Democratic Vistas


The narrator was shot by the sniper he was describing

and I quickly picked up his pen.

What luck, I thought, to be sitting up here in the narrator’s

tower where the parking lots look like chalkboards and the

characters scurry around or fall down and die as I design it.

Then I started to read the novel I had inherited, and didn’t

like a lot of what I saw.

Most of the characters were relentlessly evil, taken right off the

bad streets of the Bible.

The narrator would interrupt the story at all the wrong times, like

a third wheel on a date, and deliver shakey opinions like “People

who wear turtlenecks must have really fucked up necks.”

Then he would get lost in pointless investigations, i.e. Was Pac-

Man an animal, so that when we returned to the characters many

pages later, their hair had grown past the shoulder and their

fingernails were inches long.

In support of the novel, I must say that it was designed well. The

scenes were like rowhouses. They had common sidewalls, through

which one could hear the faint voices and footsteps of what was to


I’ve lived those long driving scenes. Everyone knows how hard it

is, after you’ve been on the road all day, to stop driving. You go

to sleep and the road runs under the bed like a filmstrip.

I also liked the sheriff’s anxious dream sequence, where he keeps

putting a two-inch high man in jail, and the small man keeps

walking out, in between the bars.

After a sleepless night he’s woken by the phone. There’s a sniper

in the University tower. The sheriff stands before the bathroom

mirror. Drops of visine are careening down his face.

They are cold and clear

and I can count them through my rifle scope.

David Berman is an American poet, cartoonist, and singer-songwriter best known for his work with indie-rock band the Silver Jews.

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Further Reading

 October 1

The defining characteristic of Donald Trump is the comprehensive absence of loyalty and trust in his relationships.

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