George Perec is an author whose work fills me with delight, Species of Space and the other pieces found in this collection are wonderful. Insightful. Playful. Everyday. Extraordinary. Not least because he loves lists as much as I do, more perhaps. I read his piece on the Place Sans-Sulpice, and meant to read this too before going to Paris. So now it calls me back.
I particularly love how Perec is obsessed with space, but approaches it completely differently than would a planner, an architect, an urbanist. He approaches it from multiple directions, but almost none of them overlap with such work. The whole of Species of Space is to be found in this compilation, and excerpts from a few other works. I am almost annoyed at this stolen peek at them, because I loved this so much I shall have to go back and read all the rest.
Species of Space
It opens with this:
In short order you have a wonderful definition of our experience of space.
In short, spaces have multiplied, been broken up and have diversified. There are spaces today of every kind and every size, for every use and every function. To live is to pass from one space to another, while doing your very best not to bump yourself. (6)
There are poems from Paul Eluard, playful drippings of words and letters across the page, plenty of empty white space between black typography.
This is how space begins, with words only, signs traced on the blank page. To describe space: to name it, to trace it, like those portolano-makers who saturated the coastlines with the names of harbours…
Space as inventory, space as invention. Space begins with that model map in the old editions of the Petit Larousse Illustre, which used to represent something like 65 geographical terms in 60 sq, cm., miraculously brought together, deliberately abstract. (13)
I remember my own childhood pouring over something like the English equivalent of such a book, full of maps and descriptions and magic. A memory of being inordinately proud of a map of South America I drew. I feel as though that memory is housed in the trailer, which means I was not more than five.
Perec gives us this, a gift:
Sitting deep in thought at their tables, writers are forming lines of words.
An idealized scene. Space as reassurance. (15)
Is this partly what I love about writing?
From here he starts on the spaces of lived experience. He starts from the inside out so to speak, with the bed itself. An interesting choice, I feel a good one. Each thing he describes, he begins with the most banal and simple of descriptions, but it serves to take something familiar and make it suddenly unfamiliar — and because the time and space between us, what is familiar to Perec is in fact not always familiar to me.
A few other banalities:
We spend more than a third of our lives in bed. (19)
Moves on to the bedroom, notes the curious fact that he can visually reconstruct every room he’s ever slept in. A few observations:
What does it mean, to live in a room? Is to live in a place to take possession of it? …
Placid small thought no 1
Any cat-owner will rightly tell you that cats inhabit houses much better than people do. Even in the most dreadfully square spaces, they know how to find favourable corners. (24)
That is honestly one of the most insightful things I have ever read … because of course cats do. The question is, how?
From there to the apartment.
I don’t know, and don’t want to know, where functionality begins or ends. It seems to me, in any case, that in the ideal dividing-up of today’s apartments functionality functions in accordance with a procedure that is unequivocal, sequential and nycthemeral. (28)
The footnote? ‘This is the best phrase in the whole book!’
I might agree. I had to look up nycthemeral:
Adjective — Designating or characterized by a variation that occurs in a period of twenty-four hours, especially corresponding to the contrast between day and night. (Oxford Dictionary)
From here he proceeds to give an outline in three columns — time | activity | room. Again, the taken-for-granted of French housewife– working husband–child in school becomes estranged, and for me now so removed from such a life, really quite interesting.
The final section:
We don’t think enough about staircases.
Nothing was more beautiful in old houses than the staircases. Nothing is uglier, colder, more hostile, meaner, in today’s apartment buildings.(38)
I suddenly thought what a difference it would make to give modern apartment buildings wonderful, beautiful staircases.
We move on to the apartment building. Then to the Street.
The buildings stand one beside the other. They form a straight line. They are expected to form a line, and it’s a serious defect in them when they don’t do so. They are then said to be ‘subject to alignment’, meaning that they can by rights be demolished, so as to be rebuilt in a straight line with the others. (46)
I can’t believe this is a thing everywhere, it definitely was in LA.
He looks at ‘practical exercises’ for understanding the street —
Until the scene becomes improbable.
until you have the impression, for the briefest of moments, that you are in a strange town or, better still, until you can no longer understand what is happening or is not happening, until the whole place becomes strange, and you no longer even know that this is what is called a town, a street, buildings, pavement… (53)
On to the neighbourhood.
Death of a Neighbourhood
What I miss above all is the neighbourhood cinema, with its ghastly advertisements for the dry cleaner’s on the corner. (58)
A curious question, a provoking question that immediately raises in me a great rushing of answers:
Why not set a higher value on dispersal? Instead of living in just one place, and trying in vain to gather yourself together there, why not have fix or six rooms dotted about Paris? (59)
On to the Town. On to the countryside.
I don’t have a lot to say concerning the country: the country doesn’t exist. It’s an illusion.
For most people of my kind, the country is a decorative space surrounding their second home…(68)
That I find rather hilarious. As I do the whole section on the ‘Village Utopia’ (70), where you know everyone, live happily, recognize all the birds. It kind of reminds me of the Stuart Lee sketch about the family who leave London for the country and start by praising the pony and end begging for him to visit and to bring cocaine. This is not nearly as obvious, however. The next section is on the ‘Nostalgic (and false) alternative’ (71) — between putting down roots or living completely rootless. They are interesting posed this way.
On to the country. Europe. Old Continent. New Continent. The World.
In getting to know a few square meters, Perec writes
And with these, the sense of the world’s concreteness, irreducible, immediate, tangible, of something clear and closer to us: of the world, no longer as a journey having constantly to be remade, not as a race without end, a challenge having constantly to be met, not as the one pretext for a despairing acquisitiveness, nor as the illusion of a conquest, but as the rediscovery of a meaning, the perceiving that the earth is a form of writing, a geography of which we had forgotten that we ourselves are the authors. (79)
And on to space. A quote from Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics. I don’t really like Italo Calvino, but I love Lawrence Stern’s Tristram Shandy, which Perec seems to love as much as I do and quotes from often and at length.
Then there is this extraordinary list, already pulled out and set in a blog alone because I treasure it, but repeated again in its context, where perhaps it sits a bit differently:
The uninhabitable: Seas used as a dump, coastlines bristling with barbed wire, earth bare of vegetation, mass graves, piles of carcasses, boggy rivers, towns that smell bad
The uninhabitable: The architecture of contempt or display, the vainglorious mediocrity of tower blocks, thousands of rabbit hutches piled one above the other, the cutprice ostentation of company headquarters
The uninhabitable: the skimped, the airless, the small, the mean, the shrunken, the very precisely calculated
The uninhabitable: the confined, the out-of-bounds, the encaged, the bolted, walls jagged with broken glass, judas windows, reinforced doors
The uninhabitable: shanty towns, townships
The hostile, the grey, the anonymous, the ugly, the corridors of the Metro, public baths, hangars, car parks, marshalling yards, ticket windows, hotel bedrooms
factories, barracks, prisons, asylums, old people’s homes, lycees, law courts, school playgrounds (89-90)
Followed by another disquieting paragraph
Such places don’t exist, and it’s because they don’t exist that space becomes a question, ceases to be self-evident, ceases to be incorporated, ceases to be appropriated. Space is a doubt: I have constantly to mark it, to designate it. It’s never mine, never given to me, I have to conquer it. (91)
Species of Space closes with the best index I have ever seen.
In ‘Notes on What I’m Looking For’, Perec describes four modes of his work, and this makes great sense of Species of Space and the other things I have read — and have yet to read. They are
‘sociological’: how to look at the everyday.
an autobiographical order (141)
The third is ludic and relates to my liking for constraints, for feats of skill, for ‘playing scales’….
the fictive, the liking for stories and adventures, the wish to write the sort of books that are devoured lying face down on your bed. (142)
Then there is ‘Notes Concerning the Objects that are on my Work Table’, a list, a thinking through of all the ways to arrange a desk (he has an ammonite in his desk!). There is ‘Brief Notes on the Art and Manner of Arranging One’s Books. The stacks of books to read, half read, to be shelved…the constant rearranging by theme, by author. It is such an intimate look at a life so like mine it is uncanny, a friendship across years and miles.
A little later on you discover in ‘Reading: A Socio-physiological Outline’ that when Perec visits a friends house he raids their bookshelves for all the things he has long wanted to read, then retreats with a stack of them to his room to read through the night.
From ‘Approaches to What’, one of my very favourite quotes from the book, one that unexpectedly captures as well as Rob Nixon’s concept of ‘slow violence’ the difference between the spectacular and the everyday:
In our haste to measure the historic, significant and revelatory, let’s not leave aside the essential: the truly intolerable, the truly inadmissible. What is scandalous isn’t the pit explosion, it’s working in coalmines. ‘Social problems’ aren’t ‘a matter of concern’ when there’s a strike, they are intolerable twenty-four hours out of twenty-four, three hundred and sixty-five days a year. (209)
He perhaps captures even better at the level of the individual why these kind of problems are not better understood, better struggled against.
To question the habitual. But that’s just it, we’re habituated to it. We don’t question it, it doesn’t question us, it doesn’t seem to pose a problem, we live it without thinking, as if carried within neither questions nor answers … This is no longer even conditioning, it’s anaesthesia. We sleep through our lives in a dreamless sleep. But where is our life? Where is our body? Where is our space? (210)
A final, brilliant admonition that shall remain with me forever in the daily rituals of life.
Question your tea spoons. (210)
He wrote an amazing piece on the Rue Vilin — where I am headed next time I am in Paris. The street his family lived on, where he lived until he was five. He returns and describes it shop by shop, building by building, sign by sign, at different times of day (all noted of course) in February 1969, June 1970, January 1971, November 1972, November 1974, November 1975. We witness the death of the street as it was. It is poignant, extraordinary, while it never rises above concrete description.
A collection of postcard messages rendered extraordinary by being grouped together. A puzzle, recurring styles, so many good meals and sunburns.
A list of everything Perec has ‘ingurgitated’ over the whole of 1974. What struck me most? He gives years for each of the wines.
All together, as I say, this was a book combining delight and insight. I also loved that this ended with some of Perec’s (impossible, also slightly problematic) word games constructed for his friends, and a few from the translator.
I will now go read everything else he has written. Except maybe the novel without the letter e.
[Perec, Georges (1997) Species of Space and Other Pieces, edited & translated by John Sturrock. London: Penguin Books.]
Definitely of another time, the introduction contains a key opinion: ‘There is, in fact, something basically wrong about South London’ (2). Williams is not alone in this (sad and of course, fundamentally wrong) feeling, a thread to tease out of all this research is where this comes from, why it arises, what is ‘right’ if south of the river is so ‘wrong’? How right and wrong are defined, and by whom? Williams doesn’t really hold back on his own feelings, you can tell.
What this book does, then, in view of suburban South London’s failings, is try to rescue the historical gold from the dross. It’s a really fascinating mix of immediately-post-war politics that yearn back quite conservatively to the Elizabethan Golden Age while at the same time celebrating the move to create social housing, the NHS, and unexpectedly insisting that the anachronism of Tower Bridge be torn down and something more splendid and functional put into its place. Some interesting quotes that are quite provocative about how some thought about class, history, the formation of the city:
London, for all its importance, was not an urban community. It was still largely rural, with a great community of ideas and interests between its people and the squires and yeomen of the countryside. In this healthy understanding, free from the sterile urbanization of the last century and a half, there was no room for class hatred, and very little for class distinction. The love of family life was the strong central motive of town dweller and countryman alike, and the Englishman’s home was already a castle to be defended passionately against any form of attack.’ (29)
We have nothing to-day to compare with the terrible slums of the eighteenth century, but it is certain that that century had no such purposelessness, such widespread frustration rooted in the emptiness and pointlessness of metropolitan life as it exists now. The fine edge of the keen poetic instinct of the Gold Age was blunted already in the eighteenth century, but it is a process of deterioration that the increase in creature comforts and security combined with the scrapping of all standards of values and culture has continued, rather than abated, in the twentieth. The industrial Revolution began a decay of community and family life which the Victorian age – for all its emphasis on the family as a scared entity—could only gloss over. (38)
The new industrial towns were built upon one principle only—the less the overhead expenses, the greater the profit. Housing was dealt with by crowding the greatest number of helots into the smallest possible space—a principle adopted, as we shall see, in the development of South London—and every available inch was covered with factories, warehouses ad habitations with barely sufficient room between them for (40) human beings to walk. There were no profits in good proportions, good architecture, recreational space for workers – no dividends in beauty. And so the property sprang up, mothered by the jerry-builder and fathered by the slum landlord, and the wealthy capitalists are paying for their lack of vision today ….
The story of South London, therefore, is the story of the rape of a lovely river and its attendant countryside, all brought about by the acceptance of a theory of life—the theory of laisser-faire (41).
There is a brilliant quote on the great London fire of 1666 by Sir Ralph Esher: ‘Ever and anon distant houses fell in with a sort of gigantic shuffling noise, very terrible. I saw a steeple give way, like a some ghastly idol, its long white head toppling, and going sideways as if it were drunk’ (88). More of his decided opinions on modern development: ‘All things considered, Southwark is a national reproach and a complete breach of faith to the citizens of this country’ (119).
He sees the suburban development as the spinning of a web in which South London residents are trapped as flies:
‘In each of the ten boroughs, with the possible exception of Southwark, we have seen that the strangled centre is the least attractive part. As the congested heart of the web is left behind, so there is a tendency to allow a little more space, to permit a loosening of the constriction, a softening of the utilitarian huddle of pure functionalism which falls into decay with the passing of the years’ (231).
The lot of the denizens of the South Bank, for example, is one which scarcely bears investigation, but it is not publicized. The failure do not talk about their failure, which is one of the reasons why the flies continue yearly, daily, hourly to enmesh themselves in the unyielding web (314).
He seems to be for a more agrarian ideal, open space, single and semi-detached houses. But as I say, the politics of it are interesting, so while so much rings as conservative, he still writes critically:
Many of the commons of South London have suffered from the land hunger of wealthy gentry. Kennington Park is a queer survival, for development in this area was swift, and the spirit of the time was ready to sanction any rape of open spaces in the name of material prosperity (356)
This is a book championing open space, and also one chock full of quaint histories of the ten boroughs south of the river to be returned to in looking at specific areas. A few examples though: The Licensed Victuallers’ Benevolent Institution – a home for licensed victuallers ‘fallen upon evil times’ on six acres off the old Kent Road, or the three old shops moored off of Woolwich holding convicts used to work on the docs or the prehistoric mound on Clapham Common. Some of this is taken fairly directly from Walter Besant’s history of South London I’m afraid. And there’s that streak of moralism running through his vision of what should define the development of South London: ‘There are two things that can stop such menacing retrogression. The first is love and understanding of home based upon the delights and responsibilities of parenthood, and the second is love and understanding of nature’ (403).
It was my first time at Think Galactic. And I must admit, it was my first time at any SF con. And I must further admit that it was my first time really talking about the convergence of science fiction and politics in any real and sustained way. And my final admission is that the combination of these factors resulted in me actually talking very little (or at all) in the panels and discussions, though I certainly talked up a storm in smaller venues, between panels, over lunch and dinner and beers. I realized there is so much I haven’t read and need to read, so much I’ve only vaguely thought about, but never sharpened into real coherency by translating it into the concreteness of actual words.
And it was brilliant, of course.
I don’t think I’ve ever actually been in a room where everyone seems to have read and loved Octavia Butler and Ursula Le Guin. Where radical politics are related back to zombie wars and the struggle for life on Mars. I think I’ve been wanting a room like that for some time without consciously realizing it, much less looking for it. My own great loss. There are two things I love about…what should I even call it? Speculative fiction is the term I think. I admit I have a wee bit more love for fantasy over straight sci fi, though I think much of the distinction between the two rather absurd. Still, I love those splendidly feral worlds of the imagination, rich tapestried language, monsters, magic, places where no one has the same rules, or they have invented new ways of breaking them. I’m the kid who heard fairies outside her window growing up, and hasn’t given up on them yet. And of course you have authors like William Gibson who take technology into places where my experience can’t follow, and it all comes back to what might as well be magic again (for me, I don’t mean to cause any controversy by labeling cyberpunk magical, which I know it’s really not!). Still, fantasy leans towards the callings of destiny, the great kings, the happiness that comes from feudalism…I don’t like that at all. But there are those novels like the Gormenghast trilogy that have brought so much wealth to my world through their very existence, and books by authors like M. John Harrison and China Mieville where I see some of my own politics echoed back at me, even amplified.
I love things like Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy too, but they don’t make me hold my breath until the page dims due to lack of oxygen.
For so many years I never consciously brought that together with my love of social justice and my struggle for a better world… as an organizer the books didn’t seem to have the same importance and I stopped reading so much. Of course, that wasn’t just true of speculative fiction, it was true of absolutely everything. Sleeping itself was cut down to below the minimum needed, much less literary exploration. It’s been nice to emerge from the fog of living emergency to emergency, political moment to political moment, meeting to meeting.
And what a joy to come back to these books, to re-read things in light of all I’ve learned, to hurl myself into the world as it was or could be or is now with some (monsterific) modifications, all through the words of some of the greatest writers bar none. At its best the genre allows so much scope for playing with ideas, for turning ideals and theory into things that are alive on the page. It is a genre for dreaming, for analyzing, for theorizing, for experimenting… all the things that turn me on the most when paired with imaginations that spark my own.
Friday night I saw Eleanor Arnason reading an exquisite little story about a silly king and a statue and the little hatmaker…I sadly missed the other reading as it was a long train ride home to the place I was staying. But Eleanor is a fascinating author dealing with so many issues of class, race and gender in her work, and always a pleasure to read. Even more of a pleasure to meet in person, we talked quite a bit over the course of two lunches, and I am proud to say that we at PM Press will be publishing one of her stories and an in depth interview with her next year, Mammoths of the Great Plains.
I also spent a great deal of time with Josh MacPhee, who brought a load of incredible prints and posters from Just Seeds. PM will also be publishing his next book Paper Politics, which is exciting. And it was nice to have someone else in the same boat more or less…the perilous dinghy of being a fan but much more of an activist, with little experience in combining the two. I think both of us felt we were in a little deep! But It was great to finally meet someone I’ve worked with and chatted with over email face to face…And there were so many more people I talked with, but I’ve limited mention to people who I know enough about to give a plug for and a nod to their work!
And the panels? Oh, they were great. They covered race, class and gender in the genre, looked at the future of food, the role of science and technology in the world we are building, the place of the superhero in comics…and so much more. Everything ran smoothly, the food was delicious, the stencil and print workshop was brilliant, the games mightily enjoyable…and Roosevelt University an incredible space. All in all I enjoyed myself immensely. Everyone there seemed amazing and I’m just sad it wasn’t longer, as there were a number of folks I didn’t talk to at all (I’m still a bit shy as well!). But what I have taken away is the compilation of a massive reading list, and the percolation of a million great ideas. The extraordinary women who put everything together deserve an immense amount of credit, and I definitely hope that it continues long into the future…
Well! It has been a while since I’ve blogged, I think the Michael Jackson post was just a bit too hard to follow. And it has been a long couple of weeks full of events and book festivals and far too much alcohol and a bike accident that left me battered and scraped and bruised…
So I wanted to introduce Nobody Rocks Press, a great independent press just starting up like my own. Unlike PM Press, however, they have fully embraced the new digital reality of the 21st Century and have eschewed all physicality for the world of the download. So grab your new and improved kindles and get ready for a crazy ride. We’re all watching with breath held…
‘Twas a warm Wednesday evening at Stories bookstore in Echo Park (it’s new and one of my favourite little independents, they’ve got great selection, great coffee, and great patio seating, who could ask for more?). We milled, mingled, I tried half-heartedly to figure out who exactly Greg Aden was, a friend of a friend and the reason I was there. When after some warm up acts, Jason Flores-Williams, author of the cult-classic The Last Stand of Mr. America, set the crowd on fire. Raw and powerful…and shocking. I can think of nothing more likely to jolt you, eyes blinking and extremities tingling, entirely out of the ruts of your everyday life and into the greater world of experiences you could never ever imagine. Explicit as all hell, and I think my eyebrows must have hit my hairline. They have almost returned to their original place…I didn’t get any photos the night of the event, but here’s one of the man himself at the march on May day.
The San Francisco Examiner calls him “a literary force of nature…A train wreck of genius.” I’ll let you know if I agree when I read it, or you can tell me. I will say in all honesty it was a reading like none other. The only other person who could possibly match the content is my friend Larry Fondation (yet another amazing writer), but I must admit, I haven’t seen him read those particular pieces in a crowded room.
And of course, we finished the night off in alcohol fueled style at the Gold Room. It was rather joyous.
And it will be interesting to see if it works…I am torn by the question of the new electronic media. It means that books are immediately available at the touch of a button to anyone with the technology to read them. It makes books a great deal less expensive, though the kindle and sony player are still costly enough to keep them out of the hands of the masses (for now). It makes books searchable, you can pull directly from the text for quotes and notes, you can store loads of them on your computer and carry all of them with you wherever you go.
And yet…and yet I find such a pleasure in books themselves. It’s a very sensual pleasure to open a book for the first time (and the hundredth), or to look at a row of them sitting on your shelf. The books you know and love shoulder to shoulder with the new and the unexplored. Troves waiting to be mined. Knowledge still hidden but on the brink of revelation. Words of power and beauty. Imaginings that will throw your mind wide open. Illustrations of grace, and the art and colors rampant over the covers. I know I’m a big book nerd, but that shit gives me chills. And what would those classic crime novels have been without those amazing lurid covers? I wonder.
I imagine the future will be a hybrid of the two desires, the usefulness and easy access of one. The physical joy of the second. For myself, nothing beats a book for reading in the bath, or lying curled up under covers, or kicking it on the beach (Sand, water, sleepiness and electronics are always a bad combination). And I love marking up those tomes of theory and philosophy with a pen and writing the ideas sparked in the margins. Books are for passing on as well, often I finish a book and immediately know which of my friends would absolutely love it. What greater pleasure then to share something like that? And I will always love the smell of ink when you get a box of books fresh from the printer. The anticipation and weight and feel of them in my hands. Staring at them on my shelf and the brief joyous reliving of other worlds that comes with it.
But I will be getting a digital reader one day, once the damn price has come down. And I am rather excited about that. And I suppose it’s good for the trees, and the landfills full of remainders that no one could be convinced to buy. Of course that might be cancelled out by the oil and metal required to create any technology, and the business practices of all corporate bastards, it’s a complicated world we live in. But I think having access to ideas and information in many different forms can only be a good thing. And I’m a bit jealous of the incredibly low overhead, though truth is it’s uncertain exactly whether this new technology will lead to decent wages for writers and publishers, and how. Of course, the publishing industry as it exists is crumbling anyway, we’re only a few years behind the music industry. So cheers to some of the leaders in the field, may they flourish and open up new visions for what is possible…
It makes me so happy that my hometown had its first annual book festival this weekend, hurrah for the Tucson Book Festival. And to be there with a table full of books and cds and dvds I can be proud of? Even better.
The PM table was busy, very busy, and I am thoroughly exhausted, but in that satisfied job well done sort of way. Yesterday was much busier. The highlights were the elder from the Sioux Nation who broke down for my dad the racism of the courts and the struggle to reclaim their original treaty lands from the US government, stolen after gold was discovered in the Black Hills. She was awesome. There was an older guy with polished and coiffed white hair, khakis, smart blazer. Mirrorish sunglasses. He looked at the Angola 3 video, and told me he had been imprisoned in Angola (the country), by the Cubans (who ran the country at the time). I almost asked him if he had met Che then, but didn’t. I never know if those guys are being serious, I met another old guy who told me once in a bar that he had been in Laos for years, back when he worked for the government, back when he didn’t exist. Whether or not these guys were black ops, they give me the creeps. Somehow I believe them, because they could say such things to thousands of American who would never know what they were talking about.
Dad manned the booth with me yesterday, and was incredibly helpful in many ways. He claims that his role was to distract the big talkers with big theories and allow me time to talk to other people. My feeling is that he did that to some extent, but also ensured they spent an extra 20 minutes in the booth that I could have prevented. Like today, when I learned a great deal about the connections between the Rothschilds and England’s Royal family and how they run the world. And none of the big talkers bought anything. And many of them are emailing me in the next few days.
All of the conversations were interesting though, and I did enjoy them all. Here’s an excerpt from some of the leaflets I picked up:
“I am now a FELON because I attempted to protect my mother, a victim of Alzheimer’s, from a herd of wild cattle (including bulls) on our own private FENCED property near Snowflake, AZ.
The rancher refused to remove them, so I tried to scare the 30-40 cattle back through our gate with the noise from a .22 rifle and in the process one was killed. It must have been a ricochet since I know that I did not try to hit one.
The rancher (Dee Johnson), has 60 FELONIES against him for CATTLE RUSTLING. He is a cousin to both Jake Flake and Jeff Flake, in the AZ Legislature and US Congress respectively. Is it possible that politics has something to do with this?
you can read more at www.cowcrap.org.
Cattle rustling! God Damn! Oh the good times we had I can tell you! And of course maybe they’re not from the town, but I find mention of the Flake family of Snowflake, Arizona somewhat amusing. If they weren’t connected to cattle rustlers reminiscent of Clint Eastwood films that they seem to be, they would be a Christmas special.
Today was slower, and both parents came along making it a family affair. And Gary was around, speaking on a panel on noir and politics with Kent Harrington, and that was great. He came by the booth of course, even though the printers have yet to find a paper that works for the Jook’s cover flaps so the books didn’t arrive in time, and the book signing that should have taken place didn’t. The biggest disappointment. But here we are, with new our new friend Joy from Revolutionary Grounds.
You should definitely head on down there if you’re in Tucson, and often. Not just because they are stocking many of our books, but also because they are a great space on 4th ave to hang out, talk, eat well and drink Zapatista coffe.
And amazing, I ran into three different families I haven’t seen in 10-15 years, maybe more. The Seoldos and Sharon who used to go to our old church down off of Valencia and 12th, and the Leons. Roy used to be the assistant coach for my brother Dan’s soccer team (good old Santa Cruz, ah I remember the days, I saw them every Saturday for much of my childhood)…it is lovely to run into folks from the old days.
It was a very long, but very nice weekend, full of so many great conversations that I can’t mention them all! Folks here are fantastic. Of course.
It’s tough, it’s a tough business. I spent all of Sunday at the West Hollywood Bookfair, and all on my ownsome as well, though it gave me time to think. And resulted in one book being stolen while I was distracted…a cookbook of low-fat vegan deserts, go figure. I hope they choke on their carob brownies of course, as stealing from any independant publisher is a cardinal sin, especially from my broke self! But I still found it funny. At any rate, we did pretty well I think.
I got there way too early since I’m all new at this, didn’t bring enough stuff, and had far too much time on my hands. And I soon realized that I was sitting next to the Ayn Rand folks, ha! They even gave me some good advice on how to make it look like I had brought enough stuff to fill the two very large tables I was given, and were very complimentary on the aesthetics of my display. They were giving a lot of stuff away…you’d think given Miss Rand’s philosophy they’d be busy proving the worth of their wares by selling it for top dollar…it’s the market that decides value after all! Maybe they figure propaganda works like heroin. It finally got better when the show started, a little old lady singing folk songs in russian, followed by readings of russian poetry, I really enjoyed that bit, hugely, though i couldn’t hear too well. Russian poetry is amazing, though not being close enough, I am not sure what they were reading, it looked like books so I imagine Pushkin and maybe just maybe Akhmatova and Tsvetaeva and Mandelstam and…I love Russian poets. I love the fact that the marquis was packed full of older russian folks to hear poetry.
The people watching was good, you could spot the well-kept and expensively maintained hollywood types, no one exciting though. The police wandered by. They didn’t think much of my stuff, though i thought about trying to sell them a real cost of prisons comix. A jedi knight walked past, followed by vader. A lot of couples were wandering around, and i thought again to myself, how do so many couples look alike?? Is it that people are just looking for themselves in someone else? I think that must be it, or perhaps their expressions come to match each others over time or…I don’t know. But too me that seems a horrifying fate, I’d rather be with someone very different who is always making me think new thoughts, try new things. And who doesn’t make me feel like I’m looking at myself in a mirror when I stare into his eyes. The absurd was not missing of course, like the woman with the dog carrier in camoflauge olive and pink, and her wee silly dog wearing some frilly dress thing with rosebuds on it. And the old guy who looked at my books with disgust, we had mumia postcards and he snorted and said that that guy would slit my throat if he could. I smiled. Then he asked me if there were any right wing bookstalls there, and I happily sent him along to the Ayn Rand folks next door.
The best folks there were the booth opposite to me and to the left. Smart gals productions. Their booth was freestanding, and they set up cloth to hang down on all sides, they hung little stars from the roof…and I’m thinking snidely to myself, ha! damn hippies. Bet they’re selling tiedye and clothes made from old saris…but no, they took the two tables down, opened up their bags and pulled out a large perfectly fitted booth size mat and lots of pillows. Then they proceeded to loll about on pillows, and read. One of them was reading Vonnegut if I am not mistaken. A couple of people came by, sat down, chatted. And when I say a couple I mean two. All day. And that is all they did. It actually seemed quite agreeable to lie on pillows in the middle of a bookfair on a beautiful sunday and read, so I had quite a lot of respect for them as they packed up. Though I am curious to know just how you make a living at that, I rather imagine they don’t.
Anyways, this is the happy stuff, even apart from the economy life has been sucking, lucky for everyone I don’t write about that shit.
I own so many books, they sit multi-coloured on shelves surrounding me, old friends and friends waiting to be discovered, but I only want one and cannot find it, I am in a mood, finding myself in the early hours of the morning unable to sleep, sadness sits like a weight of sand on my rib cage and the back of my neck hurting my shoulders, everything is heavy, I am pinned down though my mind races and cannot still itself, I wanted poetry and Shelley to be specific. I wanted the dead leaves of my thoughts to be scattered, ashes and sparks, among mankind…this is all I can remember of his song for autumn and I went searching, looking for words to express feelings, funny how sadness perfectly expressed by another is perfect company for your own, and I want company. I have none but my own words, other’s words written upon paper, and a face in the mirror that I hardly recognize, the haunted look in my reflection’s eyes foreign and strange. A single cricket sings from outside… My days are unmoored, time does not ride easy…it jolts in fits and starts and all my thoughts are of leaving, running far away, and I am not at all myself at the moment, haven’t a glimmer of humour to lighten the mood.