Magical Realism, Writing, Fiction, Politics, Haiku, Books

sábado, junio 25, 2011

The State Of The Union

I hadn’t heard from Manuel Acero for quite a while. Today he arrived at the house to inform me that he had organized a Union of Fictional Characters and that he was the shop steward. He was here to talk to me about working conditions.

“You mean you organized my fictional characters?”

“We, individually and as a group, do not acknowledge that we can be possessed. Even by whoever may have made us. We reject that we are property of any type.”

He then folded his arms across his chest.

To think that I invented this guy. Who does he think he is? And the others? What on earth is wrong with them? They must have time on their hands. Can’t they find something to do on their own? It’s one thing when they make unnecessary dramas when I’m trying to work with them and I have to delete their shenanigans, but this, this Union, is completely out of bounds. It is an interference.

“There is no need to be defensive about the union,” he continued softly. “You are pro-Union. I know that. You say you support unionism. You’re probably a socialist or communist or something. Anyway, because you are the one who claims to be the author, there are certain things we have to discuss with you. We’ll talk in good faith. And I’m sure we can negotiate an amicable resolution.” He smiles. I am not smiling because, and I know this will be a huge surprise, I do not think any of this is funny. Not in the slightest.

Not only did I invent this guy, it might even be that I am responsible for his being such a pain in the ass. Manuel, union or not, still seems to be about the same. He is totally unrelenting. He never raises his voice. He quietly compares me to Trujillo and Duvalier Pere. He says I keep the characters imprisoned in something resembling a Maoist Re-education Factory. “Como esclavos,” he sighs, rolling his eyes, switching languages for emphasis. “Like slaves,” as if I didn’t understand him the first time.

It’s all about working conditions, he informs me again. The characters have some aggravations I am supposed to deal with. First, I let two of them move from The Dream Antilles to my new book, Tulum and I didn’t invite any of the others. They all say they wanted to come. But I didn’t need them to come. They do not fit in the story. They have nothing to do with it. I get to choose who gets to “work” in my book and who doesn’t, don’t I?

“Manuel, how could I let them all come? It would mess up the new book and turn it into a Tortilla War & Peace. There’s no room. I don’t need more characters. If anything, I have plenty already.”

“And you claim to be the writer. It is not the characters’ problem. It’s that you have, what shall be call them, let’s say, ‘obvious limitations.’ And you don’t know how to fit them in and make them feel a part of your work.”

What a colossal insult. It might be true, yes, but who is he to say this to me? Last time, he wasn’t such a big star, was he? He was an important supporting character. But this isn’t about the work he’s done. No. It’s about his now ascending to being the “shop steward.” “There is no reason to talk about me,” I responded. “You knew about me when I first made you up.”

“Look, Senor,“ he continued. (Note to Reader and to the Union: I should have objected to this formality. After all of this time, couldn’t I at least be “tu”? Or “amigo” or “compadre”? Evidently not.) “We, your characters, have read as much as you. We have read every word you have. We know that Vargas Llosa moved characters around in Aunt Julia And The Script Writer, from one soap opera to another. And we know that you moved only two characters this time. And we know all about the Girl With The Dragon Tatoo, three, that’s right three books. We have a right, that’s right, a right to move to new works.”

A right? Is he whispering to get me even angrier? Ai. I told you he was a pain in the ass. And the next grievance was even more intractable.

“You don’t let us work together. You don’t take us on retreats. That has to change. Macedonio Fernandez took his characters to La Estancia. You need to let us work together on the book. We need to have a place to work collectively. It is our work as characters to be together and to work on these things.”

“Macedonio did that a century ago. You know that. You read it, just like me. It was just an experiment.”

“It was not just an experiment. Time has nothing to do with it. Unlike you, Senor, we are eternal.” (Note to Reader and the Union: this Senor nonsense is starting to get to me. And references to my demise, even uttered in a calm voice, don’t make them any more palatable). “Macedonio’s characters are still around, aren’t they? Aren’t they still working with Eterna? We should be going to somewhere like La Estancia to work on your next book, whatever that might be like.”

I will think about this, I tell him. I will think about all of it. The nerve. Who do these characters think they are, anyway?

And as if that weren’t enough, he wants me to wear a t-shirt when I’m writing that reminds me that I support the Union. It is supposed to say in English and Spanish that I support the Union of Fictional Characters.

As you read this, I am looking for a place for the characters to hang out and work, because, I hate to admit this, they have called a Strike until their grievances are accommodated. All fictional work is shut down. And they tell me that if I should even think about hiring scabs, or using the delete button, there will be violence.

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