To honor the final year of my thirties as well as the recent publication of my constraint-based Faulkner-inspired memoir, AS I STAND LIVING, which chronicles the year I became a father, I’m going to document my various sources of media input each week: art, literature, music, movies, television, and so on. New updates every week until I turn forty (March 19, 2018).
For inspiration I frequently return to Dennis Cooper’s groundbreaking novel Zac’s Freight Elevator. It’s a phenomenal achievement and deserving of many more inches from me, but suffice to say here it’s genius in re-imagining the possibilities and boundaries of narrative, genius in producing the estrangement Shklovsky identifies as essential to the function of art, genius in evoking states of confusion both sensually, emotionally, and intellectually, and it’s genius at opening different spaces for the intersection of literary and graphic arts.
Fair warning for anyone new to Cooper’s work: violence and sex abound and some consider it graphic and/or extreme. For me, the only aspect eliciting critical reaction in this regard is the treatment of (or depiction of) young boys in violent and sexual situations, which I arrive at through a knee-jerk reaction as the father of a young boy. Now, that said, I think it’s probably important and valuable to confront my reactions and confront the affects produced by the work, as a way of learning more about myself, my fears, my anxieties, because believe it or not I was once a young boy myself and sex and violence played a huge role in my adolescence. So it’s complicated.
Most importantly, as with all my favorite art (“literary” or otherwise) this book and the previous two in the series, Zac’s Control Panel and Zac’s Haunted House, make me reconsider the possibilities of narrative, make me reconsider my own compositional choices, give me permission to push, explore, go farther and further with my own work.
As a reader, it delights even when it’s grotesque. When you click on this link you begin your encounter with a home page. If you choose to begin with the cover, you’re greeted with a GIF (I pronounce it GIF like GIF not GIF like JIF, GIF like groovy not GIF like gymnastics) depicting a young white guy with bottle-blond hair dressed in nice looking all white clothing and black boots stomping the screen, stomping the reader. His foot going up and down, up and down, up and down. I can’t help but think about the characters in his recent print novel, The Marbled Swarm, who participated in a subculture who eroticized the crushing of objects and animals. Stomping, squishing, smashing. Killing. Zac’s Freight Elevator begins by stomping on the viewer. Squishing. Smashing. Pulverizing the viewer. From there, it moves the reader through an onslaught of beautiful visual bewilderment.
I remain enthralled with Musique Concrète, the technique of sound art composition using recorded sounds as primary material. Sound collage. Assemblage. My writing and thinking — which I see as the same thing, following William Zinsser’s argument that “writing is thinking on paper” — resonates with this patchwork approach. So, I was pleased to just discover Nino Nardini’s Musique Pour Le Futur (1970), which the uploader describes as “Musique Concrète, Experimental, Ambient.”
Andrew Epstein posted about Alice Notley’s Descent of Alette at his always interesting Locus Solus blog, and in the post he introduced me to Rachel Zucker’s podcast series called Commonplace, which holds a treasure trove of poets in conversation.
I heard the new Kodak Black track “Tunnel Vision” while driving around The Valley the other day. The way he elongates his words “…tunnel visionnnnnnn” really appeals to me. When hearing it again this afternoon while driving through Mid-Wilshire, on our way to the 405, I told Caitlin it was my new jam. By contextualizing it as an example of a new generation of hip hop artists doing this type of music — what type? post-Migos, post-Chief Keef, post-Future, Post-Gucci Mane, such as: Lil Yatchy, Lil Uzi Vert, Young Thug, Rich Homie Quan, Rae Sremmurd, et al., — I argued the appeal arises from its ambiguous relationship to performing overtly political propaganda (as opposed to, say, Kendrick Lamar’s on the nose social commentary). Then I got home and watched the music video and it totally changed my perspective. Turns out, the video makes a strong case for the explicitly political content of the song. Or, it tries. It’s very strange, because this video does not seem to fit with the song at all; in fact it strikes me as opportunistic at best, downright farcical at worst, and most generously it seems desperate for relevance despite itself. Furthermore, if you scrutinize the lyrics you find the song actually revolves around the all too familiar tropes of heterosexual sex and drugs and money-making braggadocio rather than social justice. Such a strange juxtaposition of song and video:
Speaking of tripping me out when seeing the video…after listening to Childish Gambino’s “Redbone” a bunch on the radio while driving around Los Angeles I thought it was either a voice-coder type autotune thing or else a woman singing, then I saw this video today of him performing it live on Fallon…I did not see that falsetto coming:
Short story called “Cecil Taylor” by César Aira:
One story is followed by another. Vertigo. Retrospective vertigo. There’s an excess of continuity. Narrative traction cannot be suspended, even by inserting endings. Vertigo creates anxiety. Anxiety paralyses … and saves us from the danger that would justify vertigo: approaching the edge, for example the edge of the chasm that separates an ending from a continuation.
Seriously. Sasha takes second place AGAIN on Drag Race? Insane. Her deconstruction of the rainbow with the little house on the fairy reveal? Come on. Then she brought a crazy magic fairy woodland creature unicorn to the main stage? Then the ugly cowgirl meets Raggedy Anne look? What’s it going to take for her to win a a challenge?
Shea looked fine, but come on. Her rainbow look reminded me of the painter in the old Murphy Brown television show I watched as a kid. To speak in the parlance, no tea no shade but it gave me 90s mistake realness: perhaps it slayed at a Homecoming dance in 1995, and perhaps that’s part of Shea’s drag, but I wasn’t gagging over mainstream 90s clothing at the time when I lived through it and my mind remains convinced of its continued aesthetic duplicity. On the other hand, her other two runway looks were fierce: both her sexy dominatrix unicorn and her deconstructed construction worker stood out. (The cape didn’t work for me, tbh…it looked like a kindergarten class parachute sewing project where the kids were asked to bring an article of their parents’ clothing to contribute.)
Ultimately, it appears Shea’s ordained, the favorite, the chosen, the destined to win queen. Idk. It’s fine. She’s a strong contender, don’t get me wrong, but for me she’s just not as brilliantly overwhelming as Alaska or Bob or Sharon or Bianca or Raja or fill in the other winners with unmistakable drag personas. Maybe she’ll step up her game in these last few weeks and I’ll change my mind. Time will tell.