Three Notebook Excerpts from MS DOS (Experimental Memoir) | The New Engagement

Three Notebook Excerpts from MS DOS (Experimental Memoir)

By Chris Campanioni
three notebook excerpts from ms dos, story art

Exhibit A


What’s Exhibit A? Let’s skip to Exhibit B


Picture the back of a head


Playful & urgent jabs of intensification, like spin the bottle or duck duck goose


You’re at a reading, sitting before or behind or to the back of the head; at every angle you are witnessing the back of a head


A variation of the game described in the 1919 book, Entertaining Made Easy describes children standing in a circle, joining hands. The daisy picker goes around the outside, saying, “Daisy in the dell, I don’t pick you … I do pick you”

(The thrill of a moment passing is in knowing it will never
Again occur)


Despite your attempts to crane, or spread, or edge & inch forward, what you see is the back, the follicles blurring into a curl at the neck line, the cowlick further up, announcing itself like a flag pole, shimmering wisps of grey mixed with dark brown, almost black, Head & Shoulders hair against a cloudless fall sky, just before the curt adumbration of the bell


Muster wordlessness, or try to


A round, protruding pimple, glowing like an orb, behind the ear


I like the poem because it’s pre-verbal. The feeling, before the thought. The knowing before the words. The sound before the silence. & after.


This head, this back of the head at a reading, awakens in you the urge to picture the rest of the body, from the front & the side, in motion & in repose, unfurled on a sea of CG blue & green


The word I would have liked to write is hieratic


To apprehend the eyes, to touch the face of a stranger

(I live between these points)


Scene in a garden:

As seen from a window, in evening. Backlit by stage production, so as to see each dress on both figures, the one in red digging among the roses


Allow attentiveness to a flower


In light of what this is, I am still more
Interested in sensing what it seems
This will become


(A simple tap on the shoulder would suffice)


A photo may not be happy to remain
Static. To remain encased between four corners
On a screen or a wall

For example, picture
My face as you
Read this


I want to bring you closer


Between 2010 & 2011, I collaborated with D, a videographer known mostly for his work with music videos & car commercials. He agreed to edit quick, twenty-seconds-or-less trailers for my anticipated novel—anticipated, at least, to me—Fashion of the season. Each trailer would encompass a season, dividing the year into bursts of emotive tonal synesthesia, as the text does, or did. Or will do. The film technique he employed was called a supercut. I shuddered, inwardly, while maintaining a smile, the same smile I can often be seen to wield in many photos that line the Internet & strangers’ walls, when he mentioned the name of the technique. Picture me sitting, legs dangling at a bar in Murray Hill, a place I often avoid, shuddering. You’d have to know that I endured the most humiliating week of my life—by my own estimation—after a routine haircut, at some point between twenty & twenty-one (I’ve tried my best to bury the specifics), the first & only time I’ve ever walked into a Supercuts, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, or anywhere else, but I won’t tell you that story now. A supercut is also a compilation of short video clips or a way of cutting, a montage so fast-paced & short-lived that the moving image becomes a  möbius strip of stuttered rhythm & perennial recall, a déjà vu on command, whenever the finger wills it (click play). Requiem For a Dream blurs into The Sandlot blurs into Some Girls & The Wackness Camp Nowhere Jaws Dirty Dancing (the original & Havana Nights) Dazed & Confused Do the Right Thing Now & Then ultimately, the ocean. If done right, the viewer doesn’t know when the transition occurs or what one is transitioning to or from: the reclamation of anonymity. Our project stalled at Summer. Fall & Winter were unaccounted for. The novel is being prepared for publication for some season in 2017, under a different name


I’m attracted to failed or unfinished projects. I’m attracted to the forgotten & discarded. I’m attracted to notes toward something else


If you sat here, like this, we could ask you questions. You aren’t obligated to respond to any of them. Not even the ones worth answering, the ones worth asking. You could sit here, like this, & we’d watch


If I had a photographic memory, I would


You would grace & anoint us with your presence. With your refusal to look back


I used to live here, for a brief excerpt of my life


(The principle beauty is the one buried
In the background)


It’d be a mutual exchange. Wouldn’t it?


John Berger will die on January 2. Let us pretend he is still alive in this text; a way I can think of remembering him, or for me to remind you of who he is & his way of seeing

A (recovered from some time earlier)

The last time I’d fainted, at a Mexican restaurant on Avenue B, an occasion I had written about in my last book, also nonfiction, my first nonfiction book, or the first time I had admitted it in public, what it was, which was nonfiction, I felt as if something in me had died the moment I raised my head from the hospital bed. I looked the same, in the photograph that my girlfriend had taken, at the time, the moment of my arousal, which you can look at now if you choose to. Moment of Arousal. Actually, the caption reads Date night in the ER. Still smiling. I looked the same in the mirror, each day I probed my face, my eyes & lips, looking for signs of change or erasure, evidence of ablation besides the bruises on my temple, the cuts & scabs on my chin. But I knew there was some difference, that a part of me had evacuated my flesh, or what was underneath, & in its place was an inchoate space for text, something I’d have to write in order to restore my reflection, the twinned image that looked at me as though it knew more than the person it was reflecting

A (again)

(Inhale more deeply, as if at a loss
For words)

A (once more, for Biblical effect)

Is idle worship always a means to an end?

Sometimes the idol gazes back




Two characters: one who makes it

& one who doesn’t


No surprises anymore, no trick endings, no waiting for one to arrive

Instant everything

(The Internet’s greatest promise
Or sin)

A working thesis

If fantasy became absolute, it would forget the body. Virtual reality means the destruction of the flesh.

We picked an image track & a sound track & taking turns, we closed our eyes. There was no way to tell how long the encounters lasted in real time. We called them “scenarios.”

The mind demands immediate satisfaction whereas the body, imprisoned, can only wait for it.

You take me
For someone else

(Common problem)

Narration just traces the event
Plot forces it to occur in such a way
The novel form fails because everything is predetermined

Experiment: to show all the minutiae … all the detritus & waste, the inessential details of everyday life. To intensely look at things we look at & never see. To encounter the interruption & interference & accidental. To adapt new habits of seeing. & with the mind

To photograph everything

Like a shutter roll of film or a round of bullets expelled & then uncocked. Language should be like the body—already always decomposing.

Or at least music, which counts down to its own quick death

The difference between writing & painting is a matter of counting beats. In painting everything is present all at once. The incantation of instant everything. No pacing, only immediacy. To write like that. Acceleration in place of tempo. Fragments in place of fictions of sum value.

S said that painting is an object, music a performance, & the book a code. To be transcribed. But by whom? Writer & reader.

Experiment: to implement certain techniques of silent films on the scene-sets filmed today

Question: can you replace the body through augmented experience? Or only replace it with another body?

Diminishing returns: to swear off the erotic scenario after the moment of climax

(Instead of willing it into the tomorrow of today)

Silent preface to everything I’ve ever written:
Here is a memento from the present

To combine the painting & the book would be the utmost expression. The music persists in the performance of the author, who asks to pretend that I no longer exist.

(I am re-arranging this out of order)

I am playing
The part of myself

I like parties like I like a moving image. Any room is a backdrop for an unassisted tour; I move through & take photos in my camera eye. Click click click. The party becomes a movie. The point is not to participate.

Experiment: to let the film run backward

Experiment: to look at yourself in the mirror of others

Experiment: to dub this in a language other than English

To give new meaning to the phrase “beside yourself”

To collect these notes along with the footnotes or postscripts or forewords brought forth by another reader, researcher, critic, etc. Nothing to differentiate the writing from the reading. The reader from the writer. The goal of literature executed.

(That is, accomplished but also annihilated)

To move from me to you

To inhabit each other interchangeably

To replace ourselves

With ourselves

(Our paradise, in short
For others)

To bend down, so that I might dry
My hands on the lowest part
Of your pants

My brief foray into Buddhism

(I stopped asking & simply waited for you to come)

The rule of returns:

Everything always happens twice

I say something & then I see myself say it

Postmodern paranoia as postinternet production:
Why is everything we say being broadcast?

(Though it is not clear where the description of what he experienced ends & the sketch of a story begins)

The tragedy of having retrospection

All works become posthumous. In other words, all works are born dead. The only way out is in writing moments as they are experienced. Rather, never to live. Only to write.

To go all the way. The whole way.

The constant observation of
Trying too hard

(Remember to record the mistakes)

Language should be like God. Infinite diversity, hidden within endless depth. Best when served in silence.

A scenario that ends without satisfaction

People that say “here’s the thing” & then offer you nothing

Say something about the form of composition itself

Say something about the degree of self-indulgence

Say something about the shape of the snifter’s rim
Behind the bar from which I’m writing

I am researching myself. The study is long
& at times, full
Of horror

Here’s the thing: I can look at anything & it will give me something worth looking at for later

Fear of ineluctable reduction, antiquated binaries, the effect of scene

The outside vs. the inside

If it were raining right now, this would
Read quite differently

If I were inside of you, you would
Be reading quite differently

(Remember, you take me
For someone else)

A move from the fear
Of repetition to embracing repetition

(Nothing to do the rest of my life but do it
& the rest of my life to do it)

Art should be a situation, not a souvenir

Choosing to write about your situation as art is a lot like Halloween. We disguise ourselves in order to cause destruction




undated, continuous,

w/o pause



The point is to lose track, forget, get
Ahead of one’s self, misremember, forge &
Forage, the point is to be besides the point
To be underneath it or in the back of it
Intrusive, unasked-for & yet how
Pleasurable it feels when you can feel
All of me inside a small aperture such as the one
We’ve both found ourselves


Ninety-eight percent of what
You’re reading I’ve written
Naked (my own estimate)
Berger said nudity
Is a form of dress, nudity is placed
On display. To be
Naked is to be one’s self


Spare details: my landline rings often
Usually in the morning, between
The hours of nine & noon
When I am lounging naked on various
Furniture; my bed, the chaise lounge, a stool
The black fold-up metal
Chair that’s cool on my cheeks
Still writing



I have yet to answer my landline & yet
It continues to ring


Another: My Mother’s
Armoire, a clothing store
On the corner of
Coney Island & Avenue M

When I want vintage, I glut myself
In the hallways of controlled
Tease afforded by my DNA
Cover & spread from 2009


A friend writes Yours truly but what he wants is me

He corrects himself in a second e-mail, before I’ve had the chance to read the first


The landline’s urgent tri-sirened beep
Reminds me of a hospital pager

A scenario in which a situation
Is always threatening
To erupt

Perhaps I am nostalgic for a pager
Nostalgic to page someone

Nostalgic to turn the page


Would it be wrong to admit
That the taste of my cock on my own
Lips in the morning
Gives me such a jolt
That I can almost wish to kiss
Myself & not K
After she rendered me
Empty, lifeless
Late last night

(Some of these entries should be removed from the manuscript before I send it off)


When I don’t know what to say or I don’t want to
Continue this conversation I say
Thank you for your kind words


What does it mean to be errant in a culture that is increasingly aestheticized & anesthetized? Every move crowd
                        Sourced & calculated. The most productive move is to give up
Production, never to arrive or enter only
To hover, to continue hovering


I’m not interested in art that has intentions
Of any marketable outcome, I have no use
For intentions or markets or outcomes
I care much much more—con todo mi alma—
About making you feel something at the moment
Of puncture or penetration


In hover lives over but also ver, to see, one letter
Removed from seek


Listen. A year or two ago none of this
Would have been possible. Because I was not out
Looking for it


In puncture lives pun & unction & tureen from Latin terra meaning earth but also especially punctual, which can be expressed as punctually, prompt, arriving or doing something at the expected moment, paying mind to one’s time, an adjective culminating in the noun ally

What I need from you is our friendship


Aching for apple
To tell me about the capabilities
Of my upgraded iPhone


Sometime after Thanksgiving, channels began airing an Amazon Prime commercial that opens with a priest & an imam meeting for tea. If this commercial was a film, the poster at the marquee would read: Two old friends meet for a cup of tea and discover they share a problem.

Two different men experience similar knee ailments, because of their act of worship: kneeling repeatedly on the hard wood floor. What each man doesn’t know is that each man has ordered the other a knee brace from Amazon Prime. The camera holds on a thumb & index finger, the text BUY NOW WITH ONE CLICK. One click, or frame later, both of them open the door to receive the black-wrapped Amazon Prime package, a moment of coincidental bliss accentuated with a broad smile, a near-shaking-of-the-head, a look & laugh of astonishment. At the end of the advertisement, the two friends are seen genuflecting on their respective floors, in their respective places of worship. The message: schisms between culture & religion can only be unified through consumerism.


Instead of singing “Happy Birthday To You” I grew up singing & hearing “Sto Lat” at every birthday party, on every birthday belonging to any of my family, on every birthday of mine

“Sto Lat” translates into One Hundred Years

As I grew older, I heard more versions of “Sto Lat,” a polyphonic birthday greeting from various cities & states, from various parts of the world, my family calling at such distances to wish me a long life, a life that would last a little longer

Once again, once again,
May you live, live for us,

May you live for us!

I would wish to have a hundred years

I would want to give them to you


Everything that will ever happen to me has already happened to me & it hasn’t
Made me any less
Insistent on writing
New moments into memory


He remembers the first time he was in LA, on a work trip, a three-day shoot, & the day he arrived they’d wrapped early so he had the rest of the afternoon to himself. Take the day, they’d said. & he liked the sound of that; to take a day, to take all of it & all from it. They’d put him up at the Hyatt, on West Century Boulevard, a few minutes away from LAX, by shuttle, or taxi. He wanted to see the ocean, the beach, the surf & the surfers. Point Break. He had never been inside the Pacific before, never felt what the Pacific felt like when he was underneath it, when it was above him & coursing through him. So he asked the concierge at the lobby for directions, which amounted to “Which way should I start walking?” He didn’t care that the concierge said it was unwalkable, to get from the Pacific Coast Highway on to Marina del Rey & Venice Beach & then Santa Monica, the impossible boardwalk of his dreams. Or maybe that’s why he cared at all; that’s what he cared about to begin with. That it was unwalkable. To walk where one couldn’t or can’t. To go, & always.

To come back.


In another version of this story, the moment she says, “Let me tell you what the problem with you is” he leaves. Disappears.


& anyway, what good are thoughts when they are
Kept to one’s self?


Realism inevitably breaks down
What I always want is the reality
Of my desires


& is it after all that any of this was her fault or mine, mine alone, for ever thinking I could turn one’s body into mine, for ever thinking that it was even right to want to be present in the body of the other, if it were right or if it were possible or if it was my fault, mine alone, and anybody who has ever wished to feel one’s life as their own. How much narcissism I could find in myself & still find, if I kept digging, & what room there is for it in a body like mine.


When I was living in London, when I’d just arrived, I remember walking along Oxford Circus & Old Brompton Road & into Sloane Square & looking up at the tall, old buildings & saying to myself, as though I were speaking to a companion:

The only reason you are bothering to look is because you are telling yourself that what you are looking at is something new.

& the building didn’t matter. & the object never matters. The city could be Manhattan. We could be anywhere. The trick—I remember thinking—is to always pretend to hold novelty in your sight, in your lens of recording, in your camera eye. The trick is to will new-ness into now-ness. The trick is to surrender to a moment & not feel anything but gratitude at its swift soon vanishing.


I tell students your writing is good is if you’re embarrassed to read it. A good notebook, I say, produces shame.


I think my novels are a failure because I was trying too hard.


Some people believe ceasing to care is the moment you’ve made it.

Made what? I’ve always thought.


When I was nine or ten I remember walking home from school in the sun dust of fall after three o’clock singing “American Pie”, a song my dad had taught me, because we’d often spend an hour or two on Saturday nights with the car on & the windows halfway down to listen to the radio & really hear it. Without motive, without a destination or the desire to drive. I drifted through the four or five blocks that separated school from home, home from the strangers I was beginning to know & love, singing a long long time ago, I can still remember how that music used to make me smile & thinking to myself that if I couldn’t live this way for the rest of my life I’d like to die.


In the fifties & sixties, & maybe earlier
“To make it” with someone was a euphemism
For fucking


He doesn’t think it’s odd to always have had a soundtrack in his ears, during his waking moments, when he’s in the apartment writing or thinking, when he’s out on the street, when he’s drifting from light to light, roving to the music in private, willing it for the public to enjoy, too, a scene set as a musical where everybody else is drifting too, sliding along toward a communal rhythm to make even the most routine migration an opportunity to dance, creamy & fluent, an ecstatic plea for an eruption in the middle of morning, in the middle of winter at 11:47, wanting others to feel the way he feels about the world & everything in it, how couldn’t anyone feel so much excitement to wake up & find another day to drift through, to rove & rift to? & how long has it been since he had the soundtrack, or was there ever a time when he couldn’t hear it in his head & on the outside? Is there ever a moment that shouldn’t be savored, even & especially if it isn’t retrieved in text or song or screen shot but only to feel it a little longer, & drift with it, & let it drift away—   


Is it ugly or is it beautiful? & how will I
Ever know?


To this day

Wishing I could talk to you as though
It were the first day
& still the same
Joy of learning

Plus all the joy
Of being able
To teach
Each other


Something I hope
I never lose
Even if I can’t feel it
In front of my face

To know I still can
Feel it at the very bottom


The new year comes like a Parker Brothers board game. I’m passing Go.

I’m collecting everything.

Chris Campanioni is a first-generation American, the son of immigrants from Cuba and Poland, and the author of the Internet is for real (C&R Press) and Drift (King Shot Press). His “Billboards” poem was awarded an Academy of American Poets College Prize in 2013, his novel Going Down was selected as Best First Book at the 2014 International Latino Book Awards, and his hybrid piece This body’s long (& I’m still loading) was adapted as an official selection of the Canadian International Film Festival in 2017. He is currently a Provost Fellow and MAGNET Mentor at The Graduate Center/CUNY, where he is conducting his doctoral studies in English and redrafting narratives of exile. He edits PANK, At Large Magazine, and Tupelo Quarterly, and teaches Latino literature and creative writing at Pace University and Baruch College.

Read more from Digital Issue No. 15

Join Us!

Mercy, ingenuity, nuance, complex truths, guts and honor still matter! Join us in proclaiming so by purchasing, or giving the gift of, The New Engagement in print.

Order Today!

Follow Us

"You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive."
~ James Baldwin

Help us spread the ethos of compassion and understanding by joining our social media networks and sharing generously!

Contests & Prizes

Flash Fiction Contest
On May 1st, we announced the winners of our Flash Fiction Contest: Thomas Garcia (1st), Rick Krizman (2nd), and Rios de la Luz (3rd). Read more.

The James Baldwin Literature Prize
It is with great pleasure that we announce the winner of The James Baldwin Literature Prize of $1,000 to Hafsa Musa. Read more.

The New Engagement

The New Engagement endeavors a novel approach to discovering, introducing, and showcasing writers, artists, and filmmakers, by providing them digital and print platforms, while encouraging and supporting their social-consciousness.