MM) Coming from a multidisciplinary background and having such a broad palette of tastes in other mediums, it’s interesting to me that you have a book coming out (interesting for anyone). What made you gravitate toward the written word and stay for literature? Have you always been an avid book reader?
Maggie Siebert) Writing a book is the first thing I can remember really wanting to do. My grandmother, whom my mom and I lived with until I was 5 or so, was a voracious reader and had a house full of books. My mother was pretty cool about letting me read whatever I wanted, so I was exposed to a lot of grim stuff at an early age. I was experiencing early symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder and was besieged by a gnawing anxiety pretty frequently. The only thing that spoke to me at the time was horror fiction. It’s a realm where people experience dread, foreboding and terror, and it helped personify the causes of those feelings, or at least made them more digestible. So I made the jump from RL Stine to Stephen King to Supervert to Dennis Cooper, (who writes horror novels in the same way Philippe Grandrieux makes horror movies). And all the while I was reading these things desiring first to match their extremity, and eventually to exceed it. My brain chemistry forces horrible images on me all day, so why not turn that into something? It doesn’t exactly help; I’m still afraid of the same things that inspired the stories in Bonding. But I at least feel confident exploring them.
MM) Your book’s milieux is often that of the working stiff. In “Messes” and “Smells” you inhabit in great detail these menial occupations adjacent to depravity.
MS) Throughout this book’s assembly I was pretty broke and miserable. There’s essentially nothing more humiliating than working a shitty job and struggling for money, and the things I’ve been willing to endure for a paycheck were already pretty horrific in and of themselves. In hindsight I’ve realized that a pretty significant portion of this book is devoted to exorcising the jobs I’ve hated most from my brain. The jobs my characters have are the material that skews closest to “autofiction” or whatever in this book. In “Messes” the narrator is a janitor at a gay sex club and is accosted by a hooded masturbator — most of the non-body horror material in that story happened to me. (I quit after one shift.) In “Smells” the narrator works as a telephone sales rep for shit money — I also did that. I cleaned someone’s opioid diarrhea explosion with paper towels and Windex when I worked at Sears. You devote so much of your life to places and people that treat you like garbage, and the sensory details of the things you endure so you can pay rent tend to stick out in my memory the most. Now I can just think of the stories I got out of them.
Maggie Siebert @ Twitter
EVERY DAY FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE BY MAGGIE SIEBERT
Podcast: The Suicide of Judas Iscariot with Maggie Siebert
Six Questions for Maggie Siebert and B.R. Yeager
Maggie Siebert Bonding
‘Welcome to the new normal. The narrative is inevitable, these books are not taste trophies- they’re a novel species of sensory apparatus, a big ticket item for a dark age, a semblance of the yawning now. We’re dragging you toward a thermal intensity, an uncanny nightmare conjured of collective hallucination and puncta of panic couched in hypnotic reveries. In BONDING, Maggie Siebert evokes unreality as visceral experience, situates you in private fears and raging emotion for a freefall through bizarro humor and hardship, body horror, gore and fantasia, subversion and satire, mnemonic wreckage and tight-gripped pulp. Shift to clutch, Siebert is the doyenne of the legitimate counterculture, poster child for this season in hell. The ecstasy of mind bursts a blood vessel, and the discomfiting is a seductive siren song calling all crackling auras to desublimate their extremes and take a ride. 12 shots of the unspeakable sublime from the most indomitable force of nature, an erudite zine enthusiast/multidisciplinary icon who lives for the sounds of pages smoldering with fresh ink visions. Here are fascinations, heartfelt observations, lurid, liminal spaces to dwell in. Crumple prostrate and let dissociation drive. BONDING is beyond four walls and linear time, it is flesh and blood made hypersensitive to the soul. Don’t chasten your appetite for spiritual revelation before terror is wrung inside out to paint a new cross to the godhead.’ — Expat Press
No light shone through the bedroom windows. When the police would come, later, the mid-morning sun would bore itself deep behind his eyes, heating the folds of his brain until they were sticky with dew. Now, a matte darkness shrouded him, but not so wholly that he couldn’t see the wet silhouette of his father standing in the doorway.
He arose. He knew this day was coming, had known for years. He didn’t know when, and neither did his father. But the knowledge sat with them constantly, a fourth family member at the dinner table. At baseball games, school plays, birthdays, heart-to-heart conversations, it was always present, the gnawing dread of knowing what needed to be done.
They moved through the house, careful not to wake his sleeping mother. She would not understand this, the necessity of it, what was at stake. The two of them weren’t sure they did either, at least not fully. As they neared the sliding glass doors that led to the backyard, he wondered how she would feel in the next few hours, what thoughts would go through her head when she saw what he had done. He stuffed those thoughts down.
Now, outside, the door clicked into place, the motion-detecting light switched on, he saw his father’s work: a wide circle, burned into the lawn. He looked deeply at his father, fully visible, and saw the same man he’d seen every day: the kind, doting American History teacher, always quick to understand and generous in offering comfort. His outward stoicism belied kind eyes, and sadness over what they were about to do beneath them.
“Once this starts, we don’t stop for anything.”
The night before he started third grade his father had asked him to come into the living room. His mother was out picking up a take-and-bake pizza, and they sat alone on the couch, the warm glow of lamplight making him feel safe. His father told him they needed to talk, that he wasn’t in trouble, but that this wasn’t going to be a nice talk. He told him it was time to tell him the truth about what happened to grandpa.
“I need you to know that I love you.”
They stepped into the circle.
His father lunged forward, throwing him to the ground and pinning him with both knees on his arms. A torrent of pain as a fist sinks into his nose, his vision filled with exploding stars as blood and snot cascaded from his billowing nostrils. Another blow sends the resonating crunch of broken facial bones sounding into the night air. It hurts so much he can’t even scream. His father mercifully rolls off him.
“We have to do this. It hurts tremendously and you will carry it with you for the rest of your life, but it needs to be done,” his father had said on the couch.
He thought of how the pizza tasted after that conversation, after he learned that in just five years he too would have to kill his own father. He thought about how he wept, how his mother teased him for years for crying over not wanting to go to school, and how his father, in his eternal kindness, simply placed his hand over his.
With one last look at the night sky he shot up from the ground and found his father’s form. He charged him, sending a knee into his stomach before wrenching both thumbs deep into his eyes, the slick, oily feeling both disgusting and exhilarating him.
Father abruptly leaned into son’s thumbs, sending them deep into his sockets. Caught off guard he pulled them loose and was quickly met by the deafening crack of his father’s skull against his. Staggering around, senses in chaos, they flailed blindly before their hands met. Like dancers they fell into each other, then began to claw. They tore strips from each other’s flesh, broke fingernails and left them embedded in limbs. In between they landed punches, kicks, slaps.
He let out a massive cry. Lights turned on in nearby houses but neither noticed. His father breathed raggedly, his movements drunken and erratic, his brain beginning to fail as he swiped aimlessly at his son. Weeping, he grasped his father’s hair with his fist and dragged him to the fence. With all the force left in his body, he forced his face into the maroon planks of wood, then again, then again, until his father’s body went limp.
Vomiting, falling to his knees, he moaned in agony as the last of the night sky melted into an effervescent orange. The deep red of the sun poured through the clouds, and before collapsing to the ground he caught a glimpse of his mother watching silently from the window.
“It is rare to encounter people who not play a role, even when they are alone.”
‘A great piece of fictional journalism that drags you down the twisted road of drug and occult mania, stuffing you full of satirical philosophies and dadaistic nightmares along the way. Boris’ cultural references are as far-ranging and eclectic as they come, but even the artists and intellectuals that are usually placed on pedestals are not safe from his scathing criticism of middle-class self-flagellation. This truly was a fun piece of work to read and try to decode; very digestible and with no shortage of humour, it makes for an impressive debut novel.’ — Elliot Carter
‘Hilarious, compelling, a countercultural classic. A work of sublime order. Fear and loathing in occult Paris. The author has created a world that is profoundly humorous, while managing a deep sincerity throughout. Join Lester Langway, a British Journo, for an odyssey into the bowels of the Parisian occult-underground. Walk deep into an eclectic textual-tapestry; one that is both hallucinogenic and fulfilling. As a reader, My Week Without Gérard is an extremely pleasurable experience.
‘It is a fine novel, one that deserves much more contemporary attention. I mean, where else can we go and see Breton, Uri Geller, and Arsène Wenger all in one place. If you have sense, all Morbid Books releases should be on your radar.’ — Callum Berry
‘Darkly comedic, absurd and disorientating My week without Gerard weaves surrealism and the occult into a journalists bizarre investigation throughout Paris. Reminds me of Inherent Vice if it took place in the modern day, but centered round a deplorable human being.’ — Laurence
Ivan Boris My Week Without Gérard
‘A surreal, slapstick nightmare set in the end-times of countercultural journalism.
‘In search of France’s superstar philosopher who has mysteriously vanished, Lester Langway, a young, bedraggled freelance reporter for the failing London style bible Down N Out! magazine, is sent to Paris to solve a hallucinogenic detective mystery involving demonic Kantian philosophy, identity politics, the history of Surrealism, secret societies and mind control. Both a scathing satire and a sincere romance, My Week Without Gérard is so squarely at odds with the culture it mercilessly lampoons, it’s little surprise the author writes under a pseudonym.’ — Morbid Books
“Any book with bathroom drugs, coffin sex, awkward romance, conspiracy theories, thinly veiled characters based on people I know in contemporary euro society, and my bloody death scene, has a spot on my bookshelf.” — Rick Owens
‘While involved in the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley during the Sixties, activist Jack Weinberg became famous for coining the phrase, “Don’t trust anyone over 30”; few novels personify his quote as sharply as You Will Love What You Have Killed, the first novel by Canadian Millennial author Kevin Lambert. The story is set in Chicoutimi, a small French-speaking town in Quebec where children more often than not end up dead at the hands of their elders. On the surface, Chicoutimi is a town that appears like any other—with its glad-handing politicians, eccentric locals, and seemingly benevolent grandparents—but in reality holds a bevy of dark secrets. This fact becomes apparent for the reader as soon as the local children begin to die, one after the other and in often unspeakably gruesome ways, whether it be a freak snow plow accident or a stabbing by a deranged family member armed “with a long knife right out of a horror film.” Is it any wonder that our narrator—a young boy named Faldistoire—vows, “…it is I who will destroy you, Chicoutimi…You are the abscess festering in the void, the tumour gnawing away at nothingness, Chicoutimi, and when deliverance will come, all will cheer your disappearance.”
‘But Chicoutimi will not go quietly. Since the town harbors enough evil to resemble Stephen King’s fictional locale of Castle Rock, Maine, it’s fitting that Chicoutimi displays certain supernatural abilities as well. “How far would my native city go to uphold its infamous saintliness?” the narrator poses. “Far enough to bring back dead children.” It’s no exaggeration: the children who die throughout the course of the novel crawl their way back out of the ground, in the cemetery where the croaking toads stand their not-so-silent watch. (The toads serve as a motif throughout the book.) These resurrected youngsters resume their previous lives like a modern-day Lazarus, behaving as though they had never died in the first place.
‘It should come as little surprise that Lambert’s novel makes for uneasy reading—the lives of its youthful characters prove brutish and short, and in this instance one wonders how much of a mercy it is that the children of Chicoutimi are brought back to life if it means they have to endure the town’s abuse again and again. But as out of control as the murderous adults may seem, Lambert proves very much in control; and while there’s little hope to be found in its pages, Faldistoire’s crusade suggests that sometimes the only way to overcome a corrupt System is to rip it up and start again.’ — Zack Ravas
Kevin Lambert@ goodreads
First Fiction Friday: You Will Love What You Have Killed
A thrilling debut novel takes revenge on smalltown homophobia
Excerpt: YOU WILL LOVE WHAT YOU HAVE KILLED
Buy ‘You Will Love What You Have Killed’
Kevin Lambert You Will Love What You Have Killed
‘Faldistoire’s grandfather thinks he’s a ghost. Sylvie’s mother reads tarot and summons stormclouds to mete her witch’s justice. Behind his Dad of the Year demeanour, Sébastien’s father hides dark designs. It’s Croustine’s grandfather who makes the boy a pair of slippers from the dead family dog, but it’s his father, the cannily-named Kevin Lambert, who always seems to be nearby when tragedy strikes, and in the cemetery, under the baleful eyes of toads, small graves are dug one after the other: Chicoutimi, Quebec, is a dangerous place for children. But these young victims of rape, arbitrary violence, and senseless murder keep coming back from the dead. They return to school, explore their sexualities, keep tabs on grown-up sins―and plot their apocalyptic retribution.
‘Surreal and darkly comic, this debut novel by Kevin Lambert, one of the most celebrated and controversial writers to come out of Quebec in recent memory, takes the adult world to task―and then takes revenge.’ — Biblioasis
MACHINES MURDER CHILDHOOD
Kevin is on his way back to the Rue des Tourterelles aboard his deafening monster, speeding through Des Oiseaux: the machine’s metal squeals loudly when the snowplow passes over a hole in the frozen asphalt. He’s well into his twenties but looks sixteen, he reminds you of those teenagers on television sitcoms played by actors who are much too old, you tell them to drop their pants below their bums, put their hats on backwards, you give them skateboards so they seem to have come “right out of high school.” You can sense Kevin’s hairless chest under the jacket he’s wearing in the truck’s heated cab, it feels like a furnace in there, but he’s kept his toque on to free his face from his long blond hair. Before starting work he lights a cigarette, looks at the big pile of snow he has to clear, an iceberg in the middle of the street, it’s dangerous, it will block the road when people are leaving for work or coming through the traffic circle. Kevin doesn’t know that in a few minutes little Sylvie, buried there, will be torn to pieces by the blower’s sharp-edged screw, turning over mechanically on itself, gobbling everything in its path. Sylvie is buried in the snow and it’s a real shame: children do not always have the wisdom to respect even simple instructions. Even if she knows she lives at 2008 Rue des Tourterelles, that her right hand is on the right, her left on the left, that she’s lefthanded and that in her grandmother’s time left-handed people were shut up in cages beside the road and left there to be eaten by horrible black crows, that you mustn’t take candies from strangers, not say “Marie noire” three times in front of the mirror, that you have to listen to Viviane when she tells you to go to bed, that you must never tell the truth on the internet, even on the game sites where you’ve made a friend, because this friend is certainly an old man who wants to do all sorts of things to you that you can’t talk about at school, even if Sylvie knows all that, excited as she is by the snowfall, she may have forgotten that you must never tunnel into a snowbank.
Sylvie’s tunnel is exquisite. She’s dug it right at the bottom of the pile, and it goes in deep. Her idea was to cross through it from one side to the other. But her architectural skills are limited, and it collapses as soon as she enters it. Sylvie is trapped, stunned by the weight of the snow dropping so heavily onto her little body that’s cocooned in a thick snowsuit. She tries to move, but she can’t, she cries with her little voice, snow is weighing on her mouth, her nose, her eyes, her entire body, it’s cold, she turns on one side then the other, she tries to dig herself a path, push away a bit of snow, she manages to find a little hole for her face where she can breathe without swallowing ice. She is able to cry a little bit louder, but around the traffic circle nothing can be heard but the low-pitched growling of the snow blower. The packed snow smothers the little high-pitched sound Sylvie is making. Her hands are trapped under her body, her thumb is twisted inside her mitten, she tries to turn her head, she tries with all her strength to move her feet, but the snow is too heavy.
The snow blower is coming, Sylvie, you’d better move. Do you hear the machine? Maybe you think it will take away the snow and you’ll be able to escape. You hear the blower turning, sucking up the snow to spit it out farther on, into the centre of the traffic circle, near the street lamp: you’re afraid. You cry, you cry some more, you yell, and your little tears run down your cheeks. It’s dark. You swallow snow when you open your mouth to cry out your distress, but all your sounds are smothered, they don’t reach past the hard lumps that are holding you down in the depths of Chicoutimi. You don’t know what to do, you’re suffocating, you push with all your body, but nothing moves, you’re angry, desperate, deafened by the growling motor, the mechanical shovel. Its pistons are making the whole street shake, are pounding the ice-hardened ground. Exhausted by your efforts, you grow calm for a moment. It’s there, Chicoutimi, everywhere around you, it has swallowed you up in its snow. Think, you have to get out of this fix, otherwise you’ll never have the two dollars for the tooth you lost this morning that’s sleeping on your pillow. Cry, Sylvie, cry that you want to see your papa and mama again, your little cat and the Mickey Mouse posters in your bedroom, howl that you want to be babysat again by Viviane. Hammer this black snow with your feet as hard as you can, fend off the cruel mechanics of the snow blower, insist that it’s not its decision to make. The pitiless snow is obliterating you, Sylvie. You give a few feeble kicks, then you stop, frozen stiff by winter. Out of strength, of breath, of courage, your voice is lost beneath the grumbling of the snow blower, beneath the heavy layer of snow. In despair, you murmur, “Marie noire” three times. You hope to call up a spirit, an avenging ghost, a soul in pain, you want to sell yourself to the devil for the rest of your life, if only to carry on a little bit longer. Even the evil spirits have abandoned you. The blower spits out a brief jet of scarlet snow, with Sylvie pulverized inside it, onto the snowbank.
Soon the whole city will learn of your death. Your mother will weep for a long time, will break her favourite knick-knacks and her prettiest framed photos of you. Your coffin will be buried in the Chicoutimi cemetery. On your grave will be carved a little Mickey to remind you of the posters in your bedroom. And the vile toads will come, every night, to sing in your memory.
‘Even from its opening sentence, Elle Nash’s new story collection, Nudes, shapes the reader’s expectations. “It began when she moved in below their apartment,” Nash writes, “or maybe it began a week after when the boyfriend came downstairs to ask for a cup of sugar for a cake, or maybe it began a week after that when the girlfriend knocked on the door…” Though the narrator of the opening story, “Ideation,” is a third-person outlier in a collection that leans heavily towards first, even this narrator is unreliable, reluctant to pin down when “it” all began, or to specify what “it” even is. When they later tell us, “This was how friendship worked as an adult: an exchange of goods or services for other goods or services,” we’re not sure whether it’s their thought, or the main character’s. We’re also unsure if it’s true.
‘Ambiguity and uncertainty are repeatedly used throughout Nash’s work, encouraging the reader to reflect rather than handing them clear answers. It’s an effective pairing with the content of Nudes, which is often dark, high stakes and built on conflicts of love, intimacy, sex, drugs, violence and self-worth. By working in the implicit and unsaid, Nash is able to maintain interest and write with nuance on topics that might otherwise become too heavy, or melodramatic. In the title story, a painter overhears her alcoholic fiancée, Michelle, confide in a friend over the phone: “‘No. No wedding. None of that… She’ll be fine. No, I don’t know when I’ll tell her.’” The words are clear enough to convey the stakes of the conflict but ambiguous enough to allow for misunderstanding, or indecision. There’s a similar uncertainty as the main character grows closer to their friend’s neighbor, Thomas. When she eventually tells Thomas, “‘Some people will do anything to be taken care of,’” the words feel true, but unverifiable. No resolution is given for the situation with Michelle, and “Nudes” ends with the main character examining photos of herself, telling us that she “looked regal.” But we are still left considering everything else she must be feeling, and what might become of her relationship.
‘Another great showcase of this effect is “Cat World,” a standout in the collection. The story is narrated by a fourteen year-old girl who is largely ignored by her distracted, divorcing parents. She eventually begins dating a girl in her class, Mikaela, while frequenting an AIM chat for catgirls, where the user ExxonMobil6 keeps asking her for pictures. Her relationships are complicated. On their first night together, before they start dating, Mikaela’s dad picks her up, alongside Mikaela and her older brother Mason, taking them to a motel room to drink liquor and smoke. The scene ends with the click of Mason’s camera as Mikaela kisses her. Little access is given to the main character’s interiority in this scene. We learn only that she realizes “[Mikaela]’s never mentioned her mother” and that she thinks of ExxonMobil6 after Mason asks about her first kiss. The story ends with a realization, a sudden understanding of a phrase that had come up in her earlier AIM chats. “I know what it means, now,” the main character thinks. But the reader still doesn’t understand entirely how she feels about the revelation; we’re left to go back over the story, to synthesize and reflect.’ — Jefferson Lee
Elle Nash Nudes
Hobart Pulp Press
‘Beginning with a story of an ex sex-worker drifting through a small rural town in the south, and ending with a young woman’s wedding night, who learns from her new husband what it takes to kill a man, Nash writes across the complications of working class women, rendering their desires with visceral prose and psychologically dissecting the fundamental root that threads her work: craving and the conflicts within.’ — Hobart Pulp Press
‘Nudes is a collection that feels multigenerational. It crawls across the soggy cigarette ash carpets of single wide America to upscale apartments and the discolored bathtubs of suicide motels. Elle Nash shows the ugly venal addictions of a post-last call society.’ — Jake Blackwood (Twitter)
from ‘Cat World’
Eventually Mikaela turns fifteen. School lets out and I walk in the heat til I see spots. Mikaela doesn’t call for weeks. I sit in front of the PC for hours, my eyes burning out like light bulbs. It’s not Exxon’s normal time but I’ve told him school was out so I’m waiting for him to show up. The problem is you find a place you think you might belong and want to violently wedge yourself into any open space warm enough to welcome you.
ExxonMobil6: my little neko
dErAnGeDkItTy69: *cocks head to the side, squints at your silhouette in the sunlight. my silky tail uncurls to greet you*
ExxonMobil6: you’re not as graceful as other nekomimi, but thatsuffices. I dont want to have to takeyo u to the pound.
dErAnGeDkItTy69: please don’t! *crawls up to you and nuzzles on your knee, waiting for your pets*
ExxonMobil6: *scratches the soft fur behind your ears* tell me about what you’ve been up to.
I tell him I’m applying to colleges, that I don’t want to go to college but my parents are making me.
“Do you always do what your parents tell you to do?” he asks.
“No…” I say. “Not always.” I type that I lick my wrist and wipe the top of my head with it, cleaning one of my catgirl ears. I send a kaomoji that looks like a devil face:
((( ←～（o ｀▽´ )oΨ
I tell him my parents are going on a second honeymoon, that they used to fight a lot but finally realized how much they love each other and decided to celebrate their love in Jamaica, all summer. I’ll have the house to myself—the house on the beach, in the Keys. Exxon says “I’d come visit you, but I’m nowhere near the coast.” I ask him where he lives and he says “College would be good for you. What do you want to study?”
I change my avatar from a catgirl with blue eyes to one with green eyes. The new catgirl still has short black hair, but instead of a schoolgirl outfit, she’s wearing a black triangle bikini with white edging and her breasts are huge. Exxon has an anime avatar of a man with blonde hair, pointy chin, and glimmering square glasses. I think of him as sophisticated and poised. I type to Exxon that I curl up at his feet. I type that I lick my paws, but my ears are pointed back. Exxon types that he scratches the soft patch of skin behind them. I imagine myself radiating warmth into his hairy legs. I imagine him as human, not as cat. Like an owner. When I don’t purr, he asks what’s wrong.
“I don’t know what I want to study,” I tell him. My tail moves back and forth but not in contentment, more like frustration. I tell him I want to study writing. I tell him how I imagine my future: living in New York City, writing poems. He sends me poems by Charles Bukowski and I write them all down in my journal. I type that my catgirl ears flick in a happy way. The gentle rhythm of our red text, blue text fills me with confusing, erotic need.
Exxonmobil6: will you ever send a pic?
dErAnGeDkItTy69: parents home. g2g. sorry.
ExxonMobil6: i thought your parents were on vacation?
dErAnGeDkItTy69: ヽ(ー_ー )ノ i know I said that…
ExxonMobil6: don’t talk to me again until you send me one.
ExxonMobil6 has logged off
On July fourth, my dad moves out. It’s been a week since Exxon has talked to me. Mikaela and Bobby and Mason come get me in the Bronco and a new person sits in the front passenger seat. I squeeze between Mikaela and Mason and look at the man up front, who introduces himself as Shawn. Down the highway, I watch the wind whip my face pink in the rearview. I don’t want to ask Shawn to roll his window up. Car dealerships pass by, then the paper mill, red and green warehouses, the train yard filled with abandoned cars. What I like about cat world is that we type out our body language so it’s easy to tell what someone’s thinking. When a catgirl types that her ears are flat and back against her head I know that means she’s angry or scared. We drive beneath an overpass and exit near downtown where the road holds nothing but motel after motel. I wonder about the people inside them, their cars parked in front of their rooms, if they’re traveling in and out of cities, if they, too, smoke meth and drink in the middle of the night. If any of them are Exxon. If they’re older like Mikaela’s dad or young like me.
At the motel Shawn stays close to Mikaela. He grabs for her hand and she holds his finger with one of hers. In our passed notes, she considers me her girlfriend, but that is school world. Maybe in motel world our relationship is different. In motel world she means girlfriend, like, a friend who also happens to be a girl. But it’s hard to imagine other friends I would kiss the way she kisses me. Shawn pours drinks—rum into plastic cups of Diet Coke with bagged ice kept in the bathroom sink. I hide my hot cheeks behind my cup. We play an SNES hooked up to the tiny TV and Mason breaks out a bag of cocaine and starts cutting it up on the dresser. He asks if I want some. I don’t know, I tell him.
“I would never let you do anything that would hurt you,” he says. He’s bent over, the heavy bottle of rum next to him, his sharp little teeth in his wide, sappy mouth. When I take a bump Mikaela takes sips from her cup. I rub my face and my eyes suck into the back of my skull. I want to smoke a cigarette so I go outside with Bobby and Shawn to the gritty sizzle of tires on the road. I roll onto the tips of my toes and back to my heels as fireworks pop in the distance.
“Sounds like the ‘burbs are being shelled,” Bobby says.
Shawn laughs, then he coughs and spits.
“America’s over,” Shawn replies. His hair is Cobain-blonde and some spit gets stuck to the scrabble of his beard.
“Yeah, fuck this country,” I say. Shawn brings his cigarette to his mouth, looks in the direction of the boom-then-crackle of a firework.
I go back into the room and feel his indifference on my skin. The sun sets behind the mountains tinging the sky in orange before bruising inside out. Mikaela dances in front of the bed and I join her, wondering if Shawn or Mason will watch as I dance, if Shawn would become aroused or upset. The Weather Channel is muted, and Shawn puts on house music. I take another bump and imagine my catgirl self dancing for Exxon in her school uniform, a big bell on a collar around her neck. Mason snaps pictures with his camera. Mikaela hooks her finger into the bracelet on my arm, twists it tighter, pulls my wrist up to her face. She licks it, pushes into me, and we fall onto the bed. Shawn pulls out what looks like a whip cream canister, girthy and silver, and Mikaela puts her hand on my chin. She says, “You’re gonna be a porn star one day, I can feel it.” Her mouth speaks against my neck, forceful and wet. Mason’s camera flashes as Mikaela unbuttons my pants. I sit up and stop her, point to Shawn. “What is that?” I ask.
Shawn puts his mouth on the tap of the whip cream and sucks. A slow, monstrous laugh three octaves too deep leaves his chest. He hands me the canister. I place the plastic tip to my lips, pull the trigger, and breathe in. “Hooch” by Everything blares on the stereo, and I forget where I am. I lean against Mikaela and lick my wrists, then nuzzle into her neck.
“You make me purr,” I say.
“What the fuck,” Mikaela laughs. She pushes me away, breathless and manic, and starts jumping up and down on the bed. I jump too, watching myself in the mirror. I’m just a normal girl with jeans and a thrift store t-shirt, a girl without cat-ears or a tail. I want to go home to my computer. My head starts to feel like a deflated balloon and I lose sense of space and time. I feel a cloud of hair against my face, the smell of pink shampoo. I put out my tongue, searching for skin. I can’t remember if it’s a weekend or a weeknight or if I have to be back at school tomorrow. I’m more afraid of Mikaela’s feelings than her touch. It’s men that frighten me; their blunt actions like impersonal violence.
Mason does another bump, then holds the key beneath my nostril, cradling my head like I’m a baby. I take the bump, he touches my face, and it’s the closest I’ve ever been to a boy. He shoots another photo of me, my eyes lolling upward, into a painful dark. The room is lit only by the Weather Channel, displaying damaged homes on the beach after a hurricane, like rotting teeth in the mouth of the ocean. I read the scroll of closed captions as fast as I can, but most details are lost.
Shawn looks at the TV and I see the tattoo on his larynx: a woman, classic pinup style, between two nautical stars. She’s blonde with blue eyes; her skin is his. Shawn coughs again and the woman’s body undulates with his throat. I envision my avatar, the red text of my name burning bright against the computer screen, sending Exxon all the photos: I know what it means, now. Mason frames another shot as Shawn sits down on the bed and takes my hand, resting it on Mikaela’s stomach. The tattoo girl’s legs are spread open, like the wings of an eagle.
The Story of a Book: Elle Nash
Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
Candice Wuehle: The main questions I’ve been exploring in for the last few years (especially in Death Industrial Complex and MONARCH) all deal with identity formation in the context of a consumer culture. How does the messaging we’re exposed to dictate or even generate our desires? How do we know for certain we want what we want and we are who we are when we’re persuaded and manipulated so insistently to buy X, look like Y, aspire to Z. Are there any forces that exist outside consumerism? I’d like to think that magic, spirituality, and the occult all still retain pockets of freedom but it’s also apparent that large portions of even that which traditionally exists only on the interior, and therefore comprised our “true self” or “identity” no longer does.
The current question, for me, is about who we are in private. Do we have a private self any more? Do some of us have more of it than others? Do we value our interior lives less than ever before? Why? Shoshanna Zuboff, author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power (2018) thinks about this within the context of social media and surveillance policies and all the quick click “opting in” we do. She says, “When the fact is if you have nothing to hide, then you are nothing. Because everything that you are, the place inside you, your inner resources from which you draw your sense of identity, your sense of voice, your sense of autonomy and moral judgment, your ability to think critically, to resist, even to revolt—these are the capabilities that can only be grown within. Jean Paul Sartre calls it the will to will. And that will to will grows from within and you should hide it. And you should cherish it. And it should be private. And it should be yours.”
What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
Candice Wuehle: I don’t think all writers have the same role. When I was in my late teens/early twenties I was really into reading every book that had ever won the Pulitzer Prize or National Book Award. I wasn’t really aware of the idea of prize culture or the way these prizes often perpetuate normative structures. Instead, I got the sense that the role or purpose of the writer was to inspire and entertain while documenting some kind of cultural truth from a thoughtful or empathetic or possibly melancholy lens in order to provide the reader with a way to, I don’t know, reflect more deeply on what it means to be an individual or a human. This still seems to be what most authors try to do. I think this can be a totally wonderful role for a writer to fulfill—Jeffrey Eugenides is one of my favorite authors and I think he embodies the positive aspects of this more traditional role.
The role of the writer in larger culture that I’m more interested in right now, though, is the author who is willing to be imperfect in a way that often reflects the imperfection that they’re writing about or within. I’m simply much more absorbed by writers who are both looking at fissures in culture and allowing their work to be part of that fissure, and also be fissured. I appreciate this as a resistance to an otherwise pretty homogenizing industry.
Candice Wuehle FIDELITORIA: Fixed or Fluxed
‘Fidelitoria: Fixed or Fluxed navigates interior landscapes, personal cosmology, and the manner in which language shapes our being and being shapes our language via acts of séance, tarot, alchemical interpretation, and psychoanalysis. These are poems written in the wild swing of the scrying stone, poems that ask how to create an identity in the way of perpetual change, constant self-interrogation, and ever shifting psychogeography. What does it mean to live in the orb of uncertainty? To be neither here nor there, neither fixed nor fluxed?’ — 11:11 Press
‘THERE IS AN IRRESISTIBLE MELANCHOLY OF CHAOS LIVING HERE, BINDING AND UNWINDING LIKE TREE’S LEAVES AND SEASONAL DIURNAL GOWNS, NOT RESISTING A FLUORESCENT MEDIUM OF ABUNDANCE AND SNOW. HERE THE SPEAKER TRAVELS THROUGH HER OWN TONGUE TO FIND HERSELF OVER AND OVER, IN HERBS, IN ALIENS, IN THE QUIET SPECTACULAR. IN THE BANQUET OF TAROT AND BUCOLIC POETRY, WHERE THE LEXICAL GRASS GROWS THINGS SUCH AS PROHILIL AND EXNIHIL WHILE THE POET TAKES US THROUGH HER UNDERTONE OF LUGUBRIOUS SURRENDER. TIMELESS AND ELONGATED, WITH REPETITIVE MANTRA THAT BEHAVE HYPNOTICALLY LIKE FALLING FLORAL FAUNAS, CANDICE WUEHLE HOPES, IN THIS WILD SPELLBINDING OF LEXICAL RESTFULNESS, TO ACHIEVE ACCRETION OF SELF THROUGH THE ORACULAR AMNESIA OF SELF.’ — VI KHI NAO
As if a blueprint of author’s imagined
garden could begin without the 28 leathern paws
of 7 unassigned dogs halting, holding
their howls at the edge. If you draw me a map
I won’t find you. This poem is for the cartographer
offering an alternate arcadia, I mean, a third
arcana. I mean I believe in spoil, wineskins accelerating
unlit wars, ending ends. As if this poem
isn’t populated with obese angels and outsized
stars, muzzled strong-men. But this poem is also
for black smart phone screens not networked
or worked and inelegant without intelligence,
molly-mirror unreflective of the un-shiny other’s
intent, only an idea in abstraction upon lack
of electrification. This poem is clearly for myself
alone. My mother may have wrapped me in
a cloud. Because of this arrangement, I have
insisted on some theories regarding Ash and Hair.
Instead, I ask myself if I mean Vapor and Ocean,
Air. I got good at this somewhere and now I need
to get de-skilled; I am now only a spouse
to my true nature, a digger of foundation, fence
posts. True. I have stayed here long enough to
achieve, and now my arms are the arms of evident
strength. I really want to be the one in the kitchen,
inhaling mint, wetted basil: artifacts of exposed
hearth. Upon first encounter,
sugar was qualified as honey without bees. This seems to
suggest that strength—for a Cashiered Soldier or Bad
Poet—is only intention without integrity. Howls
echo in the uncharted empty even if the animals are
not near; the nature of the canyon is to act and act again;
reverberation. I mean to admit I remain
in the self-styled wild
not out of an attitude of endurance
but in avoidance of the ultra
charted zone, the solid city
structured and clay-hardened.
Upon identification of the subject,
I collapse. Just as I cannot kiss the counter,
I cannot, cannot caress the fur of the domestic dog,
I cannot even accept
that made the animal so,
insist a cloud
cannot be contained
Sort of error. My real hair, unhinged
from my head. Was I a blonde-girl
anymore or an experimental light, a
way for others to see through water,
ashes? I have already said what I am afraid
of. Yonder. I ask my father on the other
end about procession, peaceful
parting: Candie, keep yourself and give
your things. He means give up, give
way. Keep falling from windows
in order to assure the greatness of your
own height, if only to be the wreck
of your own pure lightness. Only
on a second story hotel balcony, bonds
can be broken with the world one
can come to skim, to see as surface. Chlorinated,
incalculable current unbearable without
tallied reflections. Stop. In the rented
room’s mirror, the face I deserve and under-
neath, another atmosphere I have never
endured: I doubt it is oceanic, operable
by infallible salts or expanse of warm blues,
cool blues. An indigo, a lapis, a lazuli. Instead
I suspect a smallness
a cross at a crossing,
a dryness delivering, upending as does specifically dirt
in demand of a grave. Just
a thin yield, as earth under blade, giving
to pressure within freeze, shale.
I know the odd dumb organ breaks
beneath my breasts, never showing
and only even aware of itself because of the
occasioned hand pushing back my hair to comment
I can hear your
self. Have I already said
what I am afraid of; I have already
tried to fuse this, this
Demiurge by Candice Wuehle
p.s. Hey. ** Dominik, Hi, D!!! Wow, yes, that’s a Freud field day confession right there, ha ha. Oh, wow again, that’s a great SCAB leak! I can’t wait! Everyone, Dominick’s masterful and crucial zine SCAB has just leaked its new entry, and it’s a piece of a novel-in-progress by none other than the fireball great writer Josiah Morgan aka blog d.l. JM, so, need I even say, a trip through this green, phrase-shaped portal is a must! (There was also a new SCAB piece dropped on Monday, too, by M. T. Coombe, so go find that too.) Excellent! Given that love was thought up by me, he probably would have preferred his poem to have wound up in some obscure harsh noise track, but he would probably also appreciate the big bucks that came along with Beyonce’s hit. Yes, the sad Casebere toilet, sigh. Love taking pity on how lazy I feel this morning and transplanting the health food store all the way across Paris that I need to shop at today such that the front door of my apartment is its entrance, G. ** _Black_Acrylic, Yes, the TP hoarding phenom. It didn’t really happen in France, which I guess gives credit to the French, although … what if the hoarders been right? France would have been … nasty. ** Montse, Hi, Montse! Nah, I’m still doing the p.s. while my morning coffee kicks in. I am seeking possibilities to go Primavera. I might need to be in LA then, but maybe not. Would be awesome. Oh, whew, I’m glad your COVID bout is ancient history. I can’t believe I never got it, although I guess I still could, at least until my second jab on the 11th, or, well, I guess even after that it’s still possible. Eek. I downloaded ‘The Magic Kingdom’, so I’m going to re-visit it. Excited to, actually. Big yay for you!!!! Have a lovely, lovely weekend, my friend! ** G, Hi, G. Thank you about my toilet curation. I always avoid examples that I think are too well known and overly familiar, so Duchamp and Cattelan’s golden toilet and a couple of other things were not invited, ha ha. A few of the recipients of my bad reviews got very pissed off. I was told that Ryu Murakami said if he ever saw me he would punch me in the face, but luckily he lives in Japan. A handful of Brion Gysin worshippers tried to get me banned from ever writing for Bookforum again for the crime of besmirching their God. Ha ha, gotcha. Rock your weekend, okay? ** Tosh Berman, Hi, T. Making those posts does go some way to satisfying my love of actually curating IRL art exhibitions, which I haven’t had the opportunity to do in ages. I’ll go find that Verlaine/Dylan cover, thanks! Me too, re: the Fox Venice. Hey, I even got married there. I don’t think I knew you yet then. Well, not officially married, but married nonetheless. ** jamie, Hi, Jamie. Oh, wow. That was a thematic idea where I thought ‘this’ll never fly’, and then I started searching for toilet art and was pleasantly surprised. Thanks. Eek. Man, I’m glad you got over whatever that malady was. But it sounds like you made the best of it. Not TMI, no. Dude, I’m Dennis Cooper, don’t forget. Huh, nice, that example you linked to. Strange I didn’t see it in my searching. Thank you. I did like the tracks/video, and I knew immediately it wasn’t the Eno ones. If you ever come across the real ones, you’ll see. Weirdly limp. I did get the cinema! Zac and I ended up seeing a really great Chantal Akerman film I had never seen before, ‘Portrait of a Young Girl at the End of the 60s in Brussels’. Fantastic, and the star was this non-actor teenage girl who is just phenomenal. So that was great. So, one last locked down weekend for you, and then after a quick tick-tick you’ll be free. Hang in there. Max out your weekend’s limits. Love, me. ** Ian, Hi, Ian. Yeah, I liked it a whole lot! Great that you’re near the end of your carpentry education. Such a great thing and skill to know/have. Paris is still feeling magically open. Anything surprise and delight you this weekend? ** Misanthrope, I think you probably need to want really badly. But I bet the ‘really’ will sneak up on you. A lot of guitarists with daydreams out there, you know. Well, writers too, I guess. Fuck it. Lesson learned on the meds thing, and, yes, golden rule right there. Been flounced by making that mistake a few times myself. ** David Ehrenstein, I saw a production of Baraka’s ‘The Toilet’ ages ago, but not with Mead. Yes, the Carax/Sparks film plays at Cannes soon and then will rush immediately into Paris’s cinemas, so I’m excited. I may have mentioned that Gisele advised on the film, so I’ve been privy to the inside scoop for, gosh, at least two years. ** Brian, Hi, Brian. The other theatres in NYC/Brooklyn I know about but have never been to that seem to show really good films are Metrograph, Light Industry, and Spectacle. ‘PGL’ had its brief NYC run at the latter. Like I told Jamie, we ended up seeing a fantastic Chantal Akerman film instead, and that was a very happy experience. Wang Bing = soon. Yeah, I’m actually interested in the era of porn in the 70s when the directors used a lot of narrative and even experimental techniques. It rarely works, but the aspiration to try to see if people who just want to get off would be seduced by cinematic things was/is quite interesting. I want to get the Japanese Breakfast record. Note to self. Friday wasn’t bad. Weekend could be good. The possibility dangles. And yours? Did you find booty and/or treasure therein? Best back to you, pal. ** Paul Curran, Hi, Paul. Japan is the toilet kingdom or heaven or something. Yes, I know about Chris’s suicide. I had long talks with his boyfriend/husband both before and after. It’s very, very complicated, which is one of the reasons I haven’t talked about it here. I’m a bit in shock. It’s terrible, just terrible, and so tragic. He was an amazing artist and a good friend of mine. Ugh. I hope you’re doing good, man. Love, me. ** Dalton, Hi, Dalton! Welcome and thank you for entering! It’s great meet you. No, there’s no etiquette here. It’s a free zone. I had GERD pretty bad fora couple of years in my early 20s. That sucks. It took what felt like forever of Mylanta and yoga and dimming my diet way down before I got better. I still have to avoid onions sand stuff. I hope your can sort that out into relative nothingness easily and soon. Thank you about ‘Closer’. Ha ha, sorry about the raunchy entrance. Yeah, my blog kind of zooms all over the place. And it is weird, yes. I did read that about the invisible sculpture. It’s crazy, but art collectors paying millions for shitty memes right now, so craziness abides, I guess. How are you? What do you do or most like to do or want to do or … ? ** Bill, Hi. Yes, there are lots of Trump and Boris Johnson and Matt Gaetz and etc. toilets, which I avoided like the plague, of course. I didn’t watch the stream and hoped for an archiving, and I’m happy to have those hopes realised. You watch it yet? ** Corey Heiferman, Hi, Corey! Oh, man, I would have grabbed that urinal gaming thing for the post if I’d known. Thanks. Maybe for a sequel. I’m so, so sorry about your father. I’m happy you were able to be there, but, oh man, that’s so hard. I’ve been there. Are you still planning to do that reading series? How are you faring? ** Right. This weekend I present five books I just read and loved to you with the thought that one or more of them might wind up existing under the auspices of your love. Check them out. See you on Monday.