed, gossip about a certain benign schizophrenia on the author's part.

(Based on personal experience, of this very morning in fact, I subscribe to the latter suspicion, with reservations regarding the qualifier. And can you blame me? I mean, this big crazy fuck thinks a dead Scotchman is crawling around inside him--and judging from his dimensions, I'd say there's room for at least six more. I should have stayed home--Osaka, in my hideous TEFL-trash case--and just done a normal book review, full of nice, easy sentences like this: "For all its bulk and problematical etiology, KILLING BRYCE's greatest virtue is its tight structure. There are few technical feats in fiction that come anywhere near. By comparison, WAR AND PEACE deserves Henry James' dismissive epithet, 'primitive.'" Back to text.)

Dr. Bradley is saying, "...and not only do I defy the mustachioed dragon, but I am allowing, no, teasing, inviting and encouraging the avuncular eidolon to pursue me, till it gets exhausted and stumbles off the track that I have stomped so deliberately close to this raggedy rim, and falls off the cliff to join the swinish legions at the bottom of the bay he poisoned. I'm determined to have been neither driven nor lured here to continue Tom Glover's career of insatiable rapacity. Rather than be the beneficiary of astral nepotism, I choose to occupy his place on my own terms..."

The voice now swells to even greater than normal Orson Wellesian stentoriousness, frightening the ravens overhead--

"For I am the Human Exhaust Fan, the Great Whirling Air Exchange System of Boom Town II."

(Well, that's one way to encourage yourself to do your aerobics every day. His resting pulse rate's probably the same as his age: extremely low fifties. A tree's going to have to fall on this guy and stun him first, then Pyongyang can have a crack at him. Or maybe the "exhaust fan" is just another of the fart jokes with which he's inordinately fond of puffing up his widely anthologized "flash fiction"--a form whose extreme concision isn't normally associated with puffing or padding. But such is the ludic virtuosity of the master: he can conjure a universe in twenty-five words, and fritter away the remaining seventy-five teasing us like a feather up a nostril. I'm sure that's what this Uncle Soul-Vampire business is about. He's just tickling me, waiting for me to sneeze and reveal my peeking presence, so he can roar, "Gotcha!" and make me shit my pants. Big laffs.)

Tom Bradley has taken possession of this aerie, a natural fortress commanding coastal access to a downtown no less mountainous than its suburbs. From up here he enjoys an air traffic controller's-eye-view of the inlets and outlets carved by immemorial lava among the maze of volcanic hills upon which Boom Town II is built. (History's stupider choice for a nuclear strike, Nagasaki makes Rome look like Topeka.) He is in a position to help unravel these tousled braids of topography on behalf of whomever or whatever might be wandering down there in a state of disorientation.

As if in commemoration of the morning when they broiled under a much brighter sun, the snaking inner-city gorges still, in certain slants of dawn's early light, seem to flow with gamma particles and molten humans in their myriads. It's said that sudden murder of particular violence and treachery can knock astral monads off the Circle of Necessity's treadmill, resulting in unquiet dead, doomed for a certain term to walk the night, and so forth. In this case, the certain term has lasted nearly sixty years. The poor Nagasaki-jin, like their brethren the Hiroshimites before them, were sucker-punched, black-jacked, cudgeled on the noggin harder than anybody since the sage Aurva gave the fire missile to King Sagara in the Vishnu Purana. Their hard-won coats of matter annihilated instantaneously, stripped and disorganized so suddenly, the atomic dead got lost in the labyrinth. For about three human generations, these pulverized pilgrims have been buffeted around the gutters and alleyways, not even allowed to linger on pools that stand in drains, unable to curl once, nor yet so much as halfway, around their houses to sleep, as the latter are no less vaporous than they. With the post-war proliferation of motor vehicles, they're sucked without stint into the radiators and shat out the exhaust manifolds of numberless speeding Mazdas and Toyotas, often pureed through several internal combustion systems in rapid succession, so suicidal are the tailgating tendencies of their postmodern townsmen. They've been smutched and rendered insensate by constant adulteration with unburnt diesel fuel and other airborne hydrocarbon solids.

Tape machine chirping, our author skirts the bit of rim, opposite the bay, that overlooks Ground Zero, nestled snugly between a reductive Palatine and a bathetic Esquiline. Right about now, during the hours just before, during and after dawn, the road traffic down there is sparse as it gets in this insomniac land, and a cleansing geothermal mist begins briefly to gather and rise. The air isn't quite so thickly streaked with static electric-blue bolts of frantic, hopeless nervous energy generated by a post-war citizenry exhausted as Mexicans, but not allowed to relax and snooze away their last few gasps as a race. At this time of day, Dr. Bradley's golden hours, the nuked souls come the closest they ever get to being alive, in the sense of possessing some rudimentary approximation of will, and at least a hint of self-locomotive power, like amoebas in a dilute acid bath with only two thirds of their flagella rendered immotile. They're susceptible to being summoned, or seduced in certain depraved cases. Swirling and shrieking like tiny songbirds with their pinfeathers singed off, they're more likely to hear and respond to Dr. Bradley's voice on the micro-tape, his words played backwards, which is inhalation. The recorder, held near his face, chirps and beckons the semi-senseless beings up the hill to the neighborhood of his nostrils, like a muezzin luring the faithful to the twin portals of the sanctuary of his respiratory system and the microcosm it constitutes.

The doctor snorts astral monads. He aspirates them in their singularity, as uncompounded atoms. And at some point during the process of metabolic gas exchange that takes place in our genius' serviceable alveoli, they can latch onto waste molecules of carbon dioxide excreted from his own mortal coil.

Each night and morning, as far as I am able to gather, he goes round and round, rescuing defunct Nips in this heterodox manner. Just as I briefly intuited a bit earlier in this essay, he does indeed seem to be "working off some kind of tribal karmic sludge"--that portion left behind by Unker Tom, who's responsible for bringing down the greatest disservice yet done to any other town but one in the post-Mahabharatic age: he founded Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the target of America's famous Big Boy.

The doctor allows his Unker's victims a period of devachanic rest, immeasurably long from their point of view, but only lasting a half-lap on this track, as manifested on our phenomenological plane. The particulate wretches are blessed with an apparent sempiternity inside Tom Bradley to compose themselves, to gather up as much useful consciousness as possible, along with whatever matter he can spare them, with which to seed their new embodiments. I fear he's allowing his infinitesimal nurslings to erode the delicate lining of his bronchial tubes. Physicians, who tend to be rationalists even in Japan these latter days, would say our jogger guarantees himself a world-class case of emphysema by stubbornly insisting on doing his morning workout not in a civic gymnasium with a proper air-filtration system, but outdoors, where there's pollution--thanks, again, to the Glovemeister. But amends are being made, as the victims are coddled, recruited, not to say transmogrified (just yet), by way of an occult ritual to which I am not privy, prayer wheel whirled, charms mumbled.

Bizarre conditions call for freakish measures; a man of normal dimensions couldn't do this chore. Poison Tom Glover supplied his own antidote in his enormous Celtic genes, which his distantly descended nephew has inherited and supplemented with equine Anglo-Saxon Bradleyness, and religious observation of this cardiovascular regimen, exhibiting self-discipline uncharacteristic of a scion of fallen aristocracy, which would tend to support his vocation's genuineness.

He expels the hopeful, naked little beings on a jet-blast as cyclonic as his triple-sized lungs and trampoline-taut diaphragm can blow. He launches them on sturdy vehicles of carbon dioxide as far out into Nagasaki Bay as he superhumanly can, to give them a boost, over and beyond the lethal Styx of the avuncular docks and out into the open sea, where they might come to rest and start fresh among the corals and jellyfish and polyps.

I almost rise up from my tricky bars in protest against this sudden dip into debased exoteric superstition (there is no phylic regression in proper esoteric Buddhism)--"But," says Dr. Bradley, as though he wants me to stay put for the time being, "look whose shadow I'm working in." He gestures to saggy Sakyamuni, as if his Sony micro-cassette recorder had an eye as well as an ear and a larynx, and all three were hooked up to various orifices in my head.

It's only the Nagasaki-jin incinerated during that vast epoch which transpired within the second minute after the eleventh hour of the morning of August ninth, 1945, that concern him: somewhere between thirty-nine and seventy-five thousand of them, depending on which of several estimates you buy. Dr. Edwine has chosen to err on the side of generosity, and has pledged himself to service the full load. He accepts no responsibility for casualties after the fact, collateral damage, so to speak, such as his own dog-strangling cousin Tom (a favorite Christian name in this clan). Radiation sickness, liver cancer, the suicidal despair of the vanquished, etc., allow you ample time to pack and get tickets, and if you wind up an astral vagabond, it's your own god-damned fault.

As for those immediate blast victims too solidly mired in desire when alive, therefore incapable, in death, of riding on gaseous wings across the bay with their former fellow townsmen-gentry such as Nagasaki's wartime military bureaucrats, Nanking rapists on R and R, methamphetamine-maddened twelve-year-old kamikaze trainees bivouacked at the local airstrip, and General Tojo's Thought Police, who were kicking down paper doors and burning books right up to the moment of detonation; not to mention the various sundry civilian undesirables whom you'll find living and dying under a glutinous layer of demerit in all places and times: small businessmen, thugs, monastics, naughty toddlers, physicians of most specialties, people associated in any way with those sewers of lowbrow invidiousness called junior colleges, neighborhood gossips, mediocre artists, smokers, masturbators, malcontent rickshaw boys, just to name a few--these are the ones whose spirits, due to extra layers of ethical avoirdupois, are too coarse for aspiration and osmosis. They get stuck in Tom Bradley's sinus passages.

It depends on how misanthropic you are, or pretend to be, what percentage of the 39-75,000 holocaustees you're ready to envision lodged among his nostril hairs and upper mucous membranes. They, and not Utah cloddishness, are the reason why Dr. Bradley is constantly snorting back letting fly. Lukewarm, they are spewed out as loogs and lungers.

No sooner do these moral inferiors with their weighty load of sin splat on the ground than, in a puff of steam, they rise, either to become or to possess the bodies of low, loathsome and noxious life forms, like mongooses and bosozokus. They proceed to waste an incarnation terrorizing the suburbanites and staid burghers with their night cries. And that explains the noises which made me so nervous on the way up here. It was these discombobulated fuckers who finally got fitted with coats of skin to replace those melted off their skeletons by "Harry Truman's gift of Hell"--to borrow a phrase from our author's profoundly moving contribution to the otherwise cutesy-pootsy McSweeney's Journal.

But even teen bikers' obnoxiousness is not without limits. Eventually (never soon enough to suit most sentient beings in the neighborhood), they grow tired of buzzing the stomach cancer hospice in the wee hours. In deep disgust with themselves, they begin to yearn for annihilation. This is more like the bottom of an endocrine cycle than a moral insight. They end, according to procedure established by New Testament precedent, skittering down to dissolve and rid themselves in the noxious Kama Loka called scenic Nagasaki Bay, overlooked by lovely Glover Garden. No wonder the derriere garde of what I took for bozo stragglers looked imperfectly materialized. Their name is legion, like the two thousand swine in the synoptic gospels, which ran violently down a steep place and were "choked in the sea" (not drowned, but choked: the Gloverian water is so foul there's no time for a proper drowning before the throat revolts unto death with brainstem-ripping seizures and gags).

Has Tom Bradley gone insane, or is he just working on a new novel? I suppose the two alternatives are not mutually exclusive. He's the unchainable lunatic who cries at night and cuts himself with stones among the tombs. He is exorcising Boom Town II, of course, but himself as well. Someday soon a skittering snarl at the bay's greasy brink will be heard to have a definite Scotch brogue to it. It will be followed by a particularly furious gagging and choking, and an ample splash, as of a morbidly obese and splenetic quadruped, and my author will no longer be so noticeably insane.

In the meantime, Tom Bradley, who might appear upon superficial reading to be a misanthropic, sarcastic, mean old fuck, turns out to be pure and self-sacrificing. He's worked out a way to do his Bodhisattvic bit without getting too personally involved and taking on the nurture of fully embodied disciples, which, if his reputation as a teacher has any foundation in fact, would be anathema to his very DNA--and don't think for a moment this renders my current suppliant position any less untenable than it already is. (See his articles on the vexed question of pedagogy, "Turning Japanese" and "Bathtub Revolutionary," both published in the days before that magazine's contemptible degeneration.)

But why would he break precedent and use Rikki Tikkis and teen bikers as disposal agents instead of pigs, as Our Lord did in the country of the Gadarenes? I suspect it's in fond consideration of the wild boar-meat restaurant downtown whose kitchen he's been known to shut down singlehandedly after a series of especially taxing, peckish-making jogs up here, when he needs to take on extra protein to reline the double matrix inside his ribcage. Embosomed with the portly man's womanish dugs, he's like that ambiguous entity who "...over the bent World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings." He's feeling broody over what's incubating in the dark, damp womb of his loving lungs.

(Note to my American readers: if you want to find out how you, too, can learn to manage those guilt feelings associated with the atomic devastation of the Land of Zen and sukiyaki and Pokey Mon and small-boned, sexually promiscuous young women with baby-mouse voices, now's the time to consume the good doctor's Nthposition essay, "My Public Ministry Among the Heathen," also featured Arts & Letters Daily, which blogs the absolute cream of the intellectual web, Monday through Saturday.)

And he rants something frightening which I have been told never to repeat as long as I live, especially if I want to live a long time. While embarrassed to admit the warning came via dream, I'm nevertheless skeptical, or maybe self-destructive, enough to throw you a hint. It's about another invisible fluttering intelligence of a different sort altogether, the kind you'd never want anywhere near your lungs under the best of circumstances. Not formerly human at all, it's to be counted among the sprites which were here first, hovering over the sea foam before Nippon itself coagulated from a few blobs of tectonic lava-or so, at least, an uncharacteristic and unaccountable burst of intuition leads me to extrapolate from what I hear being magnetized onto Dr. Bradley's micro-tape.

Philo the Jew must have been right: the air is indeed full of spirits. There seems to be a scarcely imaginable number of varieties and ranks and orders--undines, sylphs, gnomes, you name it. The unseen universe resembles nothing so much as one of those promotional scuba diving videos which the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan's Tourism Ministry shoots at the Gulf of Aqaba. Dr. Bradley rants about one particular species, which are intelligent as trained sea mammals, or pretty nearly, and are eager to run errands and perform chores for any powerful human personality, as humanity is the condition that they, like no small number of the so-called angels and gods themselves, aspire to.

Our novelist appears to believe that, through the agency of one of these inhalable phocidae, he has bestowed a whopping dose of terminal lung cancer on some unhappy local slob. He excoriates, or maybe congratulates, himself for having sent an especially plump and ravenous specimen to lodge and fasten like a coal miner or bull crab in the unnamed victim's bronchia and set about the task, apparently spiritual, but by no means intellectually taxing, of chomping down normal epithelial cells and shitting out malignant ones. In most cases no such effect could be achieved by any other means than the sort of left-handed black occultism that would be karmically fatal to anyone who employed it on purpose. But Dr. Bradley assures himself (along with any unseen listeners) that his role in this slow, smelly murder resembles an air traffic controller's more than a sorcerer's. The demon has been summoned in blameless unconsciousness on our man's part. He offers his own strictly maintained ignorance of formal conjury as proof of his innocence.

To claim the ability of analyzing in detail one's own unconscious mind's machinations without the benefit of several pricey decades on a trained alienist's couch would be paradoxical, not to say self-deceptive, in anyone but a major novelist. The latter rare category of human possesses that overdeveloped sense of self-objectivity which makes such an operation possible. Nobody else's head is so detachable from his heart. In this way the Dostoevskis, Nabokovs and Bradleys of this world enjoy a position of great privilege: they're capable of crime without culpability.

He provides neither name nor demographics for whoever's being murdered from the inside out in such a remote and unactionable manner, and I can't imagine who it would be. The only sort of person who inspires that kind of hate, at least in my experience, is a boss. But who could be the boss of this man? I pity anyone with the temerity to set himself up as such. A tumor would be the easiest way out of that predicament. I quake to consider what politicians, hypocrites, ignoramuses and Latter-Day Saints have suffered in his essays and books--and nearly die, myself, when I try to imagine all that fury focused on a single human lung. The age-old mystery of spontaneous human combustion might just have been solved.

In spite of the blasphemous, not to say homicidal and psychotic, tenor of what's erupting from this behemoth stranger's mouth, I am very nearly persuaded at this moment to climb down from my tricky bars and register my presence, come what may. I'm motivated less by the desire to preserve this problematic personality for posterity in an unpublishable interview than by certain hissings and gnawing sounds that have started up in the wild poinsettias behind me. The hellions are saying offputting things in their broad bestial vocabulary.

I still don't know if he's seen me or not. I hope not, because it would place a strong negative construction on his next action, which is to hawk up a stringy, glossy, eggnog-colored loogy and aim it right for my left eye. I duck, hear a plop in the poinsettias, followed by a sizzle and hiss, as of a small release of steam, then a rustle, then--


The horror skitters up my spine: that awful sensation we sometimes feel when truffle-tusks are rooting between our buttocks for kundalini esculents. I grab my ass and, whooping like a goose, scamper out into the path of the bus. I freeze in the headlights glaring from the top of his face. The first twelve-and-a-third of the thirty-three words, total, that I, Cye Johan, interviewer, authorial profiler, literary stalker-groupie, will ever, for as long as I live, speak to my idol are as follows:

"Denis and Tran featured my review of THE CURVED JEWELS in Arts and Letters D--"

He grabs me. Can you imagine how childish it makes you feel to be looking into a face big as your whole head plus your neck and torso all the way down to the belly button and back again? It's like being shot back to early elementary school days and collared by Dad, who's about to kick the damnation out of you, just on general principles.

He drags me to the cliff edge, terrifying this simple scribbler not so much with the prospect of being flung off (nor of loosening the wild banana rot underfoot and bringing down, under our combined weight-three-fourths of which is easily his-this whole side of the jello mold called Horeb East), as by the not-so-quasi-homoerotic surrender that the touch of his hand on my elbow elicits. Honestly, I had no idea his work had affected me in such a deep way.

He gives me a look unaccompanied by words, but explicit as if he'd shouted straight into the side of my head, "How much of that did you hear?"

Instead of replying to the question, all I can think of to do with my mouth is to ask another--the very one, in fact, that the natives put to me every day of my own expatriated life, to which my reply must always be a sheepish affirmative. Under the present circumstances, it's the stupidest question of all history, whose answer, an emphatic negative, will already be known by anyone even briefly exposed to the slightest breath of this man's reputation (and that's a considerable number: of the approximately one million items his name googles, without quotation marks, Tom Bradley the novelist is always the first two, and usually the third and fourth, before Tom Bradley the Mayor, Tom Bradley the baseball player, Tom Bradley the International Terminal, Tom Bradley the Civic Center, Tom Bradley the dead Negro sharecropper's son, Tom Bradley the Kiwi kiddy book writer, et al. Add any literary term or obscenity and he's got the first two or three whole pages covered).

In the face of such utter distinguishedness, I hear myself simper, through a rickshaw boy's buck teeth, gutturalizing around an Adam's apple protuberant as the prow on a mackerel boat, "A-a-a-ah, so, Bladderly-san, you speakie za Chappy-knees, yes-no?"

His reply, delivered without pause or consideration, sounds recited by rote and is addressed more to himself than any mere intruder whose full material existence he hasn't bothered to ascertain (indeed, he looks through me, like Prospero through Ariel, as though idly entertaining the possibility that I'm one of his carcinogenic sprites reporting for duty):

"I mouth a half-dozen phonemes," he says, "but couldn't tell you how they build a sentence. I've heard rumors that they tend to postpone the predicate, as our Teutonic brethren do."

Those two sentences comprise the totality of what this century's Dr. Johnson has ever said to his Boswell. The only words he has enunciated when conscious of being in my earshot are layered into a perfectly balanced brace of gemlike periods, both rounded and complete. Have they been pre-crafted and rehearsed? For the benefit of what audience? Or do major novelists think and speak extempore in these polished terms? Can I claim them as my exclusive acquisitions?

Here, in any case, is the sole exile I've met on these islands who can say more than three of his native words in a row without dropping in a Japism--including, I am humiliated to admit, me.

I've long suspected my racial, national and tribal identity of being more or less shorn; but now my eyes are opened to my true deracinated condition as never before, just by sustaining a single absentminded glance from this banished Utahn. He has not trodden New World soil for nearly a quarter of a century, and probably never will again in this particular existence, yet remains more American than I could be if I went straight back home tomorrow and started eating dirt with both fists. I feel diminished and darkened, and made to squint. I'm a full-blooded Asiatic by comparison. Damned here for barely two years so far, I've already allowed much more of the locality to seep into my skull and infect my soul than has Tom Bradley, destined to be cremated here.

Now would be the time, not to excuse, but perhaps to attempt to explain poor little Cye Johan's presence in this miserable country. Yes, here's the opportunity to expose this scribbler and finally disburden his load of shame onto your lap: his domesticated pet barbarian condition, his status as collaborator and traitor in this particular fizzled-out culture war. Little Cye's got himself a full-time job as token Caucasoid in an Osaka junior college, complete with automatic tenure, thanks to his mastery of Yamato groveling techniques. He's been shrugging and bowing and cringing so long that his spine has sunken into itself, his body become short. At an animalistic level, he loathes himself because more than one of his native students have managed to outstrip him vertically--and they lord their superior centimeters over him with about as much mercy as you'd expect from the descendants of the folks whom China scorned as "island dwarves" for forty centuries: "...the climax of two generations of adequate nutrition under American auspices," to quote little Cye's favorite NBA-sized author, "these kids are about, finally, to achieve their full genetic potential." Cye is here to witness and meekly applaud, from below, the physiological fulfillment of the race, which comes, ironically, on the eve of its self-extinction.

While waiting for that to happen, Cye-baby has married a Jappess because, as that big, tall, fictional racist bully, Sam Edwine, would cruelly say, he can't handle fully-developed women. Maybe Cye's just a faggot who got scared away from civilization by AIDS and hightailed it to a place where, with no manly charms, skills, or even impulses, he can have his pick of any number of non-male (hence more likely to be HIV-free) fuck-buddies, unencumbered with breasts, hips, body hair, or personalities, who, bent over and viewed from behind, cannot be distinguished from pliant boys. And his catamite wife, his butt-boy spouse, comes equipped with J-kids, and a J-house financed with low-interest J-loan (throw in a lengthy barrage of pure bourgeois J-money talk here, that couldn't contrast more sickeningly with everything noble and Bradleyan above and below). Cye's got J-legal residency, which brings the promise of a comfy J-pension and, when the time comes, a J-death, with J spilling out his ears and J oozing from his pores in the form of more cringing body language. Even his final throes will be sheepish and apologetic: watch my big white outlander's nose turn strangely blue as I gasp my last.

It's easy to see why, immediately after allowing me my precious lifetime budget of exactly thirty Bradley words, our author dismisses the ludicrous likes of me from his awareness. He continues his stomp as though just the two of us have never privately shared an awakening peak, among the world's very first on this particular day in literary history. It is clear that I've ceased to enjoy even the attenuated existence I had while his attention was semi-fixed on me. Now I might as well never have been born, except to write this whatever-it's-going-to-be. I'm left with nothing but boundless vacant space, that vacuum wake which vast people leave behind them. When someone of this significance turns his back on you, Limbo gapes. In despair, I run after Sam (make that Tom) like a baby boy dogging big Daddy on legs of inferior length, trying to buck himself up and choke out further syllables of baby-talk.

Without bothering to turn around, the doctor waves that orange-shaggy arm across the cliff and down the slope, toward his Unker's toilet bay. He's too--what shall I call it, kind?--to say it outright; but I get the drift. I had no more business climbing up here than the callow youth in ZANONI had poking his nose into Mejnour's forbidden chamber (almost fatally--his soul was nearly eaten alive), where he saw--

"...shapes, somewhat resembling in outline those of the human form, gliding slowly and with regular revolutions through the cloud. They appeared bloodless; their bodies were transparent, and contracted or expanded like the folds of a serpent..."

Like Clarence Glyndon, I don't belong on the high places. So Tom Bradley, the serpent's nephew, ambiguously throws or magicks me back down to my proper milieu.

* * * *

I found myself in a strange condition, mostly blind, feeling two-thirds drunk, though not necessarily with alcohol or any other compound in the repertoire of modern chemists. It wasn't easy to know where I was. Besides the green vinyl stool wedged between my hams, what clued me that I'd been deposited in some kind of tavern was this drinking song, rendered by various coarse and vulgar falsettos, squawking more or less to the tune of Mary Wells' 1964 Motown smash-hit, "My Guy":

I'll cling to my guy
like shit to a blanket.
If he proffers up his prong,
I will briskly wank it...

Though my eyes couldn't yet quite make out the vocalizers, there was something familiar about their senseless intonations, every line ending with a question mark, no vowels but schwas. Most of them were not really pledging fealty to my guy, or anyone else's, but were just mumbling and following along without comprehension, having gotten the words phonetically, because their intellects were ill-equipped to negotiate grammatical constructions at the level of sophistication favored by the major Motown lyricists of yesteryear.

It was comforting to know that I'd not been precipitated to some even more emphatically nether realm, such as the methyl mercury hell of Nagasaki Bay, but had landed in familiar territory--Home Sweet Home, in fact. Father knows best. He had expelled me back to the hand-job hostess bar by the seawall, where I could swill and grunt with my peers, and share the meager contents of my undersized skull in simple declarative monosyllables tempered with lots of vocalized pauses. Dr. Bradley was making a statement: "These TEFL trash, and not the natives you daily fellate, are your folk."

Leading the chorus was someone familiar-sounding: none other than the storefront language school manager, our ever-coughing Englishman, who seemed still to be in the middle of the same parasitic lap dance which I've depicted him receiving in the very first section of this succinct book review of mine. His face remained concealed behind that slip of Manila flesh both darling and decrepit, belonging, at least rightfully, to the tiny prepubescent Filipina sex-slave, who had her own racial demerit to work off. It would have been better for the sad child if she'd squatted, instead, on Ground Zero fifty-eight years ago. At least now she'd have the attention of a heavy breather who could do her some spiritual good.

This manuscript was being passed from hand to semi-literate hand without my having given anyone permission to see the thing--which, furthermore, Coleridge- and Burroughs-wise, I had no recollection of writing in the first place.

"What kind of author profile is this?" I heard the Limey bark. "Give us his daily behavior, the details of his wage-earning life, if any. Quotidian panem, that sort of thing. You haven't shown him eating or drinking something--we like that, don't we, boys?"

"Um, yeah, you bet, boss?"

"For, like, sure, Nigel?"

"What kind of journalist is this Cye Johan?" coughed the boss (I should have known his name would be Nigel). "Too good for reality?" Then he bothered to glance at me long enough to ascertain that I was among the so-called living, and added, into my face, "You might do us the favor of mentioning, for example, certain well-known bits of common knowledge. Such as, did you know, this bloke lives in a bleeding car?" When I failed to react, Nigel decided to feign the sort of breathless, titillated confidentiality which constitutes the main contribution of his countrymen to America's current journalistic scene. He shifted to one of those stage whispers that give you tintinitis at fifty paces, and said, "Not only that, my dear, but he--"

As my eyes and head slowly cleared, I listened to him go on and on, hacking up blackish lungers the while, which the Filipina dabbed away with a wet cocktail napkin and a strange air of smug satisfaction. He enumerated the kind of snickering and no doubt true things which I did not want, and you won't be able, to hear. Maybe it's just the air of authority which a Brit accent, any Brit accent, lends to the spoken word--but my heart began with sore reluctance to acknowledge these lurid weaknesses in my ideal man of letters. I saw streaks of more than human frailty in him, such as a certain obsessive-compulsive morbidity which should have been obvious at the time, but was by no means evident to my starry eyes on the mountain, where Dr. Bradley was in his demigodly mode. Soon enough, on my green vinyl barstool, under Nigel's barrage, I began to blush, to think that suggestible Cye had almost allowed himself to be convinced that damned souls could be recycled, if not redeemed, through someone's respiratory system.

Between bringing up hefty clumps of Southampton alveoli, Nigel said, "You silly bitch." For good measure, he added, with the kind of offhanded but utter scorn that can be registered only by people who've been living smashed together, nuts to butts, for thousands of years, "What a ridiculous idea. Snorting astral monads, indeed. Not even the sky-clad Jains imagine that."

He gave his lap-slave a kind of eyebrow-cock, as a cue that she was to laugh derisively. Though on duty, she disobeyed, and chose instead to stare at me carefully as possible through the smoke and the red particulate mist that hung around her master in place of a less unwholesome aura.

Nigel did air one bit of gossip which I chose to acknowledge here, because it has already given me one nice transition between paragraphs and promises to yield numerous more in the future. Just as I predicted in my Exquisite Corpse rave about THE CURVED JEWELS, Tom Bradley evidently did, a while back, wind up getting into a fight with a bunch of Yakuza hireling-thugs. They were allegedly sicced on him by Hirohito-worshiping extreme rightists outraged over his portrayal of that dead god's grandson's penis as resembling "something you wouldn't want to step on at low tide" (as referenced above), and they got lucky enough to kill him, almost. It's not clear how many of them he sent to Kama Loka. The local "imperial" university's med school (which is supposed to be his last known place of employment; he's said to have taught conversational skills to their freshman dentistry majors--but I declare that idle bullshit) took him in, patched him up, and he woke up in the very vivisection chamber made famous on the front page of

Some say that shock is what made him wind up weird as he is today-but I hesitate to ascribe such feelings of delicacy or squeamishness to my man. If he'd been born at the time, the good doctor could have witnessed firsthand the removal of our Gary Cooper-look-alike bomber pilots' living lungs, followed by the eating of their livers, sushi-style, at festive banquets under the proud Rising-Sun banner, and gotten off with half as many bad dreams as I'll take from this one-day visit to Gloverland.

Nigel happened to agree with me on this point. He ascribed Dr. Bradley's current eccentricity to another sort of trauma entirely. Winding himself up for the sort of actual sentence production that enthralled his American employees as surely as a line of spit glistening on a concrete floor hypnotizes broody hens, he declared, "Your man has been driven mad by neglect. Poor old bugger is a walking rebuke to the Yank literary establishment, is what he is. What's with your Jews over there? At least our Jews gave Auberon and Martin a fighting chance to rise up from obscurity. That such an artist should have to live in a place like this, among sods like us, eking out a living in one of the most degrading ways imaginable--fuck me, isn't that what drove your own Ezra Pound crazy? Seeing the best minds of his particular generation waste their vitality behind the cunting Berlitz podium? No wonder he scampers about in the night air, all frantic, the sad, windy cunt. He'll catch his death of pneu--"

The last word was cut off by the expected pathological symptom. I took advantage of Nigel's incapacitation to speak up and express my sincere doubt that Dr. Bradley ever lived by teaching, contrary to the legends, the gossip, the novels, the essays, the promo copy, and everything else on and off the record. And the TEFL trash backed me up, bravely contradicting their boss (on whose lap the Filipina baby was now dozing like a puppy just come in from being injured in the gutter):

"Are you, like, kidding, Nigel?"

"The big dude a instructor? In a classroom?"

"He couldn't, you know, get work? Not with all the Japan-basher, um, stuff he has wrote?"

Nigel exploded: "He did these paltry shits a huge favor writing about them. He's the all-American high school quarterback with the golden heart, who danced a slow one at the prom with the wallflower wog who don't talkie za Amellican so goot. But is she grateful, the slag? I should think not. He's been unofficially declared an enemy of the state. I'm surprised he hasn't been deported or accidented away by some hit and run tail-gater. I've heard that his visa hasn't been renewed. He's rotted here longer than most of you wankers have sucked air, and is still on a one-year renewal. He's enduring exile within exile."

The lap dancer awakened from her junkie nod-off, and, in distressingly good English, said, "Our Sweet old Tommy's just like a restless ghost. He's got unfinished business that he can't get done, but tries over and over again, anyway. He shunts and shuffles from one Boom Town to the other and back again."

"Know what?" said her master. "Nobody cares what you think. Roll us a joint, you silly cow." At the first glimpse of cigarette papers, Nigel commenced depositing a blackish-red film of tracheal tissue on the walls and beers and people all around.

"It's Hiroshima he's published novels about, not us," murmured the Filipina in a defiant little voice as she licked a gummed edge. "But I think he was just looking for Nagasaki in Hiroshima

The extent to which I was willing to disclose what I had learned to these profane ears was only to say, "He has a particular connection to this town."

I've seen something impossible of attainment for the usual matter-mired pilgrim, and am in danger of winding up sad as Kevin Klein's Bottom the Weaver on the morning after, but without the considerable consolation of Michelle Pfeiffer's scent and angel hairs lingering and clinging about my person in a golden fairy mist. I do have a few bristles which sloughed off onto me at the moment of contact, beastly-coarse, but seraph-hued, which I am saving in a lid baggie to show any of you, if you're ever in Osaka between now and, say, 2050, and remember to look me up. It won't be too hard to find me in the ghost town. I'll be the one burrowed in like a fox among Jerusalem's rubble.

Meanwhile, confident that the voices of this hole in the seawall will never be heard outside its confines, I, Cye Johan, who am turning out to be Dr. Bradley's full-blown biographer, hereby, for all eternity, suppress all but one more of Nigel's whispered factoids about my subject. I've got no problems with him "living in a bleeding car," because my imagination could never place the creator of Sam Edwine between four stationary walls, anyway. So I will now, before your very eyes, cause Tom Bradley to live on wheels, just as the Limey said.

As a matter of fact, I have just decided to recollect that I did pass a ratty van on my way up the good doctor's mountain, somewhere between the mongooses and the bosozokus. I noticed it because it was covered in dents and scratches--still rarities, for the time being, even in nose-diving Nippon. Maybe he's sticking around just so he can play the trend-setter when these anal-retentives are forced by their own penury to transport their humiliated selves in rusty jalopies.

Sunken lopsidedly into its suspensions, this old van, to whose existence I am prepared to swear in the presence of a notary public, was clearly accustomed to bearing a heavy load on the drivers' side, but, perhaps sadly, none on the other. Like me, does he have an anorexically skinny wife? And scrawny kids? How can I be said to have profiled and interviewed a man when the most fundamental questions are left up in the air? Religious perusals of his works, print and electronic, yield exactly counterbalancing contradictory suspicions. I'm not even sure if the big fellow is a hetero. I could have asked Nigel, but was unable, as the word "profanation" loomed before my mind's eye like a red sign nailed to a cinder-brick wall.

I like this idea better and better the more I think about it. Living in a car is quite an accomplishment. It shows a practical-minded resourcefulness that you wouldn't expect in a literary figure, especially in this overpoliced state. Not that Japanese police do any crime solving to speak of, just peeping, aided by "neighborhood association" housewives--which leads to the question of where he could stop and sleep. I'll work on that. Maybe I will create the greatest of all Japanese implausibilities: an unpopulated stretch of land large enough to park a motor vehicle upon without paying dearly for the privilege.

And, having accomplished that, I will wedge our novelist in his van, probably stretching him out on the diagonal. I'll let him rest from his labors, and snore as far into the broad daylight as his big dark heart desires. Then I'll skulk back to my origami house, raw-fish wife and disemboweling job.

He learned me his language. Should I curse him for it?




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