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Postmodern Village
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From "Lost in the Jersey Shore Funhouse"
By Giovanna “Bookums” Barticelli

For whom is the Jersey Shore fun? Perhaps for juiceheads. For Ambrose “Bros Before Hoes” “Bro” Russo it is a “place of fear and confusion.” He has come to Seaside Heights with his crew for the summer, the purpose of their visit is “to creep,” the “most important” motive of the American male. Quotation marks are used to indicate titles of complete works in Associated Press style (a holdover from the days of typesetting), set off nicknames, and, for members of “a certain generation,” are called “air quotes” when used “excessively.” Such use usually implies “mockery” and can even result in “hand signals” during conversations. But that implies a certain “awareness” that is not always “present.” Some “air quote” usage is simply “erroneous,” such as the many “examples” found on the signs littering the boardwalk.

“Bro” was at that “awkward stage.” Having barely passed high school, he flunked out of college without knowing what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. Tonight was easy: get drunk and screw. Tomorrow? The same. But how to make a living out of that eludes him. On his way to Seaside Heights, he rides shotgun while his best friend Arturo “Ray Ray” Reyes, age 21, drives and screams “@*&#?!” at the traffic. Using symbols is a way to indicate obscenities without offending gentle readers. It shows tact and tastefulness on the part of the author, or perhaps implies judgment. As with other aspects of realism, it is an “illusion” that is being enhanced by purely artificial means. “Ray Ray” of course does not literally say “at symbol asterisk ampersand number sign interrobang”; “Ray Ray” does not know many of those words.

Description of physical appearance and mannerisms is one of several standard methods of characterization used by writers of fiction. It is also important to “keep the senses operating”; when a detail from one of the five senses, say taste, “hooks up” with a detail from another, say tactile, the reader’s imagination is oriented to the scene unconsciously. The procedure may be compared to the way some modern social commentators will document the results of their bowel movements to both Facebook and Twitter. The smell of Axe body spray and stale sweat fills the leased Cadillac Escalade like. Bro is on his iPhone to no one in particular, his grating countertenor screeching to be heard over the throbbing, repetitive music. The call over, he now starts to text, his artificially bronze fingers leaving greasy prints on the piano-finished case. “Ray Ray” still curses, clutching the wheel, color draining out of his artificially bronze fingers. “Ray Ray’ is as stressed as. The slender vein on his temple (which, in 40 years, will be massive though somewhat hidden by graying, bushy eyebrows once the preening years have passed, the salad days wilting and decomposing into a brown mass at the bottom of the fridge) sat erect. The Chilean-American author Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, in her undoubtedly ghostwritten novel “A Shore Thing,” now available in this country, uses the adjectives “great,” “nice,” “new” and “inflated” to describe breasts. [This is somewhat absurd, since “Snooki” does not know the word “wisely” or “sympathetic” and certainly is unlikely to know the word “inflated.”] Visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, gustatory.

. . .

In the funhouse, three important things happen. First, our “hero” finds underwear someone else had lost or discarded. This reminds him of “shedding one’s mortal coil,” a term both “Snooki” and “Ray Ray” do not know, of a snake “loosing” one’s skin (Bro even thinks in typos, sometimes), and then he remembers a song from his childhood, Paula Abdul’s “Cold Hearted,” the video for which consisted of her dancing very naughtily (for the time), and so he promptly watches that on YouTube via his phone. It is not the same as he remembers. Second, as Bro wonders at the endless replication of himself in mirrors, he ponders how great his hair is today, how pale he has gotten in the five days since his last tanning visit. He raises his shirt, which gives him proof through the night that his abs are still here. He can not just get lost in the mirrors. He has been lost in the sight of himself for a long time now. Three, he realizes with a pain that those abs will not last forever. He will grow old someday. He may get fat and pale. No woman will want to “smoosh” with him then -- unless he has money. He needs to earn it now. But how? He must sell out, and quick, and often.

. . .

He wonders: what are regular people like, those who can walk down the street without getting stared at and asked for autographs? How did he become one of the chosen people? He could do anything now that he feels he has conquered the funhouse: “write books” (though he cannot remember reading one), record an “album,” get a TV show, maybe a movie, run for elected office. How long will it last? He envisions a truly astonishing funhouse, incredibly complex yet utterly controlled from a great control room. He would be its operator: panel lights could go on and off in different rooms, one room just for “smooshing,” one for “eating,” a hot tub out back with a grill. Easy access to the beach and bars. Chicks to bang and chicks to cook. To make it interesting, you could watch people fall in and out of love, get drunk and sober, “like all day every day.” All the operator would have to do would be to point the camera on whomever was the most interesting at the time. If someone got boring; a switch would fix it all. If anyone seemed lost in the funhouse, all he had to was.

There’s a small part of him that wishes he had never entered the funhouse. But he has. Then he wishes he were dead. But he’s not. Therefore he will construct funhouses for others and be their secret operator -- though he would rather be among the juiceheads for whom funhouses are designed.