The Biography of The Zax
by Tao Lin
In 1241 the Franciscan friar and polymath Roger Bacon (1214-1294) discovered The Zax on a dirt road and offered it a wagon ride only to capture it in a sack. Mr. Bacon then decided on an impulsive that he would force The Zax to invent a language and to use the language to write a unique book, which would also feature color illustrations by The Zax, for no purpose except "to enhance a pre-existing purposelessness," Bacon vaguely thought in the moment and later articulated in his diary, "with elements of mystery and beauty and strangeness."
Nineteen years later The Zax completed what is now called The Voynich manuscript—"the world’s most mysterious manuscript,” according to Wikipedia. It was 1260, and The Zax had endured nineteen years—nearly two decades—of grueling, forced labor. Nineteen years of forced, creative labor. The Zax reportedly spent the entire year of 1261 in a confused state of helpless depression.
1262 – 1920
Thereafter, beginning in 1262 and continuing to the present, The Zax has maintained a lifestyle that basically consists of being forced by a human (or committee of humans) to produce a substantial piece of groundbreaking writing, art, music (or whatever) every twenty years: 1283, 1303, 1323, etc.
The next six hundred years, after Roger Bacon, [censored] and [censored], including [censored] and [censored] and even [censored]—and, some have said, [censored] and [censored]—secretly forced The Zax to produce visionary work under strict time-constraints, with no compensation or artistic credit. The resulting, amazing output accounts today for around 65% of what the average college student getting a liberal arts degree will write essays about in their core curriculum.
1920 – 1980
American author Dr. Seuss was the first person to be open—even garrulous, especially toward the last decade of his life, when he lost control of The Zax to someone else but refused to admit this publicly and denied it vehemently until his death—about forcing The Zax to create work and taking that work and publishing it as one's own work.
For his honesty Dr. Seuss was praised by print media including the New York Times, Time Magazine, Life Magazine and also dozens of radio stations and most of the celebrities and politicians of his time, including the president. Dr. Seuss was even "kind enough," as a young Bruce Willis said on TV, to not censor a story titled "The Zax" (in a collection of four stories by The Zax titled The Sneetches and Other Stories) but to publish it without reading it, despite its potentially being some kind of "cry for help."
It's widely reported that The Zax—essentially, it should be noted, a mysterious entity of unknown origin—lives in a barn in upstate New York or the tri-state area, no one really knows. The barn, if it exists, has never been photographed. Mention of it can be traced back to a 1972 article, in the New York Times, which stated that The Zax "probably lives in a barn." An overworked journalist, in late 2008, writing in the Village Voice, described the barn as “an aboveground bomb-shelter near one of the Metro-North stations that has a weird name like Seymour or Otisville or Port Jervis." But, though the article received "mad hits," this was pure speculation. There's no reason to believe it. By most accounts only one person knows where The Zax lives: Rion Harmon, an American pop musician who has produced songs for Swedish singer-songwriter Cornelia and worked on projects with Less Than Jake. Based on various accounts, patched together from interviews and second-hand sources, the collaboration between The Zax and Harmon—a collaboration called The Zax—is generally understood to go like this: