The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Author: DC (page 1 of 296)

Conveyor Belt Day *

* (restored)

‘A conveyor belt consists of two or more pulleys, with a continuous loop of material – the conveyor belt – that rotates about them. One or both of the pulleys are powered, moving the belt and the material on the belt forward. The powered pulley is called the drive pulley while the unpowered pulley is called the idler. There are two main industrial classes of belt conveyors; Those in general material handling such as those moving boxes along inside a factory and bulk material handling such as those used to transport industrial and agricultural materials, such as grain, coal, ores, fines, and lumps material.

‘The belt consists of one or more layers of material. They can be made out of rubber. Many belts in general material handling have two layers. An under layer of material to provide linear strength and shape called a carcass and an over layer called the cover. The carcass is often a woven fabric having a warp & weft. The most common carcass materials are polyester, nylon and cotton. The cover is often various rubber or plastic compounds specified by use of the belt. Covers can be made from more exotic materials for unusual applications such as silicone for heat or gum rubber when traction is essential.

‘Material flowing over the belt may be weighed in transit using a beltweigher. Belts with regularly spaced partitions, known as elevator belts, are used for transporting loose materials up steep inclines. Belt Conveyors are used in self-unloading bulk freighters and in live bottom trucks. Conveyor technology is also used in conveyor transport such as moving sidewalks or escalators, as well as on many manufacturing assembly lines. Stores often have conveyor belts at the check-out counter to move shopping items. Ski areas also use conveyor belts to transport skiers up the hill.

‘Primitive conveyor belts were used since the 19th century. In 1892, Thomas Robins began a series of inventions which led to the development of a conveyor belt used for carrying coal, ores and other products. In 1901, Sandvik invented and started the production of steel conveyor belts. In 1905 Richard Sutcliffe invented the first conveyor belts for use in coal mines which revolutionized the mining industry. In 1913, Henry Ford introduced conveyor-belt assembly lines at Ford Motor Company’s Highland Park, Michigan factory. In 1972, the French society REI created in New Caledonia the then longest straight-belt conveyor in the world, at a length of 13.8 km. Hyacynthe Marcel Bocchetti was the concept designer. In 1957, the B. F. Goodrich Company patented a conveyor belt that it went on to produce as the Turnover Conveyor Belt System. Incorporating a half-twist, it had the advantage over conventional belts of a longer life because it could expose all of its surface area to wear and tear. Möbius strip belts are no longer manufactured because untwisted modern belts can be made more durable by constructing them from several layers of different materials.’ — collaged



Inconveniently Placed Conveyor Belt
by TV Tropes Foundation

In real life, conveyor belts, escalators, moving walkways and similar conveyances are part of certain specialized environments, and serve the function of moving things in a convenient direction. In video games conveyor belts can show up anywhere: in the middle of a forest, in underground catacombs, etc. These belts don’t move in a logical direction. They carry pedestrians into Spikes of Doom or drop them down Bottomless Pits. Multiple conveyor belts move in opposite directions to trap players.

In short, the conveyor belt in video games often serves the purpose of hindering instead of helping its user.

This is almost always a sub-trope of Malevolent Architecture. (It could be some sort of Benevolent Architecture, but don’t count on it.) Justified by the Rule of Fun, though it can get irritating on occasion, particularly when used with other, nastier hazards like Spikes of Doom, Smashing Hallway Traps, Descending Ceilings and the like.

In top-down games, a conveyor belt will often act as a Broken Bridge, going too fast for you to be able to run against. It’s a one-way trip unless you can find a way to shut it off or reverse it.

Occasionally overlaps with Conveyor Belt-O-Doom, which may get adapted into this trope in Licensed Games.

Video Game Examples:


Double Dragon II

101 Ways To Die


Kirby 64



Cat Sorter

Ultra Moon Pokemon

Pokemon Stadium

Super Mario Maker

Kaiten Sushi Go!


Chrono Trigger

Mega Man

Portal 2

Sonic the Hedgehog


Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido




Parcel conveyer system being installed into empty warehouse

Conveyor Accumulation Buffer

Handrail Ride on Giant Montgomery Moving Walkway at Lambert St. Louis Intl. Airport

Switch Conveyor System

ระบบสายพานลำเลียง ใต้หวัน-1

Gough Econ Bucket Conveyor

Moving sidewalk Paris Expo 1900

SUSHI CONVEYOR BELT- Automatic Delivery System

The KNEX Conveyor Belt




Conveyor Belt, a horror fiction
by Fish E

The small dark room smelled like skulls. Every few seconds the groan of the conveyor belt pushing a few feet forward could be heard. The belt did not start in the room, nor did it end in it, but it was one of the many stops along the way.

A teenage girl stood next to the conveyor belt, and she could be seen only by the light-bulb hanging from a thin cord above her. In her hand was a small but very hard mallet. Its head was made of dense metal.

Countless people were strapped to the conveyor belt, each human was three feet in front of the next. Their arms and legs were tied down, and it was impossible to move. Every few seconds another one would be under the girl, and she’d raise her hammer, its shadow on their petrified faces, and smash it down on their head. Then the groan of the conveyor belt moving on would be heard, and she’d bring the mallet down again, and crush another skull.

Groan, smash, pause, groan, smash, pause, groan, smash, pause, those were the sounds of the room, making a disturbing musical beat. A malevolent cycle which breathed in and out deep evil fumes.

The girl was pretty, even with blood splattered all over her body. She had long wavy red hair, and was wearing a butcher apron over her yellow sundress. She enjoyed running barefoot through the rolling plains of flowers. She loved to lie down and smell the scent of the sun as it soothed her skin. She loved her father, but her mother had died long ago. She had a lot of friends, but her favorite was her boyfriend.

She knew they would get married.


He had happy brown eyes, and brown hair. He was very strong and very smart. She loved him.


He was absolutely perfect, and there was no one she’d rather be with.


Once they were married she’d stop doing this.


They’d have a beautiful life together, and he’d get her out of this mess. She couldn’t leave now though


because the pulsing and the beat of the room had captivated her. She was part of it, and she was trapped in it. But she knew she could stop once she married him.


She had stopped noticing the people she was hammering a long time ago. She used to find it painful to slaughter them, but now it was easier.


They just kept coming and coming. Waiting for the end of the belt of people was like watching a river and waiting for all the water to flow away.


After a while, after a week. A week of


ten hours a day, eventually you stop being disgusted. She had to do it now.


Some people begged her not to kill them. They didn’t understand it wasn’t her choice.


She had the messiest job of them all.


When the victims begged, it ruined the beat.


Their words scattering through the room, disrupting the beat.


Usually they didn’t talk. They were too scared.


Her mind had grown hard, and her heart as well. She no longer saw them as living, breathing people, but only as traitors.


Then he was right under her shadow, strapped to the conveyor belt, her next victim. She looked down at him, and suddenly someone on the belt was a person. It was him, her love. It was impossible, how could he be one of the ones she had to crush? His big brown eyes were pleading desperately.

She pierced her lips, not wanting to hurt him. But the beat was being paused, and her heart had stopped too, it lived with the music. The shadow of her hand being raised covered his eyes. He shut them fiercely as she brought the mallet down on his head.


She started to cry as his blood splattered on her body, his face flattened against the belt.


Suddenly her breath was gone.


One more groan and he would be out of the room, and into the next section of his journey. Now there was someone else under her.


She couldn’t keep working, she had to quit then. She couldn’t believe what she had done. She hadn’t known she was doing it at the time, but now it was slowly dawning on her; enveloping his soul with darkness.


Alright, time to turn around and leave, she told herself.


But she didn’t turn around.















She felt much different now, now that she couldn’t think. She still felt so helpless. She let the beat circle a few times more. Then she couldn’t take it. She positioned the sharp head of the mallet in front of her face. She thrust it in.






JM Torlach

A plant operator lost his life when he became trapped by the arms, head and shoulders between the underside of a conveyor belt and a return idler roller.

The deceased had apparently attempted to remove rocks which were caught on the top surface of the return section of the belt. He climbed under guard rails to a closed-off section of platform directly under the belt.

His body was found in a seated position on the guard rail, with his arms, shoulders and head caught between the underside of the belt and the return idler. A shovel with a bent handle was lying below him on the platform.


Man’s arm is ripped off after ‘getting it caught in conveyor belt’ in recycling tip horror
Rebecca Day

A man’s arm has been ripped off after ‘he got it caught on a conveyor belt’ at a recycling tip in Wythenshaw owned by waste management company Viridor.

The unnamed 29-year-old man was rushed to hospital after the horrific incident while working at the Sharston Tip in south Manchester last night.

Members of the public are still able to dump their waste at the household waste recycling centre, which remains open.


Metal Conveyor Belt Slides Down Incline Crushing Supervisor — Iowa
Wayne Johnson, M.D.

A 35-year-old supervisor from an out-of-state manufacturing company was killed while he was overseeing the installation of a heavy metal conveyor belt at a recycling plant. This conveyor system was designed to move recycled materials from ground level to a new elevated sorting line. However, because of jerky movements, the welded attachment point failed, and the entire conveyor belt immediately slid down the incline and bunched up on the ground level. The victim was standing on or walking over the conveyor at ground level when the weld failed. He was knocked down and dragged through a narrow space between the belt and the conveyor frame, causing extensive crush injuries to his trunk and extremities. An ambulance was located across the street and arrived within two minutes, however due to the extent of his injuries, the man was dead on arrival at the local hospital.


I was crushed, severely injured, and nearly killed in a conveyor belt accident

I was sitting on and repairing an industrial conveyor belt. Suddenly, the conveyor belt started up and I went on a ride that changed my life forever. I fell from the one I was sitting on down below to another one where I got caught in between the two before I eventually broke my arm, was freed, and ended up being sucked up under that bar where the ribs and back broke before I eventually passed out and lost consciousness.

The list of injuries include: *Broken humerus *5 shattered ribs *3rd degree burns on right shoulder & left elbow *3 broken vertebrae *Collapsed lung *Nerve damage in left arm resulting in 4 month paralysis *PTSD *Torn rotator cuff *Torn bicep tendon *Prominent arthritis in left shoulder*


Dreamworld confirms at least three dead
Hugh Riminton

Three people have reportedly died after an accident on a ride at Dreamworld on the Gold Coast.

Police say it appears they had become caught in a conveyor belt at the Coomera theme park.

It’s believed the accident occurred on the Thunder River Rapids ride with a six-person circular raft flipping over onto the conveyor belt.

“The situation is unfolding,” a Queensland Ambulance spokeswoman told AAP.




Category: Belt Conveying
‘Welcome to the Conveyor Belt Guide’
Möbius band
‘Sun’s Super-fast Plasma ‘Conveyor Belt’ Surprises Scientists’
‘Alicante Airport Conveyor Belt Kills Baby’
The Conveyor Belt – A Fashion and Lifestyle Journal
‘The plane on the conveyor belt’
‘How to Make a Conveyor Belt for a School Project’
‘One conveyor belt can move 1000 boxes in 12 minutes.’
‘Explosionproof Conveyor Belt Alignment Switches’
‘How the care conveyor belt tortures people back to life’
‘How to make a conveyor belt with LEGO parts?’
Play ‘Arthur Christmas: Conveyor Belt Madness’
‘Maoists strike at NMDC mines, damage conveyor belt’
‘Conveyor Belt of Death’
‘Where the Conveyor Belt Has Taken Us’
Conveyor Belt @ Facebook




p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, Morning, D. ** Steve Erickson, Yeah, precisely. I’m one of those exceedingly rare people who’s never been that excited by Grace Jones, but a doc about her and the phenom of her is an interesting prospect, obviously. How is it? ** Dóra Grőber, Hi! Yes, I fear my blog shows no pity for people’s pocketbooks, ha ha. Joy Williams is really up there though, I think. Chase the wave, good, yes! Irregardless for your mixed feelings about your grandmother, I’m sorry for the loss. If it’s not weird to say, it does sound like it has made you thoughtful in a productive way though. I’m fine, just, yeah, being a workaholic. Zac and I are meeting with Gisele this morning to find out what she thought of the draft of the third part we have given her. Hopefully what she’ll want changed will be fairly minor, but we’ll see. There is the potential that the endlessly delayed secret project contracts could be signed as soon as this Friday, and, god, here’s hoping. (Update: I was just told that, no, that’s not going to happen, so the shit continues.) But, yeah, I literally just worked all day yesterday. At least today that grind will get interrupted by a metro trip across Paris, even if the trip will be to talk about the work I’ll doing all the rest of the day. How was Wednesday for you? ** Sypha, You won’t be sorry, I think? Well, of course I think that person’s whining about that imaginary problem with Tarantino’s work is just self-incriminating. Well, yes, I know exactly what you mean. What you said is so true that it’s bizarre that it doesn’t just go without saying, you know? I am almost literally crawling out of my skin in excitement to see the new Wes Anderson. ** Jamie, Pip pip, Jamie! Scary good is the word, or, I guess, are the words. Yes, Drop-boxing me the gifs is totally good and an easy way to go. Thanks so much, buddy. I’m forcibly all about the hopefully soon-to-be not so secret script, yes, and it’s going okay. Ideally it’ll go so okay that I’ll have some side time to work on the film script, which is getting pretty close to being finished and, thus, begging for my imagination and fingers, but we’ll see. Oh, no, I hope your feeling sick yesterday was just a weird form of recess. How are you today? Ha ha, my day spared me a moment like that, for better or worse. May every particle of light today be a Tinkerbell whose sole reasons for existing are to radiate you into feeling 100%. Lawnmower vs. lawn love, Dennis. ** _Black_Acrylic, Howdy, Ben. I’ll write to your re: your post today. Williams is a prose monster, highly recommended. I agree with Jamie that your animation idea sounds awesome! I hope to get to see the results. Have a great one! ** Right. I decided to restore Conveyer Belt Day because it made me melancholy to see it sitting in a million bits of code in the cold, dark underworld of this blog. See you tomorrow.

Spotlight on … Joy Williams The Quick and the Dead (2000)


‘A few years ago, the writer Joy Williams’s favorite church needed to dispose of a few extra pews after a renovation. Williams attends the church only in April and October, when her frequent cross-country drives take her to Laramie, Wyo., but she wanted a pew anyway. She borrowed a trailer, got a friend to help her load the pew and drove a thousand miles, pulling it behind her enormous Bronco, her two German shepherds in the cab with her. Now the long, dark pew lives in her house in Tucson.

‘When Williams was a child, her father was a minister at a Congregational church in Portland, Me. ‘‘He gave a beautiful sermon,’’ she said as we hiked through Arizona’s Santa Catalina foothills on trails she walks every morning. I asked if she had ever considered being a preacher like her father: Her stories often reveal themselves as parables, and her writing on the environment is equal parts fire, brimstone and eulogy. ‘‘Oh, no, I’m too shy,’’ she said, before lapsing into a companionable silence, the only sound her Chuck Taylors’ crunch on the trailbed. ‘‘Maybe that’s what I need,’’ she cawed suddenly. ‘‘A pulpit that I take from reading to reading with me.’’

‘Williams is wiry and tanned, her hands and face biblically wrinkled. She is 71. Years ago, she lost her eyeglasses before a university appearance and had to wear prescription sunglasses at the lectern; appreciating, perhaps, the remoteness they facilitate, she has worn them ever since at all hours of the day and night. Not unlike that church pew in her living room, the sunglasses seem like an act of disregard for everyday comfort, an eccentricity that makes everyone else uneasy but Williams more secure.

‘It was just after dawn, but already the air was stifling. We reached a summit, and Williams drank from her dogs’ scratched and dented water bottle. Fat black ants swarmed into a crevice near our feet. Atop a nearby hill stood a trio of saguaros, the bottoms of their trunks black from some recent fire or decades-ago disease. Miles away, a single impossible thunderhead dropped rain in curtains over the Sonoran Desert. Nothing we could see cared about us.

‘To call her 50-year career that of a writer’s writer does not go far enough. Her three story collections and four darkly funny novels are mostly overlooked by readers but so beloved by generations of fiction masters that she might be the writer’s writer’s writer. ‘‘She did the important work of taking the tight, minimal Carveresque story and showing that you could retrofit it with comedy,’’ George Saunders told me, ‘‘that particularly American brand of funny that is made of pain.’’ …

‘The typical Williams protagonist is a wayward girl or young woman whose bad decisions, or bad attitude, or both, make her difficult to admire: She drives away while her husband is paying for gas, or ransacks a houseguest’s room to read her journal. In Williams’s precise, unsparing, surprising prose, her characters reach for the sublime but often fall miserably to earth: ‘‘Sam and Elizabeth met as people usually meet. Suddenly, there was a deceptive light in the darkness. A light that blackly reminded the lonely of the darkness.’’ She has a gift for sentences whose unsettling turns — ‘‘While she was thinking of something perfectly balanced and amusing to say, the baby was born’’ — force readers to grapple, just as her characters grapple, with the way life will do what it wants with you. Other writers I spoke to about Williams’s work expressed a sense of awe at the grandeur underlying her stories of weirdos and misfits. ‘‘She’s a visionary,’’ Karen Russell told me, ‘‘and she resizes people against a cosmic backdrop.’’ …

‘With the 2000 novel The Quick and the Dead, Williams’s work took a sharp turn into a new landscape: Arizona, where she and Hills had bought a house. Williams flings her characters — ghosts and teenagers and seekers — across the desert with a kind of narratorial rage. And the characters give as few damns what people think of them as their creator does. In The Quick and the Dead, Williams’s sense of place came from the earth, the air, the plants and animals, the killing heat — and the inconsequence of human endeavor within that world. The stories she was writing around that time similarly revel in the way the desert places each character on a knife’s edge; in ‘‘Charity,’’ a single snake crossing the New Mexico highway sends a car smashing ‘‘with a snapping of axles’’ into a pocket of ‘‘sacred da­tura, a plant of which every part was poisonous.’’ The accident happens because a boy grabs the steering wheel, trying to run the snake over. Even in the frightening chaos of the crash’s aftermath, Williams finds comedy: ‘‘I just wanted that snake so bad,’’ the boy moans.

‘Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize,  The Quick and the Dead reflected Williams’s new environmental fervor, which was stirred in 1997 while she was reporting for Harper’s about the animal rights movement. Her feature, ‘‘The Inhumanity of the Animal People,’’ was republished in a bracing 2001 collection, Ill Nature. While her use of the natural world in her fiction is evocative and harshly beautiful, these essays were jeremiads — blunt and furious and uninterested in being even a bit reasonable. ‘‘You have made only brutal contact with Nature,’’ she says. ‘‘You cannot comprehend its grace.’’’ — Dan Kois



Joy Williams’s Refractory Brilliance
Joy Williams, The Art of Fiction No. 223
Joy Williams Explains How to Write a Short Story
‘Another Season’, by Joy Williams
50 Reasons Why You Should Read Joy Williams
The chillingly honest world of Joy Williams
‘My First Car’, by Joy Williams
Podcast: Joy Williams on Bookworm
‘Good Writing Never Soothes or Comforts’: Joy Williams on Writing
What If the Lord Came to Dinner Uninvited?
Karen Russell on how Joy Williams writes the unspeakable
‘Souvenir’, by Joy Williams
Our Heroes Simply Write: Joy Williams, Unedited
Living in a downward spiral
More with Less
Joy Williams shows the dark side of the short story
Language to transcend
Christine Schutt on “Brass” by Joy Williams
Joy Williams: Never a Dull Moment
Addressing the Impossible
Buy ‘The Quick and the Dead’



Joy Williams reading “George & Susan”

Joy Williams reading her essay ‘Why I Write’


from Bookslut


In your story, “Yard Boy,” from your first story-collection, Taking Care, and in many stories since, you talk about being enlightened, about seeing things without preconception, which means allowing the possibility that inanimate objects have feelings and thoughts, that everything is relative and arbitrary, and other concepts involving “enlightenment” such as that the physical world is an illusion and that nothing can be “known.” In those worldviews “morals” seem irrelevant, or aren’t addressed, since they require assumptions and those worldviews tend to not want to assume anything. In your nonfiction, though, you seem to have morals, and seem to be “against” certain things like hunting, cruelty against animals, destroying the environment, etc. How do you reconcile that in your life? When you are making choices in your life, like choosing whether or not to pay more money for food or transportation that won’t destroy the earth, what do you think about? Do you more live your life like a work of art (fiction), or like a work of rhetoric (nonfiction) or some other way?

You can get away with a lot more writing nonfiction (I’m not talking lies as has been the trend but attitude) than you can writing fiction. In a work of rhetoric you can take a stand, make a case, inform and inspire, scream and demean. You can’t be angry in fiction — it’s all about control. You create worlds in order to accept them. You create worlds open to interpretation. Facts have limitations. At the Univ. of Wyoming where I’m in residence for a year, there is this wonderful little geological museum wherein there is THE FLUORESCENT MINERAL ROOM. There are maybe thirty rocks in there sitting quietly on shelves, modest rocks, nice rocks, but nothing lovely or extraordinary about them. But when you flip a switch — Press Switch Here — the room goes dark and the rocks blossom into the most intense and varied colors. They are really expressing… something. Now the explanation for this is helpfully posted on the wall: Certain stimuli, such as ultraviolet light, disturbs the atomic structure of certain minerals. The energy released as the structure returns to normal results in the emission of visible light.

And there you don’t have it. Far better to have a fictional Yard Boy, prone to love and awe, come to his own understandings which he certainly would have had if he had been fortunate enough to find himself in the Fluorescent Mineral Room at the University of Wyoming.

When I read your stories I feel that everything becomes more accurately balanced out and then I feel calmer, I feel “better.” There is an attempt, I feel, in your writing, to not give anything more “importance” or “weight” than anything else, and to not “rule out” anything. It is like how a child sees things — without preconception. Or more accurately, maybe, how a robot or tree would see things — without even the preconception of consciousness. Do you write or read to feel calmer, to feel less scared of death and other mysteries, to feel less “bad”?


You write about nonexistence a lot, about being either not-yet-born or “dead,” and have been focused on this pretty steadily, in your writing, for more than 30 years — speculating on what it actually is (to not exist), making jokes about it, and “trying out” ways to feel and think about it. Has this affected your life in concrete reality, do you think, as opposed to someone who thinks less, and less creatively and originally, about not existing?

Annie Dillard quotes someone who ventured that “the worst part of being dead must be the first night.” The themes you mention are in the new novel I’m working on as well. Back to the non-expressible. I so wish I were smarter! All art deals with the peculiarity, the strangeness of our situation. We do all this stuff — we think, we marvel, we despair, we care — and then we die. That makes no sense. Surely we should be spending our time differently since that is the case, but how? With the injustice, the political stupidity, the destruction of the natural world, it is tempting to believe (in our non-believing) that things are not what they seem, that there is a link between the dead and the unborn that can replenish the void we know awaits each of us and all we love.

What things have made you feel excited in your life?

Excited? Why do you ask?

You said about The Changeling, “That book was just destroyed. It was an awful experience. […] I felt at the time that some of the reviewers wanted me to die. They just wanted me to stop writing. They were saying, ‘We have other writers out there who we have to deal with and all the writers yet unborn, so please go away.’” Your recent novel, The Quick and The Dead, however, received a lot of praise from almost every reviewer and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Why do you think “critics” reacted differently to the two different novels?

The late ’70s were a tough time for women novelists. We were supposed to be feminist, engaged, angry. It was really, weirdly, a very conformist time. (Of course, Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon came out around then and she avoided those problems profoundly and beautifully.) The Changeling is about a guilty young drunk named Pearl on an island with feral children. The prose is lushly stark and imaginative, the method magical, even demented. Feminism did not need a guilty drunk! The Quick and the Dead had larger, more charming and annoying characters and a bigger theme. It’s a better book. It was published in 2000, a millennium baby. Maybe people were more willing to contemplate the straits between the living and the dead. Still, the critics didn’t like it that much.

Throughout the ’70s and ’80s there was a term, “K-Mart Realism,” or “Minimalism,” that journalists used for a group of writers you were sometimes mentioned with — Raymond Carver, Ann Beattie, Bobbie Ann Mason, Frederick Barthelme, etc. Did — and are — you interested or excited by work from that “group” of writers?

Of the ones you mention, it’s Carver who’s the stand-out, and he very much disliked the term minimalism as it was applied to his own work. The editor Gordon Lish was the maestro of minimalism and under his uncanny pencil, many an ordinary story became a very good one. Minimalism as a productive style can be very affective, alarming and satisfying, but I don’t think there ever was a pure strain of it. For a time, it was just a kettle into which many a strange fish were flung. Now with America’s miniaturization of not irrelevance in the world, it might return to the short story in grim and freshened renewal. Certainly the days of the giddy blowhard are over. I hope.

I feel like your writing has become more concrete and less abstract over time. There are more scenes and more of a narrative, I feel, especially in your last two books, The Quick and the Dead & Honored Guest, than in your first books, specifically State of Grace & The Changeling. I like your writing more with each new book. It seems funnier and calmer now to me, I can picture things easier, the sentences feel to me more interesting like you spent more time selecting each sentence that is allowed in each story. I feel like most writers become more abstract over time, you seem like the exception to me. Do you ever think about this? Why do you think you became more concrete over time, or do you not think (or have not thought about) that?

A writer is always seeing pitfalls inherent in a skill he thinks he’s already mastered. You write, you change, everything changes. The pressures on language fail to evoke the desired effect. The “gift” you feel you may have undeservedly received can’t be used for everything. The dependable friend has become untrustworthy. Your ear goes, or confidence that the delivering word will appear, erodes. You get sick of fulfilling your characters, your ease with Time evaporates. Endings, beginnings, impossible. Strategies change. It never gets easier, that’s for certain. Abstraction in fiction is supposed to be bad, but it can be just the struck match that illuminates. Much of a writer’s work is to unexpress the expressible as well as the opposite. And the “concrete” is essential to both.

At the end of one of your essays on writing you said, “None of this is what I long to say. I long to say other things. I write stories in my attempt to say them.” Is there mostly just one thing that you long to say, so that you try, in each story, to “say it all,” to express that one thing, or are there different things that you long to say, each requiring a different story?

The conundrum of literature is that it is not supposed to say anything. Often a reader can enjoy a story or novel simply because he can admire the writer’s skill in getting out of it.

In Corinthians there is this passage: Behold, I show you a great mystery: we shall not all sleep but we will all be changed… in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye… This is one of those terrifying Biblical passages, though not as terrifying as many others, that addresses the unspeakable heart of our human situation and commands us to be aware. The best stories, I think, always contain this annunciation of awareness, no matter how cloaked. Emerson said, “No one suspects the days to be gods.” Stories can’t be gods of course. Maybe little godlets.

Do you have an “ideal” that you strive for (some already existing story, novel, movie, or song that you think of) when you write a short story? A novel?

No. The first note must be sounded and why have it be another’s? To name an ideal and then seek to riff it anew is an exercise for writers’ workshops.

What story or novel writers, if any, do you feel are (or were) trying to “get at” the same things you are?

I can tell you who I admire greatly — writers who always move and trouble me — Sebald, Coetzee, Delillo. They are rigorous, merciless novelists of great beauty and integrity.

Do you like to be around people and go to parties and drink alcohol?

Not really. I’m shy.



Joy Williams The Quick and the Dead

‘Alice, Corvus, and Annabel, each a motherless child, are an unlikely circle of friends. One filled with convictions, another with loss, the third with a worldly pragmatism, they traverse an air-conditioned landscape eccentric with signs and portents–from the preservation of the living dead in a nursing home to the presentation of the dead as living in a wildlife museum–accompanied by restless, confounded adults. A father lusts after his handsome gardener even as he’s haunted (literally) by his dead wife; a heartbroken dog runs afoul of an angry neighbor; a young stroke victim drifts westward, his luck running from worse to awful; a sickly musician for whom Alice develops an attraction is drawn instead toward darker imaginings and solutions; and an aging big-game hunter finds spiritual renewal through his infatuation with an eight-year-old–the formidable Emily Bliss Pickless. With nature thoroughly routed and the ambiguities of existence on full display, life and death continue in directions both invisible and apparent. Gloriously funny and wonderfully serious, The Quick and the Dead limns the vagaries of love, the thirst for meaning, and the peculiar paths by which all creatures are led to their destiny.

‘A panorama of contemporary life and an endlessly surprising tour de force: penetrating and magical, ominous and comic, this is the most astonishing book yet in Joy Williams’s illustrious career.’ — Vintage



The winter had not brought rain and there were no flowers, there would be no flowers. Still, the land in the spring of the year when Alice would turn sixteen could not be said to be suffering from drought. The desert knew no drought, really. Anything so habitual and prolonged was simply life—a life invisible and anticipatory. What was germinative would only remain so that spring. What was possible was neither dead nor alive. Relief had been promised, of course.

For more than a month now, after school, Alice had been caring for six-year-old fraternal twins, Jimmy and Jacky. They lived with their mother, who was away all day, cutting hair. Their father was off in another state, building submarines. Hair, submarines, it was disgusting, Alice thought. She did not find the children at all interesting. They cried frequently, indulged themselves in boring, interminable narratives, were sentimental and cruel, and when frustrated would bite. They had a pet rabbit that Alice feared for. She made them stop giving it baths all the time and tried to interest them in giving themselves baths, although in this she was not successful. She assisted them with special projects for school. It was never too early for investigative reporting. They should not be dissuaded by their teacher’s discomfort; to discomfort teachers was one’s duty. They were not too young to be informed about the evils of farm subsidies, monoculture, and overproduction. They should know, if only vaguely at first, about slaughterhouses. They shouldn’t try to learn everything at once—they’d probably get discouraged—but they should know how things come into being, like ponies, say, and how they’re taken out of being and made into handbags and coats. They should get a petition going to stop the lighting of athletic fields, since too much light obliterated the night sky. Excessive light was bad. On the other hand, some things perceived as bad were good. Wasps, for instance. They should not destroy the wasp nest they discovered in their garage with poisons because wasp-nest building was fun to watch in a time-lapse photography sort of way. They should marvel at the wasps’ architectural abilities, their insect awareness of a supreme future structure they alone were capable of creating. Wasps were cool. The queens knew how to subsist in a state of cryogenic preservation in the wintertime. Jimmy and Jacky could get special credit for their understanding of wasps, agribusiness, slaughterhouses—just to name a few possibilities.She was willing to make learning interesting for them.

But she didn’t help much with homework. Mostly the three of them just hung out. Little kids didn’t instinctively know how to hang out, Alice was surprised to learn. Sometimes they’d walk down to the Goodwill store and see the kind of stuff people had wanted once but didn’t want anymore. She usually didn’t buy anything because she didn’t believe in consumption, but once she bought a nun in a snow dome. The nun was only fifty cents because the snow had turned brown and clotted and fell in revolting clumps when you turned the thing upside down. What was a nun doing in one of those snow domes anyway? Alice had never seen anything like it. The twins had never seen anything like it either. But Goodwill was only good for once or twice a week. The rest of the time they’d sit around in these tiny plastic chairs the boys had in their junk-filled room and Alice would discuss things with them, chiefly environmental concerns. Alice liked talking about animals and excess packaging. She opened their small eyes to the world of drift nets, wetland mitigation, predator control, and overpopulation. She urged them to discuss the overpopulation problem with their mother. Sometimes their attention wandered. They had a bunk bed in their room, and they both slept on the bottom bunk. When they were seven, they’d be permitted to sleep on the top bunk. They could hardly wait.

Their mother hadn’t paid Alice yet, and near the end of the second month Alice asked for her money.

“Yes, yes, sure,” the mother said. “I have to go to the bank tomorrow. How about Saturday?”

She appeared Saturday morning at Alice’s house in her big sloppy station wagon. Alice and her granny and poppa were sitting on the patio drinking coffee and watching the birds at the feeder. Actually, only Alice was watching the birds, since her granny and poppa were talking avidly about compost. Alice couldn’t talk about compost so early in the morning, but they could. Compost was as munificent as God to them, just as interesting as God certainly. They said that the reason healthy plants repel pests is that they have such intense vibrations in the molecules of their cells. The higher the state of health, the higher the vibrations. Because pests’ vibrations are on a much lower level, they receive a distinct shock when they come into contact with a healthy plant.

Why not? Alice thought.

Alice sauntered down to the station wagon, which was packed with luggage. “You taking a trip?” she asked.

“Didn’t Jimmy and Jacky tell you? Oh, that’s right, I swore them to secrecy.

Let’s go out and have some breakfast. I’ll buy you a donut.”

The mother gave Alice the creeps. She wore large, shapeless dresses she called her “jelly bags.”

“I’ve had my breakfast,” Alice said.

“I’d like to talk to you,” the woman said. “Breakfast really isn’t necessary. Why don’t we go out to the state park—that’s a nice ride.”

Alice looked back at the patio, but her granny and poppa had gone inside. She shrugged and got into the car. Cars had never charmed her, and this one seemed particularly vile. They sped off to the park about fifteen miles away. The lovely, lovely mountains tumbled across the horizon.

The kids’ mother moved one big arm and groped around in the backseat. The car veered down the road, Alice staring stoically ahead, until she retrieved what she was after, a cocktail in a can. “Want a pop?” she said. Alice shook her head. “Sure?” the woman said. “It’s mostly fruit juices.”

I want . . . a scar, Alice thought. A scar that would send shivers up peoples’ spines but would not elicit pity. She didn’t want that kind of scar.

“Where are Jimmy and Jacky?” Alice finally said.

“With a babysitter.”

Alice looked at her.

“I’m trying out somebody new just for the morning, then we’re leaving. Back to the husband. We’re going to be a family again.”

“You owe me three hundred dollars,” Alice said.

“I do? Those hours added up, didn’t they?”

“Do you want a receipt for tax purposes?”

“I’d love a receipt,” the mother said.

They entered the park. A small deceased animal was lying in the road, and the car ahead of them ran over it. They ran over it. A herd of men in fluorescent shorts jogged by.

“God, I hate this place,” the woman said. She rummaged in the backseat for another pop.

“Why did we come here, then?”

“I mean the whole place, the state.”

She turned abruptly into a parking lot. There were some benches and a few little structures for shade. She turned off the ignition and got out of the car. “Gotta tinkle,” she said. Alice sat and gazed at the mountains. When you climbed, you’d move from cholla to juniper and pinyon, then to firs and aspens. Zero to eight thousand feet in forty miles. To live in a place where you could do something like that was sensational, like living exceptionally fast or living in two different bodies. The little animals of the desert didn’t know that the little animals of the mountains, only moments away, even existed. Or the big animals the big animals for that matter.

Alice looked around the littered seat for paper and pencil to compose her bill, her legs sticking to the stinking vinyl of the car seat. She got out and stood in the shade. A tinkle, she thought. The awful woman was probably taking a dump. At last she and her jelly bag appeared. She had red hair today, though sometimes it was chestnut. She was a genius with hair color, there was no denying that.

“You know what keeps going through my head?” the woman said, “DAK’s incredible blowout price. . . . We’re getting a new stereo. Can’t get it out of my head.”

Alice handed her the bill she’d tallied. “It’s in crayon, unfortunately, but I’m sure it will be acceptable. You could give me a check, though I’d prefer cash.”

“That’s what’s going through your head, huh, like DAK’s incredible blowout price?” The woman laughed and dropped the piece of paper to the ground. “If you think I’m paying you, you’re crazy. Pervert. Bitch. You’d better watch out.”

Alice looked at the piece of paper. What was wrong with it? It just lay there.

“My boys say you say the world would be better off without them. They say you killed a pony and a farmer and that you make them eat lettuce-and-rabbit-pellet sandwiches. They say you hate nuns and say not to flush the toilet every time when it’s only yellow water. But it was the wasp nest that did it. I’m excessively susceptible to the stings of bees and wasps and could go into anaphylactic reaction and die. And they shrieked at me when I sprayed the damn thing. It was as big as a beer keg. They cursed me for destroying a thing that could have killed their own mother.”

“Fatal anaphylactic reaction is actually rare,” Alice said.

“Half the stuff they told me is even on the list.”

“What list?” Alice said. Her voice sounded peculiar. You could give me a check, though I’d prefer cash kept sliding through her mind.

“The checklist of symptoms of satanic ritual abuse compiled by an after-midnight radio psychologist who’s a nationally recognized authority on the subject. The list includes but is not limited to preoccupation with feces and death, questionable acting out, talk of mutilation and dismemberment, and fear of being normal and cooperative.” She ticked them off on her fingers.

“Why, that’s just stupid,” Alice said.

“You’re the one who’s stupid, dumbass,” the woman said, “thinking I’d pay for your time. I’ve got better things to do with my money.”

“Jimmy and Jacky misinterpreted my remarks a little,” Alice said. It was probably the hair and submarine emphasis in their background that made them somewhat wobbly in the comprehension department.

“You’d better watch it,” the woman said. “Get away from me.” Alice hadn’t moved. “You’d better watch it,” she said again, laughing, as she got into the station wagon. Then she drove away.

A black bird, a phainopepla, rocketed past and alighted on a trembling mesquite bush. Alice felt that the desert was looking at her, that it kept coming closer, incuriously. She stared into the distance, seeing it as something ticking, something about to arrive. A brief, ferocious wind came up and a Styrofoam cup sailed by and impaled itself upon an ocotillo. She started back toward the park’s entrance, walking not along the road but through the desert itself. Cars and vans occasionally passed by. Tiny heads were what she saw, behind closed windows. She walked quickly, sometimes breaking into a run, through the gulleys and over the rocks, past the strange growths, all living their starved, difficult lives. Everything had hooks or thorns. Everything was saw-edged and spiny-pointed. Everything was defensive and fierce and determined to live. She liked this stuff. It all had a great deal of character. At the same time, it was here only because it had adapted to the circumstances, the external and extreme circumstances of its surroundings.

Plants were lucky because when they adapted it wasn’t considered a compromise. It was more difficult for a human being, a girl.




p.s. Hey. ** Have ANiceLife, Hi. Oh, yeah, duh. I do really like ‘Platform’, and it was indeed on that list. The file I have of that album doesn’t have track titles, and that, plus spacing,  was the culprit. I didn’t know about the conceptual intent. I was interested by and liked the track and just thought it was a kind of 2nd person experiment, I guess. I’m interested to rehear it now that I know its scoop. Thanks a lot for your patience. ** Chris Cochrane, Ah, man, I’m so sorry. Even if it’s the right thing to do, that stuff, being wrenched from that kind of intimacy and trust, is rough no matter what. Is it inappropriate to be glad that you guys got to share that incredible trip during your time together? Hugs, Chris. Cool, I’m glad you also get why I was so amazed by Arto Lindsay’s guitar playing. It just seems so masterful, so knowing and refined and yet so continuously alert and curious/loose about what can happen. I knew his work, and yeah, am not entirely into everything he’s done, but I didn’t expect to be mind-blown by his technique. Thanks about the ‘secret’ project. It’s just, whoa, the needing to work on it relentlessly and trying to wreak interesting havoc from a tired brain, and that kind of stuff. Lovely to see you, my dear pal. Lots of love. ** David Ehrenstein, Yes, indeed! Everyone, one chapter of David Ehrenstein’s great book ‘Film: The Front Line — 1984’ is devoted to yesterday’s blog star Luc Moullet, and reading that chapter is one of the many, many reasons why you should read David’s book if you haven’t yet. Get it. ** Steve Erickson, Hi, Steve. Yes, cool, happy you really like those films too. Re: ‘Love, Simon’, it’s so exhausting: all these blabber-mouthing perfectionist control freaks who can’t let a positive step, however small or however non-ideal, stand and do its thing. I’m so tired of people who think every film that gets released, for instance, needs to be their own personal ideal birthday present. That attitude, which is so fucking pervasive right now about politics and personal issues and everything, is disastrously non-productive. I’m so sick of it. I took a little taste of de Pettero’s music, and, yeah, it’s not my thing at all. ** Bill, Hey. Well, jeez, I’m always sorry to hear that you’re so frequently swamped with work that isn’t your own. Oh, I know of that John Kelly collaborative performance. I saw a clip online, it looked good. Johns pretty much always great. I hear you re: opening acts. As an early to bed guy, I hate the choice of, like, do I go on time and risk waiting through two terrible sets before the one I want to see, or do I wait and go at, like, 10pm or 11pm, in which case, I’ll usually just end up blowing it off?  ** Dóra Grőber, Hi! No, I know, I didn’t go, and it sucks, but let’s go together next year, yes! Let’s pencil that in! Based on my experiences, I wouldn’t worry if what you write doesn’t seem initially to fit. I’m a big believer in chasing what drives and excites you, and you might find how it fits later, or, ‘worse comes to worse’, you’ll have something new and separate that will lead somewhere else. Go for it. Yeah, heavy work day. Getting there. As I think I’ve mentioned, this project is in three parts, and I managed to get an initial draft of the whole third part finished to send to Zac, which means we have fairly solid drafts of all three parts now that still need a lot of work, but that’s good. More work today and probably not much else, but if there’s an else, I’ll tell you what it was. How was your day? Did you write more and/or … ? ** Jamie, Yessir, Jamie! I am fine, semi-brain dead, ha ha, but fine. My groove is still here, not that I have any choice, but, yeah, it’s happening. Oh, guest-posts are always a glorious thing to have for this blog, and in the current situation, even more so, so … yes! Let’s see … gifs. I guess either send them as attachments or link me up to them and I can grab them myself, and let me know the order/ formatting/ etc. you want. Does that make sense? You have my email, no? If not, it’s denniscooper72@outlook.com. Coolness. For me, man, I would love to go that loopy, and, wow, share that loopyness. You would all be rich, rich, richer than in your wildest dreams! How was your today? May it cause you not to do this. Hot sassafras love, Dennis. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. Oh, okay, I set it up using the first version you sent, so I’ll go see what the discrepancies are and update it, and I’ll write to you with the date, etc. Thank you so much! It’s wonderful! ** Misanthrope, Here too. Not a palm tree in sight. Mm, it’s sounds like I’ll let you be the Cameron reader. Oh, okay, yeah, that experience does sound both heartwarming and like something I will avoid like the motherfucking plague, ha ha, yikes. But that’s interesting. It’s like opposite of how it was when I originally saw ‘The Exorcist’ in a theater the first week it was released and the audience was vomiting and passing out and stuff. ** Jeff J, Hi, Jeff. I have not seen his recent films, no. I want to. Oops, hm, no clue as to why that R-G still was in there. Maybe he had a connection, or more likely it was just some mistake I made originally. I’ll extract that. Thanks. No, I don’t know Bilge Karasu. Interesting. Of course I’ll go see what I can find out. Thanks a lot, buddy. ** Kyler, Cool. Cool heads prevail or something or whatever they say. Hm … no, I haven’t seen ‘For Ever Mozart’. Huh. Interesting. Well, if it’s by Godard, it’s always worth watching. Let me know how it was. ** Kea7on, Hi. I can only imagine. I think I used to remember my dreams when I was, like, younger. Someone had a theory that when you become the kind of person who needs coffee to wake up, which I became in the 80s, there’s some kind of dream/ memory interference that happens. But I know plenty of coffee drinkers who are always describing their dreams. I don’t know. Friday! Give me a shout when shouting becomes the right thing to do! ** Okay. I was, and still am, in the mood to let the blog shine some love on one of my very, very favorite fiction writers, and specifically on arguably her best novel. If you don’t already read Joy Williams, she is a total master, and I urge you in her work’s direction. See you tomorrow.

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