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The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Please welcome to the world … Mark Doten Trump Sky Alpha (Graywolf Press)

 

‘Welcome Trump Sky Alpha. It is the Trump novel I’ve been waiting for: the novel I asked young writers to compose in Harpooning Donald Trump; the novel Coover and Pynchon and DeLillo (yes, “and,” all of them together) would have written last century; a “systems novel” that places Trump in global and historical systems of economics and technology and yet has the plotting and verisimilitude of more narrow realistic novels about Trump by Rushdie, Lethem, Shteyngart, and Lipsyte; a novel that dares to be simultaneously OCD topical and rigorously inventive and left-field profound and wholly accessible; a novel as dense and allusive and self-consciously literary as the sentence you are now finishing.

Trump Sky Alpha begins breathlessly like the paragraph above. After four “zero days” of the Internet, Donald Trump has ordered a “restrained” nuclear strike, World War III has broken out, and the president has gone rogue, piloting his luxury zeppelin—224 seats, all the first-class amenities, gold everywhere—from the White House to Trump Tower in New York despite dangers from enemy planes. It’s a trip he and “Trump Sky Alpha” used to make every Wednesday, returning on Sunday. Always there was a full house of CEOs, celebrities, foreign lobbyists, the usual sycophants. Think of the zeppelin as Trump’s D.C. hotel in the sky. Also know that Trump zeppelins are all over the world and imitate his weekly flight while their passengers view on YouTube Trump’s monologues on the mother ship.

‘Like the Trump baby blimp in London, Doten’s invention is inspired, a symbol of Trump the person, a large and retrograde windbag detached from the earth, and representative of his branded empire subject to the fate of the Hindenburg. Doten has studied Trump’s gestures, his syntax and intonations, his tics and quirks, his hair, the praise that Trump demands and that his trapped audience, who pay top prices, provides. In its prodigal detail, high foolery, and rapid run-on pacing, Doten’s opening is, as Trump might say if he read, “fabulous,” a fable and a tour de force (a literal tour forced by the president) that resembles the final outrageous show in Coover’s The Public Burning where Uncle Sam electrocutes the Rosenbergs on a high platform in Times Square to the cheers of Americans as attracted then to performative old-man authoritarianism as Trump’s passengers are now. Risk-averse writers say it’s impossible to satirize Trump. Doten proves them wrong. …

‘Doten’s invented novel within his novel, The Subversive, had dramatic influence on the world of Trump Sky Alpha. Could its end-of-the-world ending affect impeachment voters in the Senate or public voters in 2020? Doubtful, but for those who want to learn more about the systems that, like the blimp, Trump coasts upon; and for those who desire literature to directly engage the present and not leave Trump to current pundits and future historians; and for those who wish to be entertained even when reading a novel about, in Neil Postman’s phrase, “Amusing Ourselves to Death”; and for those who may have missed Doten’s first novel, The Infernal, which is even more thorough in its take down of public figures involved with the war in Iraq, Trump Sky Alpha will be a much-appreciated and long-remembered introduction to a young novelist worthy of comparison to those twentieth-century old masters of American politics and literary forms.’ — Tom LeClair, Open Letters Review

 

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Further

Mark Doten Site
Mark Doten @ Twitter
Most novelists avoid all mentions of Donald Trump. Mark Doten went the other direction.
Mark Doten @ Facebook
Excerpt: “Trump Sky Alpha’
INTERVIEW: Mark Doten, author of The Infernal
A Bloodletting: On Mark Doten’s ‘The Infernal’
‘The Source’, an opera
Mark Doten interviews Sam Lipsyte
Video: Mark Doten on CSPAN
BOOK REVIEW: THE INFERNAL BY MARK DOTEN
‘What Would Social Media Be Like As the World Is Ending?’
A Lot Of Sound And Fury In ‘The Infernal’
Mark Doten’s ‘The Infernal’ a darkly twisted take on Iraq war
Singing ‘The Source’
Mark Doten’s Post-9/11 Novel, ‘The Infernal,’ Paints a Bleak Portrait of Now
War of the Imagination

 

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Extras


Mark Doten | Granta’s Best of Young American Novelists


Soho Press Editor Mark Doten


UNPRINTABLE with Mark Doten, Ned Beauman, and Simon Critchley


‘The Source’, a trailer

 

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Interview
from Longreads

 

Jacob Silverman: How is it writing about Trump? Did you feel like you had to, or is it more a product of writing about the times?

Mark Doten: I knew that I was going to write something about the internet and politics, and I came up with the idea of a novel that asked: what would social media be like as the world is ending? I started the book in October 2015. As the U.S. moved through its presidential primary process, it eventually became clear that we were choosing between two distinct tracks. One was a sort of center-left, neoliberal competency. A Clinton continuation of the Obama years, with a lot of rightwing rage roiling beneath it all. And then on the other hand the gathering force of Trump’s politics of reaction, racial grievance, ignorance, and clownishness.

After the conventions, the polls tightened up, and that was the first time I truly believed that Trump could win. There are two long Trump sections in the book. I wrote the first in August of 2016. That was published as a story before the election. It’s a monologue Trump gives as he’s blowing up the world where he’s blaming everyone but himself, talking about what a great job he’s done and so forth. The second Trump section, which offers a different perspective on the same events, I wrote in the weeks after the election, in a state of extreme anger, sadness, and distress. That eventually became the opening of the book.

What kind of research were you doing? It sounds like you composed the book pretty quickly, but it also has a deeply researched aspect to it with all the stuff about internet architecture, internet history, and Filipino history and literature?

There were some key texts. I read a number of books on internet history and governance. Alexander Galloway’s book Protocol: How Control Exists after Decentralization was the one that really got me started on the ideas in Trump Sky, and I learned a great deal from books by Janet Abbate, Milton Mueller, Fred Turner, and Lauren DiNardis. More personally, my brother, Chris Doten, leads the tech team at an NGO that does international democracy work, and he kindly and patiently spent many hours answering my questions as I wrote this book. I’m also fortunate in my partner, Paul Nadal, who is an academic who wrote his dissertation on the English-language Filipino novel. His work and his early reads of Trump Sky were critical to the book. In terms of other research, I did a lot of hunting down old newspapers that had information about, for instance, the first transpacific cable, which ran through Manila. One aspect of the totalizing nature of the internet that I’m happy about is how so many old newspapers are scanned and searchable and free, if you’re able to figure out how to get to them.

I keep going back to this idea of the totalizing aspect you talk about. Do you mind defining that? Was it always going to be all that way? Was any digital network going to be totalizing the way you describe?

The internet has grown explosively since the 80s. You look at graphs of the numbers of devices hooked up to the internet, it’s really staggering. There are now billions of people on the internet. Global IP traffic has topped a zettabyte since 2016, and a zettabyte is a very big number — a trillion gigabytes. And that’s rapidly growing. Two percent of global energy consumption goes to the internet. When I talk about totalizing in the book, I’m looking at how the internet subdivides the world into smaller and smaller pieces and processes more and more of everything there is into streams of information. Totalization is an asymptotic process, it can never be realized — as in the systems answer, you can always add another order of magnitude of information. But the figures are astonishing, and we’re still only getting started. People have these devices inside their house now, their Alexa or their Echo, that listen to everything they say. That’s not just unnerving from a “oh they’re listening to me isn’t that weird? what if I say something embarrassing?” kind of way. It’s the fact that everything you say is monetizable data to someone. Your phone tracks you everywhere you go. The information that the various apps you use send back to companies is increasingly fine-grained and detailed.

The internet wants our experience of it to be as frictionless and invisible as possible, to be the daily hum of our lives, to be oxygen.

And the power over all of this is contained not only in the public-facing internet gatekeepers like Amazon and Apple and Facebook, but in the organizations and individual that shape and control the protocols and standards and address space that make the internet work. There is tremendous power and value in these things that we don’t see and that in fact the internet, writ large, doesn’t want us to think about. The IP address space is an interesting barometer of the explosive increase in internet-connected devices. IPv4, the version of internet protocol that was deployed in the early eighties, allowed for around four billion IP addresses, which are the unique addresses that are essential for internet addressing and for all internet connected devices. Those original addresses have been largely depleted. IPv6, which is its successor, will have a theoretical limit of 2 to the 128th power, which is a very, very large number. But control over those addresses will remain contested and valuable and for most internet users, invisible. If we can speak of the internet having a point of view: the internet wants our experience of it to be as frictionless and invisible as possible, to be the daily hum of our lives, to be oxygen.

You seem to have no qualms about incorporating political issues, much less going for the core issues of the time, in your fiction. Is that a passe kind of argument, worrying about politics in the novel and capturing it well, or risking alienating readers? Is that a silly concern now?

I’m a book editor, working mostly on literary fiction, and my take is that there’s a lot of different ways to capture the politics of the moment. Allow me to say: please everyone don’t write stories in which real-world politicians are lyrical grotesque characters. But without question there’s an increasing interest in works that engage with the politics of our moment. People want to read, want to publish, want to review, work like that. I mean, I’m one of those people who thinks all art is political, and I think those politics are becoming increasingly legible. So there are types of stories, let’s say white people having affairs in the suburbs, whose politics do not feel particularly relevant to the moment. And fiction from marginalized groups is getting more attention, though often still not enough. I had the pleasure of editing an amazing book that came out last fall, Insurrecto by Gina Apostol, which is a fascinating, wild novel about art and film and the sort of forgotten history of the Philippine-American War. A war that, Gina notes, is forgotten both in the United States and in the Philippines — erased from the national consciousness of both countries. It’s a formally challenging work. It’s non-chronological, there are multiple layers of reality, there are competing realities. It’s very playful. It does very strange things with time. But it’s gotten a ton of reviews and attention. And I think that speaks to both the incredible talent of the author, and what she’s created, and to a contemporary hunger for politically engaged work, in a multitude of forms.

 

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Book

Mark Doten Trump Sky Alpha
Graywolf Press

‘Twice a week, the President pilots his ultra-luxury airship Trump Sky Alpha (seats start at $50,000) between DC, NYC, and Mar-a-Lago, delivering, as he travels, a streaming YouTube address to the nation, trumpeting his successes and blasting his enemies—until the day his words plunge the world into nuclear war. One year later, with ninety percent of the world’s population decimated, a journalist named Rachel, grieving for her lost wife and daughter, and living an emotionally numb existence in the Twin Cities Metro Containment Zone, is offered an assignment by her old editor: to document the jokes that made their way around the internet in the final moments before the end.

‘What she uncovers, hidden amid spiraling memes and twitter jokes in a working archive of the internet’s remnants, are references to a little-known novel, The Subversive, that seemed to have predicted the world’s end, and the traces of a shadowy hacktivist group known as the Aviary. The actions of the Aviary, and the enigmatic presence a figure known only as Birdcrash, take on immense and terrifying dimensions as Rachel ventures further into the ruins of the internet.

‘Mark Doten, a satirist of unparalleled vision, brilliantly details how the internet has infiltrated every aspect of our lives, laying the groundwork for the tumult of our current political moment, and, in the kaleidoscopic, queer, all-consuming, parallactic swirl of Trump Sky Alpha, for the future headed our way.’ — Graywolf

 

Excerpt

Trump Sky Alpha, the rigid airship that docked on the roof of the White House and the roof of Trump Tower, a thousand-foot vessel from the bridge of which Trump delivered streaming YouTube addresses every Wednesday, DC to New York, and every Sunday, New York to DC, the ultra-luxury Zeppelin – ‘Crystal Palace of the Sky’ – on which the 224 seats (‘Luxury berths in an Open Loge Style’) went for a starting price of 450,000, a figure that jumped with the addition of various ultra-deluxe packages and enhancements, ‘Diamond’ and ‘Diamond Troika Elite’ tiers, four figures for the ‘Ten-Star Double Platinum Seafood’, ‘certified eight-pound’ lobsters with trump embossed on tail fin and right claw, wine pairings offered by the animated ‘Founding Foodie’ Ben Franklin on touchscreen, Franklin adjusting spectacles and cataloging flights of Trump Wine (‘An Exquisite Taste of Trump’), the Feu de Cheminée and the Blanc de Blanc de la plus Blanc, the final bill after disembarkment running to twenty pages or more of often obscure fees and surcharges, bag fees and negative weather clemency credits and per-use charges on the ergonomic loge controls – every seat adjustment noted by the system and itemized – the seats arranged in an oblong spiral that looped the transparent floor six times, the entire body of the aircraft constructed from a revolutionary transparent membrane stretched over a skeleton of moth-white aluminum, seats facing inward, amphitheater-style, and at the center a circular bridge of bulletproof glass, the views from all 224 seats opening vertiginously onto the National Mall or Central Park and Midtown as the craft lifted off, offering a ‘pristine God’s-eye view of our Great Nation’, seats sliding backward on mobile tracks, while a system of giant claws and pulleys yanked other seats up overhead and moved them forward, closer to Trump, the price of your enhancement package determining how far up you went, a leapfrog of one or ten seats, the ‘Troika’ or ‘Triple-Star Emerald Troika’ or ‘Deca-Diamond Troika Extreme’, the last of which, for a modulating price somewhere in the seven figures, placing you at Position #1, which you would then enjoy for a minute or an hour until someone else ordered it, everyone knocked back one position, chairs almost continuously moving backward on a track on the floor, clacking against each other, so Trump’s words were overlaid with big echoing vibrations like huge skee balls loading and sharp but stifled human gasps as giant claws snatched the next upgrader, seats whooshing overhead, at any given moment eight or ten or twelve seats zipping around unpredictably above, the transparent floor provoking a certain amount of nervous loge-adjustment as Trump spoke (each adjustment itemized), big spenders with corporate or government sponsors taking their turn up front as Trump gives his twice-weekly address at the helm of the Zeppelin, or if not the big spenders themselves then stand-ins the sponsors had hired, attractive actors filling in for company executives after earlier accidents and threats and attacks, Monsanto or McKesson or Chevron stitched prominently but tastefully on their suits or dresses, Trump’s hands on and then off the wheel as he gestures during his live-streamed address, seeming to float at the center of the craft, unleashing all the old familiar gestures, the little pointy duck bill, the poke, the palms-out ‘stop’ that would flow into a second gesture, fingers still fanned but palms turning in to face each other and then squeezing in and out as though meeting a resistant force, a crazy horizontal spring, Trump grimacing with the effort, elbows pinching into his waist, whole body contorting at the sheer ridiculousness of whatever enemy he was describing, Trump putting his rubberized face – by turns frog-lipped and hemorrhoidal, pig- and pop-eyed – through its paces, an array of comical disapprovals, hands resting now and then on the big gold-spoked wheel that at times seemed in his power and at others appeared to turn of its own accord, Trump almost floating there in the sky, drawing no salary, wholly removed from the business side of the Trump Organization and Trump Sky Alpha for the duration of his presidency – but he could still fly in it, couldn’t he? you’re not saying that’s illegal? – the whole bridge rotating behind its circular glass wall, making 360-degree rotations every four minutes, Trump turning and turning as Trump Sky Alpha twice a week made stately progress, warping the clouds and sky behind, above it a massive American flag with Trump’s face superimposed, squinting and grinning, the flag itself animated LED-enabled fabric, mirroring Trump’s expressions via real-time video capture, the highways and port cities of the eastern seaboard spread out below, Trump rotating and raising a fist, his voice filling the craft, Trump interrupting his own extemporaneous thoughts on the events of the past week to point or wink at a chair that had moved to the front (‘We’ve got Walmart coming up, looks like Ford right behind, try the surf and turf, it’s really fabulous!’) while several copilots and a whole team of staffers and security personnel and military folks worked in a concealed bay in the aft, a white opaque bay that was markedly empty tonight, no copilot, no staff, no passengers, Trump Sky Alpha tonight tearing its moorings from the White House roof, shocking the military and Secret Service and the White House staffers who milled about on the ground (even Trump’s private security caught flat-footed), staffers and military and members of the deep state who had told the president again and again that day, all day long, that under the extraordinary circumstances unfolding around the world, the nuclear attacks, the hundreds or thousands of ongoing conflicts, the millions or tens of millions already dead, Trump would absolutely not be permitted to fly Trump Sky Alpha, Mr President, we can get you into a bunker with full communication equipment and you can give your address there, you just can’t do it in a goddamn plastic blimp at the start of World War III.

In the afternoon Trump stopped arguing with them, got quiet, it was after Ivanka went on TV, after she said it was a mistake, the first nuclear launch, and after that Trump wouldn’t speak, which they realized later was a warning of things to come – there was Trump sitting catatonic in his big chair in the White House situation room for hours, papers piling up before him, he had authorized a plan the previous evening, a limited nuclear option, and this had been carried out, and Ivanka had gone on TV, weeping, to say it was a mistake, and ever since he had just sat in his big chair, all night and through the day, Trump in the situation room with the joint chiefs, options set down in black binders in front of him, options whose windows were passing rapidly, gone and replaced with new binders, Trump’s only real movement when Pence mentioned a possible transfer of power, just for the day, just for an hour, just so a few key decisions could be made, and Trump turned and half-stood, slow and bear-like and implacable, and open-palm smacked Pence’s face, knocked him down with a crack that silenced the dozen murmured conversations happening across the room, and there was a tense moment among the Secret Service and Trump’s private security, but Pence sat up and rubbed his head and said, I’m fine, it’s fine, and then all at once people were speaking, Mr President there are a range of options, here’s the big one, these are more measured, we advise an immediate response, it’s a dynamic and unfolding situation, we advise something limited but decisive, let me walk you through the details . . . Trump again silent, slouched in his chair, vacantly staring through a deep squint, eyes for long periods the narrowest slits, possibly closed altogether, it was his favorite day, the day he got to fly Trump Sky Alpha and do his live-streaming, twice a week it was his favorite day, but something had happened, today something had happened to his favorite day, and there was Pence, hovering again like a maître d’, moving between Trump and the other end of the room, where a certain humming awareness was coming into being, a panic that they, the generals, were watching, just watching, the world end, and there were plans, they had been drawn up very early, even before the inauguration, plans for the Twenty-Fifth Amendment, his mental illness, his – it had been decided – his dementia, these whispers going back and forth at the generals’ end of the room, yes, clear signs of age-related dementia, changes of mood, confusion, difficulty following conversations, and now was the moment to deploy it, the Twenty-Fifth Amendment, compounded by the shock of what had happened to his family, not to Ivanka but most of the rest of the family who had been in New York, the series of attacks in New York among the precipitating events of the crisis, though now since the first ‘limited’ US nuclear response protestors had filled the streets, demanding peace, demanding no more of this, it was Lewy Body Dementia, that was the emerging consensus, somehow they had landed on Lewy Body Dementia, it seemed better than plain-old dementia, and they couldn’t just watch the world end, not when there was something they could do, Trump’s private security at the other end of the room sensing the threat taking shape, casually falling into positions around and behind the president, the generals and advisors and deep state, they had to do something, and so at last Pence gave the nod, and the chairman of the joint chiefs cleared his throat, and there was an almost slow-motion interplay of dozens of gazes and hands, hands on all sides of the room moving to the guns holstered under fine-tailored suits, it was all about to be resolved, one way or another, when suddenly Trump was lumbering very fast through the White House and up the stairs, in every hallway and stairwell strong-arming Secret Service out of his way, all the way to the roof access, Secret Service and military personnel asking each other at first jokingly and then not so much if they should just tackle him, but it happened so fast, he was already on the roof and then half- running up the gangway – it was time, the scheduled takeoff time for Trump Sky Alpha, though Trump had been told there would be no takeoff today, not at the start of World War III, didn’t he understand? – Trump’s feet landing with concussive thuds, and two Secret Service agents tried to take him by the arm (right there on the gangway stairs – it’s very dangerous to grab people on stairs, everyone knows that, especially on these flimsy gangway stairs that just go up and up, absolutely terrible!) and with shocking strength for an elderly overweight man, Trump hurled both agents off the gangway and pressed the button that closed it up behind him, three more agents actually grabbing onto mooring cables as the Zeppelin lifted off, struggling up their respective cables for a few seconds before plummeting to their deaths like losers – and that’s what they were, total losers – Trump in his glassed-in enclosure firing off a few quick tweets (‘Happy to be flying back to NYC! Beautiful night! Fake News Media WRONG as usual!!!’) as the bridge began to rotate, Trump Sky Alpha rising above the National Mall, which was wholly given over now to military operations, dozens of helicopters and tanks and armored personnel carriers on the green (‘Generals doing great job! Say they’re glad it’s me, not Hillary! Don’t listen to lying media. We Keep America SAFE!!!’), Trump activating the livestream, an array of cameras that cut automatically between Trump and the amphitheater-style seats with genuine leather accents, now empty, on what had been until this day a perpetually sold-out flight, two times a week, Trump Sky Alpha heading north, Trump beginning his address, the latest in his series of twice-weekly monologues, while behind him across the Potomac the Pentagon still smoldered, huge clouds of black smoke visible from several of the camera angles the livestream was cycling through, the sunset a lavender and black-and-orange melange that added painterly highlights to Trump’s coiffure, Trump turning the gold-plated wheel and touching levers and buttons that controlled the stabilizers and the rotor speed, and across the world the other Zeppelins in the fleet rose from their moorings, all of them linked together, all of them ‘Piloted by Trumptm’, it wasn’t a single aircraft, it was several dozen Trump Zeppelins across the globe, a sort of global interconnected organism, so that when Trump Sky Alpha turned right, the Zeppelins all turned right, when he turned left, they turned left, when he accelerated, they did the same, Trump’s hologram projected in real time onto the glass bridges of several dozen other Zeppelins, the Zeppelins all linked to his as in a pantograph, as connected pens that reproduce a single image at various scales (‘Based on Benjamin Franklin’s “Pantograph” Invention, the Ultimate in Luxury Travel’), Trump Sky Zeppelins in Taiwan, the UAE, Kuwait, the Netherlands, South Korea, Russia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and dozens of other locales, took off and followed the same paths, or had, until this night, when worldwide devastation had already rendered half the fleet inoperable, but against the backdrop of blackouts or massive fires the crafts that remained lifted off with Trump, in Kazakhstan tracer bullets sliced up the Trump Sky craft’s cabin, sliced up the people in the cabin, it took off as the floor of it broke free and all inside tumbled down except those who were already in the claws, and who burned to death watching a Trump hologram chatter and gesticulate (‘You wouldn’t know it from the press, just how beautifully it’s going, the media has been really terrible, there are a couple people – and I’m not going to name names – but there are a couple people who are just so disgusting, CNN and the failing New York Times’), and Trump passed over the Patapsco River and hit the button to click off the really tasteless just nasty Kazakh live feed, those people in the claws shrieking and engulfed in flames, but the button he pressed turned out to be the rear rotor reverse switch, and the nose of the craft went up sharply – noses all across the fleet did – and the 2,000-gallon wheeled lobster tanks crashed against the Mount Rushmore-style sculptures that separated the galley from the main cabin, and 2,000-gallon plate-glass tanks all around the world likewise shattered against sculptures of Trump and Eric and Trump Jr and Ivanka, sending huge crustaceans flying everywhere as passengers worldwide screamed in one voice.

 

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p.s. Hey. Mark Doten’s new, just released novel is brilliant, and that, possibly plus the fact that he was, for a long time, a distinguished local of this blog under the moniker nomoreteenagekicks, makes celebrating ‘Trump Sky Alpha’s’ birth a done deal. Really great stuff, please dig in. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Festivals are also a very tough nut if your film not only can’t be easily branded but deliberately tries not to be easily brandable like ours. But oh well, whatever. So very thrilled by your enthusiasm for the film. I’ll let you know the release info when I know it. Thank you so very much! A whole bunch of very big losses in the last few days: Mark Hollis, Donen, Jackie Shaine, … Everyone, Mr. Ehrenstein has memorialised Stanley Donen on his legendary FaBlog and in a rich, inimitable way. Please pay your respects. ** Misanthrope, Hi, G. I’m glad you made it to Mark’s thing. And talk about synchronicity! Holy moly (as Bernard would, for instance, say.) Very weird to think there was a time when that title would have been considered more catchy and commercial. Jesus, obviously. Give Mieze the warmest ever cyber hug back from me! ** Grant Maierhofer, Hey, Grant! Thank you again so much! And thanks about the Ellis podcast. Very much look forward to your 3AM piece. Everyone, excellence incarnate author and your guest-host of this past weekend, Grant Maierhofer, has a new nonfiction thing just up at the great 3:AM site that will no doubt do your brains a world of good. Find it here. ** Mark Gluth, Hey there, Mark! Very awesome to see you! It goes well apart, yes, from the chilly indoor conditions. I haven’t taken to Michael recently enough to know how close he/you are to the actually shooting. I need to call him. Wow, excellent. Your set decorators are the same ones we used on ‘PGL’, and they’re completely amazing. Uh, that many scenes to shoot in 12 days is, I mean, impossible? I’m sure Michael has some inventive plan. But whoa. I’ve been excited for your new book and its little brother for months, and, yes, without question, I want to employ the blog at its/their stage, rising curtain, and so on. Please, even! Wow, yes, of course I want to see you here in Paris. That’s incredible news. Um, yeah, … you mean us reading together here? Sure. I’ll confer with Michael about that, but sure, and it should be pretty doable to arrange. Your in-progress book does sound big. Big in the exciting way. You’re on fire a bit, man, which is the best. I haven’t heard the new Krug songs yet. Will though. Big fan here too. Oh, the Bookworm episode about ‘PGL’ featuring Zac and me goes live on Thursday. Take care, bud. ** kier, Hey! I’ve been making pasta a lot because the warmth from the flames heating the pot of water is just the slightest relief. But the cold is getting ultra-old, and there’s still no date for the heater replacement, fuck. Wow, you do sound mega-busy. I thought I was busy, but your busyness takes the cake. All for hopefully really, really good, though. I’m heavily rooting you on. Zac is too. Ooh, super fascinating and cerebral drool inspiring about the knitting ‘printer’ and ceramics works! Dying to see them even online. Best of the best of the best with everything, maestro! And I should be able to send you a jpeg of the French PGL poster very soon. ** Quinn R, Hi, Quinn! I’m happy my advice was a help. Well, no surprise that I agree with your thoughts on the MFA program downfalls. I suppose there must be exceptions? But I don’t know. The travel went really well. The jet lag finally exited and didn’t turn out to be as swamping as it can be. Next stop for PGL is the University of Notre Dame early next month, but unfortunately Zac and I aren’t going to be there. You know, now that you say Montreal is the male strip club capital of the world, I do recall a friend of mine telling me that. How curious and unexpected, but then, why not? Well, first it doesn’t sound like a rash decision. But then I’m speaking someone who has made a number of decisions that strike many as rash, like moving to Paris out of the blue with no longterm plan in place, for instance. So, no, it doesn’t sound rash in a negative way. Estranging your family: that’s not nothing, of course. Seriously estranging? Not just, like, worrying/irritating them at first? I mean, if you’ve thought it through to a degree that you think is enough, and if the idea interests/excites you, I don’t see how it could be a disaster or anything? Worst comes to worst, if you don’t end up liking it, you’ll find/go somewhere else, no? I guess that’s a qualified ‘go for it’? Let me know what you decide, etc. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hey! If I had come across a gif from ‘Threads’, it would have been there, you bet. A demonic rabbit?! Oh, boy, that’s the concept of promising in a nutshell. ** Steve Erickson, My understanding is that first the podcast is on Patreon and then it filters out to Spotify and other places? I think that’s what I was told, but I don’t remember precisely. Luckily the temperatures weren’t scary this past weekend, but it did go down to 1 degree Centigrade at night, so… It was no fun. I’ll watch for the Claire Simon film. The meeting went well in the way that it could have. ARTE really likes what we did, and/but they want a lot, and I mean a lot, of finessing and altering to make things more ‘dramatic’, which we can and will do, but my hope that we were basically at the end of script writing were completely dashed, and there’s still a ton of work, so … yeah. I have not seen or even heard of SOPHIA ANTIPOLIS. I’ll, of course, check around. Did you like ‘Climax’? As I already said, I enjoyed it a lot, and especially the crumping, while also thinking it’s basically a regrouping film for him after the disastrous ‘Love’. Him doing what he knows how to do and what we already know he can do in a fun, effective way. Everyone, Here’s Steve’s article on the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s “Rendez-vous with French Cinema” series. ** Bill, Hi, B. Happy Monday, and thank you. If you’re in the mood for very period, 60s style gentrified psychedelia and counterculture cash-in with a fair amount of wit, etc., ‘The President’s Analyst’ and ‘Candy’ and the two ‘Flint’ films can be a bunch of fun. I am curious about that Jackson doc actually, strangely enough. In part for the tech, I must admit. ** RememberKidsKeatonLovesYou, Ha ha ha, nice. The meeting did what it did in an ultimately productive way, thank you. Never having been religious, I’m weirdly cold eyed and probably superficial about the apocalyptic. That was a great bunch of thinking and writing there, man. Made me put two fingers on my chin and rub, literally. ** Kyler, Hi. Is it? Yeah, I guess it is. I’ve always gotten sleepy earlier than I wanted to. Late night partying and clubs rarely entered my life. And, based on my hung over friends’ reports the next day, I almost never regretted conking out instead. ** Nik, Hi, Nic. Nice: the soundtrack. Still edging toward reading your story, sorry, too much stuff here calling for my brain. Very soon. As I told Steve, the meeting was good in the sense that ARTE is enthusiastic about the script, bad in the non-unexpected sense that they want a lot, a shitload more work on it, nothing drastic, but a huge amount of little refinements and changes to give it more ‘TV show’-style ‘pizazz’ and ‘pop’. We know how to do that, but it’s not going to be fun at all, and it’s going to be laborious. So … Upon learning that, I told Gisele and our producers that I refuse to start work on it until Zac and I finish our new film script, which has been on hold due to swamping TV script work since last summer. So we negotiated a deadline for our film script being finished by March 20th, and that’s doable, so basically I’m going to be overworking for the foreseeable future. But enough about me. My mom, who I never saw read a book in my/her life, said she loved Balzac, although I never saw her read him, and I don’t remember there being a single Balzac book in our house. No, I’ve never read him. Strange. Perhaps I should taste him. You’ve made me want to. I’m not reading much due to work distraction, but I am gradually going through Charlie Fox’s ‘This Young Monster’, which is great. And you? ** Okay. Give the entirety of your local attention to Mark Doten’s amazing novel today please. See you tomorrow.

10 Comments

  1. Mr. Doten, your book sounds FABULOUS! Trump is most definitely a character out of dystopian sci-fi. Every morning I wake hoping to read his obit. Perhaps he’ll be done in by One-Cheeseburger-Too-Many or maybe his miserable son Barron will grab a pair of scissors and do him in like Charlotte Rampling does her many enemies in Chereau’s “Flesh of the Orchid” Whatever gets the job done.

  2. Dennis, Thank you! What a great surprise! xoxo, M.

  3. Thanks for the Coburn recs, Dennis. And sorry to hear about the continuing heaterless-ness. Yikes.

    I just spotted the new Mark Doten last night, and was intrigued. I have to say that excerpt looks quite exhausting.

    Just came across this, with a new Ashley Paul cut; might be your thing:
    https://boomkat.com/products/cipher-b77fef74-7dd2-4750-885f-685046eec932

    I’m re-reading Brian Evenson’s Last Days with a book group on Goodreads. I’d forgotten how blackly funny it is. I’m often laughing out loud and cringing at the same time.

    Bill

  4. Haha, its funny for me to think of you at a meeting. Cos you know everywhere you go, especially a meeting environment, youre like the CO-CE_-COOPO – you know, the BOSS. Or at least like a boss. Im usually upside down in my chair at a meeting or looking for the dip, trying to figure out where Im at. Haha, I always felt really crazy about the End. “In the… End.” haha. “…will come true in the end.” Anyway. “The Glory, Resurrection…” hehe. End of the mf world! It gets my panties twisted. Maybe you need some religion. Keaton’s guide to Catholicism: Go the Madeline and sit in the back. Look for cute boys praying. Follow them outside and have a smoke. (They’re Catholic, they’re posh, and they just prayed. They’re prime.) Wait until my Spanish gets really good, and it’s getting better, then I’m really gonna be trouble. El Keato. Haha, woah Mark Doten, Sometimes They Write Books, cool. Exited to read books that are in the now this year. This one makes the list. Feel like my head is going to explode and getting thin, must need to party and write. Like a finger in the butt, K.

  5. The Claire Simon film is actually 3 years old and is only just being distributed in the US. (Richard Brody wrote about it in the New Yorker last year when it played New York under a different English name.)

    Here are my thoughts on CLIMAX: https://letterboxd.com/steevee/film/climax-2018/. It’s almost 24 hours since I’ve seen it, and I’m still not sure if I like it or what I make of it. That pushes me in the direction of valuing it. I have some more ideas about it: it’s ultimately an expression of a fear of losing control over oneself, and the film’s power comes much more from Noe’s formal skill than its narrative or its overt depiction of its themes. (The Bataille and Kafka books and SUSPIRIA tape in the opening scene had me fearing the worst.) As you suggest, it does feel like a retread of some of the techniques and settings he used in IRREVERSIBLE & ENTER THE VOID.

    When will you get the fixed/new heater back?

    I am interviewing music video director Shomi Patwary this evening for the website Studio Daily. It will be published Friday at the earliest. I’ll also be interviewing Mark Cousins, director of a new documentary about Orson Welles’ paintings and a work-in-progress mini-series about female directors, at a date TBD in early March.

  6. Yes, I was hoping for the Trump Sky Alpha Day today, because I figured The End(s) of the World(s) was a warm-up. I did indeed hear Mark read this weekend, and I made Misanthrope sit next to me because I wanted to look like I knew cool people, even though Mis saw much cooler people he wanted to sit with. What a struggle. Mark was great of course; I hadn’t looked at the book yet, and it turned out to be a good listen as well as read, which isn’t true of everything. We repaired to the pizza joint where my wedding reception was held, more celebrated for its pedophile dungeon.
    Anyway, I’m going to hear William Basinski tonight, and you know I don’t go to live shows much; and then later this week I go to New York for a week; and then in April I go to New York for a week; and end of May I get to give a talk on Midsummer Night’s Dream for a group that is going to Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which is a nice gig for me; and at the end of June I go to Kerkrade in the eastern Netherlands (close to Cologne, which is a town I like); and THEN I spend July in Paris at the Same Old Place. Isn’t that great? So, see you soon!

  7. I often wonder what Ballard would have made of our present Trump and Brexit dystopia and in his absence, Mark Doten seems to be havng a good go at it. How to deal with a situation like this one? I’m just writing about a demonic rabbit but I hear other methods are available.

  8. Hey Dennis, that’s cool about the PGL Bookworm. I can’t wait to check it out. Also so cool re: Paris stuff, I’ll let ya confer with Michael and stay in touch. So shooting starts in April, which means we are holding off on doing my new book until after that’s passed, but no biggie. Anyway, curtain raising needs to be delayed accordingly. It’s so awesome to read that your next script is nearing completion. I mean that overwork bit can be stressful but also kinda like a form of intoxication. I mean, I’ve been ‘over working’ for years, as someone who has a 40 hour a week job and stuff and juggles Michael- project writing and my own book stuff. It’s just a really cool feeling to move forward.

    Adios amigo (and stay warm!)

    Oh, and let me know what ya think of those Krug songs!

  9. Mark, Congrats again. And again, great seeing you Saturday. I had a great time.

    Dennis, See? DC is THE happening place. Me, Bernard, pedophile dungeon pizza…what’s not to like?

    Btw, Bernard got a cream soda at the pizza place and split. Said something like, “I can’t take the screams of these children any longer…” What a wimp!

    Yeah, that title on that Firbank book…sheesh. Crazy. I think that’s the really crazy thing…that that was decided on by the powers that be because they obviously thought it would sell better. Unfortunately, they were right. It was 20s, though, so maybe understandable.

    I like that he published it in the UK later with his original title. Still can’t figure out why they just didn’t use that one on this little three-novel collection. Hmm…

    I’m turning into Marie Kondo.

  10. Hey!

    Oh, cool, I remember you mentioning this book. I didn’t realize he used to comment on the blog. The excerpt is great, I think I’m gonna share it with the editor at Conjunctions (not Brad; the person who works for him from Bard, I’m not sure what her title is). The blog is a great way to keep reading contemporary stuff even though I’m totally inundated in Balzac haha.
    Yeah, I mean, again, Balzac is really styleless. But it’s not just sparse prose … he’s holding the readers hand throughout the whole story. It’s kind of funny and passively enjoyable, and sometimes really effective in a weird, potentially inadvertent way… but there’s nothing in the way of layer though, he’s constantly telling you how to feel, and it’s mostly plot-driven (he’s like Blanchot’s nightmare or something)… I like it, but make sure to pick a good one if you end up reading him, nd take it with a grain of salt.
    Good for you for demanding some time for the film script, that definitely sounds like a top priority. Plus, it seems like the last few months have been so bogged down by TV busywork and press that, yeah, you deserve some time to focus 100% on a project that’s fresh and truly creative. I’m happy you’re gonna get that time, dude. This is the home haunts one, right? What state is that one in again?

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