And now to a loft in Queens, where in “The Transmigration of No” the parents of our 12-year-old narrator make their living peddling New Age mindfulness and group meditation. He is forbidden from spending excessive time on a computer and getting sucked into the cold, silicon age, and of course because his parents have said no, he craves it. The boy’s best friend and neighbor, a computer genius, has found some software that he thinks may enable them to actually accomplish what the parents talk about: a transmigration of souls. On the day the parents have hired a film crew to document one of their sessions, the boys will have free reign to sneak on to their roof and try their experiment. It works. The narrator is able to experience the consciousness of random people within their view in the neighborhood, with transcendent and terrifying consequences. The boys realize they have stumbled onto something they are not ready for – that no one is ready for – and end up destroying the narrator’s parents’ laptop that he’s stolen. His friend can solve this, too. The bond they share, like many of the bonds of early adolescence, is a kind of mingling of emerging souls, and stands in contrast to what his parents are teaching as well as their partnership, which, by necessity, is now driven by economics. As the narrator comes to a dim awareness of all this, he experiences a key moment of separation from his parents.
In submitting for publication the Transcendent Guide to Corporate America, my collection of stories about work and life in the corporate era, I recently wrote a detailed description of the book for Northwestern University Press. It turned into a story-by-story summary about how themes in the stories relate to the general themes of the guide. I thought I'd present them here, one story at a time. This is the fourth. As for what the individual stories are actually '"about," you're on your own.