Creative Non-Fiction by
A History of the Present
1.1 It is too late to write the history of my life.
1.2 We are always already too late and necessarily outside history, even our own.
1.3 One is always necessarily late for history because history moves outside itself or beside itself as time’s shadow but can never coincide with itself.
1.4 Like Peter Pan without his shadow and with no hope of sewing it back on we are lost behind history and unable to catch up
1.5 History outruns us-- especially our own-- and will never have an end.
1.6 There is no singular end of history but only a series of false ends and re-starts. In this way we repeat the past as a lover enters a hotel under a different name.
1.7 Our names therefore haunt us.
2.1 I am the only Gary Percesepe in the universe and a member of a small and dying family that resides in Italy and America.
2.2 To be a singular member of a class (all but null) produces simultaneously a feeling of specialness wed to loneliness wrapped in anxiety.
2.3 At birth I was given an American first name to go with my unpronounceable Italian surname.
2.4 Growing up in New York where Italian names were common proved to be of little help.
2.5 If totaled in hours and multiplied by advancing years I have spent months of my life pronouncing and spelling my name for strangers.
2.5 When in a helpful mood I spell my name out before being asked: P as in Paul, E-R…
2.6 Other times I state my name to the customer service representative and wait slyly.
2.7 I did not choose my name and did not fully inhabit it as a child or even as an adult but it calmly waits for me knowing that it will outlive me.
2.8 Names are specters and we traffic in ghosts.
3.1 My name will survive me but this brings no comfort. On the contrary.
3.2 Our use of a language to express ourselves reveals and conceals our dispossession.
3.3 It is said that we possess on earth nothing but our good name but do our names not possess us?
3.4 It is always already true that my name will survive my death.
3.5 Thus even while I am alive my name is already outliving me.
3.6 My name announces and heralds news of my death each time it is spoken.
3.7 We should properly fear our names as we fear death as proper names require proper deaths: each death to the bearer of each name with none escaping.
3.8 When I am dead what will remain is a memory and a name: the name mispronounced with no one there to correct it? I cannot say. But this much is true: the name is always already ‘in memory of.’
4.1 When a friend dies do we go on speaking of them as ‘living on’ in us?
4.2 If so our friends mark also our relation to ourselves; the grieving memory of the Other is incorporated into our subjectivity and this can happens ahead of their death.
4.3 Because I-the-bearer-of-this-proper-name am never fully ‘myself’ my ‘self-reflection’ can never close but is made possible only by the presence of the Other in the self—that is to say by the death of the Other.
4.4 Hence the possibility of mourning is required of all human relationships and the cause of much suffering in friendship.
4.5 The awful solitude I face at the death of the Other is a harbinger of my own impending death. Every friendship as much as every marriage announces the presence of the possibility of mourning; the death of the other has always already arrived and already constitutes my relation to myself.
4.6 We arrive at ourselves borne along by the memory of this grief. We carry the body of our death around with us, toujours et toujours.
5.1 When I read fiction and come into relationship to characters do they not appear at times more real than the people I may ignore in the reading room as I hasten to the end of the story?
5.2 Isn’t the end of the story like another death that I must face?
5.3 Have I not put off the end of the reading of the book knowing full well the descent of my last end?
5.4 Yet my name will outlive me.
6.1 Dick Diver is dead yet he lives on in me as does Nicole.
6.2 Fitzgerald is also dead proving that creators are well acquainted with death but cannot forestall it.
6.3 Each time I read Dick Diver’s story I wish for him a different ending but am powerless to provide it. The mere fact of reading to the end of the novel kills him again making me, what?—Complicit? This is foolish. But so was Dick.
6.4 His fateful choice was to marry Nicole as Scott had married Zelda and Gerald Murphy married Sarah showing that perhaps Nietzsche was right about the eternal recurrence of the same.
6.5 Do we write to escape these ghosts? Or to find communion with them?
7.1 I finished writing a novel and a week later began writing another.
7.2 The new novel is about a young psychiatrist who marries a young girl and becomes both her husband and her doctor.
7.3 The names are different/the setting is different/the language is different/ the beginning/middle/and ending will be different but this is Fitzgerald’s story told by the ghosts who bear away all stories.
7.4 The new novel is set in the hotel room of a man named Shepherd. In the room with Shepherd is a woman who is not named. Shepherd is a non-practicing psychiatrist. They make love and later speak of Shepherd’s wife. Her absence fills the room. Is it a spectral presence as real as that of Nicole, of Scott, of me or you.
7.5 I do not know what becomes of Shepherd or his (as yet) nameless hotel companion. Or Shepherd’s wife (also nameless). I don’t know precisely what year this novel is set in or what secondary characters will enter in countless scenes yet to be written. What I do not know is a lot. Not knowing is the condition of writing fiction.
8.1 I once wrote somewhere:
I was born in Yonkers, New York to the children of Italian immigrants, though it seems strange to think of my parents as once being children. Photographs taken of my father and mother when they were young lovers hold a strange fascination for me. The fascination is primarily existential. Where am I? I do not exist, I am nothing; I am missing. What were they doing there in the picture? They are living without me. Did they love me? No. As yet, I am unknown, unknowable. I am in waiting; like Cinderella scrubbing, long before the ball, I await their love. I wait to enter the picture. When they are both gone (my father died in 1994) they will remain together in the photograph, but it is me who will go missing them. Always, it seems, I am one who is missing.
8.2 Jean-Luc Godard once gazed at a photo of himself taken when he was a child. Noting the distressed look on his face, Godard suggested that perhaps he had inverted the normal order of things by experiencing grief before he had experienced death. He concludes, “I was in mourning for myself, my one and only companion. And I suspected that the soul had stumbled over the body and continued on without offering it a helping hand.”
8.3 The novel I recently completed features a failed filmmaker who becomes a Wall Street broker. When he was making films he worked in a manner not unlike Godard, though when I wrote the descriptions of these scenes in the novel I had not seen many of Godard’s films nor had I read much of his work. The novel also features an extended description of Nietzsche’s notion of eternal recurrence, also themes visited by Godard. I began to have the sense that a specter stood watch over me as I had written that novel, and another now guards the portal of my desire to tell Shepherd’s story.
8.4 Re-reading 8.3 I find myself jerked around by the time sequencing, the tenses spin. Fitzgerald and Godard, and yes, Derrida, whom I knew. And let’s throw in Shakespeare, his Hamlet. I don’t know where the ghosts are buried.
8.5 Perhaps all writing is a form of borrowing or a debt to be settled. How to repay the debt?
8.6 I owe Frederick Bartheleme a great debt, and Derrida before him, but there seems to be no way to repay the debt. The debt and the gift are connected. Influences are everywhere and there is no escaping the ghosts.
Gary Percesepe is Associate Editor at BLIP Magazine (formerly Mississippi Review) and serves on the Board of Advisors at Fictionaut. His short stories, poems, essays, reviews, and interviews have been widely published in Salon, Mississippi Review, Antioch Review, Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Westchester Review, Word Riot, Short Story America, Moon Milk Review, Necessary Fiction, Metazen, elimae, LitnImage, 971 Menu, Blue Fifth Review, Dogzplot, Istanbul Literary Review, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Short Story America, and other places. He has a story in Sex Scene: An Anthology, two poems in Dogs Singing: A Tribute Anthology, and two other stories appear in anthologies by Red Hen Press. He is the author of four books in philosophy, numerous short stories and poems, and an epistolary novel with Susan Tepper titled What May Have Been: Letters of Jackson Pollock and Dori G, (Cervana Barva Press, 2010). He just completed his second novel, Leaving Telluride, set in Telluride, Colorado.
Gene Tanta, Art Director. Gene Tanta was born in Timisoara, Romania and lived there until 1984, when his family immigrated to the United States. Since then, he has lived in DeKalb, Iowa City, New York, Oaxaca City, Iasi, Milwaukee, and Chicago. He is a poet, visual artist, and translator of contemporary Romanian poetry. His two poetry books are Unusual Woods and Pastoral Emergency. Tanta earned his MFA in Poetry from the Iowa's Writers' Workshop in 2000 and his PhD in English from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2009 with literary specialization in twentieth-century American poetry and the European avant-garde. His journal publications include: EPOCH, Ploughshares, Circumference Magazine, Exquisite Corpse, Watchword, Columbia Poetry Review, and The Laurel Review. Tanta has had two collaborative poems with Reginald Shepherd anthologized in Saints of Hysteria: A Half-Century of Collaborative American Poetry. Most recently, he has chaired a panel at the 2010 AWP titled, “Immigrant Poetry: Aesthetics of Displacement”. Currently, he is working on two anthologies while teaching post-graduate creative writing online for UC Berkeley Extension.
Composer and musicologist Donald C. Meyer, collaborates with choreographers, filmmakers, theater directors, and authors to create multi-media works that interweave classical and contemporary sounds forms into poly-vocal aesthetic structures. He is the author of articles on American cultural history and rock music and a music appreciation textbook called Perspectives on Music (Prentice Hall, 2003). Dr. Meyer is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Music Department at Lake Forest College.