The very good folks at the very good ZYZZYVA have a piece of fiction running from yours truly in their Winter 2008 issue.
It is a hallucinatory work about our current excellent adventure in Iraq and, more directly, Saddam Hussein’s last day prior to capture. I’ve taken a ninety-five percent true portrait of Saddam– he was a novelist and a poet, he clearly believed that he was the reincarnation of Saladin, he loved Western fantasy art, he was an enormous murderous dick– and expanded it outwards into another thing entirely. There’s also a lot about Walt Whitman in there, plus a diversionary discussion of the Ronald Reagan film Bedtime for Bonzo.
Frankly, I’m amazed that anyone published it. Thanks again to ZYZZYVA, who have been remarkably generous to a young man on the make. Not a word of the piece was changed, money exchanged hands, my name was never once misspelt and they nominated the piece for a Pushcart Prize.
This is called class.
Thus: it is resolved that readers herein should go and subscribe to ZYZZYVA. Here is the website. Those amongst you without good graces or manners can opt for a single copy of the Winter 08 issue. If you fear Internet commerce, independent bookstores are your second most honorable option. For those of you living in the sticks, you should be able to find a copy at Borders– I always see it here in Sunny SoCal, anyway. But really, don’t be a tosser and just give ZYZZYVA your money. Times ain’t that tough.
For further reading, you are directed to the blog of ZYZZYVA‘s editor and founder, Howard Junker. Not naming names, but most things of this sort are dreadfully polite and lifeless affairs– typically, the best that can be expected are rare instances in which an intern or staffer experiments with sass. On the other hand, Howard’s blog is– gasp!– truly interesting, full of San Fran fun and more than occasionally bitchy.
Which is how you like it.
— WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE — HOW IT APPEARS —
There are some writers who are all wrong, individuals with stylized approaches that routinely violate the dictums of Good Writing, and yet somehow remain utterly right. These rareties, usually male, never achieve a wide appeal– the best they will manage is the odd occurrence of independent bookstores, in an attempt to deter theft, stocking the writer’s books close to the cash register. But even these relative successes– those who earn the dubious distinction of cult authorship– have a certain quality, a likability and a willingness to be understood that emulate the principles of Good Writing.
The remainder are too purely of themselves. The golden standard is (our hero) Howard Phillips Lovecraft– the old boy of Providence with a body of work centered around a perverse way of seeing, and his purple prose, his long winded paragraphs and his barely one-dimensional characters are all tools employed in support of this literal vision. I’m not sure whether or not sf/horror people even exist anymore, but back in my school-boy days, the note sounded most constantly about Lovecraft was that he was a “bad writer,” a man whose work succeeded despite itself.
This is, of course, an inversion of the truth.
Newsflash: HPL is dead. Death removes the most complicated part of the literary equation: the living, breathing writer who often subverts his or her own best interests, and who insists, consistently, that his or her work has meanings that are missed by most readers. Lovecraft’s way of seeing was a bottom-up personal cosmography that began with the creeping decay of Olde New England, expanded ever outwards into different corners of society, then the world, and finally embraced the essential insignificance of man in an indifferent universe, a place in which anything at any time can and will destroy the whole wretched human race. The underlining point is that sum total of this destruction will be precisely nothing, that all of human endeavor has been as insignificant as dust gathering on a bookshelf.
This way of seeing was misunderstood upon publication, with the Weird Tales confederateship focusing on the number of appendages attached to dumb monsters. As enjoyable as Lovecraft’s collected letters are– and for my money, there’s hardly any more pleasurable reading– they invoke a sadness as missive after missive finds HPL explaining his cosmography to people interested in the number of teats found on Shub Niggurath and acquiring a copy of The Necronomicon. The Cthulhu Mythos subculture can be seen as a prolonged misinterpretation of the most salient aspects of Lovecraft’s work for the sake of its worst.
This has a long pedigree. Before the plushy toys and ugly t-shirts, there were written pastiches, many authored while Lovecraft was alive and often by his less talented friends. (For the record, we note that the Mythos stories of Robert E. Howard are the exception.) Sad to say, the monsters were a necessary evil. HPL was a genre writer playing a genre game: cloaking perceived truth in nonsense. Despite his own assertions to the contrary, until late in his life he possessed the writer’s ugliest quality: the desire to be heard. He did what he must. As do we all.
Having recently finished Thomas Liggoti’s Teatro Grottesco, a new collection of shortish fiction, my thoughts have been wandering in this direction. The book has been a revelation– I had a Liggoti kick at the tail end of the go-go ’90s, squirreled away in my Thomspon-street basement apartment with a bad case of the crazies and a copy of The Nightmate Factory, but somehow my interest faded. I tried reading more from Ligotti but each subsequent book seemed less and less interesting. The newer work seemed too dry, too mannered.
But let’s not forget: back in those days, I was more than a little insane. About halfway through Teatro Grottesco, the truth hit me square. Thomas Ligotti is the real deal, a genuine master. Best book I’ve read in months.
Liggoti has been called a horror writer and I guess the designation is vaguely accurate, but I doubt there’s another writer in the ghetto-genres doing work that comes close. His early career designation as a proto-HPL has proven to be surprisingly apt. Having shed his early anxiety of influence, Ligotti has developed his own absolute way of seeing. It is as equally compelling as Lovecraft’s, and, in truth, rather bleaker. HPL was about indifference– the world might kill you, but there was nothing malign in its intentions. You got in the way of something bigger than you.
Ligotti is different. A malign element pervades his work. All of his reoccuring images– abandoned factories, intestinal disorders, faceless corporations, burned out warehouses, hack artists, marionettes and falling darkness– are in an active conspiracy against man. Totally paranoid and amazing.
When I first read Ligotti, I had yet to set foot within southeastern Michigan. A short biographical note mentions Ligotti’s deep Detroit origins and decades within the city. Having whittled away my share of the years in the reigion– a place where it’s overcast ninety percent of the time and everything is falling apart– allowed a special insight into Ligotti as a regional, Michigan writer. The stories never name any fixed locale, no actual locations are given, but they are very clearly set in a nightmare version of a pseudo-American and make frequent references to bleakness over a northern border. This is Detroit, however transformed. Trust me.
Finally, to return to our major theme: there is no reason why Ligotti’s stories should work. By any standard of Good Writing, his labyrinthine sentences, his endless paragraphs and his zero-dimensional characters should spell disaster; but the work has a transfixing and hypnotic quality, a poetic repetition of key phrases and ideas. Let me reiterate: people will call anything hypnotic, but this stuff is genuinely hypnotic, and there is a deliberate method of prose construction producing this effect. Ligotti achieves the perfect approach for his subject matter– a blank tableau of interchangable paranoia– and though the book is a collection of shortish stories, its many repetitions leave the reader feeling as though they’ve read a sustained and complete work.
In other words: the real deal. A brilliant writer.
Behind the Ennis-Brown House. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. An Aztec Temple of shoddily mixed concrete rising up over Los Feliz. A new type of nightmare for an old fashioned sort of girl.
Typically, such photos are offered without comment, but in the interest of Fortean accuracy, it is noted that the many, many so-called ghost orbs appearing therein are due not to any super/supra natural entity, but rather the happenstance that Los Angeles is a city ringed by fire. Copious amounts of foul smelling smoke have polluted the last several days; this flash photography documents, inadvertantly, what passes in and out of our lungs. Even still.
Darcy Clay, Ten Years On — New Zealand Sunday Star Times, April 23 2008:
Darcy Clay was the outsized alter ego unleashed on the music industry by 24-year-old unknown Daniel Robert Bolton, when he emerged from the bedroom of his Clarence St, Ponsonby flat having home-recorded the Great New Zealand Single.
Jesus I Was Evil - a raucous, playful and strikingly original ode to hedonism – was the strongest of a clutch of raw-boned songs he wrote and recorded on a four-track in late 1996. It got in your head like an earworm. It bulged with killer lines. “I used to crash parties and Maseratis and-uh / I was evil,” Clay howled. The maverick, transgressive spirit celebrated in the title helped win over many before they had even heard the opening power chords. “Just to write a song called Jesus I Was Evil is awesome,” says actor Joel Tobeck, who was drafted in as Clay’s guitarist for a couple of the few live shows he ever played…
…Then, on March 15, 1998… Clay’s girlfriend returned home from an exhibition in Christchurch and found him dead in her Grey Lynn flat. There was no note, no drugs found in his system. He was 25.
A nice overview of our man Darcy Clay’s brief, short career with previously unavailable biographical detail, plus some sad moments with Clay’s Pa. Like everything re: Clay, the article focuses on “Jesus I Was Evil,” the freak single, but I, for one, am a firm adherent of the other five tracks on Clay’s only studio release. (I write studio, but this is a misnomer– in this case, the studio was dude’s bedroom.)
Los Angeles voters approved Measure R to increase sales taxes to fund transportation projects, but some projects could take a while to get off the ground. The proposed subway line along Wilshire Boulevard could start by 2013 or 2015 at the earliest, but the mayor of Los Angeles hailed the victory. “The commuters of L.A. were fed up with traffic and gas prices, and they responded by making a historic investment that will change the face of transportation in the region forever,” said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Thursday, 3pm, November 6th, 2008. Santa Monica and Vermont Metro Stop.
(Sorry for the photo quality.)
I was going to run three dense, separate posts of analysis on this election & its aftermath, entitled “WHO LOST: OLD WHITE FOLKS,” “WHO LOST: THE GAYS,” “WHO WON: EVERYBODY ELSE” but then, like a long-time friend of the blog, I heard the Voyce of the Lord, and He spaketh unto me: “No.”
So instead I’ll say this: fuck you, California, fuck you to the idiots running the anti-Prop 8 campaign, unable to grasp basic truths of American politics, and fuck you to all the big-toothed Dirrrty West Mormons who funded the pro campaign. And fuck you to Barack Obama for his political calculus, giving as much as he could to remain a Good Democrat without alienating the rest of the country, a phenomenon marked by his refusal to support gay marriage or speak out forcefully against Prop-8, and the voicing of his tepid support for civil unions in as few syllables as possible and only when prompted. And fuck you to the Clintons, the DLC, Al Gore, John Kerry and every other limp-dicked Democrat of the last sixteen years. You were the worst of all.
NOW. If there is one thing which my life has taught me, it is this: the smallest minority in America has got to be the children sired by secular Muslim immigrants. The only other person with that convoluted parental history whom I even know of, let alone know, is our boy Barack Hussein Obama. So I’ve given his ascent an enormous amount of thought and have not, really, been able to suss it out as much as I’d like– but one can’t help lose the feeling that this background either produces the god damned President of the United States or, well, me.
Anyway: fuck yes.
Hollywood provides endless fodder for one of my worst habits: collecting street ephemera. There is something not present in Los Angeles, a missing piece of the urban environment, that makes it the place par excellence for crazies communicating via light posts. It lacks the self-consciousness of a small town, and it is without the presumed superiority of aesthetic skill of other big cities. It is the epicenter.
Picture this: I’m walking down Sunset near Guitar Center. Possessing a trained eye for such matters, I notice a bundle of papers sitting atop a mailbox. Writing is visible; instantly, I recognize that the letter forms bear the trace of a lunatic. A quick glance around establishes that the author is nowhere present. I grab the packet and go on my merry way.
Later at home, I find this:
Intrigued by the high craziness, I googled on the names of the women to whom the letters were addressed, and discovered that they were individuals who’d written into Vogue on the topic of racism in fashion. Their letters appeared in the July 2008 issue:
Moving along, we come to drawings of a highly sexualized nature, the first of which poses the eternal question: “Paula,… do you masturbate?”
Next, we approach matters automotive:
For the curious, here are pages 7 and the left side of 7 1/2 merged. Together, they form the full Chack-Chack Roadster:
The final two pages are an address on current affairs. Typical of most post-9/11 street writing, these pages include a denunciation of George Bush and Dick Cheney. Most street writing, however, doesn’t suggest that either man associates with crack-cocaine using bordello prostitutes, nor does it typically involve convoluted fantasies of an imaginary bank:
Thus concludes this installment of literature from the streets.
You might be interested in knowing on what sort of paper such a series of thoughts and illustrations would be written. I have helpfully scanned the back of one of the pages. The reader will note that this is a mileage reimbursement form for an employee of the Los Angeles Public Libraries. This is true of all 10 sheets of paper, which in some form or another relate to mileage reimbursement. They date from 2002 through to 2007. Many of them include the name of said employee. (Omitted here, obviously.) The page I’ve scanned appears to be a fax from or to the Goldwyn Hollywood Library; but, again, thanks to Google, I was able to trace the forms to the Will & Ariel Durant Library.
This branch sits a few blocks away from where I found the papers. I imagine the whole thing somehow started there; after all, they probably keep Vogue on the racks. Anyway:
(obligatory pre-election chatter. sorry. can’t be helped.)
Mail to my old pal, Harvey, who claims he is voting McCain and asked for ten reasons why he should go Obama:
From: Jarett Kobek
To: His Pal Harvey
Date: Thu, Oct 30, 2008 at 3:38 PM
Subject: obama vs mccain ten reasons you stupid bastard
(IN NO ORDER OF IMPORTANCE)
#10. mccain is jacked up crazy. this statement in no way dishonors his service. dude was a jerk before he went into pow camp and came out a jerk with ptsd. search your feelings. you know it to be true.
#9. obama is an exceptionally effective communicator– lawyer, college professor– and we often forget that the roots of democracy are in the public advocacy of athens. there is a direct link between good government and effective communication.
#8. obama has a very specific kind of african-american cool; not in the sense of cool as a popularity contest, but cool like cool jazz. charlie parker, john coltrane kind of cool. this is why he never freaks out. totally useful.
#6. health care. obama’s plan is weak but I suspect that with huge democractic wins in the congress, an obama presidency will push through a radical health care initiative. this will serve as a smokescreen to distract us from the fact that we are never, ever leaving iraq. it’s time that america joined the civilized world. this may upset you re: taxes, but sorry, the one thing you should your national government should do is protect you from disaster and foreign invasion. a/k/a keep you safe. health care is a big part of this and the lack of universal coverage is a huge, massive problem for US competitiveness in the global market.
#5. foreign policy. mccain’s is a 20th century vision of the cold war world– look at everything he talked about in the debates. nicuragua, panama, russia. these problems were solved poorly 30 years ago. That the war on terror is a disaster is due precisely to rumsfeld and cheney being 20th century cold warriors who could not understand a new enemy. the only way that the MAJOR ISSUES, including israel (which you know I support those jews like no other) will ever be solved is via an entirely new set of faces. cold warriors, with their skewed realpolitik, must go. asap.
#4. likelihood of full examination of bush era war crimes increases inordinately. seriously, cheney + co f’d us in the a with massive illegal tortures. abu ghraib only scratches the surface. mccain’s cowardice re: the base ensures he will be unable to facilitate appropriate reviews of the previous administration.
#3. afghanistan. this could fall under #5, but fuck off, it’s important. obama seems to understand the need for afghanistan to succeed as an independent state and also seems interested in killing bin laden. A refreshing change.
#2. obama is smart. I know that it’s a time honored american tradition to pull down our betters and be suspicious of any natural ability not connected to sports, but whatever. dude is smart and a writer. When was the last time we had a real writer in the white house? Teddy Roosevelt? (Kennedy’s shit was mad ghost written.)
#1. leaving aside the pedantic and goofy questions of whether or not obama is BLACK ENOUGH, his wife is straight up descended from slaves and his babies got that blood in their bodies. I can not think of anything better for America than to have to see and live with a normal, beautiful black family in the white house for eight years. if nothing else, this will go incredibly far towards the normalizaton of race relations. it’s almost impossible to express its full impact. I saw michelle holding hands with dude’s lily white uncle during Kerry’s speech at the convention and the most shocking thing was not that it was happening but that it was so totally, utterly normal. welcome to the 21st century.
okay. vote obama, jerk.
BONUS FOR CALI CALI: Vote no on Prop 8. Duh.
But don’t do it solely because of hoity-toit arguments about equality or any of the scare-mongering associated with the hideously inept anti-8 campaigns. Arguments about fairness have merit, but opponents of 8 have been hella squeamish and thus operating on the same wave length as the dirrrty west Mormon-funded pro-8 ads. No one is stating a basic truth: gay marriages, individually and socially, are hugely positive and should be celebrated.
(last politics post pre-election. promise.)
Drudge in Hollywood
On Steve Ditko
From Sunset Blvd
Welcome to Kurdistan