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The Atlantic on Blow - the missing copy

What the subeditor cut from the Atlantic’s profile of Jonathan Blow:

Blow rouses from sleep preternaturally alert. “I rarely sleep more than four minutes a day,” he declares as he pulls over a lurid Ed Hardy shirt, stray sequins fluttering off in apparent defiance of Blow’s ordered universe. “When I worked on Braid I hired a Sherpa to strike me if my eyes were closed for longer than sixty seconds.”

Reaching for a can of non-hydroflurocarbon deodorant, Blow sprays a perfunctory jolt under each armpit while clothed. When queried why, Blow barks a harsh laugh, as if disappointed at the writer’s obtuseness. “I’ve got more shirts than armpits,” he notes “it saves time this way. Besides – don’t you people ever get tired of doing things the same way – as if you’re just rote little worker bees?”

As I’m cogitating this, apropos to nothing he clearly enunciates the word “Cantaloupe.” Is this a hint of a future game? A dire warning? A term of affection? Who knows?

Levelling me a withering glare, as if to underline the message of my insignificance, Blow pops a cassette (“the sound is warmer than vinyl”) of Kris Kross’s greatest hits into his deskside Akai tape recorder. Muttering almost subvocally along to the beat, Blow beats a path to his ‘kitchen’ – in reality a ragged crater carved into the stone floor. Recumbent inside are coals still aglow from last night’s traditional hangi. “I prefer stone to most materials,” Blow explains. “It stands the test of time. Wood? Too weak. Titanium? Too artificial…”

“-how about plastic?” I interrupt.

Blow stops moving. With cobra-like speed he whips around, his free hand (the other is using a hand-made bronze shakeweight) lashes out, striking me a resounding blow across the cheek. It will leave a mark for a week, and in the days to come I imagine I feel the individual whorls and pores of those talented fingers compressing the skin of my cheek, distorting it, making it something new – something better. (Does talent possess the power of osmosis? I will ask myself hopefully as I trace my boorish fingers over the welts left by his. I can only hope.)

“Don’t ever use that word!” he urges, a demonic fire blazing behind those previously piercing eyes. “Think of where you are,” he spits in utter disgust.

I feel wretched, the child who has disappointed their father. I glance nervously around, my cheek throbbing like a pulsating, prodigal sprite eschewing the glorious, ironic 8bit aesthetic of Braid. Sure enough – there is no plastic materials to be seen. Everything is carved out of stone or wood. Glass too is verboten - the windows are actually wormholes in galactic matter, channeled and moulded by sublime forces beyond our ken. I have brought discord into this magic land. I am bereft. The turgid Gargamel to his winsome Smurfette.

Then: magic. Like a storm cell over a maverick farmhouse, Blow’s annoyance passes without warning, his face wreathed in a beatific smile. “Come, let me show you where the work happens!” he chirps.

Even a pair of coarse gloves (“I wove these myself out of my hair clippings”) can’t conceal the innate elegance of Blow’s index finger as he purposefully extends it to press a button on his wicker elevator. We enter the lift – there’s no buttons.

Dolce,” Blow murmurs. The doors close and with barely any sensation of movement the lift races towards our destination. At least I think so. “Are we moving?” I ask querulously.

Blow stares at me for a beat before a look of comprehension tinged with pity spreads across those stern features. “Oh that’s right. You only have five senses.” Once again that feeling of having disappointed sweeps across me. 

The doors open and it’s the same room we left – or is it? Blow whips out a rattan iPad, his fingers speeding across the definitely-not-glass surface in a hair-gloved blur. My presence, nay my existence is seemingly forgotten. At least it’s not registering.

“Okay,” he murmurs, with a faint moue of annoyance at the implied human weakness in uttering a redundant word,” let’s code.”

  • 13 April 2012
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