Porn

Long Gone Blues: On Violence, Sex, Balloons, Repetition, Hello Kitty, Guy Hocquenghem, Airports, Billie Holiday, Miley Cyrus, Gender Autism and Shameless Promotions

by on Sep.10, 2013

Lately I’ve been thinking about the sexual part of violence and power. Lately I’ve been making something like blues music for an album (Black Water, estimated: side A in late September, side B in October). Lately I’ve been thinking about this one quote by Guy Hocquenghem found in the back register of the lovely little book “Sisyphus Outdone” by Nathanaël:

[Homosexual desire] is the slope towards trans-sexuality through the disappearance of objects and subjects, the slide towards the discovery that in matters of sex everything communicates.

One day I went to a child’s birthday party and ate cake from a hello kitty plate instead of a turtles plate. One thing that surprised me about America when I first got here was definitely the sweetness of its birthday cakes. One day I saw a daddy who was ready to let his son fall off a tall wall because a boy that gets really hurt turns into a man. Fourth of July fireworks were firing in the background. Lately I’ve been thinking about a photograph of Russian manly boys picking up and torturing young gay boys, posing shirtless with guns. I don’t even know where I saw the photograph, if it even exists, I think it was one of those facebook link shots. Maybe I had a dream. If you dream current events does that make you a whore for fashion? Lately I’ve been thinking about how being a man means being something singular and contained, the taming of the boy into an agent of rationality. A man is either irreparably violent or controlled, contained, a man whose subject-hood is locked and loaded.

in matters of sex everything communicates

On Friday nights the whole family gathers and watches Americas Next Top Model Girls & Boys. During the commercials we practice our best face-poses. The idea is to keep face despite the embarrassment of the body.

At the pool party it is modesty for girls only because boys can’t control what skin does, the belly-skin of girls. This is the skin of a certain age. This is the skin that is the most dangerous of all the skin and threatens to throw the not-yet rationalized boy into a raging rape scene.

I was thinking about the repetitive line and how it’s like an image in a way. We look at it sort of like an image. There is nothing to figure out. Instantaneous, useless. It becomes surface, sound.

in matters of sex everything communicates

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about rape-or-not-rape. On this new album of songs that are some kind of blues I made a song sort of about rape using a Mississippi Fred McDowell sample that runs over and over for eight minutes. It’s a remake of his “Find My Suitcase”. Toward the end it gets wobbly with weird dub-step-like bass lines.

Once I came on a plane and the man at the desk asked angry questions and made up lies because if you have nothing to hide you can’t be shaken because the world is ultimately fair. But I got shook up because the lies seemed very dangerous and I forgot some vital piece of information, became infantile, like a child. I stuttered. I couldn’t remember the name of my professor. I could see his bearded face, his gentle ways, his supreme knowledge of old testament lineage, but his name was gone. Because his name was gone I became someone hiding something. I wondered if this was how terrorists feel.

Sometimes I forget the silliest things. Like my own phone number. Like my own address. This is the stuff of identity, humanness: birth and death records. My band name is My Hot Air Balloon. It was inspired by Swedish balloon explorer Andrée and his demise on the north pole. Travel by hot air and spectacular failure.

Nothing has been heard of Professor Andrée, who started in a balloon for the North Pole, accompanied by two companions, about three weeks ago. Two carrier pigeons were afterward picked up, with certain marks on the wings intended to give the impression that they were from the explorer, but it was soon made manifest that they had not come from him.

-Baltimore News, Baltimore, MD. July 31, 1897

So anyway, I wrote this one song about interacting with authority called “Honey You Got the Bible, I Got the Gun”. It’s an American fairy tale. Its like Thelma and Louise. It’s religion and guns. It’s a love story with authority. It starts:

Hey Mr. Officer won’t you take down my name
You can keep it in your file no hard feelings

This was a while ago, maybe like two years, a kind of protest song. I played it on my daughter’s ukulele but it didn’t quite work. But one day recently I was making this really bouncy sexup beat using an old atari beep and I got to singing this old song. And I was singing over and over “Mr. Officer” until the old-fashioned  protest song seemed to turn into something else, more intimate perhaps, or at least more deranged. Sort of like Miley Cyrus grinding with that ridiculous foam hand. A kind of impotence. A kind of yearning.

(I know I know. Dead tissue, be gone. But I think the most upsetting thing about the Miley Cyrus thing was the flatness, the over-the-top-ness and the redundancy of the performance, like it failed to tap into shocking-but-acceptable sex-up Disney coming out behavior (say Christina Aguilera back when) as well as arty androgynous lady gaga awareness. When you’re trying to dance sexily but its not sexy it becomes something else, deranged, less than human, porn. Like the commercial. Shocking. Simply Oranges.)

Bible Song Intro Beat (ca 15 seconds):

Usually when there’s protest songs there’s not much sex going on, its more a manly comradely thing (like those boys in Le Mis!), dustbowls and union meetings, like sports, numbers in the proper squares. But I was thinking about this officer, this border control man, politician (the three characters of the song) and how there is a sexual element in that kind of official control-controlee relationship, this sort of dance and courting. And how we don’t want it to be. How we want the violence to be rational, because if its rational it can be identified and labeled and codified and renamed and verified and classified until it becomes digestible and necessary.

Like what if the power to be couldn’t just symbolically fuck their subjects. Couldn’t reasonably go to war.

Then I added a Billie Holiday sample over it. Not sure why, but once I had it sounded good. I love Billie Holiday. When I grow up, that’s who I want to be. Billie singing: Long Gone Blues. It fitted strangely well. So it goes something like, (where there’s suppose to be something like a chorus):

Mr. Officer

Mr. Officer

Talk to me baby

Tell me what’s the matter now

Mr. Officer

Mr. Officer

You tryin’ to quit me baby

But you don’t know how

Mr. Officer

Mr. Officer

( Billie Holiday’s Long Gone Blues)

I didn’t know then that Kanye West had sampled Nina Simone’s Strange Fruit for his Blood on the Leaves, a song that is sort of nauseating to listen to, Nina’s sped-up and deranged sounding vocal, Kanyes autotune, lynching meets club romance. But anyway, I like the idea, because the violence of the original, written by some Jewish guy who was inspired by a photograph of a lynching, isn’t allowed to be contained in the No Trespassing Zone of American History Relics.

It always befuddles me when the expected reaction calls for reflection and respect because the topic is of a certain bloodiness and severity, like you’re suppose to stay in this remembrance stillness pose. It reminds me of when I was a kid and we were playing charades and I did the act of Thinking or maybe even The Thinker by that sculpture guy and nobody could figure it out.

My wife says this is because I’m autistic. This is probably right. I’m planning to write a blues about this.

One thing America likes are those Time Capsules which is funny because there’s no history allowed in this small town. There should be jazz and blues statues and museums. Instead there’s waste and dead towns.

Like there’s something disturbed about the past, like a disease of nostalgia.

I decided to try to make a blues album because I love old blues music. Instantly it felt kind of fraudulent, treating blues as a genre rather than tradition, to make a kind of “concept” album. Tradition suggests initiation, cultural and geographical (if not genetic) inclusion, blah blah. I don’t feel part of that “tradition”, I don’t feel particularly rootsy. But I was interested in exploring different themes that blues music deals with: violence, sex, death, mainly, and folklore ghosty stuff, gospel religious stuff.  Interested in certain very bluesy sounds and bluesy phrases. To write songs on these subjects, exploring these sounds, these phrases. The idea of tradition is so full of shit anyway, just time passing allowing motive to overgrow so you have something supposedly “genuine” and “deeply rooted” or whatever. For the purpose of division. You can only really sing the blues if your an old black guy who has suffered. Also that the blues is more like a condition, something inside you, your devil-deprived soul, expressed as a summary of one person’s life lived in some unending misery, it has to be earned.

One way of questioning this earning seems to be questioning the containment of certain people and art by labeling them/it exotic, wholesome, “natural”, as opposed to capable of a more rational, severed-from-the-creator, constructed, layered, complex Entity, suggesting that they are not capable of such elaborate thought processes. But hidden in such questioning there seems to be an underlying moral stand favoring written and planned transactions of feelings and information over oral and improvised expression, an economic approach to art.

In blues lyrics one thing that becomes apparent is that its pretty impossible to determine ownership, multiple versions of songs coexist, lines are swapped, stolen and reused. There is (as in most pop music!) the use of heavy repetition, a musical employment of words for their secondary quality, their sounds, an oral transference, to convey a mood, incite dancing, movement, the promise of ecstasy, possession, tongue talking. I’m muchly interested in all this, and most of these songs are written to fit a certain sound, often a beat, an atmosphere, than the other way around, creating a mood in which exorcism becomes possible. Hopefully.

It’s interesting how in early America the drum was banned for its dangerous ability to cause riots. It’s also interesting that the early banjo, brought over from Africa, is a kind of secret, hidden drum, later made a decidedly white instrument through minstrelsy. That it was instead the formerly royal artsy-ass then industrialized guitar that became the blues man’s primary instrument, awesomely tortured with knives and bottlenecks, made to scream and weep. Etc. etc.

The album will pop up on soundcloud, here. Or like on facebook. Or some such. 

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Corean Music Part 4: It's "too much" (for some)

by on Aug.15, 2013

I have a new post (number 4) of “Corean Music” up at the poetry foundation. It’s about how critics and scholars (from Steve Burt to Marjorie Perloff and Kenny Goldsmith) love to use the economic rhetoric of austerity and standards: there’s too much poetry, they argue. Too much for whom? What is “too much”? What is “too much” is really an interesting, Bataillean space of excess?

Excerpt:

All of these rhetorical strains are based on an economic model: “Too much” is inherently bad, is inflation. Each one sets up a kind of “gold standard”: the work of art cannot be gratuitous, must follow the standard. The problem is of course that poetry is not a “thing”—It’s all masquerade, all pageantry, all inflation. All gratuitous. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Daniel Tiffany’s forthcoming book on kitsch shows its strong connections to poetry and to the sense of an “excessive beauty.” Poetry is kitsch, poetry is inherently too much. Poetry is inflationary. Even Plato knew that! It’s why he got rid of the poets!

I think the recent post by Christian and Lucas, as well as the comment discussion to Christian’s posts are important and related topics in this debate. I hope to try to tie these things together over the next few days and I hope the rest of you will help me.

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"Uncontrollable Leakage" v. "Hygienic Barrier"

by on Aug.13, 2013

In recent essays posted at Harriet, the Poetry Foundation blog, Johannes discusses art and violence in ways that interest me for a variety of reasons as a writer who was once able to write fiction and poetry; also in my present incarnation as “crime writer”; also in my capacity as publisher of at least a few violent books — notably Johannes’s and Joyelle’s work, of course, along with Gordon Massman and Kim Gek Lin Short (to say nothing of Tarpaulin Sky magazine’s past contributors and editors, Rebecca Brown, Blake Butler, Selah Saterstrom, et al). I have a lot of things to say in response to Johannes’s essays, but am a terribly slow writer: with any luck, I’ll add a “part two” to this post in the next week or so.

Johannes notes that many poets are “hesitant about involving art and violence. If they do engage with violence, poets tend to seek to create a distance from the violence, erecting a hygienic barrier between the art and the violence.” This “hygienic barrier” may be found not only in work that seeks to avoid violence, but in the critique of work that employs violence. This “critical distance” appears “the hallmark of most academic writing about poetry for quite some time (and especially the kind of “experimental poetry” favored in the academy).” Johannes also discusses, by contrast, the unfiltered, unprocessed, experience of the “murderous impact” of violent art — i.e, the experience of violence before “learning to appreciate the artwork, before gaining that distance from the music that is the most intense.” This, writes Johannes, is the “best example of how art affects me.”[1]

I am reminded of a chapter in Selah Saterstrom’s novel, The Meat & Spirit Plan: “And Suddenly I Thought: This Is What It Means to Make a Movie in Sweden,” in which a young woman from the U.S. (the South), who is narrator and protagonist, receives a grant for promising ex-reform-school girls, allowing her to study abroad in Scotland. After shacking up with a local ex-con, she spends much of her free time making a study of meat — standing before the butcher at the open-air market, or sitting in the museum before Rembrandt’s “Slaughtered Ox,” when she is not incapacitated from inexplicable and excruciating illness. (continue reading…)

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"the beauty of the act": Pop Corpse and Haute Surveillance

by on Aug.05, 2013

images

All profoundly original art looks ugly at first     — Clement Greenberg

Two books I’ve been reading and rereading this summer have been Johannes Göransson’s Haute Surveillance and Lara Glenum’s Pop Corpse, and in many ways the two books go together. They share certain sympathies, certain styles. If they were movies, they would make a great double-feature. In Memphis, there’s a porn theater, a decaying relic from the 70s, called Paris Theater. It brought in a diverse clientele because of its location between an “artsy” neighborhood and a “bad” neighborhood: crack addicts, tattoo artists, philosophy and English and art students, skinny junkies, and young punk couples. I can imagine such a double-feature playing at exactly such a place.

They are both truly hybrid works, not simply a “hybrid” of different schools of poetry. Glenum’s Pop Corpse brings to mind some of the more daring elements of the art world: Cindy Sherman’s Gothic, carnival-esque works, Paul Thek’s meatiness, Matthew Barney’s monumentality, the high-wire acts of certain performance artists (Marina Abramovic, the Russian Voina group), Paul McCarthy’s sense of bizarre, repulsive hilarity. In fact, Glenum’s blend of excess and theatricality is closer in spirit to certain sections of the art world than to much of the contemporary American poetry scene, and I can’t help but suspect that admirers of Thek and/or Sherman and/or McCarthy would understand her work better than some of the her fellow experimental poets (some who, because she so thoroughly does not fit into the currently dominant Language Writing /Flarf/Conceptual mode, simply don’t know how to approach her work).

Like many of those artists mentioned above, there is an element of creative ecstasy in Pop Corpse, and, like them, it’s an ecstasy laced with horror and confusion. As the Sea Witch says, “I perch on heaven / habitually / Pig-sized / nipples.” The entire poem/play takes place on “floating islands of garbage” — the “floating islands” implying a beauty and serenity that “garbage” brutally undercuts.

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Haute Surveillance is also hybrid. It is infused with film both in style (montage, tableaux) and reference (Blue Velvet, The Wizard of Oz, mumble-core, the character of “the Starlet”). The spirit of Lynch and Godard and Zulawski especially haunt this work, directors who create films that steadfastly refuse to offer us a privileged bird’s eye view of their projects — directors who immerse us in a world, not offer one up as a representational object. Weekend, Made in USA, Inland Empire, Mulholland Drive, Szamanka, On the Silver Globe: these are films that don’t allow for the luxury (and it is a luxury) of distance. So too with Göransson’s book. “Of all the movies I made with the Starlet,” the narrator says, “my favorite was our mumble-version of Hiroshima Mon Amour. Or the Jacobean piece we filmed in a shooting range. The clothes I wore were positively repulsive by the time she was finished with me.”

Of course, Göransson follows a long line of poets who have been fascinated by film. Frank O’Hara is the most obvious example of a poet engaged with the silver screen (or, in our age, the digital screen). And Artaud loved the Marx brothers. But in the past few decades a serious vein of cinemaphobia has crept into the American poetry scene. Part of this is the influence of Language writing. Despite its revolutionary ardor, it had a surprisingly conservative take on the Image, considering it to be empty, false, hollow, a lie. (There were several exceptions to this view: Palmer, Hejinian, Waldrop, etc.) It’s a view that goes all the way back to Plato, at least, as can be seen in the allegory of the cave where concept is plentitude and beings and images are shadows and falsehoods.

Related to this austerity is poetry written in the more mainstream, lyrical mode. As Göransson has pointed out in various blog posts and interviews, and as I’ve heard several others poets claim too through the years, in some workshops an image must be “earned.” It must fit in with the general pattern and be conducive of an overall meaning. Interestingly, the austerity policies of certain Language poets and the fear of inflation in less experimental poetry have more than a little in common.

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But an alternate take on the Image sees it not as a false representation of a real object or event, but a new creation, an addition. This is the view of the Stoics, Deleuze, Warhol (as implied by his “Factory” of images), Godard (“cinema is everything”), and Lewis Carroll. Göransson shares this approach. As the narrator writes, “Ever since I was brought to this goo-goo nation, I’ve trafficked in images. About photography, I love the machinery. I can’t understand any of it. It’s like the inside of a woman’s cunt: fascinating and intricate. And gives birth to millions of childrenchildren.” Here, image is a multiplier, not a shadow-play for dupes.

As the influence Language writing wanes, I suspect that this cinemaphobia will drift away. One of the most thrilling books of poetry last year was Lina ramona Vitkauskas’s Neon Tryst, a collection very different from Göransson’s, but which is also evocative of the spectral, haunting dimension of film. And Rauan Klassnik, one of the most brilliant poets around today, writes poetry that appears to be highly informed by the language of cinema, with odd edits, mini-narratives, and a materialist religiosity that seems to stem as much from Pasolini and Buñuel as Bataille.

There is another link between Glenum and Göransson’s two new books, and that is how they are both books about events. While reading them, I kept thinking back on Monsieur Oscar in Leos Carax’s Holy Motors. When the metaphysical performer is asked why he goes on, he answers that it is because of the “beauty of the act.” Both of these books are filled with beautiful (and horrific, and startling) acts, and these acts are related to art-making, art-construction.

As the Smear says in Pop Corpse, “I make a spasmatic pose for the penal colony. I wear a gas mask for the finale. The tourists are allowed to take my photographs if they offer me some food.” And as the narrator in Haute Surveillance writes, “Together we are working in a new medium: sweat clothes. We’re interested in mediumicity. In one sweat cloth we see an image of an artist’s body after a car crash: all ornamental. In another we see a dark lady who may be our lady of the video malaise.” These books are from the Warholian Factory. And because they are books of action and event, they don’t allow us lounge about on a clean, conceptual hillside, above the muck and dirt and sweat. They plunge us into it.

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Humiliation and "Spoiled Identity": McSweeney, Koestenbaum and Glenum

by on Jul.11, 2013

“One must be nervous.” – Nijinsky

“I danced badly because I kept falling on the floor when I did not have to. The audience did not care, because I danced beautifully.” – Nijinsky

The other day I was talking to Joyelle about the highly ornamental, perversely poetic aesthetic of her work, and in particular the play “Contagious Knives” and she said, she feels the excessive aesthetics to be a form of humiliation – of the language and of herself as the author.

You can sense that in the very beginning of the play, in stage directions that are crowded with both props and language: from “panties” to “Harajuko cum Cracker Jack look,” from “liquid eyeliner” to “kiddie Oedipus.” When I talk about “kitsch”, this is the kind of thick, poetic language I talk about. What is more kitsch than poetry and its trinkets? Poetry Magazine (beacon of taste) recently published Vanessa Place’s manifesto of taste: it said “no more metaphors… no more retinal poetry.” This is fundamentally the guiding high culture taste of our age: the poetic is kitsch. Well, Joyelle’s poetry says: More ultra-retinal, so much more trinkets that it humiliates.
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But, in keeping with a post from a couple of weeks ago, it’s also language that is highly alluring; a poetics of excess that fascinates.

Here’s Louis Braille’s opening monologue:

Louis Braille: Hi whores. I know you too my cell phone in gym class, but, whatever.
Looking for what, pictures of your boyfriends’ jocks?
Whores, you have no idea. I’m a very special cunt.
A very special fucking cunt. That’s what Daddy always said (wink wink).
You’ll never get the goods on me. I keep
two laptops, two accounts, a mirror site,
a snake ski encryption device: me
and then another me. I double down,
and then I double up. It’s in the footage you’ll never see.
For God’s eyes, sweeties. All my lines run to red, red, red.
That’s debt. A sinking balance, a fast declining line.
I get it from your daddies, and I spend it like endrhyme
or eyerhyme
like a run in one’s stocking or one’ arrow-stock-rah-cee
or in one’s eye.
I shot an arrow into the air, it split my eye, it doubled my vision
it made my stock sore, sigh high
and from that height I did espye
me
fallen to earth among a heep of polo ponies
Nazi costume parties fancy creeps and aging queens.

I think this is a kind of poetics statement: everything proliferates in art, creating a kind of “debt.” (continue reading…)

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Francis Bean Cobain, The Death of Riot Porn and the Gurlesque

by on Jun.29, 2013

There’s a fantastic Gurlesque issue out on the great Swedish on-line journal Ett Lysande Namn, full of great writing by people like Viktor Johansson, Aylin Bloch Boynukisa and Sara Tuss Efrik. Most of it is Swedish (but I plan to somehow get it translated) but my essay is in English. The title – “I”m wearing my dad’s pajamas to the suicide party” – is from a Francis Bean Cobain tweet (she’s also in the essay).

Here’s the beginning:

“I’m wearing my dad’s pajamas to the suicide party”: AN INTRODUCTION TO THE GURLESQUE

Dear Justin Bieber,

Who put that mask on your face? Does it hurt? Can you get it off? Can you get it off? Are those your real eyes? Who designed the mask? Did it cost a million dollars? Is it made of wool? Someone had posted the photograph on facebook with the heading: “The death of riot porn?” Do you think this was a reference to Pussy Riot, who wore those masks during their protests? What do you think of Pussy Riot? What do you call that phenomena when a cluster of young girls scream and chase you around? Do they riot against your body? Did they pull that mask over your pretty white face?

I’m not joking. There is something porny about those girls. There’s something deathy about those girls. That must be why they frighten so many people. They are totally “under the influence.” They have no human core, no soul: they are all clothes, make-up. Violence moves through them. Like in all those Japanese horror movies. Young girls are so violent with you, you must be constantly hurting, smarting, aching. Do they hurt you with letter openers? Do they re-enact the French Revolution with your body in Tokyo? Why do I always think of letter openers when I think about you in the bathtub? Why are the girls always leading the French Revolutions?

Why are they always listening to New Order while the revolution is filmed? Why am I so sad? Should I ask Freud? Does it have something to do with the riot porn? With the death of riot porn? Isn’t there always something deathy about riots? About porn?

Have you read that poem “Primrose” by Chelsea Minnis?…

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Book of the Year: James Pate's The Fassbinder Diaries

by on Jun.24, 2013

james
James Pate’s The Fassbinder Diaries is definiely one of the best books of this ludicrous year. I have waited for this book to be published for many years, as long as I’ve been reading James’s writing. It’s not strange that this book doesn’t read like a first book – that it reads like someone who has definitely found his stride, is working in a beligerent zone – because James has been writing amazing stuff for years. In the perfect literary world, he would have had several books published by now.
silly pastel boy
I’ve been reading his work for many years. I met him when we went to grad school together in Iowa. He’d come from Memphis and I had come from NYC (Queens!), we both loved blues music and Wu-Tang Clan, Basquiat, b-movies and Godard (In fact used to be so obsessed with old-school blues music that I wanted to move to Memphis). James was already incredibly well-read and he introduced me to a lot of work I still love: for example Jack Smith, early Don Delillo (Running Dog, Great Jones Street, I hate the later stuff) and Twin Peaks. So we became friends. We watched movies until we fell asleep. I remember/don’t remember one particular night when we Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising stoned and exhausted.

I love the way James talks about art: a pornographic experience. “My hands started shaking,” I remember James saying about the first time he read Bataille’s Blue of Noon. But he has a similar attitude towards less obviously pornographic books, for example some mystic from the middle ages or Foucault.

When asked what his religion was, James would always answer “fallen catholic,” and “fallen” here is very instructive: fallen as in the tenor of the allegory is lost, we have been plunged into the saturative textures and gleaming fabrics of a ritual whose God is dead.
pierrot
Cannibalism, pornography, b-movies and, most importantly, the physicality, the materiality of the artistic experience are key ingredients of James’s work.You can already see it in “12 Resolutions to a New Year,” a story he wrote while we were in grad school, and which I later published in Action, Yes. It’s one of my all-time favorite stories. The series of poems or piece of film (many of James’s poems/stories have the feeling of being a part of a film where we only get a glimpse of the overall film, or the feeling of two films roughly sutured) are held together by the figure of Fatty Arbuckle who seemingly murders the two lovers who come to see his movies in some dank Memphis theater.
fatty
Fatty Arbuckle is the perfect figure for James’s work because of his obesity (James’s characters love to eat or are starving or are desperately trying to stuff themselves, conditions that stand in for his vision of art), his sordid biography (accused of having killed a prostitute by giving her an illegal abortion) and because of the obscurity of his later career:

There are twelve stories about Fatty Arbuckle, and this might be the final one. We know how he spent (wasted, drank through, destroyed loved ones, burnt beds, to be seen in nickelodeons nodding off on junk and gorging pig-like on duck and busting heads and breaking hearts) his final decades. Because of the underground nature of his later years (basements and brothels and dank laboratories and warehouses and seashells) we can only hope certain makeshift records (napkin poems, restroom wall sketches, carvings in trunks, nails through voodoo dolls, digits sent to ex-lovers, whispers floating back off ocean breeze, legends from El Salvador, French myths, personally performed porno in blurred film stock, corpses in floor boards, postcards to cousins, a jam session on tape with Fatty on tenor) appear from the rivers of far drums. We wish ourselves luck.

Particularly because of this obscurity. Unlike the common “accessibility” debates, the obscurity doesn’t interfere with the communication of a meaning, but enhances the affectivity of the textures, the art. In this James’s writing is a close relative of Roberto Bolano’s stories. And like Roberto Bolano’s stories, James’s writings are on one level always about art. And the art is simultaneously physically overwhelming and obscure/apocryphal. In fact the two do no contradict each other but enhance each other: the obscurity is part of the materially overwhelming aspect of art. The Fassbinder Diaries are full of this. In fact the entire book starts out with:

The first scenes are silent. The footage is grainy, as if the world being shown has gone through a storm of broken glass shards.

And ends:

The entire factory or bedroom or meadow dripping light from its lips. Or maybe delicate drops of acid have eaten the scene. There are figures on the ground, silently squirming. But it’s impossible to tell if they are silent because they are silent or if they are silent because this is a silent film. We are watching them in the dark. It is a black-and-white dark. Outside, it is a black-and-white dark.

There’s the sense the materiality of the movies – the graininess, the wear and tear – is part of the viewing experience, enhances and intensifies the experience, and that the physical setting of the film might be part of the movie.
fassbinder
And there’s this great love of the apocryphal, the rumored, unofficial artworks that create a kind of “invisible republic” (to quote Greil Marcus, another lover of this occult space) that feels both incredibly intimate and absolutely convulsed with politics. For example, Franz and Mieze from Fassbinder’s “Alexanderplatz, Berlin” appear as characters in James’s book, but they not only act out scenes not in Fassbinder’s original (or the novel on which his piece is based), but they also watch a whole host of strange films:

Franz said bite me here, and Mieze bit him there, and Mieze said bite me here, and Franz bit her there. The curtains were closed. They were the color of gray snakeskin. Outside, a war developed in Berlin. A gun fired at Dillinger on a movie screen in Chicago. They were someplace else. The seconds were already ahead of them, waiting with their guns pulled. An alley with no escape.

More than any other writer I know, James revels in the apocryphal, the sense of the fan fiction as a perversion of the official account of things. (continue reading…)

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"There can be no immigrants in utopia": John Yau on Haute Surveillance

by on Jun.06, 2013

Adam’s comments about pornography below reminds me that I don’t think I ever posted a link to this wonderful review of my book Haute Surveillance by brilliant poet John Yau.

Excerpt:

What the poets associated with “Flarf” recognize — and the literary mainstream still ignores to a large degree — is that the Internet has flattened daily life into a constantly swirling, cacophonous mosaic. Instead of extending that jarring, two-dimensional world into poems, Göransson has absorbed Frank O’Hara’s “intimate yell” and made it all his own. Haute Surveillance is a world of wounded voices.

“I have a nightmare about a girl covered with blood and when I wake up sweating my wife tells me a fairytale.”

For all the disparate information that Göransson brings swiftly and confidently into play, Haute Surveillance is not a collage. None of it feels arbitrary, which is nothing short of miraculous. At the very least, the author’s ambition was to write a new “Song of Myself” addressing these confusing, contradictory times in which we are at war, as well as to construct memorable situations without resorting to a plot or other familiar literary devices. He succeeded at both. His reasoning is simple and direct:

“Sometimes I want a room of my own, but mostly I just want a room without all these corpse-patterned wallpaper.”

Göransson’s fast-paced, present-tense writing critiques itself while moving forward, collapsing together all of discourses and vocabularies associated with the nightly news, feminism, sexual identity, Hollywood movies, science fiction, performance art, pornography, and poetry invested in the stable lyric “I.” Bots from academia mix with bits of the street.

Haute Surveillance is written in blocks of prose, lists, and lines. The collapsing together of different discourses doesn’t stop at the literal. Goransson turns it into a book that is unclassifiable — part epic poem, part science fiction, part pornographic film, and all literature. He writes sentences that the reader has to stop and think about. This is what I found so powerful about Haute Surveillance.

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Blake Butler on Fence Books and Haute Surveillance

by on Jun.02, 2013

Blake Butler has written a column for Vice Magazine about Fence Books (and the journal), “Fence has been Reconfiguring the Literary Landscape for 15 Years.” Fence has obviously been hugely influential to contemporary poetry over the past 10-15 years.

Since 1998, Fence magazine has been independently publishing a biannual journal of prose, poetry, art, and criticism; in 2001, they began publishing several lines of innovative, ambitious books. While most magazines (this one excluded, of course) and literary journals can be dry and tedious, each issue of Fence seems to raise its own benchmark. There’s always something in there to befuddle you, to challenge the idea of what could appear on paper, to make you wonder how or why a thing was made. Fence occupies a rare place in new language, and has charged itself with the noble “mission to encourage writing that might otherwise have difficulty being recognized because it doesn’t answer to either the mainstream or to recognizable modes of experimentation.” Editor Rebecca Wolff is unique in that she doesn’t aim to control or even codify the work the press presents: the work is the work, thank God, and understanding is a product of the experience of reading, rather than a kernel to be swallowed.

Red the full thing here.

*
Blake also wrote a recent Vice review of my new book Haute Surveillance:

There’s an ecstatic kind of media collision at work in the body of language produced by Swedish-born Johannes Göransson. Over the course of six books of his own, as well as translations of major Swedish authors like Aase Berg and Henry Parland, he has assembled an incredibly volatile and feverish vision, somewhere between Artaud and Lars Von Trier, though one more interested in the awkwardness and orchestration of the profane than simply milking it. His latest work, Haute Surveillance, may also be his most provocative. Here Johannes has assembled a feverish and explicit set of images and ideas revolving around power, fetish, porn, media, violence, translation, punishment, performance, and aesthetics. Taking its title from a Jean Genet play of the same name, it’s kind of like a novelization of a movie about the production of a play based on Abu Ghraib, though with way more starlets and cocaine and semen.

Read the whole thing here.

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West Memphis, Witch Hunters, and the Cult of the Violent Femme

by on Mar.24, 2013

Rather than rehashing issues of exculpatory evidence and procedural travesties in the still-unsolved triple-child-homicide and triple-wrongful-conviction that is the case of of West Memphis Three Six, Joyelle’s and Johannes’s recent essays chart some interesting new territory — see “Metallica, The West Memphis Three, and the Narcissism of the Law” and “‘Paradise Lost’: Violent Femmes, Hysterical Masculinity and the Threat of Art (pt 1).” In a future post, I’d like to engage Joyelle’s observations — specifically “Art’s occult movements, its paradoxically linked power and obscurity,” and the ability of Narrative to “exercise a ‘real’ force” not only on the historical record but on the bodies of its “characters” — via an examination of the power of Magic(k)al Narratives, in the absence of inculpatory evidence, to secure from spell-bound juries what Marianne Moore might have called “real convictions for imaginary crimes.”[1] The following touches on those ideas, but only in my attempt to discuss the “strange sexuality” that Johannes sees in the West Memphis case, as well his notion of “the threat of Violent Femme,” both of which I examine in the context of the imagined sexual violence in the case as well as Prosecutors’ (conjoined-) twin obsessions with inversions of religious rites and perversions of sexuality — obsessions that are by no means limited to the not-so-metaphorical witch trial in West Memphis, of course, but that enjoy a history of at least a couple thousand years even in the narrow context of persecution / prosecution.

I should also note that Joyelle and Johannes both tend to write from the perspective of discussing Art / Literature, while I am presently doomed to see everything in terms of the plodding banality of crime; the only Art I discuss anymore, or so it seems, being the aforementioned Prosecutorial Magic, and the only “literature” the most depressing collection of nonfiction tomes on crime, particularly sex crimes, as well as (or, rather, including) our species’ long history of persecuting those among us whom we believe are “beyond redemption,” etc.

1. ACTUAL TRIPLE HOMICIDE V. THE SPECTRE OF” SATANIC HOMOSEXUAL CHILD SEXUAL ASSAULT AND MUTILATION (continue reading…)

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Ken Chen on Haute Surveillance

by on Mar.13, 2013

I forgot to mention Ken Chen’s really awesome review of (along with excerpt from) my new book Haute Surveillance.

Excerpt of review:

Johannes Göransson’s poem, Haute Surveillance, combines all these meanings of pure, fake, authentic, corrupt, synthetic. The poem is an evil Leaves of Grass—not a welcoming cosmic paean to all American citizens, but a nihilistic porno where the pure and the fake copulate with a sordid glory. By real, Göransson means: children burning in bombed buildings, the bodies of foreigners, sperm and blood, traumatized soldiers strangling their wives. By fake, he means: film sets, stunt doubles, poetry. You can see this combo in how he depicts America: America is not an emancipatory pluralistic haven, but an atavistic theater of war, brutally real and, as Baudrillard has written, as simulated as a video game.

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Montevidayo books at the AWP

by on Mar.06, 2013

If you go to the AWP bookfair, look for the Action Books/Tarpaulin Sky table (J24). We’ll have the following new books:

From Action Books:
The Parapornographic Manifesto by Carl-Michael Edenborg
In the moremarrow by Oliverio Girondo (trans. Molly Weigl)
Pop Corpse! by Lara Glenum
The Warmth of Taxidermied Animals by Tytti Heikkinen (trans. by Niina Pollari)
Mouth of Hell by Maria Negroni (trans. Michelle Gil-Montero)

From Tarpaulin Sky:
Joyelle McSweeney’s new book, Salamandrine: 8 Gothics
Johannes Göransson’s book Haute Surveillance

We will also have a few copies of Radioactive Moat chapbooks by Feng Sun Chen, Lucas de Lima and Jiyoon Lee at our table.

Elsewhere in the fair:
Check out Sarah Fox’s new book First Flag from Coffeehouse Press.
Aase Berg’s Dark Matter (in my translation) from Black Ocean.

(And probably some stuff I’m missing, so please add if necessary in comment section.)

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