Monday, May 6, 2024

253. Libraries & } un-encampment.


[04–27–24] Leave the Richards Memorial Library b/c a woman, w/ a recent issue of Rolling Stone magazine, sits glowering & wheezing beside me.

Nearby, a white-haired woman walks a small white dog. Looks at her phone. She warns a family (?)—three women, one w/ a stroller—that her dog isn’t good w/ kids. Bites kids it doesn’t know.

There’s a pro-Israel rally outside the Rochambeau Library; the library’s manager is upset—she argues w/ the rally leader, asks that they not protest in the path of pedestrians. Roughly 15 protesters wave flags. The rally leader is obstinate & pleased & won’t move. Cars honk. Library staff summon the police; the police explain that the protesters can rally but can't block the sidewalk or they “could be removed.” The protesters decide to continue their rally at Brown.

[05–01–24] Brown’s encampment is gone but recalled by rectangular patches of pale grass & a fence. A group of roughly 30 faculty stand on the steps of the student union with little signs that read “Divest Now.” They listen to a speech (which I can’t hear). I approach, spot two poets I know; the group breaks up; I see a former colleague so I veer off toward the Quiet Green.

Where I speak w/ two of the student protesters I met last week at the encampment. I ask what they think of the faculty protest that just ended—it’s not clear they were aware of it at all.

When I tell them I’m a RISD professor, they ask what RISD students have been doing. I remind them of the November protest outside the Textron building, tell them about student-led protests in front of RISD buildings & point out that RISD students don’t benefit from the security a fenced-in campus provides. I show them a flier RISD students made & describe the enormous puppet a student of mine constructed to be used at protests.

At Brown’s Rockefeller Library is a very small display of “Free Mumia” posters. He’s been in prison since 1982.

Some of the notes for this post were written on my copy of Amy Herzog’s play After the Revolution.

Thursday, April 25, 2024

252. Eye & } encampment.

Red “X” over “The First Baptist Meeting House”—& a red, crying eye over its spire.

Tired & jittery. Walk through Brown University encampment. Salvador Allende misquoted on the side of a tent, many bottles of Poland Spring water, many snacks—so many snacks, students discussing snacks, students urgently carry snacks—& a quarter of a watermelon, eaten w/ a white plastic spoon, vivid on the Main Green.

A woman picks up a megaphonebut the encampment is subdued. No drum, no chant. There’s a class in session on the grass nearby. Students paint signs. Students paint a map of Palestine, carefully copying a map of Palestine, circa 1945. Tupac’s “Keep Ya Head Up” misquoted on the side of a tent. On a blanket, for the moment unoccupied, are two books: Daniel Mason’s North Woods & Lizzy Goodman’s Meet Me in the Bathroom.

Students in orange vests—“marshals.” A marshal explains to me she’s not part of the protest, but there to ensure a peaceful protest. A suspicious student wants to know what I’m doing & I tell him I’m documenting the moment, ask, “How long have you been here?” “Since 6am yesterday”—he’s proud. “You slept here?” “Yes.” “Did you feel safe?” “Yes.” “When University police were here, did they bother you?” “They checked IDs, so we can be punished later.” The student with the black & white scarf in the photo below (taken by Dana Richie for the Brown Daily Herald) is the student I spoke w/.

All of a sudden, a few students start up a chant & bang on a blue, five-gallon bucket. I ask a group of four students seated on the grass why it's started up again. First I’m asked, “Can I ask why you’re asking?” Suspicious of a middle-aged man taking notes. I tell them I’m a RISD professor & I’m curious. That’s enough for them; they’re eager to tell me that the Brown University Community Council voted “to recommend that five student representatives… be allowed to present their case for divestment… before the Corporation.” & that the council also voted to recommend that charges be dropped against students arrested at the sit-in.” An empty gesture to mollify protesters?

When I leave the campus, I walk in front of the sole news camera there—WPRI Channel 12.

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

251. A peach-colored jumpsuit } & a bundle of rags.


After the reading I went to a house in Providence where a woman said she was going to tell us a story about a serial murderer. She told us what the murderer did with the skin & genitalia of his victims & that he carried a human skull in a lunchbox & brought it with him to work. She was excited to tell these anecdotes; she believed she would enthrall us—but her anecdotes were poorly told & pointless.

The reading: I read w/ K.H. Vaughan & Jeffrey Thomas. Vaughan sipped Maker’s Mark from a plastic cup. Wore a beautiful shirt with paisley cuffs. He read his story from Scott Dwyer’s anthology The Pinworm Factory. Jeffrey Thomas read two stories from Scenes from a Village, a slim volume from the press Oddness. A head appeared at the window. We took a break. We sang Happy Birthday to the Horror Depot. I read “The Great Blind God Passed Through Us” from Stone Gods. Cover artist Anna MacLeod came, & discussed political puppet-making. Is it possible to have a conversation with a puppet-maker & not mention Sesame Street? It should be.

Our host was Lovecraft Arts & Sciences; s. j. bagley our master of ceremonies. Stone Gods, Worse Than Myself, & issues of New Genre are all available at the shop.

After the reading, I gave a ghost a ride home.

Friday, February 16, 2024

250. Livia Llewellyn’s last } post / publication.

Livia Llewellyn writes,
Going forward, I’m going to continue to write and submit stories, but all of that other stuff—trying to find an agent, trying to get a book deal, networking… will end. I don’t need to do it, it makes me miserable… and while I’ve appreciated the “you can do it” cheers from all of the writers I’ve met over the years, at some point we’ve all come to realize that, no, I in fact cannot do it. And honestly, it’s become exhausting and cruel to everyone to make everyone keep up the pretense. You’ve all done so well, and it’s been amazing being allowed to hang out with so many writers who’ve achieved so many incredible things. It’s been a privilege and a joy to know all of you—you know who you all are, and I will miss your company. But I’ve been stuck in this fork of the road for two decades, and now it’s time to move on, down a different path from everyone else.
That’s how I read Llewellyn's “Allochthon”—we gotta murder our way out of our canyon-deep rut.

Word Horde published Furnace, Llewellyn’s second collection; the sight of it used to make me jealous—the buzz around it, the terrific cover—Word Horde expressed interest in Stone Gods, but publisher Ross E. Lockhart & I never managed to connect (that’s OK!)—but now Llewellyn’s done with publishing altogether. 

I wouldn’t write “I’m done”—I don’t think I would. Is it a strategy? Is the next post, “Hey! AGENT reached out. I’ve made it!!!” I hope so.

Llewellyn’s announcement hit me funny. Last month I finally began to read her work. Taken w/ it, I visited her website—& “The Final Missive.” It troubles me.

Particularly, “You’ve all done so well, and it’s been amazing being allowed to hang out with so many writers who’ve achieved so many incredible things.” What does Llewellyn mean by “achieved” & what does she mean by “allowed to”? She’s no imposter, agent or no, book deal or no.

She reassures us—& this is good—, “The writing will continue. The publications will continue. Occasionally a story in an anthology will appear. Hopefully an occasional collection or short book might appear.” That’s my plan, too.

Stone Gods is published. By a brand-new & very small press: NO. A handful of bookstores will stock copies—as of today they are Lovecraft Arts & Sciences in Providence, The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles, & Bucket O’ Blood in Chicago. The writing will continue.

Thursday, January 4, 2024

249. “Can we talk about…? } “(Rabbit).”


Last month I wrote an essay for David Surface’s Strange Little Stories. Roughly monthly, David’s newsletter features true strange stories, one by David & another written by a guest—plus news about David’s work, other writers’ work, &, in this issue, an interview w/ me.

David writes (about me),
 …he said some very nice things on his blog about a story of mine he’d read…. I reached out to thank him, and that started an on-again off-again correspondence that I enjoyed very much. So, I was very glad when I got the chance to pick up our conversation again.
I praised David’s story “Terrible Things”; it became the title story of his first collection, available from Black Shuck Books. In the interview, David & I discussed my brief correspondences w/ Mark Samuels (who died early Dec.), my upcoming collection Stone Gods, the essay I wrote for David, & the term “weird” as it’s used today. Among other things. I’m sure that if you’re interested, you can join the other 200 (or so) subscribers to Strange Little Stories by contacting David through his website; ask to start w/ Strange Little Stories #23. Nay, insist!

Stone Gods can be pre-ordered from NO Press & will be published (I’m told) this month.

[ The above image is a still from David Lynch's short film Rabbits or maybe from his long film Inland Empire. I mention Inland Empire in this post about David Cronenberg's Fast Company. ]

Monday, October 30, 2023

248. On Gladiolus } “the largest blossoming flower.”

Inscribed on the title page of Rikki Ducornet’s Trafik, the following notes: “dreamt I was given a book filled w/ ads from the 1970s & was convinced Dad was in one of the ads. Kept losing the page, trying to find it to show Mom” & “dreamt I was at a show w/ my sister & Dad was there & we both looked at him & thought he looked dark.”

Quiver & Mic arrive on planet Gladiolus, “The surface is white clay; it is all clay.” The people are dolls, made of “local clay.” They are hostile bureaucrats who insist that any visit “will be brief and tedious to the extreme.” In grass cages are dolls holding cages that imprison dolls ad infinitum. That is, “Dolls in cages all the way down.”

Episode 4 of The Cinnamon Bear brings Judy, Jimmy, The Crazy-Quilt Dragon & Paddy O’Cinnamon to the land of the Inkaboos, doll-people cut from blotting paper, ruled by a king w/ a grocery list blotted on his chest & who live in fear of the Enormous Inkwell.

It is true that these all are different stories, but they all ask the same question: “Am I real?”

Monday, September 18, 2023

247. Jackie Sibblies Drury speaks } Jimbo.


Fairview comes close to calling for white people to become spectacle only [“…simply ‘Look! A white person!’”]—but draws back, opts for “A Person Trying.” Fairview is a comedy—& thus ends w/ a marriage.

# # # 

I’m fascinated by the roughly six-page monologue delivered by Jimbo, Fairview’s villain [or, rather, the play's most obnoxious character]. While Fairview references late 1980s / early ‘90s American television sitcoms, specifically those centered on Black family life, Jimbo’s monologue introduces Hostel (2005) & Hostel II (2007) to the material of Fairview—he explains why both are “kind of good” movies. He doesn’t name the films—perhaps to muffle incongruity of the reference?

Hostel & Hostel II are witty exploitation films concerned w/ gender, w/ American parochialism, &, most of all, w/ class. A wealthy European aristocracy rule over the merely rich who purchase from them kidnapped travelers to torture (not poor people; the kidnapped are young people of leisure—some of modest means, others rich; the only poor represented in the Hostel films are direct or indirect employees of the torture club). Any member of the torture club who break rules / show weakness suffer consequences—they are merely rich.

Jimbo recounts a specific moment from the first Hostel film:

…and so he’s doing that with the chainsaw
and slips in blood or something
and the rich guy decapitates himself
with his own chainsaw.
And it’s pretty obvious what that means.
Do you know what I mean?
It means he’s the victim of his own damn thing.

This scene is misremembered; the rich guy cuts off his leg—his victim, the film's protagonist, shoots the rich guy in the head. Easy to check (search: “Hostel chainsaw scene”). Deliberate? Details don’t matter to Jimbo. & his point weakens if, in fact, “the rich guy” is ultimately the victim of “his own damn thing” + the victim of a victim determined not to die. Alternatively, it’s possible Drury didn’t bother to check. She saw the Hostel films & remembers the impression they made & that was enough for her.

Do the Hostel films appear in Fairview as shorthand? Jimbo isn’t a character but a mouth; he is incapable of subtlety & lacks culture. Hostel is as close to art as he gets. Hostel & American television. Jimbo watches the show w/in Fairview & has a store of sitcom tropes—specifically Black sitcom tropes—well-memorized. Instead of Hostel, is there a less dissonant shorthand Drury might’ve reached for?

I first read Fairview in 2018. Then, I made the following marginal note on the script’s last page: “This play is weirder than the critics say it is.”