The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Spotlight on … Joy Williams The Quick and the Dead (2000)


‘A few years ago, the writer Joy Williams’s favorite church needed to dispose of a few extra pews after a renovation. Williams attends the church only in April and October, when her frequent cross-country drives take her to Laramie, Wyo., but she wanted a pew anyway. She borrowed a trailer, got a friend to help her load the pew and drove a thousand miles, pulling it behind her enormous Bronco, her two German shepherds in the cab with her. Now the long, dark pew lives in her house in Tucson.

‘When Williams was a child, her father was a minister at a Congregational church in Portland, Me. ‘‘He gave a beautiful sermon,’’ she said as we hiked through Arizona’s Santa Catalina foothills on trails she walks every morning. I asked if she had ever considered being a preacher like her father: Her stories often reveal themselves as parables, and her writing on the environment is equal parts fire, brimstone and eulogy. ‘‘Oh, no, I’m too shy,’’ she said, before lapsing into a companionable silence, the only sound her Chuck Taylors’ crunch on the trailbed. ‘‘Maybe that’s what I need,’’ she cawed suddenly. ‘‘A pulpit that I take from reading to reading with me.’’

‘Williams is wiry and tanned, her hands and face biblically wrinkled. She is 71. Years ago, she lost her eyeglasses before a university appearance and had to wear prescription sunglasses at the lectern; appreciating, perhaps, the remoteness they facilitate, she has worn them ever since at all hours of the day and night. Not unlike that church pew in her living room, the sunglasses seem like an act of disregard for everyday comfort, an eccentricity that makes everyone else uneasy but Williams more secure.

‘It was just after dawn, but already the air was stifling. We reached a summit, and Williams drank from her dogs’ scratched and dented water bottle. Fat black ants swarmed into a crevice near our feet. Atop a nearby hill stood a trio of saguaros, the bottoms of their trunks black from some recent fire or decades-ago disease. Miles away, a single impossible thunderhead dropped rain in curtains over the Sonoran Desert. Nothing we could see cared about us.

‘To call her 50-year career that of a writer’s writer does not go far enough. Her three story collections and four darkly funny novels are mostly overlooked by readers but so beloved by generations of fiction masters that she might be the writer’s writer’s writer. ‘‘She did the important work of taking the tight, minimal Carveresque story and showing that you could retrofit it with comedy,’’ George Saunders told me, ‘‘that particularly American brand of funny that is made of pain.’’ …

‘The typical Williams protagonist is a wayward girl or young woman whose bad decisions, or bad attitude, or both, make her difficult to admire: She drives away while her husband is paying for gas, or ransacks a houseguest’s room to read her journal. In Williams’s precise, unsparing, surprising prose, her characters reach for the sublime but often fall miserably to earth: ‘‘Sam and Elizabeth met as people usually meet. Suddenly, there was a deceptive light in the darkness. A light that blackly reminded the lonely of the darkness.’’ She has a gift for sentences whose unsettling turns — ‘‘While she was thinking of something perfectly balanced and amusing to say, the baby was born’’ — force readers to grapple, just as her characters grapple, with the way life will do what it wants with you. Other writers I spoke to about Williams’s work expressed a sense of awe at the grandeur underlying her stories of weirdos and misfits. ‘‘She’s a visionary,’’ Karen Russell told me, ‘‘and she resizes people against a cosmic backdrop.’’ …

‘With the 2000 novel The Quick and the Dead, Williams’s work took a sharp turn into a new landscape: Arizona, where she and Hills had bought a house. Williams flings her characters — ghosts and teenagers and seekers — across the desert with a kind of narratorial rage. And the characters give as few damns what people think of them as their creator does. In The Quick and the Dead, Williams’s sense of place came from the earth, the air, the plants and animals, the killing heat — and the inconsequence of human endeavor within that world. The stories she was writing around that time similarly revel in the way the desert places each character on a knife’s edge; in ‘‘Charity,’’ a single snake crossing the New Mexico highway sends a car smashing ‘‘with a snapping of axles’’ into a pocket of ‘‘sacred da­tura, a plant of which every part was poisonous.’’ The accident happens because a boy grabs the steering wheel, trying to run the snake over. Even in the frightening chaos of the crash’s aftermath, Williams finds comedy: ‘‘I just wanted that snake so bad,’’ the boy moans.

‘Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize,  The Quick and the Dead reflected Williams’s new environmental fervor, which was stirred in 1997 while she was reporting for Harper’s about the animal rights movement. Her feature, ‘‘The Inhumanity of the Animal People,’’ was republished in a bracing 2001 collection, Ill Nature. While her use of the natural world in her fiction is evocative and harshly beautiful, these essays were jeremiads — blunt and furious and uninterested in being even a bit reasonable. ‘‘You have made only brutal contact with Nature,’’ she says. ‘‘You cannot comprehend its grace.’’’ — Dan Kois



Joy Williams’s Refractory Brilliance
Joy Williams, The Art of Fiction No. 223
Joy Williams Explains How to Write a Short Story
‘Another Season’, by Joy Williams
50 Reasons Why You Should Read Joy Williams
The chillingly honest world of Joy Williams
‘My First Car’, by Joy Williams
Podcast: Joy Williams on Bookworm
‘Good Writing Never Soothes or Comforts’: Joy Williams on Writing
What If the Lord Came to Dinner Uninvited?
Karen Russell on how Joy Williams writes the unspeakable
‘Souvenir’, by Joy Williams
Our Heroes Simply Write: Joy Williams, Unedited
Living in a downward spiral
More with Less
Joy Williams shows the dark side of the short story
Language to transcend
Christine Schutt on “Brass” by Joy Williams
Joy Williams: Never a Dull Moment
Addressing the Impossible
Buy ‘The Quick and the Dead’



Joy Williams reading “George & Susan”

Joy Williams reading her essay ‘Why I Write’


from Bookslut


In your story, “Yard Boy,” from your first story-collection, Taking Care, and in many stories since, you talk about being enlightened, about seeing things without preconception, which means allowing the possibility that inanimate objects have feelings and thoughts, that everything is relative and arbitrary, and other concepts involving “enlightenment” such as that the physical world is an illusion and that nothing can be “known.” In those worldviews “morals” seem irrelevant, or aren’t addressed, since they require assumptions and those worldviews tend to not want to assume anything. In your nonfiction, though, you seem to have morals, and seem to be “against” certain things like hunting, cruelty against animals, destroying the environment, etc. How do you reconcile that in your life? When you are making choices in your life, like choosing whether or not to pay more money for food or transportation that won’t destroy the earth, what do you think about? Do you more live your life like a work of art (fiction), or like a work of rhetoric (nonfiction) or some other way?

You can get away with a lot more writing nonfiction (I’m not talking lies as has been the trend but attitude) than you can writing fiction. In a work of rhetoric you can take a stand, make a case, inform and inspire, scream and demean. You can’t be angry in fiction — it’s all about control. You create worlds in order to accept them. You create worlds open to interpretation. Facts have limitations. At the Univ. of Wyoming where I’m in residence for a year, there is this wonderful little geological museum wherein there is THE FLUORESCENT MINERAL ROOM. There are maybe thirty rocks in there sitting quietly on shelves, modest rocks, nice rocks, but nothing lovely or extraordinary about them. But when you flip a switch — Press Switch Here — the room goes dark and the rocks blossom into the most intense and varied colors. They are really expressing… something. Now the explanation for this is helpfully posted on the wall: Certain stimuli, such as ultraviolet light, disturbs the atomic structure of certain minerals. The energy released as the structure returns to normal results in the emission of visible light.

And there you don’t have it. Far better to have a fictional Yard Boy, prone to love and awe, come to his own understandings which he certainly would have had if he had been fortunate enough to find himself in the Fluorescent Mineral Room at the University of Wyoming.

When I read your stories I feel that everything becomes more accurately balanced out and then I feel calmer, I feel “better.” There is an attempt, I feel, in your writing, to not give anything more “importance” or “weight” than anything else, and to not “rule out” anything. It is like how a child sees things — without preconception. Or more accurately, maybe, how a robot or tree would see things — without even the preconception of consciousness. Do you write or read to feel calmer, to feel less scared of death and other mysteries, to feel less “bad”?


You write about nonexistence a lot, about being either not-yet-born or “dead,” and have been focused on this pretty steadily, in your writing, for more than 30 years — speculating on what it actually is (to not exist), making jokes about it, and “trying out” ways to feel and think about it. Has this affected your life in concrete reality, do you think, as opposed to someone who thinks less, and less creatively and originally, about not existing?

Annie Dillard quotes someone who ventured that “the worst part of being dead must be the first night.” The themes you mention are in the new novel I’m working on as well. Back to the non-expressible. I so wish I were smarter! All art deals with the peculiarity, the strangeness of our situation. We do all this stuff — we think, we marvel, we despair, we care — and then we die. That makes no sense. Surely we should be spending our time differently since that is the case, but how? With the injustice, the political stupidity, the destruction of the natural world, it is tempting to believe (in our non-believing) that things are not what they seem, that there is a link between the dead and the unborn that can replenish the void we know awaits each of us and all we love.

What things have made you feel excited in your life?

Excited? Why do you ask?

You said about The Changeling, “That book was just destroyed. It was an awful experience. […] I felt at the time that some of the reviewers wanted me to die. They just wanted me to stop writing. They were saying, ‘We have other writers out there who we have to deal with and all the writers yet unborn, so please go away.’” Your recent novel, The Quick and The Dead, however, received a lot of praise from almost every reviewer and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Why do you think “critics” reacted differently to the two different novels?

The late ’70s were a tough time for women novelists. We were supposed to be feminist, engaged, angry. It was really, weirdly, a very conformist time. (Of course, Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon came out around then and she avoided those problems profoundly and beautifully.) The Changeling is about a guilty young drunk named Pearl on an island with feral children. The prose is lushly stark and imaginative, the method magical, even demented. Feminism did not need a guilty drunk! The Quick and the Dead had larger, more charming and annoying characters and a bigger theme. It’s a better book. It was published in 2000, a millennium baby. Maybe people were more willing to contemplate the straits between the living and the dead. Still, the critics didn’t like it that much.

Throughout the ’70s and ’80s there was a term, “K-Mart Realism,” or “Minimalism,” that journalists used for a group of writers you were sometimes mentioned with — Raymond Carver, Ann Beattie, Bobbie Ann Mason, Frederick Barthelme, etc. Did — and are — you interested or excited by work from that “group” of writers?

Of the ones you mention, it’s Carver who’s the stand-out, and he very much disliked the term minimalism as it was applied to his own work. The editor Gordon Lish was the maestro of minimalism and under his uncanny pencil, many an ordinary story became a very good one. Minimalism as a productive style can be very affective, alarming and satisfying, but I don’t think there ever was a pure strain of it. For a time, it was just a kettle into which many a strange fish were flung. Now with America’s miniaturization of not irrelevance in the world, it might return to the short story in grim and freshened renewal. Certainly the days of the giddy blowhard are over. I hope.

I feel like your writing has become more concrete and less abstract over time. There are more scenes and more of a narrative, I feel, especially in your last two books, The Quick and the Dead & Honored Guest, than in your first books, specifically State of Grace & The Changeling. I like your writing more with each new book. It seems funnier and calmer now to me, I can picture things easier, the sentences feel to me more interesting like you spent more time selecting each sentence that is allowed in each story. I feel like most writers become more abstract over time, you seem like the exception to me. Do you ever think about this? Why do you think you became more concrete over time, or do you not think (or have not thought about) that?

A writer is always seeing pitfalls inherent in a skill he thinks he’s already mastered. You write, you change, everything changes. The pressures on language fail to evoke the desired effect. The “gift” you feel you may have undeservedly received can’t be used for everything. The dependable friend has become untrustworthy. Your ear goes, or confidence that the delivering word will appear, erodes. You get sick of fulfilling your characters, your ease with Time evaporates. Endings, beginnings, impossible. Strategies change. It never gets easier, that’s for certain. Abstraction in fiction is supposed to be bad, but it can be just the struck match that illuminates. Much of a writer’s work is to unexpress the expressible as well as the opposite. And the “concrete” is essential to both.

At the end of one of your essays on writing you said, “None of this is what I long to say. I long to say other things. I write stories in my attempt to say them.” Is there mostly just one thing that you long to say, so that you try, in each story, to “say it all,” to express that one thing, or are there different things that you long to say, each requiring a different story?

The conundrum of literature is that it is not supposed to say anything. Often a reader can enjoy a story or novel simply because he can admire the writer’s skill in getting out of it.

In Corinthians there is this passage: Behold, I show you a great mystery: we shall not all sleep but we will all be changed… in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye… This is one of those terrifying Biblical passages, though not as terrifying as many others, that addresses the unspeakable heart of our human situation and commands us to be aware. The best stories, I think, always contain this annunciation of awareness, no matter how cloaked. Emerson said, “No one suspects the days to be gods.” Stories can’t be gods of course. Maybe little godlets.

Do you have an “ideal” that you strive for (some already existing story, novel, movie, or song that you think of) when you write a short story? A novel?

No. The first note must be sounded and why have it be another’s? To name an ideal and then seek to riff it anew is an exercise for writers’ workshops.

What story or novel writers, if any, do you feel are (or were) trying to “get at” the same things you are?

I can tell you who I admire greatly — writers who always move and trouble me — Sebald, Coetzee, Delillo. They are rigorous, merciless novelists of great beauty and integrity.

Do you like to be around people and go to parties and drink alcohol?

Not really. I’m shy.



Joy Williams The Quick and the Dead

‘Alice, Corvus, and Annabel, each a motherless child, are an unlikely circle of friends. One filled with convictions, another with loss, the third with a worldly pragmatism, they traverse an air-conditioned landscape eccentric with signs and portents–from the preservation of the living dead in a nursing home to the presentation of the dead as living in a wildlife museum–accompanied by restless, confounded adults. A father lusts after his handsome gardener even as he’s haunted (literally) by his dead wife; a heartbroken dog runs afoul of an angry neighbor; a young stroke victim drifts westward, his luck running from worse to awful; a sickly musician for whom Alice develops an attraction is drawn instead toward darker imaginings and solutions; and an aging big-game hunter finds spiritual renewal through his infatuation with an eight-year-old–the formidable Emily Bliss Pickless. With nature thoroughly routed and the ambiguities of existence on full display, life and death continue in directions both invisible and apparent. Gloriously funny and wonderfully serious, The Quick and the Dead limns the vagaries of love, the thirst for meaning, and the peculiar paths by which all creatures are led to their destiny.

‘A panorama of contemporary life and an endlessly surprising tour de force: penetrating and magical, ominous and comic, this is the most astonishing book yet in Joy Williams’s illustrious career.’ — Vintage



The winter had not brought rain and there were no flowers, there would be no flowers. Still, the land in the spring of the year when Alice would turn sixteen could not be said to be suffering from drought. The desert knew no drought, really. Anything so habitual and prolonged was simply life—a life invisible and anticipatory. What was germinative would only remain so that spring. What was possible was neither dead nor alive. Relief had been promised, of course.

For more than a month now, after school, Alice had been caring for six-year-old fraternal twins, Jimmy and Jacky. They lived with their mother, who was away all day, cutting hair. Their father was off in another state, building submarines. Hair, submarines, it was disgusting, Alice thought. She did not find the children at all interesting. They cried frequently, indulged themselves in boring, interminable narratives, were sentimental and cruel, and when frustrated would bite. They had a pet rabbit that Alice feared for. She made them stop giving it baths all the time and tried to interest them in giving themselves baths, although in this she was not successful. She assisted them with special projects for school. It was never too early for investigative reporting. They should not be dissuaded by their teacher’s discomfort; to discomfort teachers was one’s duty. They were not too young to be informed about the evils of farm subsidies, monoculture, and overproduction. They should know, if only vaguely at first, about slaughterhouses. They shouldn’t try to learn everything at once—they’d probably get discouraged—but they should know how things come into being, like ponies, say, and how they’re taken out of being and made into handbags and coats. They should get a petition going to stop the lighting of athletic fields, since too much light obliterated the night sky. Excessive light was bad. On the other hand, some things perceived as bad were good. Wasps, for instance. They should not destroy the wasp nest they discovered in their garage with poisons because wasp-nest building was fun to watch in a time-lapse photography sort of way. They should marvel at the wasps’ architectural abilities, their insect awareness of a supreme future structure they alone were capable of creating. Wasps were cool. The queens knew how to subsist in a state of cryogenic preservation in the wintertime. Jimmy and Jacky could get special credit for their understanding of wasps, agribusiness, slaughterhouses—just to name a few possibilities.She was willing to make learning interesting for them.

But she didn’t help much with homework. Mostly the three of them just hung out. Little kids didn’t instinctively know how to hang out, Alice was surprised to learn. Sometimes they’d walk down to the Goodwill store and see the kind of stuff people had wanted once but didn’t want anymore. She usually didn’t buy anything because she didn’t believe in consumption, but once she bought a nun in a snow dome. The nun was only fifty cents because the snow had turned brown and clotted and fell in revolting clumps when you turned the thing upside down. What was a nun doing in one of those snow domes anyway? Alice had never seen anything like it. The twins had never seen anything like it either. But Goodwill was only good for once or twice a week. The rest of the time they’d sit around in these tiny plastic chairs the boys had in their junk-filled room and Alice would discuss things with them, chiefly environmental concerns. Alice liked talking about animals and excess packaging. She opened their small eyes to the world of drift nets, wetland mitigation, predator control, and overpopulation. She urged them to discuss the overpopulation problem with their mother. Sometimes their attention wandered. They had a bunk bed in their room, and they both slept on the bottom bunk. When they were seven, they’d be permitted to sleep on the top bunk. They could hardly wait.

Their mother hadn’t paid Alice yet, and near the end of the second month Alice asked for her money.

“Yes, yes, sure,” the mother said. “I have to go to the bank tomorrow. How about Saturday?”

She appeared Saturday morning at Alice’s house in her big sloppy station wagon. Alice and her granny and poppa were sitting on the patio drinking coffee and watching the birds at the feeder. Actually, only Alice was watching the birds, since her granny and poppa were talking avidly about compost. Alice couldn’t talk about compost so early in the morning, but they could. Compost was as munificent as God to them, just as interesting as God certainly. They said that the reason healthy plants repel pests is that they have such intense vibrations in the molecules of their cells. The higher the state of health, the higher the vibrations. Because pests’ vibrations are on a much lower level, they receive a distinct shock when they come into contact with a healthy plant.

Why not? Alice thought.

Alice sauntered down to the station wagon, which was packed with luggage. “You taking a trip?” she asked.

“Didn’t Jimmy and Jacky tell you? Oh, that’s right, I swore them to secrecy.

Let’s go out and have some breakfast. I’ll buy you a donut.”

The mother gave Alice the creeps. She wore large, shapeless dresses she called her “jelly bags.”

“I’ve had my breakfast,” Alice said.

“I’d like to talk to you,” the woman said. “Breakfast really isn’t necessary. Why don’t we go out to the state park—that’s a nice ride.”

Alice looked back at the patio, but her granny and poppa had gone inside. She shrugged and got into the car. Cars had never charmed her, and this one seemed particularly vile. They sped off to the park about fifteen miles away. The lovely, lovely mountains tumbled across the horizon.

The kids’ mother moved one big arm and groped around in the backseat. The car veered down the road, Alice staring stoically ahead, until she retrieved what she was after, a cocktail in a can. “Want a pop?” she said. Alice shook her head. “Sure?” the woman said. “It’s mostly fruit juices.”

I want . . . a scar, Alice thought. A scar that would send shivers up peoples’ spines but would not elicit pity. She didn’t want that kind of scar.

“Where are Jimmy and Jacky?” Alice finally said.

“With a babysitter.”

Alice looked at her.

“I’m trying out somebody new just for the morning, then we’re leaving. Back to the husband. We’re going to be a family again.”

“You owe me three hundred dollars,” Alice said.

“I do? Those hours added up, didn’t they?”

“Do you want a receipt for tax purposes?”

“I’d love a receipt,” the mother said.

They entered the park. A small deceased animal was lying in the road, and the car ahead of them ran over it. They ran over it. A herd of men in fluorescent shorts jogged by.

“God, I hate this place,” the woman said. She rummaged in the backseat for another pop.

“Why did we come here, then?”

“I mean the whole place, the state.”

She turned abruptly into a parking lot. There were some benches and a few little structures for shade. She turned off the ignition and got out of the car. “Gotta tinkle,” she said. Alice sat and gazed at the mountains. When you climbed, you’d move from cholla to juniper and pinyon, then to firs and aspens. Zero to eight thousand feet in forty miles. To live in a place where you could do something like that was sensational, like living exceptionally fast or living in two different bodies. The little animals of the desert didn’t know that the little animals of the mountains, only moments away, even existed. Or the big animals the big animals for that matter.

Alice looked around the littered seat for paper and pencil to compose her bill, her legs sticking to the stinking vinyl of the car seat. She got out and stood in the shade. A tinkle, she thought. The awful woman was probably taking a dump. At last she and her jelly bag appeared. She had red hair today, though sometimes it was chestnut. She was a genius with hair color, there was no denying that.

“You know what keeps going through my head?” the woman said, “DAK’s incredible blowout price. . . . We’re getting a new stereo. Can’t get it out of my head.”

Alice handed her the bill she’d tallied. “It’s in crayon, unfortunately, but I’m sure it will be acceptable. You could give me a check, though I’d prefer cash.”

“That’s what’s going through your head, huh, like DAK’s incredible blowout price?” The woman laughed and dropped the piece of paper to the ground. “If you think I’m paying you, you’re crazy. Pervert. Bitch. You’d better watch out.”

Alice looked at the piece of paper. What was wrong with it? It just lay there.

“My boys say you say the world would be better off without them. They say you killed a pony and a farmer and that you make them eat lettuce-and-rabbit-pellet sandwiches. They say you hate nuns and say not to flush the toilet every time when it’s only yellow water. But it was the wasp nest that did it. I’m excessively susceptible to the stings of bees and wasps and could go into anaphylactic reaction and die. And they shrieked at me when I sprayed the damn thing. It was as big as a beer keg. They cursed me for destroying a thing that could have killed their own mother.”

“Fatal anaphylactic reaction is actually rare,” Alice said.

“Half the stuff they told me is even on the list.”

“What list?” Alice said. Her voice sounded peculiar. You could give me a check, though I’d prefer cash kept sliding through her mind.

“The checklist of symptoms of satanic ritual abuse compiled by an after-midnight radio psychologist who’s a nationally recognized authority on the subject. The list includes but is not limited to preoccupation with feces and death, questionable acting out, talk of mutilation and dismemberment, and fear of being normal and cooperative.” She ticked them off on her fingers.

“Why, that’s just stupid,” Alice said.

“You’re the one who’s stupid, dumbass,” the woman said, “thinking I’d pay for your time. I’ve got better things to do with my money.”

“Jimmy and Jacky misinterpreted my remarks a little,” Alice said. It was probably the hair and submarine emphasis in their background that made them somewhat wobbly in the comprehension department.

“You’d better watch it,” the woman said. “Get away from me.” Alice hadn’t moved. “You’d better watch it,” she said again, laughing, as she got into the station wagon. Then she drove away.

A black bird, a phainopepla, rocketed past and alighted on a trembling mesquite bush. Alice felt that the desert was looking at her, that it kept coming closer, incuriously. She stared into the distance, seeing it as something ticking, something about to arrive. A brief, ferocious wind came up and a Styrofoam cup sailed by and impaled itself upon an ocotillo. She started back toward the park’s entrance, walking not along the road but through the desert itself. Cars and vans occasionally passed by. Tiny heads were what she saw, behind closed windows. She walked quickly, sometimes breaking into a run, through the gulleys and over the rocks, past the strange growths, all living their starved, difficult lives. Everything had hooks or thorns. Everything was saw-edged and spiny-pointed. Everything was defensive and fierce and determined to live. She liked this stuff. It all had a great deal of character. At the same time, it was here only because it had adapted to the circumstances, the external and extreme circumstances of its surroundings.

Plants were lucky because when they adapted it wasn’t considered a compromise. It was more difficult for a human being, a girl.




p.s. Hey. ** Have ANiceLife, Hi. Oh, yeah, duh. I do really like ‘Platform’, and it was indeed on that list. The file I have of that album doesn’t have track titles, and that, plus spacing,  was the culprit. I didn’t know about the conceptual intent. I was interested by and liked the track and just thought it was a kind of 2nd person experiment, I guess. I’m interested to rehear it now that I know its scoop. Thanks a lot for your patience. ** Chris Cochrane, Ah, man, I’m so sorry. Even if it’s the right thing to do, that stuff, being wrenched from that kind of intimacy and trust, is rough no matter what. Is it inappropriate to be glad that you guys got to share that incredible trip during your time together? Hugs, Chris. Cool, I’m glad you also get why I was so amazed by Arto Lindsay’s guitar playing. It just seems so masterful, so knowing and refined and yet so continuously alert and curious/loose about what can happen. I knew his work, and yeah, am not entirely into everything he’s done, but I didn’t expect to be mind-blown by his technique. Thanks about the ‘secret’ project. It’s just, whoa, the needing to work on it relentlessly and trying to wreak interesting havoc from a tired brain, and that kind of stuff. Lovely to see you, my dear pal. Lots of love. ** David Ehrenstein, Yes, indeed! Everyone, one chapter of David Ehrenstein’s great book ‘Film: The Front Line — 1984’ is devoted to yesterday’s blog star Luc Moullet, and reading that chapter is one of the many, many reasons why you should read David’s book if you haven’t yet. Get it. ** Steve Erickson, Hi, Steve. Yes, cool, happy you really like those films too. Re: ‘Love, Simon’, it’s so exhausting: all these blabber-mouthing perfectionist control freaks who can’t let a positive step, however small or however non-ideal, stand and do its thing. I’m so tired of people who think every film that gets released, for instance, needs to be their own personal ideal birthday present. That attitude, which is so fucking pervasive right now about politics and personal issues and everything, is disastrously non-productive. I’m so sick of it. I took a little taste of de Pettero’s music, and, yeah, it’s not my thing at all. ** Bill, Hey. Well, jeez, I’m always sorry to hear that you’re so frequently swamped with work that isn’t your own. Oh, I know of that John Kelly collaborative performance. I saw a clip online, it looked good. Johns pretty much always great. I hear you re: opening acts. As an early to bed guy, I hate the choice of, like, do I go on time and risk waiting through two terrible sets before the one I want to see, or do I wait and go at, like, 10pm or 11pm, in which case, I’ll usually just end up blowing it off?  ** Dóra Grőber, Hi! No, I know, I didn’t go, and it sucks, but let’s go together next year, yes! Let’s pencil that in! Based on my experiences, I wouldn’t worry if what you write doesn’t seem initially to fit. I’m a big believer in chasing what drives and excites you, and you might find how it fits later, or, ‘worse comes to worse’, you’ll have something new and separate that will lead somewhere else. Go for it. Yeah, heavy work day. Getting there. As I think I’ve mentioned, this project is in three parts, and I managed to get an initial draft of the whole third part finished to send to Zac, which means we have fairly solid drafts of all three parts now that still need a lot of work, but that’s good. More work today and probably not much else, but if there’s an else, I’ll tell you what it was. How was your day? Did you write more and/or … ? ** Jamie, Yessir, Jamie! I am fine, semi-brain dead, ha ha, but fine. My groove is still here, not that I have any choice, but, yeah, it’s happening. Oh, guest-posts are always a glorious thing to have for this blog, and in the current situation, even more so, so … yes! Let’s see … gifs. I guess either send them as attachments or link me up to them and I can grab them myself, and let me know the order/ formatting/ etc. you want. Does that make sense? You have my email, no? If not, it’s Coolness. For me, man, I would love to go that loopy, and, wow, share that loopyness. You would all be rich, rich, richer than in your wildest dreams! How was your today? May it cause you not to do this. Hot sassafras love, Dennis. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. Oh, okay, I set it up using the first version you sent, so I’ll go see what the discrepancies are and update it, and I’ll write to you with the date, etc. Thank you so much! It’s wonderful! ** Misanthrope, Here too. Not a palm tree in sight. Mm, it’s sounds like I’ll let you be the Cameron reader. Oh, okay, yeah, that experience does sound both heartwarming and like something I will avoid like the motherfucking plague, ha ha, yikes. But that’s interesting. It’s like opposite of how it was when I originally saw ‘The Exorcist’ in a theater the first week it was released and the audience was vomiting and passing out and stuff. ** Jeff J, Hi, Jeff. I have not seen his recent films, no. I want to. Oops, hm, no clue as to why that R-G still was in there. Maybe he had a connection, or more likely it was just some mistake I made originally. I’ll extract that. Thanks. No, I don’t know Bilge Karasu. Interesting. Of course I’ll go see what I can find out. Thanks a lot, buddy. ** Kyler, Cool. Cool heads prevail or something or whatever they say. Hm … no, I haven’t seen ‘For Ever Mozart’. Huh. Interesting. Well, if it’s by Godard, it’s always worth watching. Let me know how it was. ** Kea7on, Hi. I can only imagine. I think I used to remember my dreams when I was, like, younger. Someone had a theory that when you become the kind of person who needs coffee to wake up, which I became in the 80s, there’s some kind of dream/ memory interference that happens. But I know plenty of coffee drinkers who are always describing their dreams. I don’t know. Friday! Give me a shout when shouting becomes the right thing to do! ** Okay. I was, and still am, in the mood to let the blog shine some love on one of my very, very favorite fiction writers, and specifically on arguably her best novel. If you don’t already read Joy Williams, she is a total master, and I urge you in her work’s direction. See you tomorrow.


  1. David Ehrenstein

    “The Paris Review” is looking for a female editor

  2. Steve Erickson

    I’ve jumped into a few FB discussions on LOVE, SIMON to point out that while I think the film was mediocre, it wasn’t made for openly gay adults in big cities, and while it’s obviously compromised, it would’ve meant a great deal for me when I was a closeted gay teen 30 years ago if a movie like this came out and was released on 2,400 screens in America. The response Misa describes indicates what a sea change has happened.

    I need to watch the documentary GRACE JONES: BLOODLIGHT AND BAMI on Vimeo this evening in preparation for probably interviewing director Sophie Fiennes by phone Thursday.

  3. Dóra Grőber


    The more writers you introduce on your blog, the more I feel like I don’t know anyone, haha. I really liked this excerpt, I’ll definitely get my hands on a few of Joy Williams’ books! Thank you so much!

    I would really, really like that!
    Thank you, yes, that’s exactly what I agreed on with myself. I’m not going to change that part, I’ll just keep on chasing whatever this wave of inspiration is and see if it finds its place in the end.
    This sounds very reassuring – that you have solid drafts of all three parts now! Even if you still have a lot of work with them, I think you’ll be able to finish what needs to be finished by the deadline! I keep my fingers crossed, just in case!

    I attended the funeral of my grandmother this morning. We weren’t close, I haven’t seen her in years and I left with this feeling exactly, that she was practically a stranger to me. She was often insensitive and seemingly deliberately mean, primarily to her own children (including my father) so I found it hard to get along with her, especially when I was a teenager. Now, I feel like I’m just curious who she really was. Or how she really was, more like.
    The ceremony was quite short but ever since I got home, I just feel drained. Not sad, just not having much energy. I’m just lying around, watching series.

    How are things on your end? I hope you keep making great progress!!

  4. Sypha

    Ah yes, I believe this is one of those “books on Dennis Cooper’s old top 50 novel list” that I have yet to get to. I shall rectify that error in judgment, one of these days.

    I do agree with you about what you said to Steve about films. It reminds me of an article I read online a few weeks back, concerning Tarantino’s films, where some woman was whining about how she didn’t see herself in any of Tarantino’s characters, and how his films weren’t reflections of reality. But it’s not as if an artist is obligated to reflect every single person in their art, and who ever said that art should emulate reality, anyway? As it is I think, on an individual by individual basis, it would be almost impossible for the complex totality of any human being to accurately be represented by a film/book/whatever. You know what I mean?

    Ah well, the world’s going to the dogs. Speaking of which, I see that the new Wes Anderson film is out in theaters this week. Now THAT I plan on seeing!

  5. Jamie

    Ahoy Dennis!
    Having read a few of her short stories I think Joy Williams is scary good. That excerpt up there is a pure pleasure to read. I’m trying hard not to buy any more books for a while, until I’ve got through the towering pile beside my bed, but this one looks so tempting.
    For the gif post, would it be helpful if I stick them all in a folder, numbered, then Dropbox you the folder? I’m hoping that would mean as little work for you as possible. Giving you the links would maybe be tricky now, as I have them stuck in a blog.
    How’s the scripts? Are you now only on the assigned one until the deadline?
    Man, I’m feeling kind of sick again, it’s dull and sapping all my energy.
    May your day at no point make you feel like this:
    Complex but kind love,

  6. _Black_Acrylic

    I’ve been meaning to read Joy Williams for a long time, so will take this as the spur to do just that.

    Today I was at the DCA doing their mini animation course and it’s going well so far. The thing I’m doing is a loop of abstract patterns swirling around an image of the DC Thomson comics character Maggie Broon in a kind of erotic reverie. The class finishes tomorrow and I hope to get a decent short film out of it.

    • Jamie

      _B_A, your animation idea sounds totally amazing! I hope we get to see it. And nice you’re using a Dudley D Watkins image.

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