The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Please welcome to the world … Douglas Payne If You Have Ghosts (Amphetamine Sulphate)


“Sixth grade camp could have been a prime opportunity for faggotry had I been a little less awkward and introverted. I could have been blowing schoolmates in the middle of the night, the attendant asleep in the office, dreaming of his mother and acres of forest fires.”

“A profoundly disquieting and sombre meditation, written in vivid and and masterfully controlled incantatory prose. One of the grimmest, hypnotically fucked up and most important books we’ve published. A major find.” — Philip Best

Buy If You Have Ghosts





Douglas Payne’s Salty Rook Chest-O-Drawers Press
Douglas Payne @ Twitter
Douglas Payne @ Instagram
‘Birdsong’, by Douglas Payne
‘Cryptoid’, by Douglas Payne
‘Sidewalk Prayer’, by Douglas Payne
‘Portrait of the Artist as a Dead Canadian Wrestler’, by Douglas Payne
‘The Beast of Waste and Desolation’, by Douglas Payne



—-Memory is one big trick. When I was six or seven, I suffered something called Capgras delusion. This is when a person thinks family or friends have been replaced by identical imposters. I thought my entire family was a cadre of villains who wanted to hurt or kill me. The paranoia would come in bursts. One day, I didn’t want to let my aunt pick me up from school. I kept saying “It’s not her, it’s not her.” My aunt doesn’t have any teeth, and she didn’t then either. I thought she was a toothless monster who wanted to swallow me up and gum me to death. I thought my mother and grandmother were similar monsters who wanted me dead. My aunt kept saying “What’s wrong, it’s me, it’s me.” I didn’t want to go. Eventually I got in the car with her and went home and everything was fine.
—-Often, I felt when my mother or grandmother got upset that they had been replaced and I would say things like “I want my real mother back. You are not my real mother.” This would happen again after a fight with my ex-wife when we had been dating for a couple years. I was alone in the dark of my room having a panic attack and crying and wailing and I wouldn’t pick up the phone. Eventually she called me and I picked up and I said “Is that you? It can’t be. It can’t be.” Another time, much later, when I was living with a roommate in my apartment in Phoenix, I was very stoned and there were two moths flying around my room. I couldn’t tell if the moths were real or not. It was the middle of the night and I knocked on my roommate’s bedroom door, saying “There are moths in here. A ton of moths. Come look at these. I’m freaked out.” She opened the door and she said “Do you know what time it is?” and I said sorry. “Yeah, that’s what I thought,” she said before she closed the door. Because she responded so sharply, even though this was probably because I woke her from a dead sleep, I was convinced she was a demon and that I had to get out of the apartment.
—-I left without locking the door. I walked through the parking lots that weaved around the separate buildings in the complex. I heard voices in the ear. Those yellow tinted lights poles rose up around me, with that glow that turns everything sepia or even a bit gray. I saw guys standing around in clustered groups, drinking cans of Coors Light, their reversed red ball caps bouncing with laughter. Their bodies looked like they were oozing down from the covered carports. I would blink and the bodies would disappear, then snap back into focus. People are always sneering and talking shit about me. Even the phantoms. I ended up in the emergency room with an elevated heart rate and blood pressure. I had taken a Lyft so I walked into the ER trying to give the nurses at reception a differential diagnosis. When I sat down I could hear them talking about me saying “Who talks like that? What’s wrong with him? I thought I was going to get attacked again.” This really hurt my feelings.
—-When they sat me in a bed after taking me back from the waiting room I tried to explain to them how I felt but it all came out in a tangled mess of words. The guy in the next bed was on the phone talking in code and he was just there to deal or buy drugs. He kept saying “Donald Trump is coming. He is going to get you.” He was really fucking with me so I got out of bed and tried to leave the hospital. The man at the exit door to the lobby stopped me and admonished me to go back and lie down and threatened to call security. I pleaded with him to just move me to a different bed because the guy next to me could not be trusted. They moved me to a bed further in the back next to a woman who couldn’t stop making strange noises. They gave me an Ativan and after I got sleepy they sent me back home to my own bed. I am never quite myself. I am always somebody else and so are you.



Douglas Payne lectures on Henry Miller


In Your Music Mind
Douglas Payne on Charles Manson


The music sometimes wafts from the speakers in a gentle croon, so much like the folk troubadours of yesterday. Sinatra even. Smooth, buoyant, maybe even soothing to the ear. If it is not gentle, then it is primordial. Indeed, this transition might happen within the span of one song. The music is so often a wounded animal lashing out from a state of calm with teeth bared, upset by the wrong touch of a human hand. The sound of these albums, crafted on a cheap recorder with a only an acoustic guitar and a ragged throat to stir up the melody echoes back to the raw enchantment of Hank Williams. At the same time, it precludes the weirdest efforts of the Velvet Underground and the emergence of ‘freak folk’ in the new century. The music is hypnotic more than anything, possessing a quality akin to the ragas of Ravi Shankar.

The music’s greatest asset is it’s strangeness. Scat vocalizations and groans bridging verses that appear spontaneous lyrically, all underpinned by chord progressions that play around with an appropriate stylistic blend of jazz, folk, and country. The strings flit and flutter like an angel’s harp, they settle into steady walking rhythms, they chug and shout like a rapid fire machine gun. The music defies classification, foregoes convention, and comes across unbridled and unscrubbed, and would probably remain so even if given the opportunity for mixers and producers to shape it up, simply because the sounds at work here spit at any sort of glitz and glamor. The music is not commercially viable. That fact is hardly a concern, since nearly all of it has been smuggled out of prisons over a thirty year span up to the present, and the man who makes it might never come out from behind the bars.

Charles Manson is America’s most beloved and reviled pariah. He is a walking nightmare in the American subconscious. At the worst, he is conjured in the mind as an unhinged mass murderer slicing up the Hollywood Hills. If not that, than he is a ringleader of marauders, a black shaman casting spells of violence upon the youth, draping a red shroud over the tye-dyed free love idealism of the nineteen sixties hippie subculture. Whatever the case may be, we might attempt to view the music independently of the man, at least to a degree where we might look Charles Manson the musician, and not Charles Manson the criminal.

Many venerate the work of Beat writer William Burroughs, despite the fact that he was a pederast and heroin addict convicted of manslaughter. However, it is perhaps more probable that Burroughs’ murder of his wife was accidental than it is that Manson’s role in the Tate-LaBianca murders was one of guilt by association. Many people read Burroughs, or de Sade, for the very fact that they led rather dubious lives. Such people are rewarded, because the subject matter of their fiction draws from the sordid tales of their own lives to some degree. Aside from some tracks on his first album Lie, “Big Iron Door” in particular, this is not the case with Manson. Insofar as he doesn’t sing about killing pigs or all out race wars.

The lyrical content in his music, beyond the fact that its meaning is often cryptic if not indecipherable, is spontaneous and imagistic. His entire oeuvre is laced with references to the soul, the mind, love, and nature. All these large abstractions are rung out like dish towels in a tumbling and free flowing cyclone of word play and cultural references to objects like the American Revolution and Marilyn Monroe. His songs, often written in second person, jab at the “game” of modern man, caught in a web of consumerism and mental and spiritual bankruptcy. Another recurring theme is the ‘hallways of always’, the endless labyrinth of jails and institutions that Manson has been all too familiar with throughout his life.

Manson’s first album, Lie: The Love and Terror Cult, was recorded in 1967 and released in March of 1970, a few months before Manson and his cohorts were put on trial for the murders. This has been the most widely circulated of his recordings, having been reissued on compact disc by Awareness Records, and later as an expanded edition by ESP-Disk, under the title of Charles Manson Sings. Both reissues are usually available from Amazon, or can be special ordered at most major music retailers, if you can cope with a few weird looks. A handful of songs from the album have been covered by other artists, most notably a cover of “Look at Your Game Girl” contained as a hidden track on Guns N’ Roses fifth album The Spaghetti Incident, and a revved up punk rendition of “Garbage Dump” was recorded by GG Allin in 1987. The Beach Boys, famously know to be one time associates of Manson, recorded a heavily altered version of “Cease to Exist” for their 1969 album 20/20, and retitled it “Never Learn Not to Love”.

All of Manson’s material after Lie has been put down on cassette tapes, smuggled out of prison by friends and associates and given limited distribution. It is on these recordings that Manson crafts a sound that is organic, visceral, and often times otherworldly. One of the most notable sets from his prison tapes, recorded in the 1980s, was released under multiple titles including White Rasta, Poor Old Prisoner Boy, and Live at San Quentin, the artwork of of this last version parodying the cover of the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. This batch of songs is Manson’s musical opus if he were ever recognized to have one. They encapsulate all the qualities I have mentioned above in one continuous stream of acoustic improvisation, complimented by the ambience of shouts, toilet flushes, and the clang of closing cell doors.

One of Manson’s most recent recordings, One Mind, was released in 2005. It was re-released in 2008 under a Creative Commons license as a free digital download. The songs here have a more mellow tone to them. Manson’s guitar never chugs and his voice never lapses into frenzied chanting. He might have his legs stretched out on the bunk, guitar sat loosely against his torso, a now ghost white hair of his beard fallen onto the weathered wood of his now weary instrument. We know that Manson’s legendary fervor is hardly absent only when another inmate has the nerve to ask him for a cigarette in the middle of a song. Manson barks and spits at this trespasser in his audial daydream, his temporary escape from the brick and mortar madness of prison life. For Manson, music inevitably became a vehicle of expression and liberation, a way of melting the walls that have held him for so long. Music became a way of reconnecting with the most pure elements of the macrocosm beyond those walls. Manson succumbs to and channels the universal positive force of melody, song, and poetry in all of its whimsy, playfulness, power, and aggression. His compositions cannot be packaged, pigeonholed, or easily described, but are infinitely melodious and captivating in spite of it all. Manson is not only the most hated man of the 20th century, but its most intransigent and demanding troubadour.



The Quietus: Why decide to launch a chapbook into the era when digital is supposedly king?

Philip Best: Easy answer is that I’m a hopeless bibliophile and frankly the digital world can be a bit tiresome. But I’ve also found that when you ask someone to write for an actual physical format, like a chapbook, it really focuses the mind. It’s like if you ask someone to speak at a wedding or a funeral; they can’t turn you down, all eyes are on them and they need to be at the top of their game.

TQ: Why Amphetamine Sulphate?

PB: Good question. I wanted to start producing books that were low cost ($10 a hit) rather than extravagant signed limited editions bound in monogrammed virgin goatskin and destined to remain safely unread. Speed not cocaine, if you like. It was also the first drug I ever took, and I guess I always preferred Motorhead and the Velvets to the Grateful Dead or Gong. Plus I love the idea of people receiving a large brown box in the post marked “Amphetamine Sulphate”.

TQ: How did you go about looking for contributors and what were you looking for in terms of style and content?

PB: I simply thought about who I would like to read a book by and asked them. Luckily they all said ‘yes’. Style and content was entirely up to the contributors, I trusted them all to deliver the goods. It’s the quality of writing and power of imagination that’s most important. With Jason’s book, for example, just by reading his lyrics, there’s so much going on in them, it just seemed obvious that it would be fascinating to see him working in a longer format.

Amphetamine Sulphate
Amphetamine Sulphate @ Twitter
Amphetamine Sulphate @ Facebook
Amphetamine Sulphate @ Cargo Records




p.s. Hey. Today the blog has the honor and joy of helping to usher Douglas Payne’s brand new book If You Have Ghosts into the world. In addition to possibly knowing Douglas’s work to date, frequenters of his place will also know him by his DC’s moniker liquoredgoat. In any case, it’s a fantastic book which I highly recommend, and it’s no small matter that it’s published by the crucial press Amphetamine Sulphate whose amazing output includes recent books by New Juche and the blog’s own Josiah Morgan among others. Please introduce yourself to IYHG today and click the ‘buy’ button if you know what’s good for you. Thanks! ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Okay, my anti-‘JoJo’ friends are piling up. Good to know. I’ll proceed warily. High anticipation to read your piece on Anna Karina. And, yes, that was lightning fast. Everyone, As you know, the very great French actor Anna Karina just died, and Mr. David Ehrenstein, who knows his Karina, has written about her (and her acting’s frequenter Godard) for Variety, and reading it is obviously very recommended. Go here. ** Ferdinand, Hi, man. Good to see you! Oh, the new novel wasn’t a quickie. I worked on it for a couple of years then put it aside for about fours years before going back to finish it. So its seeming quickness is a chimera. Oh, sure, slaves looking for renovation and renovating masters are not uncommon. Sometimes it’s the opposite – turning a ripped slave into an obese one, for instance. Novels on the master/slave thing? I assume you mean good ones? There are a ton of garbage-y ones. Hm. There are those who champion the books of Larry Townsend and John Preston, although I find them just pulpy. There are the somewhat oblique novels re: the topic: Mishima, Genet, etc. But … I can’t think of a really good novel about that off the top of my head, but my head’s top might not be sufficiently sparking at the moment. So you’re on the Ed White train. ‘The Beautiful Room …’ is the point where I kind of got off that train, although I’ve read a couple of the more recent ones. I haven’t watched John Waters give Ed his award, but I’m sure it’s a trip, and I will. So you’re liking Ed’s novels, etc.? ** Montse, Hi! Me too. My suspicion is that the film adaptation of ‘THiaLH’ is probably pretty bad since no one seems to know that it exists anymore. I haven’t seen it since I was a teen, but it had a gigantic impact on me at that time/age. Yes, yes, you and Xet must come visit Paris and Zac and me! And we’d love to get to Barcelona. We’ll have to figure out how to do that. At one point Filmin was going to bring us there for some PGL-related screening/press junket thing, but that never happened, I don’t know why. Yes, my Bûche de Noël pageant has been launched. It’s here. Some pretty good propositions this year. I’m trying to nail down my purchase(s) right now. You saw GbV! Amazing! Yeah, I planned to go to London to see them when they played there around the same time, but the shows sold out instantly, and the timing turned out to be impossible. I’m so happy you saw them and liked them, obviously! Love + love, me. ** Bill, Hi. Berlin was fast fun. The best greatest thing — well, other than the PGL screening — was discovering and eating Sudanese falafel for the first time. Oh my god. I think it’s the greatest single food I’ve ever eaten in my life. And supposedly you can only get it in Berlin, or as far as Europe and the US go. Insane! I’m going to try to get the new Matmos today. Curious. ** _Black_Acrylic, Owning a Martin and Munoz snow globe is on my eternal wish list. Thanks for the Frank Sidebottom link! The world needs him now more than ever. ** Misanthrope, Yep, you’re a galerie hopper. Well, your NYC jaunt sounds like just what the doctor or psychiatrist or nutritionist ordered. Cool. ** Sypha, Hi. Ha ha, no, I just honestly don’t like her stuff. Sorry since the early pop trash singles. If anything, I hesitate before decrying her here knowing you love her, but, occasionally, I just think, Fuck it, James can handle it, and type. But, honestly, I just pay don’t attention anymore and try to look elsewhere when the media foists her at everyone. You always seem to get physical crap at Xmas. Don’t you? Zac’s like that too. He always gets the flu or something around now, although he quit smoking about a month ago, so maybe that absence will help him be spared. ** Steve Erickson, Ha ha. I actually like ‘Hogan’s Heroes’, but a dumb Wes Anderson sounds irksome. I think you have successfully dissuaded me from seeing it until I’m on some future flight, so thank you. ** Nick Toti, Hi, Nick. You’re the one who gets the thanks. I just typed and uploaded a piece of destiny. Hope you’re good? Are you into Xmas at all? I kind of am. ** Right. Go back to or begin your acquaintanceship with Douglas Payne’s book, thank you. See you tomorrow.


  1. Dear Dennis,

    I’ve tried contacting you on Facebook, since I couldn’t locate your email, but haven’t heard back from you. Do you have an e-mail I can write to? Thanks.


  2. Dennis,

    Thanks so much for this thoughtful and extensive post on IYHG. I’m so psyched to be involved with Amphetamine Sulphate, and Philip has been wonderful with the process of putting it out. I’m really proud of that Manson piece so thanks for giving it some actual exposure beyond my failed lit mag.

    I saw something in the PS about “anti-JoJo…” as in JoJo Siwa? She’s a YouTube star and a dancer, but I don’t dig her either. Still a firm Maddie Ziegler fan. Can we res that old Maddie day?

    Again, Dennis, thank you so much! I hope people dig the book.

  3. Good to hear you enjoyed Berlin and your encounter with Sudanese falafel! (I believe I’ve sampled it years ago, in my month in Friedrichshain. It’s certainly not a staple around here.) Berlin’s vegetarian options are actually pretty impressive these days, even for an SF resident.

    Hmm, based on all the comments here, I’m definitely not seeing Jojo Rabbit. I did enjoy Tigers Are Not Afraid, kind of like early Del Toro transplanted to gritty contemporary Mexico, gang wars and all. Might be a little too cute for you though.

    Douglas/liquoredgoat, congratulations on the new book. A friend’s small son developed something similar to Capgras syndrome a few years ago. It was pretty worrisome and scary (and Brian Evenson-like), but he’s ok now.

  4. Dennis,

    Yeah, I’m pretty big into Christmas stuff, though not terribly into actually celebrating the day itself for some reason. When I was in college I got weirdly obsessed with Xmas specials (particularly the Rankin-Bass stuff but others too) and would watch them year round. More recently, one of the projects I’m in the middle of has a big Xmas element. The musician Sigmund Snopek III (who I’m shooting a documentary about) has a major holiday fixation. His home is covered in those Hallmark Xmas figurines, he has three Xmas albums, and he plays tons of holiday shows every year. I’m not sure how it’ll be worked into the finished movie, but it’ll definitely be in there somehow.

  5. Already pre-ordered this one (as usual), looking forward to it (as usual).

    Dennis, nah, it’s cool… I guess you feel about Gaga the way I feel about Alain Robbe-Grillet, so it evens out, ha ha.

    I finally broke down and went to the Urgent Care today. As soon as the doctor came in and saw me his face dropped and he said, “Well, you don’t look good right now.” Never a good sign! Anyway because I was very dehydrated they had to put me on an IV to get some fluids in me. Turns out I have a stomach bug (which I already knew) AND a sinus infection (which I suspected), so I need to go on antibiotics for the latter (while letting the former run its course). He also told me that I should be out of work today and tomorrow and he gave me a note for that. I hate having to call in (last year I only took 3 such days, this year, counting these next two days, will take me up to 8 such days), but guess I don’t really have much choice in the matter now. I just wish this wasn’t during the holiday rush, even though I’ve mostly finished up much of what I’ve had to do re: shopping, holiday cards, and so on.

  6. IYHG looks essential and will be purchased in the new year. Being sent from Texas to Dundee, AS publications are subject to post-Brexit postage costs and I find it pays to buy in bulk. I figure the forthcoming Christopher Zeischegg novel will partner it nicely.

  7. Thanks for those suggestions, I think Mishima might be insightfull into the supressed selfloathing aspect of masochism and I have Genet lined up. Im very much still the old college pupil with a reading list hence the Edmund White train. Ofcoarse I cant think of anything to do with a narrative that describes its protagonist as incredibly handsome – besides cutting it up and shuffling it around, which is why I passed on White’s Our young (model) man..
    i guess for me with White is that he’s an insight into a bygone era, I mean he should of been one of the lost ones, having been HIV + during those times. I did find A boy’s own very long winded at times and The beautiful room is funny, and I have to admit at this point I find myself nostalgic for that queer queeniness which is pretty obnoxious compared to the current gay climate, so Im appreciating The beautiful room in that regard but yes Edmund can be somewhat superficial. I would say that I would have a fuller shaped opinion on his work after reading The farewell symphony and Skinned alive. I also picked up the flaneur at a xmass market on sunday. I wasnt able to find John Waters’ introduction to The book award, it was streaming live on F.B tho..

  8. I had a plumbing emergency today which still hasn’t been fixed; the plumber’s coming back tomorrow morning to (hopefully, finally) repair my shower drain. It’s not worth going into the full story, but the fire department wound up breaking into my apartment to shut off my shower to prevent flooding! Yikes!

    I saw Ladj Ly’s LES MISERABLES tonight and didn’t care for it. It plays like the pilot for an “edgy,” “gritty” cop show (while also recycling LA HAINE, TRAINING DAY & DO THE RIGHT THING) and winds up inadvertently patronizing the Black youth it’s supposedly concerned about by showing them as a seething mass while depicting the subjectivity and telling the story from the perspective from the cops who brutalize them, even if they’re assholes.

  9. Im curious If you’ve been to the current Peter Hujar exibition at Jeu de paume and if you’ve caught the Bacon at Pompidou. Im looking foward to both in january.

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