Monthly Archives: December 2010

Mr Twitchy: A Story In-Progress

I used to think the world was fucked.  I did.  I used to think the world was fucked and it was up to me and me alone to see it unfucked. That’s really what I used to think, but I’ve been trying to work on that.  It’s not a particularly flattering characteristic I have. I’m trying to be more positive.

But I mean like this fucken guy here, right?  This fucken guy’s making it real hard on me.  I’m in the food court at the airport a good 30 minutes before my flight is set to take off and there’s this fucken creepy guy, a real mouthbreathing gizmo. And he’s just hovering around the iced tea carafe like it’s the last fucken source of iced tea on the planet.  Seriously, he’s hovering there, basically lurking, like a real, bonafide creeper, lording over it like it was his own Lolita or something sick like that.   I mean, c’mon, Humbert Humbert, it’s iced-fucken-tea, for Chris’sakes!

I’ve never seen anyone on the verge of conniptions over a soft drink before, but here is someone, right here in front on me on the verge of conniptions over a soft drink. True story. He’s real twitchy bastard, too. And Mr. Twitchy Conniption-Fits and I are about to cross paths.  I just paid for a Coke that’s not going to fill itself and the iced tea carafe is contiguous—that means butted up to next to, right?—it’s contiguous to the soda fountain.

So in any case, I’ve got a serious stink eye aimed right-smack at my personal mug by Mr. Twitchy, the iced tea gizmo whose got a real serious case of trouser ants, I’m guessing, based on all the pacing he’s doing.  I depress the Coke’s soda trigger while I watch him watch me out of my periphery, taking a foamy sip in the mean time.  I’d like to point out that I think it’s just totally irresponsible—regardless of cup ounceage—to fill the whole thing up if the soda water-to-syrup ratio is all snafu’d but, that being said, I’m vouching right here and now, that this airport’s Coke is as refreshing as Coke gets.

I top my 22 oz. cup off and pop one of those opaque plastic lids on it because, even though I’m going to enjoy my Coke and Polish dog—I got myself a Polish dog too, in case I didn’t mention it—right here in the lounge while I wait for my flight, the lid will preserve maximum soda fizziness in between free refills, of which I plan to get at least two and which are also really just the bees knees if you ask me—free refills, I mean.

My polish dog is OK, but it’s sort of dry.  It’s got wrinkly skin like an old man’s—the dog does.  My own sensitive skin is smooth as a baby’s ass in case you got confused about who or what had the old man skin.  But so anyway, a sort-of-dry dog, I can deal with.  A stale bun, though, is just snafu altogether. Unless maybe you are one of those professional hot dog eater guys who soaks the bun in water to choke it down, but that shit’s disgusting.  Seriously, I’d tell ‘em that too.  So yeah, a dry-on-the-outside dog’s still got the potential to’ve retained some of its juiciness at its little Polish core; but a dry, crusty bun just really fucks with my universe, entirely—no redeeming qualities in a dry bun, whatsoever.  Feed ‘em to the pigeons, I say.

So what all this boils down to, the reason I’m telling you all of this, is that I don’t like to take pills on an empty stomach.  Pills on an empty stomach gives me the fucken gurg’.  That’s the point I’ve been trying to get to but Mr. Twitchy’s got me all attention deficit.  I’m not exactly scared of flying—scared of crashing, yes—but scared of flying, no.  I just can’t take all the loud mouthbreathers and annoying tourists talking among themselves too-loudly and babies crying and all that other commotion that makes flying a real pain in the ass and far more stressful than it really needs to be.  I, myself, like to pop a Xanax or two and simply enjoy my flight.

Which is what I was going to do just now, pop two Xanies, but I can’t find the bottle.  I just had it in my hand like ten seconds ago, and now they’re calling for my flight to board. I guess I’d be more worried if I hadn’t just lifted the pills off the girl whose house I stayed at last night and who I probably won’t ever see again. C’est la vie and all that.  I think her name was Nicky-something-or-another…

Anyway, I’m rambling, so let’s flash forward a little, shall we?

While we’re boarding, the voice over the speaker says the flight’s not all that full.  What few people there are, still rush to pack the plane but I’m like, what’s the point?  I dawdle a little, scanning the food court one last time for the bottle of Nicky’s Xanax and end up boarding dead last.  I knew the line rushers would snap up the choicest seats at the bulkheads and the emergency exits over the wings, but I was pretty sure no one was going to willingly take the rearmost seats, a fact I never really understood, especially on such a thinly-booked flight.  Probably because of all the extra walking.

The back of the plane on a thinly-booked flight is like your own private cabin with it’s own personal bathroom.  There’s a far smaller “random-asses-to-toilet-seat” ratio, plus I won’t have to sweat the three refills I got before boarding, just the imminent sugar crash from 66oz. of refined sugars.  So that’s why I dawdle.  I’m in no rush bringing up the rear of the boarding line.

My nostrils pick up the unmistakable scent of Barbasol wafts down the gangway, which really proves that a good, creamy lather is still a great way to kickstart a real man’s man’s morning.  But I see that it isn’t necessarily an old man giving off the smell, it’s Mr. Twitchy, who I think looks fantastically overloaded with caffeine and nerves.  The guy’s got a real case of the sweats going on, pit stains spread around his torso from shoulder blade to nipple on both sides. I suddenly feel bad for the poor bastard which makes me feel good because I’m thinking positively about someone else again for a change.

There’s a twenty-something girl in front of me who has been clicking away on her BlackBerry—and snapping her chewing gum, some mango-mint bullshit, which, speaking of lather, gets me all in one—since I first noticed her.  I’m pretty sure that before all the clicking and snapping, she was totally eyefucking me six ways from Sunday, but then, afterwards, she felt dirty about it, which is pretty par for the course for me, really. I can tell these things just by looking at someone like.

I’m close enough and tall enough to see over her shoulder, and I notice that we have a mutual Facebook friend—an observation I kind of want to tell her about—but the fact that the line is moving forward (without her), and the gangway is too narrow to get around the person in front of you in the event they are a dawdler, makes me think I should tell her to pay-the-fuck-attention.  But then there’s my whole attempt at ignoring the planet’s unfucking, so I just clear my throat irritably instead.

Flash forward some more.

I’m flying to Chicago to listen to this writer guy read from his new book which is you know, kind of long, his book is, in my opinion, but whatever.  He’s supposed to be the next big thing but I’m always skeptical about the next big thing.  Really, flying to Chicago is just an excuse to ditch Nicky, and when I lie to someone, I go all out, even despite my recent attempts at self-improvement.  A buddy of mine texted me last night about this writer guy’s reading tonight, and so last night I was all like, hell no, but this morning, waking up next to Nicky, I was all like fuck yeah.  This was before I stole her pills.  Some habits die hard.  What was her last name anyway…?

Once the plane finally takes off, I get up to use the bathroom because, even though I don’t have to worry about taking a piss for fear of an overcrowded lavatory, being at the uncrowded back; it doesn’t mean I don’t have to actually piss. However—and this is something I just really couldn’t believe—the lavatory is already occupied, which means someone wasn’t paying the fuck attention to the keep-seatbelts-fastened sign, probably the BlackBerry chick—a circumstance that also really burns my personal biscuit.  But when the door finally opens, it’s not the BlackBerry chick but Mr. Twitchy instead.  I have to piss so bad that my eyes are probably turning yellow, so I don’t say anything confrontational.  I’m kind of passive-aggressive that way sometimes.  Plus sky marshals are no joke and don’t take kindly to passengers throwing bows if you get me.

Right as I’m about to shut the door, one of the flight attendants asks if I’d like any peanuts, which, no, I really don’t since I’m terrifyingly allergic and will consequentially puff up like the Michelin Man if I even eat just one.  I ask her for pretzels instead, a request that—oddly similar to Mr. Twitchy back in the airport’s lounge—actually almost sent this person into serious conniptions because now she’d have to notify yet another flight attendant—one who distributes pretzels instead of peanuts, given that she has only peanuts to distribute—that she herself was unable to satisfy my snacking needs, a fact that I’m betting did generally unproductive things to her internal locus of competency. But in fairness to me, all of this was precipitated by circumstances that are completely out of my control.

So after evacuating my bladder, I walk back to my seat and pick up the package of pretzels that had been left on my seat.  As I munched on the salty, half-stale victuals, I pondered the disappearance of what’s-her-name’s lifted bottle of Xanax and its current potential locations.  I start to get nervous when I consider that some TSA asshole may have picked them up and located their proper owner from the Rx label, where upon she, what’s-her-name?, Nicky, proceeds to inform authorities that they were in fact stolen from her this very morning, and then the whole kit and caboodle gets linked back to me and I have to spend time in a courtroom explaining my actions to a judge, which, I mean, really, thanks but no thanks.

My brief reverie is broken by a commotion halfway up the plane.  Flight attendants were scrambling here and there and the only things I can see are two feet protruding into the aisle.  It’s one of the choice seats in the emergency exit row with extra legroom which, of course, meant that person would not be able to perform the duties in the event of a…

The plane shudders emphatically, violently like a ship hitting an iceberg which causes the cabin lights to flicker.  The captain’s voice tries to come across the PA system but gets cut off when the power flickers again.  Turbulence shakes the fuselage and I’m positive that, had I not just used the facilities, I’d have wet myself right then and there.  A very unbecoming scream escapes my lips but the rest of the passengers are too freaked out to notice.  Windspeeds at takeoff were gusting to 50 mph so I assumed this was going to be a bumpy flight.

To take my mind off the violent shaking—I start making my way up to the center of the plane where the ruckus is occurring.  The seatbelt lights overhead ding repeatedly like someone got the button stuck.  Since it can’t make up its mind, I just figure the system’s gone on the fritz.

Once I make it to the emergency row, I see that the feet belong to none other than Mr. Twitchy.  The flight attendant who’d been doling out peanuts earlier acts as if she’s never seen me before and asks if I know CPR.  In return, I look at her like a deer in the headlights.  The truth is, I know CPR, but Mr. Twitchy has a strange looking foam accumulating around his mouth and I know there’s no way in hell I’m giving him rescue breaths without a breathing barrier—or even with, truth be told.

There are a lot of Jesus Christs! and You gotta be kidding mes! and Fucks! being tossed around in a verbal exchange of disbeliefs.  What I gather from the four flight attendants is that there is not a single medically trained person on the entire flight and this guy, a Mr. Oliver, is in need of something along the lines of a miracle.

Amidst the panic from the downed passenger, the light flicker again, the seatbelt ding goes berserk resulting in an annoying stutterlike effect, the lights blink twice and then nothing, just the most abrupt and unwelcome silence I’ve ever heard… or not heard…

The floor tilts a little forward and we feel like we are dropping.  It’s very clear that the plane has lost all of its power and we are gliding at an unreasonable speed toward the earth.  I scream again, high pitched and shrill, like a teenaged cheerleader, this time eliciting a few Oh my Gods! and a Will someone shut him the fuck up!? which I found somewhat offensive given the current predicament.

Free falling in a dark and unpowered plane is not a pleasurable experience.  I can’t see myself recommending it as something persons might want to put on their bucket lists.  There is an overwhelming sense of doom and panic in the air so thick you can taste it and it’s really fucken salty.

Some of the passengers are crying, others are crossing themselves and saying Hail Marys.  I’m promising no one in particular that I’ll stop stealing women’s anxiety pills and sometimes their underwear, if we can just pull through this alive.  I also begin looking around for Mr. Twitchy because his unconscious body is no longer where the flight attendants left it.  In fact, he is now crammed headfirst under the seat of an overly large man sweating more than seems physically possible.  Impossible sweating.

Some people say that situations like this prompt one’s life to flash before their eyes.  This is not true for me either.  Whoever wrote the book on near death experiences must be a liar or incredibly underqualified to be speaking on the subject.  My first reaction is to imagine the ticker tape on CNN.  It’s going to read Plane falls out of sky in giant ball of flaming death!—I don’t think they use exclamations on professional national news stations but my visions has them for sure—and then I think about how they’ll probably misspell my name later on when they do one of those memorials to those passengers who died.  It’s a small flight so this seems realistic at the time, not to mention we are all plummeting rapidly to a collective certain death.

I also start to think about Mr. Twitchy and to what extent his utter fuckedness is quantifiable in what in all likelihood is our last minutes (not exactly) “on” this planet.  I’m trying to think about what could have been wrong with him before the plane all of a sudden more or less started falling out of the sky.  And then it hits me: his mouth.  It all starts coming together and I get a little pissed because I realize he’d chewed up what was likely the rest of “my” pilfered Xanax.  I’m not sure to what end a person would or could rationalize consuming a half bottle of anxiolytics but that’s precisely what Mr. Twitchy did.  In between adrenalized shots of terror, my anger surfaces because he stole “my” bottle of pills—which I’d already stolen prior, but that isn’t the point; who argues semantics on a crashing plane?—but pills that could certainly help in this situation, especially if crushed up and snorted.  I might literally punch a screaming child in the face right now for just one of those little orange beauties.

But that in and of itself is a forgone conclusion.  I can see a white cap sticking out of Mr. Oliver Twitchy’s front pocket, and if I wasn’t going to give the guy mouth to mouth, I sure as hell wasn’t going to fondle around inside his pocket.  I stop what I’m not doing to think about how lucid I seem given the fact that we are plummeting toward terra firma at an alarming velocity.

In Honor of David Foster Wallace

In Honor of David Foster Wallace’s recently-published thesis, Fate, Time, and Language: An Essay on Free Will, I’ve decided to post (with citations) an essay I wrote in grad school for a British Literature course where I deal with the ideas of fate and free will in relation to Paradise Lost. It’s nearly 4,000 words, so I doubt many people will actually read it, but if you want to get your nerd on, this is the place!

Free Will Lost in Paradise

When thinking critically about a literary work as studied and revered as John Milton’s Paradise Lost, it is impossible not to compare and contrast the notions of fate and free will. Milton wants us to believe that there can simultaneously be free will in harmonic coexistence with God’s masterful plan. Through research, however, I find this impossible. If it is true that God created everything; the heavens and earth; man and the angels; then it follows that he created good and evil. A master plan would indicate that God created Satan with the knowledge (or foresight) that he would rebel and fall, in fact, instilling in him this particular character flaw devoid in most other angels.

This paper attempts to illustrate that, if there is indeed a divine plan, then free will does not exist in Paradise Lost, or if it does, it may then be judged by God as an evil decision. Paul Ricoeur’s analysis of the “Adamic Myth” and Original Sin clarifies etiological traditions Milton assimilates from Christian symbol, myth, and dogma (Tanner 46). Through Ricoeur, Tanner identifies the contrasting modalities of evil (inherited and imitative, physical and moral, ontological and existential, necessary and free, communal and individual) fused in Paradise Lost. According to Tanner, Ricoeur’s work reveals Milton’s text to be a subtly inclusive etiological myth, one whose complex genesis of evil recovers Scripture’s fullness of meaning in a new mythopoesis (46). Most interesting to me is the idea Satanic evil springs exclusively from the self in an instant of radical “Pelagian” freedom: free will (47). In Satan’s case, I believe his desire for free choice overrides his desire to repent and seek forgiveness. Forgiveness is followed by subservience and it may then follow the saying: “Better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven.” It appears that in Satan’s eyes, there is no freedom to be found in either Paradise.

In Paradise Lost, Milton’s God says He does not control the events concerning the Fall, yet he knows precisely what those events are. In making the claim that He does not control the events of the universe, Milton’s God expresses a traditional Calvinist belief: the Fall occurred as a result of Man’s free will and choices and not because God predestines it (Menghi 1). Calvinists believe that a predestined life is one without purpose. J. M. Evans says that, “reconciliation of foreknowledge with free will worked out in Book III is, admittedly, unsatisfactory…” (221). This is because in Book III, God gives the reader the impression that, no matter what He actually claims, the events of the Fall are predestined.

C.S. Lewis moves to ‘dismiss that question which has so much agitated some great critics, “What is the Fall?”’ by answering, ‘The Fall is simply and solely Disobedience – doing what you have been told not to do’ (Fish 208). In Milton’s Grand Style, Ricks (99) argues that Adam and Eve were created with a propensity to fall. Fish (210) counters by saying that yes, God, not Adam and Eve, is guilty of the Fall, and curiously enough, it is God himself who raises them by gratuitously refuting them:

I form’d them free and free they must remain,
Till they enthrall themselves: I else must change
Their nature, and revoke the high Decree
Unchangeable, Eternal, which ordain’d
Thir freedom: they themselves ordain’d thir fall. (III 112-28)

Thus, I would go one step further yet and agree with the argument that the Fall of Man must be predestined in order for God to show what many theologians consider the greatest demonstration of His divine love: the Union of God, the Son and Man in heaven (Menghi 3). The Union shows God’s infinite love and forgiveness while glorifying the sacrifice of the Son so that Man may be saved from Sin and spend eternity in Heaven. In the middle of God’s elaborate exposition to the Son regarding his gift of salvation in Book III, he takes time to interject a two line refutation: “Nor shalt thou by descending to assume / Man’s nature, lessen or degrade thine own” (303-304). Neil Graves sees this as a prophesized third (and ultimately understated) Fall: that of the Son (160). Ironically, fifty years before Milton penned Paradise Lost, John Donne muses in a sermon that “I must not ask why God took this way to incarnate His Son” (Donne 2:16).

Thomas Aquinas explicates that God manages phenomena in His universe by “implement[ing] what he wants by way of wills [… so] all human choices derive from an unchanging choice” (172). In other words, God controls (predestines) whatever he wants. If Milton’s God does not predestine the Fall, then possibility exists that the Union, and thus the Glorification of the Son, will not take place. This idea possibly contradicts God’s omnipotence and omniscience (Menghi 15). In Book III, God says to the Son that creations cannot

Justly accuse
Their maker, or their making or their fate,
As if predestination overruled
Their will [… and] if I foreknew,
Foreknowledge had no influence on their fault
Which had no less proved certain unforeknown. (112-19)

Menghi notes that Milton’s God is somewhat evasive because he says “if I foreknew”, which implies that He has the foreknowledge, but refuses to admit he does– the idea that God refuses to reveal information to the Son is illogical (Menghi 15). Graves agrees by saying:

Theologically it makes no sense for two omniscient beings to argue, to disagree, to persuade and especially so as they are Father and Son in at least a substantial sense and that despite
the existence of time in Milton’s heaven, they are not circumscribed by the limitations of time. (166)

Menghi also argues that:

[Milton’s God] admits (in Book III) that He is not all-powerful. God’s admission is another failing on Milton’s part because God, the omnipotent creates the universe; therefore the universe is ultimately under His control. Any rationalization… of God’s power having limitations in His universe makes no sense. For Milton to say [this], lowers God’s standing and indicates that He has human frailties, the same that corrupted Satan. (16)

Many readers see Satan as a sympathetic character in part because of the human frailties and imperfections that he possesses; they are much easier for reader’s to understand than God’s ultimate and divine perfection. This illustrates God’s superiority in relation to Satan. However, Michael Bryson, in his book The Tyranny of Heaven: Milton’s Rejection of God As King, argues (by an implied assumption) that the two are equals and Paradise Lost is thus iconoclastic. While Bryson’s research is incredibly thorough, it is not particularly useful for this paper. However, it does raise an interesting counterpoint. For Milton, it was not merely freedom that was crucial, but using one’s freedom to act righteously as Abdiel communicates to Satan in Paradise Lost. Only the Father can use his freedom eternally for good. Satan necessitates guidance from one superior than himself (the Father).

Satan’s fall from Heaven sets in motion a chain of events which will ultimately result in what I feel is God’s supreme goal: the Glorification of the Son. This series of events spans from the battle in heaven to the Resurrection and finally ends in the divine union of God, the Son and Man in Heaven. Unfortunately, predestination thus forces Milton’s Satan into the role of martyr. Being locked into evil is, in the end, a way to deny free will. It is perhaps the same thing as mind control or brainwashing. When one is so completely inundated in one ideology or perspective (i.e. evil), it colors all of one’s thought and “free will”, as it were, becomes impossible. In fact, research shows that true free will many times be punished in Paradise Lost. For instance, Satan experiences jealousy at the Son becoming the right hand of God; Satan then chooses to initiate a rebellion. Later, Eve greedily eats the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge in hopes of improving her worldly status and convinces Adam to do likewise, thus initiating the Fall of Man.

Whether intentional or not, through Paradise Lost, Milton sets up a Christian religious system based on fear. Adam fears God, as well as the fruit born from the tree of knowledge and Death. Interestingly, Adam blindly fears Death, as it is an entity and concept so far unfamiliar to him. Death and Sin are not released upon the Earth until after the Felix Culpa – the ‘fortunate fall’ – of Man. All of the events set forth the aforementioned plan for the Glorification of the Son, who will ironically experience glory in Death to settle the debt of mankind’s Sin.

Satan does not wish to follow God’s divine master plan. The consequence of choosing free will over the predestination of that very plan causes Satan great anguish and suffering. In his soliloquy at the beginning of Book IV, Satan acknowledges his own iniquity and culpability for his fall, vacillating between self-reproach and recalcitrance. He admits that his revolt was completely unjustifiable and that he had the same ‘free will and power to stand’ as all God’s creatures and has nothing to recriminate but ‘heaven’s free love dealt equally to all’ (Carey 163). Carey then explains since heaven’s love means his own damnation, he denunciates it (‘Be then his love accursed’), but then, perspicaciously, turns his blasphemy against himself (‘Nay, cursed be thou’) (163).

Other instances occur in the line where Satan looks at Eve for the first time and is stunned by her beauty– for a fleeting moment he remains “stupidly good”. He can also still appreciate the beauty of Heaven when he peers over Heaven’s gate in book three. As Satan exculpates God, he explains that even if he could repent and get back into heaven ‘by act of grace’, it would do him no good, since once back there, he would grow proud again (‘how soon / Would highth recall high thoughts’), and this would lead to a ‘worse relapse’ and ‘heavier fall’ (163). This, to me, suggests that evil is not Satan’s inherent state, as most assume, but that his evil is a continual choice of his. It also suggests he recognizes the elements of his predestined fate – he cannot choose another path.

Milton asserts in On Christian Doctrine that “’the seat of faith is not in the understanding, but in the will’” (Fish 254). I tend to agree with William Walker when he says:
[Adam and Eve] are free to believe that God is a beneficent and omnipotent deity who is always to be obeyed… they are free to act in accordance with these beliefs… Neither these freedoms nor their exercise are to be grounded in reason: they are to be grounded solely in the will. (144)

Fish says that, “…while [Adam and Eve] continue to respond to their opportunities as we see them responding [to Eve’s dream], affirming the hierarchy they were created in and laboring to do God’s will, the Fall is impossible” (226). However, I believe that the Fall is not only possible, it is imperative. Milton is careful to set up the repentance and decision to stick it out in Book X as an act of free will, after Adam and Eve have discussed and rejected all the other alternatives, and they are certainly rewarded for that with a mild punishment rather than immediate death. However, it begs the question of whether or not God would have actually killed them had they not repented?

The Father’s ultimate and divine goal is the Glorification of the Son through his sacrifice to redeem mankind. For God, everything, including Sin can be used a tool (Augustine 453). Logically, God uses Sin as a tool in causing man to fall, not out of spite, but in the interest of His plan. Thus, “God has already, in virtue of his foreknowledge, laid plans for making good use of evil” (449). The good use of evil is the Fall, followed by the Union and the Glorification of the Son.

If Adam and Eve were to be killed immediately after the Fall, the Son would never be able to die for the Sin of Man and God’s plan would invariably fail before it could progress any further. An omnipotent God would not be capable of creating a faulty plan. Unless we believe Him when He says He does not know the events to come, which again, is illogical behavior of an omnipotent being. Thus, Adam and Eve are indeed given a choice, but in reality, there is only one choice to be made and that is to repent and again become a part of the Father’s predetermined master plan. They are free to show their faith by choosing the Father’s will.

I do agree with Fish that God created a hierarchy in His universe: the Father, the Son, the Angels, Man, the animals, etc. It follows then, that God also created a plan for His universe. Without order, there can exist only disorder. As God sits atop His created hierarchy and is exalted without peer, logically the Son should be next on high. Dennis Danielson begs the question, “If God is all powerful and wholly good, how can there be evil in the world?” (146). I believe that evil is a created part of the plan to Glorify the Son.
God created Man with the ability to reason. According to Fish:

Reason serves Adam and Eve well in their round of daily tasks. Had they exercised reason on the morning of the fateful day, the imprudence of separation would have been immediately obvious, and an unpleasant situation could have been avoided. (242)

In order for Man to see the glory in the sacrifice of the Son, there needs to be an adversary to overcome. God basically says to man that He is good and created Man in His image– to be unlike Him is evil. Goodness is the path to salvation; evil is the path to damnation. When it is spelled out in black and white, it is easy for His creation, Man, to rationalize the difference. When the Son shows the greatest and ultimate act of goodness by experiencing Death for Man’s Sin, he is then glorified in their eyes as well as the eyes of all heavenly beings, which I believe was God’s plan from Genesis.

With the reasoning given to him by God, Adam in Book IX attempts to justify eating the fruit to himself:

Not well conceived of God, who though his power
Creation could repeat, yet would be loath
Us to abolish, lest the adversary
Triumph and say; Fickle their state whom God
Most favors, who can please him long; me first
He ruined, now mankind; whom will he next?
Matter of scorn, not to be given the foe. (945-51)

Adam questions the situation in this matter because his reasoning, like the names of the animals early on in Paradise Lost, was given to him directly by God, thus, he blames Satan for his and Eve’s corruption. Adam has no way of knowing the complexity of God’s plan as he has not yet been shown images of things to come by Michael in Book XI.

Walker says that, “God thus does not require of fallen mankind that he give up what he himself identifies as the foundation of his freedom to believe and act – reason – and then act freely (157). God allows fallen man to retain the system of reason He has instilled in them as, what I feel, is a kind of security blanket, such as a parent does with a young child. As Michael Schoenfeldt observes, he rather requires of mankind a “rational autonomy” out of which he may “respond to myriad laws, partial truths and gradual virtues, all glimpsed at best through the darkened glass of reason” (378). But that God’s requirements of fallen mankind are consistent with his understanding of freedom does not necessarily mean that postlapsarian man is capable of fulfilling them (Walker 157). In Book XI Michael shows Adam that man is capable of fulfilling God’s requirements of “Faith and faithful works” (64) by displaying humans who in fact do so like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Moses (621-2). Regardless of the choices of generations to come, these events will happen. In Book XII, Michael also describes the second coming of Christ, which, like the depictions of the humans who fulfill God’s requirements, demonstrates to Adam that he can serve in no other way that that which will see God’s divine plan realized:

[The Son] shall come
When this world’s dissolution shall be ripe,
With glory and power to judge both quick and dead,
To judge the unfaithful dead, but to reward
His faithful, and receive them into bliss,
Whether in heaven or earth, for them the earth
Shall all be paradise, far happier place
Than Eden, and far happier days. (458-65)

According to the thesis of this paper, Michael means that man is capable of fulfilling God’s faithful predetermined works.

In somewhat differing circumstances, Eve, Adam, and conceivably the reader, fall when they do not acknowledge the “primacy of revelation” against the claims of existing situations as they are urged by the affections and exemplified by the reason (Fish 245). More simplistically, they fail to make a leap of faith. However, if it is really God’s reasoning filtered through Adam and Eve, the correct, albeit most unfortunate, choice was already made. Every part of the hierarchy is a cog in the machine of God’s divine master plan. Fish states that, “God has instituted it thus so that man will exercise his reason, and, through reason, discover its inadequacy” (247). Furthermore, Richardson says:

Thus near 200 Lines are Excellently Employ’d and are So far
Useful to Us, that Neither should We presume beyond the
Means God has been pleas’d to Furnish us with. (351)

However, to me this seems like God is saying that free will is good, but his way (predestination) is best.

Menghi sees the question, “Can God’s creations [then] choose to fall?” as irrational (17). Since Man is a creation of God, and since God is good, man has a propensity for goodness. Consequently, since choosing to fall is a fundamentally evil act, man cannot ‘choose’ to fall. This gives weight to my argument that the Fall was God’s own machination. That the Fall is the first step in Menghi’s “Union” hypothesis and my “Glorification” theory, comes from the following concept:
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. […] For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate. […] Moreover whom he did predestinate, then he also called: and whom he called, then he also justified: and whom he justified, then he also glorified. (1 Cor. 15:22, Rom. 8:29-30)

God’s glorification of man is the Union (Menghi 17). I argue that God predestined the “Union” to then Glorify the Son.

Menghi gives a good example in Paradise Lost that points toward the Union and thus the Gorification when the Son says to God (40):
See Father, what first fruits on earth are sprung
From thy implanted grace in man […] (22-23)

[…] I thy priest before thee bring,
Fruits of more pleasing savour from thy seed
Sown with contrition in his heart, than those
Which his own hand manuring all the trees
Of Paradise could have produced, ere fallen
From innocence […]. (25-29)

God’s implanted seeds of predestination are being sown (Menghi 40). God predestines the Fall because of the Union and therefore the Glorification. Menghi says that the Fall is the first part of a three-part process by which man falls, lives in exile from Paradise, and re-receives Paradise in his afterlife (42). However, I believe that Man re-receiving Paradise in the afterlife is not the final step and that ultimately there are more than three steps in the process.

Menghi’s human-centered theory supposes that Man is the most beloved of all God’s creations. But I feel that honor belongs to the Son. For Menghi, the Fall is fundamentally a positive act, not only because everything God does is inherently good, but also because the Fall is the first step towards salvation (42). Contrary to what scholars such as Menghi suggest, I believe the Union is not the climax of the process, but a closing step in the evolution of God’s masterful and divine plan.

This paper has taken a look at predestination versus free will but come up with a slightly different conclusion than those posited before. We know that Milton’s God says He does not control the events concerning the Fall, yet He knows precisely what those events are. In making that claim, Milton’s God expresses a traditional Calvinist belief: the Fall occurred as a result of Man’s free will and choices and not because God predestines it. However, in Book III, Milton’s God gives the impression that, regardless of His claims, the events of the Fall are predestined. A predestined Fall is inconsistent with Milton’s beliefs which scholars such as Menghi see as an artistic failing (2).

However, Milton’s unorthodox religious views have been studied and criticized for some time. According to Graves, “Milton’s name is almost synonymous with Arianism, and his thinking on mortalism, polygamy, material monism, and creatio ex Deo (creation out of the substance of God) cosmogony are well documented (159). It should then come as no surprise that Paradise Lost invariably would give more attention and care to the Son than to mankind. All is not unfortunate for Man, however. Salvation in the form of the Union is a wonderful ending to culminate the occurrences of the felix culpa.

Augustine, Thomas. City of God. Trans. Henry Bettenson. 1972. New York:
Penguin, 1984.

Aquinas, Thomas. Selected Philosophical Writings. Ed. And Trans. Timothy
McDermott. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Bible, The (King James Version). Eds. Robert Carroll and Stephen Prickett. New
York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Bryson, Michael. The Tyranny of Heaven: Milton’s Rejection of God As King.
Cranbury: University of Delaware Press, 2004.

Carey, John. “Milton’s Satan” in The Cambridge Companion to Milton 2nd ed.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Danielson, Dennis. “The Fall and Milton’s Theodicy” in The Cambridge Companion
to Milton 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Donne, John. The Sermons of John Donne, ed. George Potter and Evelyn M.
Simpson, 10 vols. University of California Press: 1953-62, 2:16.

Evans, John.M. Paradise Lost and the Genesis Tradition. London: Oxford
University Press, 1968.

Fish, Stanley. Surprised by Sin, 2nd edn., London: MacMillan, 1997.

Graves, Neil D. “Infelix Culpa: Milton’s Son of God and the incarnation as a fall
in Paradise Lost.” Philological Quarterly 81.2 Spring 2002: 159-183.

Menghi, Edward J. “Predestination overruled their will: A Marxist analysis of the
predestination versus free will problem in “Paradise Lost“.” Mississippi State University, 1998.

Milton, John. The Complete Works of John Milton, ed. Don M. Wolfe et al., 8
vols. Yale University Press: 1953-1982.

Richardson, Jonathan. Explanatory Notes on Paradise Lost, New York: AMS
Press, 1973.

Schoenfeldt, Michael. Obedience and Autonomy in Paradise Lost. in A
Companion to Milton ed. Thomas N. Corns. Oxford: Blackwell, 2001.

Tanner, John S. “Say First What Cause: Ricoeur and the Etiology of Evil in
Paradise Lost.” PMLA 103.1 Jan. 1988: 45-56.

Walker, William. “Milton’s dualistic theory of religious toleration in A Treatise of
Civil Power, Of Christian Doctrine, and Paradise Lost.” Modern
Philology 99.2 Nov. 2001: 201-230.

Walker, William. “On reason, faith, and freedom in Paradise Lost.” Studies in
English Literature, 1500-1900 47.1 Winter 2007: 143-159.

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Andrew Foster Althschul’s Deus Ex Machina: A Review In Process

The author has an ostensibly complete review of a pretty darn good book he’s ostensibly finished reading on The Rumpus.

On the surface, the novel is about reality television, specifically, a show that is ostensibly a cross between The Truman Show and Survivor (with aspects of nearly every other reality show ever created sprinkled in). But to say that the novel is about “a reality show on a distant island” would be to miss the multiple wonderfully-textured layers Altschul has weaved in so skillfully within the books tightly-packed 203 pages

Hit the jump for more!

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List Thursdays: My Top 10 Literary Websites

1 ) The Rumpus – I  might have a slight bias here but the quality of literary (and all other) content here is top notch, truly. Not to mention the fact that The Rumpus has one of the best Book Clubs around, a fantastic advice column and the reader-written Last Book I Loved series.

2 ) The MillionsIf The Rumpus is (hypothetically speaking), let’s say, Tin House, then The Millions is definitely n+1.  The essays and reviews found on The Millions are top notch and guest contributions from established writers definitely lends the site its due where credibility is concerned. The Millions is legit.

3 ) HTMLGIANTSticking with the literary journal comparisons, HTMLGIANT is the literary website equivalent to McSweeney’s, if for nothing else than its edge and personality. The editors and contributing writers are smart, probably too smart, but always provide thought provoking insight in their essays. It’s worth checking out to acquaint yourself with Jimmy Chen, Blake Butler, Roxane Gay (also of [PANK] renown) and Kyle Minor alone.

4 ) MontevidayoIf there’s one site (luckily there’s more than one) that gives HTMLGIANT a run for smart content, it’s Montevidayo. The biggest difference is that the crew at Montevidayo are interested in a sort of community conversation. Multiple authors chime in on a few topics which really gives the reader a feel for what’s being discussed.

5 ) Bookslut Want reviews? Book Slut’s got ’em! (Michael Schaub, specifically.) As well as tons of features, a fantastic blog section and truly great interviews. Read Bookslut.

6 ) Maud NewtonI have to thank Isaac from The Rumpus for reminding me how much I love this site. I feel as though I’ve been neglectful and that’s a hurtful thing to be. I’m sorry Maud, I’ll be a better man, I promise! Maud Newton is the blog Category Thirteen strives to be!

7 ) Galley CatAll the happenings, comings and goings of the Publishing World (the empire that it is deserves CAPS.) A subsection of the truly excellent Media Bistro, Galley Cat is— as its title suggests– the first word on the book publishing industry.

8 ) Book ForumCome for the Daily Review and Omnivore, stay for the Paper Trail and Outposts.  Book Forum has a print copy you can pick up in stores too should your little Luddite heart so desire [I kid! (about the Luddite thing, I mean; Book Forum really does have a print mag.)]

9 ) Action, YesBrought to you by the editors of Montevidayo, Johannes Göransson, Joyelle McSweeney and John Dermot Woods, Action Yes is actually a quarterly I love but forgot to mention in last week’s list. Action Yes is also online only so it seems that it might be more appropriately recognized this week anyway.

10 ) Big Other I dig Big Other for a lot of reasons, but none perhaps more than their interviews and their Experimental Threads.  Check out their recent interview with HUSH author, Dave Kress and their article, “A New Technology for the Culture Industry” about, good stuff!

Honorable Mention —The Regulars:, Huffington Post Books, Daily Book Beast, as well as The Nervous Breakdown, Sensitive Skin, ARTFACCIATK ReviewsLarge Hearted Boy, the full Media Bistro site and Agent Query.

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Google eBooks available through Indie Bookstores!


The Word From Paige

Indie bookstore customers no longer have to choose between reading digital and supporting their local bookstore — the American Booksellers Association announced today, Monday, December 6, 2010, that ABA member stores with IndieCommerce websites are now selling Google eBooks™ online. Google launched its ebook program today.

A Google eBook is a new form of cloud-based digital book that allows readers to access their libraries on almost any device from one single repository, regardless of where the ebook was purchased. ABA has partnered with Google because of its open and accessible platform so ABA member bookstores can provide an easy way for their customers to discover, read, and buy ebooks at competitive prices. Google is offering hundreds of thousands of titles for sale, ranging from new releases and bestsellers in every category to classics in the public domain.

A list of participating ABA member stores that have opted-in to sell Google eBooks online can be found below. (This list of stores will be updated periodically.) Because Google eBooks work with myriad devices — tablets, smartphones, computers, even most e-ink devices — consumers are free to shop from a variety of retailers rather than being bound to one retailer. This opens up a wealth of indie recommendations and bestsellers to avid ebook readers.

Alabama Booksmith Birmingham, AL
Antigone Books Tucson, AZ
Changing Hands Bookstore Tempe, AZ
Mostly Books Tucson, AZ
Bay Books San Ramon CA San Ramon, CA
Book Passage Corte Madera, CA
Books Inc. San Francisco, CA
Bookshop Santa Cruz Santa Cruz, CA
DIESEL A Bookstore Oakland, CA
Gallery Bookshop & Bookwinkle’s Children’s Books Mendocino, CA
Green Apple Books San Francisco, CA
Hicklebee’s San Jose, CA
Kepler’s Books & Magazines Menlo Park, CA
Mrs. Nelson’s Toy and Book Shop La Verne, CA
Mysterious Galaxy Books San Diego, CA
Pegasus & Pendragon Fine Books Berkeley, CA
Russo’s Books Bakersfield, CA
SFSU Bookstore San Francisco, CA
Skylight Books Los Angeles, CA
Spellbinder Books & Coffee Bishop, CA
The Book Works Del Mar, CA
The Booksmith San Francisco, CA
Vroman’s Bookstore Pasadena, CA
Warwick’s La Jolla, CA
Bookworm of Edwards Edwards, CO
Boulder Book Store Boulder, CO
Maria’s Bookshop Durango, CO
Off the Beaten Path Bookstore Steamboat Springs, CO
Old Firehouse Books Fort Collins, CO
Tattered Cover Book Store Historic LoDo Denver, CO
Barrett Bookstore Darien, CT
R.J. Julia Booksellers Madison, CT
The Hickory Stick Bookshop Washington Depot, CT
UCONN Co-op Bookstore Storrs Mansfield, CT
Politics and Prose Washington, DC
Books & Books Inc. Coral Gables, FL
Inkwood Books Tampa, FL
Through the Magic Door Atlanta, GA
Book Vault Oskaloosa, IA
River Lights Bookstore Dubuque, IA
The Rediscovered Bookshop Boise, ID
Anderson’s Bookshop Naperville, IL
Seminary Co-Operative Bookstore Inc. Chicago, IL
The Book Table Oak Park, IL
Women & Children First Inc. Chicago, IL
Viewpoint Books Columbus, IN
Rainy Day Books Fairway, KS
Carmichael’s Louisville, KY
Poor Richard’s Bookstore Frankfort, KY
Octavia Books New Orleans, LA
Broadside Bookshop Inc. Northampton, MA
Brookline Booksmith Brookline, MA
Food For Thought Books Amherst, MA
HugoBookstores Andover , MA
Nantucket Bookworks Nantucket, MA
Porter Square Books Inc. Cambridge, MA
The Bookloft Great Barrington, MA
Novel Places Rockville, MD
Longfellow Books Portland, ME
Bestsellers Books & Coffee Co Mason, MI
Brilliant Books Suttons Bay, MI
McLean & Eakin Booksellers Petoskey, MI
Saturn Booksellers Gaylord, MI Grand Rapids, MI
Best of Times Bookstore Red Wing, MN
The Book Shelf Winona, MN
The Bookcase Wayzata, MN
Wild Rumpus Minneapolis, MN
Left Bank Books Saint Louis, MO
Subterranean Books Saint Louis, MO
Square Books Oxford, MS
Fact & Fiction Missoula, MT
Buxton Village Books Buxton, NC
Flyleaf Books Chapel Hill, NC
Island Bookstore Duck, NC
Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe Asheville, NC
Park Road Books Charlotte, NC
Quail Ridge Books & Music Raleigh, NC
The Regulator Bookshop Durham, NC
The Bookworm Omaha, NE
Water Street Bookstore Inc. Exeter, NH
Clinton Book Shop Clinton, NJ
Mendham Books Mendham, NJ
watchung booksellers Montclair, NJ
Words Maplewood’s Bookstore Maplewood, NJ
Bookworks Albuquerque, NM
Greenlight Bookstore Brooklyn, NY
Lift Bridge Book Shop Brockport, NY
Mysteries On Main Street Johnstown, NY
Oblong Books & Music – Rhinebeck Rhinebeck, NY
Red Fox Books Glens Falls, NY
River Read Books Binghamton, NY
WORD Brooklyn, NY
Brace Books & More Ponca City, OK
Annie Bloom’s Books Portland, OR
St. Helens Book Shop St. Helens, OR
Chester County Book Company West Chester, PA
Farley’s Bookshop New Hope, PA
Giovanni’s Room Philadelphia, PA
Harleysville Books LLC Harleysville, PA
Joseph Fox Bookshop Philadelphia, PA
Trappe Book Center Trappe, PA
Other Tiger Westerly, RI
Blue Willow Bookshop Houston, TX
BookPeople Austin, TX
Katy Budget Books Houston, TX
King’s English Bookshop Salt Lake City, UT
Fountain Bookstore Inc. Richmond, VA
Prince Books Norfolk, VA
Norwich Bookstore Norwich, VT
The Galaxy Bookshop Hardwick, VT
Eagle Harbor Book Co. Bainbridge Island, WA
Elliott Bay Book Company Seattle, WA
Fremont Place Book Co. Seattle, WA
Griffin Bay Bookstore Friday Harbor, WA
Liberty Bay Books Poulsbo, WA
Queen Anne Books Seattle, WA
Riverwalk Books Limited Chelan, WA
Third Place Books Lake Forest Park, WA
Village Books in Historic Fairhaven Bellingham, WA
Books & Company Oconomowoc, WI
Next Chapter Bookshop Mequon, WI
Redbery Books Cable, WI
Four Seasons Books Shepherdstown, WV
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NEWSFLASH: 2 New Stories Accepted for Publication

The author’s short stories “Contemptibly, A Hair” and “Ninjas! …in the Suburbs?” will be featured in PANK Magazine and The Houston Literary Review, respectively.

“Contemptibly, A Hair” will appear in the April 2011 issue of PANK, while Ninjas! …in the Suburbs?” will be appearing very soon in The Houston Literary Review’s December 2010 issue.  Really good and exciting things are happening here on Category Thirteen!

This week in the world of the literati 12/03/2010:

NPR’s Bill Goldstein took on Adam Levin’s “thousand-page debut splash,” The Instructions, calling it “daunting enough as a matter of real estate alone.” Read Goldstein’s review to find out whether he thinks it prevails in the Tolstoy Challenge (are books over a thousand pages worth reading over War and Peace?). (via TheRumpus)

Vulture reports that Paul Thomas Andersonwants to adapt Thomas Pynchon’s 2009 novel Inherent Vice for the big screen. (via TheMillions)

E.B. White on the tricky valuation of a writer’s time. (via Maud Newton)

Narrative Magazine’s Friday Feature: “Say Yes” by Tobias Wolff. (via Huffington Post Books)

The Daily Beast presents our guide to the best books to give to someone else—and maybe even keep to yourself.

Professors Seek Papers for ‘Zombie Academics’ Book. (via Galleycat)

The romance is gone between Apple iPad and the magazine industry. (via The New York Observer)

List Thursday: My Top 10 Literary Journals/ Magazines

1)     Tin House – I do my lists in reverse order. If there was only one journal I’d follow, it be Tin House. Its mix of eclectic writing and contemporary writers pushes it ahead of a competitive field.

2)     McSweeney’s – I’m counting both the online and quarterly, both sides of which have, surprisingly, a different feel to them. Online features short, conceptual pop-culture-oriented humor pieces where the more serious, yet eclectic stories are published in good old fashioned black and white on paper.

3)     Glimmer Train – The best writing contests, hands down, call Glimmer Train home. Alternating between topical and general short stories, there is almost always a place to submit your story for the chance to win some money, regardless of subject matter.

4)     n+1 – Fantastic essays are the reason I pick up n+1. Just recently, they featured an article concerning the future of writing in the context of “MFA vs. NYC,” which made the cost of a subscription worth it on its own.

5)     The Lifted Brow – The most stylistically original journal I’ve seen, published out of Australia. TLB was the first to have a previously unpublished piece from David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King which was later picked up by Harper’s.

6)     Alaska Quarterly Review – Guest editors like Amy Hempel and award winning storyists such as Lily Tuck and Patricia Lear make AQR a must read.

7)     PANK – It’s edgy, it’s hip and it’s one of the (e-)journals your future agent is reading right now. Shouldn’t you be too?

8)    Zoetrope: All Story – This one, like number 9, is pretty self-explanatory. Fantastic stories and nothing else. Gotta love me some Zoetrope.

9)     Granta – I was this close to not including GRANTA for the same reasons I did not include The Paris Review and The New Yorker. But because it’s published across the pond, it often gets overlooked. Some people I’ve talked to have actually (gasp!) never even heard of Granta. It’d behoove greatly you to check them out if this is you.

10)   Electric Literature – Who says you need a print copy to be stellar? Much like PANK, this is a publication your future agent and editor are reading. Plus Rick Moody and Aimee Bender appear in the same issue (No.3).

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