A Real Study Guide That I Actually Distributed


When you are studying for this test there are certain things you have to know. To me, the most remarkable thing is the reappearance of Flora. Like what Camus means when he says life is absurd. He is not depressed; that isn’t what he means when talks about committing suicide. You have to know why the skull fits in Carla’s hand – but first, really, you need to know something about why Sisyphus was so annoying to the gods, or else something about when the bird flies, and why, and who is responsible. Or not responsible. You need to know a lot about Chopin. The waltzes, specifically. I mean who knows if the waltzes are more important or if the most important things are the black fingernails on Jacques, so much like the black cyclone that Bryan draws later (earlier, too) on his drawing of his father? You need to know why he’s called the Misfit and why somebody called the Misfit would have a friend called Bobby Lee. Shut up, Bobby Lee, says the Misfit. It’s important that his name is capitalized just like The Agreement and Big Tall Goony-Goony. Sisyphus must be happy. You have to know something about what is really something, by which I mean, either a cathedral or the decision to swim across every single swimming pool until you are the sort of woman who the baker won’t let touch the bread. You have to feel, with a sinking feeling not exactly unlike the feeling of epiphany, which is sort of similar to an attack of absurdity, how hard the world is going to be on you from now on, and how the hardest and most complicated part of all is just beginning. I’m talking about studying why the Grandmother wants to travel and why Sylvia wants to travel and why, if the protagonist’s lover travels, then the protagonist will cover some of New York with a giant helium balloon. Shotwell is not himself. Perhaps he is Fuckhead – a name that is going to stick. Fuckhead is going to ride the protagonist to his grave. The patient complains of a stabbing headache. Perhaps he is through with all that running around. You might be thinking about getting out of this town. That’s a good idea. For now there is enough time to study. There is time to continue studying for the test, with they is, they is, they is, echoing in your head. Then crumple up the letter. Quit your job. Save lives. You know what it is that Shotwell wants of you. Is polonaise really an ingredient in Fancy Herring Snacks? Every party has a gate-crasher – she would have been a good woman, if somebody had been there to shoot her every minute of her life. You need to know that Camus wrote about Sisyphus in the middle of WWII, but you do not need to know that he was an existentialist. You need to know the difference between color televisions and black-and-white televisions. To hear the silence left behind. To think that his girlfriend was leaving him. That he had a daughter. That he, Don Quixote de la Mancha, was anybody like you. (You’ll do fine. You’re a bright boy. This town is full of bright boys.) This is how you study for a short story test. After which I am done with these stories. I give them to you. You may keep them. They’re yours.