The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Spotlight on … Kevin Killian Shy (1989)


‘“The dead of winter,” is a phrase that unfortunately has become cliché. In Iowa, winter was for me the season of the dead. Reading Kevin Killian’s Shy and Bedrooms Have Windows kept the dead away from me—the apparitions who came to me at night, just as they have visited so many queer men these past two decades. “There were nights when he felt the recent dead getting into bed, climbing over him as if they had just come from the shower.” (Allen Barnett). “Each ghost has a hunger brought to me for his own fulfilling” (Aaron Shurin). My dictionary says that hell is a netherworld where the dead continue to exist. Iowa hell. Where could I hide from the shades of my past? Only by replacing my story with someone else’s could I escape, as if trading one soul for another. I bartered with my own memory—stories, people, boyflesh—Kevin Killian’s books replaced my dead with significant fictional others.

‘We can intellectualize the hell out of any writing; I know, I’ve done it. But the truth is that what really matters is how we respond to the work in the body. “Ladies voices give pleasure” (Stein). “I dilate you with tremendous breath, I buoy you up” (Whitman). “Why do we have to exhume all this paraphernalia when we could just walk forthrightly into a dark closet and read something.” (Steve Benson). In the bed, in the dead, in the closet that was Iowa, I took Kevin Killian into my body. Hot. My body giggled. My body wept. My body came. Doesn’t the queer writer know the flush in his cheek from reading something true about himself. Doesn’t the lesbian poet know the delight her tongue feels repeating words that have secret meanings, cow, jelly, belly. Pull back the covers and set your body free. Live.

‘As a queer spectator, I would be lying to say that I ignore a writer’s erotic appeal. Once, when I was reviewing a book by Peter Gizzi, I opened with Frank O’Hara’s famous dictum from his essay on personism: “As for measure, and other technical apparatus, that’s just common sense: if you’re going to buy a pair of pants you want them to be tight enough so everyone will want to go to bed with you.” I chose this quote because it described Gizzi’s common sense approach to the line and because the poetry was informed by an obvious connection to O’Hara and to the New York school. But I was also aware that my attention was first drawn to Gizzi’s poetry because of the picture of him on the back of the book, a portrait of the artist as trade: rough, brooding, and (was this just me?) sexually available. “It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.” (Oscar Wilde). Yes, I judged Kevin Killian’s books by their covers.

‘The binding of Kevin Killian’s first published novel, Shy, looks suspiciously similar to those anthologies from Boyd MacDonald’s Straight to Hell: True Homosexual Encounters: Lust, Meat, Cream… Shy? Is this a trick? Speaking of “tricks,” the cover is a photo of a shirtless young man, hand on hip, bare feet crossed at the ankle, leaning against the refrigerator in a bare apartment and gazing out the window. We view him from behind—his vulnerable naked shoulders, his full, firm ass. He is available. The space between him and the window is filled by a pink bookmark with rough edges, on which is printed “Shy” and “a novel by Kevin Killian.” The title draws us into the space between the young man and the window like a come on. Trick. “Deceiving to the eye,” says Sandy Dennis in “Come Back to the Five and Dime…” Trick.

‘As Shy opens, Kevin Killian, a supplemental character in his own novel, shuts the refrigerator door to extinguish what light there is in his flat; he moves toward the window to see who’s moving into the apartment downstairs. Is Kevin Killian that same boy gazing out the window on the cover of the book? Throughout the novel, Kevin Killian the character is eavesdropping, spying through windows, mining the other characters for information; using them for sex. In turn, the other characters overhear Kevin Killian pounding on his typewriter into the night, ostensibly writing a book about Mark McAndrew, a “dead boy.” Alas (and fortunately), that book does not get written. Instead, the characters in the novel are transformed into… well… characters in a novel. Trading the dead for the living, trading the real for the fictive. Sleight of hand performed by Kevin Killian, secret hero of his own novel. Trick.

‘In his second novel, Bedrooms Have Windows, Kevin Killian is once again a character, though this time more prominently featured by Kevin Killian the author. Bedrooms is the story of Kevin Killian’s friendship with George Grey, the affable, sexy boy who teaches Kevin Killian how to be a writer. Again, from the front cover on, Kevin Killian leads us on a voyeuristic journey, peering through windows. That the novel is often categorized as “memoirs” is both accurate and inaccurate. Although Kevin Killian mines his life for material, the rubric “memoirs” is reductive, disallowing the transformative work that makes a novel from facts. As if autobiography is not a way of fictionalizing.

‘The history of queer literature in the modern era, after all (that is, beginning with the historical point at which heterosexuality and homosexuality begin to be socially differentiated as sexual orientations—a whole nother subject that could be written about and probably has) is resplendent with examples of fictions which are formed from queer writers’ own lives. Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, Stein’s Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Picano’s Ambidextrous (subtitled “a memoir in the form of a novel”), Jeannette Winterson’s Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Dorothy Allison’s Trash. Queer writers working with what is available to them as story. Wearing the drag of fiction. Or the drag of life. Those who know what to look for can spot the performer beneath the slap. Adam’s apple.

‘Oh sure, perhaps Roland Barthes was oversimplifying the condition of story when he asked, “after the Oedipus complex and marriage, what is there left for us to tell?” But Barthes recognized beneath that generalization the fundamental heterosexuality of classical plots. And yes, queer authors have co-opted these plots a-plenty, but they have done so to the exclusion of (or marginalization of) queer lives. How can I write a tale that ends in marriage (the classical notion of comedy) in a society where marriage is not available to me? And how can I write the tragedy of a queer hero without the hero’s queerness being perceived as the source of tragedy?

‘I do not wish to simply categorize—certainly, queer writers have been more inventive with queer characters than merely to present their own lives as fictions. But, I pursue this line of argument to show that autobiographical fiction is a queer genre; and, even though we have reached out into all manner of story—from Jean Genet to Radcliffe Hall to Sapphire—we own the autobiographical as a tradition, and we revisit the form as an expression of cultural identity.

‘In Little Men, Killian presents us with his own self-interview, “Who is Kevin Killian,” in which he coyly asks himself questions about his shifting and subversive sexual identity. As interviewer he is bi-curious; as interviewee he is evasive and disinterested, as if sexuality could not be any more important than what he had for breakfast. But this cat-and-mouse game around the bed is precisely where Killian wants us—author as exhibitionist.

‘Just as Killian is changing roles and identities in his work (posing as Ryan O’Neal in one of his won plays; remembering in Little Men how his mother would chide him that he’d never get anywhere if he continued to act like Audrey Hepburn), he is manipulating the reader (with all of the sexual connotations inherent in that little phrase) into new roles and new identities. Perhaps this is in the end the most seductive quality of his fictions—that we can be sexually various, amorphous and as fragmented in our selves as Sally Field in the made-for-tv movie “Sybil” (a particularly Killianesque simile, that one). Oh, he is a dark master of the word, Kevin Killian, an inviting bridegroom and a voyeur who’ll let us play in his fictions until we’re spent. Trick.— D.A. Powell



KEVIN KILLIAN (1952–2019)
Remembering Kevin Killian Who ‘Gave Us Courage’
Kevin Killian: I Can Explain Everything
‘A Common Misadventure in Queer Bohemia’: Kevin Killian (1952–2019)
On the Work of Kevin Killian
Kevin Killian on being unlikeable in your work
Remembering the polymath poet
Kevin Killian’s Memoirs of Sexed-Up, Boozy Long Island
Kevin Killian @ goodreads
Kevin Killian and Dodie Bellamy papers
Peter Gizzi Remembers Kevin Killian
Kevin Killian on Queer Art and Coming of Age in New York
But I Did Learn to Swim: A Few Memories of Kevin Killian
YOU MUST CONTINUE AT ALL COSTS: talking with Kevin Killian about his TWEAKY VILLAGE
‘One Small Blow Against Encroaching Totalitarianism: Imagine If You Can the Death of the Prison House’
AIDS as Monster: Kevin Killian’s Argento Series
‘Triangles in the Sand’
Podcast: Kevin Killian on ‘Bookworm’



Kevin Killian interview, 2011-03

Kevin Killian – Is It All Over My Face?


Kevin Killian (Condensery.m4v)




Miranda Mellis: I’m excited to do this interview, but also unsure of where to begin. I feel at once an admiring, strangerly shyness and a knowing, readerly closeness with you. I imagine others have this dual feeling, of both shyness and intimacy. This is surely one of the effects (or affects) of working autobiographically and also gossiping, in the New Narrative mode, with readers as friends. It’s a sort of love triangle between the reader, the writer, and books. I can’t help but wonder: will you be like your writing?

Kevin Killian: I hope people aren’t as shy around me as I have been around others I admire, painfully so, or else I would get drunk to overcome my inhibitions and that was the other side of the coin. I can still recall the embarrassment of having one’s hand removed scornfully from the crotch of one’s idol. But if people have read my writing at all, they know I’m not exactly a smooth operator, so maybe they feel more kindly towards me, like I was the backwards little girl in the house across the way, who would be so pleased with a handful of daisies. Yes, that’s me. OK, let me think, the people who I have met who were least like their writing were Dennis Cooper, of course, so Sadean in his imagination and in the thicket of his writing, and yet, one on one, unimaginably sweet and considerate, and kind. Rae Armantrout, her poetry a brilliant zigzag of thought and feeling, condensed and sparkling, and in person, I think, my favorite gossip of all time. I suppose there are also the opposites of these two—a witty writer or artist, say, who shows the ravages of deep depression as did Tennessee Williams— or the Jean Stafford types, once geniuses, who now can barely flip through the pages of a glossy. New Narrative is perhaps not so much a style as a way of living in the world, in the terrible social world which is so excruciating, as well as in the socio-economic nightmare we’re all trying to breathe in and breathe through and we can’t. I don’t know now if Bob [Glück] and Steve [Abbott] and Bruce [Boone] were actually encouraging us to gossip, but we certainly felt we’d been given French leave to do so 24/7. Gossip shores up, even creates, community; community leads to action—to direct political action. Well, that’s a shorthand method of explaining what happens in Jack the Modernist and The Truth About Ted and The Lizard Club.

MM: On the subject of identification (“I am just the backwards little girl…”), in your keynote at Orono last summer you spoke of Robert Duncan, Robin Blaser, and other gay poets in San Francisco in the 80s identifying as sages and mages, “without irony” as you put it. Does irony dip in the 80s then peak in the 90s? How does irony connect for you with your curiosity about the artist-without-talent, the magical confluence that drew you to Kylie Minogue? Is irony key because of arriving in San Francisco, as you put it at Orono, “after the party was over”? I remember being bombarded with sex positive and safe sex propaganda in equal parts in the mid-90s, the era of the “ethical slut.” Judith Butler’s performativity and John Cage’s indeterminacy were the theories that went with our practices: gender and sound as continuums. But where are we on the irony continuum today?

KK: I got caught up in your story about growing up when Judith Butler was already in the ascendant, already a fact of life, and your subtle interweaving of the concurrent insistence on safe sex and STD testing, with the fertility I have found in facing the blank canvas of the talentless, like he or she who would look at the sun during an eclipse, or the POP art fan who empties his or her intake of a Jasper Johns flag by glancing at the white gallery wall nearby and seeing the mocking Johns colors realign themselves into the good ol’ red, white and blue.

OK—whether irony peaked in the 1990s. I saw the 90s dominated by a series of efforts to combat irony and to return it to minor league status, but for you, maybe that came later. I saw the whole rise of the internet as a force by which people would put aside their ironies and find love somewhere, even in dark corners, at which point they would be freed from irony’s thrall. But so much of that is subjective, depending on where one’s standing. Is Conceptualism, for example, all about irony, or is it irony-free? Is the work of Marina Abramovic or of Thomas Kinkade ironic in some way? I use irony to buffet my vanity from a host of perceived (or possible) enemies, but eventually when one has reached the 1 per cent on the one hand or has sunk behind the poverty line on the other, I will no longer need it. Those paying off their student loans must still need it, like drowning sailors their shards of driftwood.

MM: Cassie Thornton had the terribly ironic insight (on which she based subsequent projects) that as a graduate student, the art she was producing was debt, circulating invisibly. Talk about a non-site! Currently, I’m co- teaching a class on site-specific art, which tends not to be ironic. Who are the crucial artists for you, Kevin?

KK: In history, so many favorites but I always return to Picasso, Florine Stettheimer, Marsden Hartley, Duchamp, Pollock, Joan Mitchell, Frink, Warhol, Jacob Lawrence, Tchelitchew, Sturtevant, Mike Kelley. Oh—and Kylie of course! In real life I’ve known and worked with a few great artists and each interaction has been an important one for me. I’m spoiled, really. I’ve gotten to work closely with Raymond Pettibon, Fran Herndon, Kota Ezawa, Colter Jacobsen, Matt Gordon, Ugo Rondinone, Gregg Bordowitz, etc. Some do work in site-specific ways, but I can’t say that site specificity has ever been a big thing for me. If someone told me, “wow, we’re half an hour away from the Spiral Jetty,” I would say “driver, drive on, I think I see a Howard Johnson’s up ahead.” One story that appealed to me was the one that had Duchamp getting ready for war by making mini-versions of all of his prewar masterpieces, versions small enough to pack together in a single suitcase, one suitable for crossing borders. That said something to me, perhaps about nomadism, something about the times being such that we might all be forced to flee at any moment. All sorts of people love site- specific work: maybe I live too much in my head?

MM: I am a sucker for the Spiral Jetty. It’s so monumentally butch and yet… it’s a spiral made of crystals! Very witchy. But speaking of monumental works: you’ve just published a novel you have been working on for two decades, Spreadeagle (Publication Studio, 2012). Can you say something about what the novel allows that the story or poem does not?

KK: Stories and poems are all very well (that’s a nice Maggie Smith way to begin), but what a novel gives me is the challenge. I’m sort of a short-term memory kind of guy, so writing a story over a span of days is more difficult than for some others I think. I blame it on my day job, which is largely answering the phone. Has the phone ever interrupted you when you were writing a sentence? It can be trying, but when it’s what they’re paying you for, you answer it anyway, and this sentence will always be there when you get off the phone. And then it will ring again within two minutes time, so your style becomes disjunctive. I used to write ornately, now I write in little blips and squeaks, like Astro barking in The Jetsons. I start a sentence, the phone rings, I go back and I start a new sentence. Who cares about finishing that last one. And the subject of my phone interchange naturally colors what I’m writing. So in some ways the lyric form works better for me, for often I don’t have the energy to find my notes from yesterday, or even turn back in my notepad to half an hour ago. I’ve tried to write short stories with the heft and depth of a novel, as Faulkner did—and I have once or twice, “Greensleeves” in Impossible Princess (City Lights, 2009) was a novel in miniature, as was “Santa” in Little Men (Hard Press Editions, 1996). But in other ways I’ve a long-term mind—I’m a Capricorn, so I’m steady and loyal. I would like to have written more novels, and I have two or three in the works, some from years back, that make the 22 years it took to finish Spreadeagle feel like ten minutes ago.

I love biographies maybe for the same reason, the immensity of the task. Spreadeagle was more difficult to finish than either of my other novels, Shy (Crossing Press, 1989) or Arctic Summer (Masquerade, 1997) because of the social challenges first of all. When I began I was writing a novel about the AIDS crisis and the activist response. I kept a finger on the pulse of the storyline, mirroring it on my own experience in the middle of the homocore days (which were tremendously exciting in San Francisco), but with the widespread use of the so-called drug cocktails in the mid 1990s, some of the wind seemed to vanish from my narrative’s sails. I couldn’t even acknowledge that much, for quite a long time. What was stalling my own little novel was, of course, a great boon for society in general, so it seemed churlish, even evil to complain. Some folks asked me, why don’t you make it a novel set in 1990? But my first two novels were set in long ago historical periods and I felt like I wanted to make it a contemporary story, so the plot constantly shifted from year to year, and sometimes I thought I would never finish it, or that maybe it should have been written as two books instead of one. And also I didn’t know how it would end, as the Internet and allied technologies came along and one by one made obsolete every plot point I had counted on. In Spreadeagle, a handsome stranger comes to a little town and for a long time the plot was that the townspeople were wondering who he was, whereas nowadays they could just Google him. And the other plot was all about how I couldn’t reach him (so X and Y happened), and nowadays the question would be why didn’t you just reach him on his cell phone? I’m sure these two inventions alone have scuttled more novels than any others in all of literary history, or else I’m crazy. You couldn’t have Wuthering Heights with Google, right? Nor Evangeline if she or Gabriel had a cell phone.

MM: Forms are so contingent! Was Woolf the first to clearly articulate how money, gender, and genre are laminated? Disjunction has been claimed as the poet’s weapon against ideology and univocality, but as you point out, it’s also just a description of what time is like and therefore what forms
are possible when our labor is for rent. Which comes first the chicken of necessity or the egg of theory? How have theorists helped you do your work?

KK: I’m not sure, Miranda! You know how hard it is to see the thing when you’re in the middle of it, and it’s in your nose and you’re just trying to swim through it, like Ellen De Generes in Finding Nemo. To get the big picture I have long depended on theory and criticism, though sometimes that turns into a different kind of immersion, the way that when one talked to Bruce Boone long enough in the 1980s, one became convinced that the world was pretty much run by disciples of the Societé d’Acephale, and that we should all be having SM sex and giving each other vast quantities of potlatch, while in the 1990s he convinced me that gnosticism was both the way out and the way in—and p.s., after all these years I’m still not 100 per cent sure I could tell you what gnosticism is, but could pinpoint it through rhetorical analysis of an ad or a reality TV show. But anyhow, broadly speaking, when I was your age I knew nothing except a little bit of Angus Fletcher and Northrop Frye and I.A. Richards, and Marx, Frazer and Freud, but today I know more. I think I write better now, but was that just quitting booze? I can’t say which came first, but I suspect it was several things. Arriving in San Francisco when I did meant a total brainwash, exposure to all sorts of new systems (including full time work!) which required gargantuan effort, against which my lazy ass received a new kind of pounding. I wonder what it would be like to have two weeks off for vacation—I’d just fill it in with professional work of one kind or another. I’d be the worst sort of father, that’s for sure—the sort of Dad who doesn’t remember his children’s birthdays or even their age. “Words,” Spicer wrote (in “Homage to Creeley”) “turn mysteriously against those who use them / Hello says the apple / Both of us were object.” I always, thanks to Bruce, read this as, “Both of us were abject.”

MM: Last year, Camille Roy sent me the Nag Hammadi text The Thunder Perfect Mind. It was so familiar, but I couldn’t place it. Then I realized I’d heard it sung at the Reclaiming Collective’s Spiral Dance! A gnostic number, and here I thought Starhawk made it up. The dead live on in writing and singing.

In the short story “Dietmar Lutz Mon Amour” (Impossible Princess), memoir is cued by a plurality that includes all of the dead–history itself: “He and it and history and my age all prompt me to tell this love story as though Marguerite Duras were watching me.” I can’t imagine writing a memoir except as a fiction or a plurality, a collective composition. I find writing down actual memories, as scenes, immobilizing—turns me to sludge. What relation does your memory of yourself as a character in your fictions have to your memories per se?

KK: I wonder if The Thunder Perfect Mind isn’t what the authors of the musical Les Miserables had in mind when the despairing heroine sings that even at the moment when everything seems to be bliss, “the tigers come at night…with their voices soft as thunder”? It’s a word so vivid and yet one to which meaning sticks and repels like a brand of physics.

As you say, the dead live on in writing and singing. In the days since you sent your question we have heard of the death of French poet Anne-Marie Albiach, 75 years old, in Paris, whose work came as a revelation to me in the months leading up to her 60th birthday in August 1996. I don’t know French well enough to read it properly, but Albiach seems to have attracted more than her share of wonderful translators who gave it to me good, the equivocations, the hesitancies, the blanknesses of speech impermeably allied to a wild range of emotional and phenomenological tenors—I had almost said terrors. This part of being alive, of tending to the realm beyond our senses, was her bread and butter, de tous les jours. You cite my use of Duras in writing my memoir “Dietmar Lutz Mon Amour.” When a great love occurs between people of two nations, what author do you think of? For me it was her, the crazy NATO-isms of Hiroshima Mon Amour. “All these years I have been looking for a love impossible.” He points to her, “Your name is Nevers. My name is Hiroshima,” the places we come from substituting for our names. Speaking across the divide of nations as an allegory for speaking across the thin line between life and death. Really, she had it all—didn’t she?—and it wasn’t about making sense of things per se.

“I can’t imagine,” you say, “writing a memoir except as a fiction or a plurality.” I wonder if that might be because the event hasn’t come yet in your life that you want to treat in terms of non-fiction? I started as a novelist, wrote a Nancy Drew book when I was ten (laid in Japan!), but then as things mounted up that I could not deal with in life, fiction shrank from me like a wet piece of cellophane set on a bush in the mid-day sun. I do understand your sense that writing things down freezes them in one’s mind to a certain “immobilizing” totality. But when you’re on as much Wellbutrin as I, that’s exactly what you need, that and a camera. Collective composition—yes, I subscribe to that too. I write often in collaboration with others. For me it is a way of studying at their feet, of secreting their juices, like I’m the bee sleeping in the honeysuckle. Can you imagine what it was like for me to write a story with Gail Scott, with Glen Helfand, with Derek McCormack or Lawrence Braithwaite? Street cred isn’t the word for it!

MM: The events have certainly come that I ought to try to treat in terms of nonfiction, but I don’t know if I have the stamina. Or maybe it’s just my indoctrination: “Who are you to tell the story of your life!” As if the most ominous structure of authority of all is the idea of the individual (Maybe so!). I should co-write it with someone who wasn’t there.

A few years ago I asked you what you were working on and you said (do you remember?), “I’ve written enough.” So I’d like to ask you what you’re writing next, but I’ll ask a perhaps more capacious question instead: What is on the horizon?

KK: Funny thing but just this weekend your cousin Frances Richard and I were talking about this very subject! I was telling her that in the coming months I want to buckle down to the introduction that Dodie and I will be writing to our forthcoming anthology of New Narrative materials from the 70s, 80s, and early 90s. It’s almost as though, I explained to her, that we are the wrong people to write this critical introduction for precisely the reason that we were there through it. Not enough distance. Frances countered spiritedly that in her work on Matta-Clark she has found the primary materials (are they primary? I mean taped interviews with Matta-Clark and his circle, oral histories, etc.) absolutely the foundation for the things she’s thinking about today. This seems to chime in with what you’re saying about needing a co-writer who wasn’t there!

I’m working on a new novel; on a sequel to my memoirs called Bachelors Get Lonely; I’m starting a new play with poet Suzanne Stein, for the San Francisco Poets Theater. I’m continuing to add more photos to Tagged, my series of portraits of artists, musicians, poets, filmmakers, creative types, mostly guys, most of them naked or nearly so, their junk hidden, sometimes, by a drawing of male genitalia that Raymond Pettibon made a few years back. I’ve had a few shows with these photos, and a book, and I want to do more. It’s the funnest project I’ve ever done, I think. And I have finished a new manuscript of poems called Tweaky Village, now I’m entering it in contests and losing to people with MFAs of course. Sigh. So many projects that I won’t finish all of them before I die. But Dodie and I have secured a literary executor so I can rest easy knowing that life was better to me than to nearly anyone else I can think of. That’s one thing Miranda: I’ve been super lucky.



Kevin Killian Shy
The Crossing Press

‘Those who read past the disorienting first chapters of this gritty debut novel will be richly compensated by its intellectually stimulating and emotionally gripping prose. Killian produces a pantheon of distinctive characters–including himself as a young writer whose half-hearted work on a book about his murdered gay lover is stalled by his absorption in the dramas of others around him. The misfits, losers, adolescent rebels and rootless souls of Smithtown, Long Island (N.Y.), whose petty dreams and futile hopes the author sets forth with mercy, are the spiritual kin of Christopher Isherwood’s creations in The Berlin Stories. Killian displays a facility for developing teenaged characters, such as Harry Van who, at 15 or 16, is continually aware that his golden youth is temporary; and Paula, a romantic who finds enlightenment in the music of David Bowie. His work is also noteworthy for unlikely phrasings (“Her face lit up like a jack-o-lantern, from inside, with the incredible light and heat of love”)’ — The Crossing Press





p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, All of those, yes. ** tomk, Hi, T. Yes, I was very happy when I found that star-quality quote, you bet. ** _Black_Acrylic, Funny, I didn’t know he ventured there. I’ll find ‘We Are What We Are’ somewhere somehow, thanks, buddy. Happy you aced some relief for that disrespectful nail. ** Misanthrope, Hi. Hm, how far and wide have you submitted your stuff? I surely don’t need to remind you how many, many places rejected ‘Closer’ before someone finally bit. I understand the despair and the ego testing/ smashing process of submitting and getting rejected, but I say get the thing with Callum published and then see what happens. Once you’ve published one thing it becomes much, much easier. It’s that first leap that’s the big hell. Submitting anywhere when you have no track record and no ‘name’ at all is super tough for anyone. It’s up to you, but don’t put the cart before the horse and all of that. I think your general blah mood, as you’ve been describing recently, is probably a big culprit in this fatalism about your writing. Buck up, big guy. ** Tosh Berman, Based on what I know, which is mostly through Gisele’s work and her passing things along based on her great interest in puppets, mannequins, dummies, etc., yes, most ventriloquists have their dolls made, and they usually have at least one extra if not many, if they’re very successful. I think there were 8 Charlie McCarthys if memory serves. ** brendan, Thanks, pal. I mean …  don’t crowd out what you need, obviously. I’ll live. I’m in the 8th, near Concorde. The 5th is easy, maybe a walk from me but a short metro ride if nothing else. It’ll be amazing to see you! ** Bernard, Hi, B. You know, I’m not absolutely sure I’ve seen ‘Dead of Night’. I must’ve. I know it’s a biggie for Gisele. But I don’t think I have. And now I have to. Which should be easy, I would think. Thanks, sir. Let’s hang again in the next couple of or few days. ** Bill, I drove through Cincinnati once. On a road trip in high school. To somewhere. To NYC probably. No memory of it whatsoever. Is it near Cedar Point, I wonder? That would be another reason. As Frameline rejected both of Zac’s and films, I would have to concur. ** John Newton, Glad you liked it. I collaborate with a French theater director/ choreographer named Gisele Vienne, writing the texts. She’s obsessed with puppets, marionettes, mannequins, etc., and there’s only been maybe one of our works that didn’t feature one of those forms or another. I’m writing her next piece now, and, sure enough, one of the characters/performers is a ventriloquist dummy. There is a film of ‘Jerk’, and it turned out really well. It’s on DVD/BluRay and it’s streaming and playing in theaters in France right now. Not sure how and when it’ll get out internationally. Thanks! Huge amounts money for each and every one of us this very second! ** Okay. Today I spotlight Kevin Killian’s best novel, and, arguably, his best work in general, I maybe think. Unfortunately, it’s out of print to the point where copies sell for a small fortune. It was supposed to be reprinted at one point, but it never was, I don’t know why. Enjoy. See you tomorrow.


  1. _Black_Acrylic

    Such a shame when anything goes out of print, especially that highlighted in today’s post. I’ll pore over this extract today.

    The new episode of Play Therapy is online here via Tak Tent Radio! Broadcasting direct from Leeds, Ben ‘Jack Your Body’ Robinson brings you Italo, German Synth-pop and even Swiss Darkwave too.

  2. David Ehrenstein

    Kevin Killian is Just So KOOL!

  3. Impossible Princess

    Dennis! Perhaps Kevin Killian is the answer to my reading ennui… You’re right though Shy is sadly out of print… How do you feel about Impossible Princess? I can get a copy of it easily, and NGL I love the title…! 🥲

  4. brendan

    Oh great. Velveeta and Shells procured. Assuming French customs allows me to bring them in, they are yours. Do you want to plan to meet up on Sunday night? I’ll be at the hotel, getting ready for the shoot.

    And I loved Kevin. So great to see this day.


  5. Conrad

    Hi Dennis ! Mmh, I’ve been trying to find Kevin Killian’s books in French for a while now… but couldn’t find anything…
    You said that you’ve seen some “surprisingly good art” recently in Paris : what is it ?
    The really good, excellent, excellent things I’ve seen recently : Morgan Fisher (whose name I know thanks to you), Another Movie + A Movie by Bruce Conner… + a charming (thanks to MF not really to his interviewers) Q/A after the screening
    But surely you know this already.
    And I discovered the very good “Fashions” by Charles Ray at the Pompidou.
    A have a great week-end!

  6. Steve Erickson

    What a fucking infuriating week in America!

    Is there any plan to re-release Killian’s early books? They came out through tiny indie presses and seemed to go out of print quickly. With the current interest in Gary Indiana – not that they have much in common besides being gay writers of the same generation – maybe a publisher like Semiotext(e) would pick Killian’s work up. Did he complete BACHELORS GET LONELY?

    The new album by Chrisman is also really exciting. He’s moved from qgom into a version of IDM from an African perspective, full of complicated polyrhythms and odd synth textures. Nyege Nyege Tapes/Hakuna Kulala are really killing it.

  7. Jeff J

    Hey Dennis – Really enjoyed this post on SHY and Kevin. Sad and surprising that this novel hasn’t been reprinted. It seems a natural for Semiotext(e), maybe?

    Speaking of novels by poets, have you read LIGHT WHILE THERE IS LIGHT by Keith Waldrop? A few friends have recommended it lately, saying it’s his best work.

    Recently watched an interesting doc by Ulrike Ottinger about her early artistic inspirations called PARIS CALLIGRAMMES. If you haven’t seen it, suspect you’d enjoy it. Criterion has a huge slew of her movies available to stream which is exciting since I’ve only managed to see TICKET OF NO RETURN and FREAK ORLANDO. You a fan of her work?

    Been listening to the newly issued comp of Wire demos from between CHAIRS MISSING and 154. Lots of songs that didn’t make either album and they sound fantastic. A genuine treasure trove.

    How’re things with the film fundraising? Fingers crossed for you and Zac.

  8. Misanthrope

    Dennis, I was making coffee this morning, and I was like, “Hmm, I wonder what Dennis will say, if anything. Certainly nothing that could make me feel better.”

    I was wrong. Thank you for that, Big D. All love to you.

    You are right.

    Yes, I’ve thought about some of those things, but you know what I needed to hear them.

    Thank you again.

    Have a great weekend.

  9. Bill

    Great to see the spotlight on Shy! I really need to revisit it. Really surprised it’s so hard to get these days, especially with Fascination’s buzz. My copy isn’t leaving my house anytime soon.

    Impossible Princess is an excellent collection, Impossible Princess.

    Dennis, have you seen the new Peter Strickland? I have reservations about the trailer, but I’ll of course have to see it.


  10. Misanthrope

    Btw, Kevin is tops. I’ll always love that man and his work.

  11. John Newton

    Hi Dennis my friend in the hospital is doing a lot better and amazingly well for someone who had a massive stroke as he can move half of his body and is breathing on his own.

    Thank you for showcasing Kevin Killian’s novel shy. I love it as well and I miss K.K. terribly. I did not know he was sick with cancer and Bedrooms have windows was life changing for me. Did you ever take LSD with Kevin in the early 1980s? Which cigarettes did he smoke? I wish he had written more novels but the ones he did write were excellent, as were his poems and plays, and short stories. I would love to read Desiree as he references it in Bedrooms have windows. Have an excellent weekend.

  12. John Newton

    Or did you use cocaine, MDA, MDMA/ecstasy with K.K. in SF in the early 1980s? When I was friends with Kevin he only used caffeine, loved Tab which is a delicious diet soda and he had quit smoking. I would write to him about our mutual love for spanking and bondage, and old films I grew up watching with my parents and grandparents.

    My dad, who is almost 90 met Ginger Rogers on a class trip to the old U.N. when it was in lake success NY, he gave her privacy and a girl in his class asked for her autograph and she said no. He also worked at the Erlanger theater and met Marlene Dietrich or sold her candy-I wonder if she liked how he looks very tall and Scandinavian with strawberry blond hair? I favor my mother and look a lot more Belgian/Dutch, southern German, and southern European. He also met Julie Andrews and served her coffee and watched every single production of my fair lady that was shown there as well as other musicals. I know he saw West side story when it was in production there but this was decades before I was around. He did not bother the actors and actresses, and was polite to them but not intrusive or a pest.

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