The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: The Films of William Greaves


‘The reputations of many documentary film-makers rest on their production of one or two ground-breaking pictures. But there are some, such as William Greaves, whose real achievements only become apparent when we look at the full accumu‚lation of their work. In Greaves’s case this was made possible by a recent retrospective of his films at the Brooklyn Museum. It included a screening of his never-released, unconventional, cinema‚verite-ish feature film Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One (1968/1971), which is now being screened at festivals, art houses, and museums. Moreover, Greaves is still making innovative, rigorous films -as demonstrated by his documentary Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice (I989), a historical biography of the black feminist civil rights leader Ida Wells that recently aired on PBS’s “The American Experience” and that has won numerous prizes on the festival circuit.

‘Black independent film-maker Bill Greaves has played a significant if not always fully appreciated role in the creation of a new post-1968 era in U.S. documentary cinema-one that is characterized by greater cultural diversity among those making films. During the nineteen-fifties and early nine‚teen-sixties Greaves endured a protracted struggle to establish himself as a documentary film-maker of artistic integrity. By the mid-nineteen-sixties he finally began to produce films on subjects of particular importance to African Americans. In 1968, while continuing to further develop his own still limited film-making opportunities, Greaves began to assist a new generation of young black documentarians through the initial stages of their professional careers-film-makers such as Kent Garrett, Madeline Anderson, and St. Clair Bourne. Greaves was not only a harbinger of a new era of multicultural film-making but a pivotal figure in the history of African-American cinema.

‘Greaves, in addition to being an important historical force, has produced an impressive and surprisingly diverse body of work, both in ap‚proach and subject matter. This testifies, on one hand, to his inventiveness and broad range of interests and, on the other, to the numerous prac‚tical exigencies he has faced over several decades. Greaves has received much recognition for his work as executive producer and co-host of public television’s “Black Journal,” an Emmy-winning public-affairs series, and for his direction of such ground-breaking films as the historical documentary From These Roots (1974), which looks at Harlem during its cultural renaissance in the twen‚ties and early thirties. However, the broader course of Greaves’s career and the substantial contribution he has made to African-American film production-from acting in black-cast films during the nineteen-forties to serving as executive producer on Richard Pryor’s 1981 hit, Bustin’ Loose – are only now starting to receive adequate attention.

‘Even aside from the scores of films and tele‚vision programs that Greaves has produced, directed, edited, photographed, written, and/or appeared in, his career itself deserves attention for the way it traces many aspects of African-Ameri‚can involvement in (and exclusion from) motion picture, television, and related industries. He was born and raised in Harlem and educated at Stuy‚vesant High School. While enrolled as an engineer‚ing student at City College of New York during the early forties, Greaves used his skills as a social dancer to become a performer in African dance troupes. From there he moved into acting at the American Negro Theater and was soon working in radio, television, and film. Among the films he was featured in (and sometimes sang in) at this time were the whodunit Miracle in Harlem (1947), one of the most technically polished of black-cast films, and the Louis de Rochemont-produced Lost Boundaries (1948), a highly popular film based on a true story about a black doctor who set up a practice in a New England town while “passing” for white.’ The doctor and his family are played by white actors (in keeping with Hollywood conventions of the day), while Greaves portrays a debonair black college student who is completely comfortable with his African-American identity as he interacts with his white counterparts. It was an image seldom if ever seen in American films prior to that date. Greaves’s role here clearly prefigured many of those played by Sidney Poitier in the next decade, and one is apt to wonder whether Greaves would have become one of the crossover stars of the fifties had he remained in screen acting.

‘Greaves has constantly struggled against being stereotyped in his work-as an actor and as a filmmaker. His work has always displayed diversity: he has balanced his numerous documentaries with repeated forays back into fiction film-making, such as Bustin’ Loose (as executive producer, 1981) and the never-released, hurriedly made black exploitation feature The Marijuana Affair (1974). Furthermore, Greaves has alternated films on contemporary subjects and issues with historical treatments. Films focusing on African-American concerns are countered by numerous films preoccupied with other issues (i.e., Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One); according to Greaves, roughly half his films have addressed topics other than the black experience. Industrials and government‚sponsored films that operate within circumscribed parameters are offset by films in which Greaves took large artistic or financial risks.

‘In many respects Greaves has adapted what is most positive and progressive in Grierson’s writings regarding the possibilities of and need for nonfiction films that can inform and educate the public. His approach has differed from that of many leftist or art-oriented documentarians – Barbara Kopple being one example of the former and Errol Morris an instance of the latter – in that his conception of film-making avoids fetishizing the individual work and instead looks to each work as one instance in a larger struggle. It takes a pragmatic rather than a romantic approach, one that has its roots in the black filmmaking experience  – in the race films of Oscar Micheaux, Spencer Williams, and William Alexander, which were typically made under remarkable financial constraints. Yet if Greaves’s career, like that of Melvin Van Peebles, resonates with this legacy, it has done so within an entirely new social and cultural framework. This framework, characterized by the end of legally sanctioned segregation (though not of racial discrimination) and by the dominance of television, has altered the very terms of black film-=making.

‘Like those leaders that are the subject of some of his films, Greaves has had insight into the changing realities of his time, has persisted, and, often enough, has triumphed. An examination of the career of William Greaves suggests that we need to rethink our conception and periodization of documentary film practice, which has typically been divided into two eras – the one before the cinima-viriti revolution of 1960 (e.g., Primary, Chronicle of a Summer) and the one after. There are other turning points of equal or perhaps even greater importance, not all having to do with technology. The year 1968 can be seen as a watershed, a moment when access to the means of production and distribution began to be more open; not only “Black Journal” but “Inside Bedford Stuyvesant” and “Like It Is” also began to air in that year. These and other initiatives – such as Newsreel, Third World Newsreel, and New Day Films – began to chip away at white male hegemony in documentary film-making. Today, documentarians come from much more diverse backgrounds in terms of race, gender, and publicly acknowledged sexual orientation. Although problems of discrimination and social democracy have not been fully overcome even in this limited area, the manner in which these substantial changes have occurred needs to be better understood. Such historical reconsiderations are particularly urgent at a moment when many ideologues have launched gross polemics against multiculturalism, “political correctness,” and arts funding-seemingly to taint if not obliterate our memory of these achievements.’ — Adam Knee and Charles Musser





William Greaves Site
William Greaves @ IMDb
The Daring, Original, and Overlooked Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take One
50 Years Later, We Still Don’t Know Whether This Film Is Fact or Fiction
William Greaves @ The History Makers
Book: William Greaves: Filmmaking as Mission
Making the Film: About William Greaves
“This Film Is a Rebellion!”: Filmmaker, Actor, Black Journal Producer, and Political Activist William Greaves
Three Short Films by William Greaves
William Greaves @ letterboxd
William Greaves Collection, 1968-2003
Queer & Now & Then: 1971
William Greaves on Booker T. Washington & Frederick Douglass
Remembering William Greaves
An Independent for All Seasons: William Greaves
What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been: William Greaves’ Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take One
The Whirlwind World of William Greaves
William Greaves @ MUBI
6 Filmmaking Tips from Pioneer Documentarian William Greaves
William Greaves: Pushing Boundaries



Speaking Freely: William Greaves

African American Legends: William Greaves

Discovering William Greaves


Interview: William Greaves on Symbiopsychotaxiplasm


Robert Chilcott: Your film has been categorised as experimental, or avant-garde, but it’s not really…

William Greaves: It is and it isn’t. It’s a series of paradoxes. There is no creative predecessor of this film. It has a multiple set of aesthetics, which draw on different concepts – improvisation, cinema vérité, traditional Hollywood film styles. It’s a collage, a smorgasbord, a series of metaphors, like jazz, or like how a lot of music is developed. In other words, you can’t pigeonhole this film, which is partly my intention anyway.

RC: In the 1968 version they have a very serious debate where everyone is academicising, though this is much less so in the present day version, where there is more of a technical discussion. Do you think that kind of passionate semiotic analysis has been somehow lost today?

WG: In Take 2½ there isn’t that kind of confrontation. Take One has a lot of conflict in it. Take 2½ was just an attempt to allow whatever was going to happen to happen, without them trying to find out what my motives are. There’s still a lot of confusion, a degree of chaos, because they’re all intelligent people trying to rationalise some clarity of why the film is being done, but there wasn’t any conflict in relation to me as authority that they were challenging, as there was in Take One. In 1968, everything was being questioned – civil rights, woman’s issues – so it was a metaphor for America during that whole period, particularly the war in Vietnam, and the anger of American youth. In Take 2½ there hasn’t been that kind of dissent, although after we made the film it was beginning. Take 2½ reflects the passivity of the crew. The actors also did not challenge me in front of the camera, as they had done in Take One.

RC: How did Soderbergh and Steve Buscemi get involved?

WG: Steve Buscemi was at Sundance. We had the screening, and the projection failed. The theatre went black, so I had to announce to the audience that it was not a part of the film, even though the film was somewhat unorthodox! Steve was in the audience – we became friends, and he said he would try to help the film. He wanted to be a part of it in some way, and so I invited him to be co-executive producer with Steven Soderbergh, who was putting up the funds for me to finish Take 2 with these two actors. We had done the Symbiopsychotaxiplasm series – take 1, take 2, take 3, take 4, take 5 – each time with a different pair of actors. Shannon and Audrey were the actors for take 2. Soderbergh wanted to know more about take 2, so I decided to use the first part of take 2 with these two actors, then, some thirty years later – what developments had taken place in their lives in the intervening years, both from the standpoint of the fictional situation as well as themselves as actors. So I mixed those two levels of reality that ran concurrently, then when we came to the moment of climax, the psychodramatic component, again it’s like a smorgasbord, a jazz combo, a riff, a spontaneous moment. I wanted to yield to any wild idea I got through the process of shooting the film. At one point the scene on the bridge with the two actors, I saw Marsha with these sunglasses on, watching from afar, and I thought she looked like some supernatural being come down to earth to look at this cosmic event – what can I do to use her in this scene to mediate this conflict between the two actors. I gave in to that intuition – it would play very interestingly in the film, so I had them walking up these stairs, which in my mind was going up to another level of reality, and when they got up there she explained, in psychodramatic terms, what she was going to do to deal with the basic conflict that was developing in the screen test. What happened then was invariably you find the psychodramatic event, the relationship of the individual to some moment of karma, and they utilise their own spontaneity.

The psychodrama process is much more profound, much more immediate – it quickly moves the individual into this area of empathy, and what you get is a terrific performance. It’s like cinema vérité, not like conventional Hollywood shooting where you can do the scene again – it’s a one time event, which if it happens you have to be there to catch it, there’s no second take. Because the actors are very skilled actors, they collaborated on this moment, using the psychodramatic components, mixed with the method, and it worked very well. What happened then, of course, is that people who are in the audience become somewhat confused – are they acting? Is this true? My feeling is that it’s a very rich, human moment.

RC: Do you think a lot of actors resist that kind of non-acting, because when they finally see it they go “but I wasn’t acting!” and they want to be able to justify the acting craft?

WG: Yes, but it’s also an eye opener for the actor because they discover there are more emotions and richness in their real life than they realise. They cannot predict that they will find that level of emotion, but to be exposed to it, to become part of it. I think these two actors have become somewhat changed, discovering feelings they did not know were available to them, in front of a camera. A camera is a very intrusive element that tends to make people nervous. Like the Heisenberg principle of uncertainty, the means of perceiving often destroys the thing that’s being perceived. In other words the camera is focussed on the actors, and the actors become distracted from the basic circumstances they are supposed to be involved in, with the intrusiveness of the camera. You realise the camera investigates the psyche, the soul of the actor, in a way that makes the actor extremely self conscious. So the means of observing, as with Heisenberg, the electron microscope destroys the atom, so you never know what reality ultimately is.


12 of William Greaves’ 18 films

Emergency Ward (1959)
‘Stylistically, Emergency Ward falls somewhere between the “Free Cinema” of Lindsay Anderson’s Every Day Except Christmas (1957), with its carefully prepared set-ups and tripod-dependent shooting style, and the cinema-verite style of Lonely Boy (1961), by Roman Kroiter and Wolf Koenig. (Not uncoincidentally, Koenig served as Greaves’s cameraman on the film.) Emergency Ward was shot over the course of many nights and exposes us to the range of people admitted to the hospital: accident victims, people with imagined illness, people abandoned by their families, and others who are just plain lonely. Grierson’s influence on Greaves is evident in this film: Greaves humanizes his subjects and reassures the viewer that the emergency ward at this institution is run as responsibly and as well as the post office in Night Mail. The doctors know their jobs and care; orderlies and nurses are ennobled. At the same time, this film might be seen as a forerunner of Frederick Wiseman’s Hospital (1968), for instance in its visual sensitivity to character quirks, although it ultimately lacks Wiseman’s aggressiveness and sense of style.’ — Adam Knee

the entirety


Wealth of a Nation (1966)
‘This film created by the U.S. Information Agency explores freedom of speech in the United States. The original description is that it “illustrates that freedom of thought and expression, including violent dissent, is a source of national strength in U.S. politics, education and the arts.” It was created by William Greaves, a prominent African-American filmmaker and producer from the 1960s-2000s. His career led him everywhere from the National Film Board of Canada, to Africa, to India and around the world. One of his jobs was with the U.S. Information Agency (USIA). The USIA’s primary goal was to promote understanding, “inform, and influence foreign publics in promotion of the U.S. national interest, and to broaden the dialogue between Americans and U.S. institutions and their counterparts abroad.”’ — DOCS Teach

the entirety


Still A Brother: Inside the Negro Middle Class (1968)
‘A TV production by African-American documentarian William Greaves, Still a Brother deals with the conflicts of the Black middle class against the backdrop of the political revolution of the 1960s. Narrated by legendary writer/director/activist Ossie Davis, this was the first Black-produced doc to ever receive an Emmy nation, and deals particularly with the question of whether to align oneself with members of your race regardless of class status, or whether to emulate white standards in order to rise in the limited areas permitted by society. Speakers include Dr. Percy Julian, Julian Bond, St. Clair Drake, among others. An important, rarely screened work by one of the true greats.’ — Black Film Centre, Indiana University



Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take One (1968)
‘In his one-of-a-kind fiction/documentary hybrid Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take One, director William Greaves presides over a beleaguered film crew in New York’s Central Park, leaving them to try to figure out what kind of movie they’re making. A couple enacts a break-up scenario over and over, a documentary crew films a crew filming the crew, locals wander casually into the frame: the project defies easy description. Yet this wildly innovative sixties counterculture landmark remains one of the most tightly focused and insightful movies ever made about making movies.’ — The Criterion Collection


Watch an excerpt here


The Voice of La Raza (1972)
‘Produced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, this film traces the ongoing struggle for equality by the Spanish-speaking residents of the United States. Through a fictitious scenario and real discussions with a range of individuals, including local business leaders, parents, and student activists, the film explores job discrimination and the resulting hardships within the Hispanic community. Many of the interviews are conducted by actor Anthony Quinn, who relates his own family’s struggles as Mexican immigrants in East Los Angeles.’ — Texas Archive

Watch the film here


The Fight (1974)
‘In 1971, maverick filmmaker William Greaves trained his cameras on both Muhammad Ali and his opponent, Joe Frazier, ahead of the “Fight of the Century” at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The epic battle was supposed to be Ali’s big comeback following the suspension of his boxing license in 1967. In addition to the media circus surrounding both combatants, Greaves shot the match in its entirety from a dizzying array of camera angles, making the director’s cut of The Fight both an invaluable historical document as well as a virtuosic piece of filmmaking.’ — African American Film Fest



From These Roots (1974)
‘Explores the extraordinary artistic, cultural and political flowering that took place in Harlem during the “Roaring 20s.” This vivid portrait of the “Harlem Renaissance” is created entirely with period photographs.’ — letterboxd

Watch the film here


w/ Rick Baxter Ali the Fighter (1974)
Ali the Fighter was made in 1975, when the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fight was still fresh in everyone’s memory banks. Thus, a generous portion of the documentary’s running time is given over to graphic footage of that famous bout. Filmmaker William Greaves frames these scenes with a fine thumbnail sketch of Ali’s rise to glory, beginning with his “Cassius Clay” days back in Louisville. Fortunately, the film was made long before Ali’s profound physical and mental debilitations. — alibris

the entirety


That’s Black Entertainment (1989)
‘Semi-interesting documentary that covers black filmmakers from the 1910s through the 1950s. It’s too bad this film spends so much time bashing Hollywood’s era of blacks on screen instead of talking about the black producers of the day. Several rare film clips are shown of these films so you’ll want to keep your pen ready to write down some of the titles. I really hope someone like Kino or Criterion will release some of these important films, which aren’t discussed anymore. Even though this documentary is interesting, it would also be great for a film historian to go back, in greater detail, and tell the story of these filmmakers.’ — Michael_Elliott

the entirety


Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey (2001)
‘William Greaves chronicles the life and times of the world-renowned African American United Nations statesman, who not only pioneered the organization’s peacekeeping and conflict resolution strategies, but was also one of the leading advocates of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The first person of color to win a Noble Peace Price, Ralph Bunche became a symbol of racial progress throughout the world in a time when black Americans were marginalized in a largely segregated America. This superb film offers a rich and largely neglected perspective on twentieth-century American intellectual and political history.’ — full frame



Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take 2 ½ (2005)
‘A movie about making movies about making movies. In 1968, William Greaves shot several pairs of actors in a scene in which a woman confronts her husband and ends their relationship. In “Take 2 1/2,” Greaves starts with 1968 takes of one of these pairs of actors plus footage of the crew discussing the film’s progress. Then, 35 years later, Greaves brings back to Central Park those actors and some of the original crew (plus others) to film a reunion of the characters Alice and Freddie. We watch scenes of these characters and discussions among the actors and crew. Greaves explores and dramatizes the dialectic in the creative process.’ — trakt.tv

Watch the film VOD here


Nationtime – Gary (2020)
Nationtime – Gary is the long-lost film that William Greaves made about the National Black Political Convention of 1972, when 10,000 black politicians, activists and artists went to Gary, Indiana, to forge a national unity platform in advance of the Republican and Democratic presidential conventions. The delegates included the entire range of political thinkers — Black Panther co-founder Bobby Seale, Pan-Africanist Amiri Baraka, PUSH founder Jesse Jackson, elected officials Ron Dellums, Charles Diggs, Walter Fauntroy, Richard Hatcher, Carl McCall, plus key women in the fight for racial equality — Coretta Scott King, Betty Shabazz, Fannie Lou Hamer and Queen Mother Moore (who was arguing for reparations). Entertainers Harry Belafonte, Dick Gregory, Isaac Hayes and Richard Roundtree lent their star quality and entertained the crowds. Sidney Poitier narrated the film.

‘One of the most powerful films Greaves ever made, this is the director’s original 90-minute version that was never released. Found in a Pittsburgh warehouse in 2018, the 48-year-old film was painstakingly restored by IndieCollect under the supervision of Louise Greaves, the director’s widow and filmmaking partner. It re-emerges at a time when the Black Lives Matter movement is galvanizing support across the nation. As we head into the presidential conventions of 2020, Nationtime is a must-see for all who care about ending racist attitudes and practices in this country, once and for all.’ — Lightbox Film Center





p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, I’m kind of glad I found that book late after the hubbub about it was over. Gisele was close with him and always said he was a dear guy. I met him once, and he was very friendly. And he nominated ‘God Jr.’ for the Prix Goncourt, which is definitely one of my life’s highlights. Speaking of Trintignant, I just yesterday realised I’ve never dome a Haneke Day for some unknown reason, so I made one. Everyone, If you’re trying to reach Mr. Ehrenstein re: his sale or other reasons, his email is acting weird, so hit him up instead via Cellar47@yahoo.com. ** Dominik, Hi, D! It was a seminal book for me, but what he was saying was exactly what I needed to read at the time I found it. Thanks about my toe. It’s being a total bastard. Today they will impose the new restrictions for Paris, so we’ll see what that means later on, and fingers crossed. Cool, will do about ‘Des’. I just need to find out how to get to it in France, above board or underground. What’s on your day’s agenda? Ha ha. Spotting Richie Manic at your local cafe love, Dennis. ** Tosh Berman, Hi, T. That’s what I also hear from my other LA sources. Good god. So sorry about the family death, and that she’s away, and that you’re not there. I dream of waking up in Tokyo almost daily. Or daydream. The new Kaufman should be under my belt this week, if the powers-that-be don’t shut down our theatres today. I haven’t read the new Alex Ross, but I really like his thinking/writing, so I’ll seek it. Hm, interesting question about R-G vis-a-vis Wagner. I’ll try to remember to ask Catherine R-G the next time I see her. Hang in there big time, Tosh. I hope you’re using your sequestering to work on your new book. ** Sypha, Hi, J. Well, if you’re making such progress on your new collection, the weirdness is sliver lined at least. Of course I love the length of the collection. DC-ish length. ** Misanthrope, Hi. Oh, is that true about the dick sizes? Interesting. Yeah, maybe small dicks are in vogue. I suppose I do tend to pick escorts whose dicks aren’t the main draw. Apart from Kayla getting sick, that birthday sounds pretty exciting. Is she right as rain again? Great about the guitar purchases. Hey, I didn’t start making films until I was in my 60s, so I wouldn’t sweat the late start. Strange you say that about my recorder because I actually have a recorder here with me in Paris, albeit for sad reasons. When I was in LA one time showing ‘PGL’, the brother of my first serious boyfriend Robert came to the screening. I hadn’t seen him since the 70s. Robert died of AIDS in the 80s, and his brother told me that one of Robert’s last wishes was to give me his old recorder. (Robert and I were in a ‘recorder consort’ together). And he handed it to me. That was very heavy, and I brought back home with me, and it’s on a shelf. But I don’t think I’ll jam with it. I used to play guitar pretty okay as a teen, so maybe I’ll borrow one and make a mess with you that way. ** Steve Erickson, Ah ha. Very curious. Everyone, Steve has made a new music track partly inspired by Mellotron Day, and let me facilitate him telling you all about it. Steve: ‘And here is my song “Mello Satin Tangerine Pillow”. It was hard to work melodically with the 7-second tape loops and their abrupt ends. I wound up editing some of them in a sampler so that they fade out, as well as adding effects like phasing and wah-wah. I plan to do more work with the mellotron samples.’ That’s quite a title, man. There’s been a little written/discussed here about the hoo-hah around ‘Cuties’ in the US, most of which consists of people thinking it’s just the billionth recent example of Americans having gone completely insane. I’ve read some reviews of the ‘Goat’s Head Soup’ reissue. It’s strange to me that there seems to be such a concerted effort to give that record some kind of due that it was supposedly not accorded at the time. Granted, I haven’t listened to it in a long time, but I can’t imagine it magically not being the point where their muse began to tell them bye-bye. ** Ian, Hi, Ian. Glad you liked it so much. Me too, duh. Mega-book, that one. And how awesome that it fed your writing. Best possible ever outcome. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi. It’s a stellar book, but I would probably start with one of the novels, ‘The Voyeur’ maybe? ** politekid, Hey there, Oscar! So cool to see you! I’ve actually been thinking about you a lot while following the whole Tate mess, figuring your job would have been effected but hoping not against hope. I just read yesterday that a big bunch of art world big wigs and famous artists signed some thing trying to force the Tate into using part of their government bail-out to keep the employees they’ve cut? Do you think that’ll work? Seemed like pretty big public pressure maybe. I completely love your Phd topic to the max, which should not surprise you in the slightest. It made me immediately excited. So add me to the thumbs-up contingent. I’ll put my mind to trying to think up examples. Great about the script! ‘Wow’ and not knowing where they are … I mean, it doesn’t get better, does it? Fantastic! Man, I hope I’ll be able to get over there and see the show by then. Fuck knows what’ll happen you-know-what-wise, but I’m going to angle to. Plus there are other big reasons to get over there. (Possible London-based co-producer for Zac’s and my new film, for one). Anyway, super exciting, man! Another yes on ‘Des’. It’s inevitable now. Stuff with me is fine, working on things, making things, directing itself interesting directions, … not so bad. Again, so great to see you! Hang out, keep me up! ** Nik, Hi, Nik! A pleasure to be in your presence. Glad the post hit the sweet spot. I was just the other day trying to do a post about Sarraute’s ‘The Golden Fruits;’, my favourite of hers, only to find absolutely zip to work with since it also seems to have become her most obscure book. Grr. I’m good other than a very slooooow healing broken toe. Paris is all right, although we’re getting new restrictions imposed today because the COVID cases are rising fast. Nice you’re on campus. That sounds dreamy. I’ve only seen pix of the Bard campus, but it looks dreamy. That’s really great news about the collection of Mark Baumer’s work. Wow. Yeah, I was/am an admirer of his work and him. So good of you and Blake to do that. Yes, my new novel has a home (Soho Press), and the tentative release date is September 24, 2021. A long ways away, but still. Take care, sir. ** Right. Why not spend a bit of your day investigating the films of the very interesting and way too overlooked filmmaker William Greaves? Sound like a plan? See you tomorrow.

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  1. Hi!!

    I hope the new restrictions don’t need to be as strict as before. Fingers definitely crossed. How are they…?

    I don’t know if it’s available in France but I watch Des on flixtor.to.

    I’m currently waiting for my new “work laptop” to arrive and as soon as it does, I’m starting the first proofreading course. I’m really impatient, haha. ’til then, I’m trying to keep myself busy with studying some psycho stuff and working on SCAB-related posts and ideas – these are my main plans for today. How about you? I’m sending all kinds of crazy healing energies your way!!

    Ah, this is the best possible love I can imagine! Smoking half-naked on the balcony love, D.!

  2. I saw Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take 1 and loved it. Didn’t know about Greaves’ acting career. Happy you found links to full films. Looking forward to watching.

    Freakish timing with John Waters Day. I started John Waters Day at a midnight Pink Flamingos screening.

    Steve, I enjoyed “Mellow Satin Tangerine Pillow”.

    That’s cool you were in a recorder group. Have you heard of Frans Brüggen? He was a badass recorder player and conductor. Here’s his recorder trio Sour Cream.




    I’m holed up in a hotel near my parents’ place in Western Massachusetts. Booked a flight at the last minute because Israel is locking down for at least a month. My dad is home from the hospital but still very weak and running a fever. We’re very worried, taking things one step at a time.

    Getting a corona test today. Results will likely take a few days. I feel fine except for mild jetlag. Not that worried about the test but if it came back positive I’m not sure where I’d go and it would push my parents over the edge.
    I’m happy with the hotel both safety and comfort wise. Good base to get some work done.

    It’s very weird being back in USA. I almost feel like a foreigner since I’ve been living in another culture for almost 3 years. I’ll have to dig deep to figure out how to describe this sensation since on the surface it’s just a bunch of clichéd blather about abundance, waste, advertising, addiction, etc. The multiple apocalyptic events going on only bring out the apocalyptic undertones in stuff that isn’t directly related. It was especially freakish to see the sun reddened by the West Coast fires all the way here on the East Coast.

    Happy your novel has an official release date. Hope your toe feels better. How are your various projects coming along? Anything fun happening in Paris?

  3. Been in a rather distracted week here. But our air has cleared up! Greaves’ films look intriguing, and I enjoyed the September escorts of course. Look forward to the Haneke day.

    Good to hear about you and Zac in Marseilles. I was there for a couple days, and agree that it has this odd intense feeling to it. Curious to spend more time there, eventually.

    By the way, do you know R.W. Spryszak’s work? He’s active in contemporary surrealist circles. I’m enjoying his novel Edju, and he edited this anthology with the great title:




  4. Thanks, Corey. The changes the US has gone through in the past few years feel like a bad acid trip on a day-by-day basis, so I can only imagine how disorienting it must be to return to this country after several years away.

    I downloaded a pack of distorted drums and bleak, minor-key synth samples yesterday, and they will be the starting point for my next song.

    I interviewed Michael Haneke around the time THE WHITE RIBBON was released in the US. It was never published because when I came home, I realized that my tape recorder had broken halfway through. But it was one of the strangest interviews I’ve ever conducted. He would answer all my questions about the technical aspects of filmmaking, his thoughts on other films and directors, etc., but wouldn’t speak a word about his own interpretations on his films. I can respect that, but I was asking questions which were far more subtle than “who sent the videotapes in CACHE?” and it was weird to have him refuse to answer many of them.

    Now that the embargo was lifted today, I can say I was really impressed by Steve McQueen’s LOVERS ROCK, which opens the New York Film Festival tonight and will stream on Amazon as part of his limited series SMALL AXE. It’s joyful and warm, which aren’t qualities I’ve associated with him, and the reggae soundtrack is killer. In some ways, it feels like an optimistic COLD WATER (mixed with Terence Davies.)

  5. hi dc!

    TM-wise, public pressure does appear to be big, which is heartening, art bigwigs and all — plus the controversies surrounding d’Offay and the Rex Whistler restaurant, the place is getting a good kicking. i’d love to say that they’ll cave cos of it, but i’m not optimistic. word on the street is that they’ve been planning on cutting down/selling off the shops for a while now (like whitechapel gallery/serpentine did) and covid-19 was a great excuse, which would make sense given the speed and nastiness of it all. and i’m not sure public opinion has a long enough memory for the outcry to hurt long-term. (that’s all v downbeat, i still hope i’m wrong.)

    thanks for the thumbs-up on the phd! if that’s not enough to sway them then “academia” really is worthless. and the possible london co-producer is fantastic news, [tentative] congrats! it would be great if you manage to get here, let’s hope planets align. at the very least i’m aiming to get the text online, possibly the recording too — i don’t know about you but i’m incredibly anti-precious about context, so gallery/pdf/youtube/those awful OCR A text files, however, i’ll pass it around somehow.

    oh another thing btw — last week i finally discovered the name of a tourist attraction i went to when i was about 5 and it had a huge huge effect/influence on me. it was called the Weymouth Timewalk, it was set up near a brewery. a family of cats would guide you back in time through the history of the place, including a surprisingly grim couple of black death tableaus. you can still buy their medieval sewage smells online, if you have an oil diffuser handy. there’s a fantastic series of blogposts about it starting here: https://www.theartofthemedattractions.com/single-post/2018/08/02/Weymouth-Timewalk-PART-I-The-Creation-of-a-New-Attraction i know this kinda thing is among your many interests so i thought i’d throw it your way x

  6. Dennis, I think the Pleasant book might actually end up being shorter than some of your own. The student has becomes the master, ha ha… 😉

    In all seriousness though the main reason for its brevity is a.) the first two Pleasant collections (by Brendan Connell and Justin Isis) were both fairly short, and b.) as someone often (though not exclusively) drawn to the morbid and the macabre that was all I was able to squeeze out of the stone! Ah well… at the very least I know with this book it won’t be a strain to find a publisher like it was for some of my other ones. I fear it might disappoint the readers who prefer my horror stuff, but I have a 3rd horror collection coming out at some point as well (hopefully next year or thereabouts) so maybe that will help the medicine go down!

  7. “The Golden Fruits” is actually the exact Sarraute book I’ve been re-reading. I had read a library copy initially, and have found every other copy surprisingly expensive until I found a like, $7 one in a bookstore randomly. So no surprise that the net is a totally dry well, unfortunately. Do you still have your copy of it, from whenever you first read it?
    Yikes about the broken toe + covid restrictions. I hope adapting to the circumstances isn’t proving too torturous.
    Bard campus is quite dreamy actually! And its been cold here lately, so the fall vibes are a welcome shift. Hopefully the halloween here is something slightly more than nothing, since we’re all in this relatively closed community. Do you have any plans for it this year, despite the circumstances?
    Thank you about the Baumer collection. I’m copy editing the first half of the book right now. I hadn’t read his work until Rebecca had told me about this project, and when I heard Blake was editing it, I jumped on the opportunity to help out. I feel like Buamers work is this totally exceptional mix of non-sequitor, which I guess was somewhat common amongst that scene, with a sort of political conscience and visionary sensibility that makes him totally stand out, to my mind.
    Oh wow… your novels 1-year-til-publication date is fast approaching! Soho press is awesome tho, super exciting

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