The blog of author Dennis Cooper

5 books I read recently & loved: Caren Beilin Revenge of the Scapegoat, Shane Kowalski Small Moods, Cristina Rivera Garza New and Selected Stories, Matt Longabucco M/W: an essay on Jean Eustache’s La Maman et la Putain, Natasha Soobramanien and Luke Williams Diego Garcia

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How did writing begin for you?

CAREN BEILIN I had a typewriter in my room when I was around eight and I positioned it at my window and wrote a captain’s log every morning. I was thinking of my bedroom as my ship. I would take each report and fold it up, seal it with a sticker, and put it in a small silver wicker basket.

There is such a sense of adventure in your sentences, and such playfulness in the way you make up words. Where did that come from?

BEILIN Writing, for me, was born out of the need to create a language unreadable to my family of origin—unreadable because it was so beautiful! It is difficult for me to write plainly, even when I absolutely want to and see that that would be best, because my original impulse has to do with writing code for a wormhole outside of sadness and abuse.

You seem very interested in the family as an institution, and you also write about the university, the artist residency, and so on. Your approach to dismantling institutions seems to be not through politics but through humor. Does that seem right to you?

BEILIN I would add that friendship is so powerful. Friendship dismantles the family, dilutes and complicates it, forces it to zag or stagger backward, remixes it, causes it to bend, relent, or in some cases disappear. Friendship might expose the family—ever ask a friend to come with you to a family event so that people will be on better behavior? It can help you figure out what is or isn’t tolerable, or show you different speeds of and options for love. It can of course enhance the family in all kinds of ways, too. And I actually like institutionality. But I think a radical thing to do within institutions is to form friendships.

Can you say more about your opposition to the idea that fiction has to be some great act of empathy?

BEILIN This idea that the imagination can take you anywhere—into anyone and anything—it thwarts one of the most basic things we learn as children, which is, Don’t touch everything! Don’t touch the stove, it’s fucking hot! I still see classes like “Writing the Other” listed in esteemed creative-writing programs. There is a lot of focus on the individual bound up in that idea, the individuality of this amazing writer with this special capacity for seeing, speaking from, or caring, but also the striking individuality of the characters themselves, this most sincere investment as them as people. I think of characters more as functions—propulsions, concentrations, knots of language.

 

Caren Beilin Site
Blame Game
On finding inspiration in your pain and illness
Revenge of the Scapegoat @ FULL STOP
Buy ‘Revenge of the Scapegoat’

 

Caren Beilin Revenge of the Scapegoat
Dorothy, a publishing project

‘In the tradition of Rabelais, Swift, and Fran Ross—the tradition of biting satire that joyfully embraces the strange and fantastical—and drawing upon documentary strategies from Sheila Heti, Caren Beilin offers a tale of familial trauma that is also a broadly inclusive skewering of academia, the medical industry, and the contemporary art scene.

‘One day Iris, an adjunct at a city arts college, receives a terrible package: recently unearthed letters that her father had written to her in her teens, in which he blames her for their family’s crises. Driven by the raw fact of receiving these devastating letters not once but twice in a lifetime, and in a panic of chronic pain brought on by rheumatoid arthritis, Iris escapes to the countryside—or some absurdist version of it. Nazi cows, Picassos used as tampons, and a pair of arthritic feet that speak in the voices of Flaubert’s Bouvard and Pécuchet are standard fare in this beguiling novel of odd characters, surprising circumstances, and intuitive leaps, all brought together in profoundly serious ways.’ — Dorothy, a publishing project

Excerpt

I was upset.

I was at a café in Philadelphia at a spiking hot metal table in the front. This was last year in early July. I was wearing a marigold jumpsuit, for which bees were favoring me. Or are bees around anyone at any outside table no matter the color you wear?

The wind wasn’t vigorous. It is probably grandiose to think that bees surround you in all their limited supply, but I thought that.

I wore red lipstick with purple x’s mixed into it kind of thing. And dark-green shoes. I had on very very dark-green shoes, a black-green vegan leather more like a liquid you would press from a hot tampon you are pulling now, by the lamplight, out of a toad’s omnibus of Anaïs Nin.

I had been thinking a lot lately about the role I’d played in my family, as their scapegoat. I was thirty-six now, but it still affected me and especially in this week that had brought me a reminder—a package.
People said “Burn it.”

Maurice in the adjunct office said, “Iris, burn those letters down. The play, too.” He laughed, already looking at some other stuff. Some of his stuff. People who like you so much, like Maurice, don’t naturally want to dwell on these sorts of problems with you. You’re too good for these problems, and other things, politics, the socius, other books are way more interesting.

And Hilary in Cleveland had said, “You can’t keep those in your house with you. Iris.”

I could hear her little Bialetti conjuring up a coffee over the phone. A simple yet sophisticated procedure.

I didn’t want to burn the letters though. “No, I won’t do that, Plum.”

Hilary’s name, Hilary Plum. I always thought, if someone was falling in love with her, a fruit surname like that would irresist them to her forever.
Plum said, “Oh?”

“If a package like this gets sent to my house, Plum, this evil package, I will be forced to use every last bit of it up”—I meant in my writing. Was this package the right thing for my absolute, eviscerating use? I thought about that myth of the Native person and his buffalo, how in middle school it is said that the Native person uses every last bit of a buffalo, and I would be stripping this package down and using up every last piece of it. The Native person uses, in the schooldays teaching, even the bowels of a buffalo, as a bag for weeds (herbs) or water.

It’s simple, I had to turn the negative, this dastardly package that arrived out of nowhere for me, hurting me greatly, into a positive. For a big use. When I was done with it, I fantasized, there’d be no package left as there are no bison, no wild bison any longer. This is the wrong metaphor. Maybe the package was more like a bomb than a bison, and I, instead of being in this analogy like a Native person, was more like a thirty-six-year-old white woman but a detective, too, who with my wits was meant to dismantle all this stuff. You can’t throw a bomb out in the garbage, or, as Maurice suggested before leaving for his science class designed for artists at the arts college, burn the bomb up. You have to lean in to the bomb, more a Cheryl Sandberg type than an Indigenous person. But it was not lost on me at all that we were sitting in the adjunct office on Broad St. on all this Lenape territory, and that these Lenape, contrary to plaques, never signed a treaty, and that we who live do so in a gruesome aridity.

The problem was how to use and/or dismantle it. The package’s harm was very specific to me. I was my family’s scapegoat. There was hatred I was meant to hold in the place of a loved self. The letters included in the package delivered to me last July were some of the finest proof of that anyone has ever seen. But there was nothing political, nothing topical to it. This was my own personal turmoilous history with my people. Except that I wanted, most of all, for these letters, in that package, to be made public, to become a topic, that the public should really see this, and publishing should be like that, like a tactic. A book should be like a lot of spit. But who would publish me? Who publishes a person who’s sort of soaking in pain, who can’t always walk, employed only pretty much in name?

Did writing exist in books anyway these days? I thought, perhaps very defensively. Maybe it didn’t.

Where does writing foment? Where does effulgence slip in the innerlining of which writing? That is what I meant.

Maybe writing these days, I thought, was more in the grocery lists, lately such a bunch of just wish lists, or at least with the arts students I adjuncted at, real writing flowed out of them when they wrote to me directly to a) accuse me of something and b) let me know why they could not do an assignment or any of the assignments or be anywhere or get to a reading. Why-I-can’t or, even better, Why-I-won’t writing was better, much much better, than any other writing I was currently reading. It was lively. It seemed to describe the contemporary. But I hardly read.
But students aren’t only archival pieces of detriment for an almost gen-x-er like myself to pick through. I think they knew what their literary power was when they wrote me these sometimes problematic emails, considering I was this part-time woman they were dumping all of this No energy onto as if I were their signal oppressor. Maybe in the superlative arc of the universe I was their most approachable oppressor, that’s fair, but the best writing for anyone is an accident or at least it feels like a big oblong coincidence. Maybe it does really need to be in the form of a letter. The letters in my package were an evil archive, for sure, a father who hates his own daughter???—no, who wouldn’t mind destroying her—no, who desperately needs her love and wants to choke it out of her—who thinks she could sustain these horrible letters. Worst package of my life.

Extras


Meet Caren Beilin


Caren Beilin and Cristina Rivera Garza with Danielle Dutton

 

 

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Shelby Hinte: Can you talk a little about how Small Moods came to be?

Shane Kowalski: Small Moods sort of came about accidentally. I have over 2,300 very short pieces that I’ve written over the years. I started a tumblr in 2011 and would just write something new every day without any serious revision or pretension. It was (and still is) kind of freeing. Fast forward 10+ years and I ended up having a lot of little weird stories and fragments that I could tinker with and edit, etc. My original intention was to try collecting them in little chapbooks. I liked the idea of them never being collected fully together. Fast forward again to Kevin Sampsell opening up submissions for Future Tense Books a couple years ago. I sent him a 30-page chapbook called Stories About Sex Or Power Or Just Simply Objects. He got in touch with me and said he wanted to do something longer, but to 86 the title. So I went back in and went through the stories and fragments and tried to see which ones seemed more alive to me. With some smart input from Kevin and co-editor Emma Alden, we got to the 95 stories that make up Small Moods.

SH: I am so glad you brought up your tumblr. I just started reading your stories/posts a couple weeks ago and I think they are so great. I have been feeling a lot of fear-paralysis around writing lately and so I think it is so badass that you write and post so frequently. Do you ever experience self-doubt or fear around putting your work out online like that?

SK: Thanks, Shelby. It’s weird—I don’t really fear putting my work out online. I feel like I should though? I guess I have doubts, depending on the day, about whether or not I should put stuff up online—but then I always come to the thought that I’ve already posted so much online, what’s one more tiny embarrassment? I kind of conceived of the tumblr to just have a fun way to keep myself writing every day, under the concept that I wouldn’t revise—just write. And then it became kind of a challenge to see how far I could go with it. I told myself I’d stop posting after 1000, then 1500, then 2000 stories…but I’ve always gone back, and continue to go back. Maybe it’s a sickness at this point? Or a ritual I’m possessed by? In any case, it’s a good bedfellow to writing more sustained work, and very fun as well.

SH: I often see writers debating over the issue of whether writing should be plot-centered or character-centered. The stories in Small Moods fall on both sides of this “issue” but maybe more than being concerned with plot or character, they focus on embodying a mood or “vibe.” How do you go about capturing a mood when you write? Is it intuitive or something more conscious?

SK: I’ve had to really think about this question. Which makes me believe that a lot of my process is intuitive. I’m not totally sure where I’m going most of the time. If I feel like a piece of writing is going off the rails, I let it. You can’t really go back and edit “going off the rails” into a piece. You lose some of that spontaneous magic of “uh oh.” I don’t know… Maybe that’s what really great writing is though: being able to swerve away from the accident and still making it seem like an accident happened? I do know that usually I want to be able to write some very small part of the story—perhaps just a single image or one line of dialogue or something like that—and the rest of the story is just a nice adequate stage that justifies that small part. And in turn, that small part I wanted to write in the first place transforms the nice adequate stage—or at least agitates it into a more heightened state of narrative. And I think that’s something like how a mood or a vibe works? There’s something ambient that happens. Everything gets surrounded, touched, changed. In a way, I think plot, character, mood, vibe, etc. are all really the same stuff in any given story. Or can be? In a really good story it’s sometimes hard to tell what the animating element is—and that’s a mood.

 

Shane Kowalski @ Twitter
Died Disappointed?
Shane Kowalski: On Vibes, The Importance of Going Off the Rails, Sounding Like Yourself, and His Flash Fiction Collection ‘Small Moods’
Shane Kowalski @ goodreads
Buy ‘Small Moods’

 

Shane Kowalski Small Moods
Future Tense

‘Like a cracked crystal ball tagged with black spray paint, these discomforting and darkly hilarious stories unveil a past, present, and future of unexplainable yet bizarrely poetic prophesies and moods. In ninety-five flash fictions, Shane Kowalski’s Small Moods presents lovers, dogs, bathtubs, hands, jewels, bananas, peasant boys, cuckolds, Jesus, dildoes, shoes, nudes, cults, sadness, the movie Carrie, and much much more. Can you imagine a love child of Lydia Davis and Richard Brautigan? How about Russell Edson’s ghost having tea with Diane Williams? Reading Small Moods is like entering a weird and private room of reject fairy tales and goofball fables. It’s a room that belongs to Shane Kowalski, and he is welcoming you with strong, open, sweat-drenched arms. Don’t be afraid. He made you something.’ — Future Tense

‘These runically truthful miniatures—some just outbursts of a few staggered sentences, others in the form of anecdotes and parables, still others reading like entire novels scaled down to just a clutch of hectic paragraphs—are by turns sweet-hearted and ruthless, loopy and doleful, otherworldly and ribald, but always inventively off-kilter and entirely on the mark in their raucous sweeps of human ache and ecstasy. In the hands of Shane Kowalski, Small Moods is in fact a very big deal.’ — Garielle Lutz

Excerpts

You See

I was brought up in a cult. The religion had something to do with blood and lambs. I was in love with Sue Ellen. In the back of the pickup truck with my hair going wild. Dark summer days when we’d hide in the woods. Do voices. Feel like music was being played in the air and only we could hear it. Being too nervous to eat your dinner at the table. Unwavering, watery tension filling up the kitchen. The one light overhead that shed light on nothing. No neighbor would come. Tried hiding my underwear under the bed. Pushed all my books into the closet. Cried because it felt like the only thing I could control. Could turn it off and on, like a light. God, or what, help me. One thunderstormed night I shriveled up in bed and wouldn’t dare look at the window looking at me. You see. All my life felt like eyes looking in from a dark night at me. I’m with you, in your cities, in your dreams, I mourn for something just like you. Do you hear me? I haven’t said a word.

*

I Open I Wince

Two people almost die in a car accident and then they become my parents.
—- This deadening weight of dread hangs over me my entire life.
—- Before every door I open I wince.
—- Falling in love merely feels like falling down, falling through, falling out of the orbit that holds things together.
—- Success visits me once or twice and it tastes like puckering lemonade, prickling hot sauce, something that puts its feet up on the furniture in the house of my mouth.
—- I breathe. I close my eyes. I try to sleep. I am very good at none of these things.
—- Whenever I am able to go home I open the cage I keep the little man in. He shudders out like a pale shadow and offers his hands up to me. I spew into the cupped offering. He moves the cup of his hands to his translucent lips and sips. Clouds move across the moon and become the moon. One of us is satisfied. The other will be soon.

*

Politeness

I was meeting the man who previously owned the house I now called home. After moving out of the house, almost immediately, his wife died of a brain aneurysm. His children were now grown and at colleges on different coasts. It had been a few years. The reason for the meeting was to give him a box of photos I had found in the bottom of a closet in a room I hardly used in the house. The pictures were mundane but gave off the seductive allure of private lives lived elsewhere. How was it that all of this had happened without me! How could anything happen without me! I felt the shock of someone realizing they are not the only person alive. A family. People dancing. A dog. Many photos of his children in various stages of growth. I recognized them from when I did a walkthrough of the house before buying it. Buying the house, I had the sensation, born out of jealousy, that I hated this family. They were ugly, dull, and seemed to be already dead. I was buying a home from ghosts! Which excited me—it felt like I was going to take their place! Even though I hated reaching out to people in those days, I found it only right that the man should have these photos of his family. We met at a disgusting café that I hated. He surprisingly looked younger, more alive, interested and interesting: as if losing his family had restored his health. I brought the box of photos, put it on the table. He went to it, opened it, and began looking. His initial excitement seemed to turn very quickly into a strange community of features I had never seen on a face before. These are not my photos, he said. Of course they are, I said. No, they are not, he said. These are your children though, I said, picking up a photo of his two children staring coldly into the camera. I’ve never seen these children before, he said. I mean, they have similar features to mine, he said, but they aren’t mine. I thought he was either clearly lying or having a breakdown of his own. These were clearly his dull and ugly children in the photos. But he kept saying no, no they weren’t. He ended up refusing to look at them further. He gave me no handshake. He left without paying for the large, gross coffee and slice of pumpkin pie he had ordered. I put a bite into the pie. It put my stomach in a bad mood, which I reveled in. Leaves fell outside. The box of photos sat there with me. I felt like a man.

Extras


Shane Kowalski | The Lives of Writers | Podcasts on Audible

 

 

________________

Lindsay Semel: You’ve stated in interviews, and it’s apparent in your work, that you intentionally test the limits between what language normally does and what it can do in order to discover new experiential possibilities between writer, text, and reader. I wonder if you could point to places in the text where you tested and stretched the limits of Spanish but were not able to do so the same way in English and vice versa. How do Spanish and English need to be challenged differently?

Cristina Rivera Garza: Every single project has to challenge language in specific ways. It always depends on the materials that I’m exploring, affecting, and letting myself be affected by, and there are specific ways that you can do that both in English and in Spanish. I tend to write longer sentences in Spanish and more fragmentarily in English, for example. When I am getting too long-winded in Spanish, I try to convey that thought with the directness and economy I associate with my relationship with English. At times, I try to use the semicolon in English, just because it is more common in Spanish and I want to see what happens to both sentence and sense. Constantly borrowing from English and borrowing from Spanish and taking traces and echoes from one language into the other, trying to honor and replicate the tension and friction that maintains them together where I live and how I think, has been almost a natural way of continuing to challenge both.

Sarah [Booker, translator of Grieving] is such a deft translator and we now know each other quite well. She’s been translating my work for a number of years and we have a very open, fluid conversation as she goes into the translation process: less a process of moving language from one context to a another, and more a search for similar effects based on the affective capacities of host and receiving languages. I work closely with syntax, especially if I’m exploring issues such as violence and suffering. Pause, breathlessness, all those aspects of a body going through tremendous pressure or pain inflicted—in terms of keeping both form and content responding to the same challenges, it is important that syntax and semantics are somehow reflecting and embodying that experience. That’s when writing occurs.

I think of translation as a creative process too. I see Sarah as my co-author and her work as a way through which I receive my book back anew. I think she’s a poet at heart. I don’t know if she knows that, but all those experiments with language, that’s something she’s very deft at.

LS: There seems to be a level of communication between the two of you that’s liberated from language. Do you find different responses to those passages from native English and Spanish-speaking readers?

CRG: I’ve written most of my work while living in the States, so all of these works that I have written originally in Spanish are heavily influenced by English and United States literary traditions. The kind of work that I’m interested in is not very conventional in form, and I’m very adept at challenging my readers’ expectations. That’s something that readers in the Spanish-speaking world have gotten used to, more or less, although I do still get comments like, “Oh, I didn’t understand that,” though not understanding something right might as well be a fundamental part of the contract of the reading experience.

Translations, specifically English translations of my work, have allowed these books to go back to the language in which they were originally conceived, if not originally written in. These books are not going figuratively to new places, but returning to a place—and language—of origin. Perhaps that’s the reason why some readers of the English versions have been able to trace literary references or winks, even inner jokes, that have gone unnoticed by readers in the Spanish-speaking world. The cultural nuance that goes into this process fascinates me. On the other hand, readers in Mexico, for example, are able to pick up on issues that are of little relevance for readers of the United States. In any case, reading continues to be a productive process, and a very creative one at that.

 

Cristina Rivera Garza @ Wikipedia
An Author Wrote About Her Sister’s Murder.
Cristina Rivera Garza @ goodreads
Cristina Rivera Garza @ Twitter
Buy ‘New and Selected Stories’

 

Cristina Rivera Garza New and Selected Stories
Dorothy, a publishing project

‘“One of Mexico’s greatest living writers,” wrote Jonathan Lethem in 2018 about Cristina Rivera Garza, “we are just barely beginning to catch up to what she has to offer.” In the years since, Rivera Garza’s work has received widespread recognition: She was awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant for fiction that “interrogates culturally constructed notions of language, memory, and gender from a transnational perspective,” and was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism. Yet we have still only started to discover the full range of a writer who is at once an incisive voice on migration, borders, and violence against women, as well as a high stylist in the manner of Lispector or Duras.

New and Selected Stories now brings together in English translation stories from across Rivera Garza’s career, drawing from three collections spanning over 30 years and including new writing not yet published in Spanish. It is a unique and remarkable body of work, and a window into the ever-evolving stylistic and thematic development of one of the boldest, most original and affecting writers in the world today.’ — Dorothy, a publishing project

Excerpt

City of Men

She arrived in the City of Men one Thursday afternoon, in the middle of winter.

Unlike the passengers who smiled when the airplane landed, she let out a sigh of exhaustion. She closed her eyes, leaned her head against the pillow, and pressed her shoulders into the back of her seat. Before standing up, she glanced once more at the notes she’d written during the flight: a few scribbles outlining a seven-day work plan. Even though she’d asked several times for someone else to be sent in her place, her editor successfully convinced her to pack her bags, find someone to take care of her cat, and carry out the initial investigation. A report on the City of Men from the point of view of a woman would, her editor told her, be a guaranteed success. In any case, she couldn’t risk losing her job. She had debts and aspirations, both of which forced her to smile without too much irony when he put the tickets in her hand.

“We will await your return,” her boss said as she was walking out the office door, her hand on the doorknob.

“Of course,” she said, looking back with apprehension, but his face had already returned to his computer screen.

She showed her official documents at the immigration offices, then reluctantly went for her bags. As she waited, she thought about the sneer on the officer’s face. He’d looked her up and down as he asked the reason for her trip. She answered with the truth: work. The officer remained silent, parsimoniously signing the papers without hiding the sneer that crept from his cheek to the left corner of his mouth.

“I’m a journalist,” she added, not waiting for him to formulate the question.

“Yes, of course,” the officer murmured, his mouth horizontal once again.

Suitcase in hand, she walked toward the last door: the threshold to a place she had never wanted to go. She almost stopped to take it all in before crossing over, but at the last moment she decided to continue as if she had done this many times before. She was distracted, yes, unhappy. She had to force herself forward. The man who strode past her, trying to snatch her bag from her left shoulder, must have noticed. The other man who, running in the opposite direction, tried to take her suitcase, must also have noticed. The wind between the two. The face when it disappears. The smell of deceit. When the third man appeared, repeating her name several times and taking her by the shoulders when she didn’t respond, she couldn’t do anything but reach out her arm to put some distance between them.

“I’m sorry,” she murmured when she realized he was her host.

“These people can be savages,” he said, smiling.

The journalist would describe that smile later, in one of her first reports on the city. She would say: “It was more a sneer than a smile, the kind of condescending look the powerful use to prevail upon the weak. At the same time, and this is the subjugating power of that expression, its ambiguity and threat combined, it was a natural smile. There was nothing in it that would indicate trickery or calculation, a predetermined plan. The smile spread across his face, candid even, showing a row of bright white teeth.”

The Man with the Natural Smile took her suitcase without asking and, overly friendly, guided her toward the airport exit. The journalist sighed. She was finally there: The City of Men. The sky, cloudy. The tall buildings. The wide streets. The rows of cars. The billboards. The lights of the streetlamps. The puddles on the sidewalks. The traffic lights. The drops of water on the windshields. The blurred faces behind all of it.

That night the journalist dreamed she was levitating. She was walking down a narrow street lined with poplars when her feet suddenly lifted from the asphalt. She didn’t want to fly. She didn’t even know if she could. Her body, however, seemed to be used to gliding, vertically, just above the ground. But this sensation of lightness that at first was exciting soon turned into a feeling of apprehension, and then, almost immediately, of terror. She didn’t know when she would stop. She didn’t know if she would be able to stop if she wanted to. The deep melancholy of not knowing forced her to open her eyes.

“I should look for her,” she told herself quietly, and then, as if she hadn’t come out of her dream, she turned over in bed and went back to sleep.

She woke up after nine in the morning. Anemic sunlight filtered through the thin curtains. She stretched her arms. Yawned. Before rising she consulted her agenda for the day: her workday didn’t start until the afternoon. She ordered breakfast to her room and turned on the shower. The water gave her an intense feeling of happiness, though she couldn’t say why. By the time the food arrived, she was already dressed and made up. She was even flipping through a book by a local poet. She craved coffee.

“And will you be visiting us for long?” the boy asked as he lifted the pot and, with graceful, almost feminine movements, served the first cup. She smiled at him, naïve.

“Not really,” she said. “Seven days or so.”

He handed her the cup and narrowed his eyes.

“That’s what the others said,” he whispered. Then he offered her sugar and set about pouring orange juice. Something in her back trembled.

“The others?” she asked without lifting her hands from the pages of the local poet’s book.

“The other journalists, of course,” he said. “The ones who came before you.”

She stared at him. She looked at his shoulders and neck. She ran her eyes over the curves of his butt, his thighs, his shoes. She returned to his hair. He couldn’t be older than twenty-one.

“And how long did the others stay?” she couldn’t hide the shaking in her voice, the anxiety with which she awaited his response.

“That I don’t know,” he responded, turning his face toward her, this time offering a brimming glass of orange juice. “But it was longer than they expected.”

(cont.)

Extras


Keynote Address by Cristina Rivera Garza


Cristina Rivera Garza: “Writing in Communality: An Aesthetics of Disappropriation”

 

 

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‘I came upon Matt Longabucco’s book mostly by accident and could not stop reading its critical/personal prose poem sections. I had seen the film to which it is a thoughtful historical response but that was years ago. M/W: an essay on Jean Eustache’s La Maman et la Putain is a compelling — focused but also diffuse — response to the film, a great example of how in the field of contemporary poetics writers can contribute works of “close reading” (“close watching”?) that proceed from hybrid convergences of prose poetry, criticism, theory, contemporary politics, and personal reflection. Hilton Als, an admirer of the book (and that makes perfect sense), is right to describe this unusual work as containing “beautiful intensities.”

‘That Longabucco’s academic training culminated in a dissertation exploring the telling complications of difficulty makes sense as an academic preamble to a phase of a career of writing that has sought, at least as a theme, to start over literarily. Difficult modern writing isn’t difficult as writing but, rather, it is deemed “difficult” because institutionalized critical responses wanted or needed to construct difficulty as a category. So perhaps, leaving aside that critical gesture (certainly, at least in part, self-serving), we are back to writing that makes sense of us in times of crisis. This disposition is indeed a main strength of M/W but also, just prior to that new work, of a poem of 2020. No wonder that The Brooklyn Rail in spring 2020 sought out Longabucco to comment in verse on that volatile moment — with “But I Have Always Been the Same,” which is in one sense a classic paratactic “New York meditation” (to use its own phrase) and, in another, a radical statement capturing the need to break away from whatever has been thought and written previously, prior to the seemingly insurmountable triple crises (pandemic, racist hatred, climate destruction): “it’s too late to read some of the volumes / I might have finished / back in the day when I could plow through anything.” One can only now, it seemed (and seems?), maintain one’s “legendary thirst” and “eat without ceremony,” and thus “sweep … away … these layers” of “another civilization” that had been botched. The state of the writer-intellectual is in the talent not for making new language but for “retract[ing] all the phrases and images I’d uttered.” Where to go now? Another work, Heroic Dose, seems to be another form of a way forward. It shows him leaning away from “authenticity games,” while continuing the lament of “But I Have Always Been the Same”: “I’ve read so many books,” he writes in Heroic Dose, “it’s like I’ve read none.” Such a self-critical stance augurs, I think, an attractive new sort of culturally responsive literary/readerly history, in which what is “too abstract” prevents us from knowing the terrestrial built realities of “the lintel of the window” and specificity of local psychosocial situations of “bros in the backseat of an uber / just giving up.”

‘And so now this book I came upon, M/W: an essay on Jean Eustache’s La Maman et la Putain (Ugly Duckling Presse). Eustache’s revered 1973 film (shot in 1972) responds, with a few years’ melancholic retrospection, to the hoped-for radical breakthrough of May ’68 (in Paris but also generally). The reassertion in post-68 Europe of authoritarianism and top-down politics — not just among conservative forces reacting to the cultural and political (and pedagogical) rebellions, but also among despairing radical-left groups and movements — creates a mostly unspoken backstory in this film of personal failed promises and sexual (counter-)revolution. M/W is in one sense a book-length series of critical/theoretical prose poems, each on a page, each assessing the film’s specific retrospection: 1972 looks back on 1968, and what does it see, and how does it feel about how sexual/romantic partners and affective combinations live daily life? One option would have been a critical close reading (or close watching) of the film — a book that draws its larger points by sticking with a single work of art made at a certain pivotal moment in time. In part Longabucco does indeed provide that. But what can a poet do — one who has their own experience to provide as a subject position? Can such a sense of the contemporary (let us say 2011-present, i.e., post-Occupy) shape a sense of 1972’s re-reading of 1968? Of course it can, and should openly (rather than through the making a typical critical undisclosed academic subject position). M/W makes what is typically covert into an overt conversation about our own response to resurgent authoritarianism, inequality, phobias over immigration, fears of real global interanimations among cultures, and anti-Blackness. 2021’s version of 2011’s version of 1972’s version of 1968 forms the experience of reading the frank disclosures of this volume. Important because we must know that our response to the counter-response to recent progressive democratic advances (marriage rights as perhaps one culmination of the “sexual revolution,” the emergence of center-left “purple” states, effective movements such as BLM, climate change activism, etc.) aligns with a long specific up-and-down history of which The Mother and the Whore was and is an instructive point along the bumpy extended line. And, then, by watching the film closely, we realize that 1972’s disappointed response to May ’68 was itself a response to “the French Occupation [in World War II], and her [France’s, that is] subsequent engagement to France’s resignation, in the aftermath of those upheavals, to disappointed mediocrity” (p. 30). (In an odd way, La Maman et la Putain is a follow-up to Chronicle of a Summer of 1961, with its mumbling cinéma vérité [non]script constituting an effort to connect the disastrous French role in the genocide of WW2 directly, fifteen normalizing years later, to the last ugly gasps of colonialism in Algeria. The hip conversationalists of Chronicle are exactly as disheartened — and disheartening to us later — as Eustache’s people.) Longabucco’s book, by itself being intentionally the antithesis of mediocrity, helps us ward off the post-radical blues and does so, in part, by being responsive writing. “RIDDLE: Why write or read about a movie, rather than simply watch or re-watch it? Why talk [e.g. as he in this book is doing, a great deal] about love when everything you say will be a lie…?” (p. 26) This is a strong and, to me, persuasive motive for making art, an ars poetica that refuses to let writing relinquish its radical critique.’ — Al Filreis

 

Matt Longabucco @ instagram
I know what debris looks like: On Matt Longabucco’s ‘M/W’
‘But I Have Always Been the Same’
5 Poems by Matt Longabucco
Buy ‘M/W’

 

Matt Longabucco M/W: an essay on Jean Eustache’s La Maman et la Putain
Ugly Duckling Presse

‘Jean Eustache came of age as a director in the aftermath of the French New Wave, and made La maman et la putain (The Mother and the Whore) already disillusioned by the events of May ’68. Several years after the film’s 1973 release, he committed suicide. Matt Longabucco’s book-length essay reckons with Eustache’s document of political bitterness and romantic catastrophe from the standpoint of our own vexed present in which the unfulfilled legacies of the Left and the sexual revolution still haunt our hopes and darken our horizons.’ — UDP

‘As thrilling as Geoff Dyer’s film-sized essay on Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker and Nathalie Léger’s on Barbara Loden’s Wanda—and like them, a deliriously erudite bout of screenish identification and its necessary crises.’ — Jonathan Lethem

‘The beautiful intensities of this remarkable book reflect on many mysteries—love, movie making, myths—while illuminating why stories matter to us, and shall always matter: they not only tell us who we are, but what we long to be. A wonderful achievement.’ — Hilton Als

Excerpt

A man wakes with a start. Grabs his watch. It’s easily in reach—his bed is a mattress on the floor. Beside him, a woman sleeps facedown, under thick bedclothes, arms akimbo, her features not visible. The man rises, sprays something over his face from an aerosol can (a French thing?), then finishes dressing in two (!) silk scarves and a snug blaz- er. A last look at the sleeping woman and he’s out the door. But he doesn’t go far, yet—just down the stairs to the next landing, in fact, where a neighbor answers his knock. He asks if he can borrow her car and she promptly agrees, but reminds him the turn signal doesn’t work. She offers her own solu- tion: “I never turn left.” How much accommodation to what’s broken, we might quickly wonder, is too much? Cars are like us, abundant and complex, entirely of their age, often beautiful, evident in their diminishments, unmistakable in their ultimate breakdowns.

Turns out it’s one of those Peugeots about the size and patina of a stylish bike helmet. Having parked along a boulevard, the man appears to be on some kind of genteel stakeout. He sits in the driver’s seat wearing sunglasses with oval lenses, scowling over Le Monde. When he leaps out it’s to waylay a group of four students, three of whom walk on while he blocks the way of the fourth, a woman who seems irritated by his unexpected presence. “I wanted to tell you, ‘I’ve come to get you,’” he announces, parrying her annoyance with his imagined version of how their meeting would unfold. (My school French a dim memory, I rely on the subtitles—one of translation’s anonymous genres, and all the more difficult to trust.) It turns out they were lovers, now aren’t. He urges her to consider all the precious time they’ve already lost. Temps perdu, he even says— we’re having a Proustian encounter. After someone leaves you, after the tether of commitment snaps, there’s nothing left but this abstract, bloodless talk, and yet there’s a duty to say it all, like washing the plates after a bacchanal. “You should have said, ‘I expected you,’” he instructs her, as their conversa- tion shifts to a park bench before they carry on to a café (only after she agrees to pay). “You know,” he tells her, “I feel you in me so deeply, so near—I can’t believe you feel nothing.” “What novel do you think you’re in?” she asks. Funny, this familiar tactic, to accuse the lover of living in a book or a movie, as if those forms did not flower from the soil of feeling and experience. And isn’t this a movie.

Jean Eustache’s La maman et la putain (The Mother and the Whore), from 1973, is a bit hard to come by, as Eustache’s family has thus far prevented the DVD or streaming release of this or any of his films. I hadn’t seen it in years. My girlfriend Rachel went home to Paris for two months, and as a way to commune in her absence we’d gone back and forth suggesting movies to watch “together,” hitting play simultaneously in our respective time zones. She’d heard Eustache’s film mentioned before, and was curious to see it. I told her I’d like to watch it again, too—but how? It turned out she’d obtained a ripped .mp4 from an acquaintance with a trove of obscure films at his disposal. At some level she knows, or could guess, that this acquaintance had once been a rival of mine, in a bygone romantic entanglement, but probably didn’t give a second thought to asking him. The severity of one’s own drama drops off so precipitously in the estimation of others. It was all so long ago. And besides, she and I are far from love triangles these days, unless we count, as our third point, the almost singular figure the past be- comes, or on the contrary some unknown person who might walk out of the future—a possibility this movie is about to insinuate—with a timing so arbi- trary it’s indistinguishable from grace.

Why won’t the woman return to the man? Might as well ask, why does she hear him out all after- noon, when she has, by her own admission, anoth- er lover waiting, and classes to attend. Desperate, perhaps wondering if she’ll ever quite decisively cut the cord of his devotion, he tells her, “The day I stop suffering, when I work it out, as you say, I’ll have become someone else, and I don’t want that. That day, we’ll have lost each other forever.” The novel he thinks he’s in is À la recherche du temps perdu. This woman even shares her name with Proust’s narrator’s first love: Gilberte.

The man is Alexandre, played by Jean-Pierre Léaud, who was 29 years old in 1973. He had al- ready played many roles, including the character of Antoine Doinel—the filmic alter ego of direc- tor François Truffaut—in four films by the time he made The Mother and the Whore with Eustache. Truffaut had cast him in 1959’s Les quatre cents coups (The 400 Blows) based on a sense of affinity with his own troubled youth. “Jean-Pierre,” said Truffaut of his star, “seeks to hurt, shock and wants it to be known…Why? Because he’s unruly, while I was sly. Because his excitability requires that things happen to him, and when they don’t occur quickly enough, he provokes them.” The director of Léaud’s school warned Truffaut that the boy was arrogant and defiant. Truffaut found him brilliant and kind. The relationship was more than that of director and ac- tor; Léaud grew up a double. He revised, even as he played, over decades, a version of Truffaut’s past self.

LéAud is mesmerizing to watch, compact and en- ergetic, a cockerel. His masculinity, like anyone’s, is an interpretation, a variation on a theme. I wince at its shrillness. He never stifles his egoism, and seems to only flash his vulnerability in order to period- ically release the tension his overbearingness cre- ates around him. But by this same token, he seems manifestly a little boy, and the women around him tasked with letting him perpetually remain one.

Alexandre tells Gilberte he’s ending their conversation. It has exhausted him. He even touches his temples, winces, and struts away—his bellbottoms toll. Emoting, imagining, and persuading are labor. Like directing a movie. Léaud played a director, this same year, in Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris. Truffaut-like, his hands raised in two L shapes to frame a prospective shot, he sets out to evoke on film the magical childhood of his lover, played by Maria Schneider. But we understand him to be pretentious, overly sensitive, cut off from the animal energy that animates Marlon Brando, to whom Schneider is erotically drawn—and whom she finally kills, for the hopelessly tangled, twofold reason of being appalled by his lower social class and frightened by his violence. Bertolucci’s movie, along with Eustache’s, marked a distinct aftershock of the New Wave of French cinema, its exuberance now curdled to disillusionment, its hoped-for new forms—social, aesthetic—collapsed into wreckage. The rot is not only described, it is enacted: to film Tango’s most notorious scene, in which Brando anally rapes Schneider, Bertolucci changed elements of the script—telling Brando to use butter as a lubricant—without warning Schneider, denying her right to know what the scene would demand and violating both her person and her image. Schneider attributed her later drug use, and attempted suicide, to the trauma of her experiences with the film. The destruction depicted in these famously lifelike movies went beyond them, into the lives they consumed.

Extras


Matt Longabucco at Molasses Books (2012)


Kate Durbin & Matt Longabucco

 

 

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‘If ever there were a subject for a protest novel… Yet the concept of political fiction is just one of many things complicated by Natasha Soobramanien and Luke Williams’s new book. Opening in 2014, it follows two Edinburgh-based writers, Damaris, who is British-Mauritian (like Soobramanien), and Oliver, who is Scottish (like Williams). The story turns on their encounter with Diego, a garrulous Mauritian who vanishes after a couple of nights out in their company, leaving them only with his luggage, both literal and figurative in the form of his tale of the misery, or sagren, which followed his mother’s childhood expulsion from Chagos in 1973.

‘For Damaris and Oliver, his story is an education, and perhaps for us, too, as the writers’ subsequent, increasingly outraged reading-up on the Chagossians (once dismissed as “a few Man Fridays” in a British government memo) finds its way directly into the narrative, glossed or verbatim, in an unfussy manner akin to Ali Smith. But the stakes are raised when, to Oliver’s quiet dismay, Damaris composes an experimental story that, comprising the second part of the novel, maps Diego’s tragedy on to the tragedy of Oliver’s brother, a video artist who killed himself after leaving a psychiatric ward.

‘There’s much warmth in the book’s portrait of literary friendship, as the two writers talk of Adorno and autofiction en route to and from the library and pub, getting by on teaching gigs and bitcoin trading. But the first thing you notice is the book’s style. Cigarettes are always referred to as “tubes”, books “blocks” and the text splits into two columns whenever Damaris and Oliver are apart; when they’re together, run-on sentences meld first-person plural and third-person singular: “We’d spent [the morning] the way we spent every morning, him coming to her room with coffee, her accusing him of switching the heating off, him denying this.”

‘More than a gimmick, the style is key to a novel that unsettles the notion of writing as a solitary pursuit, letting air out of the egotism that tends to hang over literary production. Co-authorship is one strategy – Soobramanien also wrote two chapters of Williams’s 2011 debut, The Echo Chamber (a difficult-sounding enterprise alluded to in Oliver and Damaris’s backstory) – but the narrative thrust also draws us away from the idea of literature as a winner-takes-all pursuit. Even before Oliver questions Damaris’s motives, we’re invited to raise an eyebrow at her desire to write a book that will “connect the social death of the Chagossian people ghosted by the British government to the structures of intercontinental superexploitation… The blow my book will deal to the military-industrial complex!”

Diego Garcia is righteously scandalising yet it recognises, vitally, that the imperative to circulate the painful history of the Chagossians doesn’t require anyone to claim it for themselves. Instead of setting out to leave us acclaiming the authors’ skill in evoking the islanders’ plight, it sends us off in the direction of other articles, books and films, such as Olivier Magis’s remarkable documentary Another Paradise, about the Chagossian community in Crawley. Intimate yet expansive, heartbroken but unbowed, and a book about writing that is anything but solipsistic, it’s a stirring novel that lights a way forward for politically conscious fiction.’ — Anthony Cummins

 

Individualism by Luke Williams & Natasha Soobramanien
Outside by Natasha Soobramanien and Luke Williams
‘Diego Garcia’ @ goodreads
ANNETTE WEISSER ON “DIEGO GARCIA“
Buy ‘Diego Garcia’

 

Natasha Soobramanien and Luke Williams Diego Garcia
Semiotext(e)

‘August 2014. Two friends, writers Damaris Caleemootoo and Oliver Pablo Herzberg, arrive in Edinburgh from London, the city that killed Daniel—his brother, her frenemy and loved by them both. Every day is different but the same. Trying to get to the library, they get distracted by bickering—will it rain or not and what should they do about their tanking bitcoin?—in the end failing to write or resist the sadness which follows them as they drift around the city.

‘On such a day they meet Diego, a poet. They learn that Diego’s mother was from the Chagos Archipelago, that she and her community were forced to leave their ancestral islands by soldiers in 1973 to make way for a military base. They become obsessed with this notorious episode in British history and the continuing resistance of the Chagossian people, and feel urged to write in solidarity. But how to share a story that is not theirs to tell?

‘Sad, funny and angry, this collaborative fiction builds on the true fact of another: a collaborative fiction created by the British and US governments to dispossess a people of their homeland.’ — Semiotext(e)

Excerpts

Edinburgh, September 2014. The horror of the sky. The air thick with rain to come. We no longer drank our first coffee of the day together. It had been weeks since he’d come with a mug in each hand to her bedroom door, nudging it open with his foot. He no longer climbed onto her bed and we no longer propped ourselves up, him tucking his feet under the duvet (if she let him). No more discussing the blocks we’d read before falling asleep, no more leaning out of the window to smoke the first tube of the day, looking to see if the billboard above ScotMid had changed, to read it for signs. Mornings in the flat were still filled with the smell of coffee, which he still made, but since we no longer drank it together we’d come to associate its smell with the sadness. She waking up to it now in bed, him breathing it in as he sat with his mug at the kitchen table, staring at Diego’s bags, which were piled in the corner.

When she came into the kitchen she was already dressed, wearing that blue plaid shirt a lover had left behind. She put some post on the table, saying, Bulletins from the world of Emergency Supplies. He grabbed the pile not looking at her. Do they accept bitcoin? she said. Trading’s not going so well he said. She turned away, poured herself a coffee. She opened the fridge, the cupboards, took out a box of muesli. She said, Nothing to eat but dusty raisins. Currency… Don’t he said. Something in the way he wouldn’t look at her, something in the way he held his coffee and rubbed his forehead with the tip of his thumb. A new tiredness and sadness. She said, I’m going to eat one of the astronaut meals. This is how she referred to the freeze-dried food packs he ordered in bulk online and tried to hide from her. They’re for The Emergency he said. This is an emergency! He glanced at Diego’s bags. She put on her kindest face, laid a hand on his shoulder. Diego is gone, you know that. She raised the kitchen window, lit two tubes and held one out to him. We looked at the sky. Horizon crumbling away, plunging headlong into an abyss of fire. The billboard above ScotMid read YES: white caps, background of Saltire-blue. She said, If you’re not making us any bitcoin then we should open Diego’s bags, see if there is anything we can sell. We can’t do that! Then I will eat an astronaut meal. We watched the swift grey clouds. He’ll be back for those bags one day. Fuck the future she said, stubbing out her tube, ducking back into the kitchen – him still leaning out of the window – the billboard saying YES – but we had no vote we had no hope.

The Meadows. Same sky. Strange yellow light. People dragged about by the wind. The ends of his tracksuit bottoms frayed, trailing on the path. He was walking as fast as he could but his leg was still bad from his fall. She quickened our pace, he dragged on her arm, the wind was shaking the tops of the cherry trees. She was telling him we should get to the library because a storm was going to hit. He said, We have to find him. Then because she didn’t answer he shouted into the wind, Diego! Diego! The rain came, pouring onto the grass, onto us, bouncing – high! – off the path. We joined hands and ran, turning up Middle Meadow Walk, passing posters for the YES campaign and posters for the NO campaign, a nation strung out on fibre optic nerves. Passing the Swedish café, Sainsbury’s, Starbucks, slowing to a walk because we were soaked through, set on getting to the library – laughing now because rain gets no wetter in the end – set on getting down to our blocks and our screens because as much as we could not bear our blocks and our screens we had organized our lives around them and didn’t experience this as a contradiction.

Ever since we’d taken Diego’s bags home, we had been searching for him. Not knowing his real name, we couldn’t find him online. So we went all over the city looking for him. We tried the hostels near the Grassmarket and behind Princes Street. We tried the pubs we tried the parks. We did not try the police. We asked again at Sandy Bell’s but he’d not been back. We took the bus to Edinburgh Festival Campsite and picked our way among the tents, calling, Diego! Diego! We’ve got your bags! We called this out in English and then she called it out in Kreol. Next day she decided to speak only in Kreol. This did not lead to Diego and it did not lead to any literature that we wrote. We were disturbed by his failure to reappear, and this added strangeness to our unreal life: false sightings in the street, the confusion with Daniel. The days passed, no different than the rest. The sadness came and went. The same sadness… no, not the same, the vacancy and tedium the same but the sadness itself just what it is, always different but the same. One day her screen flashed – ‘unknown number’ – and he urged her to answer, saying, It might be him. Fuck Diego she said, He doesn’t want to know us. This produced in us a feeling of shame we couldn’t explain.

We stopped looking for Diego. We returned to the library. We sat among the stacks and read about Diego Garcia, the island where Diego’s mother had been born, the same island soldiers had forced her to leave fourteen years later, to make way for the US military base. We made it to the library the next day, and the day after that.

On the fourth day he hissed, Have you seen the US Navy website? The history section of the Diego Garcia page? Pure fuckin fiction. That there had been people living on the islands prior to the base being built; that these people, the Chagossians, had been living there for many generations – no mention of them or their forced exile on the website. Ghosted.

Charity shop on Forrest Road. Wet through and dripping rainwater. She skipped straight to the boutique section to put together a new outfit for him. Do the same for me she said, cosy but edgy. We exchanged outfits. When we had changed we walked with inscrutable expressions to the counter. She feeling emboldened by her new outfit, him feeling shit but relieved somehow. Before paying she passed by heirloom corner picking up a pair of eggcups in duck-egg blue, also a block with the cover torn off, and the very last umbrella in the shop. Total: £11.75.

Ace Cleaning Centre. Gentle racket of the dryers. In the drum our old wet clothes. On us, the new old clothes that smelt like the grave. He: blue checked chef’s trousers and a red-and-black flannel shirt, flecked oatmeal mountaineering socks. Her: batwing jumper in dark shimmery green, yellow flip-flops, brown fake suede skirt, bright pink anorak. The dryer came to a halt. She said, More change. Yes he said, but how? Coins you arse-hole! He dug into his pockets. We’re running low, all that shit we bought from the charity shop. Boutique she said. He took out two 20ps which she fed into the dryer. He said, Why is it me who always pays? She took out her screen, showed him an animated gif of the national debt clock in New York with the numbers ticking up. It was true that she never had any money while he sometimes did. We often argued about it. This was sad but in the end it didn’t matter all that much. It suited us both. She got to feel like a punk, he like we’d stick together – if not out of love then necessity – so that money was not for us just the ultimate abstraction but something to share between bodies. We sat on the bench opposite the row of dryers. He leaned his head on her shoulder. Rain pummelled the window. We watched our clothes turning, our trainers thudding against the drum. He said, Why did we buy those eggcups we never eat boiled eggs. She said, We never eat boiled eggs because we have no fuckin egg cups. We were silent for a while. Then he said, I don’t think I’m going to make it to the library today. She said, I miss our coffees in the morning. He went outside and stood hunched in the doorway smoking a tube. When he returned he didn’t look at her. She said, What’s wrong with you? I don’t know he said. Yes you do. You’re think- ing of leaving. No he said, I’m thinking we should go our separate ways. She said, Your plans are our plans. She paused. Except if I get that residency at Cove Park. If I get it then I’m going alone. You could visit on the weekends though. A washing machine shifted into spin cycle, the machines out of sync. He took a deep breath and said, I can’t believe you bought a Better Together umbrella! You should have tried it out in the shop. It’s bad luck to open umbrellas indoors she said. He said, You’re so superstitious! It’s only superstition to those who don’t believe she said. My mum’s grandmère died from the Evil Eye. I told you about her, the indentured labourer. Working the sugar cane fields. One night she had a fever, she cried out – she’s had the evil eye put on me! then died. Who had the evil eye put on her? Supposedly the wife of the blan who managed the plantation. My great-grandfather. Anyway, would you call her superstitious? Remember Caliban and The Witch. She took her jumper off and folded it up. She put it on his shoulder and her neck on the jumper. We didn’t speak for several minutes. His/her shoulder/neck was becoming numb. He said, But we are though, aren’t we? Yes she said, You’re Caliban and I’m the Witch. No! Better together. Fuck the union she said. Independence for Scotland, co-dependence for us. He turned his head and looked at the top of her head with his blue eyes.

We stayed sitting on the bench, quiet, unable to shift our gaze from the tumbling clothes, our trainers making that elliptical thud against the drum. The dry heat, the felted air. Outside, the trees thrashing their heads, roads running with water. A while later she lifted her head. We were right to come up here she said, England wanted us dead… no not England. London… not London. The state. The state doesn’t want us dead he said, it just doesn’t care if we are. Most of the time when the state speaks of sacrifice the state means THANK YOU FOR LETTING ME EAT YOU, that’s what Ariana Reines said she said.

Extras

 

 

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p.s. Hey. ** Dominik, Hi!!! You might need to take some LSD to help, but love will get Julia squeezed into your view of your shelf somehow. Ha ha, clever love (your yesterday one, natch). Love instantly reducing the currently 39 degree temperature in Paris to 19 degrees, and I’m talking instantly, like in 5 seconds, G. ** David Ehrenstein, I’ll see if i can peek at that Ferreri. I haven’t read enough Delany to make an informed assessment, but I think I’d go for Baldwin in that coupling. Yes, big RIP to the very great JLT! ** Misanthrope, Ah, so your famous phobias do not include balloons. Whew. I think I like when language changes for any reason whatsoever. I don’t know, it just excites me. That ‘don’t write about something you haven’t experienced’ advice is why American contemporary fiction is only about 8% great. We’re having a heatwave, so this weekend is going to suck no matter how I try to get through it, but thank you anyway. You guys have so many work holidays over there in the USA, it’s nuts. And very good, mind you! ** Sypha, Be careful, it’s been postulated that saying ‘no’ to more and more things as you get older could be one of the causes of Alzheimers. But that said, a belated but very happy birthday! How did you celebrate? ** Bill, Hi. Yes, they looked more edible than actual meat, at least to me. There she is, right up above. As I mentioned above, we’re in the middle of a short but horrible heatwave so this weekend looks it’s going to be literally cooked. Enjoy the gig and art and cool breezes. ** _Black_Acrylic, I can’t think of anyone I know who doesn’t like balloons, It’s true. but I don’t have pets. I think they’re not so into their popping demise. Hats off to Martin Creed then. I.e. yay conceptualism! ** Steve Erickson, My understanding is that ‘Hogg’ is his single foray into scat, but don’t hold me to that. Hoping your therapist lives up to her seeming promise, and that your dizziness backs the hell off. We have a meeting with our film’s higher up this weekend, but I’m expecting it will go badly, so I think the answer to your question is probably no. Thank you for asking. ** John Newton, Ah, okay, understood about your poor friend. Yeah, I’ve never gotten Hepatitis, but my immune system is kind of famously amazing. My parents wouldn’t even let me read ‘Mad Magazine’ when I was a kid. But of course I did. One time when I was a teenager I thought I saw a ghost in my family kitchen, but I was quite stoned at the time, so I think in retrospect that I surely didn’t. No, I don’t believe in the paranormal. I think it’s fun, and I think it’s a good device or whatever to use in fiction, but no. I hope you have a wonderful weekend too. And one without our scalding, weekend-destroying heatwave. ** Damien Ark, Hi, Damien! Excellent to see you, sir! That youtube channel looks like a total boon! Thank you so much for the clue-in. Based on my voluminous exploring of fetish sites for the slave posts, balloon fetishists are very, very rare. There are more guys into having their stomachs inflated like balloons than there are guys into actual balloons. I too love the idea of a pool inflatable fetish. I could get into that maybe. Maybe. I hope you’re doing really great in general, my friend! ** Billy, Hi, Billy. Well, I just get a weird idea in my head, and then I wonder if it’s weird and interesting enough to warrant a post, and then I go on a massive  google search using a variety of related search terms, and, if there are enough cool examples out there, I grab them and assemble a post. But, yeah, the ideas originate in my head, so my head is the ultimate culprit. I didn’t know there was a helium shortage! That’s very sad somehow. I’ll look into it. Charles Ray is my very favorite visual artist, and he’s also an old friend of mine, for which I feel very grateful. ‘Tantra without the spirituality’: that is really nice. When did the term gooning arise, I wonder. I feel like I’ve only see it used commonly amongst escorts and so on in the last maybe year? I’m good apart from misery related to our current heatwave. Yes, producer/fundraising problems up the wazoo. For right now, we’re kind of stuck with ours very unfortunately, but we’ll see. That is absolutely hilarious about the ‘Malady of Death’ seller. That’s crazy funny. Thank for that. That definitely lowered the temperature a few degrees at least. Have a most excellent weekend. ** Okay. I present to you five books I read recently and highly recommend to you. Have a gander, won’t you? See you on Monday.

12 Comments

  1. Dominik

    Hi!!

    Thank you for the weekend treat! As always, my to-read list has just gotten a little bit longer. I’m grateful for that.

    It’s 39 degrees there?! Jesus Christ. It’s pretty hot here, too, but nothing extreme so far.

    Love turning “We Need to Talk about Kevin” into a queer YA novel, Od.

  2. David Ehrenstein

    “The Mother and the Whore” is a seminal film of the post May 68 period. While it appears at first glance to be an improvisation, every word is scripyed. The performers are magnificent. Eustache alas was a Depressive and ended a suicide. Garrel said his suicide was “a warning” to tothers

  3. _Black_Acrylic

    The Diego Garcia book looks to be of interest to anyone clued in to Scottish politics: someone like me, for instance. I also just started this novel set during the Scottish witch trials by the sainted Jenni Fagan and I’m expecting big things.

  4. Billy

    I’m told the term comes from the face you make when you’re deep into it. Drooling gurning and so on. I’ve only seen it for six months or so but I like the whole vibe, particularly the mock megalomania people bring to it.

  5. Sypha

    For whatever reason I haven’t been reading as many books this year. Like I’ve only read 32 so far, and by this point in the year I’m usually in the 40-50 books finished range. Partly it’s due to my eyes, which for whatever reason have been very bad this year (maybe allergy related). Last night I finished Cormac McCarthy’s SUTTREE, which has been part of my “reading a bunch of Cormac McCarthy books before the new ones drop in October/November.” Most of these are re-reads (like next month for example I’ll be re-reading BLOOD MERIDIAN), but this was the first time I’ve ever read SUTTREE. I really enjoyed it a lot, it might even be my second favorite by him, but… it also took me awhile to get through as in terms of pages it’s very long (by his standards) and extremely densely written.

    No big celebration for my birthday, I went to work and when I got home later that night my parents/brothers gave me some gifts and then we had brownies (as I haven’t had cake on my birthday since 2009). So pretty quiet and lowkey, which is how I like it.

  6. Misanthrope

    Dennis, Another really good selection. I’m thinking about these as I read the excerpts and I’m like, “Okay, I can/could never do this,” and I like that.

    Totally agree re: contemporary fiction. I think we’ve lost track of how fiction is really works of the imagination. Of course, it’s going to be informed by the author’s worldview/experiences/etc., but man, get out there and fucking write something! If you know what I mean. Take the restraints/constraints off and just fucking write that shit.

    Okay, so it’s going up to 101 there today. Yikes. But settling back down tomorrow. I’m just glad you know what a heatwave is. I was giving Callum some shit yesterday because he was complaining about how hot it was in Manchester. It was 80 there and 95 where I live. But yeah, perspective and all, that’s “hot” for them.

    The thing I like about Juneteenth is that they just added it and didn’t take another holiday away. I think we have 12 official fed govt holidays now? So…let’s average that to one a month. Not that crazy, really, one day off a month or so. Me likey. 😀

    It’s gonna be like 73 here today, btw. Nice day. Typical MD weather. I’m a just chill as best I can. Slept almost 12 hours last night. I guess I needed it? 😀

  7. Billy

    Ps. What I meant by ‘out of your head’ was to ask if you had all the content just there in your head to put in the post or if you googled round to find things that fit the theme

  8. tomk

    Great day and I’m especially fascinated by the Caren Beilin book. Im exhausted and I can’t believe how bad my hayfever/allergies have been. Can’t help but feel like nature’s rejecting me haha. Weirdly in Peru I never had any allergies, only in Europe.

    hope you’re well man

  9. Bill

    Ah, good to see Rivera Garza’s collection today. Will explore the other items over the weekend.

    Sorry to hear about the heatwave. It’s been beautiful here, though the wind picks up significantly in the evening.

    Both the gig and the opening went well. It’s interesting to see Gwenael’s style and approach evolve over the years:
    https://www.romeryounggallery.com/current

    Bill

  10. Brandon

    Hey Dennis,
    Have had an uneventful pest few weeks, working almost nonstop to save for my sternum tattoo I’m getting tomorrow for the play/movie (but mostly movie) Equus so I’m stoked for that but exhausted from woking and not doing much fun things or seeing my friends. Watched some good movies though, hadn’t seen Wake in Fright and that was greaaat. Has your week been exciting? What’s going on? Hope everything’s stellar, have a nice sunday, I’ll spend mine getting my chest needled for hours lol. Talk soon, Brandon.

  11. Steve Erickson

    The dizziness is a serious, persistent problem that seems to be getting worse. While it began before I caught COVID, it got more powerful afterwards. I’ve made an appointment to talk about it with my doctor on Wednesday, and I’d like to find out if this could be long COVID – or, at least, if long COVID could’ve aggravated pre-existent symptoms.

    I saw John Ford’s THE LONG GRAY LINE for the first time on Friday night and thought it was one of the best films I’ve ever seen. The direction is gorgeous and painterly, with great use of the ‘Scope frame, and it expresses a nuanced POV on the paradox that institutions like the military can offer a real sense of community while sending generation after generation of young men off to their deaths.

    M/W sounds great. I’ve been reading a lot of science fiction lately, especially old favorites. I’m currently taking a second look at Ballard’s THE CRYSTAL WORLD. I read it for the first time as a child, and it really opened up the world of literature for me, but I’ve never read it again till now.

  12. John Newton

    Thanks Dennis, my friend is in an induced coma and if he survives this his quality of life will be forever changed. I remember being shocked that he had super high blood pressure in HS-he was a year or two below me but he went to a Roman Catholic school, and he refused to ever take blood pressure meds, change his diet, exercise, etc.

    Thanks for the book recommendations. I will tell my relative who loathes Burroughs about the Caren Beilin book, maybe she will teach it in her classes? Did you ever meet Burroughs? I know in an interview you said how your friend Mark was his weekend lover, is this the Mark who influenced you to write your short story My Mark? I did find it funny or weird how in the 1990s towards the end of his life and Kurt Cobain’s, WSB became super mainstream and was used to sell running shoes. I liked some of WSB’s later work his lover James G edited but I wonder what the novels would have been like had he not edited anything? I used to know a queen, who when in mania was convinced WSB had discovered the secret to eternal life, the secrets of the universe, etc. But he also saw some Indian guru sitting on his bed in Berkeley in the early 1970s during a manic state, and the cult leader was in northern India.

    How do you make your obsessions work for you? Do you have compulsions? I drink 2-3 cups of green tea daily both as a compulsion, for relaxation, and because it has less caffeine than the liter of coffee I would drink daily, or the multiple liters of hot and cold yerba mate I used to drink.

    Have a good week.

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