Saturday, January 7, 2023

241. Kelly Link loves } Mooncalves.

Kelly Link once told me I have good taste. Editorially speaking. She also inscribed for me a copy of Stranger Things Happen thusly: “for Adam—I promise, one day, I’ll write you a story. (Promises, promises.) love, Kelly Link, April, 2001, Chicagoland.” She has yet to fulfill her obligation to me; because of my good nature, I have refrained from taking steps to enforce this legally binding document. Mitigating the dreadful rancor between us, she did write a generous blurb for Mooncalves, edited by John WM Thompson:
I will always be more grateful than I can say for anthologies like this, that not only include some of my favorite writers, but also introduce me to work by writers I haven’t encountered before. Mooncalves is splendid, surprising, and delicious.
I know for sure I’m not one of Kelly’s favorite writers, but I do have a story in Mooncalves—it’s called “Distant Signals.” Steve Rasnic Tem, Lisa Tuttle, & Glen Hirshberg are (probably) among Kelly’s favorite writers—they have stories in Moonclaves too.

Whilst still in proof, I read Mooncalves—it’s very impressive. The stories are strange & beautiful. Clint Smith writes, “Surreal and superb, Mooncalves is a narratively abnormal exhibition, with stories that both alter and accentuate fiction traditions”—& that’s exactly right, that’s the texture of this book.

John wrote to me in April, 2021 to ask me questions about my work. After we discussed New Genre, he wrote, “I've entertained starting some sort of ‘zine….” I replied:
Might I suggest that instead of a journal that requires an ongoing & endless commitment… you push your money into an anthology? Make it fancy & limited. Sewn binding, hard cover with an image stamped into the cover & a dust jacket. Good paper stock. Generous margins. A book you can charge $40 - $100 for, depending on size.
That’s Mooncalves!

It’s available now for $38 from the NO Press website. If you’re a reviewer interested in having a look, let me know & I’ll put you in touch with John.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

240. Losing Music } & Swordfishtrombones.


[The following fragment, written during the Spring of 2016, was meant to become an essay. It would’ve been called “Losing Music”—named for & intended to compliment John Cotter’s “Losing Music”—an essay about his experience with Ménière disease. John's “Losing Music” subsequently became Losing Music, his forthcoming memoir from Milkweed.]

John sent me a txt, asked, did I own Swordfishtrombones? He wanted me to listen to it, for him, because he couldn’t. I do own a copy, can’t say I’d ever listened to it, except I’ve heard songs from it—“Frank’s Wild Days”; once ago John put that cut on a mix for me. // I listened, as he asked. Took Swordfishtrombones to my little office where I never put on the lights except a cheap desk lamp and only early in the morning. I listened, head against the wall. // Between “16 Shells from A 30.6” and “Town With No Cheer” is the sound a rope makes when (blown by wind) it strikes an aluminum flag pole. A flag pole or—this is what I thought of—a rope against a yacht’s mast. A solitary yacht anchored off-shore. Docks. A ramshackle ice cream shack. Clang. A wind it won’t stop.

# # #

Just when John’s Ménières was about to get bad, but before it was the sure thing it is now, he told me the sound he heard in his head was like a bathroom hand-drier on full blast. He said it was so loud it amazed him no one else could hear it.

[Losing Music is due this April & can be pre-ordered here. There’s a short interview w/ John there; for more, Rick Koster wrote about John’s recent stay at the James Merrill House.]

Monday, October 3, 2022

239. Clovis takes a relic & } in no time loses his mind.

A brief life by Eliot Weinberger: “When [Ilona] received the stigmata, a circle of gold appeared on her right hand and out of it grew a white lily.”

Ambrose, who “dozed and dreamed over his books” attempts to explain evil to Cotgrave in the prelude to Arthur Machen’s “The White People”; he says,
What would your feelings be, seriously, if your cat or your dog began to talk to you, and to dispute you in human accents? You would be overwhelmed with horror. I am sure of it. And if the roses in your garden sang a weird song, and you would go mad. And suppose the stones in the road began to swell and grown before your eyes, and if the pebble that you noticed at night had shot out stony blossoms in the morning?
Is it a waste of time to calculate the number of angels, if angels speak, if angels eat, if angels were aware of Jesus’ existence before humankind, if angels have free will, if angels have sex with each other & or with humans, if angels have gender, if guardian angels like the people they’re assigned to guard, how many faces or arms or wings angels have, or if angles have names? Is contemplating angels, as St. Paul warned, “an obstacle to the worship of God” (43) or is such contemplation of spiritual use? An angel dictated the Qur’an to Mohammed & an angel directed John Smith to the Book of Mormon. I admire St. Thomas Aquinas’ logic but not its application.

Weinberger says,
No, I don’t think [facts] have any limits, I mean that’s, I mean that’s my one rule of writing an essay is that all the information in independently verifiable. So, it’s not that it’s necessarily true or not true but somebody believed it not me and I don’t invent anything.
So this book [Angels & Saints], like all things, started with Donald Trump, really. As you mentioned I write about politics for periodicals abroad and about American politics and because of that I have to follow the minutia of the news which you know kind of drives one crazy so I like to have a project that’s kind of timeless and that’s news that stays news.
How long does it take for fake news to become “kind of timeless” & “news that stays news”?

[ illustration: a poem by Hrabanus Maurus in praise of the holy cross, circa 810 CE. ]

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?