Finally, Some Good News.
Independently published. 2018. 160 pp.
The nom de plume of an almost certainly muscular straight white male domiciled in or around West Hollywood, Delicious Tacos (DT) made a spicy name for himself offering dating advice to frustrated gents on the capital-I Internet, the way Charles Bukowski made a name for himself doing the same for colicky bums in the stapled mags. Like Bukowski, DT delivers a dangerously lucid fictional version of his barbarous drunken self. A fiction the impressionable male reader, with an underdeveloped sense of context, dares to imitate in real life. Unlike Bukowski's Henry Chinaski, a child of the Great Depression, who, when he arrived in a new town, sought out the poor people section, the Delicious Tacos character, a child of the Reagan/Clinton boom, is a sloppy yet optimized knowledge worker: when DT arrives in a new town, he heads to the Capital One Café across the street from the CorePower, takes a seat at the Warrior 2 window, gets excited by the bubble butts, remembers porn ruined his sexuality, and fires up a new post.
Distinctive works, as with Bukowski and most juicy pulp, start to blur. As does the difference between author, literary character, Internet personality, and transpersonal literary subject, and in this writing they intermingle without a trace of personal praise or attack. Delicious Tacos is best enjoyed online, and one day in a handsome collector's edition: if I'm around, I'll buy it, because there's something "buy American" about DT that makes me click, something friendly about him that makes me give. As he once tweeted, "A copy of The Pussy belongs in every home." (Henry Miller would've tweeted the same about Crazy Cock.) I want, like a street taco if not the "street-style" taco of your everyday transgressive, one more of him. That's when his pen name takes on the archaic, the Amerindian. Delicious Tacos the Upper Trapezius of Southern California has a Ferris Bueller-like magnetism, appealing to the sluts, dweebs, and dickheads alike—a righteous dude. If he sold merch, I'd buy my niece the crop tee.
It's safe to assume his books have fallen into the hands of the wrong readers. I give them to well-educated men who know better, like my newly divorced friends, who downloaded the sex apps because Fleishman is in Trouble told them to, but are actually quite happy avoiding porn most of the time, eating wings, and watching the Colts. That's who we are: we didn't enlist, we weren't drafted; upward mobility was supposed to be "ours for the taking," a "masculine perk," as Kate Manne includes it in a Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny listicle, but the only thing "upward mobility" taught us is how to convert a PowerPoint to a PDF and the multiple meanings of forbearance. We just want to feed our children, hang on until retirement, and hope GenAI doesn't make geriatric revolutionaries of us all. The irony is that we'll probably be GenOK, because like Frank Wheeler in Richard Yates's Revolutionary Road, a Tacos ancestor, we're actually quite good at the careers that are killing us. Or as DT locates such flimsy optimism in his Finally, Some Good News character, "if there's a merger, he won't even get fired."
Unlike most of the great male narcissists of our time, DT exhibits a brazen confidence about his work. Maybe Tacos has a hard shell, because he produces and distributes the work himself, and genuinely believes in asserting its value, the way oil companies genuinely believe they will be carbon neutral by 2050. (As the corporation is a person, Delicious Tacos is a person.) And even though DT's torch flames online, he reminds me of the offline valedictorian Sean Thor Conroe describes in Fuccboi:
Years later, I'll meet a man who has no social media presence, has never experienced a like or a comment or a retweet in his life, and I'll think, You goddamn beautiful unicorn, what's that like, being entirely self-validating? What's it like to wake up every day and not worry what anyone else thinks?
Tacos's first novel, Finally, Some Good News, is an obvious classic. A woke update on the classic bullshit job movie, Office Space. At its simplest level, Finally, Some Good News asks, What will happen to the office drone in the event of a nuclear holocaust? What will happen when all the linking and liking and reposting and restacking ends, and the only thing that isn't fiber optics, the bomb, finally (once again) connects?
The novel answers these questions in many ways. On one level, the funniest, the answer is, well, more of the same. Even though the bomb is good news, it's still just news. Other than the novel's main DT character, his office wife Marcy Pendergrass, and enough probiotics to keep the cultural quips flowing, we meet the characters you might expect to meet during the USA nuclear holocaust, including those who bought enough guns to shoot at it, and the suit who has some thoughts on starting over exactly the same way. The novel covers a wide range of topics in a short time, from the scam of recycled printer ink to ISIS and sex tourism in the Philippines—which made me unearth Geoff Dyer's "Miss Cambodia"—to the morose adoration of birds: nature, unlike the human female, doesn't talk back. It's a testament to the seriousness of this author, and his skills, that the novel's plot slowly reveals his protagonist had a part in the nuclear destruction. Therefore the politics of this short novel, no matter how mutilated, are quite liberal: nothing's more anti-fascist than learning you're not just another brick in the wall.
In the pre-bomb chapters, birthdays pass, marked by investing returns and divesting schemes, the Trojans of green energy: "I would get 0.0 more pussy advertising my car's fuel flexibility, he thought." Post-bomb, when fuel flexibility, like the Internet, goes the way of the big band, the Tacos character continues striking out. Marcy and Tacos make their way through the ruins of the USA, a landscape this California author excels at describing: "By the time they saw the ocean even the dog food was gone. Freeways and surface streets still filled with burnt out cars and corpses. Some fresh. Others just black bones. Every one in a posture of agony. Not one relaxed skeleton." And then, later, this exchange:
They moved the tent to a back yard up the block. Agreed to sleep in shifts.
Are you okay? She said.
One thing is bothering me.
Tabasco branding with golf. Affluent males over 40 don't—didn't—drive household condiments.
It boosts casual fine dining use, she said. The guy goes to Applebee's and asks for Tabasco.
Oh shit, you're right.
We don't have to think about that stuff anymore, she said.
That's wishful thinking, but she's wrong. The thing this novel knows is that there's little else to think about. You put in enough years of service to The Man that, even after the bomb drops, you're still brainstorming the value prop. Finally, Some Good News understands, like few other satires, that as long as the bomb exists, there's nothing but its culture. End times, just like current times, will be worse, and without hot sauce. Or as Tacos puts that idea in another story, "The camera's rolling so you must speak. But there is no story. Civilization will continue. You will have nothing that you want." And for a limited time, it's on sale.
In the Philippines, the Tacos character has the opportunity to enjoy what he can't seem to get in America: a docile Asian woman to please him. I can't believe I'm about to type that the idea of sexual arbitrage has become a cliché, but here we are, back in colonial times. This kind of exchange—which the Tacos corner of the Internet has thought a lot about—goes something like this: An American woman who writes Just Do It ad copy for Wieden+Kennedy costs a high number of Appletinis to do it with you. But in the Philippines, those same Appletinis can be bought for less than the price of a Bud Light, and you don't have to talk about Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce at brunch the next morning. The book smart American reader would locate DT's model here in Michel Houellebecq's recession-proof novel Platform. But the hotter model, in a mother-tongue DT shares, can be found in Geoff Dyer's Yoga for People Who Can't be Bothered to Do It. Contemporaneous with Platform, Yoga is a book today we'd call first-pitch-fastball autofiction—"everything in this book really happened," Dyer writes in its preface, "but some of the things only happened in my head"—but in its time Yoga received breakout praise, in the kind of media outlets that no longer review books, for being "unclassifiable."
"All visitors to the developing world," Dyer writes in "Miss Cambodia," "if they are honest, will confess that they are actually quite keen on seeing a bit of squalor: people living on garbage dumps, shantytowns, that kind of thing." Houellebecq offers the same scene in Platform, but in Cuba, where "the natives thought of us purely as wallets and legs... and you could get rid of them with smiles and apologies." Dyer has a more difficult time in Cambodia. The children come running up to sell, what else, Coca-Cola. Dyer accepts a can from the first girl to offer one. But then a disabled boy comes over with his brand of Coke. Dyer changes his mind. He actually wants the Coke from the boy. The girl will not accept this. She starts screaming at him, cursing in Cambodian, it's "abusive ... the first time we had glimpsed anything resembling what used to be called Asiatic cruelty, and even this amounted to no more than abusing a cheapskate tourist for not buying her Coke." She keeps screaming, "you buy my Coke!" Dyer refuses. "Our power," he writes, omitting the white, "was absolute and we were implacable." Soon enough, unlike the toyish man in Platform, Dyer has regrets. But he still doesn't buy her Coke.
If there is anything to the idea of karma and reincarnation, then I will be reborn not as the legless boy from whom we bought a can of Coke but as the sniveling, angry girl from whom we did not buy one. Or maybe I will be reborn as the can of Coke itself: thumped on the ground, hot and unwanted, primed to explode. Most likely, though, the circle will be unbroken and I will—as Nietzsche maintained—be reborn as myself and will repeat this same scene, this same mistake and all the others that led to it, endlessly, throughout eternity.
This is so often the conclusion for the Delicious Tacos "I," too, who feels like he's being cheated out of some marvelous experience, resigned to repeating "the same mistake and all the others that led to it," as Nietzsche maintained. This "I" is smart enough to know the world has failed him. He might even be smart enough to know he's failed the world. But he can't stop thinking, as the poet David Berman couldn't, that the meaning of the world lies outside of it. "It was already too late to do anything about it," Dyer sums it up, and these are his italics, "even though there was still time to do so."
In 1977, the long-time fiction editor of Esquire, Rust Hills, wrote a short story craft book. He identified how many stories that slushed through his piles were "based on the semicliché of 'loss of last chance to change.'" That is what we are dealing with here. Hills's observation is worth quoting in full:
It might be well to mention here a kind of story that at first seems a character sketch. At the end a character appears unaltered, may seem in fact deeper in the groove than ever. And yet there may be a feeling that something really has happened to him. The reader is to understand as the story ends that [the character] has lost his last chance to change and will now stay 'forever' as he was. But of course he is not the same at the end of the story as he was at the beginning: he has altered, for that which was there before—the capacity for change—has been removed from his character and circumstances by the action of the story. What's different at the end is that there's no longer any possibility for him to become otherwise than he is; that's what 'happened' to him.
We've been living in this "semicliché" for what feels like forever. What "happened" to Delicious Tacos, at least on a first encounter, is an armed revision: fuck you, I won't change, pay me.
In Freedom, her 2019 collection of essays on care and constraint, Maggie Nelson discusses how the "racialized risks taken by white artists are not typically as subversive, risky, or courageous as the artists might imagine, given that their backdrop remains a culture rooted in white supremacy. Likewise with misogyny—there's a reason why Charles Bukowski remains an easier sell than Valerie Solanas (though there are also reasons why most of my feminist and queer friends have books by both on their shelves)." Nelson goes on to list two dozen male writers lauded for writing the literature of intoxication, from Artaud to Bukowski to Irvine Welsh.
We should firmly add Delicious Tacos to her list.
For readers of a certain generation, the [list] likely provokes heroic keywords, such as rebellion, quest, wildness, experimentation, bravery, defiance, transcendence. Why else are their books among the most shoplifted in the world, often propped up behind the bookshop counter, as if the transgressions they documented were somehow contagious? They are treated as vessels of macho liberation even if, when read for their actual words and sentiments, many described abject, even explicitly feminized experiences of dependency, fragmentation, abasement, compulsion, and penetration.
The DT vessel suffers all of these feminized experiences, including something like penetration. In the Nickelodeon-derived epiphanies of the short story "Underage Ass," Tacos learns a very feminine lesson: "Some parts of sex you're born with. Other parts are clay; they get misshapen when you get molested." Throughout his molesting corpus, you too may start to feel misshapen feelings for this man who can't change, for this racist anti-Semitic misogynist with a great body, few friends but plenty of post-college dependencies; incapable of analog intimacy with that "longer than an iPhone" penis he can't bother placing a screen protector on as he complains to women of child-bearing age that he's got no baby boy to hold in his arms. And so he ends up lonely, with only his image for company. But the Tacos figure isn't lonely because he's exhausted, like the migrant trying to reach Brownsville or the single mother outside of Houston working a double shift at Wendy's. He's lonely like the hypnotic demon who sneaks into Nietzsche's loneliness and tells him nothing can change. He's lonely because he was promised the perks of, in Kate Manne's list, "power, prestige, rank, honor, 'face,' respect, women's loyalty, and wealth." He's lonely like the slave master after manumission. He's lonely the way only California cowboys can afford to be sad. This loneliness, a semicliché two generations ago, needs a reorg to find a true friend in me. Delicious Tacos might have the guts to leave the sinking ship, but perhaps, like the Californian failing to save the Titanic, because it did the equivalent today of going into "airplane mode" before rocking off to sleep, it is simply too late.
As for the writing itself, Delicious Tacos commits to that word processing style where Author sneezes during editing process and deletes what mucus hits. Like many voice-driven writers when they get going, which is all we ever want voice-driven writers to do, Delicious Tacos is a failed rapper. Sometimes he spits like what would've happened if you gave Max Hardcore an IBM Selectric instead of a speculum.
The writing is what we call lean.
Two short sentences.
That could easily be one.
Immune to indentation.
And quotation marks.
Shaving down words already slang.
Leaning on semicolons in moments of clasping self-reflection.
A childfree mature style, as if Huck Finn's phone were being asked to join Nick Adams's hot spot.
A male style that knows the shortcut to the cabin the GPS doesn't.
A male style wondering aloud drinking an $11 Bud Light from a Hyatt Place bar if the Operation Lone Star children selling Milk Duds on the sanctuary city corner are paid protestors.
The writing itself, wary of intertext, against writing as discovery, the writing will not be difficult, will not be litbro,which is dog whistle for Jewy. Even though Finally, Some Good News shares way more in common with the emotional logic of Saul Bellow's Dangling Man, which lampooned the hardboiled troubadours of its age, or Henry Bean's rediscovered The Nenoquich, publicized as "the diary of a seducer hammering on the walls of his own loneliness," than it does with the stentorian blowhard Curtis Yarvin or the broken record Bronze Age Pervert—autistic in the DT sense that "autism is the Zika virus of the rich."
Writing, like those Instagram shorts, that calls shorts the short.
The rare author who can't pass a public pull-up station without knocking out 20.
Writing that blindfolds itself with a Vince waffle tee and rewatches Entourage at CIA black site levels of loudness, relating to Baby Brother but rooting for E.
The salt-and-pepper-pilled man in the moisture-wicking joggers.
Tender, like hamstrings after leg day.
Writing, like the drunk uncle at the funeral, that holds its spirits better than the father in the coffin.
The book is called The Pussy in this sense from The Incest Diary (Anonymous, 2017): "I think about my father and I get wet. I think about my father and I feel him in my pussy."
"Drones," Tacos reminds us, "controlled from a storage locker outside Vegas precisely target tables at Yemeni weddings but the killer at the joystick can't get a second date." At his best, changing truths, when he does what white men in this game aren't supposed to do anymore, which is complain they got fouled.
"Attempting at the start," as Henry Miller wrote, "what a man of genius would have attempted only at the end." In Tropic of Cancer Miller anticipates Delicious Tacos with this banned book masculinist request:
When I look down into this fucked-out cunt of a whore I feel the whole world beneath me, a world tottering and crumbling, a world used up and polished like a leper's skull. If there were a man who dared to say all that he thought of this world there would not be left him a square foot of ground to stand on.
Big, naturalistic writing techniques that capture the way speechless men talk to each other, i.e., "Her tits were... there's no word for them." Writing that claims, "I don't know anything except how to write honestly," but also see, "He tried to impress her. Had no other way to speak."
The early vids (rare) before the botched surgeries (just unlocked).
The writing a keloid scar on the smooth cenotaph of the Big 5 dead.
No conflict between mission and submission.
Makes you really believe him when he says, "It's a curse to have opportunity."
A male style perhaps best summed up in the following paradox in a lament to a mother: "I do like cooking chicken and looking at birds."
Writing that was thinking of using this epigraph, D.H. Lawrence, if it were writing that used epigraphs: "He had picked a snake up long ago, without hurting himself. But that was before Columbus discovered America."
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