Thursday, August 4, 2022

238. David Cronenberg’s } funny cars.


Watch Crash (1996). Then watch Fast Company (1979).

Insectoid machinery: the “Lonnie Johnson designed quadravene blower.” A prototype quadravene blower stares at Lonnie from his desk; it causes Lonnie’s “fueler” to explode during a race; Lonnie walks away from the explosion unharmed.

Wide shots of sunrise & sunset. Bright reds & blues (see the children’s snowsuits in The Brood, filmed during the winter of ’79.)

Homoerotic back-&-forth between ostensibly heterosexual men: “Then you’ll be suckin’ my pipes”; “Why don’t you go behind the truck and give yourself a valve job!”

Lonnie’s girlfriend, Sammy (Claudia Jennings), works where? It’s her own place, called “Sammy’s.” We see a cash register & a row of glass bongs on a high shelf (lemon yellow, fire engine red, jade green). Lonnie calls her “Sam.”

Antagonist Phil Adamson (Fill, as in oil, as in penetrative sex; Adam-son, as in Cain) flies a single-engine airplane (similar to the plane Catherine Ballard flies & that sexually arouses her). He flies w/ Candy, says, “They crawl, we fly,” & puts his hand on her thigh.

At minute 19:53, shot of security guards w/ bad skin. & the great face of the announcer! Toothy like Tom Petty.

The FastCo. crew is in Helena, Montana; on the wall behind the announcer is a poster for “Inland Empire shows.” (David Lynch, born in Missoula, Montana, directs Inland Empire in 2006).

Close-up shots of funny car interior. Billy’s hands on the steering, switches. Billy wears goggles & a respirator, reminiscent of the pilots on the album sleeve for Black Sabbath’s Never Say Die! (1978). Close-up shots of funny car parts. Lonnie stands w/ the mouth of a funny car wide open behind him.

Auto-erotica: Billy picks up two hitchhikers (unnamed, played by Cheri Hilsabeck & Sonya Ratke); takes them into the FastCo. trailer for sex; he opens a can of motor oil & pours it on Sonya’s bare chest. Shortly thereafter, Billy consummates his romance w/ Candy on the bed in Lonnie’s trailer/office; Sammy finds them in bed &, once she understands what she’s seeing, joins the pair; Lonnie shows up & shoos Billy & Candy out so he can have sex with Sammy.

At 1:23:18, “the fiberglass bodies are lowered over the drivers”—the final race, at night, culminating, inevitably, in an explosion & death; a man in flames against a starless sky.

Lonnie must destroy Phil: drives his funny car into Phil’s plane; Phil loses control & crashes into the side of a black trailer. “Maybe the next one, darling. Maybe the next one.”

[ Months after shooting Fast Company, Claudia Jennings (Sammy) died when she crashed her Porche on the Pacific Coast Highway. She was 29. In 1969, she was playmate of the month in November; she appeared on television & in films, including The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) & Deathsport (1978)—a film about an apocalyptic future where people kill each other using laser guns & dirt bikes. ]

Sunday, July 24, 2022

237. & } ampersand.


[ “Ampersand” from Matthew Klane’s Co-upt series & the cover image for my Voice Notes, a collection of poetry forthcoming from Spuyten Duyvil. ]

Thursday, July 21, 2022

236. Revisit Lucy Ives’ } The Hermit.

“…studies of description” are? (35.)

“I can’t describe myself as a poet. I’m the author of some kind of thinking about writing.” The Hermit is not poetry. Ives claims she’s a novelist. (36.)

Among several texts Ives wants to read is Susan Howe’s “Statement for the New Poetics Colloquium, Vancouver. 1985.” An essay-poem. Howe writes, “I wish I could tenderly lift from the dark side of history, voices that are anonymous, slighted—inarticulate.” Maybe a poetic, certainly a goal. A (mostly) impossible goal. An inarticulate voice is a voice kept hidden in the mind. There’s no way Howe can pull that out of the past. Ives is interested in thoughts she has but can’t quite articulate. Not quite the same goal as Howe’s; Howe wants to “lift” other voices, Ives wants to lift her own voice. (37.)

Can an artwork, made to articulate an idea (a vision), be used to understand an unrelated experience? Ives asks, “Could we use art to interpret daily life?” What distinction does Ives make when she writes “daily life”—as opposed to what other kind of life? Is “daily life” a euphemism for normal? (38.)

“I perhaps don’t read or write enough and yet always feel like I am reading, like I am writing.” Ives doubts this statement—thus, “perhaps.” Does Ives feel she doesn’t read enough useful writing? Writing that challenges &/or inspires? What is she reading instead of Susan Howe’s (short) essay? (42.)

“…(some kind of essay on collage). Attempting to ‘see’ the way in which the eye cuts out.” The eye pre-cuts what is cut by scissors / blade. Un Chien Andalou. (47.)

“Christine on literary realism: This is when coincidence and personal connections (interrelatedness) drive a story….” Christine, the titular evil car from Stephen King’s novel. Christine drives a story. (50.)

“When I was 13 I swore to myself that I would become a novelist.” Ives is a novelist. I have not read her first novel, nor have I read her third novel Life Is Everywhere (daily life?). From the publisher’s description, Life Is Everywhere is about a writer in a graduate writing program & about unpublished manuscripts. Loudermilk, Ives’ second novel, is also about writers in a graduate writing program (& the non-writer who fools everyone). Does Ives’ vow, made at age 13, interfere with her writing now? (53.)

“A dream: A night goes on for years. One must make use of public transportation in order to cross it.” To cross the night? Read E. M. Forster’s “The Celestial Omnibus.” (58.)

Dreams acted upon when awake. (68.)

“I spent many years with a strong, almost violent feeling that there was much to live for, although I may have been inactive for much of this time.” A lust for life, but a life of fantasy & idea made actual on the page. (69.)

“Is there that which can only be seen in a glance?” See Ives’ collage essay idea. Ghosts. (70.)

In death, we are sent to the place where our belongings are & while our belongings remain we are never able to leave that place. Ghosts linger by their stuff. If, retroactively, we declare that property belongs to people long dead, we exile them to that spot. (73.)

Ideas decay as dream do. (77.)

[All quotes, unless otherwise attributed, are from Lucy Ives’ The Hermit, The Song Cave, 2016. The parenthetical numbers correspond to the numbered sections in The Hermit—there are no page numbers. I wrote about The Hermit before; that essay appears in 3AM Magazine. Ives read my essay & kindly responded, “Thank you, Adam! This is fascinating. I appreciate your sleuthing, re: the meanings of the text.”]

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

235. Nancy Wheeler wears } an Emerson T.


When Nancy would’ve gone to Emerson College (if she goes. I haven’t watched Stranger Things 4), WECB was an AM station. She’d graduate in 1990. Or ’91. Soon after I will host a radio show from midnight – 2am once a week.

I invited undergraduate writing majors to discuss their writing & play music they liked. The first episode I was worried I couldn’t easily fill two hours, so I invited four guests; by the end of the show’s run, I invited one. I called the show Radio Never Sleeps. After the first episode, it was co-hosted by Concetta Troskie. She & I got on wonderfully, though I don’t remember ever socializing w/ her outside the studio. It’s as if she appeared & vanished; I might’ve seemed the same to her, except she once told a story, on air, about seeing me at a crosswalk. She remarked about my patience: I stood stock-still till the light changed. (When I am required to wait—in line at the market, at bus stops, etc., I zip into my mind. “Head in the clouds,” Dad admonished.) Concetta's now a dance/movement therapist.

I taped every episode. I’m not sure how it happened, but all those tapes ended up in a paper bag under the cellar stairs at my parents’—I found them yesterday. What would it do to me to listen to them?

Saturday, June 4, 2022

234. Clint Smith } loiters low.

I’ve read “Lovenest,” Clint Smith’s contribution to Looming Low II (from Dim Shores, due this fall). I won’t spoil it other than to say it’s fun &…

the narrator & his ex-wife talk in a dark parking lot next to a partially-demolished hotel. This setting is commonplace & bleak. Cooking oil, asphalt, dumpster, exhaust. Chain-link fence, young maple, bramble. A paper receipt, ground into the dirt. Mundane & awful. Especially American?

In my introduction to Clint’s Skeleton Melodies, I characterized his fiction as “realism horror.” An awkward phrase, for sure—but apt enough (he adopted the phrase as his blog’s sub-head, so surely he finds it apt). For all the fantasy in “Lovenest,” the parking lot setting grounds the story here. It’s also where the most ominous scene in the story take place: the moment before the charnel house door is slammed shut (so to speak).

I don’t know that Looming Low II will be worth your hard-earned & diminished dollar, but you’ll want to read Clint’s story for sure. (Mind, I have no reason to believe Looming Low II won’t be good! But we haven’t read the other stories yet, have we?)

In the meantime, there’s Ghouljaw & Skeleton Melodies. Get thyself to a library, nun!

Saturday, May 21, 2022

233. Sawako Nakayasu } leaves.

 Kate K. texted the following three photos: 

& she wrote, “This issue of poetry… did you know about Sawako's poem? I did a double take when I saw you there…”

I did know. Pink Waves, Sawako’s latest book, was written in a theater space. Visitors were encouraged to be in the space while she worked. Twice, I sat in the theater & wrote while Sawako worked. I drafted sections of “San Francisco Essay” (which will appear in an upcoming issue of Bennington Review).

The theater where she wrote was located beneath my office. Some mornings, early, I’d let myself into the dark theater before anyone else was in the building. Feel my way down the spiral staircase. Pause at Sawako’s worktable. Move past the mirror & through the black curtains to the exit.

I “went away again” in the April issue of Poetry; I am “going away” in the May issue of The White Review.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

232. Mister X proposal for } Critical Cartoons.


Throughout 2015 & 2016, Tom K. (editor at Uncivilized Books) & I corresponded about Critical Cartoons; in May of 2016, I queried about writing a volume,
I keep toying with the possibility of proposing a book for your series... but I imagine you're well set for the future. I'd do Mr. X (Vortex) or The One (epic) or (heaven forbid!) Gore/Shriek (FantaCo). So much to think about.
He replied,
Please propose a book! I’d LOVE a book about Mr. X (architecture & comics is one of my pet topics!) or The One!!! I haven’t thought about Gore/Shriek in ages, I’ll have to dig them out of my long boxes! There a lot of proposals I’m juggling, but a [sic] many of them are not very solid yet. There’s a lot of room to maneuver if you’re serious.
A week later I sent a 7-pg. proposal. What follows is from the first pg. of my proposal.

# # #

Definition destroys the beauty ambiguity makes.

Eye-level with the street, man-hole cover lifted light as a nickel, “It wasn’t easy for the man to return to the city”; his bald head, the thin bridge of his nose—his sunglasses reflect Radiant City. Behind him, skyscrapers and sky-bridges and spotlights. Or, behind him is the dream city “he himself designed” but left unfinished. Or, he is at the center of Radiant City. The city stands behind him and, reflected in the dark lenses he wears, in front of him. He is Mr. X.

Dean Motter, who “created and designed” Mister X, articulates (unintentionally) the problem with the original 14-issue run (1983 – 1988), “People remembered [Mr. X] without ever having seen him.” A better word than “seen” might be “read”—seeing Mr. X suggests much, but, “While the imagery that collaborator Paul Rivoche and I were developing looked interesting, the premise began to seem rather banal by comparison.” And, “[Mr. X’s] cache was, after all, his ambiguity. His mystique. His aura of menace. His sheer unconventionality.” Mister X is beautiful when it is allowed to be ambiguous, mysterious, strange. “But,” Motter writes, “that all seemed to be falling to the wayside the more I tried to define him.” Of course. Definition destroys the beauty ambiguity makes. Motter “& Co.” tended to explain rather than allow, to restart rather than proceed.

Nonetheless, Mister X was not resolved, so beauty remains.

# # #

After a follow-up from me, K. wrote,
Apologies for the big delay! We were pretty swamped with pre-sales for the Spring ’17 season. I’m planning on taking a look & giving you some feedback this week. I really appreciate this!
I never heard from K. again. My sense is that Critical Cartoons stalled or went in a different direction. Maybe my proposal is wretched. What do I know?

I know I like the proposal I wrote. Mister X is a flawed comic, but it loomed large in my teenaged imagination. The story is mysterious & it was mysterious in the world (my classmates didn’t read it & I couldn’t buy it at Dairy Mart, where I could always grab the latest X-Men or Batman).

My father bought me the first issue. I hunted & hunted for the rest.

Now you can easily get the whole thing from Dark Horse, complete w/ a hyperbolic introduction by Warren Ellis.

[ Note: Lars Ingebrigten wrote a good overview of Mister X on his blog here. The image above is from the Dark Horse collected Mister X, w/ my Post-it note (“Pathways / his motivation... to keep them secret?” attached. ]