Wednesday, February 3, 2016

132. “Did you touch me, } or why am I terrified?”

From The Supernatural Tales Blog, Jan. 30, 2016:

“…the online poll for most popular story in… ST #30 produced a pretty decisive result. ‘Wild Dogs’ by Adam Golaski won by a country mile.”

Monday, February 1, 2016

131. The New Yorker v. } “Lydia Davis’s radical fiction.”

“The letter, like many things that [Lydia] Davis writes, had started out sincere and then turned weird” [24].

How sincere could Davis be, writing to tell General Mills that their frozen-pea packaging isn’t “appealing”? Frequently, I begin to write with no other goal than to amuse myself—Davis’ letter to General Mills… after she cooked the peas… did she steam them, to be eaten as a side, or put them in a dish—

chicken pot pie—

while the pie she made baked (35 minutes “or until golden brown”), Davis sat at the kitchen table and contemplated the empty frozen peas bag. She talked about the package with Alan, her husband, “an abstract painter,” maybe he’d be interested, look at this washed-out photo of peas, not at all like the peas in actual.

After dinner, after the dishes were washed and put away, Davis wrote, in longhand, the letter. It amused her to do so. To send the letter completed the project—if came a response, it might be incorporated—she made a copy; she recognized what she had. After all, this was her mode since August, 1973. Of her process, “I follow my instinct pretty—I don’t like the word intuitively! I follow them in a kind of natural way, without questioning them too much” [27].

What’s more, the editors of The White Review wrote to ask for work from Davis—

“Even now, much of Davis’s writing has its first life in obscure literary magazines. All the editors have to do is ask. If she likes the cover letter and feels she can trust them, she’ll send work. In small magazines, she feels free to experiment. ‘There’s an opposition between what’s good for my career and what’s good for my writing… What’s good for my writing is these little places’” [30]. Besides, FSG will publish what once was obscure in those “little places”; those “small magazines,” their editors, readers, etc., all a part of Davis’s process.

As “sincere” as any of Davis’s writing—and as “weird.”

[ Goodyear, Dana. "Long Story Short." The New Yorker, March 2014, 24 - 30. ]

Monday, January 18, 2016

130. “Hushed Will Be All Murmurs” } & Terror Tales.

Last night my eldest declared that my contribution to Paul Finch’s Terror Tales of the Ocean is inscrutable. Something to do with lips? Of course she’s right. That said, “Hushed Will Be All Murmurs”—a title taken from chapter 25 of Charles Brockden Brown’s Wieland (“Let my last energies support me in the finishing of this task. Then will I lay down my head in the lap of death. Hushed will be all my murmurs in the sleep of the grave.”)—does have the virtue of being the shortest entry. Turns out, erotically-charged, decapitated heads are an ongoing concern of mine.

Terror Tales of the Ocean is the ninth in a series of anthologies from Grey Friar Press. All delightfully adorned with outrageous covers and sold in gift shops around England. In addition to my contribution, there’s Steve Duffy’s “Lie Still, Sleep Becalmed” (this is the second time I’ve been collected in an anthology with that story—the first was John Skipp’s massive zombie book)—it’s Duffy at his finest. Characters quickly and convincingly drawn and confronted by an utterly bizarre horror that creates a kind of lovely image. Of the stories new to the volume, I most enjoyed Conrad Williams' “The Offing,” a portrait of a teenaged girl on the cusp of adulthood in the midst of a ruined seaside landscape.

Slid between each story are little bits of weird nonfiction, all capped with alarm—of Megalodon, for instance, we’re told that, unlikely as it might be, “few will say for certain that this fabled ‘tyrannosaur of the ocean’ is not still down there, biding his time as he watches us from the inky darkness.” Oh, boy, kiddies!—to be watched by such a mindless god.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

129. More video lies } from the Unfinished House.

The following is an excerpt from the column Video Lies, a regular feature in the 1990s ‘zine Kraken Farmer, edited by Lucy Kurtz, available at Tower Records and Flyrabbit.

The Borrower. Dir. John McNaughton. Perf.  Rae Dawn Chong, Pam Gordon, Tom Towles, and Mädchen Amick. Cannon Pictures, 1991. Film.

An ant informs another ant you’re punished now you’re a man.

“Make special note of Pam Gordon, very funny as a weirdly enthusiastic coroner who behaves as if she had been struck by lightning as a small child.” Vincent Canby, New York Times, Oct. 18, 1991. 

She sees cells explode life.

I’m in a heavy metal band my friend Mädchen makes a video we scream “Oedipus wrecks!” Mom and Dad watch The Garbage Pail Kids Movie with headphones they don’t hear when “he took a face from the ancient gallery” when Valerie Vomit “that third blood type we haven’t been able to classify yet” vomits they don’t hear when Mädchen shotguns an alien dog through the French doors there’s a body but “there was no one / not a soul around.”

Overexert and revert with a blast. We are transient-alien in our bodies. We accept this as mortality, but for those thieves who hop bodies. Listen to the teeth click ins your new head. EMT: “Yeah. You wanna tell me where the head is or is that too much trouble?” OFFICER: “No trouble. There is no head.”

A homeless man’s body is a perfect hiding place.

Monday, September 14, 2015

128. More video lies } from the Unfinished House.

The following is an excerpt from the column Video Lies, a regular feature in the 1990s ‘zine Kraken Farmer, edited by Lucy Kurtz, available at Tower Records and Flyrabbit.

Basket Case 3: The Progeny. Dir. Frank Henenlotter. Perf. Kevin Van Hentenryck, Annie Ross, and Tina Louise Hilbert. MCA/Universal Home Video, 1992. Film.

If you have ever seen a severed hand or foot, or a head cut off and lying some way away from the rest of the body—analogous is what someone does to himself, as far as he can, when he will not accept his lot and severs himself from society or does some unsocial act. —Marcus Aurelius

Stacy, who has no forearms, is a bookkeeper. Her colleagues are impressed with what she can do, are repulsed by the knobs of bone that suggest fingers but grow from her elbows, imagine her limited life, would never suggest out loud that her life is limited, try to act as if they don’t notice, and feel keen gratitude for their own fully-developed limbs. Stacy is not homicidal, does not dwell in a rattan basket, and, while she knows other people shaped by phocomelia, they are not family, kept safe at Granny Ruth’s.

Belial, undeveloped and once-conjoined twin of Duane, a growth with a face and pointed teeth, finds a home amongst other creature-shop cast-offs, and no longer desires to be re-attached to his physically normal but psychopathic brother. Belial’s fantasy life reveals he is creepy, but in an ordinary way—he dreams of topless models without wants other than to serve, sexually and otherwise, their master. Belial’s lust is common; his brother’s love—mad Duane believes he is not whole without Belial—is extra-normal.

Belial and Duane are better off when not at odds.

What can't Stacy do?

Our freak show romantic notions take us nowhere.

Monday, August 10, 2015

127. Supernatural Tales 30 reads } New Genre no. 7

David Longhorn, editor of Supernatural Tales and author of the story collection The Glyphs, reviewed New Genre no. 7. He considers what the issue adds up to—
If there's a common idea here it's the way that ideas long rooted not merely in genre fiction but in popular culture can be reworked, evolved, or otherwise mutated into something new and interesting.
—then looks at its parts, story-by-story.

At just about the same time Longhorn’s review appeared, I received issue 30 of Supernatural Tales. Back in February I was asked, along with a number of other authors who appeared in ST toward its inception, if I would contribute. I sent “Wild Dogs.”

In its earliest incarnation, “Wild Dogs” was “After,” a novella about a young man reeling from a break up, and with nary a supernatural element (though the protagonist—thoroughly self-absorbed and annoying—is plagued by weird dreams). “After” became “Rottweiler In a Nightclub,” a three-page parody of “After.” “Rottweiler…” introduced a dog into the narrative, who has the following exchange with the protagonist:
The dog jumps up onto the stool beside me. We face the bar, look at each other in the mirror.
            The dog says, “Give me your drink.”
            I do so. It puts its front paws up on the counter. A drop of blood falls from its snout into the glass.
            “It’s vodka,” I say. “I usually have gin.”
            The dog grunts.
            The dog says, “We are brothers, you and I.”
            I don’t feel so confused, anymore. I reach into my coat for my cigarettes. I offer one to the dog. It accepts, withdrawing it from the pack with its lips, and bares its teeth as it does so.
Before, at last, the story became “Wild Dogs” it was called “Humbaba,” with the idea that the protagonist is transformed into a monstrous spirit of the forest / city. If you read the story knowing this and knowing something about The Epic of Gilgamesh, you’ll see numerous connections between my “sourly-witty social realism” and that ancient myth.

Fellow Supernatural Tales old-timers include Helen Grant, Lynda E. Rucker, Michael Kelly, Mark Valentine (whose story is dedicated to the memory of Joel Lane) and Steve Duffy. Longhorn's review of New Genre no. 7 resides here; and there's a review of the  30th issue of Supernatural Tales here.

Addendum: James Everington, author and critic (who wrote about my "What Water Reveals" as pt. of his "Strange Stories" series), posted a recommendation to read Supernatural Tales 30.

Monday, July 27, 2015

126. VERA SHEVZOVA } frond 1 - 37.

Monoton‘s Monotonprodukt 07 was properly reissued in 2012 (Desire Records) and Craig Leon’s Nommos and Visiting were reissued in 2014 (Rvng Intl.), but still no one has brushed off Vera Shevzova’s frond 1 – 37. This negligence causes me to ask: does the album even exist?

Occasionally, during our print pre-history, Shevzova would get written up in ‘zines dedicated to early 1980s arcana, but no one seemed to know anything—there was a cassette, it was written, produced in Poland (then, without fail, a lament about the production value of such objects)—but no one actually heard the music. In '89 I saw a tour poster stapled to a telephone pole in Boston, but I was too young to get into the club.

Recently, I uncovered on the shelf of a used bookstore, the sleeve of Shevzova’s frond 1 – 37. Thrill and disappointment. No record! Inside, typed on a yellowed sheet, a bit of a press release.

Either Shevzova is real, and a crate-digger needs to find her and upload frond (or whatever)—or there’s no Shevzova, just cardboard and paper.

I posted the album sleeve at Jeff Crouch’s Famous Album Covers.