The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Please welcome to the world … Peter Christopher Campfires of the Dead and the Living: The Collected Stories of Peter Christopher (11:11 Press)

 

Introduction by Chuck Palahniuk

Peter Christopher popped my cherry. Reading-wise.
Until Peter, I’d tell you that so-and-so was good reading. You know, the writer with his own shelf at Blockbuster Video. The third-person patch on what H. P. Lovecraft used to do. That billion-selling, second-rate Hemingway. What did I know?
I say Blockbuster because this was 1991? 92? Peter had gone to Columbia to study under Gordon Lish with writers such as Amy Hempel and Mark Richard and Tom Spanbauer. Tom had moved to Portland and taught the style of Minimalism in a workshop he called “Dangerous Writing.” Tom invited Peter to come west, and what Peter came to teach us, he called “submerging the I.” His theory being that fiction told in the first-person – I walked… I read… – held the most power and authority because a personality seemed present and accountable for the how-and-why the story was being told. The context.
That’s something that third-person omniscient “voice of God” narration can’t do. As per Peter, the modern reader is smart enough to know that the storyteller – even a fictitious storyteller, especially a fictitious storyteller – has her motives and slant on the truth. So if a story took place in that old-fashioned, third-person, once upon a time it was bullshit.
The catch was, Peter Christopher warned us that readers hate a story riddled with the first-person pronoun “I.” That “I” reminded the reader that she was only a witness. The story was happening to someone else. The solution? Peter called it “submerging the I.” Simply put, you told the story in first-person but used the first-person pronoun seldom if ever. Doing so you sidestepped the thudding I…I…I… sound of a self-obsessed bore. What’s more you’re forced to point the camera at everything else. Submerging the I breaks your work open.
Take Cory-Anne. For months she’d brought the same story into Tom’s workshop. It was always about her nephew dying, and she’d cry when she read it aloud. In short, it was about Cory-Anne. Her writing wasn’t getting any better, and she cried harder each week so it didn’t seem that Cory-Anne was getting any better, either. Peter came west at Tom’s invitation and asked us to submerge the I. He urged Cory-Anne to write something new.
Within a month she broke out. It was by submerging the I, or reading the work of Amy Hempel and Mark Richard. Or it was reading Peter’s work, the stories in this book. But Cory-Anne wrote us a story that left Tom’s workshop in silent awe for a moment.
At that Peter knelt on the floor and began to kowtow at her feet. He led the writers in a chant of her name as he continued to bow before her. And this time Cory-Anne didn’t cry. She glowed. She’d written an astounding short story. She’d taken herself almost entirely out of the drama and given us a story in which we felt like characters.
It’s a glorious moment, when a student writer breaks out their own voice. One day they’re writing mawkish, tedious stuff. And the next week they’re being cheered. And that moment wouldn’t have happened without the advice and the patience of Peter Christopher.
Me, I once sublet a huge loft at14th and Hudson in Manhattan with Peter. At the time it was a district of meat packers, where pigeons ate the raw fat and waded through the beef blood in the gutters. Nights, the area teemed with trans-gender sex workers. A half-block west of our door, the old West Side Elevated Line ran as a ruined no man’s land as far uptown as 35th Street. It was a fast way to walk uptown, but so dangerous no one ever used it. It’s now the ritzy New York High Line. Years later, the New Yorker magazine hosted a party for me at a lux nightclub named Apartment, and I attended, shocked to find that the space was the same one Peter and I had rented.
During our shared sublet it was winter, and I drank coffee all day so I could go out all night. Every evening the Italian restaurant below our place held a different bachelor party, but you could set your watch by it. Promptly at 9:30, the stripper would begin to dance to Madonna’s Material Girl. The song list never varied and as long as the party lasted, the male crowds cheered up through the floors. Even once the night’s party died down, I could blink awake after midnight to see sex workers on the roof, staring down at me through the skylights.
Peter told me how he’d once worked for Big Golden Books, a children’s imprint at Penguin Random House. It was strange to think of Peter working on books like The Poky Little Puppy and The Little Red Hen. He’d already lost an eye to cancer and always worried the cancer might come back. Tom told me that Peter had always clung to university teaching jobs because he wanted the health insurance – in case the cancer came back. That’s why Peter had published so little of his own fiction.
Peter brought so many people fully into the world. First by writing and thus showing us what excellent storytelling could be. And second, by teaching. Me and Cory-Anne, we’re better writers due to him. And we’re better readers thanks to Peter Christopher.
For twenty years I’ve pushed people to find and read his collection Campfires of the Dead. It was out of print for so long that getting a copy was near impossible. And now, here it is. In your hands. And here I am writing to repay an old, old debt to the man who taught us all.
May this book make you a better reader. If you write, may it make you a better writer.

 

 

Campfires of the Dead and the Living is a collection of short fiction by Peter Christopher. This volume contains The Living – an unpublished collection of stories written between 1990 and 2004 – and Campfires of the Dead – Christopher’s first collection, out of print for more than three decades and originally published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1989.

Peter Christopher taught at Georgia Southern University for many years and was a recipient of a 1991 National Endowment of the Arts fellowship in creative writing. Though only Campfires of the Dead was published during his lifetime, through his teaching, mentorship, and friendships, Christopher had a lasting impact on writers Harry Crews, Gordon Lish, and Chuck Palahniuk among others.

Buy ‘Campfires of the Dead and the Living’

 

 

HERE IS A VISION AND VOICE THAT YOUR HEART AND BLOOD WILL NEVER FORGET. IT IS ABOUT THE FORGOTTEN, THE HURT, AND THE HELPLESS, BUT PETER CHRISTOPHER’S MAGIC MAKES THESE PEOPLE WHOLE AGAIN. I AM GRATEFUL FOR FINDING THIS BOOK. — HARRY CREWS

PETER CHRISTOPHER? A CASE WHEREIN IT’S THE MAN, NOT THE LITTÉRATEUR, THAT DEMANDS REMARK—TO WIT, NEVER KNEW, WILL NEVER KNOW, AN INSTANCE OF BETTER, DEARER, SWEETER. THAT WAS PETER, NONE GREATER, NOT JUST A MENSCH BUT A MENSCH AND A HALF. –- GORDON LISH

PETER CHRISTOPHER WAS A DEEP-HEARTED AND CLEAR-EYED BEHOLDER OF EVERY RANK LOVELINESS OF THE HUMAN ESTATE. HE WAS A MASTER OF THE SLANG-SHOT SENTENCE OF MANIC DOWNTRODDENDOM, A GENIUS OF THE NERVE-STRETCHING VIOLENT QUIETS OF THE FAILING AND THE FAILED. HERE IN ONE ABOUNDING VOLUME ARE THE LONG-OVERDUE DÉBUT OF ONE COLLECTION OF SOUL-BOILING FICTIONS AND A RETURN TO CIRCULATION OF ANOTHER–THE LEGACY OF AN EXTRAORDINARY WRITER REWORKING THE AMERICAN SHORT STORY WITH FULL, DETERMINING FORCE. –— GARIELLE LUTZ

FOR YEARS I’VE BEEN XEROXING PETER CHRISTOPHER’S STORIES FOR MY WRITING STUDENTS. FINALLY, HERE ARE CHRISTOPHER’S COLLECTED STORIES, A BOOK SO FULL OF GRIT AND HEART, COMPASSION AND RAGE, THAT I CHALLENGE YOU TO READ HIS STORIES WITHOUT BEING CHANGED AS A PERSON WALKING THE EARTH. CAMPFIRES OF THE DEAD AND THE LIVING IS A REMARKABLE, MUSCULAR BOOK BY A BRILLIANT AND FEARLESS WRITER. –- VICTORIA REDEL

HERE’S A BULLETIN FROM THE OTHER AMERICA, THE DOWN AND OUT, THE DAMAGED, THE UNLUCKY, THE DISENFRANCHISED. . . SEARING STORIES TOLD IN ROUGH AND POETIC LANGUAGE. UNFORGETTABLE AND NECESSARY. —- LEE SMITH

I READ PETER CHRISTOPHER’S CAMPFIRES OF THE DEAD AND THE LIVING IN FRONT OF A SPACE HEATER (AN INDOOR CAMPFIRE) IN CHATTANOOGA, TENNESSEE WHERE THE RACCOONS HAVE COME OUT FROM THE DARK TO PLAY WITH THE CHIPMUNKS. GENTLY AND UNAPOLOGETICALLY SURGED WITH DOMESTIC WILD ANIMAL LIFE AND EVERYDAY TEDIUM, CHRISTOPHER’S EVER UNRESTRAINABLE, SHIFTING STORIES DARE US TO CARE. HIS STORIES ARE LEISURELY COMPASSIONATE, SPERMATICALLY ORIGINAL, AND DEFTLY DEFIANT OF ALL CAUSTIC ARROGANCE BY FAITHFULLY RECORDING THE COMIC DISCORD AND CONSONANCE IN OUR HUMANITY. THE TITLES TO HIS STORIES ARE A RIOT! HE IS FUNNY. HE IS WILD. HE IS UNEXPECTED. HE DOES NOT PONTIFICATE. HE DOES NOT FLICKER NOR FLINCH NOR WHINGE LIKE A FRIGHTENED CAT, BUT BOLDLY TUGS AND PULLS AND TICKS AND FLIPS OUR IMAGINATION WITH AN EYE FOR CONVERSATION AND AN EYE FOR QUOTIDIAN DETAILS. HIS SUAVE, SIDESPLITTING STORIES WILL WARM YOUR BITTERED HEARTS UP LIKE A SHOT OF WHISKEY AGED OVER NIGHT BY THE DISTILLED MALTED GRAIN OF HIS WORK’S TRANSIENT TIMELESSLY AND KEEP THEM SOBER UNTIL YOUR HEART AND MIND BECOME HYSTERICAL WITH PETRIFIED FEVER FOR THE UNKNOWN. –- VI KHI NAO

 

 

Excerpt

FISHING, WITH WHAT I HAVE

My grandfather, the fisherman in our family, stood in his backyard of afternoon light. My grandfather waited for me in the light off whitewashed clapboards of fence and barn. From the back porch, I could see him the way I knew him best, wearing the soft clothes he wore, holding his hat. My grandfather Caron was the stander at the stove, the sweeper and card player those summer afternoons with Grandma Rose and the other women with their shoes slipped off in the grass under the card table in my grandfather’s backyard. Grandmother Caron, my mother too, all those other women, had something in them different from my grandfather and from me–they were different quiet with different secrets, but that is a different story. For this story, my Grandmother Caron was the one snapping the teeth of my suspenders into biting up my pants. She was the one who had my baseball cap on me.
Out in the heat and light, my grandfather put on his hat. His hand held my hand. His strength and his tallness had us walking on the grass. Our walking shadow was a fisherman, who had pulled up a boy on the hook of the fisherman’s hand. Our shadow disappeared into the bigger shadow of my grandfather’s barn. His ladders and lawnmower, his Ford, seemed to me to wait for him from the deeper shadows. Climbing–with my grandfather helpingme, boosting up my backside–inside the Ford, the seat sank under me as if I was crawling, or swimming, in the belly of a giant fish that we were letting swallow us. From before, my grandfather’s Ford fish had swallowed his cob pipe and his fold of tobacco, a penny become underwater green I found between the seats, a pistachio nut. I stood myself against my grandfather starting the Ford. From that springy height, I could see into the back seat, see his fishing pole and reel, his blanket.
Light came from everywhere onto and off the shiny metal and glass of his car while grandfather drove us. His Ford finned us through the deep water of familiar streets. The salty red from the shelled nut was sucked out. The shell too hard for me to crack was spit into my hand and wiped on my pants while I looked at my grandfather under his hat. He was my mother’s blue eyes and her nose on a man. His eyes and the rest of him steered us through a rattling of light, the tunneling of shadow from trees taller than he was. I rested my small arm over his suspenders, which were bit with tiny metal fish teeth wider than my suspenders. My small fingers felt the way over the hills of him until my hand was out the
window. Air blowing cooler, heavy as water, pushed at my hand. I felt where we were.
At the bottom of the hill was MacSheen’s Store where Grandmother Caron bought me red sodas. The store was carried off behind us. The world itself was water sliding around us. The house where my mother was born went by. The place where grandfather got gas for his Ford came gliding up and by. I knew the Dairy Bar was coming up. With my hand, I could feel the wind as if from the Dairy Bar sweeping around the bend. The Dairy Bar had nearly floated by us when grandfather slowed the car, air whistling to a flutter in the window vent. He turned the steering wheel with his hands that tied knots for fishing. The car popped, pinged over gravel. We quieted to a stop. Through the glass of the windshield, through the sunlight on the Ford’s green hood, through the big windows of the Dairy Bar, I saw people sitting at the counter on swivel stools. I saw a man with too much potato in his mouth putting some potato back on his spoon.
“When you eat pistachios,” my grandfather said to me, “try not to wipe your fingers on your pants.”
I felt for the penny in my pocket. Grandfather held open the car door for me stepping down. The heat was like heat from an oven, as if Grandmother Caron’s stove was held open huge on the summer afternoon. Grandfather guided us between the sides of cars too hot to touch.
Inside, in the cool of the Dairy Bar, I touched, pulled and let go the metal knobs of the cigarette machine holding my father’s Lucky Strikes. A woman sitting in a booth laughed a croaky laugh with cigarette smoke wisping out from between her teeth. Dirty dishes and cups, a spoon, clacked under the counter wiped clean for my grandfather and for me. Grandfather helped me up, lifted me to sitting at the counter. Grandfather sat, put his hat on the counter. He ran a hand on the gleam of his head. Light chopped from off the blades of the ceiling fan at the sweating metal of the milkers, at more knives and forks and spoons set out for us, at the coffee pot, at my grandfather’s head. The ceiling fan cooled the sweaty band of hair around my head where I had taken off my baseball cap.
“Hello, Leo,” the woman wearing all blue on the other side of the counter said to my grandfather. “Hot enough for you?”
“Hello, Adelle,” my grandfather said to the woman. “Hot enough to keep me and my boy sitting with you a while.”
“Lucky for the brookies,” the woman said and smiled in such a way that her smile seemed to include all of us.
My grandfather laughed and said, “Lucky for us.”
When the woman asked my grandfather what we wanted to have, my grandfather told her, “My boy likes to fish for himself.”
I told the woman what I wanted. My grandfather told her he wanted a slice of apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
While waiting, I smelled cooking egg and coffee smells. I turned around and around on my swivel seat. I turned all the way around. I saw my grandfather in the light striking him again and again.
The woman brought my grandfather’s pie and ice cream first. He waited for her to bring me mine before he would eat. His vanilla ice cream ran melting while he waited. My grandfather was the one who watched over me. He was the one who waited
for me to take the first bite.
A man no longer the father he was drove us fast. A flock of birds in their little lives flew faster trying to keep ahead of us. From where I sat by the window, I saw that the man had my father’s face. His smoke and his Ballantine beer smells were my father’s smells. His hair, his glasses, his teeth had some secret I was afraid of, a secret I knew was different from the secrets of women or what was known between my grandfather and me. The man drove us in my father’s car by broken cornfields. My grandfather was in the same ground of another field. His fishing pole and reel were cobwebbed in the shadows of his barn. I looked at the man wearing my father’s face and hands. When he turned his head and saw me looking at him, I looked out the car window. Sunlight came through the clouds the same as in the painted picture of Jesus above my Grandma Roses’ bed. In that picture, Jesus was a fisherman held upon the water by the giant sunlit hands of his father.
More little birds burst up over a cornfield. The birds headed for some woods. I looked at the man turning the steering wheel with the hand with the ring on the finger that showed he was married to my mother. I drew lines on the fogging window with one of my fingers.
The window had fogged up again by the time the man stopped the car under trees by the side of the road. Outside the car, I stood in leaves lifting in the wind. The light coming through the leaves was such it seemed that I could look and not miss looking at any thing in the world. The man smoked a Lucky Strike while walking in the wet leaves up ahead. The leaves scuffed up dry from underneath smelled of summer afternoons. I looked back between branches blown clean of their leaves. Ahead, the man was walking by a pond with ghostly old stumps.
Things came to this: leaves of red and gold on a pond. Between and on the leaves, on the water mirrored with light, a boy with his father’s eyes, his teeth, looked up at me looking down. Trees with a few leaves seemed to float upside down. Clouds crossed quietly as if in some other wind. Through and under this other world, mossy twigs and leaves rested rotting. The boy touched at the bones of his face.
I looked up and saw the man weeping, touching at the water with a stick.
Fish, tiny fish, sprayed from the water into the air.
“Did you see that?” he said to me.
I once saw my father naked, crawling on the floor, eating what was left in ashtrays, hitting his head on the wall over and over leaving hair and blood on the wallpaper until my mother called the doctor, who came and took him away for a long time.
I sat in my dead father’s canoe out in the cold in a field. Shadows darkened the snow where the field ended, where the woods began. The hills and sky were losing light. What was colder, the sky or the snow? When I moved, the canoe my father never got to go fishing in creaked on snow so cold and hard the crust could cut me. The cold had crawled up from the metal of the canoe into my father’s boots that I wore, into the three pairs of socks.
Wind and colder came with the going of the light. The few leaves left curling on branches chittered. My lips tried to warm my teeth. My coat sleeves were tubes where I tried to work warm air. I remember thinking that if I died then, out in the field or down by the river, maybe no one would find me until spring. Cattails with calling blackbirds would grow out of me, up through my soggy old coat. Someone would call my mother and she would have to come fetch what was left of me–a twig, some hair, a sock–from out of the cattail thicket. I heard branches skinned in ice clicking against other icy branches. A dog howled somewhere down the hill through the woods. Some old tracks, the hollowed of the canoe’s run again and again, crusted from the field and down through the hard snow in the woods. I poked at the crust with the poling stick. I chipped ice chunks while the cold held in the metal of the canoe burned at my backside through my grandfather’s rotting old blanket.
The fire whistle set the dog to howling some more. The dog seemed to howl the news that it was time for my Grandma Rose and the others to get out of work. I could see down the hill through the woods to the road, to the roofs of row houses along the river frozen over, to the mill where Grandma Rose worked. Getting to work, shoving off, I pushpoled from on my knees. The canoe, taken, scraped faster along the crust. The windy cold in my mouth was a fishhook. The cold on my teeth was the sound of the push pole ticking on icy crust. I closed my mouth, warmed my teeth with my tongue, while the canoe scraped down through the woods closing in on me faster. I pushed, again, harder, dodging trees.
At the bottom of the hill, it seemed as if something was waiting in the woods to get me. Something, it seemed, was getting ready to jump me taking aim at a hump of snow with my poling stick become a spear.
I dragged the canoe behind a log by the side of the road. I crossed the road trying to stamp feeling into my feet. I clunked along on the ice blocks that had been my father’s boots, making my way behind the row houses and past a dog chained to a barrel. I was in the car wrecks river-banked before the dog let loose with a howl. On the other side of the river, the mill windowed down light. Women were walking through that light on the snow. I could see her coat, Grandma Rose in her coat with her own say-so and secrets walking with the other women and men to cars snow covered in the parking lots. The night’s coming on was helped, I believed, by the lights of the mill.
With that coming-on feeling on my shoulders and on my neck, I started across the icy river. The colder was colder than before. The ice groaned, moved, under me. I kept going, slower, tapping at the splintering ice with my spear as I went. A bubble as big as I was moved under the ice under his boots. I did not call to my grandmother, who I could see so clearly. I did not yell to her or to the other women waiting while the men brushed snow from the cars. The boy I was, my father’s son–and not some drowned dog, not a fisherman caught in the long weeds in the cold dark under the ice–would not and did not call for help from those soon shouldered snug into cars heading for home.
More than halfway across the broad slide of the river, in what little light was left from the sky, I saw a glint. Again, under the dark ice, there was a flash, a metal glint. The metal moved and I saw it was a fish.
On my knees, I looked through the ice. I could see the eyes, the gills and fins, the tiny teeth of a fish. I tocked the ice with my stick. A bubble billowed long. I tocked again. The fish stayed caught.
From where I sit writing this, I can see out the window. I can see the house across the street. The house is rotting clapboards and flaking paint in the afternoon light. A woman and a boy come out of the house, the boy shading his face with a hand while looking up at the woman. Holding hands, talking, the woman
and the boy go out the gate and along the sidewalk. I cannot see them any more.
I look down at what I have written, and I know that I am caught. I know that I am not getting away from any of it.

 

 

‘This book is probably the best example of these unfairly forgotten books and of a great writer few knew and who is no longer with us to share his words and sentences.

‘Peter Christopher was a Lish student from the Columbia U days (along with Amy Hempel, Christopher Coe and Anderson Ferrell), whose collection, Campfires of the Dead (1989) is as fine a first volume of short stories as any of the best being released today via the Flannery O’Connor Award, the AWP Awards, Drue Heinz, Juniper, Dzanc, or the Iowa Short Fiction Award. The fifteen stories were developed in Lish’s class and published in either The Quarterly or a special issue of StoryQuarterly that Lish edited. We remember well, in 1989, finding this book in a Los Angeles store and getting giddy when reading it. Where did this whacky gfeat fun stuff come from? They are quirky stories about people in love and who hold out-of-the-ordinary jobs, such as the narrator of “The Careerist,” that opens:

Ever think what chicken-sexers think all day?

Well, this chicken-sexer thinks mostly him and me and Sweet Miss Stringbean. Make him Billy Bollitt, sometimes mill rat, most time drunk, my best friend. Make me Sarno, chicken-sexer. Make Miss String Bean Billy’s sweetheart.

I think mostly of Billy and me and Sweet Miss Stringbean and working as a chicken-sexer and all…make that as a chicken-sexer all night. I work the night shift (17).

‘The flap copy reads: “Peter Christopher produces sentences that you would have to be three strong men and jump from behind to try to paraphrase—and even then you still couldn’t do it.” Lee K. Abbott provides a blurb, stating: “Move over, Barry Hannah, and make room for a deskmate with his own bent horn to toot!”

‘Christopher has been linked with former Lish student Tom Spanbauer; the two would often co-teach the “Dangerous Writing” class together. I have come across several blog and bulletin board entries about these classes, all positive. Christopher seemed to have fallen off the publishing map after Campfires of the Dead, although he did win an NEA Fellowship and worked as a journalist. In 1998, he was hired by Georgia State University’s English Department. In 2002, a new collection, The Living, was announced as forthcoming from Sandhills Press; it seems the small press never issued the book, or went defunct, because we cannot find a listing for either the press or the volume. His obituary in the George Anne Daily mentions a second book, Lost Dogs and Other Stories, but we cannot find that listed anywhere, either (it could be a chapbook, a limited edition, or a private printing).

‘Christopher died in 2008 from complications of liver cancer, age 52.

‘If ever there was a Lish writer who should have a book reprinted today, Peter Christopher holds the poster. Or perhaps publishing what he left behind in the folders is due. Anyone out there got the gumption for this consumption, to re-ignite this campfire for the living?’ — Gordon Lish Edited This

 

 

lost and found
by Suzy Vitello

Here’s a good story.

About a year ago a writing acquaintance, Steve Arnt, called me up out of the blue to ask if I was missing a particular book from my shelf. I drew a blank, because I have several hundred books: some on shelves, some in boxes, some in tubs.

He’d been looking for an out-of-print book by a writer named Peter Christopher. The book was called Campfires of the Dead, put out by Knopf in 1989.

“Yes, yes,” I said. “I know that book. I have that book. I knew Peter.”

“You certainly did have that book,” he said. “It’s inscribed to a Suzy V. That has to be you.”

I was in Hawaii when I got the call, on a deeply-anticipated holiday, one my husband and I had planned for over a year. We didn’t know when we planned the trip that our house would be on the market, and, in particular, that our house would be on the market with a flooded basement, and that we would need to retroactively permit an addition put on illegally by my ex-husband years earlier.

Why all of this is important to the story is, about a month before our trip, during staging and dismembering hell, in the worst real estate market in two decades, my current husband and I hauled three truckloads of “yours, mine and ours” crap from the basement. Lots of it mildewed, moistened, stinky and ruined. But some of it merely heavy and cumbersome.

What I’m getting at is that Pete’s book, the one you see in the picture with the very personal, lovely inscription, was a casualty of the dysfunctional triage. Where did Steve Arnt find it? Goodwill.

Now, I’ve done a lot of stupid, irresponsible things in my life. Once, I left my four-year-old daughter locked in the car while I ran into a coffee shop for an espresso. A cop was at the car’s window when I returned, two seconds from hauling me to some sort of bad parenting jail. Back in college, I often swam naked in a local reservoir, and often there were drugs involved, or alcohol, or both. I was a poor swimmer and prone, at that time, to anxiety attacks. Drowning was a real possibility. And I won’t even go into all the usual post-adolescent hyjinks. But being careless with something as sacred as a rare book–a rare, personally inscribed book at that, is inexcusably egregious.

So anyway, what happened next was, I conveyed my embarrassment and thanked Steve, who had called me so he could return my book, finished my holiday, sold the house, moved into a new house, and failed to follow up with Steve about my Campfires of the Dead.

But last week, at Lidia Yuknavitch’s Powell’s reading, there, sitting full-faced across the room, was Steve. And guess what? He still, after a year, was eager to return the book to me. So, we met for coffee, and there, on the cafe table, was Pete’s book, not one bit mildewed, water-logged or otherwise ruined. And I’d forgotten how lovely the inscription was, and how it referred to a particularly glorious summer in 1993 when I’d met him on the Oregon Coast during a writing workshop given by Tom Spanbauer, and that I had continually dropped food on my feet while we shared writing and nuthorns and laughs.

 

 

 

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p.s. Hey. Today’s a special day here on the blog as it/we/I get to use its facilities to help introduce a really remarkable book. You’ll understand why when you delve into the post, but, briefly, Peter Christopher was a superb writer who died way too young whereupon his work, which was published in a number of prominent venues in his time, was largely forgotten until Andrew Wilt at 11:11 discovered it, was blown away, and, long story short, sought out Christopher’s survivors leading to this book that returns Christopher’s work to print and hopefully prominence. I’ve read the book, and his stories truly are something. Anyway, do explore the evidence above, and be an early re-discoverer of a real talent. Thank you! And many thanks to Andrew and 11:11 Press for helping occasion this welcome mat. ** Tea, Hi. Happy he/his stuff piqued you. I need to read that BR Yeager. I haven’t yet. I’ve always loved how devising or dedicating a piece of writing to someone can be such a powerful and ideally rich form of tribute. More than with a film or even a song, I think, maybe because with writing the tributee (and others) can see and feel the writer’s care and effort and thought involved. Or else I’m just romantic about writing, but I think I’m right. As long as the unpredictable series of twists and turns of my week aren’t of the unpleasant sort — and with my current situation, they could be — I’ll happily accept a clone of your hopeful week. Take care. ** David Ehrenstein, Your link didn’t take, but ‘I Died’ sounds … promising? ** Dominik, Hi!!! Sure, power sharing is the ideal, and what better City Hall could there be, as you well know. Yes, I didn’t think my yesterday love was asking too much. There used to be one near me, but it closed due to lack of attendance, so maybe it was a big ask. I sure hope your yesterday love did his duty. Did Anita hear anything? Hopefully a very positive anything? Love making everything and everyone in the world inflatable via a blinking red shirt button, G. ** Jamie, Hey, Jamie. ‘AKA Serial Killer’ is a pretty good place to start, actually. Hm, I don’t know if he influenced Benning. It would surprise me, to be honest, but it could well be. Benning popped in here one day recently to my great honor, so maybe, if he’s still lurking, he can answer the question himself? I will now be all over ‘Hell Fest’ by as soon as tonight, we’ll see. Both for pleasure and research purposes (re: our film). And ‘Haunt’. It’s just called ‘Haunt’? Hold on. Is it the one from 2013? Monday was a headache because it was consumed by trying to reach an agreement with a certain someone with whom we work on a contract to set up a bank account that will fund our film and that we’ve been trying to get said someone to set up for many, many months. But I think it got accomplished while I was asleep, whew. Today I’m going to see a ‘fete foraine’-themed art exhibition and visiting a great store here dedicated exclusively to pop-up books and maybe Zooming with some LA film collaborators, so it should be an improvement on yesterday. And your Tuesday was … spectacular in what respect? Ha ha, anti-Pearl Jam love, thank you! Much appreciated! Although they do get a teeny weeny amount of positivity from me for once bringing Robert Pollard onstage to sing ‘Baba O’Riley’ with them as his backing band. Thusly. Continue to feel right as rain, man. Love, me. ** Damien Ark, Hi, Damien! Well, luckily many haunts operate throughout the month of October, so you have a chance. There were actually a number of OC haunts in that post. ‘The 17th Door’ in Fullerton is one of the very best haunted houses in the world. Another post for your book, absolutely, yes, please! Know that the blog is pretty surely going to be on vacation for much of October, so it might have to happen before or after, depending on your timing. Peace and love and don’t forget horror! ** T, Yay (!) on snagging a fave of yours with that post. Yes, a friend in Japan told me the post lined up with the premiere of his new, quickie film. He said he will report back. You’re working near me? Dude, surely you’d be up for a coffee break coffee collab with me, or a before or after work thing? If you want. I’m around. Sucks extremely that said job is trying to eat everything great that you do. Don’t deprioritise! Or at least not mentally and psychically. Turn your moments of non-taxed brain power into a lab. My life needs some lip balm, how did you know? I hope Tuesday turns your coworkers into broken slot machines. xoxo, D. ** h now j, Hi! How lovely to see you! I’m mostly okay. Yes, that does sound like a lot to deal with. I’m so sorry. I wish I could break off the Eiffel Tower and point it at you and use it as a magic wand. Very, very best of luck and everything else with everything that’s taxing your great self. Take good care, and here and I are always here if you need us. ** Right. You know what do: check out Peter Christopher. Thank you very much, and see you tomorrow.

6 Comments

  1. Dominik

    Hi!!

    I’ve never heard of Peter Christopher. Thank you so much for the introduction!

    That’s pretty rude of love – that you’d actually had a vegetarian/vegan shop near your place, and he closed it. And he didn’t help Anita out either; she didn’t get the job.

    I’d have some fun with that, haha. Thank you! Love designing a town where every building looks like a Poké Ball, Od.

  2. Steve Erickson

    SAINT OMER is very good. Alice Diop remains close to her background in documentary – it seems influenced by Wiseman’s courtroom films, with many long takes of people speaking in court. Without knowing much about the film’s background, I guessed that it was based on a real case (in which a woman left her baby to drown on her beach) and turned out right. You can feel Diop’s personal attachment to her main character coupled with a respect for the ambiguity and mystery of her behavior. The new Albert Serra film awaits tonight!

    I’ve come to realize I’m asexual. I’ve talked about this with my therapist for the last few weeks, but in American culture, it’s still really taboo for men not to be interested in sex. (In fact, it may be more taboo in the gay community than general American society.) Only in the last decade have the idea of aromanticism and asexuality as part of the spectrum of human behavior become accepted, rather than getting written off as products of repression, fear of intimacy, internalized homophobia, etc.

    Do you know if McKamey Manor is taking place this year? It’s funny how a WalMart clerk has succeeded in creating this mythology around himself, with rumors that the manor is part of an MK Ultra experiment, he injects visitors with LSD during visits, and sells graphic videos of himself torturing people on the dark web.

  3. Jamie

    Good morning, D. I’d also never heard of Peter Christopher, so thanks to you and 11:11 for the intro. I think I’ll purchase this book if it makes it to Belgium, or becomes cheaper to have sent here.
    Sorry to hear you’ve a nincompoop working on your film (I bet that’s not fair to say, sorry. I just wanted to say nincompoop. What a funny word. I’m going to check its etymology just to ensure it’s not untoward. Seems ok.). But sorry you’ve got someone stressing you out anyway.
    The film Haunt is the 2019 one. It’s fun. I’d guess it may be diametrically opposed to what you’d like to do with RT, but it might be of interest too.
    My Tuesday was ok, thanks for asking. I entered the last section of the novella I’m working on, which is the longest thing I’ve ever written (at just under 30000 words it’s quite enough for me!). I did find myself absent-mindedly Googling “vegetarian stuffed cabbage leaves” whilst I was in the middle of writing a sex scene, so I’m guessing that bit might need some work.
    How was your day? Was the art good? Fete-foraine is like carnival?
    Are you off to LA in October?
    Hope you have a sublime Wednesday.
    Non-forgiveness-to-Pearl-Jam-under-any-circumstances-even-Bob-Pollard-related-sorry love,
    Jamie
    Ps. I did laugh at the first comment underneath that Pearl Jam video –
    “ the greatest band of all time …. with Pearl Jam”.

  4. T

    That ‘submerging the I’ idea sounds super neat, I’m gonna have to try putting that to use. I’m off tomorrow so will be stewing myself in those extracts. Thanks for the reassurance. Sometimes I think that the squeeze on the old time makes the minutes I do get super energised or whatever. New circumstances new frame of mind or whatever. And yes for absolutely fucking sure if you want to hang for a coffee and collab I’m up for it! I’m even down for it simultaneously. At work today my computer screen was glitching and made things look like I was on acid – I’ll wish you a Wednesday just like that, xoT

  5. Tea

    I’m with you on that, re:dedication—it really is a strong, meaningful gesture above anything else. I think writing is one of, if not the most vulnerable art forms. There aren’t many places to hide, even if you’re trying to. Even banging your head against the keyboard and producing gibberish carries meaning. I both love and hate that about it.

    When it comes to this guy, I feel I “owe” him something. Like some sort of religious calling. Which must sound somewhat/entirely crazy when about someone who has no idea I exist. But he’s been instrumental to my life. I first saw him as a freshly pubescent teen and was convinced he was the most perfect guy who ever lived. Now, almost ten years later, that feeling is only stronger because I know more about his personality, life, etc.

    Well, that’s the bag I’m in. I’ll copy and paste my week into your proverbial drive or something. Here in Tuesday, it’s not looking too shabby so far.

  6. l@rst

    Howdy Dennis!

    I’m gonna make sure the library gets a copy of this book! Sounds fantastic.
    It’s been a mixed bag of highs and lows over here, the lows are at work, the library inundated with creeps cuz the main branch is closed and it’s causing me anxiety because often I’m in charge when the boss is away and it seems the boss is always away. Saturday we came into the branch to find broken glass everywhere as someone hurled big rocks through the window. So that’s the lame part…
    Good part is I finished the first issue of Skullcrushing Hummingbird – The Zine! I’m looking to make a digital flip book to accompany the print version, I’ll share the link when I get it. Distinguished Local Kier is one of the many contributors. I’m having a release party for those involved on Sunday!
    I played music with my buddy from Trumans Water and a friend who has drummed for bands like Jackie-o-motherfucker the other night and it was super fun, so I hope we converge again…
    Finally I start a Poet’s Studio next week that runs through May and I’m looking forward to immersing myself.
    Saw Broken Social Scene last night with my friend who is Canadian (I mention that because none of my friends ever heard of them, they also don’t look at the internet). They were totally fun and uplifting!
    Hope you’re good.
    Yr bud, l@rst

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