a friend of mine gave me a copy of the following excerpt a few days ago…..
“Once a young woman walked every afternoon along a stretch of beach. She was tall, with a slender tanned body, and her bathing suit was very short and tight and of a soft gay green yarn.
“Every afternoon as she crossed the warm sand to the steps up the cliff, she passed close by a rug, on which sat two people. She was conscious that they both noticed her and waited for her. Especially she knew that the man watched her. She walked very straight and stuck out her two small round breasts a little.
“It surprised her that the man and the woman were together. He was a tall rather soft man, a few years away from being very handsome. He wore bathing trunks and was busy tanning his skin. The woman rubbed oil on him, and even with her strong hands rubbing him, he watched the young girl pass by. His eyes were spoiled and laughing, the slightly moist brown eyes of an attractive middle aged man.
“That was what surprised the girl, his blatant charm and the woman he was with. There were so many lone lovely women to be with him, but was always with the plain, gray, strong woman who never spoke but sat watching over him and rubbing his skin when he wanted it rubbed.
“The girl thought they were probably the same age. But the man was still boyish and his eyes roved, and the woman was a stocky middle-aged person, blunt looking and never dressed in anything but a white apronlike dress and a coarse misshapen sweater of dull gray.
“Every day the girl grew more conscious of the man. She knew he waited for her to pass. She could feel him watching the rise and fall of her little round buttocks, ans she was glad that her legs were straight and firm. She stuck her breasts out proudly and wondered about his staying always with an old stubby woman.
“One day she walked past them. The man half-lay against the woman’s shoulder, and she was humped strongly like a rock to support him. His hand dropped lax beyond a raised knee.
“He watched the girl. The woman seemed not to. The girl was very conscious. Just before she got to the steps, she turned and for the first time looked the two people. Her head was up, very triumphant, because she knew she would catch the man finally with his bright roving look and hold him.
“He smiled confidently into her eyes. Then the woman leaned slowly around, and with her white clean teeth she caught hold of the soft sidepiece of the man’s hand, the piece from the base of the little finger to the wrist, and she bit it. Probably she did not bite very hard, but it was a stern authoritative bite. And it told the girl suddenly of a deep real passion she had not known yet nor even thought about.
“The woman looked at the girl. Her eyes were clear and impersonal and swung from the young face out to the ocean. The girl turned and walked quickly away, and for a long time felt very young and humiliated.”
-From MFK Fisher’s Laguna Journal
July 29, 2008
“In summer, the song sings itself.
“The perfect man of action, is the suicide.
“But all art is sensual and poetry particularly so. It is directly, that is, of the senses, and since the senses do not exist without an object for their employment all art is necessarily objective. It doesn’t declaim or explain, it presents.
“By listening to his language of his locality the poet begins to learn his craft. It is his function to lift, by use of imagination and the language he hears, the material conditions and appearances of his environment to the sphere of the intelligence where they will have new currency.”
– William Carlos Williams
We got together in Chicago this last Friday night for a reading/release party of “Fragments,” by David Carl. Reading on his behalf, Moshe Zvi Marvit introduced himself thus: “I have been working as a biographer of late, and, after reading Fragments a few months ago, I decided to write a biography about him. When I asked David for permission to do so, he said that instead of answering any personal questions, he would send me on missions in his place. I am reading for him tonight on that account. Later on, I am supposed to meet a girl he used to know.”
Moshe read for about twenty minutes, focusing on a previously selected series of lines that pertained directly to the male and female protagonists in the text. While the characters are somewhat obscured throughout the book by ideas and observations, they nevertheless exist, and, (I’d argue,) ground the book as a whole, lending it a linear course as their relationship with one another develops. By isolating the passages that involve this nameless he and she, Marvit carved out a public place for them; a place in which they might be discussed. He read under a yellow light, the Bitters signage on his left, the audience sitting in a crescent around him on borrowed folding church chairs.
He began at with the first line of the book, “There was no desire for arrival,” and skipping over other lines, his reading traveled through, “…What she calls poetry is certainly an inability to see the world./ over “…Waiting for faces to appear in the window./” and into “…She accuses him of pursuing the accumulation of knowledge. / Outside in the rain taxis sulked in isotropic spirals of isolation. / The ants were winding their way up the leg of the kitchen table. / He dried his tears on the sleeve of his camelhair jacket and fumbled for his hat in the dark as she slumped back against the light. / All one need learn from the past is that it existed. / Capable of infinite subdivisions. / To write down that storm. / If he must bear the burden of location then why not slip between the sheets of an epistemological space? / The toppling mind. / No ambition outstrips the poet’s folly. / His various forms of failure his most marked success. / Whether she should weigh more heavily single words or their combined effect. / What did she know of prisons, other than what the mirrors suggested? / It was the accumulation of layers that accounted for their distortion effect. / Alien genres of familiar forms. / Shared but mutually exclusive disappointments. / ‘Of course, there is something very permanent about death,’ she says. / Half mad from the absence of lists. / Dido’s pyre. / Deranged by virtue of her former cruelties and not to be found among the hungry. / Tumescent words cowering under her typewriter. / The skeletal structure that frames a diverse set of impulses. / The ravenous flow of time. / He wanted to give equal weight to every sentence, to make each one the beginning of what he had to say. / He perfected the art of appearing lost in thought.” And over the course of other passages, Moshe ended on page 30 with “Every word comes grudgingly.”
“Can you answer questions about the book?” someone asked. There were about fifteen of us in the room at that time, the chairs sitting a little more casually now as they had been rearranged in a sneaky succession of shifting weights over the course of the reading. The train of course, our favorite and intermittent guest, came and went over the course of the humming fans and summer heat.
“I can’t answer questions about the book, but I can answer questions about the author,” answered Moshe.
“Are you speaking on David Carl’s behalf?”
“Are you impersonating David Carl?”
“I have a question,” a poet said. Having once been a resident of the Green Lantern, she’s born witness to its various stages of development. “There is a quote from William Carlos Williams where he says that the poetry is sensual and consequently, that the subject of poetry has to be in the Objects. Not ideas. That the resonances come from the feeling of objects described. It strikes me that this book starts with the ideas. Do you think that’s true?”
“The passages that I chose to read are all about people. I chose to read about the tangible relationships. If people are ideas, then I suppose I’ve been reading about ideas, but I’ve always thought of people as sensual, and physical things.”
“I nevertheless got the feeling that, for the most part, the characters were hidden from view, in a way. That if you hadn’t, in this case, isolated those particular sections, the characters would have been disguised at first,” said another member of the audience. This one standing, one arm crossed over the other. A lurker in the back, I was surprised she’d say anything.
The voice of the poet was carried by another, a young woman with black hair. “It felt to me like each sentence of the book was trying to resonate. I am used to linear narratives, and often prefer them, where there is a stream of short, even awkward sentences, feeble things, that then rise up to a peak—that’s when something clandestine happens.” She shrugged. “In this case each sentence feels like it’s made to be very important in its own right. Each one can stand on its own.”
Another guest, leaning on the wall, a fellow in a plaid shirt smiled wry, “The passages feel like crab grass to me, instead of a tree that is growing straight up, in this book the lines extend outwards, covering a lot of ground. If you try to read it like a tree, you’ll be disappointed, because each sentence is given its own special significance. The individual lines are treated democratically, almost, with equal weight.”
The Lurker: “But I think that the people are important. More important than the ideas, they provide the vehicle for the ideas. I get the sense that there is a real tenderness in the book: a desire to say without saying. i.e. to tell about this couple, but in such a way that not everyone will notice them.”
The poet again: “Yes that’s exactly it. I’m frustrated when something isn’t plane. I like concrete poetry about concrete things.”
Another one: “But what about Joyce? There are many levels in Joyce, and most of them are not immediately plain.”
The dark haired girl, bright eyes confessed, “Joyce didn’t make sense to me until I read him drunk. Then it was simple.”
I said: “What’s funny is that I don’t think we’d have this conversation if David Carl was here. It’s so odd.”
“It’s a shame,” Moshe answered, speaking, no doubt, the sentiments of David Carl himself.
The poet in love with objects: “Joyce is still writing about a man walking around. A man doing concrete things.”
Moshe: “But you could say that it was based on an idea. The whole book was based on a myth. The objects followed.”
That other, The Joycean, still standing, but this time tilted a little at the hips, “Or Steinbeck, say. He writes, I think, on two levels. Only I feel he’s often passed over because his story is so cinematic and simple—people don’t often read into anything.” “Do you think Steinbeck could write today and be as successful as he was?” Moshe asked.
Another again, and having shifted, tilted the other way, “I don’t think so. I think that’s one of the issues in Fragments: this kind of self-awareness about trying to do something in an obsolete genre.”
Another young man who occasionally sports bloomers and plaid socks shook his head. “Once people said that the novel was dead, it became difficult for everybody.”
Moshe: “You can’t write simple stories anymore. Depending on what you want to accomplish, I guess.”
The Poet: “I think you can. I think Steinbeck could still be the same sort of famous writer today as he was then. He writes good stories. He’s writing myths. Simple, concrete stories. The ideas resonate out of them. We still love the Greek myths for instance.”
Bloomers: “What about Raymond Carver? He writes simple stories.”
It went on, pretty much this way, for a few more minutes and my favorite remark came out towards the end of the night, before we celebrated one last hurrah for the peg-leg pirate bbq. I went downstairs to lock the front door and pull in the sign, just as my dear friend and fellow accomplice at the space came at me, his hands waving in the air, in such a way I couldn’t tell if he was excited or horrified “There are so many Writers in there!”
July 27, 2008
A couple days ago, we powered up the trusty GL peg-leg grill and, and we grilled up some mini burgers, hot dogs, banana pepper poppers, and drank lots of High Life. As the night went on, we got to talking about the fall of the gay bar, as it once was- a community hub and sanctuary for free expression (in my idealized fantasy world). The only place I can think of, that most closely fulfills that promise is Berlin (besides the Cock in NYC, before they moved into their shiny new digs on 2nd ave in the east village back in ’06 or ’05…).
Berlin’s the 4am club on the edge of Boystown in Chicago, by Belmont/Sheffield. I can always rely on thumping industrial-sex-dance music, and the lovely mix of pan-sexual wierdos, femme boys, butch girls, trannies, boystown celebutantes, hustlers and their ‘johns’. In the eyes of a New Gay, Berlin, and places like The Eagle, or Touche on the N side seem the most to have some semblance of subcultures that flourished post-Stonewall, in the ’60s– jumpstarting the modern-day gay civil-rights movement across the world. Cultural traditions were passed on from daddy to twink, and those young, lost gays became the daddies of the following generation of disenfranchised gay boys, and so on. I still venture to Boystown, but often leave feeling more isolated, the scene seeming a mere reflection of the youth-obsessed, consumerist hierarchy of mainstream culture.
There’s a piece in the trend-hungry New York Observer on July 22, 2008 by Doree Shafrir, The New Old Gays. It’s about the current New York gay scene, focusing on the reactionary young gay men intentionally adopting traits of their flamboyant forefathers. Here are Doree’s culturally conscious classifications in a nutshell:
You Know You Are a New Gay When:
• You live in Williamsburg and the East Village.
• You wear pointy shoes and tight cutoff shorts.
• You studied queer theory and dabbled in heroin at Sarah Lawrence or Bard or Wesleyan.
• You listen to Chromeo and Girl Talk and Le Tigre.
• You watch America’s Next Top Model.
You Know You Are an Old Gay When:
• You are old, fat, and can’t, in all likelihood and despite your best efforts, get laid.
• In fact, you love everything about musicals, especially Cheyenne Jackson and the guy from the Broadway production of Footloose, after whom you named your cat.
• You put together a reading of a Wendy Wasserstein play. [To certain of our gay friends, you are so called out on this one.]
• All of your friends are musical-theater fanatics, as well.
• You watch The Golden Girls. [R.I.P., Sophia!
“New Old Gay” is defined thusly:
“To be classified as a New Old Gay requires more than an appreciation of Patti LuPone, though love of somewhat tragic, just a tad grotesque, totally fabulous divas is a requirement. In some ways the New Old Gay can be read as a reassertion of a gay identity that had all but been given up for dead: If gays can be married and have children and live contentedly in the suburbs, or on the other end of the spectrum, do the same drugs at the same loft parties as their Oberlin classmates, and if everyone thinks AIDS is no more serious than diabetes, then, really, what’s the difference between the gays and the straights? By dialing back to and reinventing the old gay stereotypes, they may have the best shot at reclaiming gayness as something actually different.”
‘Cause AIDS ain’t a thing, REALLY, throw some drugs at it and you’re good…Ms. Shafrir must be living like a baller, haggin’ it up with her entourage of fabulous rent-fags at Splash. I kid.
Yeah the gay scene is changing…in New York, Chicago…around the world, Pride Parades are increasingly becoming a string of corporate floats flagged by a battallion of muscled gay-for-pay guys in teeny thongs, thrusting to some sex jams…OW! I’m sure today’s young gays experience different traumas->neuroses that’ll manifest itself into a new lil cool subcultures as older cultures of last century phase out, which is a hot topic in gay rags…spurred by the trend of leather bar closures in NYC.
“Leather Daddy’s are a dying breed,” I said, “and by extension, the leather bars which served as meeting grounds.”
Adelle scoffed, “fetishism will live on! Places to get drunk and look for sex will live on!”
Hey, I’m counting on it!
Caroline pointed to the function these spaces serve for a community of people, and said something in the way of:
“However the subculture/culture needs these spaces and supports them, they will exist.”
word. Cheers to that.
– Young Joon
July 27, 2008
I spent last weekend at the San Francisco Zinefest in Golden Gate Park. Actually, I spent most of my time there. The rest of my time was spent at work, running (literally) from work to the Zinefest, walking briskly to and from Gordo’s Tacos with my burrito, and watching the new Batman movie.
Zinefest was really, really fantastic. Every table was piled high with books and zines and crafts and behind every table were the good folks who made them. I was sort of surprised at the turnout–I don’t mean to be a pessimist, but I never would have imagined a steady stream of people heading all the way out to the Inner Sunset just to check out zines and small presses. It really did my heart good.
Rather than give you a minute by minute report, here are a few photos and scans of just a few of the things I carted home.
Here I am at SF Zinefest.
And here is SF Zinefest, this time without me.
And here is some stuff I got:
July 26, 2008
I found this on Tramp Quarterly: http://www.trampquarterly.com
and it’s awesome.
by Moshe Zvi Marvit
The literary cliche was born in 1892 in a comparative anatomy textbook. It was not used in the 20th century outside of this comparative anatomy textbook until it was employed to describe a set of motives in the 28th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. It is not surprising that the term has proliferated so widely in just over a century. Nor is it surprising that the first use of the term was in an anatomy textbook, so long as it was comparative. The surprising thing is that the term did not exist before the turn of the 20th century. Well into the modern era, after Kant and Hegel and Marx, after the Civil War, and after Frege had mapped out the foundations of what was called at the time “common-sense philosophy,” there was still no way to describe the overflowing concept that is the cliche. Of course, this question of what we had before the cliche has now become a cliche, so it will not be investigated here. Instead, the question will remain throughout: what is the cliche? Though we all fill in the blanks of our lives with its easy colors, and though everyone tries to be original in the matters one holds important, very few have stopped to ask what the benefits and uses are of the cliche.
The cliche is perfect, easily communicable, and marks an end. The perfection of the cliche should not be understood primarily in terms of value, but rather in its denotation of completion, or absence of absence. Though its positive connotation is in part intended, this position flows from its neutral quality of perfection. The cliche is as whole as a literary piece can be. Though the incompleteness and ambiguity of language is constantly bemoaned by analytic philosophers and mature seventeen year-olds, the cliche offers an escape. It offers a rare moment of language serving as an exact coincidence and representation of that which it was intended to describe.
The cliche is also supremely communicable, as it means the same thing leaving the speaker’s lips as it does entering the listener’s ears. There is no gap or possibility for miscommunication within the cliche Of course, the application of the cliche is according to the discretion of the speaker and may be as easily misapplied as any other turn of phrase. If a man inserts himself in the middle of a line and then justifies himself to the lady behind him with the following cliche, “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” then the cliche is perfectly clear. But he is confused. This understanding that the onus lies in the application rather than within the cliche allows one to see that the cliche is as a weapon. One must choose his weapon carefully, knowing full well that it must be appropriate to the situation and that another weapon may be used against it. The cliche can be countered and contradicted by another cliche. This is, in part, a mark of its perfection. Each cliche is a complete system, wherein no internal elements are antithetical. But when two systems come into contact, they often contradict each other on their own terms. The cliche has a remedy to this tension. It switches the focus from commensurability to comparability. To make commensurate is to be original. It is to recognize complexity and immanent difference and yet seek common enough elements for an ordinal understanding. To compare is to reduce bodies to their most commonly known elements and then hold the objects within view. It is an unfair, but highly useful act. Dust jackets require comparisons to Hemingway and Joyce, though these comparisons belie their efforts. To make the whole world commensurable is the near impossible task of being an artist. The artist places the two editions on the same shelf and understands them beside each other. To make the whole world comparable is to be agreeable, it is the action of an individual on a first date. This man is constantly trying to sell.
The closing is said to be a thrill for the salesman, but it is agony for the artist. The closing, or end, is always a cliche. How could it be otherwise? To finish neatly, where all the elements wrap up nicely, is cheap. To end arbitrarily, and thereby imply that life-real life-does not have quaint endings, has been done before and is no more tender. The ending must then be a cliche of the author’s own choosing. It is why every instance that a novelist has defined the novel, whether Sterne’s Tristam Shandy, Proust’s Remembrance, or Joyce’s Ulysses, the format has been dually declared epitomized and dead. How can one begin a work of genius when the ending must necessarily be recycled? This question has no answer and suggestions will not be attempted here.
In order to avoid the cliche, there must be a sense for the creative impulse. It is indeed a nice thought to picture the author alone in his study creating a text from nowhere. Or perhaps listening to the melodic tones of a muse. But to imagine creation taking this form is to imagine the quaint artist, the eccentric painter, the reclusive genius. These are all personality traits, but not traits of creation. The creative process begins and ends in the interpretation of the world. The way one approaches the world, postures before it, and makes meaning of situations, is the act of creation. Everything else is filtering, reduction to formats-the forms already in place. The act of creation is in interpreting events as original. It is understanding the differences and similarities of a man on his knees in a church and a man on his knees at a porn shop. The subsequent acts of arrangement and connectives are as acts of taxidermy or quilt-making. That is, they are recycling.
But if creation is in original interpretation then the artist is splintered. And once again, the cliche is whole and perfect. In its perfection, it is easily transferable-a fungible good. When it is offered, it is offered as an answer, with all the qualities of finality and endings that answers carry with them. So once again the cliche sneaks to the end; and the end taints the beginning. The investigation
again leads back to the practicality of starting something originally while knowing that it will have to end generically.
The central concern of this question cannot be answered here. But a secondary concern of motivations can be teased to some degree. In particular, the question of motivations for this essay will be answered.
Perhaps this essay begs the question: “Why now?” Why question the cliche, which has become nearly ubiquitous, more than one hundred years after it was first used to describe comparative anatomy and sets of motives? The answer will not satisfy, because it is not a cliche. It will not fully answer, again, because it is not a cliche. The answer arises out of circumstances; it is because a new text has been written that can accurately be described as circumscribing the topics of comparative anatomy and motives. It goes beyond inter-special anatomy and encyclopedic intentionality and explores the anatomy of bodies, cities, and language. Its motors are intentionality and motivation, and its governor (if we can extend the mechanical metaphor now in use) is the cliche. The text is God Bless the Squirrel Cage. It is both a plea and a prayer, the title that is. In the text, the cliche becomes a religious matter, whether devil or god, to a devout atheist. Its name is not to be spoken, but its reach is felt constantly. The text explodes the cliche by overworking it, turning it on its head, and eventually understanding its immense benefits and uses. The work that the text does, that we need it to do, ultimately allows this essay to close thusly: Le fin.
GOD BLESS THE SQUIRREL CAGE (PERFECT PAPERBACK) by Nicholas Sarno III; introduction by Gerry Kapolka, cover art by Mat Daly CHICAGO: GREEN LANTERN PRESS, 2006 ×××× ISBN: 097857561X AVAILABLE VIA: THEGREENLANTERN.ORG, WWW.SPDBOOKS.COM OR AT AMAZON.COM
July 23, 2008
Life is in a shambles at the moment. In Chicago anyway. It’s like someone gave the Green Lantern (let’s not forget it’s also my apartment) an enema. All worldly possessions belonging to me are presently stacked in a heap in the middle of the gallery. Pillows, flat files, bags of laundry, boxes of books, tools, artwork, spackle, paint: a whole lot of nonsense.
There is a film of gypsum dust all over everything—a fine dry snow fell from the ceiling in the night.
This morning I was up at eight sanding the walls. After thirty minutes the air swelled, a cloud. The light everywhere, from the sun where it came through the windows to the clamp lights overhead, was dissolute and wan with all the dust. By midmorning I was caked in white—an alabaster golem.
One thing I’ve always liked about gypsum is the way it makes your hair thick and dry and caked. I’ve got that going for me these days.
It’s been a couple of weeks of some serious clean up. Throwing stuff out, taking stock, tearing down walls, and putting other ones up. The regularly returning hero, Canada Dan, has single handedly (for the most part), done the big stuff—put up a whole new wall running along the tail end of the gallery. He brought the walls all the way up, and it lends a new hominess to the living quarters. While also, I believe, adding to the height of the ceilings.
Seriously, this is serious.
It’s all part of our plans for fanciness. We’re going to set up a reading room, we’re putting a new closet in and well…other things too, but you’ll have to wait to see what that’s all about.
Look out fall, here we come.
It’s hot up here. It gets a little dank. Like deer trails, the paths we walk most often are drawn out in the dust on the floor. The places around which we work hardest are speckled with puddles of sweat, reminding me of a game Dan once told me about where you lay out a film of flour on a flat surface, then dip your fingers in water and sprinkle the water in drops across the flour. It’s called “Moon” or some such thing.
At present we are living on the moon. Only like I said it’s pretty hot, there is a lot of sun and not too many stars. We’ve been drinking coca-cola like there’s no tomorrow, and every day around four o’clock in the afternoon, I bring out various collections of Things I Was Never Before Able To Part With, and see the same couple in a minivan; a man and a woman. I suspect they are married. The last two days they’ve caught us right as we’re throwing stuff out—Dan was ditching some old metal studs, part of an old wall, and a broken vacuum cleaner. He started putting the stuff on top of the dumpster, and then the fellow driving braked, as his lady friend ran around to the other side of the car to pick up what we were dropping off.
I think we’re friends.
July 20, 2008
On Thursday, July 17, Green Lantern represented at an InCUBATE event, ‘POWER POINT EXTREME!!!!!!!!!!!!!,’ as part of the Hideous Beast‘s residency, by giving a presentation on the rise, the struggle, the tragedy…of the Kennedy family.
You can watch a video of the presentation on youtube , view it through google docs, or download the file to your pc: