If you have a weird, sad suspicion that you are charismatic but dumb and a bad writer who won’t ever write more than a single half-funny tweet in your entire life, then don’t go into the folder that has all the stuff you wrote 10 years ago and read all of it!!!
I went on a Facebook and Twitter hiatus because I felt like I was just whipping around too much in an unconscious toilet-flushing motion. It coincided with finally getting internet at home. Something on the internet will remind me of someone I know so I slap it on their wall. A violent scrap of megabanal language emerges out of something I misread at work, and so I tweet the fuck out of it. Then I wait to see if anyone responds to these empty, flaily gestures. At least here on the blog there’s still some obligation to construct something with a little more… integrity? The self-loathing bleeds through more cleanly. Fffft
Ariana Reines’s Tumblr has been moving and inspiring me lately, in all-caps. I’m on my lunch break. Magic Molly immolated her Tumblr, it seems, which is a bummer but I understand and even appreciate the gesture. “In 1970 John Baldessari cremated nearly all the paintings he had created between 1953 and 1966.” I don’t think it’s an outrageous comparison. I look forward to reading Molly’s future work.
Still haven’t read either of the colossal and megafun-looking and much-commented-upon recent Elif Batuman essays: LRB/McGurl/MFAs and NYT Magazine/Kafka. Ben Jones posted a Kathy Grayson–style blog post. I am in a transitional period of my life, self-imposed. There is a weird and bitter ex-marital drama that I’m pretty sure is real unfolding in the comments section of an old blog post. I don’t know either of the parties involved.
Seventh-Story Glory Hole
Walking through the Castro, I looked up at an attractive seven-story building. Someone had cut a three-inch circle out of their street-facing window. They’d lined the circle with soft black foam. The window was painted black, or maybe dark blue. I saw a long, flaccid penis hanging out of the hole. An impossibly high glory hole! The cock swayed gently in the tall breeze. I considered climbing an adjacent tree, or scaling the building itself. I would surely have perished had I made the attempt.
Drink This Now
She thought about piercing my throat with her razor. I’d die, but it’d also mean I’d finally stop talking. Then it dawned on her: I still hadn’t had my morning coffee. All my focus had been on preparing the eggs and onions. No wonder I’m babbling like an idiot. My coffee stood cooling by the stove while I sputtered and bloviated, rubbing my thumb against the plate to retrieve the last bits of onion. A well-rendered female character in a fictional short story, she dashed into the kitchen and returned with the mug. “Drink this,” she said, and pressed the warm cup into my hands. I swallowed it quickly like medicine.
Crabby chic. I’m bored by my style. I got it from you. If you’re British, does that mean your brown hat’s British? Running out the door this morning I grabbed something to read. The Fall 2010 number of thee Threepenny Review was at the top of the pile. It’s wrong for the bus: if you’re reading fiction, it should be bound in a book; if you’re going to read a magazine, it should have at least some politics or pop in it. Each item eventually repelled me—the scholarly ‘mystery’ felt contrived and overdramatized; a poem that maybe wanted to failed to make me consider seriously my own mortality. Then I got to Richard Locke’s review of Lydia Davis’s Collected Stories, which I enjoyed until I arrived at my stop.
Locke quotes Davis’s wonderful three-sentence story “A Different Man” in its entirety. I am a solipsist and a megalomaniac, though I use those terms interchangeably and probably don’t know what they mean. Reading the story there, I worried that my girlfriend might someday write a similar story about me, portraying me as a character who “kept his distance from her, who took offense, who was not reasonable.” With even more damning observations sprinkled in.
Every Week We Here at my blog get almost Thousands of letters, emails, texts, mails, balloons, of all stripes — all of them grammatical, all of them fine. A typo or two here or there is actually healthy — in precisely the same way that a forest fire is healthy for Ecology. You’re interested in What Walter Benjamin thought about Paul Klee? Well I’m interested in what you, the reader, think about Paul Klee! Pretty affectionate, pretty generous, I am, huh?
Let’s take a look at some recent letters.
How come your name isn’t on your blog? It’s pretty easy if you have an iPhone or even a dial-up internet connection to figure out who you are, but you still kinda fake-occlude your identity on your blog. What gives? I heard you’re vegetarian now?
With Real, Romantic Love,
Samp Stones, NJ
Joshua Cohen recently “argued” that, to “our” (mine, his, Tao Lin’s) generation,
transparency is the new sincerity; many of our peers maintain that it’s psychologically healthy, and artistic, to expose oneself entirely online. Anonymity was so 1990s—the Age of Fake Screen Names. Today, only utter exposure can set one free, while the only thing proscribed is regret.
Maybe I’m old-fashioned? Probably I’m just terrified of my boss.
Why do you speak in riddles? Isn’t the point of communication to, like, communicate? What’s the difference between a chat-room conversation and a correspondence conducted via USPS on expensive stationery?
Adults Pretending to be Teenagers
More like Adults *Acting* Like Teenagers! I’m thinking about quitting my job.
Whoops That’s all we’ve got time for this week!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I wish your daughter could read your poetry. But with titles like “Neighborly Cum,” you’ve presumably guaranteed that she won’t be allowed, either by yourself or her tutors. And when she does find your work, chances are, she’ll be disturbed forever. I have to ask: Why do you all but ensure that at some point in her life, your daughter will be disturbed?
I’m not the one ensuring that she’ll be disturbed. Old Barry Life-Truths is the one who makes sure of that. If it’s not “Neighborly Cum,” it’s Return to Oz (1985, Walter Murch, dir.) at a friend’s house—or any number of other horrors one can’t slide through life without being forcibly pressed up against them for longish periods of time.
But why add to the horror by writing a poem like “Neighborly Cum”?
I’m not making myself understood. I’m not adding to the horror. This is like asking why I’m adding to the flood by dipping my bucket into the angry, swollen creek and reserving that water for tonight’s broths, sipped in misery among the bloated, flood-ravaged corpses of our friends. The water is there, whether it’s in the creek with the dead catfish or if it’s in my tureen—with the dead catfish. [Smiles, awkwardly adjusts his pants, smiles again, grabs a full fistful of the wasabi peas on the table between them. He has small hands.] I’m not inventing the water, and I’m not conjuring it. I’m carrying it.
But you could leave it in the creek. You don’t need to fetch it. Let it pass on.
You describe the water as something in transit — just passing through our encampment, on its way to nobler fates — a job at a university, maybe, or a self-employment that manages to fuse social justice with a “hip” cultural engagement? Or just broader diffusion into the ocean, for example. Sure. But as it rushes west, the water is also quite a static thing. The creek is there—sometimes swollen, sometimes “normal,” now and then quite meager—but it’s there year-round. Just like your arms, or your thighs—sometimes swollen, sometimes meager, always present. [Derrick, looking away from the interviewer’s thighs, thinks about them.]
Your work often mentions self-loathing, and something you call “fake self-loathing.” Do you really hate yourself?
Well, yes, I do, but this isn’t really why I use those words. I think of self-loathing as an artistic tool, a raw material — it’s a particular brand and color of paint that I buy in quantity, and use in my compositions. This doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a subject of mine, no more than you could accuse a painter of using “brown” or “blue” as her subject.
[Originally published in Fake Paris Review, Issue 2, Spring 1994]
No italics today. Bought a new magazine called The Latter. Meercat missed breakfast. Swallowed your hair so I can’t say I’m vegan. Loose lathe broke. Paint job + dents. Irrigated bloom.
Spear lime stone crab cream jelly bone. Showers it off.
Reading Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant reminds me that Tao Lin didn’t invent the arbitrary scare-quote.
Part two, Oath of the Oaf. I swear to mix meats in your pot and feed them to cats. I will keep promises handy and real.
This paragraph is like a collection plate shaped as a big ceramic mixing bowl for tossing trinkets into. Little poetic errata are fine: shell, battery, leaf; Micro Machine, tooth, stone; aleph, gimel, etc.
ADAM SPIEGEL, HERE.
I’M A RETIRED NEWSPAPER PUBLISHER. I’M ALSO SIGHT-IMPAIRED (RETINITIS PIGMENTOSA), SO I REQUISITION MY WONDERFUL SISTER POLLY TO READ YOUR NEWSLETTER TO ME. DAILY.
ROUTINELY, UPON REFLECTING ON THE CONTENT OF EACH NEW ISSUE, I AM STRUCK BY THE EXTRAORDINARILY ELEVATED TONE OF ITS PROSE. IT IS SO LUCID, SO EFFICIENTLY INFORMATIVE, SO FULL OF CARE IN ITS SHADING OF INFLAMMATORY ISSUES, THAT TODAY I CAUGHT MYSELF THINKING — AS POLLY FINISHED READING YOUR RECENT PIECE ON WATER AVAILABILITY AND USAGE —
“YOU, SIR, CONTITUTE A STAND-ALONE HEMI-QUANTIFIABLE NATIONAL RESOURCE…
…SO IMPORTANT IS THE SUCCESS OF YOUR ANNUAL OUTPUT.”
I have a Google Alert for retinitis pigmentosa. Occasionally, like a well-meaning pet cat dropping the corpse of a gorgeous titmouse at the feet of its owner, it brings me gifts. (I hope my bad analogy doesn’t seem unkind; I love this letter.)