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Walter Carey

The Assignment [by Walter Carey]

Christina Hendricks“The only virtue in life is survival,” Sanders said with his typical swagger and thick irony. “There is nothing heroic about the ‘survival of the fittest,’ a blasphemous notion and not a democratic one. Business is business. Television killed not only the radio but the movies, too. The movies had already taken care of Broadway. Messages with multiple syllables went obsolete. All that and the downsizing too had already gone down. Only one commodity retained its inflation-proof value."

And now? Now he was making a big bet on cloud computing. “As alternating current was to the rise of electricity, so fiber optic technology spelled out the death of the p.c.”  He smiled arrogantly. “Can you make a story out of that?”

The job was to write up the story in a one-line poem of one hundred words or less with lots of pictures, actors, women crying, men going out of business, a brutal election campaign going down to the wire, a scenario no stranger than reality but better-looking and happy-seeming as the faces in the ads for Miss Subways in the 1950s. You hung at the straps at seven in the morning, closed your eyes, married your secretary and kept her in fur from Fred Leighton with an occasional bracelet from Harry Winston. A man accompanying a woman to such a place was a hero. 

But now we do not have heroes. We do not have secretaries, let alone marry them. We have assistants and we have business associates and some of them are making big bets on Bitcoin or on disruptive technologies while I toil on my one-line poem of one hundred words or less to advertise a fake reality.

November 2011

Ed. note: Walter Carey is at work on a cultural history of the 1960s.

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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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