One lifelong, obsessive theme persists: a perverse celebration of pop iconography. It manifests in love/hate liaisons with commodity culture, or elevates to symbology the preposterous yet tenacious expression of the mythic in the personal – the poly-verse of sexual personae that holds and molds our identities. Because mass artifacts are inherently low-, middle-brow, I sometimes joke with the coinage “archetypical,” as dusty tropes and avatars turn expressive when re-idolized in the everyday.
Induced by music, verging on apotheosis, and rendered in the rituals of sex/romance, branding, Disneyfication and dreams, these icons are expressed furthest in cosmology, which is a literary art. An essentially comic one.
In other words, enjoy the rides!
Interstellar Theme Park published August 1, 2022. Available from BlazeVOX, online book sellers and bookstores. Cover art and eight original collage illustrations by Erin Alexander. Video by Karina Bush.
Perfect bound, 202 pages, 7.5 x 9.25 inches. ISBN: 978-1-60964-411-6. $22.
Jack Skelley’s writings are mind-expanding, vision-inducing, orgasmic, psychedelic drugs, but their poetic beauty is no hallucination. His method: discovering the transcendent in the trivial, the mythic in the mundane. He is a Pop Gnostic who unearths utopic desire just below the surface of our ultra-mediated culture, hoping to usher in “a Golden Age of pantheistic spasms.” Like any realistic revolutionary, he demands the impossible – “I want a planet of toys … jihad of joys … a thick, chewy anarchy in a candy-colored shell.” Interstellar Theme Park is a funhouse that grants those kinds of wishes and more. Book your trip now!
– Elaine Equi, The Intangibles, Coffee House Press
We need Jack Skelley’s work now more than ever. Jack’s mind on the page helps parse our media-besotted, celebrity-drenched, digitized lives. Skelley’s ability to syncretize pop culture, history, product placement, Catholicism and beyond is a necessary wonder of the contemporary world.
– Amy Gerstler, An Index of Women, Penguin Random House
Jack Skelley has been sifting through the detritus of our modern age for 40 years, decoding hidden truths buried deep within our pop icons, media obsessions, consumer culture(s) and other soft delights. As brilliant as the L.A. sun – a singular visionary.
– Lee Ranaldo, American musician, co-founder Sonic Youth
William Blake warned us about the “mind-forg’d manacles” that inhibit the imagination—if only he could be alive today to experience Jack Skelley’s writing break those manacles. Spanning four decades of Skelley’s fascination with (and suspicion of) America’s society of the spectacle, Interstellar Theme Park: New and Selected Writing is a wild ride through the radiant debauchery of contemporary popular culture. Skelley’s irresistible poetry and prose take us on a tour of a cosmic, psychosexual playground that features a mock-epic mocking Elon Musk, a supplication to “Botox Jesus” for the miracle of migraine relief, a Mary Wollstonecraft so “busy inventing goth” that she bequeaths us punk rock, the distorted echo of Meat Puppets guitars heard in a lover’s gurgling stomach, twelve Lady Gagas performing “Lady Madonna”—in short, as Skelley writes, all “the levels / of paradise.”
– Tony Trigilio, Ghosts of the Upper Floor
Jack Skelley’s Interstellar Theme Park is a Monster. The gravitational pull of its linguistic and other intelligences is so strong, that it’s hard to get close without being sucked in. The television is always on and it’s always playing America’s game, channel-switching audaciously through melopoeia, phanopoeia, logopoeia, and radiant space. Don’t read it unless you’ve got a ticket to ride through the luminous dimensions of its cosmic ra(n)ge.
– David E. James, Rock ‘N’ Film: Cinema’s Dance With Popular Music, Oxford University Press
Interstellar Theme Park
Based on Alejandro Jodorowsky’s lost epic, Dune
I want whore-ships
And I want these whore-ships to dock in orbital flesh
I want ruby-throated ornithopters sipping the nectar of dwarf stars
I want Emperor Dali on a toilet throne of dolphins
I want drones that say Yes Daddy
I want H.R. Geiger mausoleums for the 27 Club
I want quasi-suspended animation (genital arousal optional)
I want a planet of toys
I want a jihad of joys
And a gulag of Karens
I want Rimbaudian grammar police
I want woke Stormy Daniels balloon rides
I want light-rail Stations of the Cross
I want Picasso’s pajamas 50% off in all emporia
I want Vibrators by Dre standard
I want Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd to levitate the Tomorrowland Terrace
I want 50-foot Miley Cyrus mourning her Dead Petz on Dog Star Sirius
I want time itself to eddy and unhitch from its turntable of deception
I want Moon Juice cougars – see them jump-start adaptation, anointed with next-gen Kardashian lips and hips
I want Fruity Pebbles vaccination bars, with stalactites nippling jelly babies, but without the jingle-jangle crash
While we’re at it, I want fingers that are 17 trillion light-years long, probing asteroids & healing hemorrhoids
I want Aristophanes’ tranny-globe beings, rolling around & layered with eyes – day and night, without ceasing, they sing
Don’t forget: I want on-demand K-holes mouthing the words “now” & “wow,” drooling and dripping with ahegao
I want rings, blue rings, and rings around rings of Berlin-blue orbs
Get me Stanley Kubrick, I want him to edit all humanity to grunts and symbols
On gas-giant Neptune I want Hello Kitty to be Hell Kitty
I want fresh-baked hosts branded with the Holy Ghost
Oh, and I also want bio-feedback donuts that induce satori
I want 12 Lady Gagas to perform “Lady Madonna” – each one is pregnant and haloed with 12 stars
I want drunk-surfing on a river of anti-gravity
And into this river I want a comet called Wormwood to crash with cold fire nightly at 9
I want Kali the Destroyer decapitating Parvati from Survivor
I want to occupy octopi to learn their language of shape & texture
I want a sunken palace where the spirits of lost lovers murmur
I want thick, chewy anarchy in a candy-colored shell
I want to live-stream Apocalypse Dreams
I want universal chaos
I want the abyss
And, when the Singularity finally arrives, and dumb matter rises to gaze upon itself and remember who it always was, I want everyone to defragmentize into their star-child, co-mingle dimensions, and upload into each other’s arms
from Artificial Heart
Plastic Orgasms from Inner Space
The human heart beats itself up
as divas sync lip-filler to
proxy lust for longing in
inner-singer aphrodesia zones,
while your atria palpitate in vain
for a pulse in fuck-me pumps.
At 116 beats per minute the average pop banger pounds faster than a resting heart. Producer Mark Ronson algorhythms cadences and key changes to stimulate and simulate with pulsatile
in time and tune to prod the systole and diastole of the organ. Through this contraction and dilation, love object X rises to the occasion.
Fill ‘er up!!
And yet, branded as a pump slut,
the over-affection you affected
for your victim/accomplice
came true and filled with real feels.
drip, drop, the brain pops.
Too hot to trot, the operation
succeeds, but the pain remains
as love surgically sours drama to
trauma, silence to sobs.
Invented in 1980, the Roland 808 Rhythm Composer gave users the power to program parts. Now, in its machine song, medieval romance hardens with kick-attack date-stamps. Its monstrous doom-boom darkens dance-floor chords into dirgy loss and minor-key disaster. The coronometer now must monitor arhthymic depressions.
You stare at the text. You feel the blow. Faint with a pressure-drop that drains the face, you flinch in horror as blood reverses course, and undergoes throes – erupting with compulsions to atone.
Until, thrashing through blackouts, bedside arias bleed tears: “I’m sorry. I’m so fucking sorry.”
Helium Kid in Space Mountain
I had the whole car to myself,
blazing to the bone, science fiction city,
screaming my head off through comets and clusters
and the 2-D doughnut that rolls around,
until, taking that last turn speeding down
through total black to hit a thousand white
explosions, my car jerked still,
all lights frozen and this pimply
employee with a flashlight and cap was saying
stay in your seat and no flashes when I knew another
car was speeding down the track to smash
mine if I didn’t say OK and get moving,
closing my eyes hard to bring on the black
and opening them again to the dark wind.
Athena Del Rey
California Names New Pandemic Avatar
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
VENICE, Ca — United CityStates of California (UCC)
Homeland Secretary Miley Cyrus announced today the appointment of Lana Del Rey as new Chief Avatar of Pandemic Defense. Del Rey, founder of Venice Bisch, the “goddess co-op” launched last year, replaces retiring Avatar Vanna White.
The new position includes a new name for the Avatar department: Tyche.
“Tyche is no Wheel of Fortune but a Wheel of Destiny,” sang Cyrus. “Flood, Drought, Fire, Quake – and yes, Virus – obey our tutelary spirit, Queen Califia. We hail Lana Del Rey, and trust our Health not to chance, but to destiny!”
Avatar branding is also new. Created by Artemisia Gentileschi, the Tyche bureau’s Wheel of Fortune logo now depicts Queen Califia holding: ¬¬
—–— A Cornucopia: Spilling serpents, sunglasses, skateboards.
—–— A Gubernaculum: Ship rudder on whale-watching craft.
—–— Tarot Cards: A collaboration between poet Elaine Equi and artist Jules Muck. (The deck includes a portrait of Dr. Anthony Fauci.)
Designed by architect Zaha Hadid, the Queen’s crown is fashioned as a citadel woven with Sativa leaves.
Del Rey reports directly to UCC Co-Presidents Nicki Minaj, Ariana Grande, Dua Lipa, Exene & Grimes.
Jack Skelley Q&A, from Lisa Haselton Blog
This is a “New and Selected” volume – 200 pages of poetry and prose, including literary fiction. Can you outline its mix of newer and older work?
The book assembles decades of verse and prose. The earliest work – from the 1980s – comes from Monsters, my poetry collection on Dennis Cooper’s Little Caesar Press. That early book included the ode, “To Marie Osmond,” which has been anthologized many times over the years. It’s in this book, too. There are many pieces from the following decades. And a huge chunk of writing came during the pandemic and right up through 2022.
There are also excerpts from what’s been deemed my “secretly legendary” novel Fear of Kathy Acker. That book will publish in April 2023 on Semiotext(e).
In the “Rawk” section are story-cycles on Led Zeppelin, on Brian Jones (the brilliant, tragic founder of the Rolling Stones), and on Dennis Wilson (of the Beach Boys) and his relationship with cult killer Charlie Manson.
What are some of the “adventures and attractions,” to use a Disneyland term, among Interstellar Theme Park’s poems and stories?
The verse veers through antiquity, technology and iconography. Making appearances are Plato, Wilma Flintstone, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, The Ramones, Yahweh, Lana Del Rey, Alfred Hitchcock, Satan, Pac Man and Vanna White. I think Miley Cyrus is in there twice. So is Richard Wagner. There are evil ventriloquist dummies and porn goddesses, sitcoms and celestial discos, martyred saints and Moby Dick, financial meltdowns and “the singularity,” Neolithic cave paintings, late-stage capitalism and – of course – global pandemics. There’s an entire section titled “Artificial Heart” that probes the rituals of sex and romance. The “Disneyland” chapter includes a list poem itemizing actual deaths at Disneyland, and a series of Disneyland dreams.
The epigraph is from visionary poet William Blake: “If a thing loves, it is infinite.” How does this cosmic line reflect Interstellar Theme Park?
The book orbits the insights of Blake and other epic poets who see cosmology – including mythology and its devolution into religion – as essentially a literary act of creation. The title satirically posits the amusement park, and all it contains, as a metaphor for this act. I nearly included a second epigraph: Paul Valery’s belief that “the universe is built on a plan, the profound symmetry of which is somehow present in the inner structure of our intellect.”
That symmetrical plan manifests as a Jungian mandala map of Disneyland. In this context, much of my stuff references the universe as an ultimate historical narrative – a Divina Commedia… accent on comedy.
For example, there is longer poem, “The Gospel of Elon.” Writer and editor Tony Trigilio described it as “a mock epic mocking Elon Musk.” It has fun warping sexually oriented creation myths and Gnostic heresies into the language of corporate bureaucracy and venture capitalism.
So, is humor or entertainment another theme in your Theme Park?
Technically, it’s more of a mode than a theme… the tones and tropes of pop culture, rendered with an edge of high-brow bemusement. That’s the overarching motif: a perverse celebration of pop iconography. As I write in my Author’s Intro, “It manifests in love/hate liaisons with commodity culture, or elevates to symbology the preposterous yet tenacious expression of the mythic in the personal – the poly-verse of sexual personae that holds and molds our identities.”
Besides the good-old epic poets, I draw inspiration from contemporary scholars such as Camille Paglia, “new narrative” novelists such as Kathy Acker (and many others influenced by her writing today), and literary thinkers such as Julia Kristeva.
Of course, the surrounding culture – from movies and music to advertising and television – can be an endless source of material. As one of those deceptively simple Andy Warhol quotes goes, “I guess I’ve been influenced by everybody. But that’s good. That’s pop.”
What project are you working on next?
I’m collaborating with Semiotext(e) editors Chris Kraus and Hedi El Kholti on publishing Fear of Kathy Acker, my years-in-the-making novel. It’s a humbling honor to work with the founders of this press who have been so influential in bringing new forms of narrative to the literary world, and who have done more than anyone else to bring French theory to English readers. This was especially true of Semiotext(e)’s third founder, Sylvère Lotringer, who passed away in November 2021.
Of course, that’s only a slice of the range of this amazing press. In some ways, Fear of Kathy Acker is an outlier compared to the rest of its catalog. But in other ways it fits in nicely.
Can you tell us what to expect in Fear of Kathy Acker?
Sure. Here’s some of the catalog copy: “FOKA depicts Los Angeles through the eyes of a self-mocking narrator. Shifting styles and personae as he moves between Venice and Hollywood, punk clubs and shopping malls, Disneyland and Dodger Stadium, Jack Skelley pushes the limits of language and identity while pursuing – like Kathy Acker – a quixotic literary mix of discipline and anarchy. In this adrenalized, cosmic and comic chronicle of Los Angeles, Skelley’s ‘real-life’ friends make cameo appearances alongside pop archetypes from Madonna to Billy Idol.”
This is the first-ever complete edition of the book, which has appeared piecemeal in chapbooks and magazines. It will include new essays, playlists, and even a map of 1980s Los Angeles.
And can you tell us how you got your start as a writer?
I owe a tremendous amount to the inspiration and support of Dennis Cooper. I met Dennis in the early 1980s when I worked at Beyond Baroque, the literary/arts center in Venice, California. Dennis put Beyond Baroque on the national map by presenting high-level authors and gathering a “gang” of writers and artists. He published many of them in his now-legendary Little Caesar press and magazine. They included Amy Gerstler, David Trinidad and Benjamin Weissman, who are publishing brilliant books today and who remain dear friends, as does Dennis. This group also included two astonishing writers no longer with us – Bob Flanagan and Ed Smith – and the late, great artist Mike Kelley.
This Beyond Baroque gang is enjoying a renaissance of attention, and more projects surrounding us are coming soon. So stay tuned!
Playlist – all songs/artists referenced in Interstellar Theme Park
Spotify link: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3E9ZumaffxCvPVyXIB4SGu?si=9ddcdf3b5fcc4d2a
Pink Floyd Interstellar Overdrive
Miley Cyrus and her Dead Petz The Floyd Song
Beatles Lady Madonna
Lady Gaga Just Dance
György Ligeti Lux Aeterna
Tame Impala Apocalypse Dreams
Roky Erickson I Have Always Been Here Before
Allman Brothers Band In Memory of Elizabeth Reed
Ramones Bad Brain
Spinal Tap Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight
Richard Wagner Lohengrin: Prelude to Act III
Angry Samoans Lights Out
Miles Davis On Green Dolphin Street
Joni Mitchell Hejira
Meat Puppets Up on the Sun
The Troggs Wild Thing
Zapp Dance Floor
The Whispers Emergency
Tom Tom Club Genius of Love
Patrice Rushen Forget Me Nots
Buzzcocks Hollow Inside
The Standells Dirty Water
Frank Zappa/Mothers of Invention Mother People
Mark Ronson Find U Again
Donny & Marie Osmond I’m Leaving it All up to You
Lana Del Rey West Coast
Nicki Minaj Do We Have a Problem
Ariana Grande Bloodline
Grimes Shinigami Eyes
X I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
XTC Super Tuff
Soundgarden Black Hole Sun
Brian Wilson Surf’s Up
Rolling Stones Not Fade Away
Led Zeppelin Dazed and Confused
The Beatles Sexy Sadie
Fleetwood Mac Dreams
p.s. Hey. ** The blog is as happy as a platform can be to quick-change itself into a red carpet for the express purpose of helping to usher the great writer Jack Skelley’s immensely long awaited collection of selected writings into this vast world. If you haven’t had the opportunity to explore Jack’s work in depth — and that’s a pretty safe bet since the great majority of his books have o.o.p. for decades — this book contains much of his best writings in one gulp, from his earliest things as read long ago in a book (‘Monsters’) that I published through my Little Caesar imprint in the early 80s, to this brandest newest works. Scour this ‘welcome’ post, score the book, and you will be completely set, folks. No joke, no sweat. ** Dominik, Hi!!! Any cooler there? We got rain drenched yesterday to the point where my electricity was knocked out for hours and, upon taking a short walk from a metro station to a Chinese restaurant last night, I got so waterlogged they could have laid me down on the floor and mopped the entire Palace of Versailles. I know right? Fun and easy (relatively) money just to pleasurably fiddle with mediocrity. Damn. Oh, re: the film, we’re re-budgeting to see what we can eliminate and not. We’re on a heated search for the main house location because we can’t really re-budget until we know where it is, how much it costs, and how it will cost to house and feed the cast and crew in whatever location it is. And we’re looking at video audition tapes of performers. I think we found the ‘mother’ yesterday if she’ll agree to do it. So, this and that. And then Zac and I will go to LA in early September, and that’s when things will get cemented. Thank you for asking. Happy to share! Yeah, I cant really say that I thought that giant leaf blower metaphor through very well because it would be the end of everything, I guess. Wow, a bit shocking if unsurprising, I suppose, how extremely little John Amplas currently looks like he did. Love taking me back in a time machine to one night in the early ’70s and convincing me to change my mind and cheat on my boyfriend of the period when a porn star I was obsessed with (‘Rick Jule‘) threw himself at me drunkenly at a party, G. ** David Ehrenstein, My favorites are ‘Dawn of the Dead’ and ‘Martin’. ** Billy, Hi. No, when I’m making the movie posts I just do searches for animated gifs for each title in the post and then upload them into stacks in alphabetical order, so any exciting combos are just luck. I hope you like ‘Death Sentence’ course. Let me know. ** _Black_Acrylic, Absolutely in total agreement on both fronts. I admire your bravery re: dedicating such a large and time consuming portion of your brain to Eliot, and I suspect it’s probably worth it. ** T. J., I know, I totally agree. It’s really strange. It’s hard to imagine that the b&w cut won’t get out here at least online if not in some kind of super limited theater release, right? Seems like a no brainer. How’s stuff. You good? ** Right. Y’all please dedicate yourself to the brain and wordage of Mr. Skelley until I see you next aka tomorrow.