In the Mood to Consume: A College Text Adventure

You are on Boylston Street facing a low gray building. It has a fuchsia-pink door with a sign above it that says “Fred Wildlife Refuge.” There is another, smaller sign on the side of the building. You wonder briefly why it’s “Fred” and not “Fred’s.”

>west

You can’t go that way.

>read small sign

The sign says, “ENTER ON BELMONT STREET ONLY.”

>north

You are on Olive Street. You’re close to the Stumbling Monk, which has great beer.

> west

Wow, the Stumbling Monk is right on the corner. Maybe you should go there instead.

>south

Okay, obviously you’re determined to go to this art show thingie. It was the whole reason you came out on a Thursday night anyway, which you normally wouldn’t do since you have work in the morning.

You are on Belmont Street, facing a fuchsia door.

>go inside

You smash right into the door’s aggressively bright, aggressively hard surface.

>open door

The door is now open.

>enter building

Fred Wildlife Refuge seems pretty cool, even if it’s obviously hosting a college art opening. There’s a bar in the corner and some stairs leading up to a second level. It’s dimly lit with spotlights on the art pieces and there’s some techno music playing. Twenty or thirty college students are standing in clumps around the main floor, presumably discussing their improbable dreams of being professional artists and how they connect to the leaf-covered papier-mache globe upon which these dreams rely. Other art pieces include a series of abstract ballpoint-pen drawings (sure, just use the doodles you made during your Italian Futurism seminar, why not?) and a swaying-dots-over-translucent-ripples video projection (okay, actually kind of neat).

> find friends

The guy at the door wants to check your ID first.

>show ID

He hands it back to you wordlessly. There’s no stamp or anything.

>find friends

You cruise around the main floor for a minute, glancing at dimly lit faces. You conclude that college art openings would be a great place to pick up girls, if you were fifteen years younger and single, but you do not see your friends.

“Do you want to get a drink?” your girlfriend asks.

>fuck yes

There’s no need to be crude.

>go to bar

Amazingly, there’s no one in line.

> whiskey coke, please

The bartender hands you the drink. Unfortunately he’s overfilled it with ice and when you pick it up it slops onto your fingers, making them sticky. “Seven dollars,” he says. That may sound like a lot, but actually for Seattle it’s not crazy.

>go upstairs

On your way to the stairs you realize that there’s a table with snacks on it. Really not a bad spread.

>get snacks!

You eat some salty pita crisp thingies. There’s no hummus left for them. There never is. This follows a universal physical law dictating that the first two people to arrive at an art opening will be famished vegans who will promptly gorge themselves on the only readily available protein source.

>go upstairs

There are more college students up here. There is a small unmanned bar. There is a gray-green painting of cubes that is perhaps the worst thing you’ve ever seen, like an otherworldly assault from a neighboring dimension of ugliness on all that is beautiful in our own. Claire is here.

>claire!

“Hi, guys!” she says, in her threateningly cute way. Claire is the fuchsia door of friends: aggressively bright, gleefully obstructive. “You made it!”

Crystal is here. Shannon is here. Some girl you don’t know is here. You say hi to everybody.

>where’s mark bell?

“I’m right here, dude!” Mark Bell says. “I’m blending in!” You look down. Mark Bell is wearing an electric blue hoodie and is sitting on an electric blue couch. Did he plan this?

>where’s matt bell?

“My brother’s over there, behind the curtain. Go check it out.”

>north

In the far corner of this upstairs room, our three precocious authors – Max Kraushaar, Graham Downing, and Matt Bell – have created a little alcove by hanging a sheet between two pillars. Within its confines they are ensconced behind a banquet table, with a smaller table of books on one side and a nearly life-sized cardboard cutout of themselves on the other. This forces would-be book buyers to approach them like supplicants seeking favors.

>talk to matt bell

Matt Bell is busy signing books. There are at least six people between you and him, and the space is too small to get by them.

>wait

Okay, you’re waiting.

>wait

Still waiting. This could take a while.

>look at cutout

The cutout is nearly life-sized. In it the three authors are standing seriously, their faces carefully still, each holding a copy of the book they’re hawking. They are wearing nearly matching outfits of light blue button-up shirts and dark pants, the very same outfits they’re wearing tonight. You note that they’re arranged in order of facial hair length: clean shaven, short beard (Matt Bell) and long beard (you’re not sure if it’s Max or Graham – you’ve never met them before – but whichever it is, he has a quite glorious, long, silky beard, like something Dürer would want to paint).

You wonder how much it cost to print. You also have to admit, it makes the three guys sitting at the table look more impressive. I mean, they have an almost life-sized cutout! You know who else has a life-sized cutout? Spock, that’s who! And Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator! No one to fuck with, anyway.

>look at books

The books are stacked very neatly on an end table to your left. There are more than you expected, at least twenty or thirty remaining. A sign says they are $10. You wonder how much they cost to print.

>pick up book

The book isn’t large, maybe four inches by seven. Its cover is printed in color on some nice card stock, and has a Photoshopped image of two people standing in a park whose torsos for some reason are disappearing, like Michael J. Fox getting erased from time head-first. The authors’ names are on the back, and on the spine is the title: in the mood to consume. Apparently they subscribe to the no-capitals school of naming.

>buy book

Sorry, they’re still talking to other people and signing books. They may be writing a whole other book within the pages of this one, for all you know.

>hang out with friends

Cool. Mark already has a copy of the book anyway, if you want to look at it.

>ask mark about book

“So basically they had a month to do this project for school, and they spent it writing this book. I think it’s great.”

>read book

Actually it’s too dim in here to read easily. Also, you’re hanging out with your friends. Are you really going to ignore them and read a book?

>browse book, then

Fine. Don’t be snippy.

It has a title page, which the authors have very amiably signed. It has a table of contents, although apparently this does not describe the actual contents of the book, since page 60 is listed as “blank” (it’s not) and page 250 as “synergy//regenerative landscape” (the book is 142 pages long). The first real sentence, which you read aloud, is “Jesus didn’t die for this.”

“Jesus didn’t diet for this,” Mark corrects you.

>so he’s fat jesus?

“Yeah. So basically Santa Claus. Santa Claus is Fat Jesus.”

The next two pages are an essay on carburetors. The most remarkable thing about them is the spelling of “carburetor,” which somehow you really thought was “carburator.” No, okay, that does look wrong.

Then there’s a page about how water is like blood, a recounting of a Bill Hicks joke you’ve already heard, and an incomplete short story about a mutiny on the Ride the Ducks tour bus (it’s a Seattle thing). There’s some ASCII art of types of swords: katana, broadsword, flaming sword, sword with skull. There’s another short story about a haunted Mack truck.

Continuing with this catalogue, there are a lot of one- or two-sentence aphorisms a la Jack Handy’s Deep Thoughts, only not so funny. There’s a play-by-play description of a chess game, which kind of annoys you because the narrator’s opponent loses his queen on move 9, which means the game is basically over, but then it goes on for another seven pages. There are two pages of the sentence “THIS PAGE INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK.” There’s a list of videos on Vine. There’s a first-person narration of an online MUD, which gives you an idea for this review.

It is, in other words, a lot of nonsense. Occasionally there’s a chuckle.

Really, it’s not so much a book as a mockup of a book, an almost life-sized cardboard cutout of a book. It seems intended as a sort of winking mockery of book publishing and author signings in an age where anyone can walk into an Officemax with a flash drive and walk out with a stack of neatly bound paperbacks. Want to be an author? Great! Put your money on the table! Want to be someone who knows an author? Great! Put your money on the table!

There are, however, several valuable lessons here:

1. There’s safety in numbers. As one person, you have a limited number of friends willing to go to your events. But you know how many more friends three people have? Three times as many! Team up to pump your sales numbers.

2. Gimmicks work. Who doesn’t love a gimmick? Make the buying process itself an adventure and people will do it for the sake of a story to tell their friends. You’re suddenly contemplating the viral value of dressing in costume for your own self-published book signings.

3. Drunk people love buying stuff. Seriously. Forget bookstore signings. Find the busiest, loudest, drunkest bar in town and set up by the front door.

Finally you see that the crowd by the authors’ table has dispersed. The way is clear.

>buy book

Sure, why not? You’re in the mood.

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