Michael Bullock: I read in an interview that you once moved a junky friend from Times Square in to your house to help him recover, then another moved in and eventually you had to leave because the whole house was full of junkies. I can’t image that happening here?
Bruce Benderson: It was still happening here at the beginning. I was in love with a murderer who lived here from time to time. I shouldn’t say murderer. I don’t know if he actually killed anyone, but he put two people in critical condition. He’d get friendly with someone, start to respect them and then stab them. It happened three times.
MB: You let him stay here?
BB: Yeah, he stayed overnight sometimes, I mean, I was in love with him. He wasn’t psychotic, like kill you in your sleep type of thing. You’d have to be relating to him and something would upset him. It was off and on for years. The last time I saw him he wasn’t well. He had HIV and started to get so angry about it. We were in the kitchen and he was looking at a knife saying, ‘It’s not you, I’m not mad at you’. I thought ‘Oh god it’s really going to happen’, so I said ‘Let’s go out and get something to eat’. We went downstairs. He went out the door ahead of me and I slammed it shut. We talked several times on the phone after that. He wanted to be a writer because of me. We wrote a story together and it was really good – he had talent. I don’t know where he is now or if he’s still alive. I’ll show you the video of him.
MB: I’d love to see it. I feel strange asking about interior design after that.
BB: Don’t. Maybe what you want to know first is why a writer should be so interested in design and visual things. In my experience it’s incredible, most writers, serious writers, have no eye for anything. They understand ideas and they understand language, but they don’t understand design. I think they repress it. They cut it out. They can go to a museum and talk about a beautiful painting, but somehow design is beneath them. Their ideas are too lofty to be concerned with such things. I believe that artists – and writers are artists – should concern themselves with aesthetics in every area of life: the eye, the ear, the nose. They should be interested in perfume; they should be interested in design, in music. Artists should be like that, but very few are.
Bruce Benderson @ instagram
Bruce Benderson @ goodreads
BRUCE BENDERSON INTERVIEWED ABOUT PARANOIA, GENITALS, BORING HOMOSEXUALS AND CELINE DION’S HORRIBLY OBNOXIOUS AUTOGRAPHY
Buy ‘Urban Gothic’
Bruce Benderson Urban Gothic: The Complete Stories
‘For more than five decades, with relentless candor, biting wit, and striking imagery, Bruce Benderson’s fiction has celebrated the warped beauty of our megalopolises, including their clashes between the classes and their subcultures of sex and drugs. Oppressed but flamboyant, the voices of his subterranean worlds have become just too intense to be ignored.
‘Now, for the first time, all his short texts, including 21 never before published, appear together in the same volume. Included is one of the first post-Stonewall coming out stories, written in 1970, decades before such narratives developed into a full genre. This, then, is the complete and definitive Bruce Benderson reader.
‘Benderson’s most well-known book, The Romanian: Story of an Obsession, was awarded the prestigious Prix de Flore in its French edition. Other publications include the essay collection Sex and Isolation, the short story collection Pretending to Say No, and the novels Pacific Agony and User.’ — ITNA
A Very Libidinal World
Writers Who Love Too Much: Bruce Benderson Introduced by Kevin Killian
‘The pain is usually felt in the late afternoon and evening, just before dinnertime.
‘Once the pain begins to settle, it is common for the subject to sit down, or to lie down, and remain at rest to avoid dizziness or vertigo.
‘Simple activities will present the same difficulty in being completed as they can present to a child. Even automatic actions, such as reading or playing an instrument, will be challenging.
‘It is also likely that the subject prefers a room in the house without any source of bright light, be it electrical or natural.
‘Sight is often impaired. Panic episodes may follow. A “scary feeling of impotence” is usually reported, alongside nausea.
‘As the pain progresses, subsequent symptoms are usually less associated with psychological states than the inability to control fine motor skills, and crying spells characterised by shedding tears without any irritation of the ocular structures.
‘(DINNER WITH THE TELEVISION ON): Elizabeth Taylor kisses Van Johnson. He embraces her. Her right hand grabs his back. Her left hand follows. His head presses against her neck. He looks up. She smiles. He talks to people at the bar. She walks off screen. He follows her. He sits at the table she’s sitting at. She hands him a drink. He grabs her hand. He takes a sip of his drink. He puts the glass down. He leans towards her. She is not smiling anymore. He caresses her hand with his thumb. He looks down at his hand holding her hand. She doesn’t seem to move. He looks up. He looks down. He looks up again. He takes a deep breath with his mouth. He frowns. She smiles. She gets up. She starts to walk away. He gets up. He turns towards her. She turns towards him. She lays both her hands on his chest. She smiles. She moves her hands from his chest to his shoulders and down his arms. He puts his hands around her. She turns her head towards the screen. She walks off screen. He looks at her walking off screen. A man behind the bar takes a drag from his cigarette. She walks outside. It is raining. She fastens up her coat. He comes after her. He holds his coat shut. He takes a couple of steps forward. He takes a couple of steps back. She puts her hands inside her pockets. He checks the time on his wristwatch. She looks at him. She smiles. She shrugs her shoulders. He gently grabs her arm. She looks away. She looks back at him. He shakes his head. He kisses her on the cheek. He takes some time to let go of her arm. He leaves her. She looks away. She looks back in his direction. She walks away.’ — Adrian Bridget
Adrian Bridget Child’s Replay
‘Child’s Replay is a hallucinatory homecoming. As we follow THE CHILD in a series of private re-enactments, the present self is revealed as the past’s fragile construction. Pursuing the banality of trauma, a first-person character juxtaposes childhood events with internal misrepresentations, reflections on the emotional toll of migration, psychoanalytic theory, Brazilian history, and literary criticism. An exploration of the impact that language and fiction have on real bodies, Child’s Replay assembles a hybrid portrait of memory and anti-memory.’ — AB
JESUS IS CONDEMNED TO DEATH
(The head, which is thought to have been wrapped in felt and loaded into an ambulance, asked to be brought closer to the window, to see the mountains.)
First go back to the hands, disgusting handwriting, digesting it, but I couldn’t. Neck instead, yum yum. Not completely unrelated as he did grab me by the back of the neck with his hands, as far as I can, if my memory does not fail me, remember. A second remembrance pertains to a second time my neck was grabbed but this time around by the front, or back, not sure it even matters, so as to finally arrive at the recurring, present sensation of there being something stuck in my throat. It goes, I never ate breakfast as a child for the thought of breakfast as a child would make me into a sick child. Blackout. Why don’t you just collapse already, says Grandmother. This Grandmother character is created by another character, who writes here as a character, who has never used the word character before and now wants to use it up at once, who sleeps all the time, all pussy-pussy-rolledup in blankets and the like and probably very likely quite possibly in its own excrement. That’s really what I want to see, the character says, a character’s excrement! What does it look like, Grandmother asks. Shush, I am trying to see if I can shit as a character. Character-shit shouldn’t be like fake shit, and it shouldn’t be canned like artist’s shit, no no no no: character-shit should come down hard-sounding like a piano being hammered to bits, to nothing. Beuys-beuys.
This text is written from the perspective of THE CHILD, who is abnormally scared of dying, who has inherited the motherfear of a difficult pregnancy, who, from very early on, sees motherfear on its mother’s face.
When THE CHILD is alone, it is afraid of dying. Death can come anytime it is alone, since death is something that happens to someone alone in a room, in an apartment, in a garden, in a theatre, etc. That is to say that THE CHILD wants to be close, in both physical and psychological senses of the word, to its mother at all times. It is a way of avoiding death. THE CHILD hopes that death won’t latch on to it, while it waits, for example, on the other side of the bathroom door for its mother to come out.
Motherfear is always displayed on THE CHILD’s mother’s face. Enough times a day for THE CHILD to have a motherface where its usual face should be. Alone in a room, THE CHILD looks for its own face while looking like motherface.
motherface wants daddyface to love motherface but daddyface is always sad, too sad to love motherface or THE CHILD that looks like motherface.
THE CHILD wants to say bye-bye to motherface but THE CHILD loves motherface too much to say bye-bye.
APR. 5. PM 1:05 — TV ROOM
THE CHILD is lying on its side, on the white rug that covers the laminate flooring. It stretches both its arms up and then cries. motherface crouches next to THE CHILD.
—Get up, motherface says.
—Give it to me, THE CHILD says.
—Get up if you want to put the perfume on, motherface says.
—Be careful you don’t spill it, motherface says.
—THE CHILD raises its torso to a sitting position. motherface gives THE CHILD the perfume bottle.
‘Eleven years can be a staggeringly long time. This is how long the novelist and short story writer Lynne Tillman spent caring for her declining mother — an exhausting period of her life compressed into a brief but harrowing new memoir, “Mothercare.”
‘“I dreaded the future, this ghost of time coming,” Tillman writes. “I even felt, ridiculously, I was aging faster. My possibilities and fantasies were being stolen by Mother, whom I didn’t love.”
‘The vagaries of caregiving can be shocking to those who haven’t done much of it — though many have. With parents living longer and children coming later, an entire generation has become well acquainted with the double duty of caring for children as well as elderly parents. There’s even a name for this group: the sandwich generation.
‘“Mothercare” is revelatory not only for its honest discussion of this thankless task, but also for Tillman’s candor about having her life drip away in service to someone she cares for more than she cares about.
‘The cultural assumption is that caregiving work of all kinds should be done by women. We are told, time and time again, that women are not just obligated but inclined — programmed, really — to care for others. Daughters should love and care for their parents and mothers should love and care for their children, full stop. And these roles should come before any others.
‘But for Tillman, “Mother had been the opposite of a loving, caring mother.” Tillman’s mother is competitive and jealous. “She hated my getting attention for my writing.” One day, “she said, out of nowhere, as it’s always said, but it wasn’t, ‘If I had wanted to be, I would have been a better writer than you.’”
‘Because of this, “about Mother, I never felt guilty,” Tillman insists. “Anything I gave her was more than she deserved. That sounds awful.”’ — Jessica Ferri
Lynne Tillman @ Twitter
‘Mothercare’ Takes a Hard Look at What Happens When Duty Outlives Love
Lynne Tillman Explores How Her Mother Was Transformed by Aging and Illness
Lynne Tillman MOTHERCARE: On Obligation, Love, Death, and Ambivalence
Soft Skull Press
‘When a mother’s unusual health condition, normal pressure hydrocephalus, renders her entirely dependent on you, your sisters, caregivers, and companions, the unthinkable becomes daily life. In MOTHERCARE, Tillman describes doing what seems impossible: handling her mother as if she were a child and coping with a longtime ambivalence toward her.
‘In Tillman’s celebrated style and as a “rich noticer of strange things” (Colm Tóibín), she describes, without flinching, the unexpected, heartbreaking, and anxious eleven years of caring for a sick parent.
‘MOTHERCARE is both a cautionary tale and sympathetic guidance for anyone who suddenly becomes a caregiver. This story may be helpful, informative, consoling, or upsetting, but it never fails to underscore how impossible it is to get the job done completely right.’ — Soft Skull Press
Mother was a smart, resourceful, attractive, tactless, competitive and practical person. She was what was called a girl with promise, and if times were different, she might have fulfilled that promise. She had wanted to write and paint, but instead she married and had children. She worked for a while before marriage but as soon as my father was making good money, as they called it, she quit, fulfilling an American 1950s ideal – women whose husbands do well will stay at home with their children, content to be wives and mothers. Mother was not, and she was angry, and for that I don’t blame her.
When many Americans in the postwar period moved to the suburbs, my parents did also, from the family’s comfortable apartment in Brooklyn to a house on Long Island, one partly of their own design. It’s where I grew up from the age of five. Mother hadn’t wanted to move to the suburbs, but my father insisted on the American dream. It was, in my opinion, a nightmare for Sophie, the city girl used to speed, museums, parks, taxis, subways – she didn’t like having to drive – and sidewalks, which our street didn’t have, ever. It was all forest with a swamp at the end of it.
My parents retired to Florida, where she had never wanted to live; again, my father insisted. With her husband dead in 1984, alone in Florida Mother was miserable and bored, but with the help of my Manhattan sister, about three years after my father died, Mother moved to Manhattan. My sister found a great apartment for her on Second Avenue and Twenty-third Street. It was convenient, central, and, because she didn’t need to get anywhere fast, crosstown buses were fine.
Her daytime doorman, Ray, told me that, in her first month, he thought Mother couldn’t adjust to city life. He thought it would be too hard for her. After another month, Ray said she was doing fine, and they developed a sweet friendship. Ray was a very kind man, avuncular with her, though she was years older.
Almost seventy-nine, Mother discovered a new life, became reacquainted with the city, an old friend – they had met in school when they were twelve years old – watched movies at MOMA, saw plays, and walked everywhere. Mother was Kazin’s walker in the city, she loved walking. In Florida and the suburbs walking was eccentric.
Mother had seven and a half good years as an independent character.
Then, at eighty-six and a half, Mother showed unusual behavior, symptoms of trouble.
I’d been away almost four months, from September to mid-December 1994, as a visiting writer in the English and American Literature department at the University of Sussex, Brighton, England. During those months, we had no contact. I returned in December, and Mother and I met for breakfast at our usual Polish café. I entered, saw Mother seated at our usual table, and approached, but she didn’t look up. She was staring vacantly at the tabletop, and didn’t greet me. I said, ‘Hi, Mom, I’ve been away, aren’t you happy to see me?’ She glanced up. ‘Sure,’ she said, indifferently. Distant, hair disheveled, she appeared out of sorts, even depressed. Mother was not a depressive; for one, she expressed anger frequently. Her affect now was atypical, puzzling.
We walked uptown to her apartment on Twenty-third Street. On the corner of Thirteenth Street and Second Avenue, we passed what appeared to be a homeless man. Mother commented, ‘He’s waiting for someone.’ Her interpretation was a kind of identification with him or a projection, and unusual from her mouth. Later, I thought: she’s waiting for her husband, my father.
That night or the next morning I phoned one of my two older sisters, I forget which one, probably the New York one. She had noticed the change, also.
Out of the blue, Mother was desperately sick, and it happened to our entire, small family. Each day, in the beginning, the first year or two, seemed urgent. How to handle her condition, what was the right course to help her, what could be done differently and better.
Lynne Tillman – On Obligation, Love, Death, and Ambivalence
Lynne Tillman in Conversation with Christine Smallwood
‘The teenage girls in Kelly Krumrie’s Math Class could well be aspiring saints or geometers, with their transfigurative arcs and extremities, keen diagramming skills, shared visions, and acute bodily suffering. Can one chart an intricate web of friendships or unravel the track of a catastrophe? Adolescence is a vexed condition fraught with metamorphoses both terrible and holy, but these girls know how to plot the coordinates of their finite struggles and watch over one another with a sagacity that’s as intimate and precise as the hand-drawn grid of a note passed secretly at the back of a crowded classroom.’ — Pamela Lu
‘Kelly Krumrie’s Math Class makes mathematical thinking tender, charming, full of longing, and strange. This book reminded me of things I love—Georges Perec’s writing, Amina Cain’s, Guillevic’s Geometries—but reading it was also something fresh and new.’ — Danielle Dutton
‘If I didn’t know Kelly Krumrie wrote Math Class, I would guess it was a phenomenological reduction of Madeline fan fiction co-authored by Raymond Queneau and Judy Blume in a parallel universe. Or an elaborate story problem from a geometry textbook détourning Lives of the Saints. What are the girls learning in Math Class? That the body is unsolvable. That God and Euclid never answer their questions. That adolescence has happened and is about to happen but is never that which is happening. Krumrie’s language proceeds via precise abstractions and marvelous mundanities, creating infinite new locations for the experience of anything at all.’ — Joanna Ruocco
‘Math Class is a taut imbrication of storytelling and philosophical investigation thronged with a cohabiting sisterhood, at a place called St. Agatha’s, where they are engaged in reflections on perception; bodily dissolutions and repairs; and the poiesis of logical operations of mind. Nothing abstract is alien to them. The institution is no passive setting of study, but instead a kind of aporia. How are you, a counselor asks a student. “I’m— basically hollow, or a plane on which to graph something, the sound of a shell on the beach (your own blood), a machine, a piston, my arms oars, my mouth a nest, my chest a drum for turning concrete.” Interleaved throughout this elegant speculative fiction are drawings that recall the recessive and delicate geometrics of Paul Klee. These subtle sketches chart a course for the story’s alterity, glimmering with conjecture and truth-seeking.’ — Miranda Mellis
Kelly Krumrie Math Class
‘Somewhere in the gap between correct answers and questions that can’t be formulated, girls are learning math. They aspire to seeing without taking notes. Girls go blind, do math, wage hunger strikes, weigh themselves, take field trips, do more math, eat or don’t eat, crochet, sprawl, swim, imagine electricity, wink, fail to understand the meaning of a wink, take photos of each other, and think. Everything is being measured and tracked, yet something mysterious remains, flickering, at the edge of what can be analyzed, known, or even registered in symbol systems. It isn’t yet clear what’s been lost. MATH CLASS is meditative, fascinating, unnerving, a precisely rendered dream of a book, a wondrous gem reflecting mysteries and meanings wherever it goes.’ — Stephen Beachy
Jo’s hair shortened into something clean. It was black-blue like an insect. Her eyes, too, dark and sharp. When she turned sixteen she developed an exoskeleton, an outer frame made up of limbs and eyes and skin. Her hair trimmed straight along the jaw. Nails stopped at the quick.
She reflected on her mind’s operations, how it went from one thing to another. She looked up logic, systems, circuits and kept a journal. Which was she more like? What was a machine?
Or an insect. She felt like she had more than two eyes, but the others were impossible to locate. They weren’t on her body at all, not like a fly or a spider. She studied her own weights and measures. Seeing is understanding. Her vision was in development. The other eyes expanded and retracted. What was this body?
Jo would be a machine. She saw it in the mirror. Her hair’s color, its sheen.
In the kitchen, she practiced repetitive motion. She held a bowl and stirred a batter. She aimed for economy.
In her bedroom, she folded tight corners, rubbed her palms together like a mantis.
What would you like to be, her school counselor asked.
The hallways were always crowded, and she and her friends had a running joke that they were all tiny fish. When they saw each other in the hall, they made swimming motions, puckered up their lips into fish-faces.
Why did I become a human being and not something else? I would like to be two people.
The counselor frowned. I mean for a profession, she said.
Jo practiced having visions. In her room she made repetitive motions, turning her wrist and ankle in circles. She imagined the bones inside as ball joints, or something like a marionette. She thought she might will them to take other shapes. She cut short bangs and became more angular.
In becoming a woman there were things she ought to consider, she thought.
An entomologist, she answered. Or an engineer.
Great, great, said the counselor.
Her friends each had hobbies like band or a sport. When school let out, Jo walked its perimeter, on the outside of the fence. Her fingers grazed the chainlink, sometimes catching. She had taken to wearing tighter clothing.
She hadn’t meant to say two people, but two things, two separate ideas. She clacked her teeth together. Her body was mostly quiet.
Has anyone talked to you about your weight?
Her locker combination was out of reach. If she formed into the mechanism itself…
Jo’s friends took her down to the creek. You’ve been distant, they said.
Her skin was becoming softer, not harder. What skeleton was this? A worm-skin, soft, pinkwhite. An engineer would have control. An engineer would calculate the length of time it took for her blood to pump, for her period to ever arrive, to make transformation more efficient.
She was always a girl, and it stung.
‘In his story collection Don’t Make Me Do Something We’ll Both Regret, Chicagoan Tim Jones-Yelvington zestfully recasts gay men and boys in the central roles of a surprisingly wide array of literary vehicles, including an American Girl-ish story, a Raymond Carver-ish suspense tale, a Heart song, Dawson’s Creek-ish plots, the movie All About Eve, and the Bible.
‘In his biblical imitation, The Book of Sarah, presented in five sections, familiar scriptural stories are wildly contorted and reimagined with four characters serving in every role—Sarah, Hagar, Abraham, and Isaac, all of whom are men. They’re randy in a pretty graphic way, so this isn’t for the easily scandalized.
‘But, for the open-minded, it’s fun to see what Jones-Yelvington does, such as in this homoerotic echo of the Song of Songs, a description of Isaac, an alehouse bartender and a savior of some sort:
“His teeth were white as sheep, recently shorn and fresh washed. His lips a scarlet ribbon, and his mouth inviting. His neck as thick as the tower of David, jeweled with the shields of a thousand heroes. His thighs a paradise of pomegranates with rare spices.”
‘Jones-Yelvington’s stories look at what it means to be a gay boy and man from a wildly varied set of perspectives and a seemingly constant fluidity in the expression of a gay orientation.
‘There are dark aspects to this, such as the predators, but also great joy and wonder, such as Alex watching the moonlight kiss Daniel’s cheek. In this dark and sparkling way, Don’t Make Me is a celebration of all that it means to be a gay male in these United States of America.’ — Patrick T. Reardon
Tim Jones-Yelvington Don’t Make Me Do Something We’ll Both Regret
Texas Review Press
‘The stories in “Don’t Make Me Do Something We’ll Both Regret” are linked by their exploration of queer evil. The mystery of desire and sting of rejection drive a child to violence. Boys enter the forest, naive to what lurks within. A pack of pop stars-turned-lovers strike a terrible bargain to preserve their youth. Its characters are gnostics and mystics, ogres and queens whose defiance of the normative both liberates and confines.’ — Texas Review Press
‘This book is a confrontation. It makes direct eye contact, and then there’s no looking away. I laughed so much, with joy and wonder and fear. God, I loved every bit of it.’ —Jac Jemc
Book Trailer — Strike a Prose: Memoirs of a Lit Diva Extraordinaire
Stranger Danger (A Christmas Carol)
p.s. Hey. ** Tea, Hi. Thank you for the expansion. And for the three facts of importance. We share two, and possibly the embarrassing one too, who knows. Yeah, I mean, basically the only thing therapy really did with me was to make me completely understand that I have that need. After that it’s just been up to me. But knowing for sure did make a difference. Happy that the piss hit home, so to speak. I look forward to getting to know you better, if you wish to get into the know/known thing, of course. ** David Ehrenstein, Ah, yes. What is that saying about? Piss and vinegar? I guess I can look it up. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi. Oh, shit, I never want my posts to collide with anyone’s existence’s bane, sorry. Ha ha, that Grimsby thing is nice. Lou Reed > The Queen without hesitation. ** Dominik, Hi!!! The new SCAB is so great! I’m almost finished with the issue. The best yet? I think maybe so? What do you think? My weekend … the usual film-related hell. Eileen Myles was here and did a reading and we hung out, and that was awesome. Mostly trying to catch up on emails because I”m extremely behind. And some writing. Like that there. Zac seems to be virtually recovered now and out and about again, thankfully. I think a divorce party would be so much more fun for everyone but the divorcing couple. And maybe even for them actually. Love making a squirt of Febreze the magic cure for everything, G. ** Bill, Cool, piss was your friend. Chicago! I was going to ask if you saw Carl Stone play in SF the other night, but you were probably gone. Quimby’s needs landmark status. What a dream of a place. ** T, Hi. Ha ha, indeed. Me too, but my only ‘known’ namesakes are a ‘famous’ harmonica player, the guy who wrote ‘Miami Vice’ and ‘Chicago Hope’, and the host of some true crime podcast, and so I’d rather just stay me unfortunately. Yes, I have almost maxed out the body fluid thematics or at the ones that have enough related entries to make a post. I’m still hoping saliva will pony up with bunch of art at some point. Yay, the best things are always the things on which the jury is out. Ooh, I’ll take that Tuesday. There used to be this TV series in the US called ‘Supermarket Sweep’ that was basically your wish but filmed and requiring high speed on the sanctioned looters’ part. I hope your Tuesday turns the abandoned metro station on the 9 line between Strasbourg St. Denis and Republique into the Paris branch of Cafe Oto. xo ** Steve Erickson, Ugh. Hope springs eternal. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of Dimes Square. So probably not. I’ll look it up. ** Robert, Indeed. That would be in a Time Machine’s Top Five initial destinations easily. Yeah, that is a conundrum. Unless you’re really steely in your determination to be original, or unless your goal in your writer’s life is to get a good review in the NYT and a berth in the New Yorker, I would be very cautious about an MFA program. The part time job in a place where rent is 200 dollars jumps out, but Kansas? I don’t know, man. But then I don’t know Kansas. Just be sure to keep your writing as the tiptop priority whatever you choose. Ach, indeed. ** Okay. Today I show you five books I’ve read recently and loved and recommend. I apologise for the watermark on the Bruce Benderson except. It’s the only copy I have. Look and/or shop around please. Thanks. See you tomorrow.