Saturday, August 12, 2006

Gerade rechts zum Volkszimmer

We do this: We go out for coffee in Wayzata. We go to the Caribou that is next to the bookstore. Harry, an early retiree and investment strategist and good man, world traveler, stops at our table to ask if we had seen it: the Porsche Carerra parked just around the corner. He estimates it costs $350,000 and that there are fewer than 10 of them in the country, six more likely. We hadn't seen it, but Lena, my friend, says, "That's how much my house costs: $350,000."

Later, we're eating hamburgers at the Wayzata Legion -- they are very juicy and cost $6 for the basket -- and Lucia walks in with Karen. Karen is carrying a gigantic gold Chanel purse. Both are in pants sets and heels. They have been to Gianni's, the best steak house, and are coming in to the Legion, the only place in town to smoke inside. Lucia is loud and friendly and affectionate. She runs her arms around the "Duke" and squeezes herself in between his legs. He is bald and yellowing and spotted, at least 70, and she is 65, but she looks ageless, like Sophia Loren. Karen ties us up with talk. She tells us her father is a three-time veteran, and people at the Legion are always good to her even though she wears Chanel and Cartier diamonds. We look at her finger. It's big, a wide band up to the first joint. She wears a diamond cross that covers her breastbone. I can't figure out why she is wearing a leopard print chemise; she is very married, as she tells us in plain detail. She says that she and Lucia are going to a private dinner with Bush in Wayzata for $5,000 per person. Lena says she would only pay $5,000 to eat with Elvis, and only if she got to sit right next to him.

Karen walks away and Lena says that she has Cartier, too, and Chanel, but she doesn't talk about it with strangers at the friggin' Legion, for crisessake. Of course, I say. Lucia is German, and we had a conversation auf Deutsch at the coffee shop on another day. She said my German was commendable but that she knew right off that she didn't like me. That was the week before she went to the Cheney luncheon in Excelsior.

Lena and I grew up together and vote for Democrats. We've talked about politics, which is a little surprising considering that so few people do. The men in her family are Republicans and the women are Democrats, going back to FDR. Their women and men disagree about the war. In my family, we vote for Democrats, without ever being sure if they represent our views. My mother is more like a moderate peacetime Republican, my brother a member of a Christian leftist party not invented yet.

Friday, August 11, 2006

A literary "stoush"

"It was a black joke and it's got out of hand."

Australian poets are notoriously combative and one literary figure suggested ... it was because their egos were inversely proportional to their sales.

(Robin Hamilton spotted this Aug. 9 article in The Daily Telegraph, Sydney, Australia.)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Red Squirrel

This is a never-ending day with sunshine crowning an eventual eclipse or a virtual exposure of no news from China from Beirut from Jerusalem where is Jericho? is Jericho in the news where is Tabriz? The sell out came in her not asking if I wanted to live she always thought no one really wanted to live or had their reasons for living she had liked dying just fine and wanted to see more of it had gotten to like watching it and forgetting there was functionality in plain living not imaginable in her graceless world of bloody corpses and smashed bones raked off by a yard junta as not edible flying girl flying sea flying pictures flying orgasm flying automobiles flying sandwich and chips flying rich folk flying poem the only thing not flying were her orderly friends with their small to large hangups and their physical difficulties one had a wired jaw one a hard time getting pregnant one a head that turned to autism if he was tired he would bash or bang it and one with a document of some estimable value that needed a script doctor before she got the doctor doctor not to notice her independence or to pay nice compliments he was no more than a ruddy cube she was not near her friends anymore they were spirited away on their flying rug or curled with a gun or watching tv not pulsing to operate what they had quit wanting careers or fame they were happy to watch reruns of seinfeld and melrose place she was not their friend anymore though she had liked all of them they were running not flying they were selling but not collecting they were free but unhappy she was happy but unfree and the blood of the seal went to bonemeal for the richest of the riches who lived in the townhouse of the flying squirrel not the flying girl of all seas ...

(Published in Minnetonka Review, issue 2, Troy Ehlers, ed., March 2008, p. 14.)

Monday, August 07, 2006

Veronica by Mary Gaitskill

This is a selection of lines from this novel by Mary Gaitskill (Pantheon, 2005, Vintage Contemporaries Edition, July 2006). Though the characters are ugly and beautiful, ill and not ill, and the streets are ugly and beautiful, a warm compassion for all of them as people in real places opens up, even when the characters themselves lack compassion. I like to escape while reading into this book partly because the main character, Alison, doesn't write, and I envy her life that way. She goes the long day without writing anything. Of course, Gaitskill writes. Alison works as a model when she is young; later she is on codeine for a bad arm and has hepatitis. The title character, Veronica, has AIDS. I hesitated to read a novel about people with these problems, much the way one might avoid associating with people with these problems. Theirs is not a happy life, yet it is, too, because they lived.

When I lost my looks and had to go on disability, John pitied me and then looked down on me, but that just got fit into the friendship, too. What can't get fit in is that sometimes even now John looks at me and sees a beautiful girl in a ruined face. It's broken, with age and pain coming through the cracks, but it's there, and it pisses him off. It pisses me off, too. (39)

The sweetness of it was a complicated burst of little tastes, but under that was a big broad muscle of sound. It was like the deep feeling of dick inside and the tiny sparkling feelings outside on the clit. Except it was also like when you're in love and not thinking the words dick or clit. (41)

Daphne and I hated Sara for acting like this. But it was hard to hate her all the way. Her rage was like gentleness trapped and driven crazy with sticks. It was flailing and helpless. It made Daphne's measured goodness seem somehow mean. (58)

Then he jumped up and said he wanted to go to a nightclub. But I had go-sees the next day! He laughed and said, "Don't think like a shop girl! Think like a poet!" (69)

The intelligence in his eyes is warm, but it's not the love warmth of the heart. It's from the liver and stomach and glands, the busy warmth of function. He's slow to talk and he says "uhhhh" a lot. It doesn't make him sound stupid. It makes it seem like his thoughts are physical truths that have to come in noise form before he can get them into words. (77)

"I'm just saying, if you want to talk about disrespect ... " I trail off. Joanne doesn't like it when I tell stories like this. She thinks I'm acting dramatic and victimized. But that's not how I feel. I feel like the bright past is coming through the gray present and I want to look at it one more time. (83)

Like the German woman, he ate as if he could not taste. Lack of taste had made her indifferent to eating. It made him ravenous. It made him crawl on his hands and knees through the no taste, trying to find taste. (114)

When I first moved here, I lived in this town. I didn't live in the canyon, but I'd come to walk in it. I'd come especially when I felt afraid, knowing I had hepatitis but not feeling sick yet. I'd look at the big trees and the mountain and I'd think that no matter how big any human sickness might be, they were bigger. Now I'm not so sure. How much sickness can even a huge heart take before it gets sick itself? The canyon is full of dead and dying oaks. Scientists don't know why. It's hard to believe we didn't kill them. (119)

I understood that Cecilia looked at me as an object with specific functions, because that's how I looked at her. Without knowing it, that is how I looked at everyone who came into my life then. This wasn't because I had no feelings. I wanted to know people. I wanted to love. But I didn't realize how badly I had been hurt. I didn't realize that my habit of distance had become so unconscious and deep that I didn't know how to be with another person. I could only fix that person in my imagination and turn him this way and that, trying to feel him, until my mind was tired and raw. (134-135)

It is not really fear of homosexuals. That is just something to say. The real fear is of things that can't be said. (154)

Across the billowing snow, gaunt trees signed in shadow language. (155)

Of the three of us, Daphne was the only one who did well enough to tell a happy story about. A story of love between a man and woman, their work and children. There are other stories. But they are sad. Mostly, they are on the periphery. If we were a story, Veronica and I would be about a bedraggled prostitute taking refuge in the kitchen with the kindly old cook. If the cook dies, you don't know why. There isn't that much detail. You just know the prostitute (or servant or street girl) goes on her way. She and the cook are dim, small figures. They are part of the scene and they add to it. But they are not the story. (254)

Ann Bogle! Ann Bogle!

At by Kevin Thurston. (The first time I saw it, I thought the name of this weblog was related to an adverb "fuckingly" or to the plural of a type of person who is "fuckingly," but it isn't. It's really Fucking Lies or Polite Happiness.)

From the July archives:

Friday, July 28, 2006

wow! ann bogle

the first poem submitted to me by a blog reader

by Han Scrable

her tobacconist is Palestinian
and her barber is Israeli
[i think it was her barber]
and that is how she does
her part to keep peace.

in the morning i switch on
my computer it is a nice CPU
and i click on several "blogs"
whereat i shall meet amusement
always at the hands of Ann B.

she is self-effacing and modest
never the center of the universe
[ok, maybe she slipped a bit
when she told the world via "blog"
that she was really really smart

and ranked very high in her class
at some MFA program; and when
she was kinda presumptuous
when she said she helps maintain
world peace by having her hair cut

and coiffed by an Israeli, her cigs
purchased from a Palestinian, as if
such small gestures should earn her
a Nobel Peace Prize, which Condi
is going to win anyway.] Maybe Ann

knows Condi and will tell us all about it
in another Listserv message or at a "blog"
run by someone like Thurston, who is
much less smart and connected and
ranked much lower in his class than Ann

did. but i like Kevin anyway even though
i've never met him. but i know he has
good taste for he posts Ann Bogle messages
at his "blog." that is enough for me to want
to fly to Buffalo and meet him over wings.

Ann has the best recipe for Buffalo Wings
or so I heard through a grapevine full and
lush. i was at a poet party in the dark
out back smoking pot and Ann Bogle was
the subject of discussion. Ann oh Ann

you are everywhere all at once we love you
and you are ranked high in this world. maybe
Google Ads will reap you a major windfall
and you'll take us to the Tavern on the Green
for a really big dinner & we'll toast you a lot.

posted by kevin.thurston at 2:18 PM 1 comments

Subj: Re: Poem about ann bogle
Date: 8/7/06 8:24:41 PM Central Daylight Time

In a message dated 8/7/06 6:57:26 PM Central Daylight Time, writes:

Wow indeed. Maybe that's what Bob Dylan was trying to say when he said: (Here he's riffing on a shop sign. You can see this in Scorsese's No Direction Home, which they show on PBS. I was thinking that as far as extemporaneous prosody on cigarette shops that this was the gold standard.)

I want a dog that’s going to collect and clean my bath
return my cigarette and give tobacco to my animals
and give my birds a commission.

I want, I’m lookin’ for somebody to sell my dog
collect my clip, buy my animal and straighten out my bird.

I’m lookin for a place that can bathe my bird
buy my dog, collect my clip, sell me cigarettes and commission my bath.

I’m lookin for a place that’s gonna sell my dog, burn my bird and sell me for a cigarette
bird my buy collect my will and bathe my commission

I’m lookin for a place that’s gonna animal my soul,
knit my return, bathe my foot and collect my dog,
commission me, sell my animal to the bird to clip
and buy my bath and return me back to the cigarettes.


Saturday, August 05, 2006

Publishing in (online v. print) journals

For me, the line for "ancient history" is 1990. In my family ancient history is last week, and we are always in at least a minor feud over it. To them, it is ancient history that I went for a job interview to scrub floors in the suburbs last week; my earned degrees, especially the one from '94, are part of ancient history, etc. In publishing, submissions went from single- to multi- some time in the early 90s or late 80s; '92 seems another useful line for measuring time in internet art space. I still try to practice single submissions, which is a throwback to pre-1990 ancient history, and I expect a return if I send an SASE, which is to have ancient expectations. In 1996, I went online. I saw that many very talented E people had been there before me, laying tracks, designing sites, building roads. I saw that some of the literary sites had the capacity to archive their back issues. All of this had great appeal, even though I'm not particularly electronic -- I am more text-based and not otherwise very graphic. Like some of the people have mentioned here, I like holding a beautifully designed bound book and reading it from my purse or in bed. My computer is an "ancient" (though post-1990) model, and it sits frumpily on my desk and is immovable and personal. It has limited remaining capacities. I go to the internet to read quickly for information, and I like it for reading short poems and short stories and essays. Anything longer, I would like to have it in book form, unless it is in fact art belonging to the internet. But, often, I don't like to read longer things, anyway.

My first published short story was in The Quarterly in 1988. That was a pulp paperback with a shiny cover that had a wider circulation than was usual for literary journals, and it was also literary. I used the usual method for getting in: one story to one editor at one time via US mail with SASE. Gordon Lish responded a week later with an acceptance. The stories (eventually I had three there) came out about a year after acceptance. He was considered to be very efficient by the standards of that business.

Now I wait to be solicited. It happens, but rarely. If anyone writes or calls with a request for something I wrote, I am sure to get something to them. With this post-ancient-history method my "waiting" feels more patient -- I am not waiting to hear back. Using the old method, I currently have submissions out to five publications -- and it's taking forever. I have written queries and reminders. They are holding these publications sometimes for five years! The old method has become lugubrious.

Growing Up Normal

In a message dated 8/5/06 1:57:06 AM Central Daylight Time, ALEX39@.COM writes:

Had I the authority of the wizard, I'd flash my magic wand and neutralize any and all portions of the brains and the gonads of all religious peoples.

In 1991, I went to a resident psychiatrist's office in Houston and told her I was becoming uncharacteristically religious and was writing about it at home: parables about street life to God. Streety was an adjective in a Barthelme short story, "The Dolt" that I read later, about Edgar who has failed The National Writers' Exam twice, and his sexy wife, Barbara, who was a hooker before they married. The resident psychiatrist didn't diagnose me, but later, when I didn't improve -- (I felt like all I was missing was the colonial doily on my head and could barely eat; I had a very serious expression and wouldn't smile for cameras and had gotten suddenly homely) -- I got two alternative dxs: one of temporal lobe epilepsy and one of manic depression. I did not choose drugging, but was ordered to go on med's anyway. A helpful fellow graduate student suggested that I read Barthelme's "The Sandman," but it was too late for that story, a letter to a psychiatrist from the third boyfriend of a woman patient who is really a pianist.

The anti-psychotics, according to Peter R. Breggin, the author of Toxic Psychiatry, do perform that service of neutralizing the hemispheres in the brain concerned with religion. If you could catch and drug the religious people, you'd have your wand. I have atheist friends, who are formerly Catholic, and who are blue collar workers; they shun all forms of religion and spirituality except art. What I was before the dx: a secular Protestant (not of the evangelical type), and I think this is pretty much still true today -- not an atheist but not much of a Christian, either.

The problem for "us" now is that groups do not know "what to do with" the dxd people who try to participate in regular activities. It's really worse than it was even 15 years ago for gays -- who lacked certain well-understood rights -- but 15 years ago, there was not this other group whose rights to housing, employment, education, health care, and community could be abridged -- people who typically haven't met, don't know each other, didn't used to be dxd, and are not political, who are subscribers not to religious thought but to conventional medicine. There are no blood tests for major mental illness. The treated bipolars I have met are not religious in the least or are merely religious and not very spiritual (except one born again woman, lucky enough to have a beau who is her ex-husband, the only one I met who stays off med's but goes to the doctor). The untreateds I met were occultists and drug addicts. Dx is really about aspects of trauma, and trauma is partly based in a lack of recognition that trauma has taken place or that it matters.

If the Gibson tirade is about hate and not about religion, as two people suggested, then it's worth remembering how in our version of our former religion hate was so completely taboo -- as little kids we were taught not to be vehement or to have enemies.

Friday, August 04, 2006