Ahem. Mes petites.

We have arrived at that point in the Jeffrey Epstein story where barely conceivable plausibility goes leaping out of the window, marooning us in the fictional world of Don DeLillo’s Zero K, in which a cryogenics-obsessed billionaire sets up his own vast body-freezing laboratory and gets to work being immortal.

Like all great artists, DeLillo has his finger pressed firmly on the pulse of the future – in particular, the way, in America, unimaginable personal wealth, staggeringly sophisticated technology, and an entirely unmitigated death-fear (see also, among DeLillo’s other novels, Cosmopolis) is generating people like Jeffrey Epstein, at once the toast of the world’s greatest, most celebrated scientists, and out of their fucking minds.

Yes, trailed by Stephen Hawking, Lawrence Krauss (hm), Steven Pinker, Stephen Jay Gould… trailed by all of them as they sniffed out his beyond-big research bucks and enjoyed his private island, Epstein made it clear to anyone who’d listen that he had a bag of Caligulagenic I am a god tricks up his sleeve.

He hoped to seed the human race with his DNA by impregnating women at his vast New Mexico ranch…

He told one scientist that he was bankrolling efforts to identify a mysterious particle that might trigger the feeling that someone is watching you.

At one session at Harvard, Mr. Epstein criticized efforts to reduce starvation and provide health care to the poor because doing so increased the risk of overpopulation, said Mr. Pinker, who was there. Mr. Pinker said he had rebutted the argument, citing research showing that high rates of infant mortality simply caused people to have more children. Mr. Epstein seemed annoyed, and a Harvard colleague later told Mr. Pinker that he had been “voted off the island” and was no longer welcome at Mr. Epstein’s gatherings.

Then there was Mr. Epstein’s interest in eugenics.

On multiple occasions starting in the early 2000s, Mr. Epstein told scientists and businessmen about his ambitions to use his New Mexico ranch as a base where women would be inseminated with his sperm and would give birth to his babies, according to two award-winning scientists and an adviser to large companies and wealthy individuals, all of whom Mr. Epstein told about it… Mr. Epstein’s goal was to have 20 women at a time impregnated at his 33,000-square-foot Zorro Ranch in a tiny town outside Santa Fe.

[He was also interested in] cryonics, an unproven science in which people’s bodies are frozen to be brought back to life in the future. Mr. Epstein told [one] person that he wanted his head and penis to be frozen.


A sweet and amusing 1940 short story, “Inflexible Logic,” features a very rich dilettante, Mr Bainbridge, with an interest in ideas who, overhearing mathematicians talking about the infinite monkey theorem, decides to fill his house with monkeys and typewriters and see how long it might take for one of them to write a Shakespeare play or whatever. As it happens, all of the monkeys immediately start producing, without a single error, the world’s great literature.

Mr. Bainbridge led Professor Mallard downstairs, along a corridor, through a disused music room, and into a large conservatory. The middle of the floor had been cleared of plants and was occupied by a row of six typewriter tables, each one supporting a hooded machine. At the left of each typewriter was a neat stack of yellow copy paper. Empty wastebaskets were under each table. The chairs were the unpadded, spring-backed kind favored by experienced stenographers. A large bunch of ripe bananas was hanging in one corner, and in another stood a Great Bear water-cooler and a rack of Lily cups. Six piles of typescript, each about a foot high, were ranged along the wall on an improvised shelf. Mr. Bainbridge picked up one of the piles, which he could just conveniently lift, and set it on a table before Professor Mallard. “The output to date of Chimpanzee A, known as Bill,” he said simply.

“‘”Oliver Twist,” by Charles Dickens,’ ” Professor Mallard read out. He read the first and second pages of the manuscript, then feverishly leafed through to the end. “You mean to tell me,” he said, “that this chimpanzee has written–“

“Word for word and comma for comma,” said Mr. Bainbridge. “Young, my butler, and I took turns comparing it with the edition I own. Having finished ‘Oliver Twist,’ Bill is, as you see, starting the sociological works of Vilfredo Pareto, in Italian. At the rate he has been going, it should keep him busy for the rest of the month.”

“And all the chimpanzees”–Professor Mallard was pale, and enunciated with difficulty–“they aren’t all–“

“Oh, yes, all writing books which I have every reason to believe are in the British Museum. The prose of John Donne, some Anatole France, Conan Doyle, Galen, the collected plays of Somerset Maugham, Marcel Proust, the memoirs of the late Marie of Rumania, and a monograph by a Dr. Wiley on the marsh grasses of Maine and Massachusetts. I can sum it up for you, Mallard, by telling you that since I started this experiment, four weeks and some days ago, none of the chimpanzees has spoiled a single sheet of paper.”

Innocent days, huh? Daft, obsessed billionaires concocted harmless (well, the story does end in a bloodbath…) experiments then; but coming up on 2020, we’re in DeLilloland, and things have taken a rather insidious turn.

Can we still laugh at Jeffrey Epstein and his buddies like Alan Dershowitz, with their own demented grandiosity?

Of course we can. Nothing is funnier than a good Kafka short story, and that’s what we’ve got unfolding in front of us – Kafkan absurdity with a postmodern twist. To be sure, the insidious thing is absolutely there – as in, you probably don’t want to be a woman around Dersh or Ep. But Dersh is going down in flames, and Ep, well…

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