Everyone is Reading Franz Kafka

Everyone is reading Franz Kafka these days but they don’t know why. Theory has it that, in this economy, creative readers think of themselves as cockroaches. Of course, this famous Kafka image doesn’t answer all the reasons why he is back in. It is more complicated than metamorphosis. Playing Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue the other day, I thought of Kafka moving smoothly across the dance floor as “So What” came on, the odd man dodging shadows and trumpet solos, making me pull his Selected Stories off my bookshelf. Everyone is reading Kafka again, but members of one discussion group have banned four people from coming back. This happened after one of them went into a trance in the middle of a heated debate over one dark Kafka tale and threw himself on the floor. The anorexic man shuddered and his skinny arms and legs curled up like a bug. The other members of the group hated this and made him leave.

When I flipped through the stories, I came upon a scene of a man walking down a cobbled street. He paused in front of an open window and peered inside, a naked woman turning and showing him her huge breasts. This image borders on violation stereotype, but it is probably more attractive than all the cockroaches waiting for cruel bastards to kick them and inflict pain. The man stared at the woman and the woman’s breasts stared back. What else is new when each of us decided his strange work will reveal a magical understanding of why we are so screwed up and need the good old bug escape. The last time I saw a cockroach was when I lived in Chicago and had to park my car in the alley behind my apartment. This was days after I saw a dead rat near my car. The huge cockroach, at least eight inches long, lay on its back with its legs kicking, the crushed body thrown out of a trash can by a tiny, old man who was digging for food.

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