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Rant #91
(published Mid-year, 2002)
The Idiot's Guide to Attila the Hun
by Claire King

Move to Germany.After approximately three years of living in a cocoon, go into the internet for the first time in your life because a friend from your California writing workshop tells you there's this place called Web Del Sol that lists all these e-zines and thinks that might be a good way for you to read new American writing without spending a fortune on Amazon.de. Look and see that Attila the Hun's journal is on the net now. Go into it and look around because you've heard him on the radio off and on for years. And though you couldn't really care less about him, preferring David Sedaris and Ira Glass BY FAR, you find that his rag is quite amusing, especially when it come to the poems about thongs. So, decide to send in one of your own hilarious things.

Lo and behold it will get accepted and you will receive one of the more hilarious acceptance letters that you've ever gotten.

Start reading this rag with more dedication and notice the little bribe at the bottom of each piece which screams, "Go into the tombs now! Discuss this piece!"

Well, go ahead! You're an idiot! What have you got to lose? Find out that you can barely make heads or tails out of what they are talking about. They aren't, in fact, discussing many of the pieces at all but are instead ranting at each other and lobbing outrageous insults from the rafters on high like a bunch of stuffed shirts who think they're really smart and funny and it all has something to do with surrealism, which you don't get at all, because, while you have a passing knowledge of some of the paintings, you weren't even aware that surrealists wrote things and this is because... well, need I say it? You're an idiot!

Then stumble upon this one thread that's really entertaining... all about the Elian Gonzales case. Remember that you'd started a story yourself about this very topic last spring but never finished it. Get all reinspired about it when you read this and decide to turn the graveyard diggers into a bunch of dogs and lampoon them using pornography to get your point across because that's what pornography was used for sometime back in French history — to lampoon the politics of the day — you know that much, even if you ARE an idiot.

Send said story into said rag, siting the various characters who inspired it. You're actually a little smitten with one of them, the one who claims to be a surrealist lawyer, and since he stars in the story, and you semi quote him quite a bit, you're actually worried that he might accuse you of plagiarism if the piece ever comes out, because, well, you don't really understand what an exquisite corpse is — that it is, in fact, exactly this — a bunch of writers being inspired by the other's ideas — because, well, you're an idiot, and since he's a lawyer, you're kind of afraid of him.

After three months —- you're not exactly the kind of idiot who just rushes headlong into things after all — in fact, you're a little conservative and easily cowed — you decide to post a response yourself in the necropolis. It's because they're so rude; you feel you have to defend some poor woman poet who's being buried alive. And also because, admit it — you want to call attention to yourself. This is because:

1.) you're a lonely housewife stuck in a remote corner of a foreign country with no one to talk to.
2.) you want Attila to give you a promotional blurb for your little book which you're trying to sell, and
3.) you're an idiot.

At about this same time, you discover some toy poet's poems in there and think they are hilarious. You notice that one of the morgue owners has written a review of this toy poet. You write them both a funny fan letter but the one to the toy actually gets bounced back to you so you're stuck with corresponding with his biographer.

At first you're excited to be corresponding with him because you seem to have a lot in common. He has been living abroad in seclusion for years too and like you, is also married to a silent type, and has two little kids, which happens to be one of your favorite subjects. He knows a lot about writing and seems connected to the writing world in a way that you wish you could be. He even has a new book coming out! He shows an interest in you; he says your piece is funny and asks if he can see your picture. This is more than you can expect from most of your real friends — many of whom have dropped out of correspondence with you over the past three years because they can not relate to your situation and you're so far away and well, that's just the way it goes when you're an idiot living in a far-out spiral galaxy.

You finally send him pictures, (and only after he has shown you some of him and his family, I might add.) You send him one bad one and one more normal one, because in your heart of hearts you think it's odd that he wants to see your picture and you've never liked being judged by your looks —you've found it to be a real problem in your life (both back when you were young and attractive and now that you are overweight and middle aged)and so you think it would be funny to send him the Goofy Poppin Fun ball one in which you look like a hag, even though you're fairly pretty, because you know it will be a shock. And besides, the longer you correspond with him, the less you think you like him. He's too high falutin for you and you've been getting the idea that maybe he's a woman hater to boot.

Then you make three huge mistakes:

1.) You confide to him that your agent couldn't sell your memoir because it was about living in Germany, and no one is interested in that god-awful place.
2.) You agree to take on the role of a pagan god and play his sidekick to the nemesis of the other corpse flies, and
3.) You ask him if he's seen that sexy surrealist lawyer around with whom you are a little bit smitten.

He starts calling you a Nazi there at potter's field because well, you DID sign on as Wotan, the Wagnerian god of the Walkuere — and although you did so out of a fun loving sense of poetry and magic and environment (he is the god who predates but most closely corresponds to the Odin of Scandinavian lore after all) you get scared when he starts calling you a Nazi because you have in fact been accused of this by people who wondered why you are living in Germany in the first place. You take him seriously in his accusations of you being a quisling, because, well, you're an idiot — but because you are a nice kind of idiot and very insecure, you don't want the other ghouls to think badly of you, so you decide to rewrite your memoir on line for a couple of days over your birthday weekend thinking you must turn this all around by using humor and love and even sex to calm everyone down. You even enlist the help of friends from home in your efforts, thinking that is very surreal of you — to stage an invasion, so to speak, of the lines. You email them all to go to the graveyard and help you rewrite your memoir in whatever goofy way they can think of, from whatever corner of your history they know you from. Of course, most of your friends can't make heads or tails out of what is going on and couldn't care less, so you end up taking on a myriad of personalities to get your point across — Wotan is just a goofy girl isolated in a black hole and not a Nazi, not at all.

The mean ex-friend orders that the gates to the mausoleum be closed because of you. You've overstepped the bounds! He screams. You are alien to the spirit of this God's acre, which is, after all, an intellectual gathering spot — not a circus for Teutonic gods, dumb belles and other animals, he thunders. You are flattened by the shock of what you have provoked. You are so publicly humiliated.

You start corresponding with the surrealist lawyer dude and fall into a swoon with him after Attila the Hun slaps you to the floor with a splintered ruler because of how you are acting in his reliquary and your sexy lawyer man reaches out to you in an off hand way and offers his support, with you not suspecting at all that he really actually IS Attila the Hun, because you're too much of an idiot. You offer him your breasts in return, because, for one thing, you're a lonely housewife who's married to a silent type/workaholic and isolated in the hinterlands, not to mention an idiot.

When the gates of the vault are reopened in a couple of weeks, the ex-friend continues to rage at you, and yet you feel a subtle support from others, as if they themselves feel that he is the one who is wrong, and that they should be tolerant of a newcomer, at least allow you to participate, as long as you don't overstep those invisible bounds. You feel the need to prove that you can walk beside them, that you can even bring something of value to the slab, even if you are an idiot.

Did I mention that you are new to cyber space and never knew about such things as search engines? Unbelievable as that is, it's true. You've only recently become aware that people can look for your writing on line. Your whole life, you've been fairly protected in your writing, because no one in your family reads anything you've ever been pubbed in, so you've enjoyed a guilty freedom. Suddenly, here you've landed in a medium where anything you say can find its way into the hands of anyone who is looking for it. Your mother in law even found something within the last month and wrote to you about it. O the horror!

So what does Attila do? He starts threatening to publish something you've sent in, asking that he publish it under a pseudonym. You are terrified that he is now planning to publish it under your real name.

What else can you do but write with all your might to save your life? You have to win editorial indulgence. You are in danger of being exposed as the free-expressing and therefore traitorous daughter you are!

You endure the stinging barbs from the head Sexton, who seems to be on an all out witch hunt for you at this point, and in the meantime, your dog story comes out and all hell breaks lose.

Over the next couple of months, you single handedly turn the whole compost heap into a garden paradise because, as any idiot can tell you, the most beautiful flowers need shit to grow. You find yourself in a writing frenzy with several of theshitheads who want to linger there with you and seem to be wanting you to write poetry. They seem to be wanting to write a book together with you. They seem to be wanting you to learn how to make a website. They seem to want to know all about you and even see your old photo albums. They seem to be in love with you! And yet none of it is on the up and up. That is, no one will really come right out and tell you what is going on and you waffle between thinking they are wanting to help you in your writing career and maybe rescue you from what is becoming, in your mind, a more and more untenable situation there in La-la land — you waffle between thinking that and thinking that they are out to steal your identity and hurt you, and are actually just using all your ideas for their own projects, just USING you and not really caring about you at all. You don't understand what's going on in any way, shape or form and it's fun and upsetting and inspiring all at the same time. It's a hundred different things a day and it manifests itself in your dreams at night. You can't get away from it. Plus the more humorously you write, the more turned on you get by the whole thing — the more, truth be told, _erotic_ you feel, because, after all, that's the kind of gal you are deep down inside. The kind who gets aroused by humor, your own or anyone else's.

You're living out this waking dream which is at all hours dominated by this inner writing life. One of the vampires even promises to come and visit you there in your remote corner of the solar system and you're all excited because you're intermittently very fond of him, in between hating him and fearing him, and furthermore, because you are an idiot — you believe he's coming and will clear everything up with you when he does.

Of course he doesn't come and you fall into a kind of mental depravity which leaves you vulnerable and stinging and leads you down yet another stranger path where they are wanting you to open up a brothel, all the while driving you into a smaller and smaller corner of the pond. They want to teach you to have cyber sex. You honestly didn't know such things existed! You'd just fantasized that you would write humorous and erotic poems and stories together.

So now you start to get the idea that they are making a high concept art film script out of it and you are going to be credited. You're a little freaked out by this latest twist in the road though, because it doesn't feel so much like a writing project — it feels like you are their whore — and you're not sure how you feel about that, despite having come on board as Wotan, a Pagan god/dess. (It's not good, I can tell you that much.)

And you certainly don't want to have a cyber affair with Rury the Ranter,even if this has all been a surreal trick to haze you to begin with. Because you feel you'll never get over that. That even if you have become a cartoon in their eyes, you are actually a very nice and sensitive person who had been very hurt and bewildered by it all, despite your goofy bravado and seemingly egotistical postings.

You are, at this point, more enraptured with the idea of writing poetry than ever before, but they all just refuse to do that with you now. They just want to have sex. And not only that — it has to be sex without love! And it has to be that their identities will remain a secret, even though they all know perfectly well who you are, because they trapped your computer number the first time they led you here and had you log-in. But you're such an idiot and so eager for love and acceptance and to figure the whole mystery out that you go along with it — granted — with some kicking and screaming and much pulling of hair, but nonetheless. You endure this off and on for months even though the internet costs are causing your European phone bill to skyrocket and even though it upsets you emotionally to the extreme.

You try to be a good sport, and you try to reform them by playing the role of Scheherazade and Shakira, because you've lost your mind at this point. Plus you've decided you'll prove to them all that you really are psychic by finding the one you're looking for in there, even though no one will tell you who they are. Then, when you finally do find the one you want and are even enjoying yourself at long last, they will shut the site down.

Meanwhile the mean ex-friend will set up a website for silly poetry and invite you to submit to its contest, because he feels bad that he's put you through so much and wants to give you a little happiness across the waves, and besides, he's in love with you himself now, and thinks he's your doppelgänger, (although in point of fact, he is not anywhere close to being your doppelgänger because you don't shop at Walmart even though one opened up in your area recently and you don't eat at McDonald's — you only drink the coffee when your husband insists on going there.)That's what YOU'LL think anyway, and you will go ahead and submit something, because, well, need I say it? You're an idiot! You will actually win something in his contest and he will send your son the 15 bucks in prize money in an envelope which is stained with cum and peanut butter, freaking the poor college aged kid out.

And one of the good poets, who as it turns out is not a colorful herb but some kind of brilliant baldie who has his own small press, will set up a website for you that's full of all the old romantic and classical poems and direct you there via a poem he writes about you being his horse named Maiden whom he wants to break, or that's what you'll THINK anyway, because you're an idiot! He'll play the white angel for the rest of your life because he wants to encourage you to write poetry. He thinks you're poetic in a serious way, even though you are embarrassed by this at this point and really just want to write low brow, stupid, funny stuff.

And last of all, the toy poet whom you are actually really and truly in love with by now (or at least you were at the time I wrote this, it's not true anymore) because of all the perverse things that have happened, including his bringing in a bunch of lunatics whom you used to admire and be jealous of in college and who have all gone on to more brilliant careers than yourself, will take on the role of the black angel and start taking credit for some of YOUR poems which have shown up on an e-zine while simultaneously black listing you with all the best underground net zines which you'd really like to become a contributor to. He will be doing this for two reasons:

1.) You are way funnier than him and he is a little bit smitten with you.
2.) He wants to help your career by making you so embattled that you will write the most outrageous, surrealistic, Kafkaesque novel of the new Millennium — all about being an idiot lost in cyberspace — and you will get rich and famous. AS IF!

And Attila the Hun, that little dictator, will repeatedly wrap you in moldering winding sheets with each new excavation at his precious boneyard, even though you have long since stopped submitting to him, because he can't control you and has flown into a rage over having lost your love and devotion and he still needs you to be his idiot in that Dostoyevsky kind of way. Or that's what you'll think anyway, because you're such an idiot.

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