The author of this work-recently re-titled: "The Author is Dead"-Morris N. Steine, died just moments after its completion. The details of his death are still pending investigation.
The unabridged text of "The Author is Dead" appears below.
"The Author is Dead"
by Morris N. Steine
My name, for the record, is Morris Steine. (This is not a nom de plume.) It is on this day, October 23, 20-, that I hereby begin a fictional account of my own death, to be imagined in as dramatic and poetical a fashion as possible. Why, however, would an author want to write about his own death, you ask? Why would he want to kill himself by way of the pen (rather than the sword)? Please allow me to explicate for you my deplorable situation…
Over the years I have undergone various tests to try and determine what is to blame for this quotidian quagmire of all-encompassing malaise I've been sinking in. It's more than just normal depression, I assure you, for the sickness in my head is accompanied by a plethora of bodily symptoms ranging from dizziness and nausea to fatigue and frequent stomachaches to night-sweats and nightmares that keep me from getting any rest at all. And when I awaken from my restless stupor every morning - terrifyingly tautological images still stomping around the periphery of my consciousness - I am not only exhausted, but also wish that I could sleep soundly: forever. As this is not possible without ending my life by my own hand - by committing suicide, to put it rather bluntly - I instead prefer to use it (the hand) to grasp the pen and end things here on the page, where I can destroy my dubious double without physically harming myself. Further, as this fictitious written account of my death will outlive the real me anyhow, it will serve as an alternate - though equally valid - version of what happened to me, the author, Morris N. Steine.
The text proper follows:
I am sitting here at my desk at 16:55 (4:55 p.m.), writing the opening to my fictitious death story, which I've given the working title, "The Death of a Writer." (I was going to call it "The Death of the Author," but then realized that Roland Barthes had beat me to it by over three decades, which in turn plunged me into a sort of derivatively hazy funk…) It is a dreary, early-autumn day, cool and breezy outside, and I have just returned home from teaching my morning and early-afternoon English classes at the university. As I rest my sore wrists on the plastic notebook computer's keyboard and begin to type, my eyes burn with tiredness. I have promised myself not to revise this one like all the rest: this one has to be spontaneous, visceral, real. Indeed, only I can give this writer the death he deserves. And so I will.
…As I begin to type out the words I had earlier written by hand in my notebook ("My name, for the record, is…"), I am mesmerized by the way that one word follows the next, one character falling in place after the last (my characters are always signifiers of something) in a deceptively ordered pattern that reveals itself to me as if by magic. This is going to be a successful death; I can feel it in my aching writer's bones…
The doctor holds the stainless-steel scalpel to the light, makes the incision so quickly that his female assistant has to blink three times in rapid succession to make sure she isn't dreaming. She is staring at the patient's maze of bloodless intestine, which sits quietly inside his abdomen looking as though it were made of some sort of rubber tubing. The doctor has afforded her - his oh-so-lovely nurse - this splendid view by daintily peeling back the man's flap of abdominal skin, thereby displaying the coil of fetid guts as though it were a work of art. A moment later, he says,
"Hand me the revolver, please."
She clears out her ears by thrusting her gloved fingers into their openings and twisting them around thrice clockwise before asking him to please repeat his peculiar question.
"I said, Revolver, please!"
"Haven't you ever listened to The Beatles before, girl? Before your time? You know that I can't work without music. I'm like those doctors in Nip/Tuck…Gotta have tunes."
She has no idea what he's rambling on about; nonetheless, she smiles and begins to look for her boss's stash of CDs. What she finds, instead, is a large pistol. It looks heavy. Her heart beats faster as she reaches her hand out and -
"Give me that! You don't have the training to use surgical tools yet. Besides, it's obscene for a girl your age…"
As she hands the gun over to him, she notices a glob of gelatinous slime covering his latex surgical gloves and has the urge to retch.
"Now we can proceed. Music!"
The Beatles's "Revolution #9" filters into the room from the vents in the ceiling. She's feeling out of sorts, suddenly. She says, Doctor, I'm feeling out of sorts suddenly. The voice is only in her head, however: she hasn't actually opened her mouth.
"That's better," the doctor says, shoving the shaft of the gun into the patient's left nostril. The patient's eyes snap open. He says, What's with my stomach, Doc? though his lips do not move. The doctor answers, It doesn't matter anymore and pulls the trigger…The young nurse screams and wakes up, the book she had been reading before falling asleep still on her lap.
As I was composing the lines of "Death of a Writer," I began having second thoughts about killing myself. I mean, did I really want to die? Should I not perhaps err on the side of caution by not allowing myself to expire on paper just yet? I was still young, after all (I still am). What if, by imagining my own death, I was actually opening a can of slimy, writhing worms I didn't in fact want to open? On the other hand, how could I go on like this, always ill, never happy, haunted by apparitions that came to me at night and informed all of my daylight activities. But why am I speaking of these things as if they are already in the past? Aren't I writing this in the (historical) present? Or have I already committed a literary crime and just don't yet know it? I fear that once the decision to die has been made, there's no turning back. I'd better stop having second thoughts and start thinking about Last Rites instead…