Saturday, February 6, 2016
Gig #94: Of late 31: OG Maco, Immune, Dark Actors, Blithe Field, 400PPM, Surgeon, Eric Copeland, Sainkho Namtchylak, Lycus, Deantoni Parks, Matt Karmil, Lucretia Dalt, Anna Meredith, Aaron David Ross, Samuel Kerridge, Flying Lotus
OG Maco North Face
'Quality Control co-owner Pierre “Pee” Thomas has gone so far as to call Maco a “black punk rock artist,” and the comparison is not without basis. We’ve already addressed his decidedly fuck-you approach to PR issues, and like a singer in a hardcore band, Maco’s vocal performances revel in the entropy of base emotion, a clamorous performance of the enraged, contradictory subjectivity that emerges when your only route to self-expression is through a culture of living memehood that co-opts your experience and relates it in a way that alienates you from your own experience. Maco is not immune to the flex escalation and fascist aestheticization emanating from his home city, but he pushes the emotive boundaries of that selfsame scene from within its constrictions.' -- Nick Henderson
Immune New Years Eve
'A mostly anonymous and reserved figure overall, Immune dropped his cult-revered debut album Night Visions with us in late 2014, and after a mostly quiet year in the shadows returns back with his sophomore follow up Breathless. As mentioned in a recent interview with Oscob, Immune worked on this album throughout 2015, taking his laptop out around the city of London and working on his album in parks, bars and coffee shops with just a pair of headphones and a copy of Reason 5. And the sound of an animated metropolis bustling with life as he looked on dreaming throughout that year, is exactly the sonic picture that this album paints. Breathless takes the ideas from Night Visions and returns to them with better focus and a more refined artistic outlook. It’s darker and at times more jarring album which tells a subtle story, but the album flows like an immense dream from beginning to end, putting the audience directly in Immune’s world for its duration.' -- Dreamcatcher
Dark Actors Black Maria
'At the heart of Dark Actors – a project that has been evolving for several years, or so it seems, sits the techno-wizard Mike Eastwood, once the guiding technical light of Factory Records and, levelly, A Certain Ratio. Known as Mikey in the Factory Office, and as producer Moist elsewhere, he seemed always an amiable fountain of electro-knowledge. 'Black Maria' opens the show. A tirade of observant journalese or conspiracy babble, depending on your stance, it uses a cartoon image of the old police tactical control van – 'Black Maria' – as it's central image. This is cemented by the simplistic accompanying video which depicts the vehicle crawling through a straight line of lyric. Hypnotic indeed as image, lyric and growl combine to send your thoughts scuttling back through Britain's dark governing heart, then and now. That is the message. Then as now.' -- The Quietus
Blithe Field In the Tunnels
'Blithe Field’s Face Always Toward the Sun continues the ambient musings of Spencer Radcliffe, whose Brown Horse cassette split with R.L. Kelly was a killer collection of sharp songwriting and rolling sonic chaos. His other, more emo-leaning work as California Furniture in 2013 further affirmed his songwriting chops, but Blithe Field remains Radcliffe’s solely instrumental effort. From his phenomenal split with Ricky Eat Acid in 2012 to a rich string of incredible tape collages, the Chicago musician has built something masterful through the years, looped euphoria in hazy, flattened bliss. Pairing the localized ambient tradition with that special Orchid Tapes blend of lush bedroom amateurism, Blithe Field builds its own stunning, hazy world within the Ohio town, crafting a heartbreaking collage of youth, family, intimacy, and togetherness from the ground up. Like James Joyce’s Dublin or Lou Reed’s New York, Radcliffe’s Athens is its own universe, a collegiate utopia in art, vibrant and overflowing, foam-drenched and howling on the lawn, the first big weekend of the year.' -- Rob Arcand
400PPM Chorleywood Bread
'Shawn O'Sullivan's music comes in many guises, but the common threads are easy to tease out. With one or two exceptions—a house-leaning EP on WT Records, for instance—the New Yorker's records tend to go between drone-layered techno and a spacious, immersive sound akin to Further Reductions, the duo of O'Sullivan and Katie Rose. Just-In-Time, O'Sullivan's second 400PPM record, underscores how slippery his various masks can be—it's a very different animal from its Avian predecessor, Non Nocere. Where that was basically a Shawn O'Sullivan megamix—with rich Further Reductions tones and high-strung noise set to galloping techno frames—Just-In-Time narrows its focus, yielding flintier music in the process. If O'Sullivan does one thing really well, it's give his music a generous sense of scale. He plays to this strength on "Resource Extraction," whose claps are sounded by the smack of metal on metal in some abandoned warehouse. (No doubt, the EP's title is a reference to the factory production method introduced by the Japanese auto industry.) "Chorleywood Bread," too, teems with the hum and buzz of labouring machines. It's a brisk 128 BPM, but doesn't feel quite so frenzied as its neighbors.' -- Resident Advisor
Surgeon A1703 zD6
'While exploring new production techniques using old and unlikely hardware, the results were so unusual that I really had the sense that these pieces of equipment didn't actually create these sounds, rather they were in fact some kind of elaborate reception device that allowed me to tune into transmissions from Distant Galaxies. The music I could hear was actually the received transmissions of Pop Hits from those Distant Galaxies that were being played on their radio stations. I quickly recorded all that I could before losing the transmission. I consulted with Dr Andrew Read, the astrophysicist with whom I recorded Guitar Treatments in 1999. He has worked on the discovery of the most distant galaxies and astronomical objects in the Universe. Together we came up with a possible list of where these musical transmissions may have come from.' -- Surgeon
Eric Copeland Elephant
'There's been a 'zero f*cks given' approach to their fifth anniversary year from LIES, which is very in keeping with the label's ethos; no resting on laurels or back slapping, just plain good music for the freaks. Having issued fine records from Antenes, Marcos Cabral, Randomer, Overdose and a whole host of others, Ron Morelli's last call of duty for the year is another mini-album shaped journey into the crazed asylum that is the mind of Eric Copeland. Six tracks deep, Jesus Freak is described as "addictive as it is confusing with its screwed vocal hooks and demented twang heard throughout," and listeners should expect more of Copeland's signature blend of cut-up samples, deranged loops, and barely-controlled chaos.' -- Juno
Sainkho Namtchylak Dance of Eagle
'With her shaved head and seven-octave range, Sainkho Namtchylak would stand out on any stage. Add her particular mix of Tuvan throat-singing and avant-garde improvisation, and she becomes an unforgettable figure. The daughter of a pair of schoolteachers, she grew up in an isolated village on the Tuvan/Mongolian border, exposed to the local overtone singing -- something that was generally reserved for the males; in fact, females were actively discouraged from learning it (even now, the best-known practitioners remain male, artists like Huun-Huur-Tu and Yat-Kha). However, she learned much of her traditional repertoire from her grandmother, and went on to study music at the local college, but she was denied professional qualifications. Quietly she studied the overtone singing, as well as the shamanic traditions of the region, before leaving for study further in Moscow (Tuva was, at that time, part of the U.S.S.R.). Her degree completed, she returned to Tuva where she became a member of Sayani, the Tuvan state folk ensemble, before abandoning it to return to Moscow and joining the experimental Tri-O, where her vocal talents and sense of melodic and harmonic adventure could wander freely. That first brought her to the West in 1990, although her first recorded exposure came with the Crammed Discs compilation Out of Tuva. Once Communism had collapsed, she moved to Vienna, making it her base, although she traveled widely, working in any number of shifting groups and recording a number of discs that revolved around free improvisation -- not unlike Yoko Ono -- as well as performing around the globe. It was definitely fringe music, although Namtchylak established herself very firmly as a fixture on that fringe. In 1997 she was the victim of an attack that left her in a coma for several weeks. Initially she thought it was some divine retribution for her creative hubris, and seemed to step back when she recorded 1998's Naked Spirit, which had new age leanings. However, by 2000 she seemed to have overcome that block, releasing Stepmother City, her most accessible work to date, where she seemed to really find her stride, mixing traditional Tuvan instruments and singing with turntables and effects, placing her in a creative firmament between Yoko and Björk, but with the je ne sais quoi of Mongolia as part of the bargain.' -- allmusic
Lycus Obsidian Eyes
'The Oakland band Lycus make funeral doom that's unique and accomplished without rejecting the basic tenets of the style. The music is slow and heavy, the three-part vocals mournful and guttural, the cover art by Italian painter Paolo Girardi melancholic and romantic, the subject matter bleak. Lycus maintain a specific atmosphere—deep greens, browns, dark shadows—but find a number of paths through it. Each feels right, the blending of genres and approaches and patterns seamless. More important, though, is the effect music of this sort can have on a listener. It's highly cathartic. It will move you emotionally. At the end of the haunting closer "Obsidian Eyes," which finds the protagnist "suffer[ing] through the void/ On the perilous bridge/ Between body and spirit," the band pushes forward with all their force into a gentle cymbal wash that closes the record. It's one of the few soft moments on Chasms, and it's welcome: a place to rest your head after experiencing this overwhelming, ecstatic, surprisingly meditative album.' -- Brandon Stosuy
Deantoni Parks Bombay
'Deantoni Parks has a decorated background: He’s collaborated with canonical progressive acts of several different decades (John Cale, Sade, the Mars Volta, Flying Lotus) and is an astounding technical musician, as evidenced by his tenure teaching at the Berklee College of Music. Parks’ latest solo, Technoself, is above all else a showcase for what the Georgia native can do with a drum kit, a sampler, and a limited number of hands. (He only has two.) Every track here is a live recording, an astounding feat given the percussive complexity present on something like "Graphite", which with its surround-sound distortion and riffage feels as if it were carefully engineered over the course of a month of lab work. Frequently, the aggression of the drumming itself is a thrill. "Automatic" is a fantastic pump-up track, with the same wall-to-wall excitement as Eminem’s "Til I Collapse" (and none of the yelling.) The ambition on Technoself is staggering, particularly given the technical limits that Parks has imposed on himself.' -- Jonah Bromwich
Matt Karmil So You Say (Dirty Tape Heads Mix)
'Matt Karmil was born in 1979 near the giant pre-historic glockenspiel / mythical neolithic monument known as Stonehenge. Today he produces and plays a particular form of playful and moody dance music for some of the world's finest record labels and dance floors. Matt was a sickly, introspective child – his boyhood days were spent indoors, practising the classical guitar for endless hours. He got well in his early twenties, smashed the guitars and headed out into the big world outside Salisbury, England. Since that day, Matt follows music wherever it takes him – years of djing, record collecting and working as a producer-engineer in London, Paris, Stockholm and Berlin led to him finding a new home in Cologne by 2012. Matt soon befriended the tight-knit yet open-minded community of music lovers centred around the legendary Kompakt imprint.' -- kompakt.fm
Lucrecia Dalt Over Unity
'Along the arc of Dalt’s music, beyond what steers her so allusively away from self-repetition, there is an undefinable forward inertia. What can explain, for instance, the near absence of her voice? Is it personal interest, renunciation, an embrace? Is she driven by a backdrop of conceptualism, or is this a lyrical wandering? What we know, for starters, is that she made this album immersed in a cinema of her own, curatorial creation. Its filmic quality is a direct consequence of her turning her studio into a screening room for classic works of New German Cinema, pulling influence from directors such as Helke Sander and Werner Schroeter. As she works, she absorbs, and Ou results from a conscious staging of this process. The impact can be felt both at the levels of surface and structure. While the sound quality reflects these evocative, multi-layered scenarios, the larger departure from any of her previous works is the album’s spatial, mix-like composition, with each track being made up of several companion titles.' -- Care Of Editions
Anna Meredith Honeyed Words
'Last August, Anna Meredith released her debut single, the mighty “Nautilus”. If J.J. Abrams is looking for new walk-on music for Darth Vader in his Star Wars reboot, John Williams can cash his severance check right now: Meredith’s opus rallies a tangle of brass fanfares before introducing a sound barrier-bending wub that feels like it could vaporize a human body at the right volume. As far as making an entrance goes, the imperial track is a monogrammed red carpet, a dozen footmen, and a billowing velvet cape-- a hell of an introduction to the London-based, Edinburgh-raised musician. “Nautilus” actually heralds the start of Meredith’s second act-- the 35-year-old is already a renowned, groundbreaking force in more rarefied fields. After several years as composer in residence with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the rising classical star had an original piece performed at the BBC’s prestigious Last Night of the Proms at London’s Royal Albert Hall last August as well. During the concert, Meredith's “HandsFree” saw 160 members of the National Youth Orchestra lay down their instruments to click, clap, and cluck in unison, using Reichian body percussion to conjure a sound akin to waves crashing through a jungle-- a great antidote to the stuffy surroundings. “The Proms is such a weird, nationalistic thing-- I had actual proper, physical hate mail,” Meredith explains, half-impressed by the sender’s outrage.' -- Laura Snapes
Aaron David Ross Fiscal Spliff
'ADR’s ability to compositionally teleport between musical spaces has deftly demonstrated an inherent voyeurism. He can nimbly maneuver between jazz flute and scatt be-bobbing (scaled in between the partitions of a white-walled gallery space), to expensive bass vibrations (shaking the knobby, black obsidian hilt of a sorcerer’s emblazoned sword). In the past, this exploration has existed between monikers; with Deceptionista, it’s between seconds of time. That voyeurism is also shown in Deceptionista’s employment of free online app Vpeeker, software “which provides a feed of the most recently uploaded Vine clip at any given moment.” As PAN has expressed, there is decentralized value in discovering “an untapped world of internet detritus… [where] …the internet voyeur is no longer carefully curating their content consumption from safely behind a screen.” The theme of decentralization runs strong in this statement, as if to suggest a latent need for ADR to distance himself from his own distinctive authorship to reveal the value of the cultural detritus that Deceptionista consistently evokes. Although ADR’s efforts to disperse his “content curation” are admirable, it’s the synthesis between his structural and well-trained sound-sensitivity with the gesture of horizontal sound placement that makes the work so marvelous.' -- Tiny Mix Tapes
Samuel Kerridge FLA·1
'I want the music to consume you, take you in. I want a reaction from people, for them to be taken aback, all their senses assaulted. I don't want to deliberately make harrowing music, though I see it as having a lot of emotion and soul. I hope people can express themselves when hearing it, but I also like to have that shock factor. I think techno is like any art form, an expression rather than specifically a genre. All my tracks have a strong narrative, some of which probably stems from listening to early Pink Floyd albums and so on. You take from it what you will and everyone has his or her own ideas about it. To put it bluntly, I think people are getting bored of shit music. There are too many sheep. I think the whole world is finally seeing the allure of electronic music, which is great, and for every 10,000 David Guetta fans, at least ten of them will explore new avenues, maybe buy a bass and a distortion pedal, which is of course something we should embrace.' -- Samuel Kerridge
Flying Lotus FUCKKKYOUUU
'Eddie Alcazar is the author of the short movie FUCKKKYOU, produced by Javier Lovato, which trailer has been released. Selected by the Sundance Next Festival 2015 and the Fantastic Festival 2015, this movie deals with a solitary girl who can travel in time and find some love and comfort by connecting with the past. Confronted to rejection, she fights with her identity and sexuality by trying to find her own place in a folding time. Director asked Flying Lotus to make the score of his movie.' -- fubiz
p.s. Hey. ** Scunnard, Hey, man! Great to see you! I'm doing good, thanks. Well, yeah, you bet I'm interested in that guest post for all kinds of reasons. But I won't hold my breath. I might do breathing exercises, though. My fingers, if you want to call them that, are, as of this instant, crossed, although, looking at them, it's more like entangled, but that counts too, I think, and is probably even better despite the unpopularity of referring to so-called crossed fingers as, in fact, entangled ones. Me? I was traveling for a while. Then I stopped. Now I'm working on the usual stuff as per usual. And getting out and about a bit. Can't complain. But what about you? What uses your hours at the moment? ** Jeffrey Coleman, Hi, Jeff. That's interesting timing, and why not? Well, you know how it is. There are 'release dates' for books, but, truth be told, books usually come out about a month before those dates. I'm about to start reading it, I think this weekend, if plans become things. ** Pascal, Hi, P. I think Rohmer is one of those filmmakers whose thing is either one's thing or not. I love a lot of his films. I really love the 'Tales of the Four Seasons' cycle films ('A Tale of Springtime', 'A Tale of Winter', 'A Summer's Tale', 'Autumn Tale').'The Green Ray' is one of my very favorites. I'm really fond of a film that most Rohmer fans seem to consider a failed experiment: 'Perceval le Gallois'. A lot, really. Ah, the early early Fassbinder, cool. Enjoy, man. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Yeah, 'La Collectionneuse' is fantastic! ** Schlick, Hi, Uli. Oh, thanks, man, For reporting back and for liking the piece, and, of course, for fighting all that traffic to get there. Yeah, it's that 'not fully interwoven' thing that's odd about that piece, although I guess it's effective in that way or something. Before 'Kindertotenlieder', I wasn't involved in the full process of making our works from start to finish. For 'I Apologize', which was made while I was still living in LA, she and I worked together in Lyon for about four days, made an early sketch, and then I flew home, and she finished the piece on her own. For our second piece, the super-rarely seen 'Un Belle Enfant Blonde', I just sent her texts from LA, and she made the piece with Catherine Robbe-Grillet, who revised my texts and performed them in the work. Starting with 'Kindertotenlieder', we made the pieces together every step of the way. So the early ones seem different, to me anyway. Anyway, blah blah. Thanks, man. Peter's music in 'I Apologize' is so great, right? ** Dóra Grőber, Hi! Oh, yeah do get over here if you get the chance. That would be really fun. Oh, good, I'm going to go catch up with the new boymuse pieces this weekend. Oh, the length thing, yeah. I guess my policy is that I just trust, or try hard to trust, where my writing seems to want to go at any time and try not to force it to, say, stretch out if that does seem natural. A fair amount of the time, I'll end up making something longer by first writing short things and then, at some point, seeing how they might be combined or add up. Like trying to see them as parts of something longer, putting them in an order that seems right and then sometimes I'll get idea about how they could connect, and I will write a piece that creates an intersection. Sometimes that will lead to a longer work. But, you know, 'long works' aka 'novels' are kind of really overhyped as being more 'serious' or 'important' than short works, and that's not true at all, you know? I think the important thing is not to fight your instinct of the moment. If short pieces are what's coming out, that's probably the natural thing. There might come a time when you literally get bored of writing short things, and that kind of boredom can be the perfect inspiration to change up your practice. If that makes any sense? Have a very fine weekend! ** Steevee, Hi, I haven't read his Zombie novelizations, but I've always been very curious to, naturally. Cool re: the review. Everyone, here's Steevee's review of the "queer soap opera" FORT BUCHANAN. No, I did not know that about Clive Barker. Huh. I know several artists and writers who've done sex work at some point. They're not public about that, but they don't seem ashamed of it. I always think of shame as being a Christian thing, or as a Christian-damage thing. I don't think I ever feel ashamed, but maybe I feel something that others would call shame and I just have other terms for it or something. ** Bill, Hi, B. Cool, thanks, sir. I'm about to starting reading the book too. Yeah, I love his piece on Ed the Happy Clown a lot too. Totally. ** Kieran, Hi. So, my sad story is that I checked yesterday and saw that the Helm/McDowell show was last night. I had other plans, but I decided to change them, only to find out that the gig was sold out. So, I was deprived due to my own laziness. On a more positive note, I really liked that Apostille track, and I'll be off to find more today. Oh, he does Night School Records? Yeah, excellent venture. Wow, nice. What an interesting guy. Thanks a lot! You have a perfect weekend if that's at all possible. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. Ha ha, I like the mask. It doesn't seem dumb at all, but I don't know anything whatsoever about Samantha Cameron other than her marriage tastes. Next week! ** Misanthrope, I think you would like Evenson's work. Call it a hunch. That word gratuitous seems like the problem. A lot of people seem to think that explicit representations of even the tiniest smidgen of those things is gratuitous. I don't understand how something can be gratuitous if it's something that an artist intended. Ha ha ha, that dream. Yeah, I'm virtually positive that Zac doesn't have a son, much less an obese exhibitionist son. I love wind. Sorry. The more the better. Rip the roof off the suckers! Wind over rain. Maybe wind over hail, maybe. Wind and snow are equals. I don't know what I'm saying. ** Kyler, Hi, K! Good to see ya! I'm good, thanks. We haven't nailed down a screening of 'LCTG' in NYC yet, but we're working on it. God, the waiting, dude, horrible. We're trying to get gigs for our film, and film programmers have this horrible habit of saying, we'll get back to you shortly, and then just completely blowing you off. It's ugly. Hugs, in other words. Yeah, that Garth Greenwell novel seems to be super buzzy at the moment. I haven't read it. I'm curious to take a look or a lengthy-ish glance to see what the deal is. It doesn't sound like my thing, what with the 'new Edmund White' hype, but I don't know. Like I said to Steevee, I don't think I understand shame. The whole idea seems really strange and foreign to me. Like I kind of said, I've thought maybe that's because I've never in my life been religious in any way, and it seems like a region-based concept to me, but I could be totally wrong about that. ** Right. I made you guys another gig of new music I've been into. And I'm giving you an entire weekend to give it a chance and fish around inside it and try some things out, and I hope you will. Good weekends to you all, and I'll see you on Monday.
Posted by Dennis Cooper at 12:00 AM
Friday, February 5, 2016
'When Brian Evenson’s first book, Altmann’s Tongue, came out in 1994, it made barely a ripple in the centers of established literary might. It swiftly created a small and cultish buzz, but critics didn’t seem to know what to do with this bizarre collection of twenty-eight taut, almost relentlessly brutal short stories—here a boy finds his stepfather dead, his mouth stuffed with bees and sewn shut with carpet thread, there a cheerful skeleton named Bone Job rattles down the road in search of God—and a cerebral novella that seemed to borrow as much from the nouveau roman as the stories did from Hieronymus Bosch. When not ignored completely, Evenson was judged a slightly distasteful curiosity. In a capsule review, the Los Angeles Times nervously conceded that “there is a talent here,” albeit, “an eldritch one.”
'In faraway Utah, though, Altmann’s Tongue was taken quite seriously. For Brian Evenson is something of an odd bird, an eldritch one even. Not only the author of fictions whose emotionless violence mocks human flesh, Evenson was also a Mormon of no little piety. Raised in quiet, conservative, church-going Provo, he was at one point even a member of the high priesthood of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. To thicken the brew, Evenson is also a scholar with a Ph.D. in critical theory. He was one of the main players in the brief flap over Gordon Lish’s influence on Raymond Carver a few years back, and has just published a monograph on Robert Coover’s fiction.
'It was in Provo, where the then twenty-seven-year-old Evenson had just begun teaching in Brigham Young University’s English department, that Evenson would receive his harshest reviews. In the fall of 1994, a few months after its publication, a Brigham Young student wrote a letter to Mormon authorities labeling Altmann’s Tongue “a showcase of graphic, disgusting, pointless violence.” She only made it to page eighty four—the conclusion of the aforementioned death-by-bees-in-the-sewn-up-mouth story, called “Stung,” which ends with more than a suggestion of incest—before she had to quit, feeling “like someone who has eaten something poisonous and is desperate to get rid of it.” She was, she wrote, “terrified to think that a man who is capable of creating and perpetrating this kind of mental imagery on others was able to be hired as a professor at BYU.”
'By spring, shortly after Evenson won an NEA grant on the merits of one of the stories in Altmann’s Tongue (“The Munich Window,” a wry tale narrated by a man who, having murdered his wife years ago, is grudgingly called back to murder his daughter as well), a university spokesman had told the Deseret News, “We don’t want this kind of stuff coming out of this institution. We are not talking about literature in general. We’re talking about extreme, brutal, sadistic, and violent depictions of violence.” University and church officials alike made it clear to Evenson that if he kept writing similar works he would not only lose his job, but might face excommunication from the church, a cataclysm for a devout believer.
'Evenson chose to leave Brigham Young. He has since published two novels and two more short story collections, each as uncompromisingly sanguineous as the first, with Contagion, the most recent collection, surpassing it by far in sophistication and complexity. “I don’t want to have to make a choice between the Mormon Church and my work,” he told the London Times in 1997, “but if I do I will be on the side of art, even though I still have my faith.” Even on a second or third read, Altmann’s Tongue, which was reissued by the University of Nebraska Press last year with a new introduction by the philosopher Alfonso Lingis, is still a profoundly unsettling book, shocking as much for the rawness and vitality of its prose and for the mythic strangeness of the world it depicts as for any of the variety of corporeal indignities perpetrated therein. It is a world not only of violence, but of profound affectlessness, in which death and mutilation appear with all the banality of a dirty shoe. It is at times a world recognizably our own (Altmann, after all, is the name taken by Klaus Barbie, the onetime “Butcher of Lyons,” while in hiding in Bolivia), at times a nightmarescape of desert fortresses and walking dead, peopled with characters bearing names like Ivar the Boneless, Hébé, Bosephus.
'Some of the stories are bare and simply bleak. In “The Father, Unblinking,” a man finds his daughter dead of fever and secretly buries her in a corner of the barn. “You seen your little lullaby?” his wife asks. “I haen’t seen her,” he lies, and runs off searching for a shovel. Some are cruelly comic, like “Killing Cats,” about a chirpy couple who enlist the sublimely passive narrator’s help in disposing of their pets: When the husband “saw the cats climb up there to lick the plates, he wanted to ‘blow their furry bodies right off the table.’ He had wanted to ‘blast the cats away’ for quite some time, he said, Checkers most of all, he said, but Oreo and Champ were no exception.” Or “The Boly Stories”—three tales of murderous rural cretins, relayed in an almost slapstick vernacular (“Boly looked up and got a spatter of blood eyewise. He woped the eye clean and seed other blood red-spatter down on the leaves around him and on him too.”), like Cormac McCarthy’s Appalachian novels perversely bred with a Donald Barthelme yarn and fed raw to Gordon Lish.
'Some of the stories are simply creepy. “Having sewn Jarry’s eyelids shut, Hébé found himself at a loss as to how to proceed,” begins one, which doesn’t go much further than that. Others are creepily religious, like the title story, which begins, “After I had killed Altmann, I stood near Altmann’s corpse watching the steam of the mud rising around it, obscuring what had once been Altmann. Horst was whispering to me. ‘You must eat his tongue. If you eat his tongue, it will make you wise,’” and, its final sentence reveals, is narrated by a vulture, or an angel, or perhaps a winged demon. The starkly minimalist “After Omaha” depicts a scene from a war between men and angels (or maybe vultures, or winged demons): The protagonists hang bacon from the trees, cut the lights, and crouch in wait “for the dull flapping of heavy holy wings.” Three interconnected stories portray, in gore-stained Borgesian allegory, the inhabitants of a lone fortress who declare themselves under siege, and commence to devour one another. Another lightheartedly depicts the travails of Bone Job, a skeletal sort—“He ate rot and tree mold, shat grubs and maggots. He swabbed the insides of his ribs clean with handfuls of grass. Masticated mint leaves worked miracles for his breath”—as he wanders in search of God and a coveted Redline axe.
'In response to his accusers at Brigham Young, Evenson declared his work to be in fact “uncompromisingly moral.” Altmann’s Tongue, he wrote at the time in a thirteen-page apologia, was an attempt “to paint violence in its true colors and to let it reveal for itself how terrible it is.” The stories offer, he wrote, “a violence that cannot be enjoyed—in response to the kind of glamorization of violence that television and movies provide.” It’s no surprise, really, that his attackers were unconvinced. If their analysis (bad literary images = bad man) lacked sophistication, Evenson’s seemed disingenuous. Certainly he does portray violence shorn of all context—ideological, religious, or even narrative that might render it meaningful, and in doing so bares its full horror. And while perhaps only a deeply moral individual could be capable of creating—or even recognizing—a world so fully stripped of moral content, there is far too much humor in these stories, too much aesthetic delight in the syntax of even the most gruesome episodes, for Evenson to pass himself off as a simple pedant.
'A few years later, in an interview with Story Quarterly, Evenson gave a more interesting account of his work. “My stories have little explicit reference to my belief system or to any belief system that might save the characters from the immediacy of their existence,” he said. “Religion and morality, if present at all, are present in the reader’s recognition of their absence.” This of course still leaves plenty of room for didacticism, but it wasn’t Sunday-school homiletics that Evenson was after. “The religion my fiction offers, which is a religion of the collapse of the ethical will, is hopeless from the start: It will convert nobody.” That, however, is the point, or a good part of it. “Good writing unsettles,” Evenson said. “It causes rifts and gaps in belief which make belief more complex and more textured, more real.”
'It is hard not to see Evenson’s work in part as rebellion, as an attempt to cleave some rifts in the unrelenting cheeriness of contemporary Mormonism, a culture of firm handshakes and toothy smiles stretched hopefully over a bloody and painful history. That history, of course, is no more or less violent (or beset by excesses of kitsch-induced optimism) than that of the American West, which provides the setting for much of Evenson’s fiction. The unending barrenness of the Western deserts—in which blood evaporates as quickly as water and corpses surrender themselves swiftly to sun, buzzards, and sand, in which the forces of nature are neither kind nor gentle and God, if deemed present at all, can be discovered only through the manifest evidence of his cruelty—provides a convenient metaphoric backdrop, the vicious sun chasing all comfort of shade from even the dark night of the soul.' -- Ben Ehrenreich, The Believer
Brian Evenson Website
BE @ goodreads
'The Bad Mormon'
BE interviewed @ Bookslut
'Brian Evenson: an introduction'
'CONFRONTING THE MURMUR IN BRIAN EVENSON’S LAST DAYS'
'Younger', by Brian Evenson
BE interviewed @ Tin House
'Brian Evenson ou la raison du plus fou'
BE @ Granta
'Laureate of Violence'
'Brian Evenson on Ed the Happy Clown'
'How Brian Evenson upends the Conventions of Fiction'
'Brian Evenson on Samuel Beckett’s Molloy'
Podcast: BE on The Bat Segundo Show
'What It Would Be Like to Fall'
'Insistence on Making Something New'
'Brian Evenson: Strange (But Never Gratuitous)'
'Brian Evenson on the Imperatives of the Modern Horror Film'
Buy 'A Collapse of Horses'
&Now Conference: Brian Evenson, 10/16/09
Brian Evenson Reading @ The Center for Fiction
Brian Evenson- UHV/ABR Reading Series
Reading Brian Evenson to my 4 year old
Michael Miller: I had a hall-of-mirrors moment when I read the final story of your new book, because it replicates the book’s first story, but at a slant—both of them feature two characters, on horseback, seemingly on a postapocalyptic frontier. One of the characters is bleeding, and disappears, and then returns in a very menacing way. But the stories also contradict one another—the characters have different names, for starters. They overlap, but they also clash. It’s almost as if one story is a dream within the dream described in another story. It’s very different from, say, John Barth’s Lost in the Funhouse, but there is a kind of baffling narrative circuitry there.
Brian Evenson: Yeah, that’s something I do a lot in my work, and as you say, in a very different way from Barth—if it’s metafiction, it’s a much gentler and less insistent kind of metafiction, although “gentle” is the wrong word because of the kind of stories they are. I feel that with the first and the last stories having those echoes, the effect is to make you feel that you have these two realities that seem like they may be meshed, or one may be a product of the other, and it’s impossible to really sort out which is more real. I hope it’s something that eats away at you as a reader.
MM: It does. There’s a sense that information becomes contaminated as it moves along. In “The Report,” a man in solitary confinement hears what he thinks is a message tapped out in the cell that he thinks is next to his. He taps it out himself, and hopes that the message will make its way through the entire prison and return to him. The funny thing is that he doesn’t know what the message is, or if it’s a message at all.
BE: It’s like a prison version of the game “telephone,” with the difference being that you don’t know if someone is actually whispering something to start it off. There’s a lot of uncertainty in that story. He’s obsessed with the report that he was required to submit to the authorities, and he’s obsessed with why and if that report led to his imprisonment. What did he do wrong? There is this sense, especially in that piece, that communication is a little bit incomprehensible, that you don’t know what exactly you’ve communicated to someone. But even in this confusion, whatever it is he’s communicated or miscommunicated still has serious consequences.
MM: There’s uncertainty throughout the book. In the title story, the narrator has three kids or four kids—it seems to depend on the day. His house seems to be constantly changing shape. He’s very confused about what’s real. Would you say that your stories rely on a dominant version of reality? Or is it more of a blending or coexistence of various realities?
BE: I think it’s more a coexistence, and it’s a very uncomfortable coexistence. I think, as humans, we like to feel like there are certain things that are stable, that we can hold on to, that are real. That story is about someone who has these basic things that he no longer can trust—his intense mistrust of his house, the fact that his children seem to be one day three and another day four. And so for him, there’s this kind of panic—he thinks that he has to do something to force reality to be what it needs to be, to hold still and behave. And of course that doesn’t work for him. I don’t really think that in these stories one version of reality is real and the others are not. I’m interested in the way in which one “reality” can compromise another. I go for intense ambiguity, where you just don’t know what the stable ground is.
MM: Like the story “Dust”—Orvar, the protagonist and the head of security on a space station, is trying, and failing, to figure out who is murdering everyone. All of which is complicated by the fact that they might be running out of oxygen, and they might be hallucinating. Also, there’s the mysterious dust that’s accumulating—maybe, they wonder, it’s controlling their minds...
BE: Are we running out of oxygen or are we not? Am I paranoid or is there something that’s in the air that’s doing something to me? He can’t really decide on these basic questions. And the reasoning he builds is so contingent that it’s hard to know exactly what the truth is. Orvar even thinks of one character as being another character for quite a while; he’s told he’s wrong, but even then he has to think of this character as the guy who isn’t the person he thought he was. So there are these moments where characters have to backtrack or sort things out again, but they still try, desperately, to make some sense of the world. What other choice is there?
MM: A lot of your stories are very isolated, set in jails, in space stations, on cult compounds. The confined settings feel very controlled, but then that sense slips away, and it’s hard to pinpoint just when things go awry. It feels like the transitions are evoked not just with direct statements and concrete description but also through tone.
BE: You, as a reader, don’t really know what’s happening until it’s quite a bit too late, which is the case for the characters as well. There are a lot of palpable details in the stories, so that you get the sense of solidity or stability. When that’s taken away there’s more of an impact. Even then, there are still things you can hold on to, there are a lot of details about bodies, some of them gruesome, there are a lot of details in terms of the physical space and the way the space is built, and there are a lot of claustrophobic details in the way that things are laid out.
MM: There’s a lot of bodily harm in these stories. One character says to another, “It’s just a story. A story can’t hurt.” But it’s pretty clear that stories can inflict pain in your work.
BE: Yeah, I think that’s true. [Laughs]
MM: The new book is coming out at the same time as new editions of three of your older novels, with introductions by Samuel R. Delany, Matt Bell, and Peter Straub. Did this give you an opportunity to see how your fiction has changed over the years?
BE: The oldest book is Father of Lies, which was ’98, and I hadn't looked at it for probably ten years, maybe a little longer than that. There’s a funny thing that happens where if you’ve written something and enough time has gone by, you start to remember it in a different way. It was very strange to read back over that and to both know it and not know it at the same time. Last Days is a little more recent, 2009, but you know that’s the book that has the most bodily harm, and it’s the most manic, a personal favorite. The Open Curtain, which came in between, is a little more sober. I think that’s the book that really teaches people how to read my fiction.
MM: Why is that?
BE: Because for a good part of it, it feels like a realistic novel. I think it kind of brings you into a realistic world, and then takes that world apart. It spends its first section building up the world pretty solidly, and then in the second section you start to see cracks opening in it, but it’s really not until the final section that you’re suddenly in a very different space. It’s a little more slowly done than in some of my stories. Ultimately, I think it’s a pretty disturbing book, but I also think it’s a little bit like getting into a warm bath and then having the temperature gradually increased to boiling.
MM: Before Last Days even starts, the main character, a detective named Kline, has had his hand cut off by an intruder. On the first page he’s invited, menacingly, to solve a murder at a Christian sect that valorizes amputations, based on a line from the New Testament. It really hits the ground running.
BE: I like Last Days a lot, but it’s very madcap. It is a reflection on what it means to be human, I think, and to what degree we do or don’t lose our humanity according to our actions. But it’s a very weird way of going about talking about those things.
MM: In the afterword to The Open Curtain, you talk about leaving the Mormon church, which you had been a part of all your life. Did leaving have an effect on your writing?
BE: You know, I think it has. All three of those novels have an interest in religion. Father of Lies is the most aggressive about it, and it is a fairly straightforward critique of religious authority—it was written when I was preparing to leave Mormonism. The Open Curtain is about a murder committed by a Mormon, but it ends up being about something a lot broader than that: the relation of madness and culture, I guess. And Last Days, the religion there is not really an identifiable religion—it ends up being more about community, and how communities come together. That book was strange to write because I became very sympathetic to the religious groups in it, to the Mutilates. These religions that really focus on one line from the Bible become very eccentric and very interesting.
MM: I heard that you’re teaching a class on horror fiction in Transylvania this summer. That’s interesting. Do you identify as a horror writer?
BE: I do and I don’t. I see why people position me that way. I guess I’m somewhere between literature and horror, happily straddling both.
Coffee House Press
'With minimalist literary horror, Brian Evenson’s stories work a nightmare axis of doubt, paranoia, and every day life.
'A stuffed bear’s heart beats with the rhythm of a dead baby, Reno keeps receding to the east no matter how far you drive, and in a mine on another planet, the dust won’t stop seeping in. In these stories, Evenson unsettles us with the everyday and the extraordinary—the terror of living with the knowledge of all we cannot know.' -- Coffee House Press
from The American Reader
A Collapse of Horses
I am certain nobody in my family survived. I am certain they burned, that their faces blackened and bubbled, just as did my own. But in their case they did not recover, but perished. You are not one of them, you cannot be, for if you were you would be dead. Why you choose to pretend to be, and what you hope to gain from it: this is what interests me.
Now it is your turn to listen to me, to listen to my proofs, though I know you will not be convinced. Imagine this: walking through the countryside one day you come across a paddock. Lying there on their sides, in the dust, unnaturally still, are four horses. All four are prone, with no horses standing. They do not breathe and do not, as far as you can see, move. They are, to all appearances, dead. And yet, on the edge of the paddock, not twenty yards distant, a man fills their trough with water. Are the horses alive and appearances deceptive? Has the man simply not yet turned to see that the horses are dead? Or has he been so shaken by what he has seen that he doesn’t know what to do but proceed as if nothing has happened?
If you turn and walk hurriedly on, leaving before anything decisive happens, what do the horses become for you? They remain both alive and dead, which makes them not quite alive, nor quite dead.
And what, in turn, carrying that paradoxical knowledge in your head, does that make you?
I do not think of myself as special, as anything but ordinary. I completed a degree at a third-tier university housed in the town where I grew up. I graduated safely ensconced in the middle of my class. I found passable employment in the same town. I met a woman, married her, had children with her—three or perhaps four, there is some disagreement on that score—and then the two of us fell gradually and gently out of love.
Then came an incident at work, an accident, a so-called freak one. It left me with a broken skull and, for a short time, a certain amount of confusion. I awoke in an unfamiliar place to find myself strapped down. It seemed to me—I will admit this too—it seemed for some time, hours at least, perhaps even days, that I was not in a hospital at all, but in a mental facility.
But my wife, faithful and everpresent, slowly soothed me into a different understanding of my circumstances. My limbs, she insisted, were restrained simply because I had been delirious. Now that I no longer was, the straps could be loosened. Not quite yet, but soon. There was nothing to worry about. I just had to calm down. Soon, everything would return to normal.
In some ways, I suppose everything did. Or at least tried to. After the accident, I received some minor compensation from my employer, and was sent out to pasture. Such was the situation. Myself, my wife, my children, at the beginning of a hot and sweltering summer, crammed in the house together with nowhere to go.
I would awaken each day to find the house different from how it had been the day before. A door was in the wrong place, a window had stretched a few inches longer than it had been when I had gone to bed the night before, the light switch, I was certain, had been forced half an inch to the right. Always just a small thing, almost nothing at all, just enough for me to notice.
In the beginning, I tried to point these changes out to my wife. She seemed puzzled at first, and then she became somewhat evasive in her responses. For a time, part of me believed her responsible: perhaps she had developed some deft technique for quickly changing and modifying the house. But another part of me felt certain, or nearly so, that this was impossible. And as time went on, my wife’s evasiveness took on a certain wariness, even fear. This convinced me that not only was she not changing the house, but that daily her mind simply adjusted to the changed world and dubbed it the same. She literally could not see the differences I saw.
Just as she could not see that sometimes we had three children and sometimes four. No, she could only ever see three. Or perhaps four. To be honest, I don’t remember how many she saw. But the point was, as long as we were in the house there were sometimes three children and sometimes four. But that was due to the idiosyncrasies of the house as well. I would not know how many children there would be until I went from room to room. Sometimes the room at the end of the hall was narrow and had one bed in it, other times it had grown large in the night and had two. I would count the number of beds each morning when I woke up and sometimes there would be three, sometimes four. From there, I could extrapolate how many children I had, and I found this a more reliable method than trying to count the children themselves. I would never know how much of a father I was until I counted beds.
I could not discuss this with my wife. When I tried to lay out my proofs for her, she thought I was joking. Quickly, however, she decided it was an indication of a troubled mental state, and insisted I seek treatment—which under duress I did. To little avail. The only thing the treatment convinced me of was that there were certain things that one shouldn’t say even to one’s spouse, things that they are just not ready—and may never be ready—to hear.
My children were not ready for it either. The few times I tried to fulfill my duties as a father and sit them down to tell them the sobering truth, that sometimes one of them didn’t exist, unless it was that sometimes one of them existed twice, I got nowhere. Or less than nowhere: confusion, tears, panic. And, after they reported back to my wife, more threats of treatment.
What, then, was the truth of the situation? Why was I the only one who could see the house changing? What were my obligations to my family in terms of helping them see and understand? How was I to help them if they did not desire to be helped?
Being a sensible man, a part of me couldn’t help but wonder if what I was experiencing had any relation to reality at all. Perhaps there was something wrong with me. Perhaps, I tried to believe, the accident had changed me. I did try my level best, or nearly so, to see things their way. I tried to ignore the lurch reality took each morning, the way the house was not exactly the house it had been the night before, as if someone had moved us to a similar but not quite identical house as we slept. Perhaps they had. I tried to believe that I had three, not four, children. And when that did not work, that I had four, not three, children. And when that didn’t work, that there was no correlation between children and beds, to turn a blind eye to that room at the end of the hall and the way it kept expanding out or collapsing in like a lung. But nothing seemed to work. I could not believe.
Perhaps if we moved, things would be different. Perhaps the house was, in some manner or other, alive. Or haunted maybe. Or just wrong. But when I raised the idea of moving with my wife, she coughed out a strange barking laugh before enumerating all the reasons this was a bad idea. There was no money and little prospect of any coming in now that I’d had my accident and lost my job. We’d bought the house recently enough that we would take a substantial loss if we sold it. We simply could not afford to move. And besides, what was wrong with the house? It was a perfectly good house.
How could I argue with this? From her perspective of course she was right, there was no reason to leave. For her there was nothing wrong with the house—how could there be? Houses don’t change on their own, she told me indignantly: this was not something that reason could allow.
But for me that was exactly the problem. The house, for reasons I didn’t understand, wasn’t acting like a house.
I spent days thinking, mulling over what to do. To get away from the house, I wandered alone in the countryside. If I walked long enough, I could return home sufficiently exhausted to sleep rather than spending much of the night on watch, trying to capture the moment when parts of the house changed. For a long time I thought that might be enough. That if I spent as little time in the house as possible and returned only when exhausted, I could bring myself not to think about how unsound the house was. That I would wake up sufficiently hazy to no longer care what was where and how it differed from before.
That might have gone on for a long time—even forever or the equivalent. But then in my walks I stumbled upon, or perhaps was led to, something. It was a paddock. I saw horses lying in the dirt, seemingly dead. They couldn’t be dead, could they? I looked to see if I could tell if they were breathing and found I could not. I could not say honestly if they were dead or alive, and I still cannot say. I noticed a man on the far side of the paddock filling their trough with water, facing away from them, and wondered if he had seen the horses behind him, and if not, when he turned, whether he would be as unsettled as I. Would he approach them and determine they were dead, or would his approach startle them to life? Or had he seen them dead already and had his mind been unable to take it in?
For a moment I waited. But at the time, in the moment, there seemed something more terrible to me about the idea of knowing for certain that the horses were dead than there was about not knowing whether they were dead or alive. And so I hastily left, not realizing that to escape a moment of potential discomfort I was leaving them forever in my head as not quite dead but, in another sense, nearly alive. That to leave as I had was to assume the place of the man beside the trough, but without ever being able to turn and learn the truth.
In the days that followed, that image haunted me. I turned it over, scrutinized it, peered at every facet of it, trying to see if there was something I had missed, if there was a clue that would sway me toward believing the horses were alive or believing they were dead. If there was a clue to reveal to me that the man beside the trough knew more than I had believed. To no avail. The problem remained insolubly balanced. If I went back, I couldn’t help asking myself, would anything have changed? Would the horses still, even now, be lying there? If they were, would they have begun to decay in a way that would prove them dead? Or would they be exactly as I had last seen them, including the man still filling the trough? What a terrifying thought.
Since I’d stumbled upon the paddock, I didn’t know exactly where it was. Every walk I went on, even every step I took away from the house, I risked stumbling onto it again. I began walking slower, stopping frequently, scrutinizing my surroundings and shying away from any area that might remotely harbor a paddock. But after a while I deemed even that insufficiently safe, and I found myself hardly able to leave the house.
And yet with the house always changing, I couldn’t remain there either. There was, I gradually realized, a simple choice: either I would have to steel myself and return and confront the horses or I would have to confront the house.
Either horse or house, either house or horse—but what sort of choice was that really? The words were hardly different, pronounced more or less the same, with one letter only having accidentally been dialed up too high or too low in the alphabet. No, I came to feel, by going out to avoid the house and finding the horses I had, in a manner of speaking, simply found again the house. It was, it must be, that the prone horses were there for me, to teach a lesson to me, that they were meant to tell me something about their near namesake, the house.
The devastation of that scene, the collapse of the horses, gnawed on me. It was telling me something. Something I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear.
At first, part of me resisted the idea. No, I told myself, it was too extreme a step. Lives were at stake. The lives of my wife and of at least three children. The risks were too great.
But what was I to do? In my mind I kept seeing the collapsed horses and I felt my thoughts again churn over their state. Were they alive or were they dead? I kept imagining myself there at the trough, paralyzed, unable to turn and look, and it came to seem to me my perpetual condition. In my worst moments, it seemed the state not only of me but of the whole world, with all of us on the verge of turning around and finding the dead behind us. And from there, I slipped back to the house—which, like the horses, seemed in a sort of suspended state: I knew it was changing, that something strange was happening, I was sure of that at least, but I didn’t know how or what the changes meant, and I couldn’t make anyone else see them. When it came to the house, I tried to convince myself, I could see what others could not, but the rest of the world was like the man filling the horse trough, unable to see the fallen horses.
Thinking this naturally led me away from the idea of the house and back instead to the horses. What I should have done, I told myself, was to have thrown a rock. I should have stooped and scraped the dirt until my fingers closed around a stone, and then shied it at one of the horses, waiting either for the meaty thud of dead flesh or the shudder and annoyed whicker of a struck living horse. Not knowing is something you can only suspend yourself in for the briefest moment. No, even if what you have to face is horrible, is an inexplicably dead herd of horses, even an explicably dead family, it must be faced.
And so I turned away from the house and went back to look for the paddock, steeling myself for whatever I would find. I was ready, rock in hand. I would find out the truth about the horses, and I would accept it, no matter what it was.
Or at least I would have. But no matter how hard I looked, no matter how long I walked, I could not find the paddock. I walked for miles, days even. I took every road, known and unknown, but it simply wasn’t there.
Was something wrong with me? Had the paddock existed at all? I wondered.
Was it simply something my mind had invented to cope with the problem of the house?
House, horse—horse, house: almost the same word. For all intents and purposes, in this case, it was the same word. I would still throw a rock, so to speak, I told myself, but I would throw that so-called rock not at a horse, but at a house.
But still I hesitated, thinking, planning. Night after night I sat imagining coils of smoke writhing around me and then the rising of flames. In my head, I watched myself waiting patiently, calmly, until the flames were at just the right height, and then I began to call out to my family, awakening them, urging them to leave the house. In my head we unfurled sheets through windows and shimmied nimbly to safety. We reached safety every time. I saw our escape so many times in my head, rendered in just the same way, that I realized it would take the smallest effort on my part to jostle it out of the realm of imagination and into the real world. Then the house would be gone and could do me no more damage, and both myself and my family would be safe.
I am certain nobody in my family survived. I am certain they burned, that their I had had enough unpleasant interaction with those who desired to give me treatment since my accident, however, that I knew to take steps to protect myself. I would have to make the fire look like an accident. For this purpose, I took up smoking.
I planned carefully. I smoked for a few weeks, just long enough to accustom my wife and children to the idea. They didn’t care for it, but did not try to stop me. Since my accident, they had been shy of me, and rarely tried to stop me from doing anything.
Seemingly as a concession to my wife, I agreed not to smoke in the bedroom. I promised to smoke only outside the house. With the proviso that, if it was too cold to smoke outside I might do so downstairs, near an open window.
During the third, or perhaps fourth, week after I took up smoking, with my wife and children asleep, it was indeed too cold—or at least I judged that I could argue it to have been such if confronted after the fact. So I cracked open the window near the couch and prepared the images in my mind. I would, I told myself, allow my arm to droop, the tip of my cigarette to nudge against the fabric of the couch. And then I would allow first the couch and then the drapes to begin to smoke and catch fire. I would wait until the moment when, in my fantasies, I was myself standing and calling for my wife and children, and then I would do just that and all would be as I had envisioned. Soon my family and I would be safe, and the house would be destroyed.
Once that was done, I thought, perhaps I would find the paddock again as well, with the horses standing this time and clearly alive.
And yet, the fabric of the couch did not catch fire, instead only smoldering and stinking, and soon I pressed the cigarette in too deeply and it died. I found and lit another, and when the result was the same I gave up on both the couch and the cigarette.
I turned instead to matches and used them to ignite the drapes. As it turned out, these burned much better, going up all at once and lighting my hair and clothing along with them.
By the time I’d flailed about enough to extinguish my body, the whole room was aflame. Still, I continued with my plan. I tried to call to my wife and children but when I took a breath to do so, my lungs filled with smoke and, choking, I collapsed.
I do not know how I lived through the fire. Perhaps my wife dragged me out and then went back for the children and perished only then. When I awoke, I was here, unsure of how I had arrived. My face and body were badly burned, and the pain was excruciating. I asked about my family but the nurse dodged the question, shushed me and only told me I should sleep. This was how I knew my family was dead, that they had been lost in the fire, and that the nurse didn’t know how to tell me. My only consolation was that the house, too, the source of all our problems, had burnt to the ground.
For a time I was kept alone, drugged. How long, I cannot say. Perhaps days, perhaps weeks. Long enough in any case for my burns to slough and heal, for the skin grafts that I must surely have needed to take effect, for my hair to grow fully back. The doctors must have worked very hard on me, for I must admit that except to the most meticulous eye I look exactly as I had before the fire.
So, you see, I have the truth straight in my mind and it will not be easy to change. There is little point in you coming to me with these stories, little point in pretending once again that my house remains standing and was never touched by flame. Little point coming here pretending to be my wife, claiming that there was no fire, that you found me lying on the floor in the middle of our living room with my eyes staring fixedly into the air, seemingly unharmed.
No, I have accepted that I am the victim of a tragedy, one of my own design. I know that my family is gone, and though I do not yet understand why you would want to convince me that you are my wife, what you hope to gain, eventually I will. You will let something slip and the game will be over. At worst, you are deliberately trying to deceive me so as to gain something from me. But what? At best, someone has decided this might lessen the blow, that if I can be made to believe my family is not dead, or even just mostly dead and not quite alive, I might be convinced not to surrender to despair.
Trust me, whether you wish me good or ill, I do hope you succeed. I would like to be convinced, I truly would. I would love to open my eyes and suddenly see my family surrounding me, safe and sound. I would even tolerate the fact that the house is still standing, that unfinished business remains between it and myself, that somewhere horses still lie collapsed and waiting to be either alive or dead, that we will all in some senses remain like the man at the trough with our backs turned. I understand what I might have to gain from it, but you, I still do not understand.
But do your worst: disrupt my certainty, try to fool me, make me believe. Get me to believe there is nothing dead behind me. If you can make that happen, I think we both agree, then anything is possible.
p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Yeah, the Catholic group here is very determined and moneyed up, but they can't do all that much. The films they're going after can't be banned in France. 'Ban' is the wrong word. Basically, they challenge a film's rating. In France, even the more explicit films are rated for '16 and over'. What the group does is somehow convince a judge that a bunch of 16 year old Catholic boys are being traumatized by a film. The judge then invalidates the 'over 16' rating, forcing the film's distributor to change the rating to 'over 18', which takes weeks or a couple of months, tops, and then the film is 'back' with the new rating. And they basically only go after films that have long since had their theater runs like 'Antichrist' and 'Blue is the Warmest Color'. So, it's all very pointless and basically just a publicity move, and the films are never actually banned. Their crusade is just a ridiculous waste of time and money, ultimately. ** Dóra Grőber, Hi. Oh, yes, do check out Paris at some point. I'd be happy to meet and steer you towards interesting things, if you like. Thank you a lot about the gif piece. How's your writing and everything else going? Have a lovely Friday. ** Schlix, Hi, Uli! Good to see you, bud. Oh, wow, cool that my gif thing got soundtracked by Pan Sonic. I'm going to try that experiment myself. That's great you went to Strasbourg to see 'I Apologize'. It's the first time that piece has performed in a long time. It's weird 'cos that was our first work made when I had just met Gisele and didn't know her well at all. I think of it as being a really innocent piece in that sense. There's a new cast member in the piece who I haven't seen yet. Anyway, thank you going to the effort to see it. I would be curious to hear what you thought, if you feel like it. ** Tosh Berman, Hi, Tosh. Well, me too. I've lived here for a decade, and I'm still really romantic about Paris, which is I guess why I'm curious to read about Paris in a non-romanticized way, to try to see it like 'actual' Parisians do. ** Sypha, I do remember your intended Warhol novel, yes, of course. Maybe that sketch you made is a work in and of itself? It sounds very interesting. ** S, Ah, new video! Everyone, the maestro of things aka S. has made and made available a new short video called 'Train Kept A'Rollin', which I'm going to decide is named after the Yardbirds version of that song rather than the better known Aerosmith version, and go watch, it. Cool, thanks, about the post. Wow, you're even more romantic about Paris than I am. That's cool. I would say the Marais is a better place to stay. Access-wise. Lacan definitely seems really intense. Or his drastic effect on people I know who read him is. Kind of scary. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. Yeah, right? They almost kind of turn typewriters into beat boxes or something. Good, cool, re: your love for Derek's book. Absolutely! Monday! Wow, that would be excellent! ** Pascal, Hi, P. Mm, Eric Rohmer. I love me some Eric Rohmer. Which film(s)? Really early Fassbinder ... like 'Chinese Roulette' and that era or even earlier? Thank you about the speeches. xx, me. ** Chilly Jay Chill, Thanks, man. The only other films I've seen lately were on my long plane flights. Let me see if I can remember. 'Fantastic Four', the second 'Avengers' film finally, 'Bridge of Spies', 'Mr. Holmes', 'Room' (how in the world is that rote, predictable, cinematically nothing movie nominated for best picture?!?!), one of the 'Transporter' films, 'Spectre', 'Irrational Man', the second 'Maze Runners' movie, ... I forget what else. I have tentative plans to finally, finally see the new Malick this evening, which I hope will work out. Oh, and I put together an upcoming Peter Kubelka post, so I was watching his films again. You seen anything really good lately? I'm seeing Kiddiepunk today, so I will ask him. ** Kieran, Hi, K. Thanks a lot. Yeah, I was definitely thinking morse code with the flashlight one, to the point where I even looked up how morse code works and tried to make the gifs send a message by morse code, and they did, in fact, but, even if one went to the effort to figure that out and decode the 'speech', it wasn't very coherent, ha ha. Nice about knowing a slither more now. What a great way to put it. Slither: nice word. Thanks a bunch for the gig report. Okay, that sounds pretty good. I doesn't like it was mindblowing? Good enough. Awesome about observing that hug. Wow. I don't think I know Apostille. I'll start with the video link and get on their case. Thanks a lot, man! Have a splendid Friday! ** Steevee, Hi, Steve. I haven't seen 'Mysterious Object at Noon'. Interesting. I'll look for it. Really nice title, obviously. ** Misanthrope, Hi, G. Yeah, I was wandering around in exactly that kind of rain yesterday, and I will now double-up on my disliking decree. How hard did you hit those dream guys? Did you fly to London to escape prosecution, I guess I'm asking? 8-pt type! Oh, your poor thing. Hugs. ** Postitbreakup, Hi, Josh. Aw, thanks, my friend. I think he does. Ha ha, well, Zac is one of those people who is kind of a walking-talking gift, so him giving gifts is pretty easy. Have a good day, buddy. ** Okay. There's a new Brian Evenson book just coming out now, and I thought that was exciting enough to use the blog to help usher the thing into our earthly realm, and so I did, obviously. See you tomorrow.
Posted by Dennis Cooper at 12:02 AM
Thursday, February 4, 2016
p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. I've been wanting to re-watch 'La Reine Margot' ever since I made that post. ** Steevee, Hi, S. Did I? That's makes sense. I haven't read 'THE OTHER PARIS' yet. I want to, as I'm a big fan of Luc Sante's writing. As I think I might have mentioned here before, the book has received a fair amount of negative over here, i.e. that it perpetuates a lot of rose-colored, exoticizing cliches about Paris's backstory and romanticizes criminality and poverty in a shopworn way. But talk is talk, and I'm definitely interested to read the book. Yeah, I saw/read that about the Von Trier film getting banned. Those hard right Catholics are really trying to assert their crap vis-à-vis culture here of late, with bizarre success sometimes like this case. The ban thing won't last very long. It'll get overturned in a month or three. But still. ** S., Hi. Yeah, I hardly ever enjoy being in London overall, just in bits and pieces. Wow, some dream. It's amazing to me when people remember their dreams in detail like that. That's never happened to me. 'Strange bird'? Why not, yeah. It just sounds like you're attracted to hysterics maybe. It's the very rare 18 year-old I've ever known who could be described as that. Yeah, wow, I forget how psychological Lacan's thing is. I'm not really so interested in psychology, I guess. It has that generalizing problem big time that I really can't get with or stand. But what you wrote is super interesting, for way sure. ** Dóra Grőber, Hi, Dóra. Yeah, it's pretty important to have access to like-minds and comrades, I think, maybe especially for writers who are stuck albeit happily in solitary for the lengths that writing takes. It can be very helpful to be forced by isolation to write, but escapes when needed are pretty key. Paris is kind of good for me because I still don't understand French all that well, so, in a general way, I'm a stranger and outsider here, but I do have friends and collaborators. If I didn't have them, I couldn't take it. I was in Copenhagen once for a short time, and I really liked it. I think it's my favorite city in Scandinavia. And it seems like really interesting things are happening there culturally, certainly in music 'cos some of the best new bands and 'noise-makers are based there, and in the visual arts too. Anyway, yeah, I liked it quite a lot. So that seems like a very good place to investigate as a future home base. ** Kieran, Hi, Kieran! Great to see you! How have you been? Cool, great, that the Leduc post paid off. Yes, in fact I need to immediately sort out where Helm and Drew McDowell are playing here since I think the gig is very soon. I'm excited too, for McDowell, obviously, and I really like Helm too. Let me know how it was, if you don't mind? ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. There's some recent video game that's set in ancient-ish Paris that Zac was playing of late and whose title I forget but which he and others have said has a really meticulous, impressive, interactive recreation of Paris pre-Haussmann makeover that I really need to play. As you know, I truly and greatly loved 'The Well-Dressed Wound', so, of course, I hope you like it. And I hope the Art101 work goes very well. And that stint is exciting! ** Unknown/Pascal, Hey. Oh, thank you, re: sending the zine. Do I have your email address? I'll check, or send me a quick email, if you don't mind, and I'll shoot my street address back at you. You have a tumblr for you novel? Sweet. Hold on. It looks beautiful. Everyone, Pascal has a tumblr that is related to the novel he's working on, and, so, a kind of novel-related scrapbook. It's called Chapell Mansions, and I just had a peek at it, and it looks lustrous, so you should head over there because why in world not? We don't have a UK gig lined up for our film yet, but the powers-that-be and we are working on it. Yes, I made two gif poems for Zac, and they're collected in my second literary gif book 'Zac's Control Panel', and you can get it by clicking on the icon for the book on this page and then downloading the book for free. And I hope you will because it's one of my favorite things I've ever made, actually. Thanks for asking. My novel is still awaiting me, but with increasingly bated breath. ** Chilly Jay Chill, Hi, Jeff! Yep, I'm back. Mm, we moved around a fair amount. We were in Melbourne the longest, but in two shortish pieces. I didn't take so many photos. Zac did, and I'll see if I can pry some from him. I loved Cemetery of Splendor'. It's up there with his really best ones, I think. Has it not opened in the States yet? A project with Kiddiepunk? That's exciting! Wow, I'll try to pump him for details, or do preempt him and spill the poop, if you want. I saw that you got the Rivette box. Incredible. And, yes, weird timing. Such a huge loss. Great to see you! ** Misanthrope, Apparently I did do a Leduc post before, says Steevee, and I believe him. I generally really like rain except when it's in that merely drizzly, very cold state, which is kind of just annoying, and except when I'm traveling. It rained a ton in Hong Kong, and that tampered with its exploration. ** Sypha, Hi, James. It would be interesting if someone tried to recreate the sound of the Silver Factory without using any of the exciting recordings of the sound there, of which there seem to be many. But by just guessing and doing it like a Foley artist. That would be cool. ** Chris Dankland, Hi, Chris! Yes, I was really excited to see that you put out the book! And I'm excitedly awaiting the moment when I can start reading it, which should be, mm, tomorrow, I think. Yeah, let me ... Everyone, This is big. The extraordinary writer and d.l. Chris Dankland has finally released his very first book! It's called WEED MONKS, and it's a collection of stories, and I just scored it, and you can score it too for free or through 'naming (and paying) a fair price of your choice' by clicking this link. And you so should, as I surely don't need to even mention. Dank land seriously rocks, so get rocked! So long-waited and awesome! I've experienced, I think, two VR/occulus rift things. Interesting, tons of promise, obviously. Definite bugs still be worked out. It still really taxes and exhausts the eyes quickly. And, for me at least, it didn't ever become anything more transcendent than you wearing a cumbersome headset and looking at a cool trick. But that'll get sorted out, obviously. Thanks about 'SiH'. That Ryu Murakami interview got me in big trouble with his people. Well, not 'big', but they were very not into that interview. But that was exactly what it was like, I swear. My Thursday's good so far. There's a two-day symposium here on Eileen Myles's work that starts today, and I'm going to be there most of today and this evening. Should be interesting. Plus, I'll get to see Eileen, and she's awesome. Hope your Thursday nails it. ** Rewritedept, Oh, kind of. Sort of. Re: Belle, I mean. Adjani is/was skinnier and paler and a lot less friendly looking. Maybe you should try writing flash fiction. Maybe that would work better with your particular attention span? Oh, wow, thanks for all those kinds words, man. Thank you for holding up your end too! ** Thomas Moronic, Hi, T! That does sound like a busy week. Whoa, that job interview sounds serious. Obviously, I hope they're wise enough to recognize your perfection re: that gig. It sounds like a very labor intensive position. Would it be greatly more involving and time consuming than your current job? Hugely, crushingly crossed fingers, my pal. Let me/us know what happens, okay? Love, me. ** Okay. Do you feel like translating three untranslatable speeches? If so, today is your post. See you tomorrow.
Posted by Dennis Cooper at 12:15 AM