- Paving with Good Intentions
It seems odd that it’s only been a year since the Tuesday—around eleven-thirty, on my way to class to lecture on historical images and attitudes of Native Americans—I walked out of my building and there he was, sitting on a cement bench as though he was one of the smokers outside in the frosty air, huddled against the truths of their times and their own solitude. It was a slab bench fit for a bus stop, alongside a road pitted by the lack of respect that universities give to the humanities. With his short hair, hazel eyes, and nearly complete absence of turquoise—there were two small beads hidden on his leather belt—he didn’t look like an Indian.
“Hey. What’s up?” I said.
“Not much,” he replied. He looked worried or as though he’d been trying not to cry.
“How’s your work?”
“Crap,” he replied.
Crap was good. These days, about all he could say about anything was expletives like “A bunch of shit,” or “Who gives a good goddamn?” Crap seemed an improvement over a bunch of shit. Ask him if he wants to do lunch and he’ll say, “Ya gotta fucking eat.” Ask him where and he’ll say, “Who gives a flying fuck?”
The week before, in the middle of a talk by a candidate for a job in our department, he leaned over and whispered, “See the moon? It [End Page 235] fucking hates us. Donald Barthelme, page thirty-three.” And he’s been known to make fun of what he calls the royal purple of political correctness by muttering loud enough for the speaker to hear, “Who the fuck does he/she think she/he is?”
He only fucks around, in other words, with pretensions like slashes.
Too often I catch him hanging his curled middle and index fingers in the air the way my four-year-old son hangs dinosaur horns at his temples to form quotation marks: “Who gives a (fingers raised curled in the air) flying (fingers dropped) fuck?”
Well, obviously, he does, for one. And it’s pretty apparent that he does.
I guess I would, too, if every time I sat basking amongst my peers in an audience of academics I had to hear about my own death from a bunch of critics who were theoretically trying to kill me, as they are trying to kill him.
Besides being Indian, he is an author.
The author has died.
We assume it.
Or so his friends like me, who are mostly critical theorists, sometimes say (and have been trying to say since the year of his birth, 1949, with the publication of Wimsatt and Beardsley’s essay on “The Intentional Fallacy”). 1 According to him, they wrote that essay three days after they spotted a white rabbit diving into an apparently bottomless hole. He does a whole routine on this event, mimicking critical voices:
“Look at that,” Wimsatt says. “A hole.”
“I should add,” he says, “that Wimsatt, Old Wimsy as his friends called him, with their piercing sense of irony, was the more descriptive of the two.”
“At what?” Beardsley asks. “There’s nothing there.”
“Precisely,” replies Wimsatt, “It’s a hole.”
“A hole,” Beardsley replies, “With a rabbit in it.”
“Goodness gwaacious,” Wimsy says, running to the profane, “Whatever can that mean?”
“Can’t tell,” Beardsley concludes. “Is it a rabbit surrounded by holeness? Or is it a hole filled partially with rabbithood? To assert either would be to create a fallacy. After all, a hole is by its very nature empty and the rabbit may be nothing more than an illusion. A delusion we two have, to put it plainly, shared.” [End Page 236]
“There’s an article in that,” Wimsy replies.
“Certainement,” Beardsley answers in cocktail français. “Even promotion.”
“Tenure,” Wimsatt says.
“Sinecure,” says Beardsley.
“They have to assume it,” he says. “They want to believe that they have killed him, too. Like they could kill anything other than road kill limping across the four-lane expressway of their fantasies.”
According to him, the fallacy of intention is...