The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Spotlight on … Jean-Jacques Schuhl Ingrid Caven (2000)


‘”I have a very small cult reputation to protect,” Jean-Jacques Schuhl protested to me a few months ago in Paris when he learned that he’d been nominated for the Prix Goncourt (and the four other top French literary prizes) for his first book in twenty-three years. Now that he’s won the Goncourt, this avatar of Duchampian wit and encyclopedic misanthropy will just have to live with a much bigger cult. Ingrid Caven, his novel, is named for the celebrated singer he lives with, the former wife of Rainer Fassbinder and muse of Yves Saint Laurent; La Caven returned to the concert stage in November, at the Theatre de I’Odeon, in postmodern triumph, as a fictional character who sings. Ingrid Caven is not her biography, however, but a phantasmagorical riff on the social, political, and artistic history of our times, filtered through a meditation on stagecraft, the voice and attitude of the singer, the diva, the personae of history’s actors.’ — Gary Indiana



‘Jean-Jacques Schuhl was born in 1941 in Marseille. In 1972, he published Rose Poussière  mixing pop collages (extracts from newspapers, scores …) and descriptive fulgurances on real characters (Mao, Marlene Dietrich, the Stones …), elevated to the rank of myths unique and yet all interchangeable. Rose Poussière will become the fetish book of a whole generation. And the next one. His second text, Telex n ° 1 (1976), remains unavailable for a long time before his reissue this spring at L’Imaginaire. In 2000, Schuhl, after 24 years of absence, signed his great return to the literary scene: he received the Goncourt Prize for his novel Ingrid Caven, around the life of his companion, German singer and actress in the years 1960-70 . His latest book, Entry of the Ghosts, was released in 2010, again at Gallimard, in L’infini, the imprint of his friend Philippe Sollers.

‘Jean-Jacques Schuhl is an esthete who perceives the mutations of society with a deliciously feigned distance, at the periphery, that of the half-world. His taste for the observation of majestic decadences and his writing, elegiac or luminous, always chiseled, made him one of the most precious French authors (in the sense of sacred). And rare. So valuable. We are careful not to tell him, fearing to pass, like his alter-ego against Fred Hughes in the news of Vanity Fair, for “a complacent memorialist” (passage that will be cut in the course of the numerous discussions and corrections which will enlace the Elaboration of the text.) One evokes his readings of the moment: Reverdy therefore, and Proust, regularly. In the face of our avowed reluctance, he suggests that the best way to approach the work of the author of  Swann is to leave aside all the sociological and theoretical analyzes “rather boring, it must be said” To the benefit of descriptions of atmospheres, portraits and dazzling associations of ideas.’ — Jean Perrier



‘Jean-Jacques Schuhl was only 50 francs (about £5) better off yesterday after winning France’s top book award, the Prix Goncourt, for a difficult and experimental novel based on the life of his lover. But his back manager will not be worried: Schuhl can expect to sell up to 500,000 copies of his book, Ingrid Caven, such is the prestige of the award. And the real Ingrid Caven, a German singer and actor, will not do too badly as a result of the book’s success, either. She tells this morning’s Le Monde that she has received several film offers as a result of its publication earlier this month.

‘Schuhl, 59, is hardly a well-known writer in France, not least because Ingrid Caven is his first novel for nearly 25 years. “It’s been a long time since I’ve written, and it’s a dramatic turn of events,” he told France-2 television after winning the award. “I didn’t expect it.” Caven was married to the film director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and starred in many of his pictures. She was later a lover of Yves Saint Laurent. Caven was last seen in Britain in Raoul Ruiz’s movie adaptation of Proust, Time Regained.

‘The choice of Schuhl’s novel is certainly a vote for French literary iconoclasm at a time when the country’s literary prizes in general, and the Goncourt in particular, have been widely criticised for not rewarding literary merit but bowing to the pressures of leading publishers. But Schuhl’s award was described as the “a vote for quality” by Michel Tournier, one of the judges and a previous winner of the prize. “Jean-Jacques Schuhl’s novel isn’t a commercial book and it won’t be displayed prominently in bookshop windows,” he said. That last point may well be an exaggeration, since the award of the Prix Goncourt usually guarantees huge sale, the winner’s book often bought as a Christmas gift in France.’ — Stuart Jeffries



au fond, jean-jacques schuhl, c’est moi


from Purple Magazine


OLIVIER ZAHM – Do you still belong to the underground?

JEAN-JACQUES SCHUHL – The underground, it does not exist any more since now everything is in the light. It’s horrible ! It’s no longer attractive … It’s like poetry. In France, a poet is someone who has not known how to make a novel … In Germany, it is different: poetry has another status. Kafka, for example, is considered a “dichter”, that is, a poet in a very strong and wider sense … In America, too, with the poets of the Beat Generation … Even Edgar Allan Poe is Curse, but with all that entails prestige. Here, it is still and always head in the moon! The underground, no longer exists because it was recovered by the mainstream. And it is no longer erotic to say underground in the current context of the unprecedented cult of money and power.

OLIVIER ZAHM – Is the term “novelist” better for you?

JEAN-JACQUES SCHUHL – I received the Goncourt prize with Ingrid Caven  … I have no problem with it. At the bottom I have almost written nothing … Three books in all and for all … That I am hardly classifiable, I want … Well!

OLIVIER ZAHM – You have written little, yet you play the figure of the novelist for a whole new generation.

JEAN-JACQUES SCHUHL – Maybe it’s because I’ve disappeared! After Rose Poussière came out in 1972, I did not write for very long. There was indeed Telex No. 1 . Then I left in the stratosphere: radio silence … But I returned with a literary brilliance and a price for Ingrid Caven.

OLIVIER ZAHM – Your trajectory is enigmatic, mysterious, very unusual today. It has an elliptical shape that enhances the “Schuhl myth”.

JEAN-JACQUES SCHUHL – In silence and absence are made fantasies … What has he done all this time? Where was he ? If I had definitely disappeared, we would no longer ask the question, but I came out of the silent desert to make a surprise mediaatic-literary hold-up! A beautiful booty indeed! Surveillance cameras have not spotted me! Stories of ghosts, it works

OLIVIER ZAHM – But this mystery has been linked with your vision of writing and probably with the decline of literature which is now a machine to reveal everything from the author (memoirs, autobiography, autofiction …).

JEAN-JACQUES SCHUHL – For there to be an echo or a resonance, there must also be a little emptiness around. The music resonates with silences that count as notes, as in printing, the white has value in the typography of signs in its own right. We must never lose sight of silence. One always thinks of the full, it is the fault of the West. Without silence, without emptiness, things do not resonate or very badly.

OLIVIER ZAHM – This silence for more than twenty years has not been deliberate?

JEAN-JACQUES SCHUHL – There is undoubtedly a share of powerlessness in that or the requirement of something I could not develop after Rose Poussière . This narrative was intended as a manifesto for a sort of impersonal writing, made up of a mosaic of genres, quotations, observations, press articles, poems made of AFP dispatches, telexes with horse names Or hotel listings … It was something very personal. And impersonality leads quite normally to withdrawal and silence. I wanted to capture the air of the time without being too present. It was about being a simple sensor-transmitter … It was three times nothing, hardly a book, and that wrote itself, without me … I should not have signed it!

OLIVIER ZAHM: But why have not we pursued other texts?

JEAN-JACQUES SCHUHL – As of 1975-76, for me things are a little extinct. I was no longer stimulated as I had been in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Perhaps I could no longer observe, seize, listen to or see all these frail indecisive indices, but it was That I had no more matter. It was perhaps an alibi to justify a personal state. Perhaps a laziness. Take fashion in 75-76 for example, it has already swung into what it has become now: a market, economic powers, a kind of globalization and standardization, the dictatorship of commercial demand. Already was foreshadowed the resumption in hand by new forces … All that there was of savage and which had interested me, a kind of spontaneous emergence, was diluted … Everything that had fascinated me also in the English musics , Or the stuff that came from the East – including the history of the Chinese Red Guards – all this happened without warning, strikingly and unpredictably … It was very clear in fashion. I remember one of the first parades of Claude Montana in 1976-77, room Wagram, an old boxing room. There was an effect of unpredictability, of sudden emergence. I do not want to be nostalgic, say it was better before! Not at all ! But today we see quickly where things happen: revival, cloning, return of the same, reinterpretation, mixing weakened … So in more and more stifling … We see where it comes from! Not that before, it did not come from somewhere, but there was a dazzling and subversive rise that blurred immediate comprehension. What inspired and fascinated me was the savagery of something remote or foreign. Maybe I can no longer see or hear him. I always ask myself the question. Is it me or the world?

OLIVIER ZAHM – This is the question that despairs everyone …

JEAN-JACQUES SCHUHL – Hence the persistent fascination for the 60s and 70s. It is this period of emergence that keeps coming back to the heads and phagocytating us. Retro fashion and disembodied technology. But I’m still alert. In Search of the Present Time!

OLIVIER ZAHM – During all these years of silence, I have the impression that you have never given up, nor stopped observing, refine your perceptions. One feels it in Ingrid Caven which finally covers the time of this prolonged silence. As well as in your next novel of which I have read a few pages.

JEAN-JACQUES SCHUHL – Rose Poussière was made in chance. It is an assemblage of things that were in the air: the newspaper, the English fashions, a few dialogues of films, short portraits, a personage that I had wanted a little futuristic, Frankenstein-le-Dandy. All that made scarcely a book, between the manifesto, the narrative, the newspaper. Rose Poussière was directly connected to what can be called “reality”. With Ingrid Caven , I told a biographical romanticized story. Now I write through the screen of artistic elements, with filters. I look at David Lynch. I dive into Edgar Poe. Whereas at the time I read very little, and almost not … except the press, France Soir and magazines … I went out at night in clubs, I watched the street, fashions, styles, clothes … The Red Guards wanted the books burnt … Today I keep looking around. I read fashion magazines, but I’m less interested. I return to literature and cinema … In the excerpts of my next novel you read, I placed a character of mannequin with a certain reluctance, because it interests me less than before. It’s just the idea of ​​the mannequin, this automatic, inhuman or say non-human and manipulated thing, that always fascinates me.

OLIVIER ZAHM – How do you explain the confidential and persistent success of Rose Poussière through the years?

JEAN-JACQUES SCHUHL – An extract from a newspaper can be as important as a book. I like what passes and leaves very little trace: an extract of article, fugitive tracks on newspapers or magazines, words on the sand … But precisely, Rose Poussière which was hardly a book, Crossed the time. Before it was published, I brought some fragments of texts to Gallimard, like that, without thinking of anything … It was made of bric-a-brac, a kind of ephemeral collage of telex, newspapers, film dialogues and a few Texts from me. I am glad that this thing has become a little cult book … A friable and light thing that first sold to a hundred copies and then a few thousand and more. You yourself asked me to use the title for an exhibition on French art at the Grand Palais, La Force de l’Art . One day I was at a parade of Christian Lacroix. I did not know him personally and he whispered in my ear: “Rose Poussière” … Like a password … I had wanted to put in

Featured accessories. Pink Dust was a shade of make-up I’d seen in London: Dusty Pink . My title is a makeup! Now, accessories have become the essential, 70% of the brands revenue. They clutter up everything, they see nothing but themselves. They too are in full light. I do not care. What I like, these are the stars in the shadows! Personally, I prefer Ingrid Caven , I think it is a novel more accomplished.

But what made it so that Ingrid Caven shot 350,000 copies and Rose Poussière became a cult book with so much resonance, the great echo of a little thing …

OLIVIER ZAHM – It’s the butterfly effect!

JEAN-JACQUES SCHUHL – Yes, it’s relatively hushed for years and it’s growing and spreading. In fact objects found came to fit in a book and I was medium of the times. The best of arts is a medium. People are barring this today with the cult of “Me I”. If one is a medium, as the fisherman tends the net, things come to it.

OLIVIER ZAHM – You still have to know how to throw the net, because you are a great stylist.

JEAN-JACQUES SCHUHL – Yes, of course, you have to open your ears and your eyes, be there without being there … Everyone can be a medium at times on his zone. Go for a walk in the night for example and let things pass through you … Intermittent medium, voila!

OLIVIER ZAHM – There are very few writers who, like you, go out at night, read fashion magazines, are interested in modern and contemporary art. In Paris, it is the self of the writer, self-fiction and psychology that predominate …

JEAN-JACQUES SCHUHL – I really like journalism. Mallarmé directed and wrote his own newspaper, La Dernière Mode , all the sections, including under feminine pseudonyms … I put my rare articles on the same level as my books. I do not make any difference. A writer should be at least a little journalist in the twist: openness to the world, capture of what is happening, precision of copyist, scribe …



Jean-Jacques Schuhl Ready-made & cut-up: on William S. Burroughs (1975)

The cut-up exists without Burroughs. It’s the newspaper. The agency dispatches were torn and then shown. It is enough then to read his daily life without bending to the references on the inside page (the suite, that is what it is next to), that is to say like a book, sweeping the whole page, and By connecting the various items. It’s a ready-made-cut-up. For my part, I work from the newspapers which are what best reflects the official discourse – especially France Soir. But rather than break the meaning, as Burroughs does, I prefer to mining it from inside, betraying it, pretending to play its game, and blurring it. I take a newspaper clipping that seduces me as a beautiful symptom, and puts it in relation with other cuts, or other cuts (all around), or with what is on the back of the page (I cut With the chisel the page and then looks at what is on the back, materially what is related to what I wanted to cut), or transparently in the light of a lamp, to obtain a spectral text (see-through ). We can say that it is a reorganization of the newspaper, a redistribution of its elements, with thin games, quotes hardly displaced, slight lags, slides, transparencies, telescoping, mine of Nothing, a “serious” (political) heading and a “frivolous” heading (turf, set of 7 errors). It would have to be seen almost as a fire, only this evening almost.

The cut-up of Burroughs breaks the circuits of thought. I prefer to try to pervert them gently, in a non-repairable way.

The reservation I make about the cut-up is that it’s a little too cut, I prefer a more sneaky disassembling where one mimes the traditional narrative and the mine. Slips, short circuits, shifts, whites, small squeaks inside the academic discourse, rather than breaks (it must not break anything). Example to follow: Lautreamont. I would like us to say: that’s it, that’s right, it’s only nice news, and yet! And yet! But we do not know what is going on, where the trouble comes from. Something like the voice or gesture of a transvestite, a synthetic robot, or W. Burroughs in a fake Anglican clergyman. I would like to write a book with a single journal, a story that does not look like anything, that comes from the recomposed headings of the newspaper: there is something wrong, but what? Obviously, the ideal would be to enter the marble of France Soir at night, and to operate swiftly a recomposition which, in the morning, would make the city say a little embarrassed: “There is something wrong, but what ?”

But there are other betrayals …




Jean-Jacques Schuhl Ingrid Caven (City Lights Books, 2004)
(Buy it)

‘A novel about the life of German cabaret singer and film actress Ingrid Caven, who was once director Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s star, and his wife, muse to Yves Saint Laurent, and a protege of Pierre Berge. Consisting of memories, mixing real and invented people and events, Ingrid Caven reveals the cold heart of the European counterculture of the 1970s, an era of celebrity glitz, cocaine-fueled excess, gay bathhouses, and young idealists-turned-terrorists. Ingrid Caven was an immediate bestseller in France, where it sold over 235,000 copies in its first year of publication. It has been translated into 18 languages.Jean-Jacques Schuhl is a Parisian dandy who lives with Ingrid Caven and who had not published a book for twenty years until this one.’ — City Lights

‘Singing for the Führer’s troops at age five makes material for Ingrid Caven’s lifelong running gag—and the definitive event novelist Schuhl returns to again and again in recounting her life. Ingrid is a plucky girl from Saarland with a terrible skin problem and a wondrous voice, which propels her through classical training and on to accolades on the Munich stage (that’s when she meets a lonely boy in black leather who wants to make films—the Wunderkind of German film). Over the years, Ingrid will mingle with the likes of Andy Warhol and Yves Saint Laurent, and even become embroiled with the Baader Meinhof Gang. A sensational Paris debut and suddenly the “little hurting girl in borrowed clothes” becomes really famous, meeting Bette Davis and Satie, flying about the world as the wife of Fassbinder, who turns out to be a drug-using homosexual. In telling Ingrid’s story, Charles is a kind of misanthropic alter ego: he follows the singer around, has affairs of his own, reports a lot of hearsay and snatched dialogue, but provides little sense of interior life. The climax comes at Fassbinder’s untimely funeral (he was 38), when, with all his actresses linked up front as if at a premiere, a posthumous piece of paper is discovered detailing Fassbinder’s outline for a script about the life of Ingrid Caven, “the woman he loved.”’ — Kirkus

‘Adolf Hitler, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Yves Saint Laurent — German-born cabaret singer Ingrid Caven’s life flowed around these icons of 20th century European counterculture. Caven was married to Fassbinder and starred in many of his movies; she was Saint Laurent’s model and muse. At 4 1/2, she sang “Silent Night” in the barracks for the German troops. This novel, by her current lover and based on her life, is a collage of that strange postwar period in Europe of high artifice, drugs, terrorism, leather jackets and cinema. Behind the glamorous backdrop of hotel rooms, the Brasserie Lipp, the Rue de Bac, the clothing by Saint Laurent, Issey Miyake and others, you can still smell cities burning, lives decaying. Artists drape themselves over rich American producers and patrons. The “era of Potsdam and Sans-Souci … matching plates and Meissen dancers” is over. But so is the era of cabaret, and Caven finds herself a relic: “The time of stars and divas was long gone, and haute couture was disappearing, too…. Why go on singing when all the voices have been flattened, standardized, synthesized?”‘ — Los Angeles Times



Excerpt #1

The sheet of paper was 8 ×11, crumpled, spotted with splashes of coffee, wine, maybe nicotine; they found it on the ground by the side of the dead man’s bed, lying there to be picked up by anybody, the cop, the maid, the doctor. The writing that covered it was like a speech given in a single breath, no punctuation, only one real erasure, two words now illegible at the end of a correction and a little arrow for cross reference. Eighteen paragraphs in the sequence, as though he had the whole text already written in his mind, all he had to do was write it out, the words had been etched in him forever and he had only to read and copy them; but the writing was just phrases, telegraphic, not exactly literary stuff. He had jabbed the paper, gashed it, raised welts and sores, made hard signs as though with a stiletto and not a ballpoint: it was something raw and brutal. The writing was firm, but still it shook like the needle of a seismograph, shaken up, rickety, words on the slant: like a child’s writing, like an old man’s writing, each letter formed with force and great attention, as though writing was slipping away just as life was and he tried to trace the letters, especially the capitals. The words blew about, had their own life, and none of the phrases lined up neatly; these were words thrown onto paper, as you write a note when you’re in danger, page torn from a notebook, no time to punctuate or take a breath, someone is after you… Numbered 1 to 18, the paragraphs were the stages, the chapters, images, scenes, synopsis, who knows—there was no title—of the life of Ingrid Caven. What follows is a literal translation, with the punctuation and the syntax of the original:

1 Birth + hatred of mother + start of allergy (Germany needs canon fodder)

2 First song, silent night holy night

3 Allergy much loved

4 University + worsening of allergy, decision for psychiatry you need courage to live

5 End of allergy, love with psychiatrist, high-class woman in rosewood, end of love

6 Flight skilful very disheartened for the terrible chic Revolution [sic]

7 Short life alone with many stories of men

8 Plays theatre, lives in commune, electronic love (GVH)

9 Marriage, fear of marriage, divorce

10 Africa

11 Second strategy

12 First appearance at Pigall’s

13 Jean-Jacques Schuhl + some bad films

14 Catastrophe with Musical, end with Jean-Jacques

15 Time of loneliness, appeal of suicide, drugs, schnapps and boys and cockroaches in the Chelsea H

16 Attack in waiting room, knowledge of great love

17 Sex and crime and black eyes

18 Dispute fight love hate happiness tears pills death +a smile

Just a wretched scrap of paper, found and kept by sheer chance, someone might have thrown it out despite the lines scrawled on the back. On the other side of page, the ‘right’ side, there is dialogue in neat electronic typing from the script of some movie Rainer had already made—big budget, six, seven, eight million dollars, big historical reconstruction, period sets and costumes, the Second World War—he must have used this particular piece of paper because he had nothing else available in a sudden emergency, he didn’t have the strength to get up and he lived very much alone at the end. On the reverse of this big historical movie, Rainer wrote his last words: the story of his wife, real, imagined.

The big budget project was pushed to the shadow side of the page, hidden away, the kind of production that he complained at the end was keeping him prisoner: and on the new ‘right’ side, these words he had scrawled, almost cut into the paper with such force and application, the life of the woman he loved. It was almost nothing, but only almost: a simple sheet of paper… just like fifteen years earlier and the cut of the Yves Saint Laurent dress, Ingrid Caven claimed the ‘wrong’ side, the second side, the reverse of the black satin cloth and now the paper, its secret side turned round, the dark, forgotten, secondary, shadow side of things turned to the front. That was where he wrote her ‘life’ and where she too had ‘written’ her life, not on the grand, fixed side of things but rather on the rootless side which she made grand with her songs.

Once again it was like the cloth you turn over because it’s the back side that counts, and you don’t know any more which is front and which is back, the Moebius strip, everything changes and comes back, what’s noble becomes vulgar and comes back, cloth that shows its lining, flags that beat in the wind. On what was once, and is no longer the ‘right’ side of the page, this scrap of dialogue: But, tonight, in front of the men, it will work, I am sure, and then I will realize something you desire. Something that you desire…

It was a troubling page because episodes 1 to 13 referred to facts and events, but 14 to 18 were entirely from his imagination. He saw her life as tragedy, a melodrama from an airport novel, and he had finished it. He did it as if she, too, were finished, deciding even her violent, scandalous, ignominious ending,; but Rainer was the one dying that way, sometimes he was found alone, outside, stark naked in front of his door on the landing, asleep in his shit, full of alcohol, drugs, sleeping pills, and at the height of his fame. In 14 to 18, was he taking revenge or playing tricks or just assembling the threads like a skilled writer for the screen? Or like a fate that he was trying to ward off with his words? She had got away, and on his deathbed he invoked her, he evoked her, took her back with words, with this skeleton story of her life. It was extraordinary: he wrote the life of the woman he loved, part real, part imagined, part elliptical, and on the way he made a picture of himself, and then he died.

Fascinating, worrisome, even very worrisome: you think about it, it couldn’t possibly be a film project. How could he shoot Ingrid’s disastrous end, her terrible fall and ignominious death while she was still living, and more alive than many others? He could have filmed 1 to 13, but not 14 to 18. Never. So what was this thing? A malevolent prediction, tempting fate like the voodoo priest pricks the doll with needles; but Rainer’s needle was a ballpoint pen.



Excerpt #2

It wasn’t the sight of the saucepans, it was the noise they made that seemed so unholy, such a vulgar noise for a singer and such a seedy noise, too, as though her whole past was dragging behind her, and above all the sound was so entirely out of place, nothing at all to do with the luxurious and old-style setting – carpets, wall hangings, such well trained staff: the hotel was like a ventriloquist’s dummy, letting out a cry that didn’t belong to it, something irritating, agonising, making the brain falter. Maybe Ingrid also remembered Sundays at home, her mother cooking in the kitchen with a clatter of pans that mixed with the Liszt, ‘Hungarian Rhapsody,’ that her father used to play over and over in the next-door drawing room. That, too was in her mind, making it tilt like a pinball machine. A saucepan bumped up against one of the metal bars on the stairs, and came to rest, dumb.

There’s a photograph of Marlene Dietrich, which she once gave to Hemingway (1): She’s all legs, sitting, like in those famous shots for the Blackglama furs, her head is down, so all you can see is the line of nose, mouth, chin: enough to identify her at once like a logo, a Chinese pictogram, a coat of arms, and, alongside those long, bare famous legs that were insured for $5 million at Lloyds, she’s written: ‘I cook, too.’ Were they lovers, friends, loving friends? The old story keeps the crowds agog: the writer and the actress, or the singer, D’Annunzio and la Duse, Miller and Monroe, Romain Gary and Jean Seberg, Sam Shepard and Jessica Lange, Phillip ‘Portnoy’ Roth and Claire ‘Limelight’ Bloom, the marriage of word and flesh, intriguing, puzzling, riotous.

Hemingway? Maybe, if it comes down to it, the picture wasn’t dedicated to him at all but to one of her other men – Erich Maria Remarque, or Alexander Fleming who discovered penicillin? Jean Gabin, perhaps? Or to Mercedes d’Acosta, that exotic lesbian? Or just to some nameless fan? Doesn’t matter, it’s all ancient history, the young woman with the saucepan is also a chain smoker, but she uses a common black plastic cigarette holder, Denicotea, only twenty-five francs from your neighbourhood tobacconist.

She’s still laughing in the elevator and when, with the manager going ahead, she enters her suite, she’s amazed by what she sees: white lilies, on the night table, on the desk, the vanity, in the bathroom, in the entrance hall, everywhere white lilies. Yves paid tribute to his queen with a suite in white. After saucepans, lilies, after the hausfrau, the vamp. Pans and lilies – a good title if one day she wrote her memoirs; Eva Gabor, sister of the more famous Zsa Zsa, called her book Orchids and Salami.

From the ridiculous to the sublime, could be one of those surprising productions of her friend Werner Schröter whose nickname – but why on earth? – was ‘The Baron’: Oscar Wilde’s Salomé, The Death of Maria Malibran … she was bound to arrive in Paris under this particular sign, because, truth to tell, her real range of mind is more from lilies to saucepans, if you see what I mean, just as at the end of some exquisitely turned sentence – like this one – you need a break, but even the break is still too exquisite, those lovely rhetorical cadences I never quite escape. On stage with a flourish of her hand followed by a broken wrist, a back kick in the air that was a wink at flamenco, she knew just how to break up all that virtuosity, that panache, to do it neatly and dryly, to cut things short, never to make them too rich, yes, that was it, heading for the world of lilies and orchids, then turning back abruptly to saucepans and salami. Lupe Velez was engaged to Johnny Weismuller, but she fell out with Tarzan, wanted to kill herself, but looking lovely, image before everything, even when dying, hours and hours of fixing her makeup and her hair. She had no luck at all, pills and booze upset her guts and so it was that they found her, in her loveliest frock, immaculately styled, powdered, bejewelled, virtually embalmed, but stifled on her own vomit with her head down the toilet. That’s the art of breaking a mood, a right-angle turn of mood, art upside down, the leftovers restored, and anyway a kitchen utensil is always handy: John Cage wrote a concerto for mincer and beater.


4 Ingrid Caven songs in one video

Ingrid Caven ‘Alabama Song’

Ingrid Caven ‘Polaroid Cocaine’

Ingrid Caven ‘The Wonderful Widow of 18 Springs’




Jean-Jacques Schuhl Website
Buy J-J Schulh’s ‘Ingrid Caven’
‘Jean-Jacques Schuhl, mythe majestueux’
‘Telex n°1, come-back du mythe signé Jean Jacques Schuhl’
‘Profonde superficialité’
J-J Schuhl ‘Apparition de Werner Schroeter’
J-J Schuhl ‘JLG, rapports secrets’
Video: ‘Jean-Jacques Schuhl – “Entrée des Fantômes”‘
‘Laure Adler reçoit Jean-Jacques Schuhl, écrivain’
Jean-Jacques Schuhl Facebook page





p.s. Hey. Just a heads up that I have a big meeting tomorrow morning. I don’t know when it is yet. If it’s really early, I won’t be able to do the p.s. tomorrow and will catch up with the two days of comments on Thursday, and, if it isn’t so early in the morning, I will do the p.s. So a bit of mystery for you there. ** H, Hi. Thank you. Did you end up watching the eclipse from Coney Island? My impression is that Coney Island has become a shadow of itself? ** David Ehrenstein, Thank you, yes. ** Sypha, Hi, James. Nice to see you, bud. My condolences and hugs about your family dog. Well, I’m with you about Facebook, but I still find it a valuable place to search for interesting things and personal news, even though that involves very heavy weeding these days. The nonstop outrage and hysteria there is an exhausting train wreck. NecronomiCon was dead boring? Sad given its name’s promises. Oh well. Anyway, it sounds like you found a non-boring beeline in the middle of it. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. Yeah, reshooting is really tough without a bunch of money. Like I said, we just gave up on the idea and did what we had to in order to transform any problems in what we shot into virtues. Well, writing about the Flesheaters can happen any old time, so saving it for a less rainy day just seems sane. Look forward to the interview. Everyone, Steve Erickson has interviewed director Eliza Hittman about her very well liked new film ‘Beach Rats’ over at the Roger Ebert site, and I recommend you partake. ** Nick Toti, Hi, Nick. Ha ha, I almost never ask about content. Content is always material to me. It’ll get to me regardless of whether I study it. Separating the content out from the presentation just seems very strange. I always hunt art for its degree of individuality because that’s where you can learn and where any genius or newness lies, so what I like about films is always in the construction, I guess. Really, really interesting to read how you made it and where its effects are coming from. I’m a process junkie. Thank you for the generous share, man. ** Jamie, Hi, J-ster. My day wasn’t a whole lot, but it was par for the course. Yes, there it was, as you kind of requested, and I’m glad it still seems valuable. Favorites? That’s tough. ‘Life And Nothing More’ and ‘Taste of Cherry’ maybe. And ‘Where is the friend’s home?’  Whoa, taxing is the word, it sounds like. Is Jonathan a persuadable guy? Easily strategically charmed? Tribe tickets, sure. I’m in. Zac said he was in. Go for it, and we’ll pay you back. I just realized they’ve opened a new roller coaster, so that’s exciting to a previous visitor like me. Thanks, man. What happened today in a nutshell or a bushel or an even bigger vessel? Disco without the mirrored ball love, Dennis. ** Dóra Grőber, Hi! Exactly, comfort comes in all kinds of unexpected forms. It’s beautiful that way. Yes, please do let me know what happens with the two hopeful jobs. I was a little nervous about the rehearsals in the moment, but then it passed. Ultimately what needs to be done to make the piece work right is entirely up to Gisele since, even though my part in it is quite important, it’s a dance piece, and it’s the movement that will make or break it, and I can only offer random advice on that front. I hope (and know) you will have a wonderful time with Anita, and of course I send you infinite strength and hugs for the funeral. I hope it does what funerals were created to do. I look very forward to seeing you soon! Take good care!!! ** Jeff J, Hey! Man, the eclipse looked crazy on TV, so I can only imagine, and, like I said, I experienced one in Amsterdam in the mid-80s, and it was kind of a monumental thing. Wow, Nicole Brossard! I haven’t heard her name in a long time. I’ve only read ‘Mauve Desert’ and ‘Picture Theory’. I remember thinking they were very, very interesting. Huh. I don’t remember if I’ve dedicated a Day to her, but I think I absolutely will. She’s a perfect candidate. Anyway, I think I can recommend ‘Mauve Desert’, yes. Let me know what you think if you dive in. ** Alistair, Hi! Great, I’ll hold open the best spot available. Interesting that ‘Taste of Cherry’ was in your thoughts. And, now that you say that, huh, yes it makes an inexplicable sense. Oh, it’s pretty unlikely I’ll stop in NYC on my way back from the New Narrative thing, unfortunately, but, if there’s a chance, I will and would so love to be at your book launch and see Tim’s performance. ** Misanthrope, Hi. Hm, I don’t know what’s up with your invisible comments thing. I’ll wait to see if others have the same problem and if your problem keeps recurring before I dig deep. I’m going to have to google Noah Matous. I’m out of it. Hope you feel better, dude. If you’re reading this, I’ll assume your eyes survived, unless I guess you’re reading this while screaming in pain. Good and good luck if needed about Saturday. ** Okay. I was about 3/4 of the way through making the post today when I thought, Did I … do a post about this book before? And sure enough, I had, and sure enough, that elderly, dead post wasn’t very good in retrospect, and so I continued making this brand new post. Interesting, no, ha ha? See you tomorrow.


  1. Money isn’t the problem. I actually am paying everyone who is working on this film, and as a result they seem committed to working on it on an ongoing basis. The issue is co-ordinating everyone’s schedules. For instance, the cinematographer is a college student who has a class starting at 3 PM on the 30th, so the re-shoot has to end at 2. And no one will be around at the space we’re using as a set till around 10:30 AM – the cinematographer has a key, but it would obviously not be a good idea for her to let us in without getting anyone else’s permission – so the shoot is now slated to run from 10:30 AM till 2 PM. Fortunately, I know exactly what I’m planning in terms of. camera set-ups and have communicated this to the cinematographer. Moving the camera always seems to require 20 minutes of moving lights as well, but we’re only shooting 3 scenes so I hope this is not a huge time suck. Also, the actor only has to memorize 3 paragraphs of the monologue rather than the whole thing, and I hope this is much easier for him. I need to find a P.A. as well; right now, I don’t have any solid leads. I have a friend who has repeatedly volunteered for this and then flaked out.

    I don’t have to write anything from today till Friday (when I hope to write program notes on Iranian cinema), so I hope to say something on the Flesheaters on Facebook between then. I haven’t heard a lot of new music I’ve been excited by since your last Gig Day; Offa Rex come closest, and I did mention them in a rambling Facebook post that somehow tied them into the movie THE NILE HILTON INCIDENT and a bunch of political stuff I was angry about at the time. They’re totally retro; they just do a very good of sounding like bands like Fairport Convention and Pentangle, whom I absolutely love.

      • Wow, thanks! The first Fairport album is not my fave (I wish they had done a studio recording of the amazing version of “Suzanne” available on a collection on BBC sessions and gone straight to Brit-folk instead of copying West Coast psychedelia at first), but the next four are masterpieces. Also, replacing their two original singers with Richard Thompson and Sandy Denny helped launch the band into greatness.

  2. David Ehrenstein

    August 22, 2017 at 3:54 pm

    Schuhl sounds interesting. Back in the 80’s I interviewed Ingrid Caven when I was contemplating writing a book on Fassbinder. Gave up as don’t know german, much less “High German” which is the key to “Garbage the City and Death” the play he wrote in Los Angeles while sitting at the counter at “Arthur J’s” Remember “Arthur J’s” Dennis? Caven was quite nice.

  3. Hey Dennis,

    That gif piece you posted the other day was great. I had a real rifle through and read of it this morning. Thanks for sharing it! It’s one of my favourite things when you post new work on here.

    Speaking of work, I hope the Wednesday meeting goes well.

    Jean-Jacques Schuhl is totally new to me – it’s weird because I don’t remember this day from the first time around. The excerpts are really great though so I’m glad you spotlighted it.

    I’m looking forward to Paris next week! My plane arrives at 4pm on Sunday afternoon.

    I know that a lot of the galleries close in August but are them shows worth checking out while I’m around? I want to see the dioramas at the Palais de Tokyo. Any other tips of things to check out while I’m there?

  4. I’m shocked that I haven’t read or purchased “Ingrid Caven.” It has been on my list of books to read for a LONG time. Thanks for the reminder!

  5. Greetings from Leeds! Right now I’m sat at my parents’ dining room table and my brother with his girlfriend are coming round later for a barbecue. Friday it’s my cousin’s wedding so it should be a decent few days we have lined up.

    I’ve actually got this book, having bought it on the strength of the original post. I’ll use this Day as the spur to finally pick the thing up. I definitely have more of an idea about who Ms Caven is now, through seeing her work in various Fassbinder films. It’s such a compelling idea for a novel.

  6. Dennis, well, maybe “dead boring” was a bit harsh on my part. There were still some aspects of it I enjoyed (for example, the Ligotti panel was very interesting), and it’s always nice to spend time in Providence. And of course, the shopping…

    Oh, I’m not quitting Facebook anytime soon. As it is I enjoy posting stuff on there and corresponding with people in private, and there are a few people I’m friends with on there who always post very interesting things. I’ve just had to make liberal use of my “unfollow” button in regards to certain people who just keep beating the same subjects to death over and over again. Maybe I’ll start following them again when a Democrat’s in office again, ha ha.

    • I got into a discussion on FB with someone I personally know about Afghanistan that quickly turned into a free-for-all with 30 people expressing their opinions – all of which boiled down to “I hate Trump and war” – and I thought “why the hell did I bother commenting on this subject?”

  7. Hey Dennis! I’m totally going to purchase this book. Thanks!
    I’ll message Kate this evening about buying tickets for Parc Asterix. Glad there’s a new roller coaster for you fans.
    My day in a nutshell was looking at more and more portfolios then trying to put the ones I liked in a sensible order for Jonathan’s delectation. As for persuading Jonathan, he sometimes regurgitates things I’ve said months down the line as if he’s just made them up, so hopefully the psychic seeds I’ve already planted will come to blossom around now.
    How was your day? I hope your big meeting went well.
    Four-eyed love,

  8. Dennis, Didn’t you once say this: “I have a very small cult reputation to protect.”? I’m joking. But that quote did get me to thinking. Hmm, I think the very small cult reputation just may indeed be a much better deal than some worldwide fame (or notoriety. I see that “very small cult reputation” and think “freedom,” as compared with that bigger fame that probably locks you in and there’s nothing you can do to get out of it. With cult reputation, you’re allowed to experiment and fail. Not so much, I don’t think, with the larger fame…unless you’re a real badass who just ain’t give a fuck about that.

    I’m on my zinc treatment, while also taking cough medicine and Tylenol. I feel very slightly better tonight after feeling pretty shitty all day. But I soldiered on. Even went to the gym…and felt better after that, believe it or not. I just hope I’m much better by the weekend. I don’t want the OTC stuff I’m taking to treat these symptoms fucking with my blood test. If I have to, I’ll wait until next weekend.

    But if I do go this weekend for it, thanks for the well wishes. They’re much appreciated.

    I did receiver horrible news today, though: LPS passed his test for his learner’s permit. 😮

    Yeah, the site’s working fine for me today. Hmm…

  9. Wow, just took me forever to post that comment. This site is cray cray.

  10. Hey Dennis – Wonderful day. I remember I bought a copy of ‘Ingrid Caven’ based on the original day! But it’s still sitting on the shelf unread and I’ve just pulled it down so it doesn’t get lost in the growing stacks.

    Have you read any of Schuhl’s other work?

    Sad news about the Village Voice ending their print publication. I have so many fond memories of the paper from the ’90s and early ’00s and it had really improved again over the past year, bringing back some good writers. Weird that NYC doesn’t have an alternative weekly paper but some place like Charlotte still does.

    Forgot to mention that my new Ideal Home Noise column is up at the Fanzine. It covers the massive box set of Alan Clarke’s films for the BBC; Julio Cortazar’s Literature Class from New Directions; and the lost pop art graphic novel Soft City. It’s here: http://thefanzine.com/ideal-home-noise-13-clarke-cortazar-pushwagner/

  11. As a follow-up to yesterday (and total name-dropping, admittedly), I exchanged several E-mails today with Abbas Kiarostami’s son Ahmad about the Iranian documentary series he curates, which takes place in 30 North American cities on the first Wednesday of each month. I was just informed about the existence of this series, which is called DocuNight, last night, and when I E-mailed its website for more info, I had no idea I would be receiving an E-mail from Ahmad Kiarostami (who now lives in San Francisco, works in the tech industry, directs music videos and does other things.) I told him how much his father’s films mean to me, and he said something very modest like “Well, I didn’t make them, but I’m glad they had such a positive impact on you.”

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