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195 words about George Mills
On those who find themselves in the lifeboat by accident
You get the sense sometimes that you belong in a certain place within a grander cosmology. This is ego, self-hatred, two sides of the same coin. Of course there is no big universe-controlling sovereign, or if there is, it hasn’t heard and doesn’t care about your latest exploits, it is not erecting invisible walls for you to walk into, place your overheated brow against and despair. It’s not funneling you toward a good-paying job and an attractive partner, either. I don’t know, Stanley Elkin asks, what if it were? The lie of social mobility under capitalism, sure, but what if a thousand years of guys named George Mills were doomed to shovel shit and haul furniture and run errands, live below-averagely, vacillating permanently between a kind of cursed grace and outrage at their proscribed predicament? Wouldn’t that be funny and heartbreaking and awful? To live your whole life knowing — pushing back against, occasionally, but in the end always knowing — that you’re fucked. And to assume that there is a better life out there that simply isn’t accessible to you because of who you are. Wouldn’t that make for wild and fascinating fiction? And might it ring true?