I feel like a cloth version of myself when I face the task of attempting to convey the magnitude of the writer that Blut Branson is.

This — me, here, now — feels as though it may be the only time and place to try, but also, like all places and times, I see clearly that it’s “neither the place nor the time,” unless my aspiration had been “to leave well enough alone.”

But, well:

Blut Branson’s big, the biggest. He’s everything to the people of Dodge City.

There’s not really another game in town. It’s like, what are you gonna do, read Paul Auster and call it a day?

Sure, there are heretics and splinter-cells, but they tend to find themselves reconnoitering the brushlands with a small group of core followers before getting more than a baby’s-breadth off the ground.

And people maybe have their own privacies, their own places to go (we don’t, for example, deny ourselves Bill Callahan), but by and large our inner world is the world of Blut Branson’s novel. We lie down, we close our eyes, or we space out while driving or waiting, and there we are, in it.

All of print, the whole notion of an alphabet and a lexicon, is hardly more than a fingernail or an earwig on the plane of Blut Branson’s novel. To say that the notion of the conventional novel — words, pages, glue-binding, a picture of a daisy or a mutilée or what have you on the cover, the whole simple matter of printed matter — pales in comparison to Blut Branson’s novel is to posit a comparison so inadequate that to call it laughable is itself a joke.

It’s like if they tried to put even an inch of it on Amazon, the whole site would crash and never recover. Maybe the whole Internet too.

It’s like if he was the earth and some other thing that exists was the moon then

… see? It’s pointless to try.

Blut Branson transcends us, and through him we transcend ourselves. It has no beginning, no ground floor. Or something: I haven’t been in Dodge City long enough, or well enough, to be able to say more than that.

But he does something. That much I can say. Something happens, is made, is moved, through him. Our lives are other lives through him (and would be nothing, not lives at all, without).

He is not so much our reason for living as our means of living.

We almost never see him. He’s almost always away, in one of the rooms offered by the City, at work on his novel. All of his works, and they are legion, are known in most Dodge City circles as “his novel,” though, as I’ve said, that’s no more than as good a word for it as any.

He works on matter, thought, devilment, demonry, night, metal, thread, webbing, until those things are no longer those things, or things at all.

God, I sound like one of those guys.

IT’S MAYBE only important to say that I wanted to bring up Blut Branson at this point because there’s lately been a rippling afoot in town, a stirring, quaking, quickening … a sure indication that a tidal shift in his novel is about to occur.

This puts us on edge, works us up.

We hunker down, stockpile canned goods, talk less and linger less when we’re out and about, find it harder to wait at red lights and while people wearing headphones cross the streets in front of us.

People stop changing their clothes, stop showering, wear sneakers at all times. They seem forever uncertain if they want to be alone or together when it hits.

“It” being one of these seismic shifts in Blut Branson’s novel, which, I’ve been given to understand, tend to occur every five to seven years.

Worse than an earthquake in terms of damage; and better, much better, in terms of shaking up people’s congealment, of reconvincing them that life is not any one thing.

Here’s one birds and bees type metaphor I was given when I first inquired into the nature of Blut Branson’s novel:

“Blut Branson’s novel concerns the inner life of a man alone in a grand Caribbean resort. He was taken here long ago, before he can remember, plucked in the night from where he’d formerly been, expressed straight to the island. When he came to, his captors or chauffeurs were long gone. The resort used to be packed with people so rich their only mode was to glide and flutter, but no more. Now the man’s alone but for the staff, whose instructions or instincts are to ignore him aside from servicing his basic nutritional and hygienic needs. Every day, the heaping buffet is laid out, and stoically, stealthily replenished, and then it’s just silence and sea-waves.

“This man spends years here like this, speaking and speaking without receiving a response from anyone around him, denied all media and technology and all clothing save for the single linen suit he wears when he wears anything, something like a woman’s summer pantsuit.

“He communes with plants and animals, but that too remains one-sided.

“Sometimes he has a blast. He romps, he gropes the willing air.

“Other times he cowers and hovers in his room, sea-fronted, open-aired, waving cotton curtains, at a rolling boil.

“He has two copies of The Recognitions which he’s hollowed out in the fullness of time to fit his two feet — the left and the right very different from one another — and there are runs of days he spends clomping about shod only in these, to and from the bathhouse, his only joy taken in soaking those pages down to pulp under the cool string-operated shower, then sitting in the angry sun until they dry like plaster casts around his toes and ankles.

“This was the compromise he struck with his captors long ago, that he’d be permitted to retain these two books in violation of the no-media condition only if he wore them in this manner, never attempting to hold a foot up by his face long enough to glom a single word.

“He’s been made so docile he doesn’t even try.”

That’s all I was told.

The seismic shifts in Dodge City, I’ve since learned, have to do with sudden visits from this man’s captors, or benefactors, or friends. Every so often, they row up over the horizon and onto shore, and have a meeting with this man, generally over a long afternoon lunch.

When this happens, when these visitors appear after so long away, all of Dodge City, which has entered the state of this man alone in the resort in the meantime, seizes and clamps up, readies for impact.

I can feel them swarming around me in the grocery store now, aware that it may hit at any moment. I’d better grab some trail mix and water before it’s all gone. Next time, if there is a next time, I’ll speak to the way in which Blut Branson is said to have peaked at 19, and speculate on the peculiar ontology of his third testicle.

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