“Be a Cutting Machine”

For the third issue of Oberon, which came out in the fall of 2016, I published “Be a Cutting Machine,” a fiction on the cult of instruction. I make use of the language of acting manuals, writing gurus, and self-help guides, and consider the power of those who effectively mobilize that language. Some tangents: what handwriting reveals about the self, Vaslav Nijinsky’s graphomania, the history of writing machines. “Be a Cutting Machine” was written in response to the artist Boru O’Brien O’Connell’s “Reaching for a Soft Structure,” a project that appears in the preceding pages.

“Be a Cutting Machine” is currently only available in print, but here is the beginning (and here is a PDF):

You were backstage and your imagination just took off. You saw yourself in the Irish countryside on a cold and stormy night. Which way do you turn the paper? When you pick up a pen and begin to write, everything that ever happened to you travels down the nerves from your brain and through your arm, into your hand, and onto the paper. Your handwriting will tell the truth about who you are inside.

Landscape or portrait? You were lost. There was a pub. In you came through the door.

Seek them out, the flickerings across the face of your soul. They are infinite. Let go of everything you think you know. Do you prefer to use lined or unlined paper? Your ego and your successes, they are puny. Make life hazardous for yourself.