“You Suffer” is a song by the British grindcore band Napalm Death, from their debut album, Scum. The song has earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the shortest recorded song ever. It is precisely 1.316 seconds long, or a second long.
p.s. Hey. ** Milk, Hi. Thanks a lot for the book tip. I didn’t know it, and it looks good, and I’ll look into it. Everyone, Milk recommends this book. Take care. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Yeah, I’ve always had a very busy, multi-tasking brain, it’s weird. Yes, RIP Juliette Greco. The French are in mourning. ** _Black_Acrylic, The Ashleigh Bryant Phillips stories are wonderful. The DCA is back, excellent. Well, see how it goes. Better safe than sorry and all of that. xo. ** Damien Ark, Hi, Damien. The blog was down for repairs for a few days. I only saw ‘Cruising’ when it was first released and don’t remember it well. I didn’t like it that much at the time, not at all because of the depiction of gays that people were up in arms about — that just seemed silly to me — but because of something in its construction or something. I should watch t again. Generally movies from that era tend to seem really alive nowadays, so it wouldn’t surprise me if it has gained strength. No idea if ‘Stranger of the Dark’ ripped it off. I don’t think I know that film. Hugs. ** Dominik, Hey!!! Well, the thing is that the repair force at my hosting site says they won’t repair my blog if those posts remain, so if something like what happened happens again, I’m fucked. Unless I can find an outside source to do the repairs. A bit vexing. I have to decide soon since there’s a slave post scheduled soon. If nothing else, I’ll surely have to remove the more explicit photos with hard-ons and things. Maybe that would be enough. I can’t tell. Zac and I and a couple of other friends went to the Halloween haunted house at Le Manoir de Paris last night, and it was really great. Cool you socialised. It’s nice to be with others, right? An underrated pleasure, ha ha. Photo shoot: how so? Of something or of you or of you guys orof just whatever caught the eye? Ah, that’s some great love. Elias is kind of my very favourite singer in addition to his other attributes and his coolness as a person. (Zac and I hung out with him once, and he and I text occasionally). A poppered up love on prep getting cumdumped for 10€ a pop, Dennis. ** Armando, Hi. I’m seeing a doctor about my toe in two hours, so hopefully that’ll start doing the trick. We just got new harsher measures laid down yesterday. Everything must close at 10 pm, no gatherings over 10 people, all sports things canceled, etc. I like Tom Waits just fine, I just rarely listen to him for some reason. Yes, there were a lot of vegetarian Syrian options, and they were very yum. Ernest Hemingway? Wow, uh, hm … I remember liking ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ for some reason. I remember thinking he wrote good sentences. Yours? Glad you liked ‘Climax’. Maybe you’d like ‘Enter the Void’. That’s my favorite of his. You take good care too, pal. ** Brian O’Connell, Hi, Brian. Welcome. It’s great to meet you, and thanks for entering. And thank you for the kind words about my work. That means a huge ton. As I explained to Dominick, I’m kind of in a quandary about the escort/slave posts, and WP doesn’t get the conceptual stuff about them, and they’re being very vague. I might try toning down the photos so they’re not X-rated. Best guess is that’s their biggest problem. I’m glad the books popped out to you. Wow, that is quite the double bill, and John is hosting in person? At a drive-in? It’s exciting that drive-ins are coming back. Kind of a really underused form. That should be cool. Report back if you don’t mind. I haven’t seen ‘Salo’ since it had a weird, sneaky theater release way back when it was fresh. I didn’t like it much at the time, partly because of love/loyalty to the novel, and partly because I was in the middle of thinking a lot about the un-representable and how to represent it. At the time I thought representing explicit sex/violence visually without the depictions becoming merely shocking/kitsch was impossible, and I had issues with the ‘Salo’ decisions. But I think if I watched the film now, I’d quite like and admire it and not be so rigid about that issue since I’ve settled on my own ideas about that kind of representing. So I should rewatch it, and your assessment makes total sense to me. Anyway, it’s great to talk with you. Do please feel far more than free to come back and hang out inside the blog whenever you like. Take care. ** politekid, Hey, O. Your second comment arrived in perfect shape. Your first comment seems not to have arrived, sadly. Grr. Recreation? ** Bill, Hi. The book that looks good to you is terrific. She’s very good. Me too, re: Spheeris. I can really surprise myself sometimes. I quite like Spheeris’s ‘Suburbia’ and ‘Decline Pt. 3’ especially. We’re starting to get things closed down here, so who knows if movie theatres will still be open for long. It fucking sucks. My toe will be seen, handled, judged, and ideally on its way to nonentity status again in about ninety minutes, give or take. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. Good question about the Zoom thing archiving, I have no idea. I guess I’ll know by tomorrow. Thanks, hopefully I’ll get a lot more than pain killers since the toe is still swollen and purple after almost two months, so I think some kind of repairing is in order. May our respective doctor visits today result in our mutual relief. ** Right. I’m restoring this total blast of an old post kindly made for the blog many years ago by d.l. Schlix, and it’s a goodie, if you ask me. Dig in. See you tomorrow.
‘Ashleigh Bryant Phillips’ debut, Sleepovers, in its display of rural, small town folks, is a quietly radical book of short stories giving voice to people often overlooked in literature. Being from a small town in western Pennsylvania that’s been ravaged by drug addiction and unemployment, I can’t explain how good it feels and how rare it is to find good work about those kinds of places that displays life honestly. It is such a rare treat to read good literature that is taken seriously about these kinds of places and folks, often, I believe, because those who craft it have no idea what they are talking about. It either quickly veers into parody or is overly dramatic.
‘In Sleepovers, the individual stories in this collection sing out wildly and beautifully on their own, but also, importantly, deftly cohere. Rooted in a sense of place and voice that feels natural and not labored. It is an exciting and refreshing book and marks Phillips a unique voice in a sea of contemporary posture-core writers. She cares not for the trappings of the surreal or postmodern—there are no tricks here, no clever in-jokes, characters do not stare out their Brooklyn apartment windows in medicated detachment, there’s no ironic stabs at our modern condition (thank God thank God). Phillips writes from a place of radical honesty, of true human compassion. She is writing to share and invite people in, to create a space to engage with the reader.
‘In Sleepovers, Phillips writes about her rural hometown of Woodland, North Carolina. With an almost hypnotic perfection, she crafts her character’s voices and often, like the best fiction, the text feels as if it is vibrating off the page, is being read too you, like some kind of secret transmission. Her attention to detail regarding voice in the predominantly first-person collection is uncanny, and like the best magicians, she keeps the hard work hidden, makes it look easy.’ — Nicholas Rys
Ashleigh Bryant Phillips Sleepovers Hub City Writers Project
‘Hailed by Lauren Groff as “fully committed to the truth no matter how dark or difficult or complicated it may be,” and written with “incantatory crispness,” Sleepovers, the debut short story collection by Ashleigh Bryant Phillips, takes us to a forgotten corner of the rural South, full of cemeteries, soybean fields, fishing holes, and Duck Thru gas stations. We meet a runaway teen, a mattress salesman, feral kittens, an elderly bachelorette wearing a horsehair locket, and a little girl named after Shania Twain. Here, time and memory circle above Phillips’ characters like vultures and angels, as they navigate the only landscape they’ve ever known. Corn reaches for rain, deer run blindly, and no matter how hungry or hurt, some forgotten hymn is always remembered. “The literary love child of Carson McCullers and John the Baptist, Ashleigh Bryant Phillips’ imagination is profoundly original and private,” writes Rebecca Lee. Sleepovers marks the debut of a fearless new voice in fiction.’ — Hub City Writers Project
from The Truth About Miss Katie
Miss Katie made me want to be a teacher. She taught me so much. And I wanted to tell her goodbye. I wanted to tell her how nice I think she is and thank her for all she’s done and ask her if she thinks we’ll ever see each other again.
I wanted to give her a gift. I wanted to paint her a painting. A thing called a still life, of opening spring flowers, but she never even got around to staying around here long enough for me to see any spring flowers open. And I didn’t want to ask Grandma for a canvas. Grandma wouldn’t even let me explain what a canvas was. She said, “None of that mess.”
So I stole some paper from school and did a self-portrait at night in my room in the dark. I had to try it over and over again for a while like that until it came out good. Because I couldn’t really see what all I was doing, but I got the hang of it after a while. And that’s what I wanted to give her, the self-portrait I did, because it had gummy worms on it, floating around my head.
Miss Katie asked me what was my favorite restaurant and I said that even though I love McDonald’s, and McDonald’s has toys ’cause my cousin Terri works there and she brings them to us from her work, I have never been to the Golden Corral. I’ve seen the commercials and I don’t even know where it is around here but the TV says that the Golden Corral is all you can eat—it’s buffet. Kayla says she’s been there and that buffet means the food never goes out. You can eat until you’re so full you’re about to pop. Kayla says if I ever go, to try the BBQ pizza. She says you wouldn’t think it, cause it sounds gross, but she says it’s so so good.
Miss Katie said she’d never gone to the Golden Corral, but she said that she’d take me someday. I told her I heard we can put candy on our ice cream there. “I’m sure,” she said. She said she’d put gummy worms on her ice cream. And I just wanted to know if she could tell me when I went out to the bleachers to find her and give her my self-portrait when we were going to go to the Golden Corral.
But when I got out there, I saw her on the phone and I didn’t want to interrupt. I listened behind the gym, heard her talking some real bad stuff. She was saying, “This place is a shit hole.” And, “I’m just so alone here.” And she told her friend that we’d made her a 7Up cake. Miss Katie was kinda laughing then. She said she spit the cake out in the bathroom. She said 7Up cake was some country shit.
I can’t believe she said that. I mean she told us that she loved the 7Up cake. And it really is so good. We never get it except only on special occasions when Sammy’s mama makes it. We all love it so much when she makes it. It’s my favorite cake.
Miss Katie said the swimming pool here doesn’t even have a diving board. I’d never thought about that before, but she said it so mean. And she said she was scared of getting robbed. She was shaking her head and getting frustrated. “Yeah, you’re right,” she said. “Helping. Yes. They needed me.” Yeah she did show us things, but I never knew that we needed any help.
Miss Katie started crying on the phone and I remembered my sister. She’d be crawling into the fridge at night when she was hungry, when she won’t supposed to be looking for something to eat. It hurt my feelings to hear Miss Katie talk like that. And I want to tell her that I don’t ever want her to come back here again because I hate her.
Ashleigh Bryant Phillips reads “Shania”
Ashleigh Bryant Phillips in conversation with Mary Miller
‘Many of my books are “novels” but they are hardly written with a narrative arch in mind. I write on a very much more micro-level: I have a sensation or sentence in mind and then I try to exhaust everything using that kernel (and with everything I primarily mean myself, but also our entire culture, it’s a futile idea no doubt).
‘And yes, there are a lot of “images” in my books, though often they are involved in a kind of near-montage-like series that do not on the whole come together (like the synthesis of Eisensteinian montage) but tends to keep moving until I and the poem are exhausted and we stop. Images do tend to be considered kitsch in American experimental poetics, a poetics that tends to be skeptical of the kind of absorptive, spectacular quality of images. But I’m very much interested in the spectacular and absorptive, in affect and poetic effects, in the visceral and fantastic.
‘I’m not all that interested in “innovative” poetry. To me it usually denotes a kind of high culture, high taste label. And also a sense of linear futurity that I think is not only boring but oppressive. I’m far more interested in the degraded and anachronistic, the trashy and the melancholic. Even “the poetic.”
‘But it’s true that my poems are very “aggressive” or violent, Joyelle wrote an article on the “ambient violence” in my work a while back. That seems true. In my mind art is very violent, but that’s not separate from the narrative. It’s in the very conflict within the artwork. I’m always at odds with myself, with my books.’ — Johannes Göransson
Johannes Göransson Poetry Against All Tarpaulin Sky
‘This slim journal contains multitudes. It’s a compulsively readable account of returning to a childhood home, a provocative meditation on artists such as Susan Sontag, Francesca Woodman, and Andrei Tarkovsky, and a radical reexamination of concepts like ruin porn, tourism, and translation. But mostly it’s an urgent manifesto. “Poetry is obscene,” Göransson writes. “But there are those who want to maintain the illusion that it is good for us.” This necessary book strips away the various illusions that have obscured poetry’s truest values. Göransson concludes: “This is written without hope.” But paradoxically, Poetry Against All offers just that. (Jeff Jackson) Moralists who find themselves clutching their pearls about this book of noir perversions should read less literally and see that Göransson’s Poetry Against All — for all its anti-libidinous interrogations of pornography, the Holocaust, and cadavers — concerns some of the most relatably humanist emotions of all: grief, the meaning of home, and the protectiveness one has about one’s children. Göransson imagines pornography as the body at the edge of otherness, at once alluring and perverse, which is not unlike the lens through which he conceives his own role as immigrant, the contaminant in our body politic, alive to the sheer horror of America but never quite able to go home himself. (Ken Chen)’
Foreigners make the best detectives, but they also make the best killers. They have no souls, portrayed as flat. This allows them to move in the volatility of atmosphere. This is also why the foreigner is kitsch. I take a selfie. Insects and electricity.
There is no cure for looking at images. At least that’s what they would have us believe. The degenerate porn addicts keep looking at pictures of naked bodies. An underworld of bodies and flowers: The poet must be a pornographer. No the poet must make pornography against porn.
In Distant Star by Roberto Bolano: The climax is when all the fascists go into the photography show and come out puking. But we don’t see the photographs. We just see the effect, the vomiting. The exhibit is like a black hole in the middle of the book: it both explains everything that happens and refused to actually show anything. Of course the photographer is a poet. The character is a poet-as-pornographer. But Bolano’s book – with its black room at the center of the book, a center that cannot be seen but whose effects is vomiting – is a work of parapornography: the pornography vomits itself.
The word “tusenskönor”: The correct translation is “daisies.” Daisies. Ann Jäderlund would never write a poem with “daisies” in it. Her poems are teeming with thousandbeauties.
The words ”baroque” and ”ruins,” which play such a central role to Friedlander’s notion of Nazi kitsch, are replayed in all the discussions in the US right now about ”ruin porn.” Ravishing pictures of luxurious ruins: Is it the fact that the ruins are mostly formerly wealthy buildings that makes the ruin porn luxurious, or is it the ruination process, the debasing process that is the ultimate luxury?
These ruin-porn buildings always strike me as toxic spaces. The toxicity of art.
With a stunning frequency, ruin porn is condemned in xenophobic terms. The photographers are accused of being foreigners, or worse, foreign tourists. I’m reading a discussion right now, where one accused photographer points out that he’s actually from Detroit. A critic immediately replies: “No, if you were really from Detroit you wouldn’t aestheticize our economic collapse.”
Not only is it only foreigners who make ”porn,” making porn seems to make you into a foreigner.
That time D. [an “experimental writer” from Bay Area] attacked me for turning her book into pornography by reading it retinally and failing to see it as a very ethical ”critique” of pornography.
Later she forbade me from writing about her writing because I come from ”some place different.” I’m not from the Bay Area. I’m from some place else. A foreigner, I made pornography out of even her moral critique. I ruined her sense of agency. I made kitsch out of her experimental art. As Haryette Mullen might have put it, I was an “unimagined reader.” I perverted her book. She had throw me out of her Republic (because I was not a member already). She wanted to denaturalize me.
Like when S. [critic and professor] said I was “tossing bombs” into US poetry. Being sensationalistic. Being a flat foreigner. Being violence.
Tarkovsky’s Stalker must be one of the origins of ”ruin porn.” The images are so beautiful – so ”ravishing” – they verge on kitsch. The snow falling indoors, the reliquary of discarded objects under water. The imagery is so gorgeous, iconophilic. I just want to look and look.
You can’t long for a place that still exists. The worst is to be in the place and yet to long for it. This paradox transforms me into a ghost. No, I was already a ghost. Since I was 13 years old I’ve been a ghost. And America has tried to exorcise me. But not as hard as I’ve tried. I’m trying right now. It’s finally working.
How strange it is to be home. Seeing this place where I grew up is oddly similar to the sensation of going to Korea. The feeling of returning home and the feeling of being some place utterly foreign, belonging and strangeness: How can these feelings be so similar? Something between joy and melancholia. A head-on crash with fantasies.
I want to take away all my ties to this place.
Went into town with Thomas and walked around. Had an ice cream and sat on the benches on Stortorget. Nothing has changed. It was sunny in that dusty way that smells of lilacs. To write The Sugar Book I have to become a tourist in my own home. I have to fake my own death. Disappear in order to live here again.
I have to make this book into a riddle.
I have to throw away the key.
In Paul Celan’s “Paris Memories,” the tourists can’t breathe until they die.
The Sacrifice, is a vacation movie, a tourist film. It could be read autobiographically. Tarkovsky is on vacation in Bergman’s Sweden, when the Soviet Union returns with nuclear attack – return of the repressed – to tear apart the fabric of his new life. Tarkovsky had of course abandoned his family in the Soviet Union in order to dedicate himself to his melancholic madness, his art. But Sweden is contaminated by his Russian nostalgia. It’s like his nostalgia brings about the end of the world.
The apartment I rent in Malmö has a beautiful terrace but it smells like sperm.
Johannes Goransson Reading, April 11, 2018
Paul Cunningham’s book trailer for The Sugar Book
‘Nathalie Léger’s The White Dress brings personal and public tragedy together in a narrative as absorbingly melancholic as its subject is shocking. The story described by Léger’s narrator – a scarcely fictional version of herself – is of the performance artist Pippa Bacca who, in 2008, set out on a symbolic journey from Milan to Jerusalem clad in a white wedding dress, hitchhiking her way through cities and countryside. Bacca was never to reach her destination. The narrator’s research of this woman’s failed journey runs alongside and increasingly intertwines with her own story, that of her tortured relationship with her mother, never recovered from a cold husband’s abandonment. Natasha Lehrer’s translation skilfully captures the fiendishly digressive style of Léger, whose sentences in their lyricism and volume often seek to dispense with the inhibitive punctuation of full-stops.
‘Readers of the previous two novels by Léger – Exposition and Suite for Barbara Loden – in what is now considered a trilogy completed by The White Dress, will be familiar with her introspective style. This trio of texts in which plot takes a back seat does to a certain extent revisit the same themes. However, The White Dress shows Léger doing something new. Her melodious intertwining of another’s story with her own recalls her other works, but this is an altogether darker, altogether more unashamedly melancholic exploration of narrative. Where Exposition constantly teeters on the verge between biography and autobiography, the narrator of The White Dress is no longer so tentative. For Léger’s message seems to be that to immerse oneself in other people’s stories, whether out of pity or simple escapism, is only to find a projection of one’s own life. Everything, for this author, is inherently autobiographical.
‘To reach such a conclusion might lead one naturally to consider that life is endlessly repetitive. If the other is a projection of the self; if, as the narrator writes when describing a range of acts by different performance artists, ‘it seems to me that it was me doing it’, then the implication is that all our thoughts, our actions, are only ever repetitions of others’ thoughts, actions. The White Dress shows us, however, that this is no bad thing. Léger brings out the fascination of memory, of identity, of melancholy, and shows that if life is endlessly repetitive then it is by nature endlessly literary. After all, as her narrator writes toward the end of the novel, ‘we are made of paper’.’ — Charlie Fox
Nathalie Léger The White Dress Dorothy, a publishing project
‘The White Dress is the third in Nathalie Léger’s award-winning triptych of books about women who “through their oeuvre, transform their lives into a mystery” (ELLE). In Exposition, Léger wrote about the Countess of Castiglione, the most photographed woman of the nineteenth century; in Suite for Barbara Loden she took up the actress and filmmaker Barbara Loden; here, Léger grapples with the tragic 2008 death of Italian performance artist Pippa Bacca, who was raped and murdered while hiking from Italy to the Middle East in a wedding dress to promote world peace. A harrowing meditation on the risks women encounter, in life and in art, The White Dress also brings to a haunting conclusion Léger’s personal interrogation—sustained across all three books—of her relationship with her mother and the desire for justice in our lives.’ — Dorothy
The dress would need to be washed occasionally. A few weeks before her departure, Pippa Bacca organized a bonfire in the garden of her studio on Via Filippo Argelati, in Milan. She sent out invitations by email: ‘If you would like to contribute to the bride’s journey, come and burn something for me.’ On a cold, wet afternoon, on Sunday 17 February 2008, she lit a huge fire in the little garden at the back of the building, and everyone, I find it quite chilling, came with an object to burn – a letter, some old papers, spices, an issue of Vanity Fair, a second-hand copy of the I Ching, greetings cards wishing her safe travels – to throw on the fire. The ashes would be used to make soap for washing the dress. The wood residues had to be salvaged, mixed with rainwater and left to infuse for a week, the mixture then filtered through a piece of fine cloth to obtain the ash extract that would then be poured into a small container. Apparently it works very well. Dazzling white restored by ashes. Why not. The dress, the white, the foot-washing, the ash, accessories, images, arguments, everything had to be terribly significant. For the dress, Pippa worked with a designer to whom she explained at length what she wanted. The fabric petals that formed the skirt represented all the countries to be crossed, like the blank pages of the notebook on which Pippa was planning to write an account of her journey. The cape was for her to wear in countries where women are required to cover their hair, and to dry feet after they were washed. Her departure was fixed for 8 March 2008. Friends and family came to Casa dei Morigi for a big party and the first foot-washing. In among all the commotion and jubilation, a melancholy accordion provided the soundtrack for the improbable ceremony of a bride setting out beneath an overcast sky on a journey to save the world.
Look at Europe from above as if it were an immense maquette. See the landscapes, forests, valleys, waterways, the lines of the highways, urban agglomerations, roundabouts and junctions, industrial zones right by huge cemeteries. Study it, follow the roads, examine the housing estates, squares, alleyways, parking lots. Lean in, observe the brightly lit interiors, the tiny apartments, minuscule kitchens, bedrooms, tables, chairs, beds and lights. Look at the bodies in miniature, simultaneously busy, lying down, eating, pacing up and down in all these tiny spaces, sitting, despondent or animated, engrossed or desperate, telling, or trying to tell, what’s happened, whatever it is that’s happened, we see people talking to each other, holding out a hand or turning away, dancing in the stippled glow of fairy lights, greeting each other, embracing, now they’re fleeing, scattering, some rush forward, they fall and don’t get up again, we see them fighting, the huge crowds look so tiny at this scale, throngs of people, convoys, people running, suddenly holes, here, there, a gaping crater made by a shell in the middle of the city, bloodied bodies, we see dogs, trains, dead bodies piling up next to fire hydrants, libraries in flames, columns of humans tramping through the dark, through the cold, we see them fleeing, suffering, dying, we see people being hunted down, executed, we see them, we see the glistening outline of corpses already putrefying in the summer sun, we see the earth dug up, makeshift graves, broken stones, we see the erasure of traces, the archaeology of concealment, close to roundabouts, or right between two highways, not even at a discreet distance.
She wanted to travel through countries that had recently experienced war. I don’t know if she saw the signs of massacres, facades of buildings riddled with bullet holes, neighbourhoods still devastated, houses still in ruins. Did she see the Potocari cemetery, the 8,372 names and the steles commemorating all those killed in Srebrenica during a single week in the summer of 1995, did she see the memorial to the Bosnian genocide at Višegrad, the stele where the word ‘genocide’ engraved on the stone had been chiselled away by one group of people then added back with marker pen by another? Asking the question, I am only trying to understand what she wanted to do: did she really think that a dress with a train could erase the horror? But why would I want to even appear to reproach her? Is it because I would have extricated from the infernal fabric one or two or ten atrocities, an entire book of inhuman suffering inflicted by humans, that I would have got closer to the truth of these massacres, would have had more legitimacy when it came to denouncing them, been more effective when it came to atoning for them?
Nathalie Léger La robe blanche
RENCONTRE AVEC NATHALIE LÉGER
‘Loudermilk centers on two friends conning their way through the 2003–2004 academic year at “the Seminars,” a prestigious Midwestern MFA program very transparently modelled on the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (Ives is an alumna). The charismatic Troy Loudermilk attends classes and is the one officially matriculated, while his extraordinarily shy sidekick Harry Rego ghostwrites the poems. As Loudermilk/Harry’s work arouses the admiration—and suspicion—of those around them, the teenaged daughter of two poetry faculty vies for Loudermilk’s affection, and a fiction student removed from the rest of the action struggles to write. Though Ives’s portrait of the Seminars/Workshop is more farcical than flattering, readers expecting yet another referendum on the MFA will be pleasantly surprised to discover a much stranger and more ambitious book. In Loudermilk, Ives has taken a subject notoriously difficult to make interesting—the difficulty of writing itself—and narrativized it into an elaborate plot peopled by avatars of the types Sontag enumerated decades ago.
‘Sontag says a good writer must be a fool and an obsessive, that the critic and the stylist are bonuses (so, inessential). But Ives—not just for her own erudition and syntactical artistry, remarkable as they are—counters that it is the critic and the stylist who are indispensable, for they are the ones who interface thought with language. Obsessions can be substituted, replaced, and tend to descend on us whether our nature is obsessive or not. Likewise, a fool’s confidence can be adopted when necessary; it’s no coincidence “bravado” so often collocates with “false” (or that Loudermilk is the only one of these characters without any apparent artistic promise of his own). Taste and intelligence can be faked, too, of course, but a good writer nevertheless must develop them sometime. Perhaps it is, after all, through the faking that the making happens.’ — Jameson Fitzpatrick
Lucy Ives Loudermilk, Or, the Real Poet; Or, the Origin of the World Soft Skull
‘It’s the end of summer 2003. George W. Bush has recently declared the mission in Iraq accomplished, the unemployment rate is at its highest in years, and Martha Stewart has just been indicted for insider trading. Meanwhile, somewhere in the Midwest, Troy Augustus Loudermilk (fair-haired, statuesque, charismatic) and his companion Harry Rego (definitely none of those things) step out of a silver Land Cruiser and onto the campus of The Seminars, America’s most prestigious creative writing program, to which Loudermilk has recently been accepted for his excellence in poetry.
‘Loudermilk, however, has never written a poem in his life.
‘Wickedly entertaining, beguiling, layered, and sly, Loudermilk is a social novel for our time: a comedy of errors that deftly examines class, gender, and inheritance, and subverts our pieties about literature, authorship, art making, and the institutions that sustain them.’ — Soft Skull
This isn’t anyone’s autobiography. What I’ve lost is so easy to name as to make it impossible to speak about.
These are the two terse sentences Clare Elwil has been writing for the past ten weeks. Her notebook jitters on the tray table. Even a single additional three-word phrase would be an improvement. For ten minus three is seven, which is equivalent to three plus four, and three times four equals twelve, which, one plus two equals three, again. Ten divided by three is a little more than three. Ten times three is thirty, and three plus zero is three. The plane, meanwhile, is one. It’s grievously small. Clare is on the plane. It was impossible to fly direct and that of course indicates something about where she is going. It was a good day this morning, light and bright; yet, occasionally, as the plane darts and veers on its descent down the unpleasant roads of the midwestern sky, she fears loss of consciousness. For a few months now her distress has attached itself to back-ground noise; it is no longer “in” her. It arrives. “On catlike feet.” This is someone’s poem, no doubt? A book on the piano in that apartment. Her mother’s apartment, Clare corrects herself. She is headed to the Seminars.
Slumbering beside her is a very pink man in his late fifties. His oblivion gives Clare ample opportunity, if not permission, to study the boyish short-sleeve button-down shirt he must wear in acquiescence to some regional career norm. Gray hairs curl on his speckled arms. His face has collapsed under weight of dream. He sighs. He is a machine for living, simple in conception and construction. In the right breast pocket of his button-down his boarding pass is displayed, as if to signal a belief that it might be reasonable and acceptable, a sensible business practice, that he be asked to leave the plane midflight should he be unable to produce the document at a moment’s notice. Associated with him is a salty scent, a faint musk; essentially inoffensive.
Clare’s body, specifically her head, rebels. Dread is taking on several recognizable shapes—like continents of the northern hemisphere of the planet Earth or, perhaps, she manages to think, these are sheep. Sheep! They lumber toward her, throbbing electrically. Or hogs. Are there three? It is possible there are three of them. Maybe four: a fourth hides behind the body of one of his fellows, seems briefly to merge stickily with the others—viscous and amorphous—before coming unabsorbed once more. “Pigs,” Clare mutters, as the angle of descent is rendered more pronounced by the professional whose gestures control this can.
Clare is a year late. She should have been making this bizarrely perilous short flight, like being thrown across the state of Illinois, at the end of the summer of 2002, when she was still a great writer. Admittedly, she had been a very young great writer, but all magnificently accomplished persons have had to be something before the period of universally acknowledged dominance—and Clare was evidently, tellingly being what she was then, which was very, very promising. It is in description now that Clare has a tendency to become most mired. No, now it is in description that Clare has a tendency to become the most mired. The tendency? Is that the word? Mired?The? She slides back and forth, on wheels, mobile yet unable to pass over the hump that stands between her and poised, proper articulation. What was it she was? Who was there? The very sentence is unnatural. The sentence is very unnatural. Who? Had anyone in fact said or believed this of her? The sense that this had happened somewhere, the naming of her, the praise of her, the walking to the home of the doughty publisher, the short man, his cobbled streets. She was to receive the award before a polished black piano. His piano, not her mother’s. To someone, oh someone, then one Clare Elwil, these events had occurred. “You have a name for a book cover,” an anemic woman in a pair of avant-garde earrings, nests of silver thread, had whispered. Clare was a stylist, a judicious narrator. She sold her story to the room. She was someone, the worthies said, who should be driving the bus, and there were daffodils jangling everywhere in Cambridge.
Here, the plane touches earth. Clare gags. A black star blooms, and she maintains herself in a kind of (obviously wishful) corporeal stillness, by force of will. The pink man stirs.
The plane bounces. There comes a smattering of applause.
Clare Elwil is in the middle of nowhere, where she will remain for the next two years, and what no one knows but they will soon discover is that she can no longer write.
Lucy Ives at Flying Object
p.s. Hey. So, tomorrow there’s this Zoom event where the legendary editor/ agent/ cultural force Ira Silverberg will be talking with Diarmuid Hester and me about WRONG. It has been given the title ‘Dennis Cooper Must Die’, and it starts at 3 pm East Coast/USA time, which means 8 pm UK time and 9 pm here in Paris, etc.). It should be cool, and you can sign up to be there here. ** G, Hi! Yeah, it’s a relief. The blog having survived. I … don’t think the blog will get taken down at this point. It is a bit confusing. The people who repaired the blog are the ones who were offended and complained about certain content (the escort/slave posts, basically), but it remains unclear as to whether that means I must remove that content or not. We’ll see. ILP has talked about reprinting ‘GONE’ again, but I’m not sure when or if that’ll happen. They have a lot of new forthcoming books on their agenda. Yes, I read your new poems on SELFFUCK yesterday, and they’re awesome. Let me share. G, also known as the wonderful writer and podcaster Golnoosh Nour, has three new poems just published on the great SELFFUCK site that I highly recommend to you. Here. Thank you about ‘Closer’, and the character map, wow! I’m sure you know I do all kinds of complicated graphs about my novels when I’m preparing to write them. Very cool! Bonnest of bon days to you! ** Armando, Hey there. Blog is back, yes, and that’s a relief, yes indeed. I’m good. I have a very painful broken toe, but I’m going to the doctor tomorrow. Paris is handling the pandemic pretty well. We’re still relatively free, and most everything is open and functioning, although the COVID cases are rising dramatically right now, so we’ll see if that lasts. So sorry to hear it’s still intense there. We’ve been pretty lucky in Europe. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was sixteen, and I go vegan fairly often. I’ve been vegan (albeit with a few dairy slips in restaurants) for about a year now. Favorite Tom Waits album? Mm … I guess ‘Bone Machine’. I don’t listen him all that much. Yes, I have a fondness for Black Metal. Darkthrone … hm. I like the early stuff best, so maybe ‘Under a Funeral Moon’. ‘Plaguewielder’ is pretty great too. Your Waits and Darkthrone faves? ‘Climax’: I thought it was Gaspar regrouping after the complete disaster that was ‘Love’ and doing what he already knew how to do rather than pushing himself further forward, so I was somewhat let down by that, but I did enjoy it quite a lot. And you? Good to talk with you too. I’m going to Paris’s Halloween haunted house attraction at Le Manoir de Paris tonight, so I’m very psyched about that, and having a Syrian dinner beforehand, and otherwise probably working on stuff. You? ** Misanthrope, Her films are all over the place, so it’s easy to not know if she’s steering things. Find out how Japan is doing. I wonder if I picked up a guitar whether I could re-find my abilities thereby. I’ve barely touched a guitar since I was 19. It’s the escorts/slaves who are the predictable problem, partly because the WP people are not remotely artist types, and convincing them those posts are not intended to pimp actual escorts to the blog’s viewers is being quite difficult. Oh, boy, re: David. He’s a very lucky dude, but luck is not eternal, so I hope he gets some objectivity on his own accord before it’s too late. Man oh man. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. An indie musical about a gay mailman sounds like it has possibilities. I don’t know that Michael Chabon story. Well, I hope it’s something Gus actually really cares about and is actually into because it’s been ages since he’s made a film that wasn’t just okay at best, in my opinion. ** Dominik, Hi there, pal! Glad the post was in your realm. I think the blog will be okay. It is tricky, but I think it’s going to be fine. I may need to dump or make the escort/slave posts differently. We’ll see. No, Zac and I ended up spending the day going to art galleries, but I’ll see the new Noe in the next few days. ‘Skype-beer’, nice. Not as nice as ‘Beer-beer’, but … Ha ha. Rimbaud being fisted by Baudelaire love, Dennis. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. I think it’ll be fine. The blog, I think. Not for sure, but it’s looking a little brighter at this very moment. If your parents don’t get punk, watching ‘Decline’ with them should be quite amusing. It is ultra-punk. Still no new restrictions on us in Paris, but they could be imposed any day now. ** politekid, Hey, Oscar!!! That’s cool about the bookstore stint. Not so much about the power mess obviously. What’s the puppetry and object theatre book? I don’t imagine I can get BFIPlayer over here, but I’ll check. That’s a very sweet line up right there. Ozu dive: big up on that! Like I said up above, I think the blog situation will be okay. I’m very nerve racked about blog problems after the google thing, so I’m very wary and get easily worried, but I think the blog is safe. It’s just about whether I need to delete some offending posts or not. It’s been quiet here. Just working on some writing, looking at art, going to a haunted house attraction tonight (!!!!), and … not too much. What about you, man? ** Steve Erickson, Hi. Well, it’s the WP repair crew that has the issues, not anyone out there reading, as far as I can tell. I didn’t see the Noe yet, but the new one (which I will see shortly) is ‘Lux Aeterna’. It’s the one that premiered at Cannes, and I think it’s still 60 minutes long as far as I can tell. Word is that it’s kind of a mess, but I’m always interested to see what Gaspar makes, and Paul Hameline, who was in ‘Like Cattle Towards Glow’, is in it, and I’m curious to see his performance. Ever more interesting about the Leary doc. We had three mice in our apartment this summer, but we started cleaning better and using a metal trash bin, and they seem to have lost interest in or apartment now. Good luck with yours. ** Right. Here are, as advertised, four books I just read and loved and recommend. Check ’em out, won’t you? See you tomorrow.