THE ENGLISH OPIUM-EATER HURLED BY WHIRLWIND INTO AN AMERICAN HALLOWEEN
October’s upset apple cart spills its redfaced audience, applauding the god of laudanum, that fraudulent whirlwind, unleashing his opium-laced genius. He dervishes into our midst from the eighteenth century. O poisonous paradigm-bender fancying De Quincey a fresh-faced, runaway teenager on a blustery night, placing him in a long line for a modern halloween-themed house of nightmares, of the stripe that give people the creeps for a fee. What bottom-dwelling howls will this frightpalace belch and drawl? young master De Quincey yells. Ushered in by bad actors pretending to be dead, frosted with a glut of black and white makeup, admitted for free due to his archaic costume, feigned accent, a fetching derelict poet hefts his effects. Some fake wretch pushes the splendidly weatherbeaten troubadour through creaking doors. Slanderous critics like jack o’lanterns grinning. Editors, ludicrous ghouls hanging upside down from the ceiling, hounding for another as-yet-unwritten masterclass on murderous art. Who could tire of sword-swallowing Wordsworths hailing from lakes of fire? Even with trick or treat-sized bags under the eyes. Hags whose faces are lashed with blood bounce above bony legs chase De Quincey through mazes. This little Englishman’s grinning. He favors the world when it’s most satirically, wildly spinning, the lack of pain via liquid delivery. He resiliently barks lines from Radcliffean villains at brooding monks in hoods, plays dead, then slides under the curtain, gives the slip to debt collectors who hoard razorblades, chainsaws, and axes.
THE ENGLISH OPIUM-EATER, REPORTEDLY ALIVE AND LIVING HIS DREAMS
De Quincey is such an uncontrollable seventeen-year-old runaway that he escapes the industrial age and enters an existence as trickster, confiscating NASA’s cameras on the moon, one after another. He splices together a documentary film entitled, “a fit of wild, haggard bohemian roaming and staggering from worse to worse.” Unmistakeably, his likeness walks past as if ashambles in Wales or asunder in London. A lunar flaneur shuffling to and fro in tattered trenchcoat, scuffed shoes caked with moondust, declaiming his discoveries to the astronauts to whom he must have been invisible. Whithersoever comes this thin ghost estranged from English Romanticism, nineteenth-century relic, looking for what he never can recover? Is he an escapade of pure vapor? So many smoke rings of outrageous hoax? Flickering of trick spirit photography? De Quincey proves an innovative provocateur of cinema, and reveals the undersea cities, the phantasmatic eternities fit neatly within the poppy seed, the great tube through which humans communicate with the shadowy. He spirits the cameras away, climbs fully aboard the spaceship called the faculty of dreaming. Now we can see what astronomers see: De Quincey lowers himself into a crater and crawls through the ceiling of unknown opium dens. He’s welcomed and cheered on by those who ghostify what we’d deemed mere barren dead sphere. We see him be a child again, carried into the air on triple ferris wheels, hyperdrive rollercoasters, gravity-defying rides that are not, were never there! Look closely through any telescope, and see for yourself: the man in the moon is writing his own Biographia Literaria, and gazes down on us so many evenings with the glum, all-knowing face of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.