Negative Capability

Setting the World on Fire

Negative Capability

Setting the World on Fire

Lit. Majors Explanation

I hope this helps, so let’s take it from the top.

It is called “Entitled” because as I see things, Rex gets what he is “Entitled” to, which is to say, he gets jerked around and fucked over. This is not because he is a racist or an asshole, it is because, 1) he thinks he is entitled to some kind of prize for solving the mystery, and 2) he thinks he deserves some kind of inheritance for his contribution to Greg’s life. He clearly does not see things as they actually are, and the disparity between his perception and reality, to me, is very funny. This story had many other titles, but this was the working title, and because it worked as well when I started as when I finished, it stayed. I wrote the whole story in one go, and except for some very minor structural changes, this version is almost identical to the first draft.

The origin of this story is slightly more personal than most other things that I have written. Actually, to be honest, this may very well be the most personal thing I have ever done, except I am not Rex. I am Greg, the dead guy. See, when I was in college I had this friend named Greg. I thought Greg was a super talented artist who used to draw comics for the newspaper appears in Negative Capability #3, along with a tribute to Greg. He was a very delicate young man who looked like a very skinny version of Morrissey.

Anyway, he was always the “little brother” character, always on the fringe of what was going on, trying very hard to fit in. To make the long story very short, one long weekend I was invited to go rafting with some friends, and I couldn’t go because I was moving that same weekend. It was the last weekend of school, and this group of guys I knew were all very excited about going rafting. It was my friends Peter, Jonah, Zach, Dave-O and Greg. Since Greg was the little brother, he was the one that got stuck driving everyone.

At some point they had a little trouble in the rough water, and Greg was separated from the group. He lost his vest and disappeared. Everyone else freaked out and tried to find him, but he was gone. There was nothing anyone could do. They found his body a few days later, very far down river, in very bad condition. To me, the worst part of the whole ordeal, aside from the fact of Greg’s horrible death, was that the rest of the guys had to drive home for hours in Greg’s car, and tell Greg’s parents that he was dead.

I have only been to three funerals in my life, my father’s when I was fifteen, Greg’s when I was nineteen, then my grandfather’s a year later. They all were absolutely awful. So, while I was thinking about Greg’s death, I was thinking about my own death. I wanted to believe that Greg had faked his death so he could disappear, because I wasn’t ready to believe that he had just been killed by some fucking water. Then I thought about faking my own death, just so I could see how people really feel about me. And as soon as I said it aloud, I realized that there would be no way for me to do it, since people would be suspicious since I have talked about faking my death. That pissed me off even more, so I thought about a way that I could actually kill myself, but make it seem like I had faked it. I guess when I think about it this way, it seems weird, but it’s the truth. I am not a fan of guns, so if I had to kill myself, I would probably take a bunch of cool drugs and conk out in the garage with the car running. It seems pretty damn painless, which is my main priority.

So the whole thing about the mischievous eyes, the eyebrow, the smile, that’s how I want to be remembered. Certainly there would be no priest at my funeral, 1) because I was born Jewish and 2) because I am now a devout atheist. For the record, though, I am not like Greg in many other ways. I am not hairy in the least, in fact I doubt I could grow a full beard if my life depended on it. In addition, I could care less about Bergman and Fellini, because I hate old movies and TV almost as much as I hate religious types.

Rex is really just a made up character. I was trying to think of a name for the guy that sounded really tough and angry, and for some reason, I kept thinking of silly dog names. Rex is a pretty good name for a dog, so since Rex is a sort-of doggy character, the name works. The name Chauncy comes from this guy that used to be the doorman of the Roxy, a club I used to love back in the late 80’s. Chauncy was really gay, and I thought it would be funny to name this hardass character after the gayest guy I have ever met. I thought it would be cool if this tough guy admitted that he kissed a guy once because it would make you wonder about him, and also because it would show that maybe some of what he is saying is an act. (NOTE: HOLY SHIT! In 2001 I was going through some old magazines and found a photo of the real Chauncy in a really weird magazine called Project X. It was started by Peter Gatien of the Limelight and was edited by convicted murderer Michael Alig. I scanned the picture and it is below! He’s all the way on the left!!! No, that chick is Linda Evangelista when she was in her prime!)

I set it in Miami because when I was younger I used to go down there and visit with my grandmother. I never liked Miami (though my grandmother was very kind to me), and thought that using this story as a screen to vent about what a humid shithole it was would be very gratifying. It was gratifying to write, thanks for caring. I have actually been to Grand Prix, but when I was there I was too young to drink.

The interchange between Rex and Greg’s parents is how I felt when I was talking to Greg’s parents at his funeral. I really loved Greg, and I thought he was such a sweet, cool guy. I am not saying this because the guy is dead, I swear to fucking whoever you believe in that I mean it. I didn’t say anything weird or creepy to his folks, I just felt like I was saying the wrong thing no matter what came out.

The criticism that Rex does of Greg’s work was my way of dealing with my own fear of having to do shitty work just to pay the bills. The thing is, and I guess this gets to the heart of it better than anything else could, in a way, I was jealous of Greg. He was a talented artist, and at the time, I thought of myself as a talented writer. We could both have been wrong, but we believed in each other. And he never had to prove himself, because in my head, he was going to succeed and make money and find the satisfaction that only comes from having strangers like and appreciate your work. I hope that makes sense. I am trapped having to prove myself and I have to keep on writing until someone thinks it is good, because I am still alive. If I had died at nineteen, people would’ve given me credit for work I never did.

The letter from Greg to Rex is something that I would certainly write, and it came very easily. I said to myself, “How would I write a letter to be delivered after my death?” and there you have it.

I like the idea of a narrator being aware of the audience. I haven’t seen that kind of thing done too often or too well, but for some reason, the idea of an unreliable narrator is attractive to me. This story is written by Rex, who, by his own admission, is lazy, angry and on drugs, but you trust him. And because you trust him, you believe in what he is saying, even if it is a lie. There are a few instances when he is talking to people (like when he is asking Nora about Tav-o) when he tells you that others don’t like what he is saying, but he never says what it was that pissed the other person off. I did that so the reader could think of the worst way to put it, then assume that Rex said that. I want to refer to him as Chauncy, but out of respect, I’ll buy into the whole Rex thing.

The whole thing about slaughterhouses and whatnot is my little attempt to portray everyone in the meat industry as the despicable scumbags they are. I would not be surprised in the least if the meat industry was involved in hurting reporters who have bad things to say about them, so why not put it in? I may discuss it at length later, but I want the idea of the meat industry being huge and vast and evil to be in everyone’s mind. In addition, if anything ever happens to me, kill one of them, just to balance things out. I am trying to give my point of view without being preachy or annoying. If you disagree, super, but in your heart, you know you have decided that you don’t care about the suffering of animals, not that it doesn’t exist, right?

The part about Greg being involved in shenanigans with other women was purely an attempt to distract Rex and the readers from the real culprit. That has nothing to do with me, but is based on things that happened to me. When I was younger, there were many rumors going around about me because I was quiet and openly hostile to almost everyone. Because no one really knew me, stories circulated about me playing heinous pranks (only about 40% I had actually done). Since it was not really in my best interests to dispute those stories, they became legend. I think I read about the crazy glue thing in that RE/Search book Pranks!, and the thing about the Trials of Life tape was true, I ordered it, thought it was boring, and stopped the subscription after the second tape.

Tav-o is clearly named after my friend Dave-O, but Dave-O was white. I thought it would be more interesting to show Rex as a total douchebag, while interjecting a joke about how some black people find names for their children.

Kevin Pope really is a genius who does draws comics that are used on cards by a company called Acme. I have no idea how much he got for the Pop-Tarts calendar (the characters are Dweezil & Doug, just for the record), but I had it in my house for a full year, and it really was exactly as described. You can’t make that shit up, trust me.

When Rex meets Peter I wanted Rex’s own asshole-ish behavior to make it take longer than it needed to. I wanted to show that sometimes being polite can get things done. I also wanted to continue to promote the theory about the meat people.

The whole thing about the tape being in Beta is a joke about me and my loyalty to things that are better but seemed doomed to failure because people are such sheep. I know Beta was better, but most everyone wanted VHS because it was cheaper, and now we all have this shittier version of things because everyone is so fucking cheap. I am saying the same thing about Macintosh computers, they are better, but the better one doesn’t always win.

I thought it would be nice to end with a joke, our central character remains essentially unchanged by the experience. Most people never learn anything, they just keep making the same stupid mistakes over and over again, and to me, that’s funny.

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Web Bonus Info:

Since I put this on my site, I occasionally get letters from people who knew Greg and searched for him online. I am glad that people have found me and shared their memories of Greg with me. My friend Ireena is going to send me some more of Greg’s comics which I will put online and if anyone reading this knew Greg and has something they would like to say about him, please get in touch.

Many years later I found a photo of the real Chauncy in Project X Magazine. It was a short-lived magazine by and about the Club Kids that was put together by Michael Alig and many others. It was pretty cool while it lasted.

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