DC's

The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Spotlight on … Violette Leduc Thérèse and Isabelle (1966) *

* (restored)

 

‘It was horror and fear on the part of the publishers which kept this work, first written as the opening section of Leduc’s novel Ravages (1955), unpublished in its original form until 2000 – and in French, at that. Leduc, a friend of Simone de Beauvoir (who also had a crush on her), had spent three years writing Thérèse and Isabelle – and it shows, in a good way. So when Gallimard said, in effect, “no way” in 1954 (“impossible to publish openly,” said Raymond Queneau, of all people), Leduc nearly had a breakdown. The publishers had, in De Beauvoir’s words, “cut her tongue out,” and although the work was reshaped and inserted, piecemeal, into subsequent books (and circulated in a private edition among friends), it hasn’t appeared in English before this edition.

‘It’s a brave thing to do, and if there’s one good side-effect of prurience, it’s that in the pursuit of something rude, good art can be discovered. (I remember being steered to Les Biches as a teenager by someone who had heard it was full of dirty stuff; I ended up discovering the genius of Chabrol early.) And Thérèse and Isabelle is, unquestionably, great.

‘And its interest in the sexual side of things is crucial. Such affairs as the book describes happen; they are part of what makes people the way they are; and so they have to be written about. In this country, we have a particularly immature attitude to this kind of thing: just look at the smirking adolescence betrayed by the inaugurators and keepers of the flame of the Bad Sex Awards, a prize whose point has always been unclear to me – is it for good writing about bad sex, bad writing about bad sex, or bad writing about good sex? (The main point of the prize, it seems, is that some things simply should not be written about.)

‘So here we have extraordinary writing about sex; and, more importantly, about love, and the way it makes us feel. “Now is a night of obstacles. Her smell belongs to me. I have lost her smell. Give me back her smell.” Who has not felt like that, as the odour of the beloved evaporates from the sheets? “‘I wish you would look at me when I’m looking at you,’ she said behind me.” Who has not felt a similar kind of possessiveness? “It’s too stupid. A moment ago we understood each other.” Who hasn’t sometimes been astonished at the vertiginous nature of love, the way it is an unstable equilibrium, a magical but precarious balancing act? And: “My eyebrows brushed her eyebrows. ‘It’s incredible the way I’m seeing you,’ she says.” I don’t think I have ever read physical intimacy better described, or evoked. (One thing that comes across pretty quickly is that this is a damned fine translation, that can’t have been easy to pull off; and dispels any misgivings that the translated quote in the press release, from Libération, inspires: “Violette’s prose, hirsute and grasping as always, throws itself into faces more spiritedly than today’s provocateurs …” Eh?)

‘So we are, in fact, a long way from pornography, although perhaps not too far from what pornography (written pornography, that is) tries to do: which is to make us believe in plausible minds behind the genitals, so that there is some agency behind the act. Anaïs Nin, obliged to write porn to make ends meet, had a natural instinct to make it more “artistic”; here, the art is the point. And it’s funny how the people who do this kind of thing best are the French.’ –– Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian

 

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Further

Violette Leduc @ Wikipedia
Violette Leduc Website
‘Reading Violette Leduc’
‘Violette: ‘Anything unattainable, she wanted’’
‘Qui était Violette Leduc, l’amie de Simone de Beauvoir ?’
Violette Leduc @ goodreads
”Violette’ Evokes Exasperating Self-Pity, A Trait The French Like’
‘Foreword to Violette Leduc’s La Bâtarde’
‘Violette Leduc, une écriture née du manque’
‘HOMMAGE À VIOLETTE LEDUC : À LA RECHERCHE DE L’AMOUR IMPOSSIBLE’
‘Exploring Violette Leduc’
‘Strange Bedfellows’
‘SEX, FEMINISM, AND THE LOST GENIUS OF VIOLETTE LEDUC’
‘On Violette Leduc’
‘Violette Leduc, la scandaleuse’
Buy ‘Thérèse and Isabelle’

 

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Extras


Violette Leduc 1970


Littérature – Brève rencontre avec Violette Leduc


Violette Leduc parle de Simone de Beauvoir

 

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Film

In 1968 Director Radley Metzger adapted Violette Leduc’s novel Thérèse et Isabelle into a feature film.

‘Leduc allowed Radley Metzger to shoot her book only if he agreed not to “make a dirty movie” out of it. (Perhaps she had noticed his first film was called The Dirty Girls.) Leduc’s language has an arresting poetry – “A saint was licking away my soils …” is her description of a cunnilingus episode – and Metzger faithfully reproduces much of it in an overdub spoken by Therese, who, in a Brechtian touch, appears both as the troubled adolescent in love with her female schoolmate, and as a grown woman who observes and comment on what she sees. Metzger’s visual style is usually oblique, with the characters often dominated by the plush objects around them. Therese and Isabelle takes a more lyrical approach, with beautifully elaborate tracking and crane shots and velvety black-and-white photography that capture the romantic idyll of his characters. Best of all, though, is the treatment of the central, consuming relationship of two self-styled outcasts. Metzger counters an era of psycho-dykes and lesbian suicides with two beautiful, strong young women whose relationship resonates with transgressive power. The film’s unabashed presentation of the glories of the lesbian body, seen most tellingly in a love scene at night by a pond, gives Therese and Isabelle a timeless power, and shows Metzger as a consummate chronicler of the thrilling backwaters of human experience.’ — Bright Lights Film Journal


Excerpt


Excerpt

 

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Interview with Sophie Lewis, translator of Thérèse and Isabelle
from Asymptote

 

When did you first encounter Violette Leduc’s work?

Sophie Lewis: I was lucky to be let loose on Dalkey Archive Press’s backlist in 2007, when I started working for them as manager of their London office. They had published Leduc’s La Bâtarde with an afterword by Deborah Levy. As we were promoting Levy’s work in the UK just then, I started to read everything by her, including that piece—and then I was launched on Leduc.

What attracted you to Thérèse and Isabelle in particular?

SL: It’s all about Thérèse’s voice—her heartbreaking but fierce and rebarbative attempts to be true in every sense, to her feelings and perceptions, to what she understands of others, to what she doesn’t understand but is trying to reach. There is also the attraction of the underdog—I feel strongly that groundbreaking women’s writing like this should be more widely available, but also particularly that the voice of a schoolgirl in a convent school, that of a person systematically repressed from a young age, should be allowed to speak.

Would you talk about Leduc’s place in French literature? There’s a sense, to me at least, with this new film about her life out now (Violette, starring Emmanuelle Devos as Leduc) that she is becoming a bit more widely read.

SL: I don’t know about more widely read—I hope so! Leduc is in the difficult position of belatedly, posthumously indeed, coming out from the shadow of Simone de Beauvoir’s championing of her. De Beauvoir did what she could to help Leduc towards independence as a writer, but Leduc remains in the shadow of a hugely celebrated, dominant feminist icon. In her lifetime she also struggled with a mental breakdown, so as a writer appeared to be silent for several years at a time. And she was refused publication by some of the male editors at Gallimard who were equally celebrated as avant-garde writers, so her story as a writer is one of suppression and blocking at many points, including by an avant-garde that rapidly moved to exclude her in favour of establishment standards. If people are now returning to what Leduc actually wrote, then she may at last overcome this and it could even be turned to her advantage.

Was your experience translating Leduc, who has her own distinctive style, different from your previous translation work?

SL: I was translating much of Thérèse and Isabelle alongside Marcel Aymé’s short story collection The Man Who Walked Through Walls. While my translation of Aymé just bounced along, my work on Leduc was very slow. I felt that I needed to make decisions about tense, about tone, about degree of disclosure for almost every sentence. There seemed to me to be an oscillation between an almost forensic, dispassionate detailing of thought and feeling, and a lyricism that aimed to paint feeling more passionately—yet Leduc would never intentionally sacrifice clarity or exactness. So I somehow had to marry the two impulses all the way. It was tough work.

Did you do any research to understand the peculiar environment of the novel?

SL: Yes. I already mentioned my major concern: keeping an eye on plain accuracy; that is, being sure not to flinch myself, knowing that Leduc was determined not to, even in passages of great delicacy or intimacy, over which the English language is much better at flinching than being honest. I researched writing on sex between women from a range of different sources, just trying to gather resources to draw on.

More concretely, I had to understand and visualise the spaces the girls were living and studying in so that I grasped it fully for the needs of the translation. For example, their “boxes,” these curtained-off bedroom spaces that worked something like a hospital ward, essentially provided them with rooms that were private yet penetrable, excitingly permeable, but also inspectable at any time of day or night. Perfect for bed-hopping as well as for escape, for times of abandonment as well as for spying, guesswork, and tale-telling. I ended up calling a Canadian Catholic boarding school in order to discuss terminology!

Thérèse and Isabelle is a quite radical, even explicit, work. Do you think this is part of the reason for its obscurity until now, or is something else involved?

SL: This is precisely the primary reason. Gallimard retained rights yet did not publish the book in its complete, unbowdlerised form until 2000. The publisher claimed to be afraid of legal problems, with some justification. It was probably also simply wary of attracting brickbats over the publication of a text that spends some time describing lesbian sex between teenagers at a convent school—several taboos rolled into one. Also, other parts of the work that Leduc had intended Thérèse to be part of were published separately, so the impulse to publish Thérèse and Isabelle was effectively repressed or put off in various ways. Leduc was never able to advocate for her work very effectively.

Do you have a translation philosophy that guides your work?

SL: Not really. I’m wary of translations that are guided more by the translator’s personal approach than by their feel for the text. I do occasionally turn down books for which I don’t think I have much sympathy—that’s a principle. I don’t have the flexibility (yet?) or the command of English or simply the ear to translate anything and everything. I’m much surer with some voices than with others. I think translators should have a commitment of sympathy to the texts they work on and be open about this. Of course I’m ready to work hard to capture and recreate a new or challenging voice. But there’s no gain in working against one’s personal linguistic grain.

In addition to Leduc, who are some other French authors you’d love to translate or would love to see translated into English?

SL: I’ve long been a fan of Pascal Quignard. I think his Petits traités should be translated and also his La Leçon de musique. I’ve also been reading quite a few Haitian writers recently. It’s impressive how many good writers seem to emerge from that particular small, troubled country. Kettly Mars is one who I think deserves translation and wider reading, but there are quite a few.

How would you characterize the general reception of works that have been translated into English from French?

SL: I suspect it’s not a very considered reception. I don’t think French writing is cool as such. People don’t go looking for it (though the existentialists are eternally very cool—so perhaps that’s enough for most readers). But they can get into it. Michel Houellebecq remains something of a bête noire for publishers of French writing in English—why do these oddly chosen giants dominate foreign scenes so? It’s hard to know. On the other hand, people do keep on reading French writing, steadily—and perhaps it’s healthy that they don’t think about its origins too much.

 

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Book

Violette Leduc Thérèse and Isabelle
The Feminist Press

Thérèse and Isabelle is the tale of two boarding school girls in love. In 1966 when it was originally published in France, the text was censored because of its explicit depiction of young homosexuality. With this publication, the original, unexpurgated text–a stunning literary portrayal of female desire and sexuality–is available to a US audience for the first time. Included is an afterword by Michael Lucey, professor of French and comparative literature at the University of California, Berkeley.’ — TFP

‘This is all the raw urgency of female adolescent sexuality: its energy and intensity, the push-pull of excitement, its dangers and glories, building to a coming explosion.’ — Kate Millett

‘Read it in one sitting… Literally breathless. This first-person torch song for ‘the pink brute’ reminds us why French schoolgirls are the emblem for naughty passions as literary classics.’ — Sarah Schulman

‘School-aged, yet sage in their desires, Thérèse and Isabelle called forth an endless night–a dark and delicate space for them to explore the complexity of their love. I have waited a very long time to slip back into the unexpurgated, delicious darkness with these iconic lesbian lovers.’ — Amber Dawn

 

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Excerpt

We began the week every Sunday evening in the shoe room. We polished our shoes, which had been brushed at home that morning in our kitchens or gardens. We came in from the town; we were not hungry. Keeping away from the refectory until Monday morning, we would make a few rounds of the schoolyard, then go two by two into the shoe room accompanied by our bored supervisor. The shoe room at our school was nothing like those street stands where all the nailing, the shaping, the hammering send your feet hurrying back to the pavement outside. We polished in a poorly lit, windowless chapel of monotony; we daydreamed with our shoes on our knees, those evenings that we came back to school. The virtuous scent of polish that revives us in pharmacies here made us melancholy. We were languishing over our cloths, we were awkward, our grace had abandoned us. The new monitor sat with us on the bench, reading aloud and lost in her tale, gazing far beyond the town, beyond the school, while we carried on stroking leather with wool in the half-light. That evening we were ten pallid returnees in the waiting-room gloom, ten returnees who said not a word to each other, ten sullen girls all alike and avoiding each other.

My future will be nothing like theirs. I have no future at the school. My mother said so. If I miss you too much I’ll take you home again. School is not a boat for the other boarders. She might take me back home at any moment. I am only temporarily on board. She could take me out of school on a first day of term, she could take me back this evening. Thirty days. Thirty days I’ve been a passenger at the school. I want to live here, I want to polish my shoes in the shoe room. Marthe will not be called back home . . . Julienne will not be called home . . . Isabelle will not be called home . . . They are certain of their futures, although I’m willing to bet that Isabelle spits on the school each time she spits on her shoe. My polish would be softer if I spat as she does. I could spread it further. She is lucky. Her parents are teachers. Who is going to snatch her away from school? She spits. Perhaps she is angry, the school’s best student . . . I am spitting like her, I moisten my polish but where will I be a month from now? I am the bad student, the worst student in the big dormitory. I don’t care in the least. I detest the headmistress, spit my girl, spit on your polish, I hate sewing, gymnastics, chemistry, I hate everything and I avoid my companions. It’s sad but I don’t want to leave this place. My mother has married someone, my mother has betrayed me.

The brush has fallen from my knees, Isabelle has kicked my polish brush away while I was thinking.

“My brush, my brush!”

Isabelle lowers her head, she spits harder on the box calf. The brush rolls up to the monitor’s foot. You’ll pay for that kick of yours. I collect the object, I wrench Isabelle’s face around, I dig my fingers in, I stuff the rag blotched with wax, dust, and red polish into her eyes, into her mouth; I look at her milky skin inside the collar of her uniform, I lift my hand from her face, I return to my place. Silent and furious, Isabelle cleans her eyes and lips, she spits a sixth time on the shoe, she hunches her shoulders, the monitor closes her book, claps her hands, the light flickers. Isabelle goes back to shining her shoe.

We were waiting for her. She had her legs crossed, rubbing hard. “You must come now,” said the new monitor timidly. We had come into the shoe room with clattering heels but we left muted by our black slippers like phoney orphans. Close cousins to the espadrille, our slippers, our Silent Sisters, stifle wherever they step: stone; wood; earth. Angels would lend us their heels as we left the shoe room with cozy melancholy flowing from our souls down into our slippers. Every Sunday we went up to the dormitory with the monitor; all the way there we would breathe in the rose-scented disinfectant. Isabelle had caught up with us on the stairs. I hate her, I want to hate her. I would feel better if I hated her more. Tomorrow I’ll have her at my table in the refectory again. She’s in charge of it. She’s in charge of the table I eat at in the refectory. I cannot change my table. Her sidelong little smile when I sit down late. I’ve put that sly little smile straight. That natural insouciance . . . I’ll straighten out that natural insouciance of hers too. I’ll go to the headmistress if necessary but I shall change my table in the refectory.

We entered a dormitory in which the dim sheen of the linoleum foretold the solitude of walking there at midnight. We drew aside our percale curtains and found ourselves in our unlockable, wall-less bedrooms. Isabelle’s curtain rings shunted along their rail just after the others’. The night monitor paced along the passage. We opened our cases, took out our underwear, folded it away on the shelves in our wardrobes, keeping out the sheets for our narrow beds, we threw the key into the case which we now closed for the week, we put that away in the wardrobe too, and made our beds. Under the institutional lighting our things were no longer ours. We stepped out of our uniforms, hung them up ready for Thursday’s walk, folded our underpants, laid them on the chair, and took out our nightgowns.

Isabelle left the dormitory with her pitcher.

I listen to the tassel of her gown rustling over the linoleum. I hear her fingers’ drumming on the enamel. Her box opposite mine. That’s what I have in front of me. Her coming and going. I watch for them, her comings and goings. Were you tight? Got good and tight? This is what she says when I come in late to the refectory. I’ll flatten that sarcastic smile of hers. I didn’t get tight. I was practicing diminished minor arpeggios. She is scornful because I hide away in the music room. She says that I make a din, that she can hear me from the prep room. It is true: I do practice but all I make is noise. Her again, always her, again her on the stairs. I run into her. I would have undressed slowly if I had known she was at the tap fetching water. Shall I run away? Come back later when she is gone? I won’t go. I am not afraid of her: I hate her. She has her back to me. What nonchalance . . . She knows there is someone right behind her but she will not hurry. I would say she was provoking me if she knew that it was I but she doesn’t know. She is not curious enough even to check who is behind her. I would not have come if I’d known she would be dawdling here. I thought she was far away—she is right here. Soon her pitcher will be full. At last. I know that long, loose hair of hers, there’s nothing new about her hair for she walks about like that in the passage. Excuse me. She said excuse me. She brushed my face with her hair while I was thinking about it. It is beyond belief. She has tossed her hair back so as to send it into my face. Her mass of hair was on my lips. She didn’t know I was behind her and she flicked her hair in my face! She didn’t know I was behind her and she has said excuse me. It is unbelievable. She would not say I’m keeping you, I’m being slow, the tap isn’t working. She tosses her hair at you while asking you to excuse her. The water flows more slowly. She has touched the tap. I will not speak to her, the water has almost stopped, you will not prize a word out of me. You ignore me, I shall ignore you. Why did you want me to wait? Is that what you wanted? I shall not speak to you. If you have time to spare, I have time too.
The monitor has called us from out in the passage, as if we were in league together. Isabelle went out to her.

I heard her lying, explaining to the new monitor that the tap had gone dry.

The monitor is talking to her through the percale curtain: are you eighteen? We are almost the same age, says the monitor. Their conversation is cut short by the whistle of a train escaping from the station that we left at seven. Isabelle soaps her skin. Tight . . . Did you get good and tight? Who can say what she is thinking? This is a girl with something on her mind. She’s dreaming or else she spits; she dreams and works harder than the rest.

“And you, how old are you?” the new monitor asked me.

Isabelle will find out my age. “Seventeen,” I mutter. “Are you in the same class?” asks the monitor. “Yes, in the same class,” replies Isabelle, energetically rinsing out her wash glove. “She’s lying to you,” I shout. “You don’t see she’s making fun of you. I am not in her class and I don’t care.”

“Remember your manners,” says the monitor to me.

I opened my curtain a crack: the supervisor was moving away, returning to his reading in the passage, Isabelle was giggling in her box, another girl was up to something with her sweet wrappers.

“I have strict orders,” whispered the new monitor. “No visitors in the boxes. Each girl in her own.”

We were always under threat of an evening inspection by the headmistress. We would tidy our comb, our nailbrush, our washbowl, and lie down in our anonymous beds as if on a small medical ward. As soon as we had finished washing and tidying, we would present ourselves for the monitor’s inspection, neat and tidy and in bed. Some students offered her pastries, detained her with flattering sweet talk, while Isabelle withdrew into her tomb. As soon as I had recreated my nest in the cold bed, I forgot about Isabelle, but if I woke, I thought of her again, to hate her. She did not dream aloud, her bedstead did not creak. One night, at two o’clock, I got up, crossed the passage, held my breath, and listened to her sleeping. She was not there. She even mocked me in her sleep. I had gripped her curtain. I had stayed there listening. She was gone; she had the last word. I hated her between sleeping and waking: in the morning bell at half past six, in the low tone of her voice, in the splashing and draining sounds as she washed, her hand snapping closed the box of dental paste. All one can hear is her, I told myself stubbornly. I hated the dust from her room, when she let the duster poke under my curtain, when she tapped her fingers on our partitions, when she thrust her fist into her percale curtain. She spoke rarely, she made the movements required of her, in the dormitory, the refectory, in the rows of girls; she cut herself off, brooding in the schoolyard. I wondered what gave her cause for such aloofness. She was studious but without either self-importance or zeal. Often Isabelle would slip my tunic belt undone; she played cool if I grew angry. She would start the day with this childish tease and straight away retie the belt at my back, humiliating me twice over instead of once.

I got up, wary as a smuggler. The new monitor stopped cleaning her nails. I waited. Isabelle, who never coughed, coughed: tonight she had stayed awake. I blocked her out and plunged my arm up to the shoulder into the drab cloth bag hanging in my wardrobe. Hidden inside this bag of dirty laundry were some books and my flashlight. I used to read at night. That evening I got back into bed without any appetite for reading, with the book, with the flashlight. I turned on the flashlight, I gazed lovingly at my Silent Sisters under the chair. The artificial moonlight coming from the monitor’s room sucked the color from the contents of my cell.

I turned out the light; a girl crumpled some paper, I pushed away my book with a disappointed hand. Deader than a corpse, I thought to myself, picturing Isabelle lying stiff as a poker in her nightgown. The book was closed, the flashlight buried in the bedcovers. I put my hands together and prayed wordlessly; I asked for a world unknown to me, I listened, near my stomach, to the haze inside the seashell. The monitor also turned her light out. That lucky girl is asleep, lucky thing, she has a tomb to be lost in. The lucid ticking of my watch on the bedside table made my decision for me. I took up my book again and read beneath the covers.

Someone was spying behind my curtain. Hidden under the cover, I could still hear the inexorable ticktock. A night train left the station, left it to follow the monstrous whistle that was piercing the school’s alien shadows. I threw back the bedcover; I was afraid of the comatose dormitory.

Someone was calling from behind the percale curtain.

I played dead. I pulled the cover back over my head and relit the flashlight.

“,” someone called into my box.

I turned it off.

“What are you doing under your covers?” asked the voice, which I didn’t recognize.

“I’m reading.”

They tore off my sheet and pulled my hair.

“I told you I’m reading!”

“Quietly,” said Isabelle.

Another girl coughed.

“You can tell on me if you like.”

She will not tell on me. I am unfair to her and I know it is unfair to say that to her.

“You weren’t asleep? I thought you were the best sleeper in the dormitory.”

“Softer,” she said.

I whispered too loudly, I wanted to be done with this joy: I was elated to the point of pride.
Visiting me, Isabelle came no further than my percale curtain. I was suspicious of her shyness, suspicious of her long, loose hair in my cell.

“I’m afraid you’re going to say no. Say you’ll say yes,” gasped Isabelle.

I had lit my flashlight; in spite of myself I had some consideration for my visitor.
“Say yes!” whispered Isabelle.

She was pressing a finger down on my dressing table.

She gripped her gown cord, pulling the gown tight around her. Her hair tumbled down over her orchards, her face grew older.

“What are you reading?”

She lifted her finger off the dressing table.

“I was beginning it when you came in.”

I turned out the light because she was looking at my book.

“The name . . . tell me the name of the book.”

“A Happy Man.”

“That’s a title? Is it good?”

“I don’t know. I just began.”

Isabelle turned on her heel; a curtain ring slid along the rail. I thought she might be disappearing back into her tomb. She stopped.

“Come and read in my room.”

She was leaving again, creating a distance between her request and my reply.
“Will you come? Say yes?”

“I don’t know.”

She left my box.

I could not regain my breath or my routine. She went back to her bed, her refuge. I wanted her immobile, lying still while I left my bed, my refuge. Isabelle had seen me with the sheets up to my neck. She did not know that I was wearing a special nightgown, a nightgown all stitched in honeycomb panels. I used to believe that personality came from outside us, from clothes that were different from those of other people. My visitor had crumpled my nightclothes without touching them, without knowing of them. The silk muslin nightgown slipped around my hips with the softness of a cobweb. I put my boarder’s tunic on; I left my box with my wrists held tight in the elasticated cuffs of my regulation smock. The monitor was sleeping. I paused before the percale curtain. I entered.

 

 

*

p.s. RIP the great, great, great Mark E Smith. ** Armando, Hi. Look, I don’t want to engage in the p.s. with your personal drama when you bring it in here. I don’t have the energy, skills, or understanding to do that. If you want talk about things relative to the blog or what you’re interested in or working on and etc. or about things related to the ongoing conversations on here, I’m totally interested in responding and conversing, and I enjoy it. If you use the comments arena as a place to vent emotionally at me or at other people here or as an opportunity to beat yourself up, I’m not going to engage in that. I’m not a psychologist or a parent, I’m just a guy who makes art and does this blog. I talk with people here at different lengths on different days, briefly to lengthily, and it depends on what we’re talking about and what I feel I can say and/or on my focus and mood at that time and other factors. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, and length is just length. Now let’s talk about other stuff, okay? ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. I haven’t been hugely into the more recent Garrel films. I’m not sure that narrative is his strong suit. But I’m always interested. ** Dóra Grőber, Hi!!!!!! You’re back, whoo-hoo! So great too see you! Oh, no, about all the moving problems. But I’m glad it feels homey in the new place. But the internet issues, god, I hope you can somehow get your signal up to speed. There’s nothing like bad internet to dive one bonkers. I’m good, as busy as ever and probably more so. Very excited about the Rotterdam festival and the big premiere on Sunday, and strangely not worried. Yet anyway. Time to find out if Zac’s and my confidence in the film is warranted or not. Thank you about the trailer. Yeah, it’s gotten a really great response, and even our wary sales agency seems big on it now. I’ve had to take a big nosedive into the mystery project script, but it’s going well, I think. Yeah, all is fine. And what are you up to? How and what was today? So happy to have you back! ** James Nulick, Hi. Oh, no, I knew what you meant re: traditional. I was just having some fun with the idea or something. A coupon of people prior to you have recommended ‘Super Dark Times’, and, with your suggestion, I will finally write down its name so I won’t continue to forget to hunt for it. Thanks, man. ** Tomk, Hi. What a good idea about the writers workshop. Let me spread your suggestion. Everyone, the honorable Tomk aka extraordinary writer Thomas Kendall, has an excellent idea and proposal, I think. Read and heed his words, why don’t you? Tom: ‘i’ve realised that one of the things i’ve kind of missed since moving to peru is having a group of writers to share and comment on works in progress with. I think for me it really helps to share stuff i’m working on…partly i guess due to a slight lack of faith, i guess…and so i was thinking of putting it out there if anyone from here wanted to form a kind of ‘workshop’ online somewhere? I don’t know exactly how it would work but it could be weekly or monthly…a set page limit or something…all of those are details i guess to be hashed out if the interest is there. Just a thought.’ Have a really great day. ** Jamie, Ha ha. J-J-J-J-amie, non-old chap! Oh, awesome that you sprung for ‘AVTAC’. I don’t think you’ll be sorry one little bit. Yes, our film has a ghost. And the person who became the ghost. And the ghost turns into the camera at a certain point. I’m about 90% sure said ghost will survive our future revisions. My orders are to not say what the mystery project is until the contracts are officially signed. They were supposed to be signed in September, then October, then … and on and on. Now they’re supposed to be signed any minute, which I will barely believe even when I see it. It’s a long, insane, deeply irritating, constantly frustrating and non-disclosable story. In the meantime, because the deadline for the script being finished has never changed since last summer, we’re having to work our asses off with no pay or absolute guarantee that we’re not just wasting our time. Grr. If there aren’t signed contracts within the next two weeks max, a certain person (mis)handling the contracts will have total hell to pay. May your day be the opposite of a unicorn race. Unsigned love, Dennis. ** Amphibiouspeter, Hi there. Mm, let me think … I think I’ve seen RN in concert 8 times. Yes, he put out a great album last year: ‘Dark Matter’. A must get. I could never keep a diary or do Twitter or anything like that either. It’s weird. Yes, please, on the link. Ah, but the concept, idea, wonderful obsessiveness and successes and failures of the project/site are way more than enough. ** Alex rose, Alex! Yeah, I’m seriously gutted about Mark E Smith. What a total fucking visionary, singular and peerless. Something gigantic has just been torn away. The suckage is intense. Two days, man, … the fairy dust I’ve been holding in reserve has only aged like a fine wine. I am hurling it. Your work is the tongue for its LSD. Did that help? Let me know. Love with super powers, Dennis. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. Yes, I’ve already ordered the Spirit box. They’re one of my very favorite bands ever, even outside the California psych context, and that box has a serious treasure trove of unheard and rare stuff. I’m hyper-watching my mailbox. Interesting to hear that about the Garrel, and that’s generally kind of what I’ve been expecting, I guess. Even though it did seem like Mark E Smith was possibly on the way out recently, it’s still really shocking. Rock now has a massive hole in it. ** Thomas Moronic, Hi, T. I know, really so very sad about Mark E Smith. What an incredible great. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi. ‘Never hear his like again’, exactly. A hero and genius for the ages. ** Cal Graves, Hi, Cal! I’m so happy to have hosted the post, thank you from wherever the bottom of my heart may be. Exactly. Exactly what you said about paranormal reality shows. That’s so wise and true. The paranormal has this inherent, messy, charismatic subtext whose power is really interesting to work with. Yeah, if you read that book, report back. How fantastic that Whitman triggered off an idea and help for your novel project. That’s the greatest thing any writer could ever hope for, I think. Man, that poetry class is so into the classics. What’s the reading list like once it progresses past the big dogs? Thanks again evermore-ly. ** Misanthrope, Eh, fuck all, about your teeth going nuts on you again. Sounds like a plan, your plan, says the guy who hasn’t been to a dentist in decades and really needs to, but won’t unless I fall unconscious from tooth-related pain probably. ** Okay. Someone, and I’m forgetting who it was, I think someone who doesn’t comment here, requested that I restore today’s Violette Leduc post, and this turns out to be the day that happens. She’s great, btw. See you tomorrow.

10 Comments

  1. David Ehrenstein

    January 25, 2018 at 3:05 pm

    I well remember how “La Batarde” was publicized when a translation was released in the U.S. She was called “The Female Genet” and it’s quite interesting that Genet liked her and supported her work. But they couldn’t be more different. Leduc’s exquisite sensitivity is a far cry from Genet’s violence. That such lovely writing met initial opposition (and from Raymond Queneau of all people!) underscored what happens to those who have never been allowed to speak find their voice. Radley Metzger’s fil of “Therese and Isabelle” is his very best and proof that the swank sexploitation maestro had taste and sensitivity as well as film marketing smarts.

  2. Hi!

    Thank you so much! It really does feel amazing and refreshing to see you again too!
    I totally agree, literally one of the most stressful things throughout this whole hassle has been the shitty internet. Now that I’m not packing all day, I’ll try and find some alternative, smaller company and risk it. I guess I don’t have too much to lose, hah.
    I’m really glad to hear you’re not worried about the premiere – yet anyway, haha, yes. I’ve obviously only seen the trailer but I have this strong feeling that you’re not proud of it for nothing. I can’t wait to hear the news on Monday!
    Great, great about the mystery project too! All good news! I hope you have a few extra minutes here and there to work on your new film script too!

    A few days ago one of my father’s colleagues (he teaches at an art school) asked me if I was interested in translating a book (from English to Hungarian). It’s an esoteric book and honestly, I have very little knowledge about the area but I’m all open and welcoming: it’d be amazing to have a translating job! One step closer to the literary field and all. So I’m about to meet this person this afternoon and see what we can offer to each other.
    How was the day on your end? I hope it was amazing even if busy!

  3. The script I was writing during the run-up to the 2016 election mixed a story about a man trying to get his neo-Nazi brother arrested for murdering an African-American man with elements of the paranormal. There was going to be a scene, which I never got around to writing, where he went on a ghost hunt. I wanted to talk to an acquaintance who was once a secretary at a parapsychology research organization but he never had time to go out for a coffee with me and got really testy when I linked their work to UFOs or something.

    I’m listening to CANDY APPLE GREY now. In retrospect, this was a strange way for Husker Du to kick off their major label career. The opening track, “Crystal,” is abrasive as hell and still connected to their roots in hardcore. The lyrics are the band’s bleakest, with the “Too Far Down”/”Hardly Getting Over It”/”Dead Set On Destruction” section practically sounding like a suicide note. I’m surprised Warner Bros. didn’t insist on kicking off with “Sorry Somehow” or “Don’t Want To Know If You Are Lonely.”

  4. “Now let’s talk about other stuff, okay?”

    ^ Fine. I’m sorry. I apologize.

    So, how are you doing? What’s up? What are your plans for today?

    So, please don’t forget to notify me/us about all the post-Rotterdam ‘PGL’ screenings as soon as you are allowed to.

    I’m still working on my short novel. Never thought it’d take so long. So, so , so much editing and expanding to do yet. Of course I only write very seldomly.

    I’m also working on another novel, which stylistically is like the polar opposite of the first one; but then again, not completely… You know?…

    Also, that email I sent you it’s all about all the other things I’ve been working on.

    So tomorrow McDonagh’s ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ opens in my country. I plan on going to see it. I’m very curious and I guess to a degree excited as well. We’ll see how that goes.

    Take care,

    Good day, good luck,

    Once again, I’m sorry and I apologize. Hope you can forgive me,

    Love and hugs,

    A.

  5. Bonjour Dennis!
    How are you?
    I’m really trying to not buy more books and save some cash until I’ve read all the ones I’ve got, then you keep pointing me in the direction of these amazing things! Therese and Isabelle looks excellent though, so thank you really.
    So sad about Mark E Smith, eh? I genuinely can’t think of a person who’s inspired me more. I spent some of this afternoon listening to the Fall and marveling and feeling sad. What a guy. A friend of mine saw the Fall in Glasgow a couple of months ago and the first song was MES singing “I think this is the end.” over and over.
    Wow, your secret project sure is secret. I hope you get those contracts signed very soon.
    I already love your new movie’s ghost! It becomes the camera? Beautiful. Do you have a title or a working title so far?
    May Friday treat you like someone that it used to know years ago and truly adored and thought it was never going to see again.
    Pizzicato love,
    Jamie

  6. Simple thing, but I’m really liking not being at work these last few weeks. This feels like a golden time when I can just do some Yuck ‘n Yum work – like today I wrote the text and designed an image for the Seattle callout – plus read books, listen to records, maybe watch a film later …. and all without worrying about the redundancy money running out yet. This won’t last forever I know, but right now I’m just so glad to be away from the bank.

    I was looking at this thing called Creative Dundee and I think it’s really worth our while to get them involved with what YNY are up to. But yeah the Seattle callout should be online later this week, we’re meeting the Generator on the 7th to discuss the compendium publication, and then maybe we’ll get in touch with Creative Dundee.

    The really good news is that my ribs seem to be healing up. I’ve not slept on my left side in weeks but that cannot be too far away now.

  7. Hi, Tom K! Yes, I like an online workshop as an idea; I live near DC and really have not succeeded in finding a group in the area that I feel anything in common with–usually because folks have not found a direction yet that is independent of market trends in fiction; or because the folks are not really interested in the fundamental technical elements of narrative as I am.
    I’ve taught fiction writing but have mostly published poetry and essays. I have a long history of being inspired by members of regular groups I’ve been in; and of course incredibly accomplished friends like Dennis.
    One simple way–well, relatively simple–to create a work group online is the app Slack. Or Google Docs. Or you can just create an email list and simply exchange things that way.
    I’d suggest if there are a few people who want to do this we’d all put a first short piece out there–maybe with you initiating–so people could know early on where other writers are coming from.
    I’d also suggest an absolute ban on “You should” kind of statements, especially if they’re “You should do this the way I would” statements. I think comments are helpful when they’re in the form, “I notice . . ” without evaluative commentary.
    So let me know if that interests you. I’m not here every day; you can reach me at bernardwelt@gmail.com

  8. Dennis, Thanks, Big D. After a ton of rigmarole in which the dentist wanted me to get a $1,190 root canal, they finally pulled the fucker. Took 6 shots of Lidocaine (and I could still feel it) and over 20 minutes of tugging and pushing and pulling, it was out. I slept the rest of the day. Work was cool about it. I feel a lot better now. I was up all fucking night, slept maybe 15 minutes.

    Back in action tomorrow!

  9. I am planning to start doing something akin to your Gig Day on my blog. I was inspired by that, as well as Seattle-based film and music critic Kathy Fennessy’s constant tweets of music videos she likes (almost all of which I like too.) At the end of this month, I am going to put up a list of the new music that came out in 2018 that I acquired and liked in January and keep updating it at the end of each month throughout the year. (I will include reissues, although so far the Jean Rollin soundtracks compilation is the only one I’ve heard.) I’ll include YouTube links where I can find them. My taste is somewhat more mainstream and song-oriented than yours and I listen to far more hip-hop, so I am not going to wind up just copying you unless you start recommending Justin Timberlake and Kendrick Lamar singles and large quantities of underground hip-hop available on Bandcamp on Gig Day.

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