Reuben Dendinger
Petar Milošević

Some people, supposedly, are geniuses. They are known as supreme intellects, giants, towering figures, and reside either in the most notable cities, or else on the rugged headlands overlooking rough seas, isolated there on the cliffs, with humble mansions and massive driveways for their cars. The ones who live on the cliffs have wives, kitchens, huge libraries. They have accumulated lots of money from publishing books and devising new forms of art, now they live in romantic estates and drink lots of red wine while planning a new book.

The cities are different. The geniuses here are like the classical bohemians, living in poverty and smoking cigarettes. They flout sexual mores and prefer to read minor poets and obscure philosophers in order to demonstrate the depth of their taste. Gathering into enclaves with other brilliant minds, they meet in coffee shops and bars to exchange ideas.

It is now possible for both men and women to become geniuses, and in fact, recently women seem to have gained the upper hand in the genius game.

Please try to understand my situation. I was imprisoned in a monastery for ten years. I don’t know anything about the world except what I’ve seen on the internet and in the pages of novels. The problem is that the novels in the monastery were all out of date and the internet is unreliable. I had no choice but to go to the city and find out what was really going on.

This monastery was in a backwards province where mathematics, rather than literature, is most esteemed, and one is considered smart merely for amassing university diplomas and securing a lucrative job designing pesticides or bombs for the government. I hate the government. Physics, calculus, computer programming, and all the rest of it is an utter mystery to me. You see, I had no choice but to leave that place as soon as my sentence in the monastery had elapsed.

First, I bought an expensive shirt and a new jacket. Then I got a bus ticket straight to New York.

In the city, I went to the most fashionable bookstore and purchased a huge tranche of fresh paperbacks. The bookseller had placed certain books on a special display table in the center of the store, as if to suggest that these were the books everyone was reading and talking about. Some of them were fifty or a hundred years old, others were more recent. I didn’t recognize any of the names, but my provincial idiocy would soon be cured, because
I was going to buy and read all of these books. It took me six months to get through them.

I’ve always suspected that I was a genius, but this could never be confirmed because I have never met another genius. One’s genius is only proven through recognition by others of the same kind. There is a long chain of geniuses recognizing and admiring other geniuses going back thousands of years. This network of recognition extends vertically, backwards in time, but also horizontally and spatially across the various geniuses alive at a particular moment. Their shared lexicon is a catalog of the names of other superior minds, living and dead: poets and novelists, cinéastes, painters, etcetera. If one could acquire this vocabulary of secret names, memorize their biographies and the key points of selected masterpieces, then one could hold court with, at the very least, the lower ranks of aficionados and tastemakers, but possibly even the true barons of genius.

My problem was economics. As I’ve already indicated, the secrets of mathematics eluded me throughout my life, and my shortcomings with numbers extended to the crucial domain of money, or what’s called the cash nexus. By the end of the six month period in which I read scores of fashionable books, I had totally exhausted all my funds. It was penury which had landed me in the monastery to begin with, and now it looked like I’d be thrown back in. I realized I’d have to set aside being a genius and instead focus on writing a smash novel to get rich very quickly.

Money is critical. I want to have immense sums of it, so that it becomes practically limitless and I can therefore stop counting it, and my stupidity with numbers will become a non-factor.

The novel will come next. For now, I’m writing short stories to get my foot in the door. This is the first one. If you’re reading this, it’s because I managed to get it published in a journal or magazine. Hopefully they paid me a lot of money for it, but I can’t tell you how much because I’m writing these words before the piece is actually published. That’s one of the problems with writing. Once your story has been published, it’s already out of date. To avoid this problem, I’m going to start writing science fiction which is set in the future. That way, my stories will not be out of date for centuries, or possibly thousands of years.


Reuben Dendinger

Reuben Dendinger has been published in The Baffler, DoNotResearch, Expat and Maudlin House. He is the author of Cursed Images, out on Hyperidean Press.

Reuben's Articles on KGB LitMag