‘For the last three years I’ve gone through intense periods of working full-time jobs I don’t like or care about to then go home and work full-time hours again, on Shabby Doll, until falling asleep. And when you live like that, you can’t be very present for the other people in your life. You don’t have energy left to give to anything or anyone else. There are only 24 hours in a day and they are never enough.
‘But my life is different now. I want to be a better friend. My first book just came out. I want to write another one. I live with my boyfriend. I want and need to be more of a real person.
‘Plus, I’m a lot better at writing and editing now. People are receiving a different service than they were in the beginning. I really believe that in terms of what we do, we’re the best of the best.
‘There’s a quote from ‘The Moon & The Sixpence’ by W.S Maugham which says, ‘Life isn’t long enough for love and art’ which for a long time I felt obsessed with and believed, I think. Or I wanted to believe it, because it felt comforting to tell myself that I was prioritizing art. But if life isn’t even long enough for just love and art, and I’m a poor person who needs to work too. Then what is life long enough for? I’ve now come to the conclusion that this idea is just some tortured-white-man-artiste bullshit. I’m a woman and I will multi-task! But thinking about this a lot has made me realize that I needed to find a way to combine two of those things. Love. Work. Art. So I chose work and art. Because you don’t fuck with the other one.’ — Lucy K Shaw
Lucy K Shaw Troisième Vague
Shabby Doll House
‘Writing, running, reading poetry, talking with Chinese children, eating cheese and drinking red wine with death in the distance.’ — SDH
‘have you ever watched someone you love unexpectedly start putting a braid in someone else that you love’s hair perhaps while you’re all on a porch at dusk and it turns out beautifully’ — Chuck Young
from JE NE SUIS PAS SEUL, IL Y A LES MOTS
Another week in my life,
I’m going to start writing again. I feel strange. It’s 12:31am and Chris is in the living room, translating. I’m in bed.
Today my sister texted me, Do you know a Jamie Cooper? lol, yeah, I responded, from school.
I thought about Jamie Cooper for the first time in a long time. The most popular girl in my secondary school. Coops, some people called her. She was beautiful with olive skin and blonde highlights, the high priestess of the coolest girls, the desired object of all the sportiest boys, but against all odds, somehow, not a bitch. She would remember people’s names and say Hiya when she passed you in the corridor. I remember her denim jacket and the way she wore her oversized shirt tucked into tight, fitted and slightly flared polyester trousers.
I can’t remember what shoes she wore during the school day but I remember that once the bell rang, she and all of her disciples would slip into their trainers in order to walk out of the school gates, always carrying a plastic shopping bag containing their P.E kit and folders in addition to their matching draw-string duffles.
I thought my sister was going to tell me that she was working at the same school as her. Kate has been doing a teacher-training course in our hometown to pass the pandemic.
Anyway, she died, is what she wrote next.
Oh my god, what?
I searched for Jamie Cooper on Facebook and quickly found out that she had two daughters, about eight and six, no mention of a partner. She seems to have been ill before, had some kind of organ transplant. I don’t know how she died (or lived) or anything about what happened. She’s just… dead, suddenly. To me. I haven’t thought about her in a long time. Haven’t seen her in fifteen years, probably.
Never would have seen her again, I imagine, no matter how long we’d both have lived.
I dreamed about both of the dead girls last night.
The other one is in the news. I didn’t know her either. But she was from the same city as me, York. And she was also the same age as me, 33. Her name was Sarah Everard. She was walking home last week in London and then yesterday the police found ‘human remains’ in some woods in Kent. Then they arrested another policeman on suspicion of murder.
When you google Jamie Cooper, the first results are for a 16-year-old cheerleader from Georgia who died from a drug overdose last month in the apartment of a 25-year-old man.
I tried not to let their deaths affect me. Because I didn’t know the girls. Because it’s easier not to think about them. Because there is enough to worry about, all of the time.
But my sister and my mum told me they felt upset last night.
Then I started to feel it too.
I told Chris about them at dinner and described what I had learned on Facebook. It seemed like Jamie Coops loved being alive, like she loved being with her two daughters, that she had been a very happy person.
‘Really makes the case against the existence of a benevolent god,’ Chris said, which made me feel like we may never really understand each other.
I pulled a face.
what doesn’t kill you makes u stronger
Sylvia Plath’s House, Hung Over
‘Throughout the writing of this project, I’ve been sort of horrified, to use this language of horror, that this is the book that I’ve written, which is so adolescent and kind of embarrassing in its subject matter. Leaving aside the fact that this is at heart a coming-out narrative — so passé! — it’s a book about eating disorders, which nobody wants to talk about. We’ve had that conversation. At least, people in my generation have had that conversation — we exhausted the topic when we were adolescents, when it showed up in every teen magazine, talk show, and tabloid, and was one of those social problems that got worse and more stigmatized the more it got talked about. So, it was very hard to just commit to the fact that this was the book that I was writing. At the same time, I do believe there is a lot of room in fiction for new narratives about not just eating disorders, which is such a common yet intensely personal experience and which typically gets treated in literature with strictly melancholic realism (Melissa Broder’s Milk Fed is one exception), but also the real and challengingly confusing pain of being a pre-queer, pre-trans adolescent without access to the resources and models that would help one become a fuller person — because those resources and models have been very purposefully kept from them. I know we are in a place where queer and trans readers are hungry for joy in their stories, and I think there is joy here too, but I just decided it was important to emphasize that pain and its very real consequences in this contradictory moment when, even as (or because) we have more trans visibility than ever, trans youth are so vulnerable to anti-trans sentiment and policy.
‘One project that emboldened me to take adolescence seriously — and I guess by that I mean the more specific challenge of taking my own adolescence seriously — was Tegan and Sara’s memoir, High School, which I interviewed them about in 2019. One of the things they do in that book is just really commit to taking their high school selves seriously, and they don’t ironize that experience. They don’t poke fun at themselves. It’s really powerful to read that. That’s something that I kept in mind when I kept returning to Margaret and the Mystery of the Missing Body. There’s a lot of irony and humor in my project, but I also think that the book takes Margaret seriously as an adolescent who is suffering and trying to figure things out and doing her very best.’ — Megan Milks
Megan Milks @ Twitter
WHAT TO READ WHEN IN SEARCH OF BODIES
‘Structural Play: 8 Books That Challenge Genre and Style,’ by Megan Milks
MEGAN MILKS / blog
Buy ‘Margaret and the Mystery of the Missing Body’
Megan Milks Margaret and the Mystery of the Missing Body
‘Meet Margaret. At age twelve, she was head detective of the mystery club Girls Can Solve Anything. Margaret and her three best friends led exciting lives solving crimes, having adventures, and laughing a lot. But now that she’s entered high school, the club has disbanded, and Margaret is unmoored–she doesn’t want to grow up, and she wishes her friends wouldn’t either. Instead, she opts out, developing an eating disorder that quickly takes over her life. When she lands in a treatment center, Margaret finds her path to recovery twisting sideways as she pursues a string of new mysteries involving a ghost, a hidden passage, disturbing desires, and her own vexed relationship with herself.
‘Margaret and the Mystery of the Missing Body reimagines nineties adolescence–mashing up girl group series, choose-your-own-adventures, and chronicles of anorexia–in a queer and trans coming-of-age tale like no other. An interrogation of girlhood and nostalgia, dysmorphia and dysphoria, this debut novel puzzles through the weird, ever-evasive questions of growing up.’ — Feminist Press
MARGARET AND THE MYSTERY OF THE MISSING BODY | Megan Milks, Andrea Lawlor & Sandra Newman
‘Non-linear/non-narrative/non-novel (?) concerning the sexual and murderous exploits of an unnamed narrator of polymorphous gender and a shapeshifting man named Madhab (I say ‘man’ though in truth there is a scene where he has a clitoris as well: let us just say that Madhab is a complex structure). These two boffins have a complicated love/hate relationship, in that they spend the entire book either fucking or strangling each other in a variety of picturesque locales: under neon signs, atop wooden kitchenettes, beneath mushroom clouds, in the dead spaces, at Weehawken motels (luckily, what happens at Weehawken stays in Weehawken). Thankfully for the two, no matter what misfortune befalls them they come back to life again and again, like LOONEY TUNES characters or comic book superheroes. And it’s not all doom & gloom: on page 135, for example, the duo “eat a decent meal of waffle fries and cheeseburger.” This may be a grimdark universe where insect experiments are performed within the human nervous system, but I’m heartened to find out that the (mostly) human beings who inhabit this hellhole can still find the time to scarf down on some decent waffle fries.’ — James Champagne
‘A kind of sculpture formed from words. The text makes me feel like I’m reading from the torn pages of an oil stained newspaper. There’s a hissy hum both in the sentences and between them and then in the readers brain once they set this masterpiece down. It feels as if this book is strung across some everlasting present, but one that weirdly, has passed in liminal and rain lashed light. Most literary books these days don’t even attempt, this one annihilates.’ — Mark Gluth
SJXSJC w/ Steven Purtill The Sex Shops of Sherman Oaks
‘Seismic shocks throughout the bigger cities of Earth. A plane crash in San Francisco. Sexology as detailed by American nymphomaniacs. Drugs manufactured from Hindu guidelines. Outdoor furniture burning on the lawns of Indianapolis. I take a deep breath. My filthy hand full of numerous ideas. They administer the medical treatments to Madhab. His skin smells burnt … he is stabbed by unknown substances … all rubber shuffling upon him. Tropical fruit eaten around campfires. Coyotes constructed from human bones. Carnal worlds involving shampoo and soiled beds. We strangle in the stairwells at night. We strangle in hotel rooms and on patios … beneath bed sheets or brown paper. We invite the hotel staff to join us. The brutal lunge of a foam head. Soda bubbles as the blood drools. Index finger in the red mist. Dark-haired soldier with an unidentifiable accent. Madhab wears dark glasses and hangs out with big drug users. Madhab thinks that obedience is an adrenaline rush. He likes tugging off relief workers and U.N. peacekeepers in the toilet facilities. When I was fifteen I use to give back massages on East 14th Street. I’d lick the oil smells from Madhab’s underarms. Memories of the cool night air at the open swimming pavilion. The red lacquer corner pillars by the change rooms. Madhab gets me back to the hotel room. White shirt tight against his chest. I burn up. He opens his mouth. Moss and plaque. Dry toothpaste on lip. Dangerous gang members flood tribal areas. SWAT team in Kandahar. The gorgeous mountains of Afghanistan. Toadlike fingers over the strategic footholds. Negative forces infiltrate Madhab’s psychic energy. Machine guns against the dark blue sky. White stabs of lightning. The electrical world. Kidnappings and suicide bombings. Super-computers cancelling gene therapy programs. It is an early morning in Manhattan …’ — Amphetamine Sulphate
‘Sarah Jean Alexander’s poems are filled with miniatures. Ok, you say, not always and you are right–sometimes, though–and even when they aren’t, there is something about the poems … that reminds me of tiny dioramas, arranged to tell different stories about their author’s ongoing negotiations with space, time, self, and others.
‘While Sarah Jean’s poems sometimes tap into a childlike sense of wonderment, they refuse the lazy naiveté of so many poems of these kind, which end in only the flimsy resolution that the life of the mind always wins out over the real world’s gritty logic.
‘Instead, they portray wonder with a refreshing, complicated maturity–though many of these poems invoke fable and storybook-structures, their narrator is always a fully human, grown woman whose imaginings do not detract from her strength or abilities to navigate the world reasonably. …
‘In film and television, people use the term the “uncanny valley” to denote a kind of hyperrealism that gets too spookily close to verisimilitude to pass for real or fake. While this is something to avoid in TV, I am beginning to believe it is what poetry should aspire to.’
‘Though I don’t know if there is a word for it, I want to say that Sarah Jean Alexander’s poems are the opposite form of the Whitmanesque expansive impulse–instead of making herself larger, the author manipulates language to make herself and the objects of her fascination so incredibly small they seem racked with detail–as if nothing else exists.’ — Lucy Tiven
Sarah Jean Alexander We Die in Italy
‘Death by chocolate / in the morning / I ate some cake / because / I wanted to / If fear did not exist / I think could invent it.’ –SDH
‘Sarah Jean has a tomahawk tattooed on her leg.’ — ballballball
ANOTHER BEAUTIFUL SUNSET
today I sat in the sun
felt poetry come back
I suddenly and desperately craved candy
and stood in front of the pantry with a spoon
shoveling demerara sugar into my mouth
later, I will pick the wild ramps
growing across the street
I will prepare them for dinner
another beautiful sunset
THE IMPORTANCE OF
the importance of pickled herring
to his mormor over facetime
I sit across from him
with a paper bag of pastries in my lap
skipping scones into my mouth
sucking until they dissolve
eyeing a tall glass of lemon water
the neighbor’s cat at my window
who I have met before
there have been some minor changes
in the mornings especially now
I am awake with more energy
than you might prefer
rearranging firewood before the sun
has a chance to filter through
the ceiling glass
I have never let my mood
distract from the responsibility
of being a woman and that
is a lie you accept
sometimes dill presents itself
in a way that makes eating
when winter begins
it’s always some kind of trick
like we want you to have fun
but you’re going to suffer
a thin blanket hidden beneath
a thicker blanket
two bodies spiraling and tightly held in
I am going to be happy
regardless of how wet the earth gets
in fact I hope it gets
if you listen closely
there is the distant sound
of someone holding hands with someone else
you can almost hear
the deep reds of their organs
pumping to fill
Sarah Jean Alexander Booze Art
‘I tend to be a hyperproductive kind of writer. That doesn’t mean I never have writer’s block or difficulties. I’m also hyperaware of feeling writing despair and doubting the work. One writing session might go really well and you feel great. At the end of it you’re like, “Oh yeah, I think that could be a cool scene that I just finished writing,” or whatever. But there are so many sessions where you climb out of it with words on the page but you feel like it didn’t really work out. Maybe you’re not on your A game, and that can just send a writer into a spiral. …
‘I always battle with the realization that the stuff I write doesn’t need to exist, and I wonder how many people actually want to read the horror and speculative fiction that I write. There’s all this cross chatter in my brain that has only gotten worse due to the pandemic and political unease and turmoil. There have been defeatist moments where I’ve thought, maybe I shouldn’t have been a writer. I’m thirty-five years old and maybe I should pivot to something else. But I’ve done a lot of self-reflection as to why I went toward writing, and I’ve realized that I do enjoy it. I like creating something out of essentially thin air. It’s always a sort of escapism and a sanctuary for me. I realized I needed to stop thinking about it specifically just for publication. Like, I’m doing this as a form of my own therapy, for my own escapism and self-challenge. If it ends up being published, cool. That’s the icing.’ — Michael Seidlinger
Michael J. Seidlinger Runaways: A Writer’s Dilemma
Future Tense Books
‘In Runaways: A Writer’s Dilemma, author Michael J. Seidlinger centers a magnifying glass on the creative journey, with an honest and unabashed search into how and why someone would want to be accepted as a writer in a world that might not care.
‘The book’s breezy narrative contrasts with the despair that is often triggered by the wasteland of social media and the Internet. This is a story that reminds the reader that they aren’t alone in a culture that pressures us to measure our work on a purely capitalistic level, driven by likes, hearts, and money. Like a darker and more skewed literary version of the metaphysical classic, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Seidlinger’s Runaways: A Writer’s Dilemma shows us how our art, often made in solitary, can be the more important and inspiring part of living.’ — Future Tense
‘This smart story ought to prompt readers to second-guess the impulse to write—or to tweet.’ — Publishers Weekly
The Antibody: Andrew Altschul, Rachel Lyon, and Michael Seidlinger
To Ben · Michael J. Seidlinger
p.s. Hey. Today is the second and final virtual launch event for I WISHED featuring famed author Rachel Kushner and me, sponsored by the great LA bookstore Skylight. You can RSVP for the event using the link in the Sidebar. It’ll happen live at noon (West Coast), 3 pm (East Coast), 8 pm (UK), and 9 pm (Europe). It’d be great if any of you want to be there. ** Misanthrope, Dude, no maybe/probably, do it. Don’t make me hire a bunch of local teenagers to toilet paper your house. Tentative good news on the David front. You guys still celebrate Columbus Day over there? Weird. And so you … did … accomplished … ? ** Bill, Hi. Not that I know of, ha ha. Boy, whoever did that one would asking for one hell of a nitpicker controversy. I think that virtual event with Maryse is already available online? Great luck getting thew gig sorted. ** David Ehrenstein, Here’s hoping that movie is good. ** Dominik, Hi!!! Good, no more zombie Dominick, not that you wouldn’t make a suave zombie. I think it’s unforgettable because it’s so completely over the top ridiculous and inappropriate? Unless there’s a cult of agonised blow job receivers out there that I don’t know about. Obviously your weekend love is much valued by me. Your love today is a little bitty peek at the virtual Home Haunt video game-like thing in progress, more specifically at the evil (?) teenager’s bedroom, G. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. That should be very interesting. Maybe I can find a playable, France-friendly version of that show/episode somewhere. ** T, Hi. I think that’s a common assumption. I remember when I found out ‘It’s a Small World’ qualified as a dark ride, and that seems so wrong, but so it is. My weekend was good, pretty packed with work, but good work. Well, gazing at a beautiful guy for an hour or whatever isn’t too bad. Yes, I’ll be here this weekend working on the Haunt event. So, yeah, if you stay longer let me know, and let’s meet up. Sounds great! xo. ** Corey Heiferman, Hi, Corey, good to see you, bud. I’m such a haunted attraction/dark ride nut ball that I actually know about that dark ride you’re remembering and have watched that sweet portrait of its keeper. Nice little ride. Classic. Still no Halloween in Israel?! Strange. France has only this year started to finally catch on, and there are haunted houses and the whole shebang for the first time in history. Maybe Israel wise up. The sadness and eye stuff aside, you sound good. Mumblecore-ish friendships can last a lifetime. Well, so far. ** Steve Erickson, I think there are cyberpunk dark rides. I might have passed by a few in my searching, but they must have not seemed up to snuff. I hope something unexpected and immediate snaps you out of your doldrums. I’m so sorry to hear that. ** G, Hi, G! I think was okay. It was fun to do. People out there seemed okay with it, although who knows. How was yours? The pix of it looked very cool. Yes, I think the Maryse one is already archived and watchable, but I’m not sure. Thanks about tonight. I’m happy to get to talk with Rachel since she’s an old pal of mine, but otherwise I can’t wait until it’s over, ha ha. ** Jeffrey Coleman, Hi, Jeff! My eyes are a lot less sore now. How are you? Thanks so much about ‘I Wished’. That means a lot. Iknow about the show based on Todd’s book, and it seems to have caused a successful fuss, as far as I can tell, but I haven’t seen it yet due to my never watching ‘TV’ status. But I intend to find it. Thanks, man. I hope you’re doing great. ** Andrew, Hi, Andrew! I had really nice time with Paul A real pleasure. And he seemed to enjoy the place. Well, worse comes worse, I mean, that hiding out thing worked for Darger, well, except for the little fact of him never knowing about his success and renown, so, on second thought, maybe being a public writer is best. Yeah, the haunted house ‘game’ is really interesting and fun to make, and my hopes for it are high. And working with Puce Mary is a dream. She’s doing the score for Zac’s and my next film, which is also about a home haunt, so it’s been a nice little try out for the bigger project as well. She’s amazing. I’m heavily rooting for the greatness in your upcoming week too. ** Okay. Here are five more new books that I highly recommend you pick up and read, but, in the meantime, that I hope you will read about and explore and consider. See you tomorrow.