The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Spotlight on … Tristan Egolf Lord of the Barnyard: Killing the Fatted Calf and Arming the Aware in the Corn Belt (1998)


‘To have published two novels by the age of 30, and recently finished another, could be the stuff of dreams, but not for Tristan Egolf, who has shot himself, aged 33, in Lancaster, near Philadelphia. Lancaster was the town that provided partial inspiration for his fiction, and to which he had returned after living throughout the United States and Europe.

‘Such a fate recalls the end of John Kennedy Toole, who gassed himself before the publication, and success, of A Confederacy Of Dunces. That novel’s rumbustious hero, Ignatius J Reilly, was perhaps a precursor of Egolf’s John Kaltenbrunner, the freewheeling protagonist of events in the gross-out incarnation of smalltown America that is Egolf’s first novel, Lord Of The Barnyard (1998).

‘Egolf was born in San Lorenzo del Escorial, Spain. His father was a peripatetic National Review journalist, and his mother a painter. They divorced in Egolf’s childhood and he took the surname of his stepfather. In his youth, the family moved from Washington to Kentucky. It was life in Philadelphia, however, that inspired Egolf, along with summer visits to his father’s new home in Indiana.

‘On leaving Hempfield high school in Landisville, Pennsylvania, in 1990, Egolf went to Temple University, Philadelphia. He soon dropped out and relished playing with a punk band – whose record contract also gave him pause for thought.

‘Fearful that touring would mean that writing slipped from his fingers, he quit and headed for Europe, physically distancing himself from his material’s setting. Holed up to write in Paris in a small room, he paid the rent by playing in bars and on the streets. In 1995, he was on the Pont des Arts when Maria, daughter of novelist Patrick Mondiano, chanced by, sensed something in what Egolf was doing, and asked him to come for a coffee, after which he returned to the US to fortify the novel’s setting.

‘Back in Paris, he got in touch with her again; she introduced him to her father, who was encouraging – all the more so for not asking to see the book until it was finished. Egolf continued to write, and eventually showed Mondiano Lord Of The Barnyard. It was promptly taken by Gallimard, and, after scores of rejections, by Picador in England and Grove in America.

‘With the subtitle of Killing The Fatted Calf And Arming The Aware In The Corn Belt, it is seemingly rough, even formless. It tells of Kalten- brunner, whose father dies before his birth. The boy shows a knack with chickens and sheep on the family farm, raises hell at school – so much so that the homestead falls victim to predatory Methodists and he is consigned to work on a barge. But that is only a quarter of it, mildness itself compared with Kaltenbrunner’s subsequent work at a poultry plant, veritable sweetness beside garbage collecting, which sets in motion a strike, and more uproar. The book is not perfect, its manic energy precludes tidiness; it has its own volition, and editorial neatness would have made it sludge.

‘That first novel, for which Egolf had recently completed a screenplay, works without any dialogue, but his second, Skirt And The Fiddle (2002), is top heavy with it, obscuring a tale about a wild-living pair of rat-catchers – Egolf had a thing about rats – one of whom so falls for a woman that he reaches once again for his violin. It was enough, however, to make one eager for Kornwolf, due next year.

Kornwolf was written amid Egolf’s activities with the Smoketown Six, whose anti-war protests in Lancaster, Philadelphia, included burning an effigy of George Bush and posing, near-naked, in a pyramid similar to that of the Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. They were arrested, released, and their subsequent lawsuit for violation of civil rights is yet to be resolved. That, and his writing, was the upside of the manic depression which had him reaching for the gun, and leaving a fiancée and daughter.’ — Christopher Hawtree



Tristan Egolf @ Wikipedia
Obituary: Tristan Egolf
Podcast: Tristan Egolf interviewed on Bookworm
Tristan Egolf @ goodreads
Embrace Your Madness”
A Toast to Tristan Egolf
Tristan Egolf, itinéraire d’un écrivain-météore
A tragic, and familial, ending
Modiano et Tristan Egolf
Petit biquet deviendra grand…pourtant
Long Live the Underwolf: On Discovering Tristan Egolf’s Kornwolf
Lord of the Barnyard @ NoveList
Buy ‘Lord of the Barnyard’


Music by Tristan Egolf


Kitschchao – White Boy

Kitschchao – Riverbottom Nightmare Band




The story of your discovery as a writer is almost like a love story: Young, beautiful Parisian with contacts to the publishing world meets young American, who plays guitar under the bridges of Paris and accidentally this novel in the drawer has … how was the thing really?

Yes, I almost can not hear it anymore. On my book tour in Spain, journalists asked for nothing but the luscious details of a story that never happened before.

In fact, after school, I lived in Philadelphia and did a thousand things, writing, playing in a band, trying out the possibilities of this city, and one day I packed my backpack and set off with $ 600 and my guitar Europe, as many young Americans do to hitchhike around the area and make music on the street. After some time in Italy and Amsterdam, I ended up in Paris; Among other things, I worked there on a text that later went into the novel.

As a street musician you get to feel the most different reactions: some spit in the guitar case, the others are pure money, take out which threaten you and so on; but I also met some great people, including Maria Modiano, the daughter of French writer Patrick Modiano. We talked, made friends, and that was all.

The novel actually did not exist at the time. I drove back to the US, to the city in southern Indiana, which is the role model for Baker, to research carefully. On the day I arrived there, I discovered a camp of the river rats, and thought, oh well, I’ve done everything wrong, I have to start all over again. So I stayed in “Baker” for half a year. I worked for a while in a factory called Velvet Elvis and Polkadots Inc., making giveaway scrap for a TV shopping channel, including the eponymous portrait of Elvis, multi-colored sprayed on velvet, a bad joke. So I tore my shifts down the assembly line and spent the rest of my time going to the library and reading, walking around the city, meeting lots of places, talking to people, gathering material. A distant cousin of mine lived there, he led me around, because he knew approximately what I was looking for and put me on the right tracks; So I experienced scenes like the pub brawls.

After almost six months there, I returned to Paris, and the only truly amazing thing about the story of Maria Modiano is that I did not lose her phone number, it probably all had its deeper meaning. I contacted her, but we did not become a couple. Later we moved together for a while, and by the time we finished the rough draft of the novel, eighteen months had passed, from October 95 to March 97.

I returned to the US and sent the novel to about 75 publishers, unsolicited. Since I had no agent and was completely unknown, it is no wonder that nothing came of it. As an unpublished, young, white man with no special marks, I was in the category with the worst opportunities in the field of fiction. And within a week I already had the most answers; unopened back, publisher sealed up, rejected unread, all that. Later, the press in Europe made a lot of noise out of me to a prophet, who does not count in his own country; I do not think so dramatically.

On the contrary, I was very lucky – it was accepted only two months after I finished the manuscript, but not in the US. Actually, it was actually about the modianos, who are really a wonderful family and helped me a lot with things that you can not manage yourself without a residence permit. Of course, Patrick Modiano had noticed that I was working on a novel and was curious to read it, so I gave him a copy of the manuscript. And without my knowledge, he checked it with Gallimard, where he works as a lecturer. I’ve been back in Philadelphia by now, researching the second novel I’m still sitting in-no pause for years, that’s idiotic-when I got a call, Maria said, “Are you sitting?” And told me, Gallimard wanted to buy the world rights and had already planned the deal with Picador for England.

I was overjoyed and wanted to run and tell everyone, but I did not have anyone to say anything; At the time, I was living with a TV junkie who was guarding the house for his mother. I gushed with enthusiasm, and he just looked up bored and said: Huh? So I ran through the streets and did not know where to go, and in the end, the one with whom I celebrated success was a very nice homeless man, we smoked one and rejoiced.

This is a funny coincidence, but the romantic PR story, which wants to make me a bum with literary ambitions and Parisian noble friend, has nothing to do with me anyway.

Gallimard bought the world rights, sold the novel to about twelve countries, I do not remember that much, and about half of these translations have since been published. In France, the book was successful, not only on the sales figures, but as for the whole hype around it, so I had not expected. In England, sales were okay, but otherwise it was rather cool, and in the US, it was much better than I had ever thought. And the press has reacted pretty well everywhere.

In a first novel, one always likes to ask the question of possible literary role models, and the literary critics in the various countries have also done their utmost to keep their theses to themselves. What does the author say – are there role models, and which ones?

Of course, writers have influenced me, but these are different names from those often quoted; apparently they do not let themselves be read directly from the novel. I also count filmmakers among the aesthetic role models who have left their mark, in particular Charlie Chaplin or the early Werner Herzog; Céline comes to mind among the authors and also someone like the critic and novelist HL Mencken, to whom I owe a few good sayings and the courage to stand for my own words and pictures.

But why should it be only the fine art? Things I read in the paper, or just stories people tell me, are so often in there, it’s hard to believe. Not to mention true events; a shockingly high number of individual scenes from Lord of thew Barnyard have really happened, and not so rare me.

Given the lush, original vocabulary full of puns and new creations, as you will find it in hardly a first novel, but you will not be surprised that there is looking for literary role models.

No, of course not, and I do not say that I did not read much. But the observations that really set something in motion come from somewhere else; I also like to read the local press with their completely absurd messages – »Bus full of wheelchair users on the way to the casino crashed by cliff« or something. It gives you a completely different view of storytelling. The world of these events, however, remains limited to the region; For New Yorkers this is as foreign and far away as it is for Europeans.

As a child or adolescent, have you often invented or even written down stories?

Yes, that was always fun for me. When I wrote down my first story, about twenty years ago, the concept of punctuation was still unfamiliar to me, and my mother, who was trying to read the four pages, did not understand half of it, because it went through no point and comma. I was very frustrated. But I already realized how great it is to create a world in storytelling.

Earlier you mentioned that you have experienced some of the romance scenes more or less yourself, and you can hardly imagine that there is no connection between your life and the experiences of the hero John. How far is this possible? I do not suppose that you ran chicken at the age of seven, but when I think of certain feelings, a worldview, a sense of justice in John …

Well, I think everything started with Isabelle. The sheep Isabelle really existed, I had to take care of her as a child, and I can tell you that she was just as devilish as I have described her, nothing is exaggerated. She was the most malicious, tough, aggressive and unbelievable livestock imaginable, and I had to take care of her every day. Even when I brought her food, I had to keep her at bay with a stick. And that was just the beginning.

But to answer on a less anecdotal level: Basically, there is nothing more harmful and suffocating for the development of a personality – let alone a sensitive or artistic personality – than the American public school. In the first five or six years of my school days, there was not a single day when I did not want to throw a bomb on the store, so all I did was outrage. If you survive that, that sense of total cut-off, because you can not communicate with anyone, then you’ve learned something for life.

John is isolated in a way I was not, my family was more involved in many ways, while he is a true outsider who soon becomes indifferent. For me, that did not matter, I did not care, and in that regard John is my revenge on this close community. I put myself back into many situations when writing, which, looking back, I could of course have handled much better, but I was younger and could not. Partly, I let John do what I did not, sometimes because I was not stubborn enough, and sometimes too hard – according to the motto: first strike, then ask.

Although I grew up not in southern Indiana but in Pennsylvania, in a larger city than Baker, there are quite a few parallels to my birthplace; Generally speaking, this was a life situation where you could say perfectly normal sentences and the others looked at you as if you had gone crazy.

In that sense, life really only started when I came to the big city, where that changed; John, however, does not learn anything else until his time as a riverboat. To have stupidity, hypocrisy and conformism and not be able to do anything about it, we all have in common, and it makes you really wild. For years you think, I want to get away, or: One day I have to finally meet a person who somehow understands me …

In addition to this socio-critical aspect, there is also something socially critical in your novel, albeit more in the background. The people of Baker who describe you in the most detail are workers, factory workers or garbage men, and you paint a vivid picture of the treadmill, the bone mill in their everyday lives. Would you go so far as to call this a class-struggle critique?

Oh, I think, without some kind of industrial treadmill this world probably does not work, and there will probably always be a class to take those efforts. But how this class originates or continues is not an issue that I wanted to or could address. My approach is more a mixture of flair for the absurd sides of many rather hard working professions and compassion for those who perform them; I have always had something for the “damned” and describe it with a certain tenderness. This inevitably implies a critical view of the situation. But as a mouthpiece of the working class or as its chronicler, for example in a John Steinbeck tradition, I do not see myself.

So no mission consciousness.

Maybe, but then at the level of the individual. No matter how much wind blows in your face, no matter if no one understands you and the whole world is against you, you have to fight back, stand up, carry on. That’s what I was all about in Monument for John Kaltenbrunner; the parodic, grotesque came almost automatically along the way.

The encouragement falls, since the story does not end so positively, but rather relatively, right?

Oh, I think this conclusion has something triumphant, after all. Sure, John goes down, but he has not given up; and, after all, it has done a lot, not just chaos and destruction, but also a significant improvement in the situation for the garbage men, the twenty-two “dumpsters.” The grotesque way they honor him after his death-the pig-hunt in the cemetery-shows that he was not alone after all, that there were people who understood him. Even if there are only a few.

Do you see America so pessimistically?

Yes. But not only America; John’s story is ultimately universal. My picture of all humanity is not much optimistic, but the novel is set in America because I know the land of limitless possibilities – the unlimited choice of totally incredible, crazy situations – better. Maybe there are other countries where the questionable influence of television is not that extreme, but stupidity has no own passport, it’s everywhere.

Right now, you’re on a scholarship grant in Oxford, Mississippi, a small town unlike Baker, thanks to their university. After that, the big city calls again, New York?

I guess so. Of course, the town does not scare me anymore, neither do I have to go to school or keep afloat with cheap jobs, I can also choose somewhere outside of a big city how to shape my life. What appeals to me is Alaska – a real contrast to the narrowness of the human settlements, big or small. And who knows, maybe there’s a hot new story – an Eskimo bank robbery or something.

Have we now learned about your new novel – or the next but one?

On my second novel, I’m sitting too long again. And it’s not about Eskimos, not yet. A main theme is again the strangeness; To feel alien, that drives me on. For example, the differences with Monument are stylistic; I-narration, dialogues, shorter sentences. And it’s a love story. But you will not overlook the similarities; the parody is there, the dark, there are rat catchers …

Rat catcher??

… well, they work in the sewers. Garbage and rats! You have to remain recognizable. Although it’s actually a black GI and a Cambodian prostitute smuggling in a suitcase to the US; Surely you can already imagine how it goes on? It ends hopefully anyway. Until now.



Tristan Egolf Lord of the Barnyard
Grove Press

‘A literary sensation published to outstanding accolades in America and around the world, Lord of the Barnyard was one of the most auspicious fiction debuts of recent years. Now available in paperback, Tristan Egolf’s manic, inventive, and painfully funny debut novel is the story of a town’s dirty laundry — and a garbagemen’s strike that lets it all hang out. Lord of the Barnyard begins with the death of a woolly mammoth in the last Ice Age and concludes with a greased-pig chase at a funeral in the modern-day Midwest. In the interim there are two hydroelectric dam disasters, fourteen tavern brawls, one shoot-out in the hills, three cases of probable arson, a riot in the town hall, and a lone tornado, as well as appearances by a coven of Methodist crones, an encampment of Appalachian crop thieves, six renegade coal-truck operators, an outraged mob of factory rats, a dysfunctional poultry plant, and one autodidact goat-roping farm boy by the name of John Kaltenbrunner. Lord of the Barnyard is a brilliantly comic tapestry of a Middle America still populated by river rats and assembly-line poultry killers, measuring into shot glasses the fruits of years of quiet desperation on the factory floor. Unforgettable and linguistically dizzying, it goes much farther than postal.’ — Grove Press



Chapter One Baker is situated in Pullman Valley, a twelve-mile pothole which was gutted into the modern-day corn belt by the glaciers of a preceding ice age. The western lip of the valley rises to 425 m above sea level, with the crowning limestone peaks on the northern end towering an additional 20 m over all the rest. Between this 600 yard escarpment and the treeless barrens to the northeast lies a maze of knobs and hollows, all thick with saw-briars, sassafras, dogwood and fool’s gold. Most of the soil is fairly worn, though it was once among the most fertile in the state. The summers are hot and long, the winters brief, yet occasionally brutal. Positioned at the northeast corner of the town line, almost perfectly centered in the valley — just south of where the Patokah river veers off from its course along the eastern wall and cuts in toward the community — lies Gwendolyn Hill, home to the Ebony Steed coal company and probably the greatest key in existence to Baker’s muddled past.

Sometime during the postwar industrial mobilization that swept across the corn belt and brought towns like Baker alive with manufacturing plants, a Bostonian entrepreneur by the name of Glendan Castor moved into an old Antebellum home on the north end of town. Castor had purchased three square miles of land in Pullman Valley with the intention of founding a mining operation. It was a fundamentally sound investment, as the land was cheap and the availability of an expendable labor force seemingly inexhaustible — New England money goes a long way in the corn belt. However, what he did not foresee was the endless chain of complications that would come about as the result of his chosen site for operations. Had he known what lay beneath the surface of Gwendolyn Hill, he very well may have packed up and headed back to Boston straightaway.

As it was, the establishment of the company was fraught with disastrous setbacks right from the beginning. Unbeknownst to all concerned at the time, Gwendolyn Hill had been the original site of an early European settlement/trading post, of which most existing records had vanished. In addition, Pullman Valley had been previously inhabited by a tribe of Shawnee Indians. In effect, this meant that encased in the hillside lay a scrap heap of Kentucky rifles, dead Indians, corroded whisky stills, sod houses, busted cooking utensils and grindstones, all of which were deemed `archaeologically significant’ in contemporary legal terms. As standard governmental policy dictated, the discovery of any such find mandated that the respective bureau in the capital be notified at once, and that all operations be temporarily seized. A crew of archaeologists would then be sent in to pick apart the 1.5 mile reservoir with a fine-toothed comb. Which was all good and well for everyone concerned, except the coal-truck operators on unemployment. Castor’s original crew had unknowingly inherited a buried pig sty left behind by its forebears.

If a white burial ground was unearthed, the church was called in to exhume the graves. That took two weeks. If an Indian burial ground was unearthed, the bureau of archaeology was deployed. That took up to two months. During that time the company’s enormous million dollar coal trucks, each being the size of the average American home, were left unattended, lined up in a row like sick dinosaurs at a watering hole. Their operators filled the taverns, commiserating openly and drinking themselves blind. Before long, they’d become an active public menace. Their behavior was frowned on all through the community. They themselves were miserable and bored. Knockdown brawls resulted. The whole crew was thrown in the county jail overnight on more than one occasion. And no sooner would operations finally get underway again than someone would churn up a section of an old stone wall during a munitions blast, landing everyone back in the bread line for another few weeks. Back to the taverns, back to the public charge. It became a serious problem. Castor’s operations started to falter. The company’s future was in jeopardy. Some of the operators walked off the job, and, contrary to the way it had been mapped out, they were no longer so easily replaceable.

But the precarious nature of the situation was never more apparent than on the afternoon a routine blast turned up a fully intact, perfectly preserved, calcified skeleton of a grown wooly mammoth. The moment `exhibit #1A,’ as it would later be called, appeared on the southern end of the main quarry, the coal-truck operators leapt out of their rigs and ran screaming along the ledge with their heads in their hands. They swore that was it — it was all over; they would be shut down for the entire season this time. They stood in a flap-jawed row along the drop off, staring down at the half-submerged ribcage protruding from the gravel. Visions of terminal unemployment and public disgrace swept over them. It probably would’ve been curtains for the entire company right then and there had one man not quietly stepped forward and told them all to keep their hats on. At the time, the head of the human resources department at Ebony Steed was a barrel-chested, charismatic graduate of the university of St. Louis by the name of Ford Kaltenbrunner. Kaltenbrunner, in his trademark levelheaded manner, climbed down into the quarry, threw a black tarp over the latest find, and instructed everyone to take a break. All eyes followed him as he made his way back up the embankment to Castor’s office-house.

The outcome of the resulting conference was this: the company’s administrators unanimously concluded, under advisement from Kaltenbrunner, that it was high time Ebony Steed took a few basic matters into its own hands. In the interest of self-preservation and at the risk of crippling legal repercussions, it was thereby decreed that, from that day forward, all significant archaeological finds would be handled in a clandestine manner. Kaltenbrunner himself was appointed overseer of the coverup. Beginning with the latest discovery, all artifacts were to be recorded, dusted off, and turned over to him personally. He would then package the material with any pertinent information intact, and store it in a secret, well-concealed location where no one, including Castor, could get to it. The less anyone knew of its whereabouts, the more secure the coverup, it was reasoned. The new policy was effective immediately. Consequently, the company wasn’t shut down once for the next eleven years. Kaltenbrunner, for his efforts, was promoted and compensated accordingly. He rose through the ranks of Ebony Steed and was soon second only to Castor himself, though in the eyes of the machinery operators he was clearly the most capable man in the company, bar none. He was widely respected and well-liked, seen as a fair man, a brilliant conversationalist, and one of the finest drinking partners this side of the cross. His sway over those around him was widely coveted. He was consulted for professional and personal advice on a regular basis. He was never known to turn down anyone in genuine need of his help.

At the age of thirty-four he was married to an area seamstress of Welsh descent. He and his wife put a down-payment on an estate situated one mile due north of Gwendolyn Hill, just across the river. Ford set up a study in the attic of the farmhouse and soon lined the shelves with long rows of research material pertaining to his archaeological inquiries. His library grew, as did his personal interest in the subject matter. The highly classified evidence from the mine was stored in a hidden location, the whereabouts of which not even Madame Kaltenbrunner was aware. Everything else remained in the attic. A growing collection of textbooks lined the lower shelves of the wall-mounted book rack positioned over the main desk. Information pertaining not only to the heritage and ancestry of the original inhabitants of Gwendolyn Hill, but also further analysis on the settlement and foundation of all of Baker: a chronological study of European migrations to the Midwest, the development of industry in the corn belt, the genesis of waterway navigation on the Patokah, the establishment of the railroads, pre and postwar farm production, the staggering effects of prohibition on a community of drunkards, barnstormings, cornhuskings, quilting bees, revivalism, wood-sawing contests, and even family charts on a good many of the town’s oldest residents. Exactly what he was working toward will remain a matter of conjecture, but the fact of the matter stands: Ford Kaltenbrunner probably had a tighter lock on the local populace than anyone in history.

At the age of thirty-eight, when he and his wife conceived their first child, Ford was at the height of his powers. Glendan Castor had become a washed out, embittered old ghost at Ebony Steed, little more than a peripheral reminder that, technically, there was still someone higher up on the ladder than Kaltenbrunner himself. With that in mind, it’s no wonder that Ford’s untimely demise, which was officially attributed to an explosion caused by a buildup of methane gas in one of the underground caverns, immediately prompted allegations of foul play all through the community.




p.s. Hey. ** James Nulick, Well, thank you. Me too. Okay, I was just taken aback by your inference that an escort requesting a discrete, reserved tone for sexual negotiations was somehow strange or inappropriate. Uh, how long has the film script taken so far … ? Well, we’ve worked in it in spurts. A little under a year, all in all. If we can time a Tokyo trip with yours, that’d be cool. ‘Crowd’ and I think ‘Kindertotenlieder’ are being performed in Kyoto late in the year, I can’t remember when, and ideally we’ll time our visit with that. I can’t argue with your props re: Tokyo, yep. I am a Tao Lin fan, as you know, and I’m greatly looking forward to the drugs book, which I’ve heard great things about. Tao doing non-fiction is quite intriguing. Thanks about the film script. May things roll and roll, for you too. ** David S. Estornell, Thank you, David! xo ** Bernard, Hi, B. Opioids … oh, right, for your laid up partner? ‘The Color of Pomegranates’ is one of my favorite films, as you probably now. Thanks for the taste of it, and, yeah, no clue why ‘Earth’ isn’t decently printed. Some depressing answer, I guess. You good? How’s the writing, et. al.? ** Steve Erickson, Oops, spoke too soon. Sorry. You think it’s all malware-related? Ha ha, a lot of legends around McKamey Manor. I know two people who’ve done it. They said it was intense and clothes destroying, but they also said people’s extreme personal reports are partly brag/hype. The lawsuit threatening people don’t have a related leg. Nobody who does it doesn’t know they’re potentially in for hell and hasn’t signed off re: that possibility. ** Sypha, Hi. Ha ha, as you can probably imagine, just the thought of that Spandau Ballet song makes me urp in my mouth. Me too, re: then looking forward! ** David Ehrenstein, Whatever golden wonder you linked me to isn’t available in my country. More’s the pity. Thank you anyway. Gisele’s a big fan of ‘Kukla, Fran, and Ollie’. She’s a diehard: she’s even a big fan of Sherri Lewis and Lambchop. ** Dóra Grőber, Hi! Thanks! There’s more to do on the script, but unless Zac really surprises me, it shouldn’t be a ton more work. Do you actually work at the book festival? Does it have any potential to be interesting or a serious wallet emptier? My day was hit and miss. Our TV project producer still hasn’t sent us the edit of Episode 1, and it’s getting ridiculous as well as being a big problem in terms of meeting our first deadline. Ugh. Did some PGL-related discussing and strategising. Some emailing, this and that, pretty non-eventful. Did anything new or exciting or educational or anything happen at the bookstore or in your surrounding life today? ** _Black_Acrylic, My honor and pleasure, Ben. I’m glad it’s okay. Final proof! So exciting! ** Jeff J, Hey, Jeff, good to see you. Me too, re: that Kapoor. I tried to avoid him, but that one snagged me. I’m so sorry to hear about your cat’s illness. I understand totally the depth of that. Yeah, a violent loss: Cecil Taylor. Such a singular genius. I got to see him in concert I think three times, but not since decades ago. Once solo, and twice with the trio. Insanely great. Yes, it was cool to see the Paris thing go public. Sure, touch base whenever you want. I’m just here working with a couple of PGL-related trips scattered for the next while. I’m really excited about Zac’s and my new film, the script. Very anxious to get it polished, translated, and into the hands of our producer so the no doubt draggy, budget-raising period can start. I think we’ve devised a film that, while quite different from, and cinematically/narratively wilder than, PGL, won’t cost much more to make. That’s the hope. I loved ‘Isle of Dogs’ too. Yeah, the racist accusation against it just seems like ‘woke’ agenda-distorted myopia and tunnel vision to me. None of that kind of reaction in France, no. Different kind of place. I mean Woody Allen’s most recent film, which I didn’t see, was widely acclaimed here as one of his best films. ** Misanthrope, Cool, glad you liked it. Are you saying that StrawberryCumCake isn’t Chris Dakota? Is that what you’re saying? How depressing if you’re right. Ha ha. If Self does that for you, that’s all that matters. Shit, I get awed by all sorts of things that others decree blah. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to excitement. Do it, do it, rev that fucker where it doesn’t belong. Anarchy! ** Bill, But Kevin reads in SF all the time, doesn’t he? I think of that as being one of the positives of being there. Yes, I’ve just dipped into the Ashley Paul too, and I think I’m with you. Hugs. ** Okay. Do you guys know/remember Tristan Egolf? Wrote three wild, very impressive novels then killed himself far too young. If not, if so, I ask you to attend to his first and very worthy novel today. See you tomorrow.


  1. Jamie

    Hey Dennis.
    It’s been too long! How are you? Great news about Venice. Hope you’re pleased. How is everything with you? I read that that the TV thing is being annoying and you’ve finished a first draft of the new movie script. Good going on the movie script! Congratulations!
    I spent last week in hospital, after getting sicker and sicker until I had to be taken in and put on an IV. Was really well looked after and left feeling tons better, but I’m officially a medical mystery as, even after a billion tests for all kinds of things, no one knows what’s wrong. So, I’m now back at home, weak and thin, but feeling okay. Quite exciting, eh?
    The blog has been a constant source of inspiration and pleasure of course, so thanks for that.
    How was your day? I want to hear it all!
    Spiffy love,

  2. Chris Cochrane

    feel like I am waking out of a some kind of stupor, slowly. I’m glad we got a THEM resolution and hope everything can be worked out on your end. Damn. I have not see your films yet and you have moved on to working on the third one. damn. There is not enough time for anything, though all the time in the world. not much to say, just saying hello and sending love

  3. David Ehrenstein

    That link you didn’t get yesterday was to “Gold” — a Sondheim song from his show “Bounce”

  4. David Ehrenstein

    I’m having trouble posting in here.

  5. David Ehrenstein

    Moz has gone off the deep end. Total Racist.

  6. David Ehrenstein

    Egolf is fascinating. Kay Boyle even more than that.

  7. Bernard

    Hi. Yeah, I meant to write more yesterday but thing have been busy. I had a very mind-altering trip to the site of Black Mountain College, where I actually performed; followed by a trip to New York (where I didn’t seethe Adrian Piper or a bunch of other stuff mentioned here); and now Arthur had surgery on a muscle tear (and is fine) and I’m being a nurse/domestic help, while trying to get a little project done (for money!). I’d like to ramble about details later. There’ve been a ton of Days since I last checked in that I’ve learned a lot from (as usual), so thank you.
    Meanwhile: Does anyone here live in or near Chicago?

    • Bernard

      I’m writing along . . . the poetry is not going fast, mostly because I’ve been doing some new kinda stuff in the past 18 months or so that I feel kind of insecure about. Some things seem sentimental to me. So I cut and cut and transform, and the process is interesting, but I’d like to get some stuff finished, done, out the door.
      The thing I did at Black Mountain brought up the same issues. It was incredibly thrilling to be on the grounds of the college, walking the (for me) sacred ground. We performed in a BMC dorm; we hung out on the bunk beds. I mean, who knows who had sex there, with whom? It went over really big, though. Like, these beautiful straight guys were coming up to me to tell me how they were moved by what I read. Which is, really, all one wants.
      I’ve been enjoying writing prose. I have a lot of just work to do right now–also planning a couple of presentations. Oh, and I got invited to join this project with four DC-are artists; it was going to be an exhibition with 3 artists and me as curator/presenter, but it looks like now it’s going to be 4 artists with one of them, me, a poet, maybe doing some sound stuff. The surface characteristics of the artists’ work are quite different in tone from anything I do, but we seem to have some underlying affinities I intend to work on. That’ll be about a year of process.
      I’m working on some stuff for Asheville that’s basically about Appalachian regional art being connected to the transforming economy, which is something I’m pretty interested in now. There’s a huge movement away from traditional full-time job, working-for-the-man expectations, but the political system is far behind, and is still saying jobs, jobs, jobs; health care dependent on employment; saddle everyone with student-loan debt . . . If it is remotely possible for artists to work effectively on changing the economy instead of just mobilizing for candidates, they should.
      Kukla, Fran, and Ollie and Lamb Chop are, as the kids say, everything.

  8. James Nulick


    I bought Barnyard on your recommendation back before Google murdered your blog, nice to see Egolf again. I bought my hardcover copy (with dust jacket!) on eBay for $10 or some ridiculously low price. So sad he didn’t pull through his depression to enjoy the success of his novels.. too many writers commit suicide.

    Well Dennis I think I’ve found a title that will work, it’s taken from a sentence in the text itself, would that be considered cheating? Ha ha.

    You spent a year writing the new film script? That’s fast! I was personally challenging myself to write my new novel in a year but I don’t think that’s going to happen, I’ve got at least a few more months worth of work ( I started working on it in May 2017). It’s emotionally taxing, and the structure is complicated, and sometimes I feel like it’s a complete failure.. I’m trying something new here and I’m really afraid it might fail.. how do battle serious doubts like that? Do you ever struggle with that, Dennis? I’ve already put so much work into it, and I’d hate to think it’s a total bust, yikes. ??

    I’d love to see Kindentotenleider (not sure about spelling) on the stage.. has it ever played in Seattle? When you were going through your legal battles with Google I contacted the Stranger (a local free rag similar to LA Weekly or the Village Voice) and offfered to write a piece about your struggles, but the books editor seemed to have a Dennis Cooper aversion. Perhaps he’s friends with Joshua Cohen?

    Subsequently, I’ve never seen any D.C. references in the Stranger. I think Seattle is secretly Republican. ?

    James ❤❤

  9. Steve Erickson

    I had a hard time turning on my computer this morning, so the problem definitely continues and wasn’t just due to malware.

    Well, there are people who are making very public claims of physical and mental harm from McKamey Manor tours. Some have likened the tour to participating in BDSM, but that community has the mantra “safe, sane and consensual.” I know that their waiver includes participants agreeing to be injected with drugs and possibly have their fingers broken with mousetraps. That’s safe and sane? There is now a safe word, but out doesn’t seem to be respected, and one person who commented on a YouTube thread about the Manor said he wanted out and had to physically attack their employees for them to let him leave. Look at Laura Brotherton’s experience in this article and her comment just below it:

  10. alex rose

    hi dennis

    weird, i remember years ago being in a friends house and seeing a photo on the wall of a guy and i knew straight away that he was dead ( which, thankfully he was, so i was right ! booyah ) and i got that with the first photo of tristan, its odd the way some people look dead in photographs, ive written down tristan in my book as its payday on friday

    tiny question dennis, sit down, i bought a copy of ” growing old disgracefully ” by casimir dukahz ( brian o drexel ) i got it for a euro in a charity shop for the deranged, have you read it ? in my innocence i thought it would be a light piece of uranian prose but half way through it went into graphic oh fuck me he actually writhing this, it warped me for about a week, i just reminded me how powerfull words can still be

    my love to you dennis. alex,x

  11. Dóra Grőber


    Yes, I’ll work at the book festival, on Friday and on Sunday. I mostly expect it to be full of popular books with the occasional treasures hidden among the Paulo Coelho and Dan Brown tomes, haha. So I probably won’t leave all my money there but I probably also won’t return home empty-handed. It means I’ll work ’til 7 instead of 4 on Friday but the change of routine and scenery will be good, I think.
    I can’t believe this producer. I’m so very sorry, Dennis.
    I mostly spent today the same way I did yesterday: packing, packing, packing. But it was okay and we’re finished and ready to go. Other than this… not much. I already feel boring, haha.
    How was your day? Any word from your producer?

    Oh, and thank you for today’s post! It looks delicious and I’ll read it thoroughly when I have the brain capacity!

  12. _Black_Acrylic

    I’d never heard of Tristan Egolf and wow, he’s quite a discovery. This book looks terrific and I’m gonna check it for myself.

    One forthcoming book that I’m excited about is Barney Farmer – Drunken Baker which is out in the next couple of weeks. Drunken Bakers is a comic strip in Viz magazine about two nameless alcoholic bakers who constantly burn their cakes and live out dysfunctional lives. No jokes but there’s a certain Beckettian humour to it. The artist Mark Leckey has created an installation in honour of these characters.

  13. Jeff J

    Hey Dennis,
    Nice post. I recall the name Tristan Egolf, but I’ve never read anything by him. The excerpt was very cool. Do you recommend starting with this first novel? Or one of the later ones? Sounds like they’re all fairly different from one another?

    Your new screenplay sounds great. Wonderful to be able to create something wilder and more ambitious without raising the budget. Did much time go into thinking about budget and making sure the idea wasn’t too expensive to execute? Always curious how these things work.

    Thanks about the cat. It’s a continuing odyssey but some signs of improvement have been appearing.

    Doing what’s probably the final read through on the final layout of Destroy All Monsters now, making a few last tweaks here and there. So far, I haven’t been tempted to make many adjustments and that feels good.

  14. David Ehrenstein

    Found this great documentary on Jerry Torre The Marble Faun of Grey Gardens

    He’s had quite a life irrespective of The Beales.

  15. Misanthrope

    Dennis, Okay, I’m thinking I need to check this book out. Hmm…

    Sad, though, about Egolf offing himself. Poor guy.

    Yeah, believe it or not, I kind of like it when I like things others don’t or when others don’t like things that I like. I like getting their perspectives about why they don’t like the things I like, too. That’s interesting as hell to me.

    Hahaha, I can only imagine how loud this mower would be in our living room. It’s still sitting there, empty of fuel and oil. We have to get some gas for it.

    No, unfortunately, StrawberryCumCake is not Christ Dakota. Those are his pics, though. The first one is quite recent. I check in on his Tumblr every now and again. He’s pretty damn funny.

  16. Nik

    Hey man!

    Damn, sorry about the producer trouble, is the script seem to be in a place you’re happy with though?
    Oh awesome post, I’ll have to read Tristan’s work as soon as I can. When I came to Philly I was trying to find writers who wrote within or about Philly, which isn’t really the way I look for books, and regardless found nothing interesting. As interesting as Barnyard sounds, I might skip to Fiddle or Kornwolf just to get that old thing I felt I had to do in Freshman year out of my head. So thank you for the recommendation!
    And, in regards to moving, yeah, right now I’m a theater student at Temple, and mostly came here to live in the city and write in my own time. But, ultimately, I’m totally dissatisfied with the academics here and have found that I’m a lot more interested in writing for fiction and theater than acting. So I applied some other places and got into Bard’s creative writing program, and will probably be going there unless I get accepted into Northwestern. It’s not a big deal, it’s just been a lot of work over the past few months.
    That’s cool about Gisele and puppetry, I’m excited to see your guys work tailored for a totally new medium.

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