Thursday, December 28, 2006

Book Cover Superstars: Jeff Clark & Katy Homans

As we open the book on the new year, it is advisable to assess the table of contents and surmise which cover might be most appropriate for the 2006 volume. Perhaps a Dantaean circle of hell, closest to the depths? A dirigible capsizing in the air, smoke plumes streaming behind? One would be hard pressed to decide on a perfect vision of negation, futility, and perversion-- unless of course you had a fine year, all traumatic aspects of life considered. Choosing the designer would be far easier:
to my mind, the two best designers (choosing between them would be difficult, I now realize) are Quemadura (a.k.a. Jeff Clark), who does the lion's share of work for Flood Editions, a premier poetry imprint (,and Katy Homans, who does the majestic fronts for the New York Review of Books Classics series ( Each artist has led me to betray my purse and judge books with the superficial criterion of their sheen, skin, face. Not once have I been disappointed by the contents, outside or in.


Friday, December 22, 2006

In this Season of Too Many Contents

I am loath to recommend books without reservation, for reading forays are never really collective enterprises. The individual choice and the individuated voice of any book worth its weight in grain, salt, or gold are for the person within the person to decide. However, in this season, in this suffocating atmosphere of crass commercialism and Christian consumerism (buy your loved ones off with piddly products of mass production), I would recommend the recent translation of the first volume of Peter Weiss's proletarian bildungsroman, THE AESTHETICS OF RESISTANCE.
One of the most powerful books of contemporary German literature, this sprawling, sprited work is a novel masquerading as history masquerading as a novel as...
It is a fiction that surveys the lives and landscapes of German leftist radicals during the rise of thirties fascism. Weiss, who is best known for his play, MARAT/SADE, spent the last stage of his writing career on this opus. The working-class narrator discusses the various trials and terrors of his family's life under this fascist threat and the radical tradition that lead them, that bred them. The story, magnficently translated by Joachim Neugroschel, is splendid, experimental, and absolutely gripping. Here, we confront a materialist vision of history that, unlike the rampant materialism of consumerist society, shows how collective action, decision, indecision, contradiction, and conviction, can lead us to fight for a better world. It's published by Duke University Press with a solid preface by Frederic Jameson. Seek it out and stick it under your Christmas tree, capped by a portrait of Marx and not some effete, glass angel.


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Suburbia: not only Unbearable, but Unsustainable

James Howard Kunstler gets it right in his Alternet article ( where he says that petro-dependent suburbia is just about finished.

For me, suburbia was finished decades ago when I found out you couldn't distribute anti-war leaflets at the shopping mall because it wasn't really public space--just a private shopping kingdom where there was no Bill of Rights. That, and the traffic.

Kunstler's main point is that suburbs have nearly reached the end of their effective life due to the rise in oil prices. As it gets more expensive to drive, he says, then living sixty miles from where you work and ten miles from where you shop is going to seem like a dumb idea.

Personally, I have always thought it was a dumb idea because commuting seemed like a massive loss of control over your personal time. But now the facts are starting to pile up. Kunstler refers to an inevitable oil crisis that willl make suburbs obsolete.

I am less convinced that the market won't find new ways to keep people's Beemers running but I do believe modes of living can outlive their usefulness. I have always thought American suburbs represent some of the ugliest, most stultifying landscapes I have seen anywhere in the world. If they go the way of the buffalo, I won't miss them.

Which brings up another point: the Great Plains are being depopulated at an alarming rate. Buffalo are actually returning. Many cite a lack of cheap fuel and reductions in government subsidies. But that will be another post.


Saturday, December 16, 2006


I'd give anything to be lost in a foreign land.
Nirvana; to not understand
a single word of what was said around me,

instead of listening to every morning's chatter
about the weather, or rush hour eulogies
for TV doctors who died last night.

In my sweet land of Babel, all speech
is birdsong, Latin chanting ringing off cloister stones,
sound of the surf running up the shingle to my toes,

unlike my own hometown, full of words and alleged meanings,
where an old couple argues in the checkout line
and someone sits behind me on the train and recounts
an appendectomy entirely in curses and run-on sentences.

Does that sound mean-spirited? Please understand,
I love humanity, in the abstract.
And I'd love humanity even more
if I could stop running into it
at the bus stop, at the barber's, at the bar,
rabbiting on about nothing at all.

Let me stop you right there. I'm perfectly aware
that I've been overheard on my cellphone
holding forth on minor matters and major league
scores, or sharing only the most important details
of what the dog did last night, and someone, maybe you,
has listened in, and judged me, too.

It's simply this; once, on Broadway
a ragged man caught me by the sleeve
and leaned in too close, wheezing
"I can see that you, too, have heard the whipoorwhills
chuffling like mad balloons on the jungle-gym ruins
of long-gone imperial Mars."

Every morning, I tuck a folded dollar bill
into my pocket, hoping to see him again
and continue our conversation.

Mark Aiello

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Hanukkah Rocks!

Last night I performed at Mo Pitkin's in the East Village (NYC) in a variety-therapy show sponsored by HEEB Magazine. The event allowed malcontents like myself to air their problems and punctuate their psychological menaces with humor--and prose. HEEB is a magazine edited by my good friend, Josh Neuman, and dedicated to all that is Jewish, hip, and New York, among other subjects. Always a fine read, you can find it at any bookstore. I steal mine from the Barnes and Noble on Astor Place. jc

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

On the Occasion of the Death of Pinochet (Hooray!) and the Perpetual Life of Chile's Artists

"Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,
And the poetry he invented was easy to understand;
He knew human folly like the back of his hand
And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets."

W.H. Auden's poem, "Epitaph for a Tyrant," foretold Augusto Pinochet's reign of terror moreso than it alludes accurately to Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, the nominal triad of Fascist Terror that influenced the poem when it was written in early 1939. In fact, the subtle, duplicitous, and deadly force of Pinochet was often exacted as a murderous undercurrent with its state killings, assassinations, abductions, and torture largely hidden from view, despite the furious upheavals of the military coup on that terrible Tuesday, September 11, 1973. Auden's take on the tyrant captures the hidden, deliberate machinations and silent, sweeping brutality of the Chilean regime. In contrast to Pinochet, a whole generation of Chilean artists, writers, and musicians, including Victor Jara (murdered in the Estadio Chile days after the coup), Inti-Illimani, and Roberto Bolano, testified to the perfection of the imagination, the flexibility of mind and image that defies the rigidity and ruthlessness of fascist power, and the incalculable suffering at the hands of the state. To the silence of their victimizers, they sung testimonials that screamed for the legitimacy of justice and for the benevolent side of human creation. This generation of artists, like all of Pinochet's victims, should be heralded for their sacrifice and for their extraodinary contributions. Theirs was an art of witness and we should remember them. Roberto Bolano's DISTANT STAR, published by New Directions, mentioned in a previous post, is a good place to begin excavating this history and this generation of artists. "Per dura, ad Astra!" --curley

Friday, December 08, 2006

Spank Me Silly

Years ago, I braved Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49.  Hated it.  Not fictional dream.  Offering instead, an allusion to a dream.  I wasn't able to earn that Boy Scout badge so many wore like Shaft.  With the release of his new work, I decided to give the Goodwill copy another go.  Through page twenty, I thought I was wrong.  I wondered if I'd been sober for the amount of times I ranted and launched it across the room.  Suddenly, it appeared that Pynchonite in Portland with the William Gass Tunnel artwork tattooed to his forearm was justified in his exuberance.  The description of the used car dealer.  "Even if enough exposure to the unvarying gray sickness had somehow managed to immunize him, he could still never accept the way each owner, each shadow, filed in only to exchange a dented, malfunctioning version of himself for another, just as featurelesss, automotive projection of somebody else's life."  Holy God.  Beautiful stuff.  But as the narrative continues, I get lost.  It's The Simpsons.  It's a Mensa puzzle.  I've no doubt it is brilliant, for those people who love to chase down reflections of the world they already know.  Certainly more erudite, certainly more artful, but reading it I had that feeling I get when I'm sitting in a bar and somebody begins to defend Buffy the Vampire Slayer for its subversiveness.  Far from our Pound, whatever that might mean.  Silly.  Naughty.  Simply.  An emasculated Easter egg hunt.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Pin and the Sewn

Just got back from the opening of the "Burgeoning Geometries" show at the Whitney on 42nd. I was struck most by Tara Donovan's cube made of straight pins that glistened. In that light it had a spiritual quality--made you realize that light was filling the space, coming from everywhere and touching everything at once.

It brought to mind Eva Hesse, Donald Judd and Kandinsky, who said the square is the only form not found in nature and therefore the only geometric shape that's man made, an idea. Using straight pins, Donovan addresses both the power of the square as man-made idea capable of conveying spirituality, and how we hold things together temporarily.

Hold together temporarily, and also wound. I thought of my childhood in Colombia. My mother had an obsession with sewing new outfits for us for every Sunday. Think "The Butcher Boy", but instead of the mother making cakes, she's sewing ugly dresses that smelled like new cloth and were never ironed properly. We were three girls, and she'd never quite finish any outfit she made for us. We were forced to squeeze in and out of them because there was never enough time for button holes. Sealed openings with buttons sewed on top, a most inconvenient illusion that I now recognize. Some of the pins that held the dresses together were never removed, we made these painful discoveries when nothing could be done about them.

Donovan's "Untitled (Pins)" with its claustrophobic straight pins so painstakingly fitted together, like humans in crowded cities and cluttered minds, was really striking. It revealed a little bit of everything at once, just enough to feel light again. I fought the day's gravity with the elevating power of her work. Some pins had fallen off, were scattered on the floor, so I gently pushed them toward the cube with my foot. The other pieces in the gallery looked contrived, tiresome, like someone working hard at having fun. Her work was a wonderful surprise, like a warm soft sunrise when the forecast was rain.

--Luchy Edwards

Samuel Menashe Reading and Book Party!

Dear All,
Mark your calendars: Samuel Menashe, the supreme New York-based poet, is giving a reading at the Bowery Poetry Club (308 Bowery betw. Houston & Bleeker) on Sunday, December 17 at 6PM. The event is free tho' the experience is worth more than a Manhattan high-rise, haiku, or any other hi- and low-jinks. Please come out to celebrate the publication of his NEW AND SELECTED POEMS, published by the Library of America and winner of the Neglected Masters Award. Menashe's reading will rivet and rend you, and also revise your idea of a poetry reading. He is a living legend and the only author put out by Library of America who can sign copies of his books (folks like Poe, James, Dickinson, and Faulkner decided to throw in the mortal towel). Come on down for what will be a truly exceptional evening. Bob Holman, the venerable proprietor of said club, is also reading; his new volume, A COUPLE OF WAYS OF DOING SOMETHING, is published by Aperture. Come on down; you will not be turned down but you will be turned around. And around. Bravo maestro! jc

As Winter At Last Descends

We were taunted by a few balmy days in late November, then winter cracked the whip: now its 34 degrees and no more time off for good (or bad) behavior.

I was visiting some friends in sunny Southern California: smart, literate, people more common in that part of the world than we in the blustery Northeast want to credit. And lo it was warm and dry and there were lemon trees and eucalyptus.

Okay, you have to drive if you live  there. And they might have an earthquake. But if you stop pretending everybody there is dumber than everybody here (it just ain't so), then why, exactly don't we all just go there? It is no fooling to say the weather makes you feel better. Or is that too damn shallow?

Of course it is. But when the wind gets down inside your collar and you're looking at the soggy boots of the person going up the staircase before you on the subway, you might consider getting all shallow in that sun they've got in the land of Schwarzenegger.


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Monday, December 04, 2006

The Gang Was All There! Hail, the Indies!

This weekend I attended the Nineteenth Independent and Small Press Book Fair. Housed in the Small Press Center in mid-town Manhattan, the Fair was more like a Festival. The spirit of congeniality and mutuality, the trade talk that deflected itself from profit for more creative issues, the vast array of personalities-- all bibliophiles & bibliophages but all with their "independent" sensibilities intact--greatly impressed me and my Tempest Press cohort, Luchy Edwards.

On Sunday, Johnny Temple of Brooklyn's divine publishing imprint, Akashic (, introduced a question and answer session with Amiri Baraka, who just published a collection of short stories with Akashic, TALES OF THE OUT AND GONE), and Colin Channer, another Akashic author (HOW TO BEAT A CHILD THE RIGHT AND PROPER WAY). It was an amazing encounter/session. Baraka still radiates as the arch polemi-lyricist of our time and he possesses the finely scuplted mind of the culturally and politically engaged artist he has always been. Hail, hail, the organizers and participants of this fine, fun fair! jc

Saturday, December 02, 2006

"Sendero Luminoso": A Night for New Directions

On Tuesday night, December 5th at 7:30, New Directions, the perennially perfect book publisher, will host an evening of anniversary. New York's most venerable literary institution will be celebrating its seventieth birthday and the publication of its founder James Laughlin's memoir, THE WAY IT WASN'T: FROM THE FILES OF JAMES LAUGHLIN. Tickets for the event are $10 or $7, if your a Poetry Society of America member. A whole slew of stalwarts will be reading, including Susan Howe and Eliot Weinberger, and you'd be paying more for a movie in Manhattan. The celebration takes place at the Tishman Auditorium of the New School, 66 W. 12th St. between 5th and 6th Avenues. Enjoy! curley

Thursday, November 30, 2006

What Out There Should Be in Here? Your Picks

I am quite sure a few of you literarily avid, intellectually gravid readers cherish some splendid non-English-writing authors in the contemporary scene. As I posted a few weeks ago, we tend to disseminate the Anglo word far more than we embrace the non-English world. Who are some of the stalwarts you've come across elsewhere and in a different tongue that merit our attention and aren't yet published in English? No, you don't need to translate that special book, simply raise a toast to its recognition by mentioning it here. curley

Monday, November 27, 2006

Mea Culpa

By the way and, by and by, the last blog was by me, Curley. Sorry to be so harsh and seemingly anonymous. The view therein is my own and does not reflect any of the other bloggers on this site. But to be fair, I am always enthralled by interspecies collaboration. Therefore, I am quite pleased that heterogeneous members of the animal kingdom can lay down their differences and become friendly with one another. So when I see a police officer on horseback, I am grateful to see pigs on horses and there doesn't seem to be any tension. At least between them. Oink, neigh!

Know Your Rights

These days, I wouldn't be surprised if you thought that the title of this blog came from The Clash's 1982 song. Alas, an important non-fiction read is distributed for free in ACLU offices, a few schools and community centers, and at the library (where I got mine). The pamphlet, "Know Your Rights," discusses what your legal rights are as a citizen (or non-citizen, and I love them too) when confronted by law enforcement. Unfortunately, when one is dealing with such a blatanly racist and trigger-happy police force like the NYPD, even knowing your rights won't save you. I write this in light of the fatal shooting death of Sean Bell, twenty-three years old, murdered by undercover officers the day of what should have been his wedding. Excessive force? Perhaps, but not really. Why not? Because the term 'excessive' points to extremity whereas the NYPD's typical treatment of African Americans and other people of color is excessive and, therefore, the excess becomes normative. My rage at this execution is deep; so is my sadness for Sean Bell and his family. To keep this on the literary track, I will quote an excerpt of Amiri Baraka's "Black Art": "Assassin poems, Poems that shoot/guns. Poems that wrestle cops into alleys/and take their weapons leaving them dead/with tongues pulled out and sent to Ireland." Ah, literary license; ah, Ireland's GNP, so mighty it can afford to exploit predominantly Eastern European nationals. Perhaps some American cops too.

Right on!

Just finished reading Peniel Joseph's WAITING 'TILL THE MIDNIGHT HOUR: A NARRATIVE HISTORY OF BLACK POWER IN AMERICA. Dear readers, get your hands on this superb book. Joseph contextualizes the parallel movement of black power to the civil rights movement with a historian's exhaustiveness, a poet's pen, and perfect pitch. He undertakes a rigorous analysis and assessment which are even-handed and sympathetic to the myriad forms of ideology, practice, and personality that set the stage for a crucial aspect of the struggle for liberation in this country. If only all historiography was so adroitly penned. This is an exciting and instructive read; I hope it finds a wide readership. Moreover, I hope that readership looks back fondly at the kind of liberatory efforts that are now casually neglected or debased in the service of the moribund politics of this country in this moment. curley

message from Apocohipster Hashshashin terminally obsessively seeks?
souks,Hashchish dens o' inequity,
in wanderin' sands o' desert, twistin' dark sinister
alleys, wi'in terminal
emergency wards o' minds shattered by Robopathic
societus Control
Machine, in Mosques o' Ecstasy, in bombed out
cathedrals o' Church o'
Poisoned Mind, in esoteric texts blown down desolate
streets in these
wasteland Zones o' Planet Terror...what?...
one be quite aware it can't possibly be "identity"-for
too long one has been
Hip that that there delusion is yet another chain
wrapped around human
flesh by cretin meglomaniacs o' societus...
a "self"? a "soul"? ah,man,NO!!! don'GO there!!!
perhaps a turquoise tent o' sky lies as if a veil
above one's skull?
a piercin' orb o' sun sets one's flesh 'n' lusts
be there ever an oasis where one might even for a
moment rest?
must one's fate be damned t' this absurd bizarre quest
for unspeakable
unthinkable insatiable desires for unknown 'n'
unrealizable ???...
more than likely-yes!
I who have crawled out o' putrid womb o' a world
damned by its
mediocrity,banality, ennui,
hypocrisy,greed,self-destruct praxis...
precocious manchild delinquent, sinister
adolescent,Wild Boy maleslut
whore, demented exile from wars 'n' revolutions,
survivor o' Night's
adventures in drugs sex 'n' rock 'n' roll...
archaic authentic Hipster Vagabond spoutin' spoken
word rants
t' rats 'n' alleycats 'n' Punks 'n' Bikers 'n'
citizens fleein' horrors
they brought on themselves...
be there a soothe? a Coolthe? for any o' us?
I might be crazy but I ain't n'Fool! Man,like,I
wouldn' even begin t' attempt
t' try t' answer ANY question!
obviously there be NO answers!
indubitibly all one can hope for be
another quicksilver GypsyMoon t' illuminate one's
perhaps be blessed wi' caress o' other flesh
a break from this insidious bullshit "reality"!
draggin' oneself on
down these roads
vultures 'n' stormcrows circlin' one's skull
gallows beckonin' dare one make one stupid mistake
or guillotines
or Marines
or radioactive massive mushrooms
on horizon
soarin' at one
vampirizin' any vague hope o' tomorrow...

Hassan i Sabbah


PAUL BOWLES:"...Thus for a dedicated smoker,the
passage to the "other world" is
often a pilgrimage undertaken for the express purpose
of oracular consultation..."

Crescent Moon casts a sliver o' light
upon twistin' dark alleys
in labyrinthes o' NightSide
which Damned Embrace
upon ravaged Planet Terror
lunatic humanity spews forth
Mutant WildOne
chains 'n' spikes o' DADAPUNK
adorn heavy boots 'n' black leather rags
ANDROGYN-X Dervish O' Transgression
in terminal HEAT
longtongued 'n' obsessive LUST
boil wi'in his guts
flashfloods o' creativity
breakthru walls o' mind
fires burn t' ash
Robopathic slime o' Control Machine
embroyos dance in aquatic UFOs
"Mektoub,it be Written
'n' here I be!"
He hisses,like,King Cobra
muted hypnotic nuances
"I bring ya Anarchy! Sorcery!
Sensuality! Liberation!"

Hyenas devour icons
at Nightmare's Edge
maggots rats 'n' scorpions eat brainmeat
o' Robopathic cretins!
Babylon: Societus
Hell: "human" ekyisyence...

yet Tribes o' AModernist Vagabonds
Wild Tattooed 'n' Pierced
seminal Legacies
psyched on Haschisch 'n' lush
Kicks o' Flesh 'n' Altered Consciousness
Sinistre yet Possessed
by outraegeous tenderness
adversaries o' Death-eatin'
"pornographic" Rites in SOUKS
" Citizen be vile," says he
gigglin' hysterically
pukin' on "moral majorities"
'n' meglomaniac Robopathic creeds
he sprays mobs wi' bitter tears
o' Refugees
citizens melt like plastic
turn into naughahyde trees...

"MAN, yr " God" might as well be Dead!
Goddess Moon 'n' Horned God Rule!"
Underground ejaculates
Renegade 'n' Intrepid ApocoHipster Hashshashin Dervish
Vagabond Tribe:Collaboricide!!!
into this grotesque
soap opera sitcom "REAL TV"
they call "life"
insane sudden silence
horrified anticipation
masses o' Virus lurkin'
cravin' t' unleash their Plagues
cockroaches readin'
media hieroglyphics
o' Robopathic shit!
they're intensely afraid o' Renegade
somethin' in his eyes
unveils all transgressive Rebels
since lucifer lilith 'n' Cain
some ApocoHipster sneer
on Horny Goat lips
evokes chills
some insurrection o' leather
vibes o' ultra terminal alienation
'n' he comes wi' insidious Chants
orgiastic AModern Dances
"I'll give ya "truth"!
Blow yr asses away
wi' DADAPUNK HASHSHASHIN Runes 'n' Sigils!
I be some kind o' Astral Partisan
stroke ya wi'
Seditionary Passions!"

O Renegade Changeling
from amoeba t' Fallen Angel Manifest
no "THE BOOK" hype be this!
O Cain 'n' Lilith Villon Baudelaire Rimbaud
Lautreamont Artaud Genet Gysin Bowles
Eberhardt Burroughs Hakim Bey
Kathy Acker Hassan i Sabbah
Transgressive Hashshashins anonymous!
Rebop! Arabesque BeBop!
N'way they can stop
this Renegade!
There'll never be any weapons made
can ultimately annihilate this Freak!

Do Come
follow clouds o' haschisch smoke
in Moon Crescent illuminated
terminal NightSide
sacrifice the Lie
thus be you Phoneix
prowl 'n' howl wi' Renegades
strip off layers o' shuck
expose Naked Lunch
o' authenticity
they call this all a dream?!
Renegade screams:
"O d'ya come be wi' me?
D'y'really Desire t' be Free?
C'mon, let's Dance
terminally depraved!
There's nothin' o' which t' be afraid...
initiate marvelous metamorphosis
from Robopath human
into Madjoub Dervish o' Transgression ApocoHipster
anticopywrite:Apocohipster Hashshashin-2004
AKA: Gypsy James O'Toole

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Milan Kundera Nude Pixxx

I love stories.  I love stories about evil monks and witches and submarines.  I love detective stories and comic books and when I see somebody on the golf course with a Jonathan Lethem novel or a Michael Chabron or an Everything Is Illuminated in their gloved hand, I hold up my arm and gyrate and scream "duck butter" because it's all so cool that you can drink coffee in stiff flannel while thumping your meat.  "Show it to me and pretend you're not a young professional."  I wonder why we don't have a hall of fame.  Because Philip Roth would be our Barry Bonds.  Or John Updike who is even better than To Kill a Mockingbird, and my high school English teacher had that tattooed around her goodies.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Hail and Thanksgiving for 4 Essays!

Ah, dear readers in the NYC area, you are fortunate sons and daughters this Black Friday. Lay aside your frenetic materialism and, one hopes, evanescent consumerism to pick up 4 Essays, a samizdat-pamphlet-newspaper-glory that carries the inimitable, iconic voices of American liberty, Eliza Anne Bonney, Henry William Brownejohns, Alexander Swartout, and Jonathan Ephrain Underhill. Do these essayists ring your liberty bell? If so, you were a febrile reader like myself of Three Weeks, one of the finest independent, subterranean compendia of scrawlings I've ever pored over and through. Or "perused," in the rococo, satirical language of the abovementioned scribes. Are these names pseudonyms? Not your business. In any case, the debut issue of 4 Essays is out with takes on the Pope, the President, the phenomenolgy of fear, and "banning things." Jonathan Swift is whistling laughter through his cranium in a Dublin cemetery at the presence of this new paper, that captures his spirit and yet maintains its unique spirit and vision. Writing this amusing and engaging is a must. Put down that shopping bag and scrounge around Greenpoint, Brooklyn to track this treasure down. You can also write for a copy: Four Essays P.O. Box 220191 Greenpoint, Brooklyn New York 11222. You can also send an e-mail plea to Enjoy! Curley

Monday, November 20, 2006

Bards and Bars

The other night, while drinking and discoursing in a neighborhood bar, an old woman came through the door and began to solicit for what seemed to be money. But no. She was a throwback to another era...not cadging coins or drinks merely. Like the bohemian bards of the old village scene (think Maxwell Bodenheim; wait, does anyone remember Max? He wrote a batch of stellar poems in the twenties and a fine memoir before his untimely death, MY LIFE AND LOVES IN GREENWICH VILLAGE), this woman was writing poems on the spot for cash. She asked me for a subject, scrawled a poem, and then gave it to me in exchange of two dollars. Was the poem worth two dollars (and vice versa)? I think so. Here it is in full.


Your entrance
restores all

Whose eyes
only beauty
are ever seeing

Whose touch
hope restores

to all
with freedoms

you call

The index card on which the poem was written also bears a signature. I
cannot decipher it confidently, but it looks like "Mickely."


Friday, November 17, 2006

Here Come the French!

Two new translations of stalwart French writers, Jacques Roubaud and Lydie Salvayre, will, yes, save your lives or allow you a kind of catharsis that rarely transpires. Rosemarie and Keith Waldrop have translated 150 poems of Roubaud in a volume entitled THE FORM OF A CITY CHANGES FASTER, ALAS, THAN THE HUMAN HEART. It is a lament for Paris, the old Paris, and this keen keen is a humorous lament, space and memory-affirming whether you live in Paris, New York City (where did it go?), or any domicile, near or far, that has undergone devastating changes. Lydie Salvayre's EVERYDAY LIFE reflects the blistering, boorish, and nearly maniacal subjectivity of a middle-aged secretary as she attempts to relinquish office power from a new secretary. If you've ever had a difficult time at work and wish to revisit the worst experience with precision and crushing candor, this book is for you. Both
titles are just published by Dalkey.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Film Noir Boxed Sets

Rx for a drowsy afternoon in late fall, baseball gone, elex now over too: Warner Video's Film Noir Classic Collection, Volumes One and Two (

Can you really afford to pass up "Clash by Night" with Barbra Stanwyck as a world weary gal come home to Monterey and a fisherman's hamfisted love?

Or "Crossfire" where Robert Ryan, perennially a thug, beats a man to death because he doesn't care for his religion? It was a daring theme then and now. Robert Young (Marcus Welby MD) discovers the crime and Ryan is gunned down on that same midcentury city streetcorner on the Warner lot that you've seen a dozen times in other old movies. As always, it looks spectacular.

They come five to a box and you can get your black and white fill of Robert Mitchum, Kirk Douglas, a very young Marilyn, Jane Greer and lots of others.

Chances are, if you haven't steeped yourself in this stuff already, you'll come away amazed at the quality of dialogue and filmmaking craft displayed in the best of these. Even if you get stuck watching one of the lesser entrants, you'll howl at the cliches that seem to come in torrents.


Is Anyone Going to be John O'Hara?

Does anyone even remember who he was?

While we are enamored of Richard Ford's sports writers and Richard Russo's upstate ne'er do wells, we wonder whether anyone is doing now what John O'Hara did for mundane Americans between 1930 and 1970. Some may recall that he was known as a "frank realist" in those days. I am not old enough to recall that personally but I've seen the paperbacks with their bold-print claims. Americans were more easily "shocked" then and my point is not to resurrect his sense of boundaries.

What I am wondering is, will anyone tell us what happens to lovers in cars on snowbound country roads late at night? Can there ever be a market again for his signature type of story: a few thousand words about a bank president unhappy that one of his tellers has taken to wearing loafers?

He wrote hundreds of these, it seems: extended vignettes about painfully ordinary folks, detailing with cold precision their inelegance and illuminating their generally unhappy fates.

I am not saying no one is doing it, or that no one can do it. I am just saying I don't know who they are and that I wish to.


November 14, 1851

Speaking of Melville, his MOBY DICK opus was first published 155 years ago today...

~Martin Scriblerus

Monday, November 13, 2006

Atmospheric Displacements

The experience of any text will invariably be conditioned by extra-literary circumstances, including one's psychological state(s) at the time of reading(s) and where, in fact, one reads. I cannot speak in depth about the first element, not being a depth psychologist, but would argue that the second element is of supreme importance. In my experience, reading a geographically specific text well outside or beyond the environment in which the novel or poem or whatever takes place will root and uproot one's reading marvelously.

For example, I re-read Joyce's ULYSSES while wandering about China, so my Chinese backdrop intensified and de-centered Leopold Bloom's Dublin wanderings. MOBY DICK, a tale which unfolds in New Bedford, Massachusetts, heads to the island of Nantucket (also in Massachusetts) and then high-tails it (o, the pun of it) to the high seas, was greatly affected by re-reading it in Dublin. Hawthorne and his Yankee tales pored over on a beach in San Diego? A marvelous transvaluation of vision, scenery, and setting! I wonder if anyone out there has been similarly dazzled by the cross-conditioning of text and terrain?


Friday, November 10, 2006

The Internet Can Be a Net, a Trap: What Will Saith the Novel?

The novel in either its traditional or experimental modes relishes distraction, digression, fragmentary and fleeting episodes, and linguistic upheavals.Now that e-mail has confounded discourse with attention deficits, tics, broken communication, unmediated derring-do, how might the novel prevail? In its desire for novelty, will the novel wrench its form back to systematic and blandly coherent expressions as a means of keeping itself antinomian to commercial culture and the disconnection of its body (bodiless?) politic?


Not Translation Nation

At a PEN literary conference at the New School a couple of years ago, Rick Moody made the trenchant point that America is principally an export society, sending its cultural and literary products out into the world without showing any real interest in receiving into its borders the products of other nations. How true. Dalkey Archive has made a formidable effort to remedy this imbalance and I recommend our readers to suppport this fine imprint. They translate contemporary fiction and the books are consistently top notch. Their website is and they have a fine supplementary on-line journal called CONTEXT (you can find a free print version here and there as well).It's time to see what the writers in Bulgaria and Cameroon are up to.

j curley

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Has the Nobel Ever Been Neutral? Some questions (not rhetorical)

The question of political bias in literary affairs has once again emerged with Orhan Pamuk's winning of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature.Pamuk has been outspoken about the Armenian genocide, an event (and intention) the Turkish authorities refuse to acknowledge. Is he being heralded for extra-literary activities? If so, is this any different from any writer to win the award in certain historically turbulent periods? Have not the Nobel Prize and most international literary prizes been politically motivated?Should we be surprised by the work being prized along with the person? Concerned? Curley has none of the answers but perhaps you do.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Metaphysical Brawlers

I see that Albert Camus was born on this date in 1913. His rift with Sartre occurred after many bitter exchanges in the newspapers and reflected their fundamental philosophical contrasts. Some of the differences were niggling,others were crucial. No matter, a conflict of ideas lead to the demise of their friendship and initiated different directions in their works.

Essentially the same was the feuding between poets Robert Duncan and Denise Levertov two decades later. I suppose these break-ups were tragic to some extent and maybe expose the limits of creative/intellectual collaboration, but it is nonetheless inspiring to see literary wars based on ideas, not egos or peripheral issues of the trade. The literary world has always been a community in conflict, of conflict; why not feud and frenzy with ardor and depth?

Last year, Ben Marcus won my affections for his full-on assault on Jonathan Franzen's ideas about literature.But that was a one-sided affair. What can we quarrel about, dear reader, dear writer?Bring on the Metaphysical Brawlers!


Monday, November 06, 2006

Les Neiges!

Jon, thought you might be interested to know that I just read Pamuk's Snow and followed that with Simenon's Dirty Snow, the latter set in Occupied France. Who knows, maybe there's a Yellow Snow...It could be a follow up to Martin Amis's Yellow Dog.

best, Martin Scriblerus

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Pageturners in the Night

Just returned from a jaunt to Minnesota, a joyous journey, but a stark reminder of the difference between large and small city (or country) literary communities.Through my old friend, the poet Zach Barocas, I met several of the twin cities' finest poets, including Amanda Nadelberg (her new book, Isa the Truck Named Isadore, sparkles), and the fine folks who run Coffee House Press.The scene there is small and cohesive but not suffocating; there is a delight in each other's company and earnest efforts to help each other's creative labors to reach fruition.Here in New York, there are myriad literary activities, readings, scenes, yet the spirit of community stretches itself all too thin.Perhaps this is a symptom of magnitude, quite probably it is an intractable condition of the metropolis.But oh, to effect the kind of closeness and kinship of those
little cities and little towns where words and worlds merge warmly beyond the metropolis's gates and horizons....

jon curley

The Office Hallway Smirk

A few posts ago I talked about the American Shrug--where actors in commercials often put on a "don't blame me for being lucky" act. Today I am pointing out another behavioral tic in America, but this one is played out in what passes for "real life" for many of us--in office hallways and in elevators.

It's the Office Hallway Smirk. In the feudal state of Corporate America, millions labor anonymously from one another though pulling for the same profit margin. Most participants know its a sham existence but have not figured out how you get out of it without turning into a homeless person. From this stoic recognition is born the Smirk.

You'll encounter it on your way to the copy machine: as you pass your office-casual counterpart, you see their lips compress but without a smile; you see their eyes widen just slightly and their gaze very briefly meets yours as they go by. That's the whole thing. This minimalist gesture stands in for a greeting today among colleagues.

Careful analysis reveals that it signifies "I know we are both more or less trapped here and while I neither know you well nor feel any special sympathy for you, I am forced to acknowledge both your presence and your struggle to exist, like myself, as a fully realized human being inside this impersonal machine. Furthermore, please don't blame me for I have struggles of my own at which you would not care to guess."

An emotionally repressed people, Americans have mastered the art of the Smirk; probably most folks would prefer to ignore their colleague utterly. But the Smirk is a guilt-based reaction, and we find it useful to assuage the fact that we view our colleague as an inconvenience to our solitude.


Tuesday, October 31, 2006

More on the Mark than a Soviet Missile

Cabinet Magazine, Brooklyn's very own art/essay/culture behemoth, has just released "Ilf and Petrov's American Road Trip," an extended photo essay first published in the thirties in the Soviet equivalent of LIFE, OGONYOK.
Cheaply priced ($18) and with the formal quality and design of a coffee table book, it is a welcome addition to my frenzied library.Ilya Ilf and Evgeny Petrov were collaborating novelists and photo-journalists for a decade or so, and this book documents their trip across America and their zany, often ironic, cultural remarks on life here. They seem to subscribe generally to the Soviet party-line, yet these intrepid voyagers never display chauvinism or ideologically rigid notions of society, whether American or Russian. Their observations radiate with high and low class commentaries, ecstatic flourishes about the landscape (they love deserts and canyons), and swipes at crass Western (as in 'hemisphere' as well as the
West Coast of this country) commercialism. They are always stimulating and allow a native's eyeballs to see this country anew. Order it now at:Cabinet Magazine. It's an international treasure.

j curley

Saturday, October 28, 2006

What's Become of the Ann Beatties of Yesteryear?

And for that matter, the Raymond Carvers? And the acrobatic Barthelme brothers? Do you remember when Ann Beattie was the Promised One? She was young and her characters were deadbeats and losers and were bored in a very seventies kind of way.

In the late seventies and eighties, characters used Kleenex rather than napkins and drank Sprite, not just soda. It was as if literature had noticed what ads had been positing for so long: that brands are a form of voodoo--their mere mention creates an aura. Isn't it a different sort of character who eats Frosted Flakes than one who just munches soggy old cereal? Well, isn't it?

And Raymond Carver (did it turn out that his editor actually re-wrote his stuff so extensively as to be unrecognizable from the submitted draft, or am I imagining that)? What happened to his empty-vessel strain of fiction?

Perhaps readers grew tired of the mere implication of a story rather than its actual telling. But then, did not literature need to do penance for its past glory? Didn't Tolstoy and then Wolfe and then Gaddis fill up the vessel to its allowable limit with words? That must have been the reason why Mr. Carver chose to make his characters monodimensional, and why every emotion was oblique. I think he had a pact with the literature genie: don't get too ambitious with words. Create a skeleton framework. We've all seen the movie already. We can fill in the blanks.

But that was then. We "get" the brand thing now, and we eat just corn flakes again. We suspect that being passionless and bored is kind of passionless and boring and we probably don't want to read about it all that much.

We've got our eyes on different tropes now. We're reading "memoirs" by multicultural, sexually ambivalent abuse-survivors who are into rock-climbing and have cancer. It's all rich and hearty stuff now: complicated people with complicated problems. Now we can see there was something almost too ironic about all that brand-awareness. And we've heard, haven't we, that since nine eleven, irony is dead? Wait: that's over, too.


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Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Electorate Creates the Candidate

Proverbially, politics is a mess. Always has been. And CNN now finds it advisable to run a series called "Broken Government" when "Rigged Ballot Boxes" might be more appropriate.

But this entry isn't about stolen elections. Its about how the electorate--assuming for now that we actually live in a functioning democracy--creates the mess, then complains about it.

Many citizens, and certainly those who never vote, would hardly know the difference between participatory democracy and the rule of a benign sovereign. They have signed away their right to complain. Its the ones who do vote that cause the problem.

Let me explain.

How many times do you hear voters complaining that candidates have "listened to the polls too much". Or that they are "just trying to win votes". Or "just trying to keep their job".

I can think of no dumber complaints.

In a democracy, doesn't the politician serve at the will of the people? Isn't he/she supposed to dance to the tune played out at the voting machine? Are voters genuinely surprised that candidates are anxious to curry their favor? Can they imagine it any other way?

How about this: the candidate doesn't listen to polls--doesn't care what the voters think. Is a strong man with strong convictions. None of this flip-flop for him based on poll numbers. No craven pursuit of silly voters.

Maybe that sounds admirable to the electorate--when they whine the way they do, it implies it might. To me, it sounds like Mussolini.

Wake up, voters. Politicians are supposed to be your puppets. Make them dance.


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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A Sweeping View

Nobody likes a chauvinist. And its no news that some folks think New York is a pretty special place.

But here is my comment, having just flown in over the metropolis (not for the first time), a little jaded after a long trip and hoping just to land without the pressure drop making my ears go permanently deaf.

In short: if you ever needed to be reassured that New York is the most stunningly beautiful big city in the world, please make sure you come in near dusk and fly across Brooklyn heading for LaGuardia.

The way the islands of the city are connected by bridges that fly across great waters; the way the prow of Lower Manhattan proudly announces your approach to a great city; then the astonishing (ravishing?) forest of skyscrapers leaping skyward north of the brightly lit Empire State; finally the sweep and spread of the outer boroughs spun with diamond-like highways and their own great bridges. . .and you come away knowing you've been afforded a rare opportunity: to gaze in sheer wonder at what is, for all its sins and decay, one of the great achievements of humankind, the structure and the spirit of the City of New York.

Sometimes you just have to come out and say it: I Love New York.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Lore O' The Fugitive Kind-part 5

Lore o' F.K.C.-Exordium(part 5)

Thus far we've been touchin' upon a few o' key
concepts essential t' be grasped,in order t' even
begin t' comprehend this phenomenon which be the
Fugitive Kind:the initial
ekyisyentchul Moment o' realization in which the
individual be overwhelmed by harsh realities o'
ekyisyence; the evolutionary breed o' Bohemianism
which the Fugitive
Kind epitomizes; the enigmatic,archaic 'n' yet always
in process o' evolvin'
spirituality which the Fugitive Kind lives 'n'
practices. Wi'in the text,these themes
will be explored 'n' elaborated on in esquisite
Now,in order t' illustrate the mystique inherent in
attemptin' t' extrapolate on the
phenomenon,the Fugitive Kind Cult,we will,through the
use o' a thesaurus 'n'
a dictionary,seek t' arrive at some kind o'
definition,a conceptual embarkation
A) CHANCE: destiny,HOODOO,VOODOO,leap in the
tempt fortune,random,undesigned,purposeless,as it may
volatile,spasmodic,for the Moment
(1)EVASION/SOPHISTRY: absence o'
reasonin'/intuition/instinct/association o'
unreasonable, gratuitous,incongrous,inconsequential,unscientific/untenable/
(2)QUIRK: obliquity o'
obsession/partisanship/clannishness/esprit de
run away wi' the notion/insular/infatuated/fanatical
camouflage,ensconce/keep from,keep t'
stealthy,sureptitious, clandestine,SUB ROSA,BETWEEN OURSELVES/LIKE

(5)SPECIOUS:"apparently good or right but
lackin' real merit"
SOPHISM:a clever but specious argument
SOPHISTRY:the use or practice o'
C)CHICANERY: "petty trickery 'n' deception"
INTERREGNUM: any interruption in
EVANESENCE: vanishin' or fadin'
away,scarcely perceptible
EPHEMERAL: lastin' a very short
time,especially for only one day
VOLATILE: tendin' t' break out into
open violence-changeable or
flighty as a disposision/explosive,unstable
D)CULT:intense,often faddish devotion t' a
person,ideal,or thing:such a
group or sect bound t'gether by devotion t' a
particular system o' religious worship...
(A)(1)MYSTERIOUS:full o' mystery/obscure
or enigmatic/arcane,cryptic,
OCCULT/inexplicable,unsc rutable
(2)MYSTERY:something that is secret
or impossible t' understand/
something that arouses curiosity through its obscure
(7)MYTH: a traditional or
LEGENDARY story,usually concerned wi'
deities or demigods/a story or belief that attempts t'
explain a basic truth/
a belief or a subject o' whose truth be accepted
(8)MYTHOLOGY: a body o' MYTHS
havin' a common source
or subject/study o' MYTHS
(B)(1)ENIGMATIC: a bafflin' 'n'
inexplicable situation or person/
a mysterious riddle
(2)INEXPLICABLE: incapable o'
being explained
(3)INSCRUTABLE:incapable o'
being searched into or scrutinized/
not easily understood or known
(4)ARCANE: mysteriously secret
or obscure
(5)OBSCURE: not clear t'
understandin'/not easily noticed or found/
not well-known or famous/indistinct t' the sight/t'
cover or hide from view/
(6)AMBIGUOUS: havin' several
possible meanings
(C)(1)CRYPTIC:intended t' be puzzlin'
or bafflin'/secret or OCCULT
(2)OCCULT: MAGICK,Astrology,'n'
other "alleged" sciences claimin'
knowledge o' "SUPERNATURAL" agencies/BEYOND THE RANGE
(3)ESOTERIC: understood by or
meant for only a select few/
private or secret
(4)INCOGNITO: wi' real identity
concealed as under an assumed name-
especially t' avoid notice/unknown

A group o' individuals o' same nature classed t'gether
'cause they have traits
in common/distinctive nature or character...

The MOOD these concepts evoke be the ESSENCE o' the
epitomized 'n' was
the HARBINGER. 'N' naturally it be the MOOD which
permeates the text t' follow.
T' pass into the CORRIDORS O' NIGHT on the HIGHWAY O'
LIFE upon which
awaken first t' the SPIRIT that be the INDIVIDUALITY
servin' lifelong sentence
t' solitary confinement in one's own lonely SKIN,yet
simuletaneously free,
one wi' Earth,Cosmos,Spirit,'n' then split 'n' ramble
that Highway...
identical t' that o' Romani
Gypsies,Hobos,'n' the Fugitive Kind...TOKENS-WILD
I been hearin' some o' y' Folk been diggin' this here
rant o' one o' the Fugitive Kind 'n' I do thank y'
from bottom(?) o' m' heart...everythin' I be sayin'
here comes from 57 years o' Livin' Blues I be here t'
tell y'...'n' I ain' ready for that boneorchard
nonetheless,tho there be s'much mo' o' this type
o' jibber jabber in m' literary Mojo Bag,I also
must say I tend t' express m'self in a
Burroughs/Gysin/Kathy Acker manner as well...
'n' in a Jim Thompson/David Goodis/Cornell Woolrich
etc. Noir mode...I even dig Bremser 'n'
Bob Kaufman,Diane di Prima ,Stu Perkoff 'n'
authentic Hipsters ,LIKE,that,Y'DIG?...
but anyHOO!,thanx fo' lettin' me lay this here
piece on y'...
love be on y',
GypsyMan AKA Gypsy James O'Toole__________________________________________________

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Tariq Ali & Eliot Weinberger at McNally Robinson Booksellers

Friday, 10/20. 7 PM. 52 Prince Street. NYC (212)274-1460

Representing Islam: A Talk by Tariq Ali & Eliot Weinberger

These two fire plugs will discuss (and disclaim about!) representations of Islam in the West and the denigration of the religion and culture of Muslims by international leaders and media. Ali is a terrific rhetorician with a crypto-Marxist perspective and convivial manner. Weingberger, a translator of Octavio Paz and countless other literary masters, is a ranter, enchanter, and raconteur. They will certainly raise your hackles, free you from your shackles, and occasionally force you to elicit cackles. Each is an intellectual with rant and no cant. They will mesmerize you and force you to think delvingly about current affairs, current bigotries, and how to spurn the sore of prejudice currently affecting our citizenry like an incurable disease. The cure is conversation, illustration, and collaboration; all of these elements will be present Friday night.

McNally Robinson Booksellers New York

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Joe McElroy Reading

Fiction Magazine will be presenting a reading featuring Joseph McElroy and Mark Jay Mirsky on Wednesday, October 18th at 6:30 PM. The reading will take place at The Mercantile Library at 17 East 47th Street between 5th and Madison, NYC. For more information go to

Joe McElroy is a native New Yorker and one of the leading novelists of his generation. He is the author of such critically acclaimed works as "A Smuggler's Bible", "Lookout Cartridge" and the the more recent "Actress in the House". His novel "Cannonball" will be published in 2007.

The Tempest highly recommends going to see Mr. McElroy read his works. It is not often one gets to hear from a writer of his caliber. As a bonus, the Mercantile Library is a great old place with wonderfully appointed facilities and a haven for anyone interested in works published by small presses.

Luchy Edwards

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Lore O' The Fugitive Kind Cult-parts 3 'n' 4

LORE o' F.K.C.-EXORDIUM (part 3)

As Val Snakeskin Xavier be epitome o' Breed-The
Fugitive Kind,it naturally follows that The
Fugitive Kind Cult are epitome o' genus,Bohemian.It
must be lucidly grasped immediately
that when we invoke concept,Bohemian,we be
extrapolatin' upon authentic historical
roots 'n' interpretation o' that particular
phenomenon-the word be originally derived
from the Romani Gypsies,'n' genuine Bohemian is in
fact a mutated version o' a Gypsy.
We'll explore this in detail in this text...the
Bohemian has always been a habitue
o' Lower Depths o' human societus,shady Underworld o'
beggars,con artists,slum-
musicians,'n' artists.
It must be emphasized at this point that although the
figure o' artist be at heart o'
Bohemianism,not all Bohemians were,are,or will be
artists! Rather,it's artist's
obsessive preoccupation wi' self-examination 'n'
self-creation which be symbolic
o' universal issues in life o' individual 'n' social
life,that be shared by all genuine
Bohemians.Bohemian's primary commitment be t'
individuality-each seeks t'
achieve a purely personal goal by sheer force o' pride
'n' imagination,rejectin' paths
traced out in advance by others,after acute
examination,assimilation,'n' discrimination.
'N' contrary t' the bigoted judgement o'
"citizens",the lowliest beggar be performin' this
personal Rite in their own peculiar Style.'N' being
that an individual o' the Fugitive
Kind be an extremist in everything,so as the
evolutionary version o' Bohemian,
they be fanatical in this Rite o' Individuality.They
honor Legacy o' Val Snakeskin
Xavier,'n' terminally study text o' his "BOOK O' LIFE"
as a sanctified guide t' Lore o'
the Fugitive Kind Cult,but not one amongst them in
their emulation o' Val,would wallow
in petty imitation-in other words,each chooses t'
eksperyence life in their own
individualistic Style,findin' their own way o'
confrontin' the scuffle o' survival.
The Fugitive Kind as Bohemian be the exemplification
o' the poetry o' the personal
style o' life,mirrorin' all inherent contradictions o'
societus which drive individuals
t' flee t' marginal realms,'n' more,a seditionary
warnin' that societus which has corrupted
values o' personal freedom,craft,'n' pleasure,be
rotten 'n' weak,'n' will have t' pay the
Piper.It be a heroic Life 'n' sometimes even can lead
t' open Revolt,yet hopes 'n'
Visions are very rarely fulfilled,rather the
individual pours one's heart out in heroic
fantasy,amidst stale atmosphere o' dread 'n'
desolation.As Symbolist poet,Pierre Quillard,
s'aptly stated in 1892:
"Whoever communicates to his brothers in suffering the
secret splendor of his dreams acts upon the
surrounding society in the manner of a solvent and
makes of all those who
understand him,often without their realization,outlaws
and rebels..."
Thus the Fugitive Kind can be identified as lucidly by
lived dramatization o' antisocial
self-consciousness as by whatever particular thing
they happen t' do in the scuffle
o' survival. For humans always need a Mirror in which
t' explore the conditions o'
LORE o' F.K.C.-Exordium (part 4)

The Fugitive Kind be a Cult in purest sense o' the
concept,that be,an intense devotion
t' a person ie. Val Snakeskin Xavier,an ideal,things
ie. TOKENS or Icons-'n' therefore,
a group or sect o' individuals bound t'gether by that
devotion,through the evolutionary
process o' their particular system o'
spirituality...its imperative that one understand
what be implied by "spirituality" 'n' thus,at this
point,one can only invoke concept
o' VOODOO/HOODOO: which means t' search deeply into
the MYSTERES o' the Cosmos-
in practice a myriad o' RITES,all
mysterious,exotic,'n' beguilin'.
This spirituality be PAGAN: which be derived from
Latin,PAGANUS: a country dweller,
which be derived from PAGUS: a rural area...thus,a
Pagan be a member o' an
indigenous Folk/Tribal religion,in which divinity be
manifest in all the processes
o' Nature; a practitioner o' a philosophy/a Way o'
Livin' in which the human individual
be a functional organ wi'in greater organism o' all
Life. A Pagan being one attuned
t' the aliveness 'n' PRESENCE wi'in Nature; one whose
goal be t' live in harmony wi' nature,'n' who
conceives o' humanity's "progress" 'n' separation from
Nature as prime source
o' alienation,who deems Ritual as the tool in which t'
end that alienation,fueled by
Romantic Vision/Fantasy/'n' Visionary Rites,empowered
by sense o' planetary crisis 'n' the IDEA that Nature
Vision is on its way t' being slaughtered by ecocidal
The Pagan be then an Occultist,OCCULT being REALM o'
NATURE: Occultist/Pagan therefore one who ventures
into hidden realms in search o' their SECRETS:MIND
being the greatest tool
o' MAGICK: Magick being SHAMANISM: knowledge o' how
emotion 'n' concentration
directed naturally effect changes in consciousness
that affect behavior o' all things
in 'n' o' Nature; t' know that everything in the world
be at one's service,t' use 'n' enjoy for the good o'
oneself as well as others,but only LOANED for a
time,by Powers o' Nature 'n' Destiny,
that these gifts came from Nature 'n' t' Nature they
will return.
What then are the Forces o' Nature?
Earth/Air/Fire/Water: these Forces ekyisted before
human appearance on this planet,
they are in fact our Spirit Ancestors who paved the
way for our emergence from the
prehistoric seas o' creation. It be
Nature,Earth,Cosmos who be the great Initiators,'n'
Pagan looks t' these for assistance/guidance in
opening one's eyes t' SEE 'n' come t'
the realization o' what has been there behind the
transparent Veil always. beyond these
four Forces be that Mysterious Principle:SPIRIT:what
be called Soul, Psyche,Self:that which
be non-material ie. does not share in death o' the
body,'n' can even achieve status o' divinity
'n' thus become an archetypal representative o' a
natural or moral principle;its the
Invisible,non-material SELF or CHARACTER o' an
individual ie. the CONCEPT O' PARTICULAR
INDIVIDUALITY,distinct from the physical body o' that
person-its the invisible action
wi'in an individual which motivates 'n' molds visible
acts 'n' expressions:is the energy 'n' action o' the
mind which,as a state o' consciousness 'n' repository
o' material 'n'
moral knowledge 'n' eksperyence,is source 'n' act o'
judgement,decision,desire,'n' o' all
motivation 'n' will projected in one's visible
since it does not ekyist
in the world o' matter,is the IMMORTAL TWIN who
survives the mortal person.Which
means that the Cosmic Drama is not a duality at
all,rather an Organic Dynamic:
a process by which all that characterizes
wisdom-evolves out o' flesh itself,substance 'n'
Spirit are eternally 'n' mutually
committed:the flesh t' divinity wi'in it,'n' divinity
t' flesh o' its origin.
Paganism be associated wi' Hedonism:or sexuality in
ecstatic religious practice-
body as a temple in which there be nothin' unclean,a
shrine for Rites o' Love ie.
PLEASURE IS NOT SINFUL!How can sexuality possibly be
anything but divine knowin'
the body be Vessel o' Spirit?
The Pagan be a Witch: one skilled in Craft o'
shapin',bendin',changin' "reality",
'n' that Craft be none other than the OLDEST RELIGION:
religion bein' any set o'
symbolic forms 'n' acts that relate human t' ultimate
conditions o' EKYISYENCE/
CONNECT-wherein there be n'distinction
between-Spirit: the POWER wi'in oneself t' create
artistically 'n' change one's life,
'n' material-sacred 'n' secular,or the CRAFT O' THE
WISE: which be as old as humanity,
'n' begins in the heart-a sense o' wonder,imagination
that responds t' Moods o' nature,a disgust wi' glib
answers o' the intellectual 'n' the materialist;
it be FOLK MAGICK: Magick o' common Folk,o' Earth or
SYMBOLISM be its language,as it be o' universal
subconscious mind,'n' its direct 'n'
t'-the-point; it be t' study a flower,a leaf,flute o'
the wind,in order t' decipher
Key o' this symbolic language which unleashes true
nature o' Magick; 'n' its TOOLS
be stones,trees,rivers,plants,earth itself,bones 'n'

GypsyMan-AKA Gypsy James O'Toole

Not the Gallic, but the American Shrug

I've seen it countless times, mostly in commercials but often enough in bad sitcoms and smug movies. It's the little hitch of the shoulders, palms up and a half-smirk on the lips. This American shrug--usually seen after the shrugger experiences the singular benefits of a consumer good--means "Don't blame me, it's not my fault I'm so lucky."

Advertisers deploy this sentiment because it connotes passive enjoyment of their product by the consumer. Advancing the shrug as an appropriate response to good fortune relieves the consumer of any potential doubts that might arise about the possible cost, pocketbook, moral, environmental or otherwise, that might result from their purchasing behavior.

This shrug has become so prevalent in commercials that I think it deserves special mention as a bellwether of our national mainstream psyche. For it isn't only in commercials where this response takes hold, but in our living rooms as well. Despite all the moaning and groaning we Americans indulge, we all know (unless we are especially dim), that compared with a huge percentage of the rest of humanity, we live in a perfect hog-wallow of riches.

Once recognized, this gross inequity implies a need for correction. The unthoughtful among us react as simple organisms, and seek a place where they can wallow more safely. Spiritually, that place is housed inside the shrug.

"Don't blame me--I didn't personally remove valuable resources from impoverished, unlucky, dictatorially-run, corporate-friendly nation-states; nor did I personally engineer their transformation into polished, relatively useless examples of material excess--I was just lucky enough to have been born into a circumstance where if I worked enough I would gain access to them."

Being able to say that to one another--shrugging our way to faux-leather oblivion--makes us feel better.


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Friday, October 13, 2006

Literary Disparities

One sad conceit in contemporary writing, particularly American fiction, is the gap between form and content. Techinque and vision are seldom now integrated; therefore, we have books filled with admirable literary tricks without a compelling story or, vice versa, narratives of suggestive ideas and actions and written without noteworthy style.

Can the situation be remedied in this post-post-modern, pre-diluvian world? Of course it can. There are exceptions to the rule but the rule stands strong. Let's discover another set of rules to guide us to grace.

We can.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Past My Summit

Ducking into a dive
I unfurled my foil (filled with confectioner's sugar)
and hopped back
wearing double-high platforms.

Nobody had me down.
I was on top of the New Year's Ball.
It fell, and so did I into the new year
not remembering my old address.

"He moved three years ago, man."
"That's a bank now."
"Tore it up for the boulevard."

I was old.
Older than my walking stick.

I hung pictures of Sunkist oranges
on my tenement wall, thinking about a pair of socks.

I finally sat next to the flies
and Uncle Sigmund d.1939
said hello.

Beyond purple.
Round-trip ticket guaranteed.

--from the Unofficial Journals of Rick Draper

From a Bus in a Small, Rainy City

The mistrialed and the parole officers
congregate on the spot without speaking.

A tumult surrounds them:
Tom Timbers, lonely and crass,
cries out ill deeds of the American dollar
and claims Rockefeller was never in the army

Old Joe Redhead sneers at everything except
his T-shirt with a map of the London Underground,
and swats missing the behind of a passing chickadee

I saw the eyes of the hunted come in.
They glanced at us and turned away:
not allowed to stay.

I saw the eyes of the frantic,
waiting for a lover or friend,
shivering in the cold as the carriage clacked by empty.

I saw the uncertain
figuring out how much to spend on their lives.
They decided to chase their own tail
as it was cheap.

Iced-tea Dick Tracy came and went,
his dumb-eyed mistress' bleach
growing back into black.

A dog chewed a pencil and taught me simple joy.

Soup is thrown and sandwiches spilt
and junkies thumb Agatha Christie.
I read Faulkner and wonder about
my biological cycles.

My emptiness spreads like Halloween smoke
through a three level mall
as they tow away a car outside
and my bus takes 45 mins to reach my home stop.

What makes me feel this way?

The mistrialed and the parole officers:
both suspecting all good intentions.

--from the Unofficial Journals of Rick Draper

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Can Katie Couric Guest-Edit for Matt Drudge?

Can Katie Couric, the new anchor for CBS News (and falling to third place rapidly against NBC and ABC), really wield journalistic power where it matters? I am talking about Matt Drudge's famous web site which, according to a recent ABC News story, is "the single most powerful news source in the nation".

There's a school of thought that the only reason the hunkered-down males running network news let a gal sit in the anchor chair is because network news doesn't mean a whole lot anymore. Anyway, not what it used to mean. Remember when Walter Cronkite was "the most trusted man in America"? If he cared, America cared. These days, who really watches the news at 6:30 anyway? It's a little bit quaint in an era of cable news, internet news and of course, blogs.

Back to the Drudge Report. Some folks accuse him of having a conservative, Republican slant. And many believe ABC news has become a sort of weak-tea version of Fox. Which would explain why ABC chose to run the big puffy story on Drudge in the first place: let's give Matt Drudge candy by doing a soft publicity spot for him. We'll call it news. He'll be nice to us--maybe even give us a scoop! And no one will notice. Will they? According the the ABC story, senior press people in the Bush Administration claim they check Drudge "thirty or forty times a day". Amazing! There's no telling when Drudge will print some fake story that he can later retract, but in the meantime can be used to smear a Democrat.

Now, back to Katie. Since the only interesting part of her getting the anchor chair is that the anchor chair ostensibly "matters" and so represents a new milestone in gender equality; but since that chair really matters less than Drudge, Editor of the "most influential news source in the nation" (according to ABC); and assuming we're all pulling for both Katie and gender equality; doesn't it make sense that to accomplish gender equality in news, Katie should Guest-Edit at the Drudge Report? At least once in a while? Or maybe they can switch places now and again.

How about a nationwide campaign to see Katie Guest-Edit the Drudge Report? And to see Drudge in his floppy hat as CBS anchor? Send emails to Katie, Matt and while you're at it, to ABC News asking why Matt Drudge is news to them.


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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Lore O' The Fugitive Kind-part 2

LORE o'C.o'F.K.-Exordium-(part 2)

Its not t' be strung out in ideologies,rather actual
Magikal Eksperyentchul Knowledge.
Not t' be caught in webs,shucks o' doubtin' one's
no individual be obligated t' be a part o' any
societus which locksteps toward
self-destruction,permeated in evil. The Fugitive
Kind's hearts pound as if wi' Voodoo
drums-the very different drummer o' Authentic Self
which the Fugitive Kind bend an
ear t' 'n' follow. Not futile the frantic Kicks o' the
Life, 'cause we live neath the
Shadow o' the Beast...
the face o' alienation,o' disaffiliation,which be that
o' the Fugitive Kind,be not s'very
bizarre nor "sick" 'n' depraved afterall. We can't
know what mad landscapes await
us,but our creations,our Legacy be testaments left in
ashes,illumination in the darkness,
t' guide survivors who come after when we be Gone
Beyond. It be a Holy Road,'n'
somewhere beyond the horizons,the true Self awaits
reunion wi' the Seeker.
One must come t' the realization that its ultimate Bad
Faith t' ignore one's personal
hassles 'n' questions that be at root o' their very
ekyisyence,they must be explored
in order t' exorcise 'n' at least t' attempt t' answer
them questions,t' learn from
that eksperyentchul knowledge, 'n' then t' do that
which be what one should be
a-doin':one's Work-whatever that be,one's creative
search for true Self. One can't
ignore or obliterate the profound anguish 'n' despair
that one feels in attempt t'
dwell in the nebulous farce that be this societus o'
oneself 'n' Others. One must
confront these negative states in one's continuum o'
Moments,'n' evolve,grow,
become spiritually healthy...
its the Coolthe o' the Fugitive Kind,that out front
knowledge that makes one strong 'n' compells one t' go
on n'matter what the consequences or the hassles that
the Fugitive Kind can't associate nor assimilate
themselves into societus,for they be
truly Lone Wolves on a Wild Road t' Legacy or
oblivion,bearin' terrible scars o' love,
total isolate beings,s' extremely
different,shattered,in tatters,like Val Snakeskin
Xavier,tired 'n' disgusted 'n' restless,crazed,'n'
equipped t' tap the Source-the
The Fugitive Kind be Refugees in this here Nex
Millenniuum-Renegade artists,
legendary,even more furtive than their
the stink o' the ashes o' genocided millions o'
Auschwitz 'n' Treblinka 'n' Bergen-
Belsen 'n' Dachau clogs their nostrils; the witchhunts
o' McCarthy; the Strange
Fruit that be AfroAmerican bodies burned 'n' lynched;
the horror o' potential atomic holocaust forces them
t' ekyist in terminal dread.
'N' yet they can do nothin' but t' Act-based on
acquired survival instincts,for they
be truly Conjurers,Magick be their Wild Creed,'n' from
out o' the Dread emerges
the Mutant,who becomes Possessed by Spirits,who stalks
the earth,who in the Heart o'
the Beast,in this amodern resurrected Babylon,be the
Adversary,the Nemesis.
The Fugitive Kind be Evangelists o' the Blues which
they live,the angst o' human
folly,the despair o' human's plunge into
self-destruct,'n' the Love-the love o' life,
the passionate Embrace,the mystical communion wi'
A weird breed o' heroes be they,androgynous,a human
Phoneix-they've been
anihililated 'n' resurrected,come down t' earth t'
create the paradise o' myth,if
they only can avoid Man's intent t' destroy anything
that deviates from his
meglomaniacal lunatic "Master Plan".
GypsyMan-AKA Gypsy James O'Toole

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Celebrating a Culture of Cruelty and Indifference

The culture is ours. The subject is how television commercials foment and support it:  a culture of cruelty and indifference.

Ad geniuses everywhere have long been accused of moral turpitude in their naked pursuit of persuasion. In the fifties they portrayed us smiling insanely while gazing at mounds of custard. In the sixties we were languid with pencil-thin cigarettes that would soon kill us. Then it got worse.

Today the hidden persuaders--often enough--play a different mind game. In many commercials products are so charged with desirable qualities, that ostensibly normal people are rapacious hooligans in their presence. In one ad, a man screeches like a skewered hyena while racing after a bundle of cash that has fallen from the sky (okay, this one is almost believable). In another, a jean-thief is run down the way a Neanderthal might have ridden a deer, and then is disrobed in a parking lot. And we've all witnessed couch-jockeys beating and choking their neighbors for a handful of salty chips.

It's become accepted practice for ads to show average-looking folks committing violent crimes in pursuit of coveted goods. As demonstrated above, it's often in the form of battery or forced confinement or both. Often, victory is not enough. Once the perpetrator obtains the product, they gloat. Preening, they enjoy their ill-gotten goods while the vanquished lie squirming at their feet. These behavior patterns are presented as if they were paradigms.

Judging by a number of indicators, we are a culture where the word "me" is easily more important than the words "life" or "liberty" or even "all men are created equal". So the message has gotten through.

Thank you, Ad Geniuses, for making your trifles catalysts for acts of unreflective selfishness; and especially, for glamorizing random cruelty. Some of us might not have known to behave disgracefully unless you'd shown us how.

You there! Step away from the Chalupa!


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Monday, October 02, 2006

Food for Political Thought

Conservatives embrace tradition but rarely create it. Their adherence to history is often skewed and always derivative. What's more, their palate is predicated on precedent but authenticity is never on their plate. Take the whole 'Freedom Fries' phenomenon in which the Congressional Cafeterias decided to lodge their chauvinism into the potato as a rebuke to the uncooperative Gallic anti-war sentiment. They were in a tradition best executed in recent memory by the Austrian satirist, Karl Kraus. For thirty-seven years (1899-1936) in the the pages of Die Fackel (The Torch), Kraus lampooned rightwingers, war mongers, opera critics, and an apathetic body politic. He also cooked up new names for various dishes so they would better exemplify the nationalistic tendencies of Middle Europe. "Macaroni" became "Perfidy Noodles," "Ragout" became "Rump-steak." You get the flavor.

Why no one on the political Left has stewed over some meaty euphemisms is beyond me.
However, it is time for Lefty Foodies to recuperate its lost tradition. Here are some examples to baste the flanks of your imagination:

"Buffalo Wings"--> "Bagdad Boondoggles"

"French Fries"--> "Pacifist Potato Piths"

"Porterhouse Steak"--> "Shithouse Surveillance Strip"

"Beef Stew w/ Guinness"--> "Irish Quagmire"

"Empanadas"--> "Duck and Covers"

"White Castle Burgers"--> "Cheap White House Eviscerated Meat Soldiers"
(2,700 burgers pre-made; more to come)

"Spaghetti"--> "Foreign Entanglements" (ak.a. "Disorganized Lines of Battle")

"Baked Alaska"--> "Imperial Ice Cream Disaster"

Thanks for dining.

--Martin Scriblerus

Genteel Reminder

When perambulating about a city scape and one is accosted by a canvasser on the corner, thrusting into your hand an ad for gyms, watches, restaurants, palm readings, etc., please take what is offered. These street workers are paid by the page and are usually being surveilled by their small business boss. They are usually grateful when you accept what amounts to paper money for them. Not only are you helping someone to keep their job--however tedious it might be-- you're also getting what for me becomes a striking saraband of stationery, different colors and shapes and all free...


The Close-knit Community

Recently there was a tragic shooting in a Colorado school. No, not that one. Another one. Some drifter with a gun came in, took hostages and shot a young woman to death. Truly disgraceful. And if you're an East Coast liberal, you're thinking "gun control".

Sure. But this post is about something else. It's about the kind of places where that sort of stuff happens. We know that kind of place here in the Northeast. It used to be us. Remember crime? We don't have so much of it anymore. Why not? Could be the bigger prisons. Or the relative wealth. Or gun control, not sure.

But whenever a small, mainly white, non-Eastern Seaboard, non-California town witnesses a senseless act of mayhem, the press rallies 'round them and calls them "close-knit". Have you noticed? "This close-knit mountain town." "This close-knit farming community."

My question is: if those places were so close-knit, how'd the drifter get into the school? How'd he get the gun? How'd those kids plan the rampage? Was it in one of the prayer-meetings? Or maybe it was during one of the Republican caucuses down at the Rotary.

The fact is, the far-flung suburbs in the Midwest and west are some of the most alienating communities on earth. They are close knit they way the Kuyper Belt is close to the sun. Neighbors never see one-another except in cars or at the mall. They think praying for an hour in some architecturally depressing airplane hangar of a church, and being self-congratulatory for having voted for Family Values, is the equivalent of being friends. The fact is, folks in those places don't really like other folks. That's why they live so far from one another. Also, they think guns are loads of fun. How close-knit is that?

Next time there's a tragic shooting in a grassy, highway-connected community and the media calls it "close-knit", understand that the reason they're calling it that is because it is inconvenient for mainstream media to admit that the opposite is true. They'd have to admit that the vast majority of newer suburbs are unconnected places where people are deeply lonesome, where the gun lobby runs the legislature, and where drifters roam around killing poeple with guns. They'd have to do a story that would shock their viewers and maybe make them think: about how random violence isn't despite the local culture, but because of it.


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How Mom and Pop Gave it Away to Wal Mart

Seems like Wal Mart can't catch a break.

Now the NY Times says they are replacing more senior, higher-paid employees with newer, lower-paid part-timers and forcing all employees to be available any time of the day or night. Kids at home? Tough. You're pulling an all-nighter. You'll get, like $72 bucks for it (and probably no health plan).

How can Wal Mart keep doing stuff like this, when it ends up making them look so bad in the big-city papers?

Two answers: the first is easy. Wall Street likes it. And if Wall Street liked slave labor (just wait a couple of years), Wal Mart would be shackling their workers in chains.

The second answer is hard, and not so gratifying. It's about Mom and Pop and their small, local shop. You know, the one that got put out of business by Wal Mart.

It's about how Mom and Pop gave the store away. Because Wal Mart didn't serve Mom and Pop an eviction notice and remove all their inventory. They just offered folks a better deal.

The truth is, in many cases Mom and Pop hardly knew how to run a store at all. Like lots of small shop owners, they were kind of cranky, and offered kind of a poor value.

I know they were because the ones that are left in at least one small town where Wal Mart has moved in, and where I spend lots of time, they still are kind of cranky.  Maybe they're under lots of pressure, running a small, low-margin business. But they often aren't very nice when you go into the store. "If you thought you were going to come in to my store with your money and just go around spending it, you've got another thing coming!" Good-bye!

Mom and Pop never have the stuff you're looking for. If you ask for a particular item, more often than not, they don't have it. And the fact that you asked, is an insult. "Why would you want to buy that?" they seem to ask. Or, they "can order it for you". It will take seven weeks. Wal Mart has thirty kinds of that item on their shelves.

Also, Mom and Pop are never open. On Saturday they close at three. Forget Sunday. When are you supposed to buy stuff? How about nine o'clock in the morning on Tuesday? Oh, you're at work too? Come back Sunday.

Yes, Wal Mart is creating a heinous new low-cost, low-wage world. Yes, its morally ambiguous to enjoy a good bargain by shopping there. But Mom and Pop never really offered you much of a choice. They took you for granted. They kind of gave away the business. Anyway, I saw them shopping at Wal Mart last week.



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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Lore O' The Cult O' The Fugitive Kind-part 1


In order t' abscond into the myserious,nocturnal Zones
o' the Fugitive Kind Cult,
one must first cast aside irrevocably all notions o'
rationality,logic,societal conceptions
o' psychic processes...
y'll find n' point o' departure,'n' obviously,there
can be n'fixed destination,there's instead absolutely
'n' inevitably nothin' more nor less than a huge
Question-there be n'final fixed
answers latent,rather,enigmatic 'n' fanatically
paradoxical tidbits scattered as if debris
upon a sterile lily-white slaughtered skin o' a
T'be a human animal in this world as it now ekyists is
t' be incarcerated not only in one's flesh:condemned
t' a lifelong sentence t' solitary confinement in
one's own lonely skin for as long as one be alive upon
this earth, 'n' simuletaneously,condemned t' be free
as an individual:free t' bury oneself in
o' one's every precious bit o' creativity,'n' jes as
free t' brave alienation,the harsh beauty o'
Self's evolution,the marvelous act o' creation at
every moment,in everything one does.
'N' one be incarcerated in that s'called "human
condition"-perhaps one hates one's debilitatin'
dead-end marginal job,yet one turns t' jelly at the
thought o' havin' n'income,
n'shelter,nothin' but oneself out there on that
Street,in that City,hungry guts,n'phoney
womb o' security t' bullshit oneself wi'...
question at this point being,would you,could you
deliberately 'n' wi'out qualms,actually cut oneself
loose t' become one o' them sociological
entities-"fringe citizens","street
people","the homeless", the indigent "po' trash","the
deviants", the FUGITIVE KIND?
There be n'question o' the reality o' such subcultural
characters out there in this
"land of the free and home of the brave". But for one
t' choose t' join those ranks?
Has it ever occurred t' you,that y'jes might be a
seminal prophet,anonymous 'n'
suppressed,overflowin' wi' magnificent aesthetic
masterpieces,'n' it be that goddam dog-eat-dog world
that prevents recognition 'n' heightened self-esteem
'n' spiritual
metamorphosis? yet in fact one can achieve notoriety
as a creative individual
in spite o' societus if one acts upon one's desires,if
they be authentically those incendiary desires o' the
true artist. One need not be a helpless,hopeless
victim o' anything.
The most vitle 'n' pertinent first step is for one t'
acknowledge the mere fact that one ekyists, as that
entity one be at this MOMENT,'cause o' what one has
chosen for oneself up t' this point,'n' t' not allow
oneself t' become strung out if one is not what one
wants t' be,rather,do whatever it takes t' be that
Self which one must be! Exorcise them demons
o' fear 'n' cowardice! Chances are one'll be
ravenously hungry at times,'n' be forced t' sleep on
rooftops or in a ditch,'n' be free o' burden o'
possessions 'n' duty. What be o'
utmost significance be this liberated Zone o' one's
body,fecund soil o' one's mind,
the priceless mergence wi' one's Soul,the creation o'
one's unique individualistic
One is never a representative or epitome o'
humanity,one has made the choice t' become a mutant,a
member o' a whole other breed o' evolutionary species.
One be one
being,alive for whatever absurd folly o' fate,'n' it
be one's Self one must face in the
Magick Mirror o' Ekyisyence.
Be this a philosophy? Let us contemplate for a moment
the phenomenon o' a wild manchild from a totally
isolate bayou environ,who emerged forth into the world
'n' in fifteen years o' painful nomadic ekyisyence
created this seminal cult,
the Fugitive Kind,o' which he was the ultimate
epitome-what he created o' those fifteen years o'
eksperyenchul knowledge livin' Blues,be a strange rare
breed o' what be conceptualized here as Folk
It be a n'end enigmatic,isolate phenomenon that an
individual born o' a Native American 'n' AfroAmerican
mother who happened t' be a practicin' root doctor 'n'
Witch,'n' a po' trash Cajun father, could,neath the
streetbred facade,be androgynously 'n' marvelously
'n' attuned t' the infinite ramifications o' emergin'
Fugitive Kind philosophy,woven o' wild natural
materials o' Blues Culture,'n' Hipster breed o'
authentic Bohemianism that
emerged in 1940s,'n' although never having once been
in any kind o' school,would
go on t' not only live this philosophy,but write a
book about it,'n' t' create a body o' Blues
music 'n' poetry overwhelmin' in its originality 'n'
profound Folk wisdom.
Inspired by his Legacy,how could one not choose t'
live,by whatever means it takes in the terminal
struggle for survival,t' accept one's horrendous 'n'
crushin' freedom,
t' flee the nowhere situation that be societus,t'
merge wi' Shadows o' Great Unknown,
t' don Wild Skins o' the Fugitive Kind's Night,t'
brave the thorough lack o' material
security,in order t' cultivate one's true Self,merely
t' be a Self at all!
(end o'
part 1)
GypsyMan AKA:Gypsy James O'Toole

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

1950s Literature: The Lost World

It wasn't a golden-age, except for lovers of American-made cars, Abstract Expressionism, film noir, and rock and roll. It was marked by hipocrisy on a grand scale in the matters of race, sex, gender and personal freedom. It witnessed the genesis of two of our worst American ills: (chilling music here) the suburbs; and what has now become an ecologically unsustainable addiction to highway-connected sprawl. It was also the last decade in which a certain venerable art form often called "the novel" was actually held in the same kind of high regard as other popular, powerful arts.

Given the fact that movies, music and design from the era is woven tightly into our culture today, it is peculiar that literature of the 1950s, except for certain Beat Generation classics, is largely forgotten. I don't mean disdained or denigrated. I mean unstudied, undiscussed, ignored. I'd like to see it resurrected for the purposes of literary study. I think we'd learn much about where we've come from by doing so.

Culturally, what is conveniently known as The Fifties actually began in about 1947 (when Russia got the bomb) and ended in Dallas in the early afternoon on November 22, 1963. My main thesis here is that in the literature of this period we find a singular phenomenon, almost a cultural fossil, not likely to be found in any other literary strata available to us.

I would describe the fossilized artifact as follows:

If we accept the assumption (and I do) that with the advent of civil rights, youthful radicalism, feminism and post-Dylan pop music the cultural landscape changed entirely and irrevocably (though that is lately challenged in the Bush era), then we'd have to submit the following as corollary: that the 1950s represents the very last rear guard of that two-thousand year-old, pre-liberated Western culture--in which racism, sexism, suppression, open hipocrisy and religious piety were all taken as bedrock facts immutable and more or less unquestioned.

For that fact alone--that we can examine these cultural artifacts in their final, most advanced and also most corrupt state--I think the literature of the period is worth studying. Perhaps unsurprisingly it is in the literature of the period--as opposed to film and in the plastic arts--where we find these notions most thoroughly explored; where we can find them manifested in characters we might recognize from the inside. I would say it were true even if allowing that some of the authors would not have been aware of their contribution to this particular lode.

We find this rear guard populated by writers of various talents and tendencies. By reciting the following list I make no assertions about quality or self-awareness; only their fitness for study as literary fossils. I am talkiing about authors like James Jones, John O'Hara, Robert Penn Warren, James Gould Cozzens and Joyce Cary. We can place early Mailer there before he smoked pot and deconstructed himself and ran for mayor. Saul Bellow's early works fit: his Augie March without a doubt, in any case. And does anyone remember that John P. Marquand was often on the best seller lists then? We might even put some of Hemingway's later works there for they qualify temporally and culturally. And John Knowles' middle-school classic "A Separate Peace" is copyrighted 1959. There are many others too numerous to mention.

The cut begins after Faulkner and ends before Kesey. It disincludes Kerouac, Burroughs, Algren, Barth and Pynchon for what I think are the fairly obvious tendencies of these writers to have utterly rejected what was then convention. They staked out new, ironic territories on the left bank of the river. It disincludes James Baldwin too because his work is essentially part of what I would call liberation literature, and presages much that would come later. Nor does it include so-called pulp fiction because pulp ficition authors rarely found consideration as "serious novelists."

No doubt the list will include largely (if not entirely) white males. Its possible this fact may deterr some from being intrigued. So would the acknowledged suspicion that the literary family mentioned above found extinction with remarkable (and perhaps justifed) speed once the Beatles showed up. History had to make room for moptops making wisecracks by day and by night, summoning Dionysian screams from their audiences. By 1964, the last rear guard of traditional Western culture had been heaved over the side--and as the New York Times noted on the day the Beatles hit the tarmac at a newly-renamed Kennedy Airport: "Yeah, yeah, yeah."

But the signature works of the 1950s represent a paradigm worth review. I would say that, turned to the light in a certain way, the works of this period, of this group of men, in their proud, often unwitting, occasionally plodding doggedness, reveal glimpses we had not expected to see; facets of ourselves today often enough in ways we had perhaps hoped to avoid; examples of what was left behind and why; cautions; and often enough to make it interesting, some pretty good writing too.


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