Charli and Nico’s wedding blog has an uninvited guest: a commenter convinced the bride is being romanced by the brother of the groom. To save her from a terrible mistake he adopts multiple identities on multiple message boards, sharing his fears for Charli, his outrage at being thwarted, and the romance, years ago in his analog past, that first attracted his meddlesome care.
Cranky, hilarious, and incisive, The More You Ignore Me takes on Internet etiquette, the distortions of voyeurism, and the incessant, expansive flow of words that may not be able to staunch loneliness, but holds out the hope of talking it to death.
“Nichols has engaged in a flabbergasting act of literary ventriloquism . . . The More You Ignore Me is a Notes from Underground by way of the Huffington Post.” —The Stranger (Seattle)
“Want a reminder what you can do with fiction? Told entirely as a blog post comment from the perspective of a dude crashing a wedding website, this psychologically-driven novel is what you’re looking for.” —Bustle
“[Nichols] captures the wheedling tone, the aggravating escalation, the stultifying self-involvement of the Internet troll . . . Raw enough to bring the dark laughter of recognition.” —Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“An experimental novel of obsession and violation that makes Nicholson Baker and Mark Leyner look positively banal.” —Kirkus Reviews
|Publisher:||Coffee House Press|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||891 KB|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Rachil sold tickets in a brightly lit glass-enclosed booth that sat in front of the shabby University cinema, which itself fit snugly inside a student union, a campus hub at the center of a tawdry rural town made nationally prominent only by this second-rate educational institution's rah-rah football team.
Seen from above, the campus looked like a metastasizing cancer growth in an otherwise robust body of farmland.
A boy named Corn ran the cinema's projector in a dark concrete room that smelled like wet Band-Aids and trench foot.
It was 1989.
Night after night, Corn would curl his lithe body around the film splicer, snipping out the stills of titillating scenes for his "private collection," sweat pouring from his greasy scalp as his wormy fingers did their wormy work.
Night after night, Rachil, an almond-eyed brunette with the dark allure of a young Ally Sheedy, would sell her allotment of tickets and, drawn by a rank impulse quite inexplicable, would knock on the fireproof door to the projection booth while Corn built up or broke down the film.
He would heave open the door and bid her enter with a pervy grin.
Up she would climb, mounting the few steps to the projection platform where Corn sat amid the fluttering reels of celluloid.
On some nights, as Rachil and Corn lounged in that dark bunker, he would watch her laugh her perfect laugh and wonder how he hadn't always known about the blaring clown horn that existed inside of him.
It now blared all day long: RAAAACHHHHILLLL RAAAACHHHHILLLL!
Yes, it was the horn of love, readers. We can almost pity poor Corn.
Before this horn, Corn had merely expelled his seed into/onto whatever deluded virgin crossed his path without a care for "feelings," but now, there she was, leaning on the steel banister on the stairs of the projection room, rolling her eyes as she recounted tales of barroom boys with earnest ardor, and suddenly the horn sounded in Corn's heart:
It rendered him glassy-eyed and mute and, yes, full of feelings.
"What a dork!" Rachil would say of a recent beau, chewing a pinky nail, settling onto the projection room floor cross-legged.
"Totally," Corn would say, in a patently false imitation of the argot of the day, willing to give up everything, including his very way of speaking, to stay in her presence. "Can't these morons see that it's much more fun to be free of 'relationships' and all their, like, entrapments?" "I know," she would say.
"I mean," he would say, "they could be like us, right? Best friends!" "Sex," she would say, idly plucking an eyelash. "Yuck."
He would smile his secret smile to himself and hunch over to hide his bourgeoning "member."
Corn could hardly believe no one else heard all this honking in his heart, that no one could see the falseness of his every move nor understand that his canny claim of interest in her life was simply a screen for his true lustful urges.
But no one could, it seemed, so he nearly pulled off his plot to enslave Rachil sexually, but enter a sad Percival who blithely lurched along the campus paths, his own heart honking the same sad tune.
No, dear readers, not me!
Don't be silly!
It was, yes, Corn's lumbering, wayward childhood chum, who we will for legal reasons here call "Rico."
Rico disrupted Corn's penetrating line!
Rico would, on these very same nights, drag his bootheels along the leaf-strewn paths of the campus, humming tuneless tunes, thinking of Jesus.
How do I know these things?
Patience, dear readers, patience — all will be revealed in due time.
But perhaps a true novel would present something of its narrator at this point?
Should we have had a preface or a prologue, something indicating that this "I" construct existed somewhere first as pure thought, as a formal "Point X"?
But then that this "I" was slowly pinched into the world, unborn from reality into this farce?
I remember darkness, shadows, fingers, and hands.
When I was a child I was treated as a child, and so I left that child behind.
Even before I left, I was no longer there.CHAPTER 2
Corn and Rachil were at the dark biker bar where they had begun spending their after-hours, "alone together" to borrow a phrase.
The biker bar was Corn's idea, a futile attempt to prove to Rachil that he was a "stud," though he was secretly terrified some leather-bound pituitary case would test his manhood by running a swarthy hand over Rachil's supple body, his lust-crazed eyes daring Corn to "do something" as his fingers probed and pinched.
Corn worried, too, that perhaps secretly Rachil would enjoy such pinches and would rut with a biker on the pool table in front of everyone while he stood impotently by.
On this particular fateful night, in the midst of these puerile thoughts, he watched Rachil skip off to fetch more beer at the bar, leaving Corn by himself in the shabby booth where, alone for more than a minute with his paranoid thoughts, he became restless.
There was a swarthy fellow near the pinball machine.
Would he be the one?
Damnit! Where had Rachil gone? Where was his beer?
Not only was he paranoid, but he required service!
Corn made a sour face and turned toward the bar, and there — oh there at the nicked and worn bar of the Boiler Room — he saw her.
What was this!?!?
He saw his Rachil, his point B, shamelessly flirting with some hulk with his back turned!
The hulk sported an incongruous floral-print shirt and a tattered cowboy hat.
Who was this usurper at the bar who caused Corn's love to laugh uproariously at some joke?
She placed a hand on the floral-print chest and gave a playful push.
An unexpectedly powerful horn crept slowly up Corn's spine, engulfing his skull and blaring out through his eyes RAAAAACHHHHILLLLL!!!!!
He gritted his teeth.
He got up.
"You!" Rachil said, peering around the hulk as Corn approached, laughing, hugging Corn, her bare arms sliding behind his neck with a strange supple grace.
She kissed Corn's cheek.
That had never happened before.
"Look who's here!" she said, waving a bangled arm toward the hulk, who turned.
Corn shuddered as his eyes met the gaze of the other.
It was, yes, his former "best bud" Rico, who had become so different in only a semester.
Some background about their childhood friendship: it was always thus, Corn the domineering little Caesar to Rico's doughy centurion.
But here at the University, after they had drifted apart in their respective premajors, Rico had finally managed to wriggle out from under his "friend"'s thumb after what were no doubt awkward high school years, a time we need not account for in detail because it is all the same for boys.
Some graffiti scrawled in marker.
The maw of a slavering beast pressed down on one's privates.
In fact, Rico had begun to finally come into his own at this second-rate school, away from home and Corn's constant presence — he even said a polite hello to the cafeteria help from time to time!
Engineering, club sports, Bible study, sobriety, a style of dress in a vaguely "natural" fashion, hacky sack, the Violent Femmes.
"Howdy!" Rico said to Corn in a most disrespectful manner. "Long time no see, bud. How's the movie business?"
Howdy? Corn thought, disgusted. Has he, in the short time since we arrived here, embraced this outlaw lifestyle like some filthy hillbilly? I judge.
"You guys!" Rachil said with a smile. "Boy friends!"
Rachil squeezed Rico's arm with both hands then skipped off to the restroom, leaving Corn with this cowboy-hatted peer.
A facing C with no B.
There was an awkward silence.CHAPTER 3
"Wanna play some sack?" the doughy face under the hat finally asked.
Corn did not want to play some sack, but neither did he want to skulk away to the booth defeated in his attempts to impress Rachil, so, outside the bar, he soon found the dusty knit hacky sack bouncing off his chest.
Corn looked as if he were struggling to dance along with bad balalaika music — squatting, kicking the sack up with his instep, then hitting it with his forehead so it lurched halfway back across the circle before landing dead center with a crusty plop.
The faces in the circle did not smile for these strangers, knew what kind of degenerate had entered their midst.
They radiated judgment.
"So I should tell you," Rico said, kicking up the sack with a fluid motion, stalling it on top of his foot, then flicking it over to his left foot and stalling it again (bravo!). "I'm not going to go all the way until I'm married, so you don't have to worry about me and Rachil."
He kicked the sack expertly over to a young man with an inexplicable Afro.
"That separates me from the rest of the pack here," Rico said with a jerk of his thumb, "and some people can't handle that. But you know it's important to my faith — Southern Bap."
He leveled a serious look at Corn.
Corn noticed, suddenly seeing his friend afresh, that Rico's eyelashes were ridiculously long and that one of his eyes was still ... off.
(RAAAACHHHHILLLLL!!! We can almost hear the desperate grinding of Corn's molars.)
The sack once again bounced off Corn's chest and landed at his feet.
"Earth to bro!"
A skinny kid in a faded T-shirt stifled a laugh.
Corn picked up the sack and threw it into the bushes like a petulant child.
"Not cool!" the skinny one said, running after the bag.
"Whoop," Rico said, checking his watch. "Gotta go! Bible study at seven. Nice to see you, bub. Really nice. Say bye to Rachil for me. Later."
Rico took off his hat and bowed, curly black hair falling around his puffed face.
Then, he turned and ran with rigid posture toward campus.
Corn watched the flip-flops flap against Rico's mud-smudged heels.
He turned back to the circle, which had closed itself.
He narrowed his eyes and rubbed his hands together.
He would have her ... somehow!
* * *
Before we delve into the next chapter of this expertly crafted narrative, dear readers (Are you jealous, Mailer?!?!), let's linger for a moment on the issue of Rico's faith.
It is not simply a work of my imagination.
Of course, it is not how I was raised, and at the time it was more than a bit strange, but I do not judge matters of faith and I advise you to also reserve judgment.
I'll tell you.
No one can doubt the end-times are near, and so any acquaintance with Scripture (no matter how egregiously presented) will surely help ground a person in the gravity of this apocalyptic interlude.
True, I must appear to you light, carefree, jovial, and playful with my "scenes" and my "witticisms," but make no mistake: blood will flow.
I can see it.
If not by the hand of the "Lord," then by a worldwide shift in consciousness that will cause the higher beings among us to cull the litter of frauds and ninnies, charlatans and hustlers.
One day you'll be sitting there in your apartment, reader, idly watching some yuppie walk his Italian greyhound along the primrose path, and as he bends down to grip the greyhound's feces with his plastic-sheathed hand, he will suddenly see, there on the horizon, the first signs of the Event.
The clouds will have turned green, and the leaves on all the trees will quiver with their light undersides exposed.
A blast of cold wind will blow the yuppie's hair back; the Italian greyhound will whimper and scurry behind his master's legs.
First one wayward robin will fly by — too close!
The yuppie's heart will race.
A sharp inhale and then: the deluge!
He is suddenly surrounded by flapping darkness as thousands, perhaps millions of robins, their innate sense of direction exploded by cell phone radiation, pour from the trees down the street like coal through a chute, their fat bodies covering the cars, their white-circled eyes gone insane.
Everything within your vision there at your window will be covered by red breasts and dusty feathers, a pandemonium of wings, claws, beaks, and the sharp pins of feathers nicking and scratching and gouging against the glass — what a terrifying noise! — and surely the man and his dog ... blood ... fur ... flesh.
The dog is dead.
The yuppie is dead.
Just two victims in the worldwide catastrophe.
You will run for cover, but where?
The birds have already begun to make their way in through every available crack in your domicile.
The world has suddenly gone dark.
Cowering in the pantry, you will feel the sound before you really hear it, the maniacal freight train that precedes the tornado.
Close your eyes!
All there will be is the whirring of wings and hellish squawks surrounding you.
Yes, it will be time to die ...
Politically, of course, corporate democracy cannot stand, and the socialist Big Brother equally appears (to any observant eye) ready to topple, so all it will take is one slight push in either direction for the New World to emerge.
Is this not the prophesied apocalypse?
Where will you be when it occurs, dear readers?
What side of the wall will you be on?
On the side of the People, or on the side of the (so-called) Elites?
Do you really want to be sitting in your apartment watching an Italian greyhound defecate without having done your part for justice and righteousness?
Who knows what your last thought will be — most likely some idle lyric from a Roxette song or some such cultural detritus — but there is a chance it will be, "Why did I allow that man's banishment?"
Your soul will sit before ultimate judgment.CHAPTER 4
After seeing Rico and Rachil together that first time, Corn spent the next few weeks acting as if everything were "normal," as if his entire being didn't hinge on whether or not Rachil came into his concrete bunker to make fun of poor Rico, or to say the date with Rico was dumb, that Rico was a jerk, that the next date would never happen, or that Rico Rico Rico Rico Rico.
Corn wanted to kill him, even more now than when they were teenagers together in the drab suburbs.
Despite all that was so clearly wrong about Rico — his lumbering idiocy, his sincerity, his slovenly carriage — Rachil kept going steady with him!
Corn plotted Rico's demise in the foul projection booth while the reels of film spun in the darkness.
"Maybe I should just lose it to him," Rachil said one evening, flicking her shy lashes up at Corn, driving him to frenzy there in the dark. "My virginity," she said. "No big whoop."
Corn dropped the top reel from the projector, and the sprocket ripped a two-foot tear in the print of Batman.
First off, he thought, she was a virgin?
Innocence perplexed him.
Second, lose it?
Virginity in play?
Rachil went out to calm the enraged film crowd in the theater while that incompetent spliced everything back together with shaky hands in the booth.
Popcorn and Jujubes filled the air, catcalls and hoots.
"Is everything okay?" she asked upon her return, eyeing the reel wobbling on the rickety projector.
The Joker had suddenly become a blob of darkness, then switched back again in a yellow streak.
Corn didn't notice, for he was a sloppy, horrid worker who didn't really care about film, only a paycheck.
I can attest to the fact that the crowd took notice, and that the manager was notified.
A soda splashed against the booth door, followed by a shouted obscenity.
Within, Corn was at a loss.
"So when ... you and ... heh ... some date, huh?"
"Let's talk, Corn. I'll be at the Boiler Room," Rachil said. "Gotta meet Rico."
She made a sour face, and left poor Corn in the booth to think over Rico pumping his hips and Rachil moaning in ecstasy with her hands clawing at his floral shirt while he whooped like a broncobuster.
Southern Bap, Corn thought, alone again, gnashing his teeth. Hippy!
We can imagine this is the moment his deepest plot began to hatch like a nest of roach babies in his mind.
He would have her, someway, somehow, even if it took years!
(Screenplay adaptation note: acquire rights to Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side.")CHAPTER 5
Shortly thereafter, Corn took up in the spare room of an old makeshift "church" at the edge of town where Rico resided.
It was stage 1 of his plan.
Most students lived in the dormitories or the fraternities, of course, but Rico, once his "hippy" phase began in earnest, professed an inability to live in such "hives." He set out for the poorer neighborhoods on the outskirts, where tract homes became "churches" and "churches" became bohemian squats.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The More You Ignore Me"
Copyright © 2013 Travis Nichols.
Excerpted by permission of COFFEE HOUSE PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
"The More You Ignore Me is a novel that will not be ignored. Travis Nichols channels the energies of such exemplary screeders past as Gogol’s Poprishchin, Nabokov’s Kinbote, Lish’s Lish, and Nicholson Baker's woe-beset anthologist, Paul Chowder. Lynksys181, a kind of latter-day Gollum, cries out: ‘I know I have love to give! Who will dare to take it?’ Reader, you should be the one."
“With this hilarious and tragic novel, Travis Nichols has captured the menace and pathos and ridiculousness and dead-seriousness of the Internet so well that now I feel a little bit concerned for him. This narrator's voice will resonate in your mind in unexpected ways forever. You've been warned!”