FYI.

This story is over 5 years old.

Vice Blog

FRIDAY TYRANT - AVATAR ISN'T JUST A MOVIE

January 14, 2011, 1:19pm

I started in on this book by Evan Lavender-Smith the other day. Evan Lavender-Smith. Remember this name. Say it nine times, ninety times if you have to. His book, Avatar, is a short masterpiece, but one of a perfect length. (If it's the perfect length, can I still call it short?) See, I've been taking a lot of hot baths lately, scalding ones where I just sit and smoke cigarette after cigarette in. I ash into the water right in there with me, toss the soggy butts into the toilet across the room. (I also pee in the bath. That's normal, right? I was wondering the other day, while bathing, if anyone ever took a dump in the bath. Probably like one guy in the whole world does that, huh? But who knows? There may be millions. If so, God that's disgusting.) I've been doing a lot of reading while bathing in this water/piss/ash cocktail. I read the end of Avatar submerged in it. Sounds like I'm spinning my wheels here, doesn't it? I know. That's on purpose. There's a lot of wheel spinning in Avatar. But unlike my annoying wheel spinning, Lavender-Smith's wheels have spangly rims. Gold rims bejeweled with grief, with emeralds and aloneness, as well as with fear, with diamonds, and with the death of Man. It's nothing less than captivating to read this kind of spinning. Lavender-Smith writes from the fifth corner of the room and he does so without compromise. He has created a kind of writing that makes me think, "Fuck! Finally! And fuck finally yes! Someone still pushes."

Something inside me wants to call this book "a meditation" (on life, death, the inbetween), but "meditation" has such a faggoty connotation to it. The only way you could call this a meditation is if meditation involved a panicking run for your life, rather than just crossing your legs and taking a nap, pretending to achieve enlightenment. The story of Avatar might take place in the blink of an eye, or it just might be the snapshot of eternity we've all been hoping would never surface. Forget time. This isn't about time. It's about untime, or an untiming. It's about someone in a space-death ether floating away from one star and towards another. An answer of real concern is in these pages, but it's one of those frustrating answers that births a thousand more questions in your mind. A billion baby spiders. Post-reading this book, I am now simultaneously scared shitless and reassuredly soothed about the afterlife, the space I've been shown. This one's hard to explain (as all good things are) so I'll just show you some of it. By the way, the whole book is one sentence so I just picked a place to dip in and dip out. If it's not your type of thing, then I'm sorry, but if it is your thing, then buy it here.

"the color I had known my hair to be before I arrived
here before I came here when I was on the roof my
hair was a reddish brown a nice auburn if I remember
correctly so I would pluck out a single strand of hair
to examine the color in comparison to that color to
see whether or not I had aged since being on the roof
on my parents roof and the color of that plucked
strand did in fact appear gray one might even say
white I had to my surprise plucked out a white strand
of hair and then I plucked out another which was just
as white then to my surprise another then another
each just as white as the last some perhaps even whiter
then I plucked another then to my surprise another
then to my surprise another and so on until I had
plucked out half the hair on my head the left half and
for a number of years thereafter I floated among these
thousands of white strands of plucked hair these
thousands upon thousands of plucked white strands
of hair which floated in front of my face in front of
my eyes making the task of watching my star while
sleeping very difficult extremely difficult I was
annoyed I was very upset by this I could not
concentrate on my star while I slept I was very upset
very annoyed at first I felt that the struggle to keep an
eye on my star while I slept had become an intolerable
struggle I was very upset about this until one night or
one day as I was sleeping feeling very annoyed
struggling intolerably to watch the light from my star
between these thousands upon thousands of strands
of hair in front of my eyes many of which strands
often became caught between my eyelid and my
eyeball making sleep impossible making sleep simply
intolerable until one day or one night as I was
struggling to watch my star through all the thousands
upon thousands of plucked strands struggling
intolerably to do so all of sudden they disappeared
they simply disappeared vanished and what I had for
so long for a great number of years considered such a
great annoyance the source of so much intolerable
struggling these thousands upon thousands of strands
of white hair that would get caught not only under
my eyelids but also in my mouth in my throat and
which I often inhaled through my nose these
thousands upon thousands of strands of hair this
source of so much intolerable struggling was suddenly
gone finally gone suddenly lifted from me at last I
was finally relieved of the intolerable struggle to keep
an eye on my star while sleeping to keep an eye on
my star through so many thousands of strands of hair
I felt so relieved and for many years thereafter I felt so
very relieved so overjoyed to no longer have to
struggle so intolerably while I slept but only to have
to struggle so much as was necessary in order to keep
my eyelids partially opened to keep an eye on my star
while sleeping which was of course a struggle a great
struggle in fact nearly an intolerable one but so much
less intolerable than the intolerable struggle presented
by my strands of hair compared to that intolerable
struggle the struggle presented by watching my star
while I slept to make sure I continued floating in the
right direction this struggle compared to the previous
one was a comfortable even a welcome struggle quite
tolerable indeed"

GIANCARLO DITRAPANO

Avatar was Released by Six Gallery Press.