The Horror of Summer

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Kenton Nelson – A City of Homes

Elsewhere I’ve outlined the main points and contours of my notion of atopy: the radically unique and private sense of an emotion-world that grounds the possibility of poeticity.  I wish to catalog another presently: The Horror of Summer.  Any number of literary works have sought to describe the American sense of summer as social phenomenon: romanticized childhood in To Kill a Mockingbird; post-graduate despair in Less Than Zero.  The former represents a tragedy that is rationalized by ideology; the latter the search for an ideology within anomie.

I was isolated with brief respites.  Primarily I read, watched anime, and played computer games.  I ached infinitely to be rescued by a magical girlfriend¹.  I ran in the heat of Louisiana’s dying sun.  I was warned by the drone of cicada.   I stayed up into the last fractions of night and apologetically watched my guardian, whoever they were, get ready and go to work.  I stayed in bed blanketed by depression, listening to my body decay.  The only way out is through.

This ominous sense of unavoidable reclusion is captured in Orin’s chapter of Infinite Jest where he sits in a hot-tub in the damning heat of Arizona, ruminating on his night-sweats, empty affairs, and cruel program for killing cockroaches.  In Neon Genesis Evangelion, the ultimate parable of modern adolescence, we see Shinji, in perhaps too many scenes, stare blankly into the void beneath the ceiling².  We notice in Serial Experiments Lain the tormented chiaroscuro of late afternoon sunlight cut across elevations of urban neighborhoods³ and the scrupulous attention to technological incursion Japanese middle-class life⁴.  Rather than a brooding introversion, there is the manic excesses of Tekkonkinkreet, when the violent glee of childhood becomes more and more absorbed into the nothingness of adulthood, its dumb lust, its vagueness, its farce.  It is spoken about by The Breeders and Veruca Salt, but it wells up and plops onto cold linoleum, a warm and pulsing mass, in My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless.  It will later be invoked by Yuck’s “Rubber⁵.”

The Horror of Summer is garish.  It screams into the hot, humid plenum, of which the scream is intrusion and outgrowth.  It weeps without tears, sobs dryly.  Its affections are sentimental while cynical.  Its majesty is terrible.  The last day of Spring is the purpose of the Year.  Summer knows that what is shoved into its hands is meaningless surfeit.  Loss is acceptable; there is too much to inventory.


  1.  “A supernatural woman of your dreams moves in with you to start the plot,”  TVtropes.  Related to Manic Pixie Dream Girl, which was first coined by Nathan Rabin.
  2. 02sinji
  3. lain
  4. lain 2 This scene will appear familiar to anyone who had internet access during his or her summer vacation from school and spent more time in front of a screen than outside.  On the internet, all time is asynchronous.
  5. Music Video.
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