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The blog of author Dennis Cooper

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Marie Losier Day

 

‘Marie Losier’s artistic universe is built around friends, family and idols she summons in a crazy maelstrom. Mainly known for her work behind the camera (a Bolex 16mm wound every 30 seconds), the artist, for some years now, has exhibited monotypes and installations connected with her films.

‘Her imagery is inspired by the figures of the New York underground and experimental cinema of the Kuchar brothers to Paul Sharits, as well as by her accomplice Tony Conrad, and her new French friends Yann Gonzalez, Bertrand Mandico. She formed a part of this brotherhood during her years in New York. Others, like Felix Kubin, will come, thanks to her travels and her projects when back in Europe. They all are good times or bad times companions, faithful friends and the partners of a constantly changing and reconsidered art, which evokes Méliès as well as the clips on MTV and the beat poetry, the camp universe, Fluxus or video art and low fi.

‘Eyes are seen from the street; you are theatrically invited to pass through the colorful curtain in order to discover the effervescence sweeping through the the gallery. On one of the walls, the powerful and moving black and white drawing of a headless woman with animal feet, a hybrid character: inside her, she carries cameras, she brings to life a film, which will be animated through an eagle’s legged projector.

‘The film is in color and an animation of faces and color strobe light. It is a portrait, a melting pot of faces, which unreel successively to form just one. Farther, a few seconds long loops of images are shown in decorated boxes. These videos, reruns of the artist’s films, drawn from her rushes, give a new life to the protagonists in an overflowing and baroque showcase, like magic lanterns, which remind you of the beginnings of the cinema.

‘Marie Losier mingles, like North American artists know so well how to, her personal life with her work, into a euphoric and generous self-fiction. Her works depict a big and happy house, from which the parents would be away, leaving excited, full of imagination children, who burst out laughing while playing grown-ups. They build huts and flying saucers, dress up and paint their faces, cook, eat, laugh, sing and jump everywhere. They wear flowery bathing caps, octopuses and birds by way of headgear, they throw golden flakes, and, above all, they never forget to dance.’ — Emilie Flory

 

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Stills









































 

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Further

Marie Losier Website
Marie Losier @ Re:Voir
Marie Losier @ IMDb
Audio: Marie Losier :” Je conçois plutôt mes films comme des tableaux vivants”
PORTFOLIO: Marie Losier, portraits de famille
Marie Losier on Vimeo
Marie Losier @ Galerie Anne Barrault
Marie Losier @ Collectif Jeune Cinéma
Marie Losier bio, resume (en Francais)
Marie Losier @ Facebook
« Cassandro est tiraillé entre mille masques »
Marie Losier @ Art Jaws
Marie Losier @ Film-makers Coop
Marie Losier @ letterboxd
Q&A: Marie Losier
Love Song: Marie Losier on The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye

 

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Extras


HELLO HAPPINESS! – Marie Losier (trailer)


Marie Losier. Confettis atomiques !


Interview de Marie Losier


Orlan meets Genesis (2009)

 

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Interview
from The Metrograph

 

Austin Dale: You lived in New York for 23 years. Why did you first move to New York from France?

Marie Losier: I was obsessed with New York since I was a kid, because I used to watch all the Ernst Lubitsch and Billy Wilder movies. My parents had a cinema and we always showed those films. I was obsessed with American cinema. And then when I got older, I studied American literature, especially Edward Albee and Tennessee Williams. I got a grant to do an exchange, to write a thesis on that subject. And I went to New York, but I never came back. And I didn’t follow the grants, and I didn’t write the thesis, and I went to art school in painting.

AD: How does one go from studying painting to making experimental films?

ML: It really began because I started working in a wonderful cineclub, Ocularis, and that lasted ten years, in Williamsburg. I acquired a Bolex that was a gift from Brian Frye, who was working with the Robert Beck Memorial Cinema. And so I went to the Millennium Film Workshop when Mike Kuchar was there, and I learned to use the Bolex from him. I made my first film without knowing anything, and it was a portrait of Mike Kuchar, Bird Bath and Beyond.

AD: Were you aware of New York experimental filmmakers like Kuchar? Or were you kind of exploring it as you went along?

ML: In art school, when I was still studying painting, I was already skipping a lot of classes to go to the cinema, and I worked to make money for Richard Foreman, making sets. So I was already sort of connected the underground. But then I really learned about that type of cinema at the Anthology Film Archive.

AD: It’s an exposure you certainly wouldn’t have had in Paris.

ML: No. When I grew up in France, I used to sneak out of literature class to go to the Cinematheque Française, but they were mostly classics: American films and also Japanese films. That was much more that legacy that I grew up with, and that is still very present there. But the experimental cinema is much more structureless and minimalist than the kind of films they show in Paris.

AD: In your films there’s definitely the kind of handheld, structureless immediacy that you find in movies by Marie Menken or Jack Smith. I’m curious about how you developed your style.

ML: It came with time over 15 years. First I was making short films in one day, more performative films, but then suddenly I started making films on friends like Mike Kuchar, like Tony Conrad, like Richard Foreman. And since they were close friends I would take my time. I would spend my time recording sounds, stories, and then filming a mix between fiction and documentary in my own way, always relating to the creative process of each of these artists. And sometimes it would take one year, sometimes it would take five years. I would always do the camera work, with no crew, no one to help. It’s just me and the camera and the sound.

And slowly, without knowing it, I made the feature film with The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, which was finished after seven years. And that is where I started crafting more and more the collage between the documentary-style: I was shooting the everyday process of creating, and then constructing more fictional, performative parts out of that. And with Cassandro there is even more narrative, in the sense that there was a mix between archival footage, Skype, video, and film. The collage was extended even to the medium itself.

AD: One thing that comes across to me in your movies it that you come to these people, your subjects, kind of from the perspective of a fan, and I relate to it very much, you know, as someone who interviews people I admire all the time.

ML: That’s interesting. I don’t think at all like a fan, otherwise I think I would not be able to make these kind of films. Sometimes I don’t know anything about the person I meet, like Genesis P-Orridge. It was more a friendship that developed, and I discovered their artwork and who they are as I was making the film. But it’s because there’s a pure friendship, and not being a fan, that the distance is possible, because it’s a very humble, horizontal way of making the film. There’s a trust on both sides. On my side, but on their sides, without questioning the process of making.

And I think that’s why it becomes what it becomes, with a lot of emotion, a lot of feelings. And it’s not a written script with a fact-basis. It’s more like a love-letter to the person I share a piece of my life with through our friendship.

AD: I love that the rhythm of your body ends up informing the way the films. The subjects of your films are also using their bodies in their work.

ML: It has always been, for me, one of the main canvasses on which everything can be shown, seen, painted, transformed. It’s the texture, it’s the color, it has curves, it has beauty marks. Also the beauty is in what a body can do: incredible sports, transformation, dance. And it can be its own art: the lucha libre for Cassandro, the pandrogeny for Genesis.

AD: I’m noting some similarities between your story and Chantal Akerman’s, in that you both came to New York and found your way into your work through looking at films at Anthology.

ML: What a compliment. I knew Chantal, and she was a very warm person in my life. I didn’t work with her, but when she lived in New York we spent a lot of time together, and I also gave her a retrospective at the French Institute when I used to curate there. I programmed for 13 years at the French Institute, and that’s how I learned a lot.

 

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14 of Marie Losier’s 16 films

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Electrocute your Stars (2004)
‘With George Kuchar.“You always have to be careful, you always have to have the shower backward in order to see the water, which means you better watch out, or you might electrify or electrocute your stars. You know what I mean, by having the light falling into the tub” -GK This is a dream-portrait of George Kuchar, traveling through snow confetti, strobe flashes and artificial wind as he describes his weather diaries. And then George joins Janet Leigh in the shower. Wearing a red raincoat and a shower cap, reading comic books and blowing bubbles, he laughingly describes his bathing rituals and the making of his film, Hold Me While I’m Naked.’ — Collectif Jeune Cinema


Excerpt

 

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Bird, Bath and Beyond (2004)
‘With Mike Kuchar. “I don’t put myself into my movies because that would be too much – my pictures reflect my own feelings. So hopefully it’s entertaining. Otherwise I can’t bear looking at them, ha ha!” — MK. In this dream-portrait of Mike Kuchar, he floats through his memories as the sea, space and sky drift past. Wrapped in odd costumes, he frolics with the imaginary creatures surrounding him, and recalls the creatures of his own imagination.’ — Collectif Jeune Cinema


Excerpt

 

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The Ontological Cowboy (2005)
‘w/ Richard Foreman, Juliana Francis, Tom Ryder Smith and JaySmith.“The theater is about sex.” At least according to Richard Foreman, the father of the Ontological Hysterical Theater. The Ontological Cowboy documents Foreman’s invocation of the “manifest destiny” of the avant-garde theater, King Cowboy Rufus strolling down off San Juan Hill with a sigh, waving his handkerchief. Foreman plays himself, and the cast pantomimes his preoccupations. If “the cast and crew suffer alike,” it’s all for a good cause: the violent rebirth of the American theater, with Foreman as its midwife.’ — Collectif Jeune Cinema


Excerpt

 

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Manuelle Labor (2007)
‘Collaboration film Marie Losier and Guy Maddin. Two sisters, five brothers, a doctor and two nurses and the miraculous birth of a pair of hands..but whose hands… “Marie, that shot of the hands coming out o’ your womb is a dilly!!! What an honour to be born of you! your son, Guy” (Guy Maddin).’ — CJC


Excerpt

 

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Tony Conrad, Dreaminimalist (2008)
‘The latest in Marie Losier’s ongoing series of film portraits of avant-garde directors (George and Mike Kuchar, Guy Maddin, Richard Foreman), DreaMinimalist offers an insightful and hilarious encounter with Conrad as he sings, dances and remembers his youth and his association with Jack Smith.’ — Re:Voir


Excerpt


Excerpt

 

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Slap the Gondola (2010)
‘Musical with music, musicians, muses and fishes… On a giant ferry, two mermaids (Tony Conrad and Genesis P-Orridge) play violin to attract the fish from the sea, when suddenly a giant fish with 30 dancers in its stomach lands on board. April March, the great singer appears while singing out of the fish belly while 30 costumed dancers jump around in this surreal setting … when a fish fight ensue.. ‘What a brilliant explosion of brilliance! Brilliant colors! Brilliant music! Brilliant costumes! Brilliant casting! I shall cherish this masterpiece forever!’ Guy Maddin.’ — IMDb


Excerpt

 

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Snow Beard (2010)
‘Marie Losier’s poignant short film offers a moving tribute to New York icon Mike Kuchar, filmed on his last day before leaving Manhattan to relocate to San Francisco.’ — fandor


Excerpt

 

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Eat My MakeUp! (2010)
‘Five winsome damsels picnic on the roof of a warehouse in charming Long Island City, a forest of skyscrapers gleaming across the river. But when a swarm of flies interrupts their feast of chocolate-covered pretzels and cream-pies, the young ladies run amok.’ — fandor


the entirety

 

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The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye (2012)
‘Genesis P-Orridge has been one of the most innovative and influential figures in music and fine art for the last 30 years. A link between the pre- and post-punk eras, he is the founder of the legendary groups COUM Transmissions (1969-1976), Throbbing Gristle (1975-1981), and Psychic TV (1981 to present), all of which merged performance art with rock music. Celebrated by critics and art historians as a progenitor of “industrial music”, his innovations have transformed the character of rock and electronic music while his prodigious efforts to expand the boundaries of live performance have radically altered the way people experience sound in a concert setting.

‘This is a love story, and a portrait of two lives that illustrate the transformative powers of both love and art. Marie Losier brings to us the most intimate details of Genesis’s extraordinary, uncanny world. In warm and intimate images captured handheld, Losier crafts a labyrinthine mise-en-scene of interviews, home movies, and performance footage. The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye documents a truly new brand of Romantic consciousness, one in defiance of the daily dehumanization of the body by the pervasive presence of advertising and pornography, conveying beauty, dignity and devotion from a perspective never before seen on film.’ — Unifrance


Trailer


Excerpt

 

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Bim Bam Boum Las Luchas Morenas (2013)
‘Three women/three sisters/three professional luchadoras, part of the Dynasty Moreno: Rossy, Esther and Cynthia are competitive wrestlers on the ring. But they also bring lucha libre into life, wrestling with knives, pig heads, flowers and feathers!’ — Teddy Award


Excerpt


Interview Marie Losier ‘Bim, Bam, Boom Las Luchas Morenas’

 

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Alan Vega, just a million dreams (2014)
‘This intimate portrait depicts the moving and rebellious soul of groundbreaking visual artist and pioneer of minimalist electronic rock, Alan Vega, vocalist and composer for 1970s and 80s punk/post punk duo Suicide. Alan plays with the camera while loving, fighting and living with his family —Liz Lamere, his wife and collaborator, and their prodigal son Dante, young replica of Alan. Traces of joy, eccentricity, illumination, the rock-n-roll Alan Vega is still very alive, funny and rebellious!’ — CJC


Trailer


Excerpt

 

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L’oiseau de la nuit (2015)
‘Mysterious portrait of Fernando, aka Deborah Krystal, the glittering and poetic performer of the Lisbon club Finalmente, where he has been performing every night over thirty years in golden dresses. Under the layers of his colorful fabrics, the many skins of Fernando are revealed, letting Lisbon’s legends come to life. Alternately woman mermaid, female birds, woman lion, we are taken into the desires and dreams of metamorphosis and myths.’ — Portugal Film


Excerpt


Interview with Marie Losier about “L’Oiseau de la Nuit”

 

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Cassandro, the Exotico! (2018)
‘There’s a virtually metaphysical dimension to Cassandro’s struggle with his sport’s public and private rigors. He practices shamanic and traditional rituals, which, he says, help him to get through times when “physical pain and emotional pain is too much.” His solitary confrontation with pain (as in an extended sequence of his efforts to compete on a reconstructed and still-healing knee) is doubled by his solitude in sequences of spiritual devotion in the desert and of the ecstasy of religious chants and rites, as well as his solitary confrontation with a lifetime of trauma and torment that his performances both mask and overcome—and, to the discerning eye, embody.

‘Losier is a filmmaker who, like a mathematician, shows her work: the relationship on which the film is built is built into the film. Its photographic element, its sense of style, emerges from her experience and her perception, rather than being imposed from outside. What’s more, there’s something sublimely literal about the notion of Losier’s camera-eye; she made the movie with a handheld camera—of 16-mm. film, not video. The movie has handcrafted quality, an intimate texture as well as a built-in air of nostalgia. It evokes the present becoming past, and yet monumental, before Losier’s very eyes; she appears to be rescuing fragments of Cassandro’s career before it passes into legend.’ — Richard Brody, The New Yorker


Trailer


Rencontre avec Marie Losier // “Cassandro, the Exotico”

 

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Felix in Wonderland (2019)
‘Fall into the world of Felix Kubin’s experimentation and creation of music sound and his mastering of his instrument of predilection, the KORG MS20. A portrait of a great artist who never stops living with music in his head. With Felix creative power and endless inspiration, the film brings you into the universe of pure Music, from electronic music, to radio play, pop, music concrete, opera, and microphone experiments…. Felix is the little Nemo of a new sleepless world of music and pure joy!’ — IMDb


Trailer

 

*

p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Not a great husband either. ** Dominik, Good morning (my time), Dominik!! Ah, if you know Gurochan, you know the main source. Yeah, that place is … wow. Ha ha, thank you, but if you forget and add the ‘birth’ part, I won’t mind. I’m resigned to that day’s title. Yes, it’s the only art I’ve seen in person in forever, weirdly and sadly, although ‘art’ is pushing it in that case. Me too, i.e. I’m sort thinking if I’m still healthy now, I’ve probably evaded it since I don’t see or touch anybody who sees or touches anybody. The supermarkets here now require people who enter to wash their hands with this sanitary gel by the door before you go in. I think contrabass is the right English word, or I know what you mean anyway. That’s nice that he can keep playing and studying. Ooh, that’s very interesting: your writing by visualising technique. That’s extremely interesting. What a great sounding way to enter writing unrestricted by the standard imposed forms. Exciting! And that it sounds like it’s working well for you. That’s great, uplifting news right there. My favorite Guided by Voices changes a lot. If you’re asking what’s a good one to start with, I would say ‘Bee Thousand’, which is often considered their best, and it’s also a very characteristic album where you’ll know if you’re interested in what Pollard/they do and want to go further. My personal favorite is often ‘Under the Bushes, Under the Stars’, or I seem to keep going back to that one as my favorite eventually. I’m fine. Yesterday, hm, I … took a walk. Bought some supermarket supplies. I watched a documentary about the history of Grindcore called ‘Slave to the Grind’. It’s watchable on YouTube. It was your basic mixture of historical footage and talking heads, but it was interesting to get that genre’s history straight, and a lot of the old footage was fantastic. That got me in the mood for music documentaries so I watched another, ‘Echo in the Canyon’, about the late 60s/early 70s Laurel Canyon music scene, which wasn’t very good, and then ‘Love Story’, the documentary about the band Love, one of my all-time favorite bands, and that was quite good although I don’t know if it would be so interesting to non-preexisting fans. Emails. A tiny bit of meandering writing. I think that’s it. Best of luck with your today, and how/what was it?  White walled-in love intersected with the sound of flapping pigeon wings, me. ** _Black_Acrylic, Oh, no, you’re losing your family. What do they like to watch? Very nice list there, and, weirdly, I actually know every single one of those tracks — you often stump me — and also think they’re greaties. ** Bill, Yes, these times seem to make Ohle pop. No, nothing but pharmacies and markets here. There’s been talk of the electronics and home supply stores doing what yours are doing, but nothing yet. So enjoy your relative luckiness. I would kill to be able to stroll over to FNAC and pick up a Switch at their door. Do share! ** jamie, Ha ha. Mr. Jensen in the house! Hey, Jamie! You hanging way in there over there? I’m way tired of hunkering down over here but hanging in there, maybe not ‘way’ in there. Or maybe so. Who can tell anymore? Love, me. ** Misanthrope, I think aiming big to start with is absolutely the way to go. The only problem is that it’s very tough to get into the major presses or even get your mss. read there without an agent’s intervention, whereas with the smaller, indie presses agent-less writers are fairly usual. That’s the rub. But, yeah, shoot high, for sure. Big presses are always in search of new writers, actually. It’s often easier for them to hype an unknown as the next big thing than to be in a situation where they need to try to sell a book by saying it’s the next one by a writer you already know. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. I don’t think it’s about aesthetisizing. It’s about paying attention to it while keeping it in context. Well, same here basically. 90% of the people you see when you go out are the homeless. There are shelters for them here, but a lot of them want to stay on the street, and, with the city being deserted, the police leave them be much more than they usually do. Very cool about the props from the George Crumb protege! Very nice! I’ve gotten queries from five different anthologies in progress about the very thematic you suggest. I expect the first one to get rush released any day now. ** Okay. Marie Losier is best known for her documentary ‘The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye’, but her films are generally really wonderful and terrific, when they’re about known figures — Alan Vega, George Kuchar, Tony Conrad, etc. — and when they focus on more obscure figures or no one in particular. Long story short, you’ll have a good time with her work today if you allow yourselves, and, obviously, I hope you will. See you tomorrow.

Jeff presents … David Ohle Day *

* (restored)
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David Ohle is a natural born terrorist — inso-far as Naked Lunch is the definitive English translation of the Koran. And if — as was provocatively asserted in Don DeLillo’s Mao II — the terrorist has hijacked the novelist’s role within our culture, is it then somehow supercilious of me to report that Ohle has written a novel that will behead his readers? Said novel is The Age of Sinatra, in which, it should be noted, “elective deformation” of one’s body is the predominant fashion trend. Readers, in this case, can attire themselves however they see fit (the orange jumpsuit is optional). And I’d like to propose that getting your head lopped off by Ohle’s fiction is a strange and unforgettable experience.

Some essential backstory: The Age of Sinatra is billed as a sequel to Motorman, published in 1972 by Knopf, and just reissued by 3rd Bed. Here we first encountered Moldenke, the stonepick-smoking, compulsive letter-writing, Beckettian hero (“At best I can say that I am here, although I don’t know where. I am at large and about”) as he journeys to and through a place dubbed the bottoms. Moldenke, suffering from a heart condition, consults his physician, Dr. Burnheart, who installs four sheep hearts in Moldenke’s chest, and removes one of his lungs. Moldenke is also a veteran of the “mock War” in which citizens enlist for an injury of their own devising. He, in a moment of guilt-induced heroism, volunteered to give up “a list of feelings” and to receive a “minor fracture,” whereupon a nurse promptly smashed his kneecap.

Motorman’s landscape is chockablock with multiple suns and moons (Ohle effortlessly strafes the traditional tropes of science fiction, the epistolary novel, and the picaresque), and is populated with a nefarious breed of faux humans called jellyheads. Here is a scenish bit of prose in which an otherwise listless Moldenke combats two hitchhiking jellyheads he unwittingly picked up in his k-rambler: “Moldenke exposed his letter opener. ‘You first.’ The man came forward. ‘Bend over.’ The man bowed. With the letter opener, Moldenke opened a small hole in the back of the neck, enough for two fingers. He put a thumb and forefinger in and widened the hole, a clear jelly spilling out, down his trenchpants. He did the woman, her jelly more clouded, her rubber skull a little thicker than the professor’s had been. In the morning, with two suns behind him like stray moons, he examined his vehicle.” This is a textual torture so pleasurable that Motorman generated an ominous subplot while out of print—that of readers’ reverent anti-chatter about the novel’s spiritual effects. Forget cult status: Motorman birthed its own sleeper cell.

– from ‘Invitation to a Beheading’ by Gabe Hudson. Read the rest here

 

Motorman

For a long time I was scared to read Motorman. It had come recommended to me in such hushed tones that it sounded disruptively incendiary and illegal. Not only would the reader of this crazed novel burn to ashes, apparently, but he might be posthumously imprisoned for reading the book — a jar of cinder resting in a jail cell. Books were not often spoken of so potently to me, as contraband, as narcotic, as ordnance. There was the whispered promise that my mind would be blown after reading Motorman. There was the assurance that once I read it I would drool with awe, writerly awe, the awe of watching a madman master at work, David Ohle, awesomely carving deep, black holes into the edifice of the English language.

— from the introduction to the Calamari Press edition of Motorman by Ben Marcus

Motorman is the only book ever given to me photocopied in full. That’s how hard to get it was, and how badly I wanted it.

David Ohle’s legendary first novel was published some three decades ago, in 1972, and it has since been out of print. Ohle himself, while continuing to write and intermittently publish, has remained almost completely unknown. So this earlier book, reprinted to coincide with the release of his new novel, The Age of Sinatra, enters the world as something fresh that is also the secret ancestor of the most daring speculative fiction of our time.

Motorman tells the story of a hapless everyman named Moldenke, who gets by in the gray areas of a world that’s almost all gray areas—a science fiction-tinged world with two suns, a number of “government moons,” man-made humanoids called jellyheads, and mock wars where soldiers volunteer for injury. Moldenke receives some menacing phone calls from a man named Bunce, who claims to have tapes of everything everyone’s ever said about him. To escape from Bunce, he sets out to find his old mentor, Dr. Burnheart.

Motorman is a quest narrative, of a sort. But you won’t read this book for the plot. It does have a narrative thread, but one composed of snippets whose ends barely meet. The language, too, is not quite English as we know it. Attributes and effects coagulate into strange new objects — “a building with structural moans” — while familiar objects are defamiliarized. Here’s Moldenke taking notes on some birds: “Rapid pecking followed by pauses.” Got it. “Long, agile tongue coated with a jellylike substance.” OK . . . “When the tongue is retracted it apparently wraps around the brain.” What? That “apparently” is the kicker here. This is a world that does facts —we’re not in the realm of pure poesy — but the rules have all been changed. Don’t expect Ohle to spell them out for you, either. Like very few other writers — the Joseph McElroy of Plus, the Burroughs of Nova Express — Ohle maintains a high level of indeterminacy in both his fictional world and the language he uses to tell us about it. The result is disorienting, vertiginous, thrilling: “Roquette pierced the water with his stick. ‘Good,’ he said. ‘It’s thick enough to walk on.'”

It helps to be light on your feet. Like one of the novel’s geographic oddities, the River Jelly, this book is only semi-solid. The tiny chapters (sometimes no more than a few lines long) appear adrift in white space, which starts to feel like a positive substance, something Ohle himself might invent in his fiction: a sort of viscous fog from which unrecognizable objects emerge. “He felt something without form, something edgeless, rushing at him from the direction of eastern light.” But before you float away on this nebulous fare, Ohle gives you something solid: a name. “Is that you, Bunce? Mr. Bunce?”

Bunce. A goofy name, a bounce with just a little of the air let out of it. There is something clownish about Bunce and his threats. But clowns are scary, and all is not right in this world of incessant, pointless surveillance, petty bureaucratic meanness, decay and graft and moral inertia. All is not right inside Moldenke, either, and that’s obvious not just from the arrhythmia in his four sheep hearts but from the arrhythmia in the narrative, its stutter and lurch. By the end of the book, we have lost track of time (easy to do in a world where six “technical months” can pass in a single day), and neither we nor Moldenke knows exactly what has been going on. Moldenke thinks he might have let the goo out of a pair of jellyheads with a letter opener. Or was it a screwdriver? It’s dizzying but exhilarating for a reader to be given so much room to play. A typical mobile might seem too pretty an image to serve as a descriptive metaphor for a book by Ohle, but I have a different image in mind. A friend from high school once called me in tears: He was trying to make a mobile out of dead bugs but was having trouble bringing them into balance. If he had succeeded, that mobile might resemble this book: delicate and grotesque, tragic and hilarious, precarious but perfectly balanced.

– from ‘Gross Anatomy’ by Shelley Jackson. Read the rest here

Read an excerpt from Motormanhere
Buy Motorman from Calamari Press here

 

The Age of Sinatra

After the most recent Forgetting, Ohle’s luckless protagonist Moldenke is in possession of only his name and the bare facts of his former life. He finds himself cruising on the Titanic through a bizarre alternate reality where elective deformation is a fashion trend, neuts and human settlers do their best to live together in relative harmony, and the only available sustenance is stomach-churning fare. Everyone agrees the Stinkers are troublesome and something must be done. President Ratt not only fails to control the Stinker problem, but he also has a penchant for decreeing absurd laws and issuing random vouchers of innocence. Violators with valid vouchers defer their punishments to guiltless bystanders — regulations that land Moldenke and his fellows in prison more than once.

Rumours are circulating that another Forgetting is imminent, and that the Forgettings are induced by Ratt’s radio broadcasts. The prison guard Montfaucon emerges as Ratt’s political rival, and Moldenke, ever the yes-man, finds himself inadvertently involved in a plot to assassinate the president. The rebels hope to return to the Age of Sinatra, “when happiness was not only considered achievable, but hailed as the ideal state of being.”

– from ‘About the book’ at Soft Skull Press

The legendary author of Motorman is back. In The Age of Sinatra, David Ohle is so attuned to reality that he has invented a brand new world to reflect it. Whereas what is generally called realistic fiction is busy cataloging what we wear and buy, Ohle is documenting our last secrets, and he’s doing it with droll hilarity, brilliance, and a genuinely original vision.

— Ben Marcus

Ohle’s visceral world splices together such diversities as Rabelasian humor, schizophrenia, science fiction, a twisted version of the Kennedy assassination, necronauts, conspiracy theory, aphasia, genetic manipulation, surrealism, the Titanic, cyperpunk, the French sewers, gland eating, hair smoking, pig hearts, and a constantly shifting system of law to create a hilarious yet compelling dystopia. A beatifully strange novel, imbued with nervous laughter and serious social critique, The Age of Sinatra is a startling book, excessive in all the right ways.

— Brian Evenson

Read an excerpt from The Age of Sinatra here
Buy The Age of Sinatra from Soft Skull Press here

 

The Pisstown Chaos

The Pisstown Chaos tells the story of one family’s journey in the midst of environmental and political crisis, disease and forced relocation. Power is concentrated in the hands of the Reverend Herman Hooker, an “American Divine,” who revels in the sufferings of others as he spouts platitudes to the masses.

When the Reverend attempts to overcome a rampant parasite infestation by decreeing population “shifts,” the members of Balls family find themselves subject to relocation at a moment’s notice. The family persists through unfair imprisonment, persecution, and forced labor, subsisting on urpmeal and getting stoned on willywhack to occupy the time. Mildred Balls is imprisoned in a parasite control facility; her grandson Roe is ordered to mate with a parasite victim; and his sister Ophelia is sent to one of the Reverend’s Templexes, where she will serve as an acolyte in absolute silence. Meanwhile, an evermore confused and enfeebled Reverend struggles to maintain his grip on the country as the chaos rages on.

This is David Ohle’s foreboding, strange and comedic follow-up to Motorman and The Age of Sinatra, the story of one brave family’s struggle against an absolute, corrupt, and increasingly irrational centralized power, and their quest to be reunited.

– from ‘About the Book’ at Soft Skull Press

Read The Pisstown Chaos online free at WOWIO here
And/or buy it from Soft Skull Press here

 

Boons & The Camp

David Ohle knows how to evoke the unsettling. Whether describing a subtly altered twentieth century or reviewing his childhood in New Orleans, his talent for quietly jarring imagery never flags.This volume collects two novellas, one that suggests the gender and geopolitics of the last century interwoven with Cronenbergian body horror, the other evoking economic exploitation with abundant, and bleak, comedy.

Start with Boons, about a disgraced South American professor with an obsession with the bird-people of the title. It is, literally, a visceral read: infections are described in grotesque detail, and worms and intestines make prominent appearances. (There’s also the professor’s own medical condition, in which his body occasionally produces bone “relics.”) It’s set in a world that strongly resembles our own in certain respects, though the fact that Pol Pot is among the historical figures to make an appearance indicates that we’re in a place, morally speaking, where atrocities are all too common. The boons of the title occupy a strange place somewhere between mythology and allegory. The Professor’s fixation on boons is both scientific and sexual, and is every bit as unsettling as one might expect. His tendencies in other matters, including the forging of false religious artifacts and the aforementioned encounter with Pol Pot, are no less comforting. And yet both the Professor and Ruthie, the boon with whom he becomes obsessed, are compelling and distinctive, their interactions tragic and horrific.

The Camp is set in a world that, at least on the surface, appears more recognizable, closer to our own. Its characters are, relative to Boons, much more stylized — almost figures from an archetypal melodrama. At one end are the Chungs, a comfortably married couple working in the kind of factory that leads to anti-capitalist protests. The fundamental decency of the Chungs is sharply contrasted with the rapaciousness of Mr. Ganzfeld, the owner of their workplace. Ganzfeld is a villain from an earlier era: Snidely Whiplash with a fake nose. (More precisely: a series of fake noses, each more horrific than its predecessor.) And while Ohle sets this story in a nebulous time and space, his characters seem taken from a masochist’s morality play: the virtuous remain exploited and abused, while the rich go to their graves with bloated wallets and heady satisfaction.

One quality shared by these novellas is Ohle’s ability to evoke unknown landscapes: the harsh industrial topography of The Camp feels every bit as vivid as the deconstructed exoticism of Boons, and each world feels fully inhabited. These are places where atrocities happen on nearly every level, but it’s hard to look away. Ohle’s craft is precise, and his funhouse reflections of our own anxieties, oppressions, and obsessions make for a grimly compelling read — it dwells in the place after the sense of wonder has been debased, spiked liberally with horror.

– Jason Diamond, Vol. 1 Brooklyn

Read an excerpt here
Read another excerpt here
Buy the book here

 

The Blast

One of the most frightening and brilliant aspects of David Ohle’s futuristic novels is how eerily they parallel our own landscape. Motorman (1972), The Age of Sinatra (2004), The Pisstown Chaos (2008), and Boons and The Camp (2009) all share the same backdrop, a realm not explicitly said to be post-apocalyptic, but certainly one where the workings of the world have been inhumanely redefined and most of its inhabitants struggle for life and scrap for sustenance—physically, emotionally, and psychologically.

Ohle’s latest foray into this world is The Blast (Calamari Press, 2014), which centers on Wencel, a teenager at St. Cuthbert’s Boys Academy, a school unafraid to torture and maim students for their grooming habits; and Wencel’s mother, whose daily combat is to make what little they have count, braving the “souk” market and the threat of wild and vicious poodles, all the while attempting to instill her own slim virtues on her son as best she can. Wencel’s father reappears mid-novel too, having been arrested for stealing a radio, then released from his sentence as another victim of an awful and rampant illness—one that turns people into husks of their former selves, with bodies that no longer require food or sleep, but tooth pullings and odor shellac instead.

As far-reaching and distant as all of this may seem, in The Blast, as in his previous novels, Ohle masterfully shows us how his world is so very sadly and frighteningly like our own. Parents battle to teach their children what they believe is right and good, the top tier of wealth and power dominate the rest, the government is degenerate at best, and there is an unchecked spread of disease. Wencel is really just like our teenagers, even if his studies include “Pop History” and “Emoticonics”. His young brawl to make a life in Ohle’s brutal setting is more like a mirror than we might want to admit, and more rewarding than we might expect, too.

– JA Tyler, BOMB

DO interviewed about The Blast here
The Blast reviewed here
Buy the book here

 

David Ohle as editor

Cursed from Birth: The Short, Unhappy Life of William S. Burroughs, Jr

Born in 1947 to the writer William S. Burroughs and his common-law wife Joan Vollmer, William S. Burroughs, Jr. (known as Billy Jr.), would later describe himself as “your cursed-from-birth son.” Cursed From Birth is a testimony to the difficulty of living in the turbulent wake of a famous father his famous and troubled friends, and a lucid, shattering depiction of a life going down the tubes.

Raised by his paternal grandparents in Palm Beach after his mother was killed by his father in a shooting accident, Billy saw his father become suddenly famous for Naked Lunch just as he became a teenager. Billy Jr.’s short life was defined by creating trouble to catch the attention of his father, mourning the death of his mother, descending into alcoholism and drug addiction, and reckoning with it all by beginning his own literary endeavors.

Compiled by writer David Ohle from Burroughs Jr.’s third and unfinished novel Prakriti Junction, his last journals and poems, and correspondence and conversations with those who knew Billy, Cursed from Birth is faithful to Billy’s own intentions for a last artistic effort. With the sufferings — but not the patience — of Job, Billy Burroughs’s life illustrates the fall of one “whom the gods would destroy”. Cursed from Birth is the funny, tragic, angry, and stunning final statement from William S. Burroughs, Jr. — a casualty of the Beat generation.

– from ‘About the book’ at Soft Skull Press

Buy Cursed from Birth here

 

Cows Are Freaky When They Look at You: An Oral History of the Kaw Valley Hemp Pickers

The Kaw Valley Hemp Pickers were marijuana harvesters around Lawrence, Kansas during the 1960s and 1970s. A variety of the weed known locally as K-pot grew plentifully, nurturing a counterculture celebrated here in a foreword by William S. Burroughs and a series of oral history excerpts by Lawrence’s former hippies. Their recollections focus mainly upon drugs, sex, and violence, tales and tall tales lovingly preserved to the final raunchy detail.

– Robert F. Nardini

Buy Cows Are Freaky here

 

David Ohle as Interviewee

Interviewer: What are some of your favorite Burroughs stories?

David Ohle: I took him out shooting one time. He and I were the only ones on this particular shooting trip. … William was just first beginning to get the idea to do shotgun art—to take something and shoot it and make art out of it. So he had brought out, I believe it was a piece of plywood that day, and he asked me to hang an ink bottle, like from a rubber band, on the plywood. He was gonna shoot the ink bottle and that was gonna splatter onto the wood and make some kind of art.

He had one of his fairly large-caliber pistols, and he had on his ear protectors. I didn’t have any ear protectors so I went in the cabin so I didn’t have to listen to this while he popped off his shot. But I could see him through the glass door. I couldn’t see the target, but I could see him standing there with his gun.

He fired, and when he did all this ink came back and splashed him in the face and he thought he had been hit. He thought it had ricocheted and hit him in the head — the bullet. He thought it was blood. He started screeching and panicking, “Oh my God!” And he started wiping it like this and looking at it and going, “Wait a minute … that’s not blood.” But the expression on his face I’ll never forget. He was absolutely terrified that he had been shot by a ricochet.

Read the rest here

 

More David Ohle:

Interview with Hobart
Interview with LJWorld
The Mind of Moldenke
Nerve Screening Room interview
Mother and Son

 


David Ohle: Neutrodyne-Settler Sex Scene


Motorman Fragments


The Camp (to Butthole Surfers live)
—-

*

p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, Thanks for the contributions. ** Robert, Hi, Robert. Welcome! I’m so happy it hit home and was in your area of interest and expertise. Is it possible to see your work somewhere? I’d be very interested. Thanks very much! Take care. ** Bill, Thanks. It’s really nice being back in/on Artforum. Been ages. Oh, shit, and, whew, good. About the iCloud scare. I’m scared of the iCloud. I don’t think I use it unless I’m being used by it without my knowing. Nice that you have a store that’s open that you can go down to to buy a backup drive. We are at supermarkets, pharmacies, and the odd tobacco shops only. ** Nick Toti, Hi. Thanks, pal. I had a friend who was an anarchist who was also a clown. Huh. Anarchists make good clowns. Anarchists and artists and serial killers kind of rule that roost. Oh, cool, I’ll go watch the pranks! Interesting that you did clown-centric work. And that LA stopped you. Is it online anywhere? ** _Black_Acrylic, Thanks, Ben. Day #4 coming up this afternoon our time. I … don’t remember finding any clown stuff by the Chapmans in my related material searching. But it would make a lot of sense. Ha ha, your dad will be gorging on Troma films before you know it. If you’re still looking for Netflix recommendations, Dominick recommends something called ‘Unorthodox’. ** Misanthrope, Thanks re: Artforum. Yeah, I think if you get into the clown thing their de-indivualising of the people inside is one of the hooks. I think about half of my writer friends have agents. It does really help your mss. not immediately end up in a press’s slush pile,  but it’s not a necessity for sure. The smaller indie presses are the best presses these days. By far. By way far. ** sleepyj, Cool. Happy Monday morning to you! ** Scunnard, Hi, J. Oops, or a possible procrastination burster? Probably not. I’m pretty sure I’m not a sadist. I gave it the old college try when I was younger, but I just didn’t have it in me at all. May your sequestered day be a pressure cooker in the good sense. ** Dominik, Hi, D!!!! Yeah, very cool name, right? Yeah, if you’re into Guro, there’s a lot of really crazy stuff there to be sure. The big, central site is Gurochan. If you do a search you’ll find it. It’s huge and very active. It’s free to look at and download from. It was your birthday? Happy b’day a day late, or, wait, you’re semi-ignoring it, so happy voyage onto the next one. I like to pretend mine don’t happen too. I can’t think of a single positive thing about having my birthday. At ‘my age’, it just means I have one less year to go, you know? Phooey. Oh, I’ll go alert Ben to your recommendation. Hold on. Done. Uh, hm, what did I do this weekend? I went for a couple of long walks over in this area near me where I strangely had never been before. Very swank area in the 8th arr. The Presidential Palace is there and stuff. Embassies and luxury stores and hotels. Lots of police, but they were very friendly. I finally looked at that controversial Jeff Koons sculpture of the arm holding a bouquet of balloons, and it is even stupider and uglier than I’d imagined. When I was home, I … hm, read, listened to a bunch of music (gorging on GbV these days since Pollard/they always automatically thrill and inspire me). Answered a question about when/if I’ve ever been disillusioned by reading for an article whose author is asking writers that question. Signed off on an interview I did about ‘Permanent Green Light’ for a Danish magazine and sent them stills. So I mostly just kind of uninteresting things like that. The weekend just kind of drifted by. How has your week started? Is your brother doing okay? Did you write? Etc.? Fourth floor, door on the right as you exit the elevator love, me. ** Steve Erickson, Nope. I turned all Juggalos away at the door. I think their ‘Gremlins’ haunt was their Xmas haunt? Unfortunately I’m never in LA at Xmas, but friends went to it and filled me in, and I saw that video you mentioned. Both Circus of Books stores were haunts in my youth and semi-youth. I thought the doc was pretty standard fare but okay. They totally left out the more nefarious stuff, but then that kind of film would. I haven’t seen that new Straub film. Wow! Thank you for the link! I recommend trying to appreciate the very strange beauty/disorientation/eerieness of empty NYC when you’re out. It’s a time/memory that will be very potent and resonant once all of this is over and the streets are refilled. Or imagine it’s 4 am and the sun is inexplicably out. I’m trying to get into and concentrate on the amazing singularity of this situation, to be able to see and experience your city in a form that it hasn’t been before and will likely never be again. Things like that. ** Right. I believe, but not with absolute certainty, that the ‘Jeff’ who’s hosting this old, revived post is Jeff Coleman who was a regular d.l. back in the day. In any case, today offers you a fine if slightly dated chance to get to know the work of David Ohle if you’re not already a familiar. See you tomorrow.

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