‘A Sunday Daily News article from March 27th, 1960 reports that Alma Malone was sentenced to twenty years in prison for her involvement in a botched bank robbery. She was supposed to drive behind her partner “Mr. Ansley” to the bank, wait for him while he completed the robbery, and then act as the getaway driver. But Malone took a wrong turn, and by the time she arrived at the bank, the robbery had gone wrong. Ansley was dead. After she was sentenced, Malone thanked the judge.
‘In 1970 the film Wanda won the Pasinetti Award for Best Foreign Film at the Venice Film Festival. It tells the story of Wanda, an apathetic, docile woman who leaves her impoverished husband and children and casts herself adrift in the world. She asks a neighbor for money, begs for a job, gets picked up by a man in a bar and then abandoned by him at an ice-cream stand the next day. She’s frequently humiliated. She doesn’t have much to say. When she finds Dennis, she doesn’t realize he’s just robbed a bar. He calls her stupid. He yells at her for forgetting he doesn’t want onions on his burger. He has an idea for robbing a bank and he decides that she’s going to drive the getaway car. You know how the story goes from there.
‘Barbara Loden was born the same year as Alma Malone. Like Malone and like Wanda, she was born into Appalachian poverty. At age sixteen she left home to work as a showgirl in New York. She became a pin-up model, then an actress. She married the famed director Elia Kazan (A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront, East of Eden) and, at the age of thirty-eight, she wrote, directed, and starred in Wanda. “It’s like showing myself in a way that I was,” she said in a 1971 interview in Madison Women’s Media Collective.
‘Nathalie Léger was asked to write a brief entry about Wanda for a film encyclopedia. Léger is an impressive French person whose publications include a book-length personal essay entitled Les vies silencieuses de Samuel Beckett. “Convinced that in order to keep it short you need to know a great deal,” she embarked on a course of in-depth research for the encyclopedia entry, and the result was the book Suite for Barbara Loden, or at least that’s how Léger tells it in Suite for Barbara Loden, translated by Natasha Lehrer and Cécile Menon. It’s a book about Loden, but also about Wanda and Kazan, and a little about Malone, but definitely about Léger herself and her mother.
‘When I set out to review Suite for Barbara Loden, I realized I didn’t have much to say, exactly, beyond what Léger says. I wanted to show how she shows how one woman’s experience is filtered through another, collapses into another. And I wanted to show how we (women) connect with Wanda—even extraordinary, glamorous, intellectual women like Léger or Loden, and even women generations younger than Wanda, like myself—how the book sucks in every woman who approaches it.’ — Amanda Demarco, The Rumpus
Nathalie Léger Suite for Barbara Loden
Dorothy, publishing project
‘First published in France in 2012 to critical and popular acclaim, this is the first book about the remarkable American actress and filmmaker Barbara Loden. Loden’s 1970 film Wanda is a masterpiece of early cinéma-vérité, an anti-Bonnie-and-Clyde road movie about a young woman, adrift in rust-belt Pennsylvania in the early 1960s, who embarks on a crime spree with a small-time crook.
‘How to paint a life, describe a personality? Inspired by the film, a researcher seeks to piece together a portrait of its creator. In her soul-searching homage to the former pin-up girl famously married to Hollywood giant Elia Kazan, the biographer’s evocative powers are put to the test. New insights into Loden’s sketchy biography remain scarce and the words of Marguerite Duras, Georges Perec, Jean-Luc Godard, Sylvia Plath, Kate Chopin, Herman Melville, Samuel Beckett and W.G. Sebald come to the narrator’s rescue. As remembered scenes from Wanda alternate with the droll journal of a flailing research project, personal memories surface, and with them, uncomfortable insights into the inner life of a singular woman who is also, somehow, every woman.’ — Dorothy
from 3:AM Magazine
Nothing remains of the miniature theme park but an overhanging cross and a few plaster stumps sticking out of the underbrush. The hill is overgrown with vegetation. Holy Land. Hard to imagine that in the 1970s this place was thronged with thousands of visitors. Families strolling around the model temples and picnicking amongst the miniature mausoleums, archways, statues and ex-votos, with loudspeakers concealed here and there among the pine trees sputtering a stream of a cappella psalms. Somewhat petulantly, I wonder aloud whether these ruins are the remains of a theme park, an American specialty in applied mysticism, or an impressively bombastic allegory of the dire fate of all human activity. The young man laughs. He’s always laughing. We have squeezed through the metal gates that are meant to keep people out, and – this is what I wanted, this is what I told him I wanted – have found ourselves inside a very old, crumbling dream. Don’t bring anything with you that you can’t replace – your life, for example – went the whispers in town. We are in a glitzy, fake holy land turned no-man’s-land on the edge of town. Now the young man is standing in the middle of a small esplanade that I think I recognise. Reflexively, he buttons up his jacket, clears his throat and begins. The man behind the creation of the Waterbury Holy Land in 1956 (I could leave him there, I could wander off down the hill) was called John Greco (I could walk down sunken paths, peer into crevices). With the help of hundreds of volunteers, John Greco built this new Bethlehem (I could look inside the ancient caves and I would still be able to hear him from afar), for John had heard the call of an angel (I would still be able to hear his strong voice ringing out, even from a distance), who had ordered him to build a holy place right here in Waterbury (I could go down into the putrid tunnels of the catacombs, where the cracks in the cement structure let in barely any light), and John, known to be an expert on nativity scenes, showed the others how to construct nativity scenes (but I stay by his side, I look around, waiting and staring at what’s left of the Holy Land). The old warped scenery, a shabby biblical imitation, a pastiche of some ancient tale. July 1970. Wanda and Mr Dennis step onto the Holy Land esplanade that overlooks the town. In the distance we can see the lines of a motorway flyover. The strangeness of the place is surprising, the awkward buildings, the carefully tended asymmetrical coppicing, the crackly recording of a syrupy choral medley. Soon we will see colourful crowds of hurrying families rushing forward under the spring sky, red and orange, children in short yellow trousers, a middle-aged woman in electric blue cutting across the screen; she must be dead now, all those bodies that are already old, all those outdated fashions. Perhaps everyone is dead now, even the children who would be about my age today, like that ten-year-old in short red trousers, my exact contemporary. Now everyone is waiting at the entrance to the catacombs after wandering around the gardens in search of who knows what, amongst the tiny temples and the fake tombs. The esplanade is empty. Mr Dennis gestures to Wanda to move away. He walks on his own towards an old man working at something at the base of a cross-section of Herod’s temple, almost impossible to make out against the colour of the stone. He is absorbed in his task; perhaps he has a low wall to finish, some stones to lay, letters to carve into the plaster, the final touches to the word god at the foot of the tower. The old man is bent over, motionless, slowly completing his voluntary work, hey Pop! an awkward embrace, it’s the first time they’ve uttered these workaday pleasantries, good to see you again, borrowed gestures. Then they walk, the son supporting the father, crossing the lopsided miniature holy land, walking past the pyramids, pillars, biblical verses, and I WILL PUT ENMITY BETWEEN THEE AND THE WOMAN, AND BETWEEN THY SEED AND HER SEED. The father falters, the son puts his arm around him. Chants, a celestial chorus. Thinking they have things to say to each other, they sit down under an awning plastered with worthy inscriptions, GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD, it’s getting cloudy, it is the first grey day, FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESPASS AGAINST US. The father sits down, the son stands in front of him, pale, already exhausted by mutual disappointment, Have you been looking for a job? Yes, Pop. You found one yet? Not yet, Pop. And when the son hands him some money, a few crumpled notes nervously pulled from his pocket, the father refuses, you’ve done something stupid again, I don’t want your dirty money. The son explains he’s hoping for a job and will be back in a week. So I’ll love you and leave you. No doubt the father will go and etch his own epigram about offence and forgiveness at the foot of the low wall.
Wanda is making her way down in the dark. We can just about discern a few scattered objects, the gaping maw of an animal, a hand, something that looks like an arm, rags, faces emerging from the shadows. At first we don’t understand and then we do: behind the metal gratings are fake relics, broken dolls, plastic masks, a celluloid body crucified on a cross, a jumbled pile of manmade relics. If you would care to follow me. A voice leads them into an underground gully lit by bare bulbs. The volunteer guide explains that these are graves, Christian graves, martyrs’ graves, and we know that martyrs are people who died for their faith, he leads them through a kind of sacred junk shop, everything is mixed up with bits of rubble, a veritable religious bazaar, old adverts, ‘The Illustrated Life of Christ – from the Cradle to the Cross’, old press cuttings stuck down under glass, advertisements for miracles. His voice is confident and reassuring, here is Saint Thecla’s tomb, she was one of Paul’s disciples, his account is not remotely concerned about being credible, its sole purpose is to show that the story he is telling is so true that it can get away with being presented as fake – so true, so insanely true in fact, that it must actually be falsified in order to be understood. Wanda follows the group that is now crowded into the gully, sinking into the damp subterranean gloom – all we can make out of Wanda Goronsky is her mass of blonde hair and sometimes, when she gets close to a light bulb, the big white flowers on her headscarf seem to glow. We might imagine that perhaps she is at last finding a little solace in this dark space, letting herself be guided by the earnest voice that is constantly investing meaning in the most insignificant gestures and objects. She is like everyone else – she just wants to believe, she thinks she will find relief from her sadness if she can find something to believe in, like Flaubert’s Félicité – a simple heart who needed familiar objects to reconcile what she didn’t understand, who imagined she saw the Holy Spirit in the features of her beloved stuffed parrot.
Nathalie Léger Supplément à la vie de Barbara Loden
Nathalie Léger – Supplément à la vie de Barbara Loden
Nathalie Léger à la Librairie Banse à Fécamp
‘With one hand I was stirring a gallon of pink paint. I put my whole arm in to break up clots at the bottom with my fingers. Happiness came and went as I stirred the paint. Heavy black snow made of human beings began to seep into the ground. An hour later I was still sitting there, after the gallon had been mixed and taken away. No one ever told me what they did with the paint. My arm was still covered in it. It was resting on my lap now, with the thick paint drying to a crust and leaving chalky pink stains on my pants. I brushed at them halfheartedly with my other hand a few times to try and clean them off, but the chalky scabs came away and there was fresh wet paint under them. I wiped it on the side of my chair until it felt dry. As I sat there, I noticed a coolness in my mouth, almost as if there were an ice cube in it. It started as a cold ridge down the middle of my palate and spread out from there. I felt a calm certainty and an inner harmony radiating from that spot. Then I shifted my weight a little bit and the feeling went away. When it was time for me to go I crossed the bridge and went toward the bend in the path where I could see the sun going down. I was supposed to meet a friend of mine there so that the two of us could walk home from work together. A few minutes later my friend arrived, looking a little bit uncomfortable. He kept glancing around from side to side and scratching at the back of his neck. We started walking, but there was an unnatural tension between us, and when I asked him what was wrong he said that on the way here he had died by the side of the road and just now come back to life. He said he had no idea how it happened, or what could have brought him back from the dead. He said he’d been walking to meet me at the bend as usual when he saw something lying in a ditch, thinking at first that it was a pile of clothes someone had dropped there by accident. When he bent down to get a closer look he saw it stirring slightly, moving back and forth, rustling the leaves. Then it started turning, in a circular motion–with difficulty at first, then more smoothly–and he became frightened, because at that moment he was convinced that someone had snuck up behind him while he was distracted. When he spun around, though, he saw nothing, just dust hanging in the orange light. He stood there for a moment. As warmth colored the branches he could feel all around him the emptiness left behind by whatever passed through that space before. That’s when he fell backward into the ditch, unable to get out. In the darkness, he saw a massive river of sand. People knelt at the edge of it, dipping their hands into it as it rushed by, leaning down to gather it against their chests, weeping. In the middle of the night he heard a woman pass by the ditch. She had a cat walking with her, and every once in a while he heard the woman whisper something to the cat. Then for a long time he saw and heard nothing. He stopped feeling his back against the bottom of the ditch. During this time he couldn’t perceive or think or imagine anything. Then he had the vision that he was walking along the path with me, but I always stayed a few paces ahead, and wouldn’t look at him. When we came out of the woods we were thirsty, so we stopped at a gas station just outside of town, in a place where everything was called “crow.” When we opened the door and went inside it was “crow”. To get something to drink was “crow,” too, as well as the drink itself, and even the thirst we felt “crow.” Each of us went to the cooler and took out a bottle of water. My friend wandered around the store for a while with his water looking for a clerk and almost getting so caught up in it that he forgot about where he really was. Meanwhile, I was on the other side of the store, examining a rack of baseball hats. I had taken one of the hats off the rack and was staring into the lining. Then I took another one down and turned it inside out, as if to compare the two. When my friend came over to ask what I was doing I still wouldn’t look at him; I looked off to the side when I answered him, saying that I couldn’t figure out how much the hats cost. He told me that we could decide that later. Then he said if we really wanted the hats we could try putting a little bit of money down on the counter while the clerk wasn’t looking; if he wasn’t content with what we gave him, all he had to do was ask for more from us, and if he was, then he could just take the money for himself and we’d be free to go off into the darkness again. I didn’t say anything in response to this. I was distracted by a man on the floor of the gas station writhing on his back with his limbs in the air. He kept twisting and flailing as though he were falling, and letting out little yelps of terror. I turned to my friend and said You know what? Let’s not go home after all. Let’s go back on that path and look for the woman who was following us earlier. He didn’t want to go, though, and so I went by myself, and I found her, and when we were alone I heard her say, “You’ll burn a hole in yourself, like you always do!” She didn’t say it to me, though; she said it to herself, while looking back over her shoulder at a field of massive crystals.’ — John Colasacco
John Colasacco Two Teenagers
Horse Less Press
‘I like this book a lot. I found a lot of surprises in the way the sentences worked. I was taken down a path cognitively and then thrust into a situation that made me use my psychedelic brain. I like being asked to do that. TWO TEENAGERS seeks the dust and doorways that evoke emotive meaning. Each sentence unfolds new emotions through a kind of paced, unique, symbolic logic. Measurable phenomena + the liquid in which the answer skinny dips. Verificationism + a tree that survives on echoes. This book is full of feelings I’d forgotten I’d had.’ — Sommer Browning
Two teenagers turn around quickly expecting to see blue sparks or a person walking toward a house in an open field.
The rest of the day moves slowly while a paper lantern floats off and a young girl with graying hair bends down to kiss the sand.
There is a wound somewhere filling up with the sound of silent letters and the feeling of being too far away from a bridge.
By the time the fireflies come out someone has died on their way back to a great body of water but no one has been able to sense their absence yet.
Two teenagers come outside for a while and sit in the sun where people talk about what they’re going to do with the rest of their lives.
In the distance the white car they’re all driving travels along a suburban road at a tremendous speed.
When they get to the beach there’s a window that’s not attached to a house and the ocean makes the sound of footsteps running up stairs.
They stop to take a breath not knowing that somewhere they are being thought of under moonlight by a twelve-year-old with a face like evening.
Two teenagers in bed with someone they have never seen in the light open their hands and dream of the souvenir shops.
They stop thinking about what it’s all right to like while a rabbit stands among trees watching over them.
The colors in their heads and the smell of the backyard are like an old friend pretending to kiss a shadow trapped in glass.
They want to say something about walking across the world from one sea to the next through the all the emptiness that’s been taken out of them.
Two teenagers run away together to a place where all the lonely are slaughtered.
When they get there, they find a table and a tree.
They leave a piece of bread on the counter in a bit of shadow, thinking that it expresses something they can’t articulate.
Soon an argument starts over whether the table has been brought outside or the tree is growing indoors.
On the table, an empty wine glass trembles.
Two teenagers disappear into a parking lot looking over their shoulders as though they are afraid someone has seen them.
Next to the parking lot is a three-story house with a faint grinding noise coming from inside.
A warm breeze blows as a woman with an accent whispers something to the whole world, first into one ear, then the other.
The wind dies down just long enough to make out what she’s saying.
“I used to live in that house.”
Two teenagers accidentally separate from each other somewhere in the parking lot.
Then night falls, and the parking lot empties, leaving only seagull feathers and broken glass.
By the light of the moon they track each other’s footprints the wrong direction until they are too tired to walk anymore.
“I’ll just wait here by this seagull feather,” one says.
Miles away the other rubs half a lightbulb until it glows.
ANTIGOLF by John Colasacco – Book Trailer
Nicholas Rys: Sucker June was one of the strangest, most uncomfortable and most singular reading experiences I’ve ever had. I mean that obviously in the best way possible. What bloody river or slumalley did these characters crawl out from? How did you pin down or find or create that gasoline honey narrative voice?
Sean Kilpatrick: The intentionally amaurotic practitioners of cursed poetry stole the gas from caves until the applied science of carrying a fire seemed gauche to us and we embraced the label “charlatan.” No gods, no sight, no system, just the brain catering itself to the scream of our collapse. Plato erected his toe in our scalp, the big tent pole against not knowing (philosophy/ethics, religion, then psychology, all of which, when done well, incorporate the void a poet lives) took control and encouraged a massive breed, upscale natural selection. How we misuse knowledge can be the reducing border of a property. We’re just a franchise of knowing where our dangers lie. The more people survive the easier it becomes to mock the death trance. Cave juice death trance ain’t made to suffer its audience; it’s just one’s desperate display, volume eleven.
We do welcome any appreciators of our take on choking. We’re still base humans that way. I want to be out there with my head in an alligator’s shitstar, but I’ve been too raised here, trying to reduce a page to my urgings. So everybody rewards the embrace of a comfortable exploration. Who could blame their giggles? The need for logic is to shout back about impending predators. Poets kiss their predator. Your explicative novelist whose characters reflect social dangers in order to enhance our possible improvement, as if we ever have, or will, meet our potential (anyone touting their alms in group format is about finance and coo to them), your comedian poking the air out of everything with their stakes on truth, I can love all these, but I don’t want or deserve theirs back. I don’t deserve love beyond the totem that has to be so unfortunately, with all effort or lack thereof, rendered how we live now, or lived ever, together, regardless, but look at the struggle to capture being captured now. I’m living out my fucking butterfly net.
NR: Do you see yourself primarily as a poet? Was writing prose challenging or more difficult or just a different experience for you?
SP: I’m of an ill career, fat with the repressed anxiety of not being allowed to speak in rigor mortis tongue. I ain’t referencing some Iron John penial victory. What I mean is way deeper perverse, way even worse and stunted in the genitals than bored richboys might rub their guidelines on. Drum circle hen men or their snarky opposites. Some find-your-place-or-self-and-succeed positivity. The Nerf ball with glasses shit. I’m saying I have to backwards engineer anything coherent. The hate’s about being pinched breathing and the genius of its hell. By hell I mean people as a people will forever be unrealized and are soothed by knowing how ironically close we stumble near it on occasion. We see how we’re almost capable. We’ll always be hunched beneath the glass ceiling of what we’re capable of, the reason why we’re such a culpable and unforgiven species. Proof that we’ll never grow hooves beautiful as Satan’s is we can draw their likeness without wearing them.
NR: You are from Detroit. Did that have any influence?
SP: I was raised somewhere one might show slight bravado about once they escape, but I don’t think I care to escape, or perhaps I have so hard it doesn’t matter. Nothing’s easier than a white complaining. The croak of saying sets my plate. Play ball is how America teaches kids to kill imagination. My politics aren’t in line. Everyone’s kissin’ babies these days.
Sean Kilpatrick Thank You, Steel China
Schism  Press
‘A brilliant, serious and goof-rendered life cycle punctuated, constantly, with castration, abortions and suicide. Pageantry, clichés, cynicism and Catullus-like military exercises dedicated to and dragged over time’s tender acne. A sordid and jaded love story (“we rubbed our anuses together in a field”) garnished with bosses and workers who fuck everything, bubbling up shared panic and annihilation in “the urine of a girl who already forgot you.”‘ — Rauan Klassnik
Thank You in the City of Steel China
My mother aborted me on someone’s doorstep.
I dreamed of coat hangers. I cried at thrift stores. The people who raised me worked in oil.
We ate vats of it for dessert.
We were accused of minstrel antics.
We were accused of playing violins.
They cut us a little bit and promised more.
At the hospital, the doctor showed me slides.
“These are slides of what you would look like if you were better.” They were slides of road kill, slides of pregnant women killed by fire.
“Everything drips if you hate it long enough.”
“I want to go,” I said.
“You big tease,” the doctor said, “Please cough for me.”
The window showed buildings without spines.
In a bomb space, children cornered their dinner. Dinner was shaking and drawing them a treasure map.
Children in Steel China are not tickled into believing. Dinner lost its hind legs first.
I used mine to walk home (what was left of home) and worshipped random objects.
I thought I was funny.
Someone saw me in the backyard
and threw a large rock at my lap.
I dreamed of a girl who had a bruise between her legs where something else was meant to be.
Most abortions in Steel China were performed through interpretive dance.
The high school debate team always turned into a masturbation contest.
At my probation hearing, I showed them my talent for throwing knives.
I was released immediately and given a free house
filled with taxidermy heads and bombs that had stopped ticking. Everyday I watered the landmines, went back in, and stared at a different head.
Small country presidents, former popes, animals
—but those were too beautiful to watch stuffed.
They looked like they were going somewhere.
“Would you like a sandwich?” I asked them.
“I only eat sandwiches now and sit down when I want.”
Black jaws in the living room showed me outside.
A girl was running through my landmines.
She had big red fist prints from punching herself.
She was naked except for a yellow blanket around her waist. “Stop,” I said. “There are bombs where your feet want to be.”
“I know,” she replied. “This is how Steel China girls pick suicide.” “But my lawn . ..” I said.
“I can already tell we’re in love,” she replied. “So, instead, I’ll come in.”
“Let me draw you a map of the landmines.”
“If they love me, they love me,” she said. “You should let them have me,
if they want me that bad, and stop whining.”
I winced every time her bare foot touched the ground. Since this was love, and we were to be married,
I knew a tragedy would come soon and be great.
The first tragedy was that her toes were painted black.
Thank You, Steel China: My Panic Is Your Panic Too
“Dear, what have they done to you?” I asked.
“There is almost nothing left,” she sighed. “And I’m sure you’ll want the rest.”
“I have to write you a love poem now,” I said. “I’m sorry,” she said.
“Is that your name?”
But she had already stopped talking to other humans.
Goodbye Steel China
I felt like my own bacteria were tired of my voice.
Or they were listening, but they were listening with headphones on. I laid money on my chest and told them to take it.
I pretended there was a catalogue from which I could order tiny microphones. I watched through a microscope.
They were constantly eating. “Chew me faster,” I said. “You’re so petite.”
the girl was answering Steel China’s prayers.
the girl was out there parting her smile around another cock.
I donned a blindfold and tangoed alone.
all over the front lawn I went with my indignant shoes.
I dreamed people had guillotines instead of torsos.
no one had any hands left to pray.
things got better.
I condemned myself to sitting and grew a beard. The rent was cheap inside my beard.
Still, everyone refused to live like that.
Sean Kilpatrick reading
AWP LOS ANGELES 2016 DARK FUCKING WIZARD READING
Poète maudit: Weldon Kees – Sean Kilpatrick
The stories in Ninety-Nine Stories of God were partly inspired by Thomas Bernhard’s similarly hilarious, philosophical, and dark collection The Voice Imitator. Can you talk about the influence of that “cranky genius of Austrian literature” on your writing?
Joy Williams: William Gaddis introduced me to the works of Bernhard. I first thought he said an Australian writer, and I said, “Oh, like Patrick White, I really like Patrick…” “God, no,” Mr. Gaddis said, “Austrian…” I never understood how Bernhard could be a successful playwright when he disapproved so of engagement with people. Anyway, he’s marvelous, delicious, his work can’t be broken down. His little book The Voice Imitator certainly inspired me. A few of the early ones were rather in his voice—”#32″ and “#82,” for instance. I’m not sure where I found my own voice for this venture. Perhaps it was “#2” or “#70.” I’m most pleased when God makes a thorough appearance—when he’s hanging with the bats or a demolition derby or at the pharmacy, but I resisted this being the primary approach. Many different tones are struck in Ninety-Nine Stories of God. He’s everywhere at once of course, but he must get tired of showing up all the time.
Many of the stories seem to be based on excerpts from newspapers or other real-world texts. Do you collect striking anecdotes or interesting snippets of text to use in fiction?
JW: I keep notebooks. “#54” came directly from a newspaper headline. “CANCER DOESN’T STOP HUNTER, 86, WHO KILLS MOOSE FROM HIS RECLINER.” There’s everything in my notebooks, from the advice in James Cain’s Mildred Pierce—”Never sell the beach house” to the photo of the adoptable dog Filo who “is well-behaved while out and about and is interested in a home where he’ll get moderate attention.”
Your stories are filled with biting humor, and are some of the funniest works I’ve read. The humor often comes from the syntax and language itself. Do you edit and revise toward humor, or does it arise more organically in the writing?
JW: I don’t revise much. I work too slowly. Am I funny? Writing gives me no happiness, I’ve said this before, but once I told a group that a sentence I wrote in a story called “Hammer” made me laugh. A man had a pet beaver who lived in his house in its own little house made of twigs. “When you broke bread with my friend you broke bread with that beaver.” There was silence.
Joy Williams @ Wikipedia
‘Good Writing Never Soothes or Comforts’: Joy Williams on Writing
A Mysterious and Unparalleled Vision
Flash Friday: 3 Stories of God by Joy Williams
Buy ‘Ninety-Nine Stories of God’
Joy Williams Ninety-Nine Stories of God
‘This series of short, fictional vignettes explores our day-to-day interactions with an ever-elusive and arbitrary God. It’s the Book of Common Prayer as seen through a looking glass―a powerfully vivid collection of seemingly random life moments. The figures that haunt these stories range from Kafka (talking to a fish) to the Aztecs, Tolstoy to Abraham and Sarah, O. J. Simpson to a pack of wolves. Most of Williams’s characters, however, are like the rest of us: anonymous strivers and bumblers who brush up against God in the least expected places or go searching for Him when He’s standing right there. The Lord shows up at a hot-dog-eating contest, a demolition derby, a formal gala, and a drugstore, where he’s in line to get a shingles vaccination. At turns comic and yearning, lyric and aphoristic, Ninety-Nine Stories of God serves as a pure distillation of one of our great artists.’ — Tin House
from The Paris Review
There was a famous writer who had a house on the coast. He was entertaining another writer for the weekend, this one less well known, but nonetheless with a name that was recognized by many. A third writer, whose husband had died unexpectedly only two days before, had also been invited for the evening. This was done at the last minute, an act of graciousness, as the woman was on her way south, on a trip she and her husband had long intended.
This writer was the least famous of the three. People couldn’t get a handle on her stuff.
The famous writer and his wife made fish baked in salt for supper. There were many bottles of wine. The third writer’s husband was remembered off and on, fondly.
There was a guest house on the property, and she was invited to spend the night there. Her dog, however, would have to stay in a kennel that was also on the acreage. Or, if she preferred, her car. But not in the guest house.
But she wanted the dog to be with her. It was only the third night of her husband’s death. She probably just should have driven off and found a motel somewhere. But it was late. So late.
She didn’t want the dog to sleep on the cold earth of the kennel. He was old, almost thirteen years old. She and her husband had had him all that time.
Finally, irritably, the famous writer allowed them to stay in one small room in the guest house. The rather known writer said nothing during this battle of wills. She smiled and shrugged. She herself had never had a dog, though she used them freely in her fiction, where they appeared real enough.
The widow lay in the smallest room of the guest house with her dog. Never had she felt so bereft. She had signed a number of papers only that morning at the funeral home. Cremation is not reversible, someone there said. She couldn’t imagine why they would say such a thing. She wished she had requested his belt. And the black cashmere sweater the medics had ripped in half when they first arrived.
He had worn that belt every day for years. Sometimes she’d put some leather preservative on it. And now she didn’t have it.
Oh God, she thought.
Over the years, our succession of beloved dogs were always losing their identification tags.
Since we traveled frequently and often chose areas to pass through where the dogs could run free and tussle, our dogs lost their identification tags in at least a dozen states. Frequently these tags, which included our home address as well as a telephone number, would be returned to us through the mail with a short note of greeting and good wishes.
With the exception of one finder who was not a realtor or an insurance agent, all the finders who contacted us were realtors or insurance agents who enclosed their business cards.
The Lord was in a den with a pack of wolves.
“You really are so intelligent,” the Lord said, “and have such glorious eyes. Why do you think you’re hounded so? It’s like they want to exterminate you, it’s awful.”
“Well, sometimes it’s the calves and the cows,” the wolves said.
“Oh those maddening cows,” the Lord said. “I have a suggestion. What if I caused you not to have a taste for them anymore?”
“It wouldn’t matter. Then it would be the deer or the elk. Have you seen the bumper stickers on the hunters’ trucks—did a wolf get your elk?”
“I guess I missed that,” the Lord said.
“Sentiment is very much against us down here,” the wolves said.
“I’m so awfully sorry,” the Lord said.
“Thank you for inviting us to participate in your plan anyway,” the wolves said politely.
The Lord did not want to appear addled, but what was the plan his sons were referring to exactly?
Fathers and Sons
Joy Williams reading “George & Susan”
Joy Williams reading her essay ‘Why I Write’
Joy Williams’ “Baba Iaga and the Pelican Child” – An Electric Literature Single Sentence Animation
p.s. Hey. ** Jonathan, J-man. Thanks, bud. Yeah, funny you said that about Diarmuid and then at the end of the weekend he writes that you guys have made plans to meet. Weekends are good for mini-narratives. Cool re: the collecting for work. I like to hear that. ‘The Wolfpack’ was really good, wasn’t it? I keep thinking about it. Happy Monday. ** Dóra Grőber, Hi, D! Thanks about the post. Oh, faves of mine in there? Let me check back on it. Hold on. Mm, Vito Acconci’s ‘Seedbed’ is an all-time fave. The one photo doesn’t do it any justice at all, but Charles Ray is probably my favorite artist, and that ‘Oh Charley …’ piece is incredible in person. I like Jimmy De Sana’s photos a lot. Maybe those? My back pain is very gradually getting better like it always does, but that’s a lot better than nothing. We’re having the first of our two prep sessions for the film commission thing today. Unfortunately for him, Zac will have to do the vast majority of the schmoozing because my French severely sucks, and we’re only given 25 minutes to make our case, so we can’t waste too much time on me talking in English and then Zac having to translate. I can let you know how it felt like it went on Friday, but I don’t know when we’ll hear the word. I hope your weekend was a total boon. Was Monday fun? ** Dadoodoflow, Thanks a lot, sir! ** David Ehrenstein, Morning, David. Ah, interesting. Thank you for the wisdom. ** Kevin, Hi, Kevin. Welcome! Huh, wow, it does seem like we might have known each other, doesn’t it? When were you at PCC? I mostly just took poetry workshops there and a filmmaking class. Advanced Folksinging sounds like a great class, or is so unexpected that it does something really nice with the imagination. Or mine. The Psychedelic Psychotherapy Forum sounds and looks very, very interesting. I’m going to study the state/page further when I get out of here. I credit my youth spent largely on psychedelics for causing me to be as relatively sane as I seem to be sometimes. Very nice to meet or maybe even re-meet you. ** Tosh Berman, Thank you very kindly, sir. ** Bernard, There you are. Well, well, well, it’s art, right, so … Ha. That’s right, between the painted bears and the Bear himself aka Nayland, not a bad quotient, I guess. How the hell are you? What are you doing? ** Thomas Moronic, Thank you, T. That’s a nice point of comparison: John’s and Bruce’s book. Cool, thank you for spending so much time with the show and seeming to get stuff out of it! Now I’m really, really excited for your new novel, ha ha. Even more so even. You’ve been to Frieze, okay, you know the drill. How’s stuff? ** Steevee, Hi. Oh, gee, that ‘Abandoned’ show sounds both really good and up my alley. I’ll make a concerted effort to find out how I can watch it over here. Thank you. Well, you had one good night and one not so good night since the last time I saw you. So, a bit rocky but maybe edging into the okay and ;could be worse’? ** Sypha, Hi. Oh, yeah, I was just being funny or trying to be or something. I haven’t read Leon Bloy. Huh, okay, I’m definitely going to go find out how he is and what does. Interesting. ** Raymond, Thanks, man! I owe you an email. I’ll write to you today. Wow, that is an amazing image: that Japanese ‘The Joy of Sex’ thing. Japanese porn can be so curious, I don’t know if you’ve ever watched any, but it can be really into substitution in this way that’s anti-erotic but manages to transmit what it’s reimagining and softening in such a perversely erotic way. That does sound like a sweet couple of days you had. Raking leaves sounds like heaven to me at the moment, which is strange? ** Bill, Thank you, Bill. No, I hadn’t come cross that New Yorker piece, and I am curious to know more about him and his thing, so thank you a lot for that. No, I had never even heard of The Kid until his work came up in my search for work for that post. Did you get caught up enough to get to do what you really wanted to this weekend? ** Ferdinand, Hi. Nice to meet you. Lovely riposte to De Sana’s work. It’s true, isn’t it? How are you? What are you doing? ** Griffyn, Hi, Griffyn! How nice of you to come in here. It was very cool getting to meet you in London too. I hope we get talk and visit more, here and/or hopefully over there or even the real here if you guys come visit Paris, which I insist you really should. Thank you a lot for saying that about the film. Super interesting thought about artists’ discourse with sex. Yeah, it’s super tricky. It’s always been really odd to me how the idea or subject, etc. of sex tends to make artist build walls instead. Bob Flanagan was one of my closest friends and truest comrades. I think his work did influence those parameters, yes. Not only his work, of course, but also the field or context back then in which his work was very comfortable, as strange as that is to say about his work. He has a great long writing piece called ‘The Book of Medicine’ that has never been published in full. His surviving partner and collaborator Sheree Rose was trying to get it published a few years ago, but I don’t know what happened. Anyway, I think that work might be of real interest to you. I’ll see if I can find out what’s up with that. Thank you so much for saying that about my work. I’m so sorry you had an illness-affected summer. Are you improving and feeling better, I hope? I’d be very interested to hear about your work and what you’re working on if you feel like saying. In any case, so good to see you. Please feel very more than free to hang out here as much as you like. It would be a great pleasure. ** Marcus, Hi. Oh, ToF, huh, how did he get by me. Cool about the score. Yeah, I don’t even have copies of all of the issues of Little Caesar myself. I was such an idiot not to horde a bunch of copies. Nice day to you. ** Armando, Hi. I’ve never seen that Warhol/Velvets film, strangely enough. Vaguely because it seems liked a mixed bag? It’s so tiny, which is interesting and not too. It looks kind of pretty. It’s full of almost nothing but very rich people, I think, which is curious but not hugely appealing. I don’t know. I think that for whatever reason it’s kind of a place for me where if I was going somewhere else and it was on my way, I would want to check it out. I’m not a big fan of Brussels. No, I really don’t have a favorite Kate Bush song. I’ve never paid all that much attention to her work. Of course I’m glad you loved ‘Knight of Cups’. There aren’t that many of us who do, but those who don’t are … foolish? Ha ha. I want to see the new ‘Independence Day’ because I want to see any disaster film. I have no scruples when it comes to disaster films. They’re all good even when they’re bad to me. I only saw the first ‘Jason Bourne’. It seemed good. I thought ‘The Neon Demon’ was just awful, sorry. No, no real interest in the new ‘Blair Witch’. The original is the only horror film that actually scared the shit out of me as an adult, so I have respect for it, but I’m not interested in a reboot of it at this late date, I guess. Or no more semi-interested than I am re: every horror film. I really want to see ‘The Assassin’ too. I hear it’s incredible. Good luck and good day to you! ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. Thanks! Yeah, I actually considered including that Murakami, but I thought maybe it was too familiar? That piece, which I saw in NYC when it was new, was the first work by him I ever saw, and I really liked it, and I was excited about his work, but then I never really liked anything else of his as much, and now I kind of think what he does is fun enough, but I guess I don’t really care or something? You know I got the post, and I love it, and it’s set to go, and thank you again so much! ** Math, Mathster. Cool, that’s the good kind of rich. Oh, Wolfe Barrett. That guy is such a trip. I only know him through FB, and I find he does there really interesting and confusing in a perking way, and I like what he does in music. I’ll share your thing just in case some prospective, non-writer bottom is reading this. Everyone, Well, not everyone, I guess, ha ha, but here’s the great Math with a brilliant offer for one or more or many of you out there. See if you qualify. Here’s Math: ‘yea i dont expect anything to come of this but its a real offer- if yr a bottom tryna look sexy on a website in english i will help you edit yr profile +you can pay me w a selfie or not pay if you prefer- f4ggotencoder at gmail’. Have a cool day, buddy. ** MANCY, Thanks a whole lot, S! ** Misanthrope, Hi, George. Do you? I have this weird thing where I always keep my windows kind of small, like the size of an average piece of paper, and people who look at my screen always say they think I’m weird, and I am. Moderation is really underrated. Well, moderation in life. Well, in certain aspects of life. Okay. ** H, Hi. Yes, Torbjorn Rodland seems to have been kind of the hit of the show. I would never have predicted that, not that I was predicting any outcome at all, of course. That’s interesting. My weekend was pretty work-y. Preparing to face the film funding tribunal. Working on Gisele stuff. Being gentle with my back. Not too much. But it was good. I love banana cake. And with vanilla gelato. Oh, jeez, I might have to go find some now. That’s good though. Interesting about the difference vis-à-vis your psyche and work in NYC. That makes sense. You’ll nail it. ** Schoolboyerrors, Hi, D. Aw, thank you for sharing that great Schjeldahl poem. I’m sure you know that it’s from the book of his that I published with Little Caesar, ‘The Brute’. I wish Peter hadn’t given up on poetry. I think he was a very excellent poet. Right, you’re right, it’s the bears who drew Bernard back in here. Minor mystery solved. Have fun with Jonathan, natch. I’ve been good except for a fucked up but now getting better lower back thing. Working, working. The usual. ** Robert Siek, Hi, Robert. Thank you for using your brain to concentrate on writing something here within that onslaught. That sounds like a kind of perfect art class. Right? I’ll be very curious to find out what kind of drawing you find out that you’re custom made for. Cool. Good deal. ** Paul Curran, Howdy, Paul. Thanks, man. Yeah, I kind of like how it looks too. And I’m gradually getting used to the interface or whatever it’s called, meaning how it organizes how I make the posts. It’s a little less simple and easy than Blogger was. But, yeah, I think it’s okay. Nice about Taipei. I’d like to visit it someday somehow. I miss Tokyo so much. Zac and I had semi-planned to go before year’s end, but we’re going to be too swamped, it turns out. You can’t force the drive, you know? I never do, well, unless it’s for a collaborative work where others’ needs are involved. My writing right now is all geared towards the possible TV series and the opera project. I just can’t find the spot available to reenter the novel for real, as much as I’m dying to, so it’s still shapeshifting and daydreaming in my head, but at least it’s doing that. ** Jonathan Parker-Bryant, Hello, JP-B, A lot of people do that with the escorts and slaves. It’s fairly common. I’m not sure exactly why, but it interests me that people do that. Harrowing, I bet. I’m so glad, obviously, that you’ve gotten past that. Jesus. I definitely recommend taking a taste of Genet and seeing if you like the taste. ‘What the heck was that?’ is the ideal respond to DeAundra. Cool. Thanks a bunch about the post and for your great attention to it. Anything detail-y you can say about that fantasy story/novel? Warmest regards to you in return! ** Okay. There are four books I .. well, the title of the post spells it out, as usual. See you with something else tomorrow.