I have been sorely lacking on the “post stuff at North of Onhava” front lately. I don’t even have a good excuse, like “I lost my left arm in an axe-throwing contest.” That would be a good excuse because I’m left-handed.
Anyway, here’s a couple of things. My friend Patrick Wensink has released or is about to release a brilliantly weird novel called Broken Piano For President through the brilliantly weird Lazy Fascist press. As part of the tiresome business of promotion, Patrick has created a website where you can find out lots more about his book. He’s also spent some time soliciting drinking stories from his friends because the protagonist of BPFP is apparently a black-out drunk. I’d just like to go on record that I am not and have only once in my life ever been a black-out drunk. But I do have my share of drinking stories, because I used to be a professional drinker. Patrick was kind of enough to post one of those stories on his site here.
Also, I received in the mail today several copies of the just-published Italian edition of my novel The Failure. A bad photograph of which you can find above. If you’re Italian, or from Italy, or just happen for some weird reason to be able to read Italian, by all means order directly from the publisher Quarup, or if you’re actually in Italy maybe you could go to a bookstore. Not the one in the Vatican. They probably don’t have this. Is there an Amazon Italy? I’m not sure I really want to know. In scouring the internet for the link to my Italian publisher, I also stumbled across what appears to be a review. You can read it, or maybe for fun run it through Google translate, here.
Today I am playing a trick on you. Ha! Good one. The next Guided By Voices album is finished, and it’s (obviously) great, and you can’t hear it until I believe May. It’s called Class Clown Spots A UFO. Which is an old song made new again through the magic of R. Pollard. And despite the fact the the band is getting ready to finish recording the next next GBV record (either my ears are going bad or Bob told me the working title is Bears For Lunch, or both, or neither), you STILL HAVE TO WAIT. Sorry. I just work here.
What I can and will do for you is re-present another example of an old song made new again, in the form of “Walls And Windows,” a very early (1983) Guided By Voices song that Bob would later re-write and recontextualize and appropriate and whatever all else words you want to use for when he goes back to an old song and turns it into a new song, in this case called “Hardcore UFOs,” appearing on the album Bee Thousand.
The catch to the latter re-presentation is that I am not only going to post that song, but another song, called “Streets and the City,” by my new band Detective. Or, if you prefer, Détective, because it’s named after the Godard film of that name. Upon being told which a certain film director of my acquaintance called me “pretentious.” To which I replied, “Yeah, next thing you know I’ll remake a Tarkovsky film.” Because he actually did that! See? I threw it back in his face! Burn. He replied “No one would be stupid enough to do that,” which at least shows that he can joke about himself, unlike me. I have no sense of humor about myself. I take everything very seriously and carry grudges forever and… oh, wait, that’s Steve Albini. Never mind.
Anyway. So. Alors. At least I didn’t write this whole post in French, which I could have done. I just sold my novel The Failure to the French publisher Gallimard for like a billion dollars in my own translation (I had help). It’s called L’Echec in French. (Okay, I had a lot of help. Still.)
As a result, I am in a festive mood. Click here to hear the result of my festive mood.
The link will take you to a page where you can hear “Walls And Windows,” probably for like the thirty-thousand and one third time, as well as “Streets and the City,” should you so wish. God gave you free will and so do I. That’s basically what God and I have in common. That and perfection. We have those things in common. We’re both perfect. Other than that… oh yeah, omnipresence. I have that. So, just the granting of free will to every human being, perfection of body and spirit, and omnipresence. Feels like I’m forgetting something. Whatever.
Also, I would like to present:
And finally, because I’m pretty sure you like to click on things, a very special surprise awaits you if you click here.
It’s been a pleasure. No, really. If you are at all inclined to “like” things or “tweet” about them or “share” them on any of the popular social media platforms, that would make me happy enough to consider posting more unreleased Guided By Voices rarities and maybe even someday tell you the story about why the hell I started another band and furthermore why we are playing the Empty Bottle in Chicago on February 29th or Atwater Crossing in Los Angeles on March 8th and wherever elese we decide to play in the future. THANKS FOR LISTENING.
Or at least, he claims that his blog will do so. And today, he wrote some very kind words about my second novel The Failure, so I’m inclined to believe him. But you, having free will (or so you’ve been led to think), may choose to feel otherwise. In which case I will hunt you down and kill you. Just kidding. I’ll get Benicio del Toro to do it. God, I’m so tired.
Apparently I wrote an article for the 1,225th Anniversary issue of Spin Magazine, which occurred in May of 2010. I mean, I did write an article, but I totally forgot. And I have never in my life paid for a copy of Spin, so. Luckily, an obscure internet startup called Google has taken it upon [...]
Apparently I wrote an article for the 1,225th Anniversary issue of Spin Magazine, which occurred in May of 2010. I mean, I did write an article, but I totally forgot. And I have never in my life paid for a copy of Spin, so. Luckily, an obscure internet startup called Google has taken it upon itself to scan everything ever written by me (and possibly other people) into its data-collector-device. I have embedded, or hope I have embedded, the article below for your reading pleasure in case you don’t have the twenty-five cents or whatever the going rate is nowadays to go buy your own copy.
The piece probably discusses the circumstances surrounding my leaving the magazine and joining the rock band Guided By Voices, but I can’t be entirely sure, because that would mean reading the whole article, and in addition to never having paid for an issue of Spin, I have never in my life read an issue of Spin, and I am if nothing else consistent. What I will say is this: man, did I used to be fat! (Related: why am I the only one drinking in this picture? Not realistic.) The title of the article and its sub-hed or “dek” were not of my own device. I mention that only because both are clumsy, misleading, and humiliating. Reminds me of the days I used to edit that magazine. Shudder.
Yeah, right. I mean, I could do that, but that would sort of be unweaving the rainbow, and everybody (and Keats) knows better.
And now, something from the archives:
I was so much older then. We went and played Maxwell’s in Hoboken after this taping, and ran through the entire list of songs [...]
Yeah, right. I mean, I could do that, but that would sort of be unweaving the rainbow, and everybody (and Keats) knows better.
And now, something from the archives:
I was so much older then. We went and played Maxwell’s in Hoboken after this taping, and ran through the entire list of songs we had learned at that point, somewhere around fifty (I know because I was in charge of the list). But the set-up at Maxwell’s was (and probably still is?) such that you had to go through the crowd to get offstage, and that seemed difficult even after two hours of playing, so we tried making a song up on the spot, which didn’t turn out very well (it had, to be fair, been a long day’s journey into New Jersey), so we did the logical thing: we started the set over again, from the beginning.
Rufous Knicks, rampant in blue serge suit and hairs-cut, stepped down the wobbly back shell of Forever Corner like a king descending to court. That or another like sentence would mark well to begin this history in old days whereof I have understood some, having lived for petty times in that epoch. I do not possess any old days books, but have had opportunity to peruse precisely two at cabinet of Mme. Pi and on one occasion had extinct pleasure to listen Super My Love read the first chapter of a leafy tome encased in papery sleeving, color pale green, entitled Lol. In which I comprehend was a lacrosstick of some nature in which I cannot decipher. A lacrosstick occurs when letters stand around for longer words in which the writer does not wish to unveil for private reasons.
The reading of the old days book Lol was a magic. It is different to hear words in the head of you than bespoke by another. O man I have found. I retain no or less memories in which I was young, in which without doubt my mother or some person would have read at high voice from old days books, once I have been told in which were plenty abundant.
I return to Rufous Knicks putting the feet forward and again forward in back of Forever Corner until he had reached the door to the fence at the limit of the garden. I find tiresome to describe every action of Rufous Knicks when I already know where he is going and when and many details concerning his destination. Nor would it be just as interesting to arrive properly without malingering on the travel? Then. I will omit from here to there.
Rufous Knicks entered the building through blown-apart front. Had arrived by straightforward route. Rufous was not the kind to take laborious mappy when the straight line could be put in place end over end in which you can finish by arrival. Inside the building birds bunched on attic rubble at the far end waiting for something. These birds did have bad blood in them, or appeared. But Rufous unslung his rifle and made as if to shoot at them, but the birds did not wow or flutter, but continued to wait only for the something. Black eyes followed Rufous as he forwarded through the main hall and up the stony staircase, mightily damaged but not fallen, into the upstairs room where Madame Salamander Pi held her cabinet on most mornings and some of the afternoons.
Madame Salamander Pi was a gross person. In this way she demonstrated her superior skill-set in the department of living, and was awed by others who had no comparables towards acquiring sustenance and in which consequence were meager in size. Certain, Rufous was twangy in which comparison to Mme. Pi. But he had a compensating vigor but an excellent aim with respect to his rifling but a speed and range of motion but was difficult to tackle. Had he the knowledge of keeping things for long times no one doubts whereby he would on the other hand challenge Mme. Pi for the charge in which she held.
He had no complaint or intent to challenge in mind today’s morning, but Madame Salamander Pi could never know this advanced of the moment, and so her aides dispatched themselves to greet Rufous Knicks before he could attain the threshold of her cabinet. These were two name of Sham and Polish but, in no which gross, still you could say largely in frames.
“What is your business with Madame Salamander Pi?” asked Sham.
“I wish to ask her advice on a project of mutual beneficence,” said Rufous Knicks.
He struggled in the grasp of meaty claws but not too much.
“I do not understand these words,” said Polish, or Sham.
“I have a desire to confer with Mme. Pi. It is a matter she will understand but I do not think that you will, judging from the lack in which you have lately demonstrated ensuing from my prior words.”
“We will have to ask Mme. Pi, or the patron, as we call her, if she wants to conference with you,” said Sham, or Polish.
Rufous Knicks indicated that he understood this act as a necessary, and would wait in the grip of only Sham or Polish while Polish or Sham performed a liaison with Mme. Pi.
While Polish or Sham was gone Sham or Polish said to Rufous “I hope you do not understand our actions to be a counter-temps. It is a duty that we must convey as part of our boss.”
“I confess a petty perturbation, in which is not your fault, and do not blame you,” said Rufous. “My argument is with the order of things. As much with the crows and this exploded wreck as with any person.”
“What you say to me is not meant for me, in which it is okay for me to hear, but your talk is one-sided and does not require a response,” said Polish. Or Sham. “Here is Sham or Polish, come from Mme. Pi, the patron, with informations.”
Sham or Polish rejoined his colleague and said to Rufous Knicks, “Mme. Pi has interest in listening to you, Rufous Knicks, if it is not a trouble to come with us to her cabinet.”
“It is not a trouble,” said Rufous Knicks. “Let’s go.”
I need not add that I have only imaginaried the talk between Rufous, Sham, and Polish, as I was not present and did not have afterwards a chance in which to unpack the exact wording of the exchange from Rufous, as he lay dying.
I will now indicate the camber of time by use of an eclipse.
Rufous though mortal of wounds made strong effort to retrieve his corpse to backyard of Forever Corner, at which one saw each other as I marched my circle of deliverance the daily pain. I found him slouched against the wall at step bottom.
“What has passed?” I asked Rufous, who though smeary with blood and shallow respired, had no look of great trouble on his visage.
“Your head,” joked Rufous.
“I mean in really,” I said.
“There was disaccord between me and Salamander Pi,” he said after a while and with some difficulty.
“Of what nature?”
“Of a nature in which she had a mistake of my intent, in which I finished on the wrong side.”
“Well obvious,” I said.
“I have a secret I would like to tell you, now that I am dying,” said Rufous Knicks.
“Tell me your secret, Rufous,” I said.
He made a clan of eye and motioned by which I should come closer.
“A knowing hole of great significance has been opened. I think that Salamander Pi has recognition of this hole, and will take steps to control the results. You must fill your lack, in which you have no fault, to the best delay. Salamander Pi cannot take consequence of the fruits of the secret.”
“I wonder myself that I have in no sense understood your import,” I said.
“I will ask a small favor of you.”
“It does not matter what.”
Rufous Knicks smiled in which his teeth were not seen. He spit on the ground and there followed either a laugh or a cough or a laugh in which became a cough.
“You have ever been a good friend,” he said. “Truth, I crawled back here and waited in hope of your arrival. I had a luck.”
It was a trouble to put my attention in the direction of Rufous Knicks’ purpose, because I was rapt by the seeing of cracked skin around his sharp knuckles. The skin itself looked a separate organ to the underlying bone and filament, undulant independent of hand movement, as if possessed of intelligence its own.
Having essayed some further paroles, Rufous Knicks ceased to inspire. In agreement with his ask, I did not attend to dispose of his corpse but passed to the voluntary in which he had given to me instructions very specific.
I will now indicate the camber of time by use of an eclipse.
Is your name Hyacinth? Do you bloom in pairs?
I ask a flower question I expect the leaves to turn.
There’s blood in the dirt. There’s an easier road
To the moss-covered ruin, where for a few months
We didn’t sleep from fear of sprayed guts
Or sudden bullets. It’s all mixed up, you see,
It’s one plus one makes three in every physics
I have ever understood. I see things so.
It’s not good. A white fir can stand
For hundreds of years, but I prefer to lie.
Subway posters with scratched-out eyes. Dragonflies.
Everything taped to the wall: matchbook covers,
Cut-out dolls of Elvis, photo of magician w/ cards on fire,
Bridesmaid’s hat (formed webbing), postcard
Of Dorothy’s slippers. Blue marlins taped to bathtub.
Injecting home-made recipe from her mother’s mixing bowl.
Showing tracks on both arms, obligingly. “Modern art.”
Papered with boxscores that almost glitter. The Ex-Pilot Group.
Level is a palindrome. Poem is a conditorium of words.
We are eating the god. Have eaten the godly god. And belch.
I love you as if I knew you, and my feet itch. Martyr me.
I apologize if the air of secrecy around what some people are given to call “Greer’s blog deal” has caused anyone breathing problems, but certain things are worth waiting for. I hope you’ll agree. According to MOJO magazine, [...]
I apologize if the air of secrecy around what some people are given to call “Greer’s blog deal” has caused anyone breathing problems, but certain things are worth waiting for. I hope you’ll agree. According to MOJO magazine, Guided By Voices has recorded a new album of 21 songs called Let’s Go Eat The Factory. I’m sure the announcement will appear in several other outlets, too, in the next several days, but it will be more or less the same announcement. It will say nothing about plans for future touring because there are no plans for future touring. As with all things Pollard-related, that could of course change. But it’s not the likeliest outcome, frankly.
I’m not going to add much to what you can read in the announcement on the MOJO site, but I can say that I’ve had the honor and privilege of listening to the album for a few weeks now, and that it can best be described as… uh… hold on… let me think… okay: flipping genius. I understand that January 2012 seems like a long time from now (partly because it is), but it will arrive, and sooner than you think, so you should probably pre-order the thing as soon as it’s available for pre-order from Rockathon. I don’t know when that happy day will arrive but I presume soon.
Further details will be revealed in due course, but for now, if you’re any kind of fan of Guided By Voices in any of its many incarnations, I’d say this is cause for celebration.
What was I born for? thought Thomas, sitting at his desk, copying the last few lines of his work. What was anybody born for?
The sun had long since floated past the lid of his window, over the gray slate roof, and begun to set. He could see its rubescent face reflected in the windows from the building across the street, where for all he knew there was an exact duplicate of himself, doing the same thing, but with perhaps a better understanding of the basic questions.
Thomas absent-mindedly scratched his cheek with the tip of his pen. When he realized what he was doing, he took the index finger of his right hand and rubbed the spot where he had scratched, hoping to erase the inky blotch he was sure must be there. He did not bother to check.
Put the pen down, shuffled the papers on the desk before him. More than twenty, covered with tiny, neat handwriting on both sides. Examined the last lines he had written:
That you cannot know the terror in a word. That it will not be the worst you fear. That you bring to the last the first sign. That you choose what to disappear.
“That you choose what to disappear.” The last four lines: these were the most important, the ones Caeli had insisted he take down word-for-word, with exactly that punctuation, exactly those rhythms. Apparently the words were a magic. It was not clear what sort of a magic, nor for what purpose, when everything had become so useless. But Caeli had insisted that he not leave Paris without finishing the manuscript, which he now stacked and straightened and slipped inside a clear plastic folder with an elastic fastener. He took the folder, stacked it with other folders, similarly transparent but tinted different colors—gold, green, blue—and slipped the stack in his briefcase.
Rising from the desk he walked over the Persian carpet towards the coat rack and removed his tan raincoat.
There was a knock at the door. Soft but insistent.
Thomas looked through the peep-hole. Furrowed his brow, unfastened the lock and opened the door.
“What are you doing here?” he asked the small, stout, balding, round-faced man who stood before him.
“Sorry to bother you,” said the man, in heavily-accented French. “But we can’t let you leave.”
“What? Don’t be ridiculous. ”
“I’m serious.” To demonstrate his intent, the man produced a snub-nosed revolver from under his coat.
“All right, all right. Put that thing away, Charles, you look ridiculous. Do you even know how to use it?”
Thomas stood aside and gestured Charles into the room.
The Ecuadorean poet Charles Panic walked in and sat down in the chair by the window where Caeli usually sat. He looked at the gun in his hand as if suddenly seeing it for the first time. Slipped it into the pocket of his raincoat.
“No. I don’t know how to use it. But they insisted.”
“I thought you weren’t with them anymore.”
“I’m not. I mean, I wasn’t. They knew that we’re friends, and they thought I could persuade you to stay. So they forced me, in the way that I’m supposed to force you now.”
Thomas slumped down in the chair at his writing table without taking off his overcoat.
“Charles, I have to go. Caeli’s waiting for me.”
“Pater noster, qui est in caelis…”
“Will you come with me?”
Thomas scoffed. “Obviously not.”
“You should know that it’s not just me. There are five more downstairs. All armed. All much bigger than me.”
“But can any of them write, Charles? Do any have talent?”
Charles was silent for a moment.
“No. The Collective no longer believes in talent as a mark of distinction. They prize strength over subtlety. They’ve become moralists, Thomas. It’s really quite sad.”
“I told you it would turn out that way.”
“You have to belong to something.”
“The idea of community is a dangerous fiction.”
Charles took out a handkerchief from the inside pocket of his jacket and mopped his brow.
“I’m sure that’s an impressively original thought, Thomas, but we don’t have time for this.”
“You’re right. We don’t. I have to be Auvers-sur-Oise in two hours, and you have to fuck off back to the catacombs to die.”
“I told you. It’s not just me.”
“And I heard you. Good-bye, Charles.”
Thomas went to the window, opened wide the white wood panes, and fluttered down the street below. I learned more than one thing from Caeli, he thought.
He looked back up at his open window, through which Charles Panic was staring, wide-eyed, down at the street. He knew that Charles could not see him, but he was unused to invisible mode, and instinctively ducked for shelter under the awning of the Halle des Chaussures. Across the street, at the entrance to his building, Thomas noticed four or five heavy-set men in long black overcoats.
He jammed his hands in his pockets and walked down the street towards his car, murmuring to himself, careful not to attract attention. “I am the boy. Who can enjoy. Invisibility.”
Charles turned away from the window.
“I wish things were different,” said Charles. He shrugged his shoulders, and his jowls quivered.
“I’m not sure that’s true,” said Thomas. He sighed and stood up. Smoothed the folds in his tan raincoat. “Anyway, let’s go.”
As many of you know the trivium derives from the introductory curriculum in many medieval universities, where it involved the study of grammar, rhetoric, and logic. The word is Latin in derivation, perhaps obviously, and literally means the place where three (tri-) roads (via) meet. Our modern word trivia is loosely, [...]
As many of you know the trivium derives from the introductory curriculum in many medieval universities, where it involved the study of grammar, rhetoric, and logic. The word is Latin in derivation, perhaps obviously, and literally means the place where three (tri-) roads (via) meet. Our modern word trivia is loosely, and I think unfairly, connected by blood relation to trivium, by way of the altogether vulgar (in its literal sense) trivialis. Compare this with the quadrivium, similarly medieval, and comprising the four “mathematical” arts: arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music. An example of someone who would have excelled at the quadrivium is Brian May, the guitarist from Queen.
By way of illustration, I present the following story, or proselet, which is not a word I expect to catch on. It incorporates two quotations that one might find in any trivium worthy of the name, but places them in a setting of cheap jewelry that I hope makes some kind of emotional sense.
The Man Called Marriage
Two bursts of light, in rapid succession, woke him from a dreadful dream. A car turning around in the driveway, most likely. He shifted from his side onto his back, flinging a sleep-deadened arm across his chest. He enjoyed the way feeling would slowly creep back into the lifeless arm and hand.
He raised his head and looked at the pillow next to his on the bed. He knew she wasn’t there, knew that she had not been there for months, knew that barring some unforeseeable fold in the fabric of time she would never be there again. But he couldn’t help checking.
No sound but a few weary crickets, whether inside or out he could not tell. Dark of night had swallowed the room. Only blurred and mobile shapes. Shadows and deeper shadows.
Darkness has no lines, only depth, he thought. His eyes, adjusting to the murk, recovered what might be a chair, what might be a lamp, what might be a network of twigs on the ash tree outside his window, laying odds on how long till the sun comes up.
The sun is impossible to catch, he thought. Many things are thought impossible, but later turn out possible all along. It’s possible, he thought, that all things are possible, or will turn out to be possible. Two robins settled on the hickory tree outside his kitchen window. He was standing in the kitchen making coffee. Light from the morning sun, filtered by the greasy dirt on his unwashed windows, lay wan and shapeless on the counter and the dull tiles of the floor.
“Our separated dust, after so many pilgrimages and transformations into the parts of minerals, plants, animals, elements, shall at the voice of God return into their primitive shapes, and join again to make up their primary and predestinate forms.” He remembered the quote clearly but could not remember who said or wrote these words that he once believed.
He stood in the room where his books were lined against the wall. He held a long, serrated kitchen knife in his right hand, methodically scarring the spines of his books. He slashed diagonally, from top to bottom, left to right, in the same direction in which he used to read, it occurred to him, as he slashed the first volume of The Alexandria Quartet, without understanding why, without self-examination or emotion.
In the zoo, sidling up to the aviary, he saw parakeets varicolored like the desert sun setting on a cloudless night. A small snow-owl, half-blind from daylight, peered through slitted eyes at the end of all diseases of the flesh. The snow-owl, he thought, is a curious bird. He keeps most of what he knows to himself. But not all, he thought, and chuckled.
You could set the snow-owl free right now, but the snow owl would always be in prison. Once you injure something it stays injured. Fetters cannot be removed by any human hand.
One time he dreamed that he was walking along the red clay bank of a warbling creek, and saw an injured sparrow. He was overwhelmed with pity at the sight of the poor bird, and fell to his knees, cupping the sparrow in his hands and blowing gently on its feathers, thinking that somehow the blowing would reassure the tiny creature. The next part of the dream he couldn’t remember exactly, whether the bird simply died or immediately healed and flew away. Either way, he knew he had lost the sparrow for good, and knew, too, as one knows things in dreams that one could never guess in waking life, that the bird was her, and that she was gone.
Inner duration, perceived by consciousness, is nothing else but the melting of states of consciousness into one another, and the gradual growth of ego. Another useless quote, but why, he wondered, did this fragment of knowledge reduce him to helpless tears?
Wind snapped a branch outside and he woke. Tears streamed down his cheeks; his pillowcase was soaked.
“I am unbelievably happy,” he whispered to the empty room. And thought: I am unbelievably happy.
I posted this a while back, around the time the novel was published, but I thought I’d re-post it here today because a) I’m really busy and don’t have time to find anything more interesting to post, much less actually write about something, and b) upon re-watching it, I remembered that it’s really good, due [...]
I posted this a while back, around the time the novel was published, but I thought I’d re-post it here today because a) I’m really busy and don’t have time to find anything more interesting to post, much less actually write about something, and b) upon re-watching it, I remembered that it’s really good, due mostly to the inclusion of a sonic death ray from Robert Pollard’s solo album We All Got Out of The Army that used to be called “Knapsack Buying Blues” but I can’t remember what it eventually ended up being called.
You’ll note that the website address to which the video directs you at the end is out of date and no longer in operation (my website address, that is; Akashic Books is still there and doing just fine.) But if you are watching the trailer then you already know the correct address, so there’s no point in me going all the way back into Final Cut Pro just to change some stupid text. Right?
I wrote this story long before the movie franchise of the same title appeared. I’m not saying the movie people stole the idea from me, even though I’m pretty sure I invented hangovers, but if Zach Galliafinakopolisopoulous wants to kick a couple of euros my way for, you know, “thanks, man” or [...]
I wrote this story long before the movie franchise of the same title appeared. I’m not saying the movie people stole the idea from me, even though I’m pretty sure I invented hangovers, but if Zach Galliafinakopolisopoulous wants to kick a couple of euros my way for, you know, “thanks, man” or whatever, I would not complain.
In fact, I wrote this story a long, long time ago, when I (briefly) attended college in Charlottesville, Virginia, a town and a state I had never visited before enrolling there, and which I have not visited since dropping out, which was either the best decision I’ve ever made or the worst, or both, or neither.
The story when I first wrote it was close to 15,000 words. In its current form it is less than 900. People should not subject other people to their prolix juvenilia, is my point.
Though the conceit of the story suggests that it takes place during the time it takes to listen to both sides of R.E.M.’s Murmur, I do not advise taking that conceit as veridical, though if someone wants to test the proposition, please do not let me stop you.
Two further notes: 1) this story originally appeared in the fine literary/music journal Yeti (issue 6), which can be found here; 2) the character Violet McKnight, keen-eyed observers may note, has the same name as the character Violet McKnight in my most recent novel The Failure. The two girls are not related and in fact remain unaware of each other’s existence. I’d prefer to keep it that way, if it’s okay with you. Thanks.
1. Calling out in transit (4:05)
Sam Anonymous had a drinking problem.
* * * * * * * *
Brown vinyl of the sofa peeled with sticking sound from humid flesh of back and legs as he sat up. Pattern of raised swirls on the vinyl were reproduced on skin: corresponding incarnadine impressions.
2. Your hate: clipped and distant (4:30)
Low whistle of kettle rose in pitch and volume to climax in piercing shriek that unmoored the murmur of Sam’s thoughts. From tin of instant coffee he spooned quantity of dark powder. Hands shook slightly as he struggled to fill the cup with sour-smelling coffee. Scratched idly at the corner of one sleep-swollen eye: steadied himself against the counter. A ribbon of water lined the front edge of sink where he had sloppily rinsed the mug. When he pressed against the counter water seeped into the waistband of his boxers.
3. Martyred: misconstrued (3:58)
Her name was Violet McKnight. Five foot two in bare feet. Short hair dyed unnatural red swept back from lunar face: cranberry strands fell in her eyes when she made an emphatic gesture. Nose small, well-formed, eyes the color of root beer, narrowed to skeptical slits when challenged.
* * * * * * * *
Spitting toothpaste into sink Sam noticed with equanimity that the spent paste was streaked with blood from his gums.
4. Not everyone can carry the weight of the world (3:24)
He was twenty-nine years old. In February he would be thirty.
5. Inside the moral kiosk (3:32)
A wave of nausea broke and receded. Sam hunched forward on the couch. Palpating his cheeks: annoyed by growth of stubble. Counting backwards could only manage four days before the fog of elapsed time refused to lift.
6. Shoulders high in the room (3:30)
Weaving unsteadily down the street, he saw her outlined against the black glass of her bedroom window, body limned by a nimbus of yellow streetlight.
1. Did we miss anything? (3:55)
Sam yawned, stretched his arms, stood and heavily walked across the room to turn over record. Returning to couch: revisited by a coil of his earlier nausea unwinding in his gut and feathering upwards through his chest. Unsnapped the cap from a plastic bottle on the table next to alarm clock, shook two aspirin into his hand, placed them with thumb and forefinger carefully in back of mouth, and swallowed with effortful gulp.
* * * * * * * *
What use is experience without memory?
2. We could gather: throw a fit (3:18)
One thing at a time: watching Violet bend towards him by light of a guttering candle.
3. All nine yards (3:05)
Scratched his hair in imitation of thought. Hoisted himself off the couch and began sorting through pile of clothes on ugly square of brown-and-white carpet.
Love is a crazy and unkempt thing that grows like a wild weed in the heart. It will suffer the cruelest attempts at eradication with quiet strength, and will take root and prosper in even the stoniest soil. True love, like true art, admits no moral influence. Had he read that or was it original?
4. Shaking through: opportune (4:30)
In frustration he ripped the front buttons and stripped off the shirt: left hand got tangled in the cuff: which he had abstractly buttoned moments earlier: and pull as he would: flap as he might: the shirt refused to let go. Sat down on the couch: head in hands, the tattered shirt trailing to the floor like captured flag of some defeated army.
5. Up the stairs to the landing (3:01)
World adheres to stringent rules of form and content: these rules, Sam knew from prolonged contact with books, were not frangible. Just as a story must have beginning, middle, end, so a soul must have one body to inhabit. Proliferation of the soul’s forms would mean rewriting rules of human contact.
6. Long gone (3:17)
The wind picked up and there was a smell of rain. Sam buttoned his overcoat with reddened fingers. The tips of a succession of telephone poles flecked the sky on the far side of the broad avenue: up one of these scrambled two squirrels.
Dark tracery of oak limbs: russet and orange and mustardy leaves: cold rain-scented air: combined to form an impression of remote beauty that reinforced and focused his sense of longing.
Continued past a brick house, windows ardent with citrine light. Fragrant gray smoke curled from its chimney: leaves of a silver poplar fluttered in the wind, undersides flashing white like a flock of luminous moths: from thick tangle of azalea bushes came sounds of a small animal scrabbling for food or shelter.
Fine rain needled his face but he did not mind the wet because in his heart he carried a word —finally! — that was the word he needed. He held the word before him like a lighted candle to ward off the rain, and the cold, and the black despair of night as he walked towards Violet’s house.
The Los Angeles based creators of a weekly podcast called Hugs & Disses, which is a name I am informed they made up all by themselves, were kind enough to ask me on their program this week. I traveled to their sumptuous headquarters in Echo Park where they somehow managed to [...]
The Los Angeles based creators of a weekly podcast called Hugs & Disses, which is a name I am informed they made up all by themselves, were kind enough to ask me on their program this week. I traveled to their sumptuous headquarters in Echo Park where they somehow managed to cajole me into talking about myself for almost two hours. Can’t think of a single reason anyone wouldn’t want to hear that.
Apart from me, that is. On the list of things I don’t like to do, “listen to the sound of my own voice” is very high, somewhere near “look at pictures of myself” and “eat glass.”
But if you’re interested in hearing me talk about whatever we ended up talking about, including but not limited to my novels, Guided By Voices, films that I have written, and enema porn, you can go here and satisfy your curiosity. While there, you should be sure to subscribe to the podcast, because it’s a weekly deal, and I’m sure all of the other episodes in the series thus far are more interesting than the one featuring me. Many thanks to the H&D crew for extending the invitation.
An item on the iambik tumblr indicates that the audiobook version of The Failure is now available for purchase. You can get a free download of the first chapter here.
The reader, Tadhg Hynes, did an amazing job. His Irish accent makes my writing sound a lot more [...]
An item on the iambik tumblr indicates that the audiobook version of The Failure is now available for purchase. You can get a free download of the first chapter here.
The reader, Tadhg Hynes, did an amazing job. His Irish accent makes my writing sound a lot more musical than it actually is. Check it out.
A small item of business: I’ve mentioned the new-ish and so-far great LA-based lit-mag Slake before. (Q: How many hyphens will fit in an American sentence? A: Too many.) Their second issue is about to appear like worms after a heavy rain, to celebrate which fact they’re having a launch party. A bunch of contributors to Issue 2 will be reading, including me, and I’m told there will be food, drink, and art, not necessarily in that order. Los Angeles area readers can and should note details and RSVP here. The event is this Saturday, which is why I’m posting it now. Also because they asked.
There will be an audiobook version of The Failure, details TBA.
There will be French and Italian editions of The Failure, translated by persons of great skill and published by persons of questionable taste, forthcoming this year. Again, details TBA.
That is all. For now. God bless you!
- It's a long climb up the rock face at the wrong time to the right place
- James Greer's books on GoodreadsGuided by Voices: A Brief History: Twenty-One Years of Hunting Accidents in the Forests of Rock and Rollreviews: 24
ratings: 195 (avg rating 3.70)Artificial Light (Little House on the Bowery)reviews: 6
ratings: 71 (avg rating 3.66)The Failurereviews: 9
ratings: 59 (avg rating 3.65)EXPERIENCED: Rock Music Tales of Fact & Fictionreviews: 4
ratings: 6 (avg rating 4.60)Two Letters Collection, Volume 2ratings: 5 (avg rating 4.60)
OCDabsolution abstract rendition of a definite condition advertising A la recherche du temps perdu anecdotage Artificial Light a yellow coincidence book reading Book Review books caffeinated rambling Curbside Splendor Détective Everything Flows experiments do not always work which is why they are called experiments fiction fictionaut film France great rock bands of the united states Guided By Voices interview James Greer Jean-Luc Godard literary magazines movies music parody photography proselet reading reading in public is scary Robert Pollard rock video self-promotion short fiction short film short story Slake The Failure The Power of Suck The Rattling Wall this is the modern world W.I.P. we are all immortal now
Friendly Fire"James Greer, one of the nimblest and most multilayered American fiction writers, has, with his latest novel The Failure, pulled off a sublime and shivery-smooth literary hat-trick-cum-emotional-gotcha. I defy anyone to come up with an equation to explain how this book's first impression as a ridiculously clever, funny crime story can gradually disclose a metanovel built from far more encyclopedic scratch only to reveal upon its conclusion a central, overriding thought so heartfelt literally it trembles your lower lip. This is one stunning piece of work."—Dennis Cooper"James Greer's The Failure is such an unqualified success, both in conception and execution, that I have grave doubts he actually wrote it."—Steven Soderbergh"Greer has done it again: a big-city, techno-jargon-filled thrill-ride with slick medium-brow drop references to our (once-shared) mythological hometown. What could be more poignant?"—Robert Pollard"How do you assess if your life has been a success? For starters, take time and turn it on its head. You'll first need to find its head. Luckily, James Greer's novel The Failure will help--it's a brainy, boisterous, unsettling, and unsettled look at a group of people thrust into the most confounding of existences, complete with petty crime, high science, love, sex, and cars. The narrative winds and darts, gleefully uncooperative. The characters have funny names and sometimes funny existences. Still, you will recognize them. They are us."—Ben Greenman
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- Some Came Running
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