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A Narrative Experiment

Assume that once upon a time you knew someone but several years ago lost contact with him. One day, whimsically curious about what he has made of himself, you set out on the Internets to search for what was there to be discovered. Among the things you found was a book review, posted on a major bookseller’s Web site, written by none other than the person you seek. Indeed, for several reasons you have no doubts whatsoever about his authorship. This is the full text of the review:

If you wonder how the struggles that you face in network marketing affect your and your spouses life, this book is great. You get a great prospective from a wife that went through the struggles of being at home while her husband was out building their future wealth with network marketing. A great book for anyone who has a negative spouse towards the industry.

Does the review provide sufficient detail to allow you to construct a reasonable narrative of this person’s life? If so, pray tell what is that reasonable narrative? (And of course, when I say reasonable I really mean no such thing.)



I realize that the search really doesn’t need to include your history with the person, but it does make for an interesting introduction to the question, no? It implicates you in your desire for—what else?—gossip!

J could have a field day coming up with a narrative for this.

On another note, I’d hate to be these people’s marriage counselor.

Really, who couldn’t? The subtext is hardly sub.

Do you have to wonder how it affects your spouse? That is my question…

Oh I never realized that you didn’t like my launching into a spiel on why puffy-chips (made from soy and other bean by products) at every church picnic made you feel like I was always pushing my wares on our church friends…

You mean you don’t like the fact that all of our garage and 3/4 of our bedroom is full of eucalyptus soap?

I always thought your parents appreciated my trying to include them in the family business every holiday we spend together, and phone-call, and sunday football game, and during phil’s little league, and…

OH you mean that Sarah, the girl who grew up with you and made the blood-pact behind your parent’s wateroak still lives in town? I thought that she had moved away 5 years ago when the realestate thing fell through.

Darling, I know our clothes always smell like old-lard, but this stuff really does get the whites whiter!

Baby, someday, when the big shipment comes in and the whole neighborhood is under me and other neighborhoods are under them, then, then we can go to western sizzlin to celebrate… till then it’s these processed cheese-stuffed cotton-dogs… but hey, they keep us regular!

i realize that there this isn’t “narrative”

but i’ve moved beyond narrative

For years she stormed out of the room when he made his pitch. If her sister mentioned how expensive her phone bill was, he would begin, “You know, we save 15% every month on our phone bill through a great program! I think I have some brochures right here in my hand if you’re interested!” But she was already gone. When their son’s teacher complained of a headache and he asserted that he could get her hooked up with really good aspirin—better than she could buy in a store—, she was sitting in the car. He implored her, “Honey, we can build our capital better if we present a united front! I can do a lot with direct marketing, but we can do much more together!” He didn’t understand her consternation. Perhaps, he thought, she just doesn’t like him dealing in OTC drugs and telephone rates. So he looked for other companies, any company that would please her. None did.

Narrative or not, it’s a nice little glimpse into a form of marital hell.

I know I shouldn’t encourage you.

5: Beyond? Better than!

Wait, I think I’ve seen this film. I doubt Will Smith will win the Oscar for it, but it was, sadly, depressing.

The confluence of direct marketing and 9 broke J’s heart into a thousand million pieces.

Earlier, I couldn’t quite understand why I had deja vu, but deja vu was definitely had. Now I know why.

It’s not that there wasn’t a rage in her, but she was the kind of girl who would stare blankly and smile when things got under her skin. She’d learned to mumble euphamisms under her breath from watching her mother as she washed the dishes, making sure to neatly place the breakables in a safe, secure place before slamming the tupperware down next to the glasses with a muffled dagnabit. She’d seen, as well, how her mother had deftly played jacob to her father’s essau; she’d always assumed the plate of lentils was seasoned with the blood-red petals of her mother's sorrell. Behind her Tammy Faye smile, she knew how the world worked and what made it go round. She was aware of the perverse rhythm of couch and jewelry that kept her parent’s marriage the envy of the young at hearts at their church, and, from when her mother spoke to her about the birds and the bees, sometime around her eighth birthday, she knew she was their secret-keeper. Feminine wiles, this is what they called it.

But she couldn’t any more… the corn-husk glasses and plates were indestructible; the switch-grass fiber sheets weren’t worth shredding; burning the processed-processed meat and sprout meals in a can, only made them taste almost edible; and even the gifts he gave her were knock-off zirconium oxide, rewards for leading the region in sales-pitches. She had nothing to bargin with but the lentils seasoned with blood-red sorrells… but he only had moving product and acquiring associates on the brain.

then again, that’s not narrative either, really. it’s mainly description… it’s all foreplay and not realplay and certainly no postplay glow

(Description is underrated.)

This is what a negative spouse toward the industry looks like: One day he came in, arms full of new brochures. “Honey,” he said, “These are really fantastic! Just last week Mrs. Overaton at church was saying she really loved the air purifier, and asked whether we had any smaller ones. It’d be perfect for Jack’s dorm room, she said. And what do you know, it’s a brand new model! Baby, if I can get her to buy one more, she’ll want to sell them herself. Think about the Rotary Club!” As he spoke, her knuckles went pale around the wooden spoon she clenched in her hand. She was stirring the lentils clear out of the nonstick pot. But he didn't notice. He was explaining that this was the time he'd put the key to their future wealth in the right lock. Jack’s dorm room air purifier it would push them into the next tier; it would get them a 5% increase in returns for every unit he sold, and a 1% increase for every unit his associates sold.

As the crimson lentils splattered and stained the linolium floor, she could only think of the real estate / house-flipping / property-management deal he’d gotten her brother to go along with. And her Tammy Faye smile began to show its frayed edges.

Excited by the prospect of finally moving to the next tier, of getting to give the pitches to those who go give the pitches, rather than always being the one who waggled into friends’ living rooms with whiteboard easel, flow-charts, and samples in tow, he felt a rush of blood. It was only natural, and he moved in to nibble on the nape of her neck.

She could tell in the deliberateness of his sidle where his thoughts had ambled. Anticipating his Brazil-nut chapsticked lips salavering all over her hindneck, she bent down to wipe the lentils off the linolium. “Look, I really have to concentrate on the stew… Can’t you just let me do that? Must you always be so… so… dagnabit!“ She knew and she could not bear another climax ending in a litany of oh, jack! oh! the purifiers! oh, 5M! M, M, M tape! afri…can gu…um! gotta love.. love that thai turpen! thai turpen! urpen..tineliniment!.

He did not see the tear fall; nor did he see her smile change. Today, would be the beginning of his reeducation.

of course, he has yet to read the book… but in this world of one thing leading to another, he might just find a savior in DF and her book… who knows, he might even start an accountability group that dedicates itself to living out DF’s principles.

then again, he might sell the purifiers and move to tahiti, leaving her to her lentils and her parent’s young at heart group

I wondered if you’d go searching—or did you know the book already?

It’s clearly too late to avoid melodrama, but if we want to avoid farce (I’m not convinced it’s worth avoiding) the characters can’t know the book—the conflict survives best if there’s no magic solution through DF. DF, after all, is intent to reduce tension and sew understanding in the negative spouse, to beat down the spouse’s resistance.

oh, i wasn’t necessarily proposing that df be the panacea to their ills… it’s much more interesting to see a complex person outmaneuver, albeit instinctually, the facile solutions of canned crap. it’s the program meets life and life opens up a six-pack of whoop on it.

but, maybe this is now too programatic… plus, i wouldn’t even want to leaf through the book.

Not even curious? I for one would love to mine it for stories from a spouse who is negative to the industry. I also would love to make up stories about a spouse who is negative toward the industry, so I guess I’m of two minds about it.

well, it’s more a function of time and whatnot… if i were actually serious about writing story about a spouse negative to the industry, then i would be very interested in procuring it from my local library. otherwise, it will remain one of the many books i will never read; indeed, it won’t even make the list of those that i will read when i’m dead