Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Four books I read recently and loved: Urs Alleman, Eileen Myles, Reynard Seifert, Matthew Simmons


Urs Allemann
(Les Figues Press, February 2010)

'Babyfucker is far more disturbing than the title suggests. The book, written by a Swiss author, spawned a controversy in Germany in 1991. It begins unabashedly with the sentence “I fuck babies,” which the narrator declares to be his sentence. It is the reader’s sentence, too. However, there are no detailed representations of infant pedophilia. There is terse, detached description of an impossible garret, filled with baskets of babies, supplied with a spigot and drain for morphine-laced milk; trepidation at humanity and new life; a man who sees himself in the mirror as a baby — then as made up, limb by limb, of babies. If there are specific sexual visions here, they must belong mainly to the reader, not the text. Among other unsettling things, the volume (which is yellow and pink, tiny, and cute) shows the reader’s involvement in literary atrocities, in any violation committed by shared imagination.' -- Nick Montfort, Post Position

Excerpt from Babyfucker

I fuck babies. Around my bed there are creels. They’re swarming with babies. They’re all here. Always have been. Always will be. Like me. I’m here too. For others it would probably be different. Others would leave. Would have come. Would go somewhere. Have come from somewhere. Not us. We’re here. The babies in their creels. Me in my bed. With closed eyes. Reach into the swarm. Fish one out. Fuck it. Throw it back to the others. All of them naked. All of them here. No names. At night everyone sleeps. Me. The babies. Linda. All is calm. During the day the babies get fucked. Always been that way. By me. Before going to sleep. After waking up. The babies here. Me here. Linda not here. All the lightless day long.

Sometimes I catch a male. Sometimes a female. O it doesn’t matter. Ring finger and pinkie span the flesh notch. The flap of skin can be hidden between my thumb and pointer. It’s all very chaste in my garret. Scraping. Rubbing. I want to write a chaste story. Middle finger. Bumhole. Fontanels. Their toothless, salivating mouths. Where do I penetrate. Where do I slide right in. Their pores flung open to me. My chaste ambition. With closed eyes. Feeling my way. Conquering. Every baby pore a hole for life. I want to write a story about holes for life.

Eileen Myles

'Culled by the poet from twenty years of art writing, the essays in The Importance of Being Iceland make a lush document of Eileen Myles's—and our—lives in these contemporary crowds. Framed by Myles's account of her travels in Iceland, these essays posit inbetweenness as the most vital position from which to perceive culture as a whole, and a fluidity in national identity as the best model for writing and thinking about art and culture. The essays include fresh takes on Thoreau's Cape Cod walk, working class speech, James Schulyer and Björk, queer Russia and Robert Smithson; how-tos on writing an avant-garde poem and driving a battered Japanese car that resembles a menopausal body; and opinions on such widely ranging subjects as filmmaker Sadie Benning, actor Daniel Day-Lewis, Ted Berrigan's Sonnets, and flossing.' -- Semiotext(e)

Excerpt from The Importance of Being Iceland

Iceland is, as you know, a country. The first thing everyone knows or doesn't know about Iceland is that it's not Greenland. Greenland is colder than Iceland though it seems like their names are reversed. If you look at Iceland's name in Icelandic it looks like Island and for the purposes of this book the unresearched fact is enough. Iceland is an island and I suspect its name comes from the word island not the word ice. The other thing you'll hear from anyone about Iceland is they stopped there on their way to Europe cause the tickets were cheap. Iceland is ideally situated between Europe and North America. It's kind of a pit stop place, a gas station so to speak and so it's been strategic during times of war. The US had a base there for a long time. In a moment of desperation the Prime Minister tried to sell it to Russia. Ugh.

Keflavík mostly feels like one of the least interesting places in the world, which is an American gift to be able to construct such a thing. Really if you travel here outside the interesting American cities and ignore all the natural beauty of our country you'll see that America is rapidly becoming this place which is nothing, but Iceland is not.

I went to Iceland in 1996 in many ways because of my interest in small things, including my own small presidential campaign. There's a writer Robert Walser who was Swiss and wrote around the turn of the 20th century. For all intents and purposes he was 19th and I'd like to propose that the 19th century is the century of the working class. We were invented by Karl Marx (like he's our Santa and we're the elves) during it and also if you come from an uneducated household (and by uneducated I mean not college educated and I'd like to point out that since in our democracy the only free education is 8-12 the plan for most Americans is that they be "uneducated." That's the idea. Land of the free. Free to be dumb), a household that nonetheless does love art and books well then probably that family's idea of literature and your access to books will be excessively bound up with the past which if you were born in 1949 means the 19th c. was exactly as far away from you as the 21st. You had a choice. The 19th was as likely as the 21st c. It was the planet you were flying away from. Krypton to your Superboy, a place you would always associate with home. It was Charles Dickens—known to be great by educated and uneducated people alike. It was the decade of Louisa May Alcott. We all read Little Women. We got our female idea of being writers from Jo's attic writing studio: rats, apples, ink, and all at the time of the civil war. Jo was great but we have been given so little to fantasize about. And what there is is antique.

(Read more)

A (partial) reading by Eileen Myles (10:00)

Reynard Seifert

'So, I printed a chapbook of short stories called How To Skin The Moon. It's going to be for sale at a number of bookstores in the Bay Area and hopefully nationwide (in small book/zine shops) pretty soon. There will be a hahaclever dot press store pretty soon and then it will be available there with a charge for shipping. Two of the stories - "The waR in Dm" and "A Businessman &" - were published on Pindeldyboz and Hobart, respectively. The rest are previously unpublished. Essentially the chapbook is a 64 page surrealist short story cycle about contemporary American capitalism. If you're interested in writing a review/interview (even for yr blog ((maybe))), please contact me and I will hook you up real phat (prolly).' -- RS

Excerpt from How to Skin the Moon

A Businessman &

I put on my suit. It's a business suit. I'm a businessman and I mean business. I mean 'business' with a big 'B' and an ampersand. So from now on, I will say, I'm a Businessman &. Because it sounds more businesslike to be a Businessman & I mean Business!

Sometimes the phone rings but no one is there when I say, Hello? My wife crosses her legs as I look back to her; reading a fashion magazine in our fancy house, our home, she looks up and asks, Who is it? I say, Gee, honey, I don't know. Do you know who it is? But, No, she says, she doesn't know who it is. She asks, Would you be a dear and take out the garbage? Oh sure, I say, slamming the phone on the marble, the floor, Would I be a deer? Would I prance around, or maybe even fly, like one of Santa's reindeer? No problem, I say, It's Christmas, after all. It was Christmas & I mean Christmas.

I ask her, Is that what you want, dear? Do you want me to fly away? But No, she says, she doesn't want me to fly away; instead, she asks, Would you try not to drink so much when mother/father is around? And I say, Oh, of course I won't drink so much when they're around! After all, aren't I the responsible one? I'm a Businessman, you know. I'm Responsible. And she says, Well yes, dear, that was true once, but lately you've worried me so, and now I just don't know and I think, you know, it's not too much to ask that you to not get so... loaded while my parents, who paid for this house, our home, are visiting their house, their home — is that too much to ask? And I say yes, actually, that is too much to ask because I can't stand your parents — I mean, your presence — I can't stand your present parents and I need a little hair of the dog in order not to slit my fucking wrist watch in the rub a dub — know what I mean? I ask her, Or do you want me to break the garage door opener again?

The phone rings again and I say, Hello? Then I answer the phone. I hear someone breathing; it's a man. I say, Hello? And he says, Hello? It sounds just like me, I think, an echo perhaps, but then he begins to laugh. My wife uncrosses her legs as I look back at her; she hikes her skirt and licks her finger to part the lips and asks, Hello? The man continues to laugh so I slam the phone on the marble, the floor, and it shatters into a Billion pieces dotting the slab that is the base of our house, our home, but the voice still laughs. I look back and my wife is laughing, but in his voice, my voice; she laughs at me, but really it is I who is laughing — I am touching myself.

(Read the rest)

Reynard Seifert 'Earth Quakes' (0:54)

Matthew Simmons
(Publishing Genius)

'When his new roommate's brother dies tragically, the unnamed narrator of A JELLO HORSE offers to drive him home to the Midwest. Feeling anxious and displaced, he embarks on another roadtrip to visit the bizarre attractions and quirky museum's in America's heartland.' -- SPD

Just finished consuming Matthew Simmons’ A Jello Horse, and I really liked it. I saw a review that went gaga for the quirkiness of the novella, but I think the real power comes from the way Simmons uses "familiarity"--that sounds boring, so yeah the book is quirky as hell. It’s not a scary book, but it’s loaded with uncanny imagery. Oddly, the best parts are when the narrator is least interactive with the characters who know him, who have prior history with him. It’s when he is alone, or encountering new characters, that the book hits its highest notes. If that's too vague, how about this: there are BIG ANIMALS in it. I hear it’s going into a 2nd printing. ' -- Laura Ellen Scott

* Buy the book
The Man Who Couldn't Blog
Happy Cobra Books
A Jello Horse reviewed @ The Believer
A Jello Horse reviewed @ The Stranger
Matthew Simmons' Life Story on a Postcard

Excerpt from A Jello Horse

The House of 2000 Telephones is on a residential street in a small town in the tip of northeastern Kansas. It was set up by a civic-minded citizen intent on making an attraction more important than The House of 1000 Telephones in southwestern Kansas.

It has two other distinctions: it is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week except for Christmas day, and every single phone in The House of 2000 Telephones works and is a separate line.

When you walk into The House of 2000 Telephones, some of them are ringing. At any one time, says your guide to The House of 2000 Telephones, at least a dozen of them are ringing. We never answer them as they are all wrong numbers. Not a single one of the phones in The House of 2000 Telephones is listed. We don’t even know what they are, so we never give them out. No one ever calls The House of 2000 Telephones on purpose.

That’s very interesting, you tell the guide.

While you are here, says the guide to The House of 2000 Telephones, feel free to look around at the many different styles we have collected over the years, and please, feel free to answer one or two of the calls. We only ask that you do not tell them that they have reached The House of 2000 Telephones. Pretend you are answering your personal phone. Tell them they have the wrong number. And after that, see if they would like to talk.

(Read more)


Steven Trull said...

ABC's "All Of My Heart"--I mean, I can't imagine surviving my childhood without dangerous amounts of Whitehouse, and other noise-makers, and British synth-pop (ABC, Soft Cell, Human League, Heaven 17).

I'm gay.

There's a giant cockroach, size of my hand, like, not moving on my desk.

It's gay.

Sabra Embury said...

I really enjoyed A Jello Horse. I won a copy in a pinball match.

The Man Who Couldn't Blog said...

Made my day, this did.

Thank you, Dennis.

tomkendall said...

Ive wanted to read 'A jello horse' since i read that believer review. Seems sold out + im skint anyway.

Started work today at the record shop. A friend of mine works there so that makes it a bit easier. Still retail is pretty depressing. Ive got to get going on the writing again. I mean ive been chipping away at it but it's coming up to something pretty crucial...Ive really got to decide it's shape after i finish this one section and the headache of that is making me fiddle around with other parts instead of getting on with the 'deciding'.

Sat on the houseboat.man is it cold: metal floors and no heating. Eating tins of chopped tomatoes with garlic cause im pretty skint right now. Aint down though just finding it hard to concentrate.

Reading the Erasers...fucking amazing.

tomkendall said...

Man, congrats to Yury too. That's gotta be some weight off you both.

William Keckler said...

Yay Reynard the Fox. Yay Eileen who should have won for President. I still cherish her flyer from her election campaign where she talks about not having access to dental care even though she's running for Prez. If more presidential candidates would tell us why their lives are sucking from hopelessness amenable to government fixes (government: "we aren't giving you your fix") despite being born in the (well, once) wealthiest country on the face of the earth, we might get somewhere.