Tuesday, April 22, 2014

105. “That you may see } the meaning of within.”

Today, listened to Abbey Road, the 1987 and the 2009 digital re-masters, and to the second disk of Anthology 3. Considered “Oh! Darling” and “I Want You (She’s so heavy)” as a pair. Both lyrically simple, both desperate. A man begs his “darling” not to walk out, though all he can offer is neediness—without her, he’ll “never make it alone”—and the ominous promise he’ll “never do you no harm.” That double negative sub-conscious honesty. “I Want You (She’s so heavy)” a demand that gradually becomes a plea. And she? Not hard to imagine it’s Yoko, with whom Lennon was in the midst of an affair (he announced her divorce at the end of the Anthology 3 “Oh! Darling”), but maybe “she” is heroin. Maybe Yoko and heroin?

Almost all the narrative of both songs is conveyed by the way they are performed.

McCartney and Lennon sing “Oh! Darling” together on Anthology 3. For Abbey Road, McCartney worked his voice till it got a little grimy, which he used to good affect, especially toward the end of the recording. Supposedly, Lennon wished he’d sang the vocal—“‘Oh! Darling’ was a great one of Paul’s that he didn’t sing too well. I always thought I could have done it better….” I take all such claims with a grain of salt. Maybe Lennon felt that way when they recorded Abbey Road, maybe not—Lennon was one to temper compliments, especially compliments of McCartney’s work.

Lennon’s vocal for “I Want You (She’s so heavy)” gives a sense of how he might have approached a vocal for “Oh! Darling.” To take it a step further, perhaps “I Want You (She’s so heavy)” is how Lennon might have approached “Oh! Darling” in general; that is to say, “I Want You (She’s so heavy)” is Lennon’s “Oh! Darling.” Blunt, with none of the musical homage to 50s rock. None of the fun that tricks us away from the dark character of “Oh! Darling”—a game McCartney also played with “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.”

“I Want You (She’s so heavy)” is the come-down to “Tomorrow Never Knows.”

Friday, April 11, 2014

104. Horror wore a shirt } of violent green.

From the Frequency spring course & event listings:

Without plagiarism in our hearts, we read seeking ideas for our own fictions. A flawed story? Oh joy! Certainly writers of horror stories are ever-reading through the gothic corpus (corpse?) looking for great ideas in flawed fictions. We give Karl Edward Wagner’s short story “Sticks” (an oft-reprinted favorite) a close read and see what we can see that Wagner didn’t. Most likely, you’ll walk away with an idea for your own horror classic.

Required preparation: read Karl Edward Wagner’s “Sticks” (this story can be found in several anthologies, including Tales of the Cthulu Mythos: Golden Anniversary, edited by James Turner; The Dark Descent, edited by David Hartwell; and A Century of Horror (1970 – 1979), edited by David Drake. All three anthologies are easy to pick up online, and all three are available in Providence-area libraries). Please bring a copy of “Sticks” to our meeting.

Also: watch Book of Shadows: The Blair Witch Project 2.

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I teach the course Sunday, April 13, from 10:30am – 2:30pm at 186 Carpenter Street, in Providence. Price for the class is on a sliding scale, from $25 – 60. You can either pre-register or pay at the door. Find out why I think Wagner’s story is flawed and why I’d ask anyone to watch the sequel to The Blair Witch Project.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

103. Knott }

I'll refrain from any Bill Knott anecdotes, an obvious way to respond to his death. Instead, I'll direct you to John Cotter's review of Knott's Collected Poems 1960 - 2013, finally published by the Poetry Foundation a little more than a month ago. Knott was part of the same scene as Paul Hannigan, as much as either were part of a scene: Boston, Emerson College, Ploughshares, etc. A scene I knew, but a decade (and more) after Hannigan was (mostly) out of it, and Knott was an associate professor. He was my advisor when I was an undergraduate. Later, we were neighbors in Somerville. Mostly I knew him through stories. Open Letters Monthly published an obit if you're looking for more.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

102. Proteus reads } savagely gnashed teeth.

Tomorrow, I’ll travel with my eldest to Hartford, where I am a featured reader at WordForge, alongside Dominic Failla. I don’t know him, but his verse seems addressed to me: “Dear Adam / how did you become / a bird of prey / devouring the delicious / edges of joy?” I don’t know, how did Compsognathus become a chicken? I’ll read from Another Nemesis, a poem-in-progress. “What is not / the utterance / ‘am’?” it begins. Huh.

The reading is part of a series hosted by The Studio at Billings Forge. The reading begins at 7pm. I hear that instead of box wine and crackers, it’s Dalmore 62 Hiland Malt Scotch in Tiffany crystal tumblers. Alas, no crackers. Still, get there early, right?  

The next day I’ll suggest to my students that there is nothing strange about book four of The Georgics. Some bad bee science, for sure—but there’s nothing strange about bad science. The last pages are dedicated to selfish Aristaeus and his quest to get his bee hives back in order, a retelling not out of the blue, but set up by the many myths alluded to and retold throughout the poem. Furthermore, it’s the final book of the poem, a position that gives it special weight and license.

The most unusual moment in The Georgics is Virgil’s portrait of a farmer and his wife, working side-by-side in the house during a cold snap. He sharpens the blades of his tools, while she “with shrill shuttle zips across the warp” and sings. Is there another moment like it in the poem?

[Image: “Italian stone pin”" from “The Plants of Virgil's Georgics” by Rachael Wilson.]

Thursday, February 13, 2014

101. 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.

Witchboard II: The Devil’s Doorway. Dir. Kevin Tenney. Perf. Ami Dolenz, Christopher Michael Moore, Laraine Newman. Republic Pictures, 1993. Videocassette.


Knock knock.
Who’s there?
Witch who?
Why are you so interested?

Paige Benedict finds a loft in an old factory. “It’s beautiful,” she says. Jonas, the building manager leers and says, “Yes it is.” Paige asks, “Is this the only closet?” Jonas says, “I’m afraid so.” Inside the closet Susan Sidney is light as a feather, stiff as a board. “I’ll take it,” says Paige.

Paige, so blasé. She thinks, no more!, “I wanted to go to art school, and become a painter, but my father wanted me to study business. He said a career in art was too risky. So we compromised. I went to college and studied business,” no more!, “Then I met Mitch and fell into the same doormat relationship I had with my father.”

The board reads itself to Paige and she repeats what she read and thus invokes Susan’s ghost.

Meanwhile, Jonas stokes the furnace. The smell of cut lumber. Susan Sidney’s magic sets a nickel saw blade to flight—it spins through light bulbs and alights upon Jonas’ cheek. When the furnace speaks for Susan, Jonas burns.

The photographer, Russell, doesn’t “come on” to her. Though he wants her sexually, he needs Paige to initiate intercourse. She never will, but she will feed on his desire for her and on the kindness he offers as bait. He takes her picture, says, “Now be sexy.” She says, “This is as sexy as I get.” Russell doesn’t believe her. He circles her. He suggests she “lick her lips.” She does so, but grotesquely. “I said lick them, not swallow them.” She says, “I’m sorry, I just feel silly.” He releases the knot of her hair. He unbuttons the top button of her blouse. She drapes herself across the table.

Possession is the best thing for her. Alas, Paige defeats the witch Sudan Sidney, sends her screaming into the city. Russell is dead. She gives up her artistic pretensions—“I’m definitely going to go to art school this time and nothing is going to stop me”—really. She returns to Mitch and finances. A garbage truck comes to clean up “yes.”

Friday, February 7, 2014

100. 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 the indomitable Lucy Kurtz, available at Tower Records and Flyrabbit.

Doppelganger. Dir. Avi Nesher. Perf. Drew Barrymore, George Newbern, and Leslie Hope. Lions Gate, 1993. Videocassette.

At the park, Holly waits for herself. Trees between, leaves twist green to black and back. Holly wears a scarf wrapped around her throat and a pair of sunglasses.

When she gets home to her boyfriend Patrick’s apartment, she finds it empty, and undresses for a shower. From a hook below the shower head hangs a plumber’s wrench. She showers. The water is blood. Rivulets form at Holly’s face and run to her feet. When Patrick comes home, she’s a maiden. We stare. Which Holly is nude for us? Holly who is and Holly who is also. We have them.

Holly’s pregnancy is chrysalis. Clothes rip, the walls rip, her chrysalis splits. Wet wings, each a skinless self. Her wings eat demons twice.