Readings — From the March 2013 issue

#37. Guy Bleeding All Over Skype

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By Jonathan Lethem, from “More Little Tales of the Internet,” published in Issue 59 of Conjunctions. Lethem is the author of many books, including, most recently, Fear of Music. His “Radisson Confidential” appeared in the October 2011 issue of Harper’s Magazine.

He was a guy who was very much a big deal to see, in a kind of you-don’t-see-him-very-often way, as well as in a then-when-you-do-he’s-on-Skype kind of way. By reputation, not a guy who’d been leaving his house very often of late. Behind him was a marble mantelpiece with two flowerpots framing a mirror. In the mirror we could catch sight of the top of the back of his head but the angle wasn’t such that we could see more, say the table or desk where his computer sat, which would have set up a possible infinite regress of him, back of head, front of face visible in small Skype window, plus his view, in the larger window, of us all arrayed at the conference table (we’d have been pretty hard to make out in particular, really). No dice. He crowded the frame at an angle down-tilted, so we got about 25 percent forehead and brushed-back hairline and crown, above and around which we only caught glimpses of mantel and flowerpots and mirror, the rest of his features, of course, crowded, receding in perspective below, and then, busy in a small margin, his face, his hands, which entered the frame to worry at a small, round bandage or plaster on the point of his chin, no big deal at the outset. We were certainly not fixated on it at the outset, not with the truly and importantly big deal implicit in getting him onto the conference call to begin with. Who ever speaks up in a room like ours packed with colleagues to say to a face on Skype, Hey, you’re a little proximate, wanna ease back a tad? If he was too big, let him be too big — he was big. We were small and could see ourselves there: small, arrayed, awaiting. He wasn’t calling to have his approach to sitting in front of his computer adjusted by us. We were listeners.

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