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?

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. ]

Saturday, April 30, 2022

231. Conversation w/ } Spider & the Undiscovered Bug.

…carefully typewritten by myself when I was fifteen (or thereabouts), 3 pgs. of a play dedicated to my then-girlfriend. Here’s an excerpt:

SPIDER: I saw a movie the other night.
UNDISCOVERED BUG: Oh? & what was it called?
SPIDER: I believe it was called A Boy and His Dog.
SPIDER: Oh, no. It wasn’t nice. But I thought you might be interested to hear about it because it's a love story.
UNDISCOVERED BUG: Yes! Yes, Spider, that might prove interesting.
SPIDER: The boy—I don’t recall his name. Let’s call him Smith-Corona Coronamatic. Smith-Corona Coronamatic went underground where most of the human race lived to find a girl. He wanted her very badly.
UNDISCOVERED BUG: He was in love with her?
SPIDER: I’m sure of it. When he found her, he & she were stuck underground. They worked together to escape. She said she loved him & he said she loved her too.
UNDISCOVERED BUG: & they lived happily ever after with the boy’s dog?
SPIDER: No, the dog & the boy ate her.

Spider’s retelling of A Boy and His Dog (1975) deliberately misunderstand the movie—but that’s me, appropriating a film to tell my own story. That story being about the indignities of love.

The film, by the way, is a black comedy set in the wake of WWIV during the year 2024. I’d like to know how the human race survived WWIII, but I suppose we’ll find out soon enough.

The MS. is missing its first page & whatever else I wrote after pg. 4. The last page introduces a character who is clearly a stand-in for me: Paperboy. (I delivered newspapers for several years, back when newspapers were carried in big canvas shoulder-bags early in the morning by gals & lads who rode bicycles & saved their tips to pay for college.) This part of the play doesn’t exactly make sense. Paperboy is depressed. Radiator told him he “is a stupid idiot” but Grapefruit told Paperboy she loves him. Paperboy then renounces Spider & Undiscovered Bug. They’re not the gurus he thought they were, apparently.

[ image: a screenshot from the opening sequence of A Boy and His Dog ]

Monday, April 25, 2022

230. Marie de France & } Tales from the Darkside.


King Arthur dishes out wives & land to all who helped repel the Scots & the Picts—all except Lanval. No one puts in a good word for Lanval. He’s excellent, but not one to boast. & the knights who notice Lanval envy him, so they stay mum. “Now [Lanval] was in a plight, very sad and forlorn.”

Aimless, he decides to “take his ease” in a meadow. It’s a strange meadow; his horse senses this but Lanval does not. He takes a nap. Or maybe he’s awake. Two maidens arrive & ask, on behalf of “my damsel,” that Lanval follow them to her tent. The tent is fabulous (“There is no king under the sun who could afford it”) & the damsel inside is fabulous.

She offers Lanval her love & wealth, but w/ a single stipulation: he mustn’t tell anyone about her.

For a time, Lanval enjoys the damsel’s company & his new found wealth—but the knights, who previously ignored Lanval (specifically Gawain), decide to invite him to a garden party & there, at the party, the queen (Guinevere, I presume), hits on Lanval. Lanval rebuffs her advance. She says, “I have been told often enough that you have no desire for women. You have well-trained young men and enjoy yourself with them.” Lanval denies he’s gay & tells her he is “loved by a lady who should be prized above all others I know.” He adds that the queen is worth less than even the poorest girl in the kingdom.

In turn, the queen promptly tells Arthur that Lanval made a move on her at the party. Lanval is put on trial; to defend himself, he tells the court about the damsel—& realizes, the moment he does so, that he’s broken his promise & lost her.

Since he can’t produce the damsel in court, he’s jailed. His sentence will be banishment. Unless… at the very last moment the damsel arrives. She declares her love for Lanval & no once disputes that she’s more beautiful than the queen. Lanval is freed, & he rides with the damsel to Avalon.

Now, there’s plenty that’s different about “Lanval” & the Tales from the Darkside episode “Ring Around the Redhead” (based on John McDonald’s story)—but there are striking similarities. The damsel—Keena, she’s named—offers not only beauty & material wealth but also intellectual gifts that appear to be magic. The hero—Billy, not Lanval—is in love with her knowledge & w/ the promise of a life in the perfect world where she’s from. Although Billy is not accused of insulting a queen, he’s in jail, about to be executed, unable to prove to anyone that there ever was a Keena. Lanval’s advocate is Gawain; Billy’s advocate is a journalist. At the very last moment, before Billy’s execution, Keena returns & whisks him away to her perfect land—Avalon.

Bob Byrne, writing for Black Gate (“Birthday Reviews: John D. Macdonald’s “Ring Around the Redhead”), dismisses the episode:
The story was adapted in 1985 for an episode of Tales from the Darkside, starring John Heard and Penelope Ann Miller. By all accounts, it was forgettable and did not justice to MacDonald’s writing.
I can’t dispute this, since (I’m embarrassed to admit) I haven’t read McDonald’s story (I will!). However, “Ring Around the Redhead” is one of my favorite episodes of Tales from the Darkside, one I rewatch often.

I don’t claim that McDonald took inspiration from “Lanval”—although there’s no reason why he mightn’t have. We can, however, be fairly sure “Ring Around the Redhead” wasn’t influenced by Roxy Music.

[ Image of Keena from Tales from the Darkside "Ring Around the Redhead" ]

Friday, April 22, 2022

229. Abbey Road sketches } (home demo).


A student wrote “zone-off” instead of “zone-out.” She zoned-off. I dig it. Like, to get-off. Zoned-off to “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”—but, as often, study / attend to it.

Oversized load & “Old Brown Shoe.” A house on a flatbed. Mom & Dad bought a house on a flatbed & set it where the old house used to be. Stood in the pit where the old house was & Marci said, “Yr grinning, Adam.”

“Sun King” begins w/ nighttime sounds.

Choosing a name fr yrself. “Oh, Darling!” Mom & Dad name you X but yr called Y. What of us who don’t make or acquire a nickname? Anything we don’t need to decide / think about is good.

Steer the car beneath the wheels of a K-Line tractor trailer. “He shut his eyes & came out…” the countdown “1, 2, ah 1, 2, 3, 4.” Cars keep losing the lane. Veering into mine “Oh, I’m losing my cool.”

Or you all came in too late.

A bright blue car full of plants. Not potted plants. Rooted in the upholstery. Grassland in the back seat. Driver in a camo poncho, stalked by a lioness; she’ll wait until the car is in park before she pounces.

Friday, April 15, 2022

228. Cricket for } Mira Calix.


Mira Calix is dead. I bought Eyes Set Against the Sun (2006) at a record shop in Cambridge. Not long after, the shop closed. This was before the restoration of vinyl. “the stockholm syndrome” begins w/ plucked strings. Autoharp? An electronic squelch repeats. A voice & a beat. Calix chants, “he said, ‘walk away.’” There’s a full moon this morning. At the Road Runner gas station damsel flies rise up & down in the lights. I brush them aside as I wait for the car’s tank to fill. Frogs gulp. Across the street the reservoir. Animals that live in mud. Calix incorporates a cricket—briefly—at the end of “the stockholm syndrome.” A nod to Nunu. Mira Calix is a field during the hot of summer. “eeilo” is mournful; “the stockholm syndrome” isn’t joyful but energized. Last night I thought of a scene w/ a jet-black cricket chirruping in someone’s bedroom. Mine, I suppose. The presence of the cricket erased the barrier between indoors & out-of-doors. I was annoyedI wanted to be well-rested for the next day (today) but I’m not sure I was awake. I dreamed I went to a train station to meet a girlfriend I haven’t seen in decades. When she arrived, I recognized her immediately. Her hair was gray but I knew her by her size & by her gait & I laughed. Now it’s 4:39 am & dark & I’m on a highway. “the way you are when” a plucked cello. Mira Calix is dead young; dead is on my mind. Green shoots, the azalea will flower pink soon. All this w/out—after Mira Calix.

[ Composer Mira Calix died March 25. ]

[ for the now defunct Coldfront I wrote the following in 2017 about Calix's NunuBlack sky white flora fringed pink and green. “piece not about the field recording” Here is a home movie wave. Whales in captivity. “I frantically” Treated strings and insects. Sailboats. “wasps, flies, larvae hatching, butterflies beating, and with this menagerie” A little girl dances in her swimsuit; wade in: track: “NUNU” taken from “3 commissions” ep music by MIRA CALIX filmed by PAPA CALIX directed by AV; TV ©2004 “site specific music” Walk backwards into the garden. Ingest to transform the sun. ]